Six of the best JRPG endings

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A great story is useless unless you’re able to stick the landing. The best setup in the world won’t save you if the final moments leave a bad taste in people’s mouths – looking at you, Mass Effect – so it is worth celebrating the best JRPG endings. These are the stories that don’t just engage you the whole way through the game but stick with you long after you put down the controller. After all, if you’re going to spend 50-plus hours on a game, it better make it worthwhile at the end.

Obviously, we can’t discuss the best JRPG endings without delving into some spoilers along the way. If you’ve not played some of these titles, this is your warning to take a break and go fix that. We promise you won’t regret it.

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger Forest Scene

There are very few things that Chrono Trigger doesn’t do well, but the ending – at least, the canon ending rather than one of the multiple joke endings you can get – is a masterclass in bringing things full circle. The game starts with a fair and ends, after travelling through time to undo a dark future, with a fair on the same spot to celebrate the hard work our heroes did. There is a poetic feeling to how the game’s story wraps up, with characters going their own way and into their own time, with small nods to the choices you made along the way.

Secret of Mana

Another SNES JRPG classic that sticks the landing is Secret of Mana. The heroes battle their way through a flying fortress and fight against the legendary Mana Beast with the full knowledge that it would mean the death of their little Sprite friend. There is a bittersweetness to the victory, which sees the surviving characters celebrated as saviours but still not able to return to the lives they knew before. Sometimes being a hero is about sacrifice.

Nier: Automata

I know the first thing that people will say when they see this entry is “Which one?” but I’m talking about the final ending you can unlock in this mind-bending journey through the nature of humanity. Nier: Automata gets a place among the best JRPG endings because of how it plays with the medium it is built into. The only way to get the true ending of the game is to sacrifice your life – in this case, that is your save file – to help others locked in a similarly hopeless battle. No one does this kind of weird stuff better than Toko Taro.

Persona 5

The ending of Persona 5 hits harder when you have a little meta-knowledge along the way. The voice actor who had brought the long-nosed master of the Velvet Room to life throughout the series, Isamu Tanonaka, sadly passed away before he could record his lines for Persona 5. This meant that players were expecting him to sound different for the newest entry, allowing the developers to hide one of the best twists in JRPG history right under our noses the whole time. Having to fight the figure we thought was Igor the whole game only really works because we never see it coming.

Bravely Default

I am a huge fan of games that play with the medium of video games and bring their mechanics into the story itself. Bravely Default uses the 3DS hardware to suck the player directly into the story. At the end of the game, it is revealed that the main villain’s goal is to escape into the Celestial Realm and it offers a glimpse at who lives there. That glimpse, provided you haven’t covered up the front-facing camera of the 3DS, is the face of the player, revealing that the world Oroborous wants to invade is, in fact, ours. The game itself is spectacular but that really is one of the best JRPG endings you’ll ever find.

Final Fantasy XV

Best JRPG endings Final Fantasy XV featured art

Though it seldom gets mentioned among the best games in the series, Final Fantasy XV delivers on the promise made in the ending of Final Fantasy VI. The bad guy wins and it is only by letting the world rot for ten years that Noctus and his friends finally get to put the villain in their place. Watching how broken the gang has become is heartbreaking but a necessary message for people around the world. Just because evil wins doesn’t always mean the fight is over. Pick yourself up and give them a good stabbing when you can.

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