I was just listening to the latest episode of Podtoid in which they were discussing video game endings, how good they are and their favourite endings as well as unleashing their verbal fury at Americans in airports.
They discussed the idea that game endings have become progressively worse over the years and my thoughts on that echo what Jim said in the podcast, which was basically that video game endings have always been pretty poor. In the past most games would pit you against almost impossible odds only to give you an rudimentary and underwhelming screen with Ďcongratulationsí thrown along with the occasional poorly rendered 8-bit fireworks display but as production values of games have increased so have our expectations, unfortunately the majority of endings fail to meet these expectations.
In my opinion the reason the majority of endings usually fail to impress is because of the intention and motivation behind the game, from my personal experience it usually boils down to two approaches, the first is rare and to be honest probably not the most economically appealing approach -- to create a game with the intention of having it be one game where the story plays out to completion and nothing is held back, basically itís creating a self-contained game without any thought given to a sequel, the best example of this approach is Shadow of the Colossus. Itís clear from playing the game and experiencing the ending that there was absolutely no proposal to make the game part of a sequel and thatís why itís a satisfying experience. To some extent this can also be seen in Final Fantasy and Zelda games and is something that is supported by the formula of the games, because each of the games usually take place in their own self-contained world that remain disconnected from anything established in previous titles they have a satisfying ending, the stories are allowed run their full course as the following games arenít direct sequels. It is an undeniably risky approach but the payoff for the player is immense.