Watch Mass Effect 3's Different Endings, See What All The Fuss Is About

OK, just in case this needs spelling out, this will contain ENORMOUS SPOILERS. It's essentially all spoilers. But if you've already finished the game, or more importantly have not, will not and still want to see what all the ruckus has been about, read on!

This isn't a definitive guide on how to achieve them. If some kind of Google magic has led you here thinking otherwise, sorry. It's just a collection of the most important ones so you can arm yourself for one of the most passionate discussions about a game's ending we've seen in a long time.

There are, apparently, sixteen different endings to the game. Or, should I say, "different", because many of them are largely identical, sharing most animated sequences and differentiated only by changes to an effect's colour palette.

The endings you receive when completing the game depend on two things: whether you destroyed the Collector Base at the end of Mass Effect 2, and what your Effective Military Strength was when setting off on the game's final mission.

Many players when reaching the end of Mass Effect 3's playable content are given two options (either destroy or control the Reapers) with how to save/change the galaxy. If you'd passed certain criteria, you were also given a third, neutral one (synthesis).

Since many of the clips are almost identical, I've included just the important ones (those showing the most dramatic differences) in the gallery above.

In the first one, you'll see one of the "best" endings (really just an additional few seconds shown after a regular conclusion, at the 4:31 mark), in which it suggests that Commander Shepard somehow survives the whole ordeal. Leading to the week's most popular conspiracy theory.

The best "Destroy" ending. All Reapers are destroyed, the Earth is saved, the Normandy escapes to an alien world. Head to 4:31 to see the SHEPARD LIVES moment.

The best "Synthetic" ending, in which all synthetic and organic beings somehow become one. Again, the Normandy escapes, and pilot Joker now has the added benefit of being able to knock boots with EDI.

The best "Control" ending. Shepard sacrifices his body to take command of the Reapers, flying them away from Earth. The Normandy once again survives.

The worst "Destroy" ending, in which you didn't get enough forces together and made some pretty crummy decisions. Reapers are killed, Earth is destroyed, everything is super depressing. It's even suggested the crew of the Normandy are DOA.

Watch Mass Effect 3's Different Endings, See What all the Fuss is About

An average "Control" ending, in which for some reason the Citadel, which explodes in just about every other ending, survives.


    whats wrong with these endings?

      Problem with the endings isn't the endings themselves, but the way that show that you had zero effect in the galaxy beyond the 3 final choices. Mass Effect is a game built upon choice and consequence; throughout the 3 games you are constantly weighing up whether or not this is the right or wrong choice to make in terms of future decisions (some which can come back to hurt you).

      The endings take all the choice away from you and make you pick from 3 slightly different cut scenes that show zero effect of what the choices you've made in the previous games. It's harder to explain to people who haven't invested the hours into the 3 games.

        Also, there is no reason for the Narmandy to be traveling through the relays when there is a fight for the galaxy happening at earth.

          This is actually the one thing i didn't like, because it made no sense in any context! (wish there was an edit button!)

        The choice and consequence of the prior games is shown in the events leading up to the final conclusion, not in the conclusion itself. Almost every area of the game is changed in some way depending on actions previously taken. The story is not about the ending, but the journey, or so I hear.

          Hmm, maybe you're right.

          Oh, wait! Hang on! What happened to the Krogan, after I cured the Genophage for them? What happened to the Citadel, did everyone on there die? What about the other races? Did they find a way to get back to their homeworld and avoid starving by being stranded on Earth? How about the Rachni? Did they make peace with the rest of the galaxy or were they shunned and then started another war? What happened to Admiral Hackett? Did Anderson die or just fall unconscious? Did the Turians ever rebuild their homeworld? Did the Geth make good with the Quarians?

          You sound like you haven't even played through the game. Absolutely no major choice you made in it actually had any real impact on the ending, and don't say that the Estimated Military Strength counts because it doesn't even have to be a choice, it can just be playing a hundred games of multiplayer.

            You might have a valid opinion buried under all that sarcasm, but you come off as just another crybaby with an axe to grind. Most of the questions you mention, would not resolve until years or decades after the game ends. It sounds like you wanted a 10 minute epilogue. Leaving a lot of the backstories and political subplots open as they did, makes it easier for them to not only move forward with the IP, but leaves more creative space for the novels and DLC.

            Also, ad hominem arguments generally make your point of view come off as childish. I've played through the story 1.5 times, and enjoyed every minute of it.

              First thing, labeling my statements as ad hominem requires that I insulted you to some extent which I did not do once, or at least didn't intend to do. If anything your first damn sentence is an ad hominem because you're insulting me first up with a completely untrue statement instead of getting to the meat of the argument. If you're referring to the fact that I said "it sounds like you haven't played the game", well I'm sorry, but it does sound that way, especially when you added "or so I hear" to the end of your post. I've got no reason to lie to or deceive anyone on my comments on this site.

              Now, not many of my criticisms would need to take ten years to resolve. Nor would they need a large amount of dialogue or screen time. Of those that I mentioned, at least one or two of them deserve a resolution, primarily the one about everybody on the Citadel being dead or alive, Anderson being dead or alive, or the rest of the galaxy being stranded or not. None of those would take ten years to see a large change, I just want to find out what happened, as it is I don't know what happened with any of those.

              Even if it would take years or decades ingame to resolve, who cares? For example, with the Genophage thing, just show a 5-second clip of Wrex leading a massive army of Krogan on a thriving world fifty years in the future if you saved the Krogan, or if you didn't, have Krogan mercenaries fighting each other on Tuchanka's ruins. You'd find out all you need to know in five seconds. In the current ending I don't know what happens as a result of me curing the Genophage, and no, you don't find out ingame, because if you don't cure the Genophage the Krogan supposedly think you DID cure it for another year or so.

              The point is, vital pieces of information are left up to the imagination of the player. What is the point of destroying the Mass Relays if you don't find out the consequences? All you feel is a cheap "oh, damn that sucks" and you don't actually find out what the consequence of them all being destroyed is. There IS no point.

              Dragon age provided an epilogue

              It wasn't a video or anything just a couple of pages of text that told you what happened because of your actions

              Which would be enough.

              Sure one could argue that if another Mass Effect game was to be made these things could be revealed then.

              Problem is that any other mass effect game after this is going to render the ending even more moot when Bioware make the decision for you as to which ending is the canonical one

              I mean hell the control of the reapers is something which is suggested won't last so that ending in any form Is really just a delaying measure. ( though they could self destroy through this)

                Of course, they could make the fourth game be dependent on your choice in the third. That would mean three (or four, if you found out like me you could shoot the Catalyst/Child) different game possibilities, however. I'm sure they could find a way to make them into one game, but...

                Who knows. It would be a big leap forward for choices, that's for sure. And really, with something like the PC and the PS3's storage, you could simply load a save (like you do already) and have THAT implement the choices, meaning the disk is able to hold more choice-specific content.

            sorry, I'm wondering how much of that matters now. You reunited the gets and quatrains. You cures the genophage. You stopped Cerberus. Can't you accept what you accomplished and just let go? That's what Shepard did.

              No because in the end it doesn't really matter because all it does is add a little numerical value to my stupid galactic readiness score which I can increase anyway by playing an obscene amount of multiplayer. Whether you cure the Genophage or don't the outcome is the same. Whether you unite the Quarians with the Geth or choose one over the other the ending is exactly the same.

              The problem is that my massive choices are represented by a tiny statistic nobody cares about rather than an actual emotional response that I can appreciate (which is how it was done in the first two games).


      They're all the same damn ending with a couple of palette swaps. Look at the 'Earth is Destroyed' clip and notice how between frames, Earth alternates between normal and flaming. Bioware recycled the bulk of their animation, which for one, is lazy. But for a series that has prided itself on being an a choose-your-own adventure.

      Bioware's games (particularly Mass Effect) have become the golden child of creative, open-ended storytelling in videogames. All through the series you have the ability to make your own choices no matter how trivial, to the point where there is no 'canon' Shepard, and they went through the effort of loading their discs with a litany of content you'll never see, because someone else chose differently. Then right at the end, they sucker punch you with a non-negotiable, pre-determined ending that is largely the same no matter what cataclysmic choice you made.

      Wow so much potential but all gone the reapers existence is a stupid one why not make them an ancient race that in order to survive syntheised them selvs and then became reapers oover time to survive also why arnt Sheppards team mates with him and most of all if the mass relays blew up wouldnt that destroy most of the life forms in the galaxy?

      And sheppard sacrificing him self could of been more simpler why not have a computer that controls them or some thing dont get the need to consume him etc the AI Kid could of been used to control the reapers

      wait wait wait wait ....... Control. Synthesis. Destruction. ..... so familiar ...... hmmmmm ...... Control..... Synthesis .... to change, to .... alter .... Alt .... er ..... Control ..... Alt .... Destruction .... to .... delete ... from existence .... Control. Alt. Delete. ..... HOLY ....!!!!!!


      See my main problem is that all of the previous mass effects portrayed the reapers as intelligent and devious. Then you find out theyre just some dudes bitch. Its an anticlimax, its like finding out that moriarty was just some autistic retard that was controlled by his mum.

    Nothing, people just seem to think these ending shouldm also include a 5 minute segment on the future life of every mass effect character, ever. (Even though about 1/3 of the game itself is spent concluding the story arcs for most of them). I guess they also wanted a 'happy ending' with Turians, Humans, Reapers and Drell all chill on a beach sipping pina colatas.

    People just like to whine about something. What I don't understand is why so many people think the 'ghost kid' is a giant suprise, when its hinted that a greater force is actually behind everything much earlier in the game (if you pay attention).

      Ghost kid kind of turns the Reapers from intelligent machines with their own agenda's on why they do what they do into a galaxy vacuum cleaning service.

      The apparent dilemma the kid was given by someone was that without a doubt organics would create synthetic life and said synthetic life would ultimately kill organic creators. His so called solution to said dilemma was to carry out that outcome in a controlled fashion through the Reapers.

      But what if I had united the Geth and Quarians? Hell, we're even shown through the Geth that they'd didn't go all Skynet on the Quarians, but only fought for self-preservation and freedom, and thus the kid's dilemma was wrong. Yet that doesn't affect the outcome at all, which is actually the greater problem with the endings. Nothing you've done matters, and nothing of your decision is shown whether it'd be a slow rebuilding of each civilisation, how Shepard's legacy is handed down, or how the other races decide to treat each other. Nothing. That's also pretty much how I felt when I finished, I felt nothing. 300 hours into the trilogy crushed within the span of 10 minutes. That's the problem.

    "Also, there is no reason for the Narmandy to be traveling through the relays when there is a fight for the galaxy happening at earth."

    I the last scene Ashley was on the normandy/planet, but she was just on earth doing the mission with me. How did she go from being vaporized by a Reaper to being on the Normandy ?

      THAT is the biggest plothole in the entire game.

    Mine was an average "destroy" ending. Citadel destroyed, mass relays destroyed, reapers deactivated, Earth destroyed... I pretty much wiped out the entire galaxy, aside from Joker, Liara and Javik...
    That aside, anyone else have a split second during the cinematic before the last mission wondering why the Reapers built a giant tampon in Earth's orbit (before realising it was the Citadel with its arms closed)?

    I just want an ending to explain why Joker abandoned me...that berk

      think he was trying to save edi

    i like the endings but it sucks cause shepards dies in all of them but 1. and when he kills himself to save the galaxy he said to liara he's coming back (on my game). <(")

    To be honest guys, the endings sucked because you KNOW they want to make a book to "clear everything up". Gears of War was really bad about the book deals. These endings would be ok if they weren't almost the same thing. Anyone here play Dragon Age ? The first game had a BUTT load of text after you finished. To some people that wasn't good enough, but in my eyes I loved it.It felt like all my choices and decisions mattered. I didn't get the same feeling with Dragon Age 2 ending.

    The reason everyone loved this series is because it was like reading the Harry Potter books. You're fully invested in these kind of things and you just want to know everything your character (or yourself image) did mattered. Even if Shepard had of died, that would have been fine. Do you know why? Because no one lives forever and if he had of lived then it would have been even more crazy. Kind of like how he survived the reaper laser. (I'm not even going to get in to that)

    To me these ending make me feel that BioWare isn't truly done with the Shepard. Like how FF13-2 had a "To Be Continued" at the end. Shepard being alive just means more games. All this is saying is that 1-3 save data won't matter in Mass Effect 4. It will be a "fresh start". I respect BioWare a great deal, but these endings were a huge let down. Not carefully thought out and really needed their own polish and attention. They felt very rushed. Even if it came in the form of text or even voice over with still pictures of the cast. Just some kind of closer for the supporting cast/universe as a whole.

    Mass Effect will be one of my favorite series to date. Because of the personal choices and the reactions they have on the in game world. A lot of people are demanding the ending be changed and I do see why people want the ending changed. Not because they want Shepard to be alive. (like Kotaku "journalist" want to act like that's the case.) Because they want to know what happened to the people you encountered and the world(s) you effected. If BioWare gets mouthy with people about this issue then they are really getting to big for their own good. I'm ok with them wanting to make the story how they want it, but at least put some time and effect in the endings. If they want to leave the ending the way it is I'm totally cool with that. Just make them different and also give a clear understanding how the universe is after the reaper invasion.

    Also, if anyone on the team at BioWare is reading this post. Please either kill Shepard off or not. Don't give that cliff hanger kind of ending so you have the wiggle room to make yet ANOTHER game with Shepard as the start. Don't be like those animes who keeps bringing people back. Instead end the Shepard franchise and move on to another character. Shepard is just a name. Just like Hawk was in Dragon Age 2. I'm sorry, but that Shepard breathing thing is more of a slap in the face then "hope s/he's alive." Just screams "we want to make more games with Shepard so this way you can't question us when we bring him/her back".

    Sigh, oh well. That's my two cents and I really hope Kotaku lets up on this Mass Effect 3 ending. You've guys milked this thing dry. Move on.

      imagine if you will if when harry potter killed voldermort everyone looked up and it ended. or if after the emporer in star wars was killed by vader it went to credits. 90 hrs of 3 games abruptly ends. this would be a cool way to end the series if say the reapers won, but they kinda didnt. there is no conclusion. i have no personal issue with the ending but 3 that are the same was kinda lame. mass effect was biowares flagship series. its very own normandy. allowing it to go out like this is criminal tbh. they are the producers of the game series, they owe it to themselves to end this amazing series with an amazing ending.

    I'd like to know how the choices I made in the game matter in the epilogue, beyond the Destroy, Control and Synthesis options. What happens to Earth and its remnants that I spent 30+ hours playing to save? What happens to my companions that I formed close attachments to during the game? And my love interest? I'd like to know what happened there because they were an integral part of my story and I want to know how what I did in the game made a difference in their lives. I don't want a happy ending, I want an ending (and here I go quoting Bioware) -"WHERE THE DECISIONS YOU MAKE COMPLETELY SHAPE YOUR EXPERIENCE AND OUTCOME" because currently, the decision I made at the end seems to be the only one that really mattered which means that all my earlier choices through the game had as much weight as whether I have a banana or toast for breakfast. I'm actually having difficulty trying to remember a AAA RPG title in the past 10 years that leaves you with such a vague avant garde ending. A screenshot and a voiceover describing each race, planet and the fate of each companion would be tremendously appreciated by the community so we can sit back and say - "I did that, I made a difference in their lives in the game" even if it meant they were KIA.
    Beyond those issues, what are Bioware's plans for DLC since they shoved an advert for it at the end? All this dancing around the issue creates PR for Bioware, but its just not that funny for fans.

    I saw these endings 12 years ago in a game called Deus Ex

    I recommend that deviantArt link that Luke links to in the 7th paragraph. Quite a good read.

    On the subject of Bioware, I present to you this image I was shown.

    Am I possibly the only person (halfway through ME2 ATM) who thinks it's sad that barely a week after its release the ending to ME3 is everywhere, totally spoiled.

    These type of games take me months to get through yet a group of self-entitled (losers) people with nothing but time on their hands have spoiled it for everyone and are now actively discouraging people from playing the game!

    FWIW I'll probably still play it because I think that there's always a subset of people that get pissed off about how things end (think Seinfeld, the Sopranos, Lost) especially in relation to very popular stories

      Honestly, big games are going to get spoiled. Sequels to big movies are going to get spoiled.
      On the first note, I was counting every second until The Orange Box unlocked.
      By making the mistake of playing Portal first, I had Episode 2's ending spoiled for me. Damn it 4chan! My fault I guess, haha.
      On the second note, when something is going to be huge, people will do their best to find out and spoil it. Look at Harry Potter's last view novels. I remember in the weeks before Deathly Hallows came out the scans of the last pages were out and about. I suspect there will be a leak of Avatar 2 when that eventually comes out.

      Now a game like Mass Effect 3, which is not just a huge game itself, but also the sequel to a popular game which itself was a sequel, it's going to get attention. The fact that it is the end of a trilogy makes its ending all the more of a discussion point. That it was so controversial hasn't helped that last bit.

      I think I've gone off topic. But yes, it is a shame that it's everywhere, but you probably shouldn't expect anything less from something so big.

      Now, I think you chose some bad examples there for the last bit.
      I've never known how to feel about Seinfeld's ending, because really how do you end a show like that? The fanbase's general opinion though was that it wasn't particularly great.
      The Sopranos, now that was an ending. It was mainly controversial in its lack of closure I think, but IMO it was a really appropriate ending.
      But Lost, I followed that shit from day one. It was a great show, a real roller coaster of crazy shit and there were a lot of intense times. But that ending really split the camp. I think it's actually the best analogy for ME3: The ending was emotional, they really did that well. But it didn't answer any bloody questions. It was later revealed that the writers made up the whole bloody thing as they went along, which is really disappointing (some would say it was really obvious). To clear up my Lost - ME analogy a little, Lost was about all the questions and wonder along the way, the ending didn't address those at all. Mass Effect was about all the decisions* you made along the way, the ending didn't address those at all**.

      *and a billion other things, probably.
      **well not the big important ones at least

      It was only spoiled insofar as you went into ME3 related threads and posts to see said spoilers

      The endings were all over the place before I finished the game. I simply avoided those posts. I saw posts/threads that I knew could ruin the ending and ignored them.

      So aside from the knowledge that apparently the endings sucked(which they did) I wasn't spoiled at all

      Go play ME 3, finish it, then come back and talk. Until then you really have no right to comment on the people who have finished it.

      Burns don't hurt you say? Gotta be burned to know what it feels like first.

    My big problems in descending order

    1: What the hell was the Normandy doing in a relay jump?
    2: Endertron 3000 endings are annoying if you're going to do it at least do it in a convesation tree or something.
    3: I know this one might seem silly given biotics and what not but the synthesis ending seemed to involve magic to me. A wave of energy that able to instantly rewrite all DNA in the galaxy? I mean really.
    4: The one I'd be willing to let slide without the first two is the lack of some kind of epilogue.

    I would have liked to at least run tests on seashells.

    is it me or the vids mixed up? not like it really matters. i guess we had a good run. EA was bound to get their grubby paws on BW and screw something up. Did it to Maxis, the NFS franchise and much much more. ME is just another casualty of a loss of focus in an effort to chase the almighty dollar. i guess it could be worse, everyone could hate the endings...........................

    Tycho from Penny Arcade linked to this video, and Gabe had a few interesting arguments in the "does not need to be changed" view, all here.

      not interesting really. just what everyone else has said. the thing is people who are commenting are not really diehard fans as gabe said himself. thats what it really comes down to. the endings were sufficient for casual or new players to the universe but for us who enjoy every detail and have followed since the beginning it came up short.

    The best “Destroy” ending. All Reapers are destroyed, the Earth is saved, the Normandy escapes to an alien world.

    Yeah, might have been worth mentioning the 'best' ending also involved destroying the geth and EDI... There's literally no ending for just destroying reapers.

    Well don't forget the "conspiracy theory" they mention in the article. Read it! There is so much evidence to support the theory that everything after being blasted by the laser was an indoctrination attempt. The theory goes so far as to suggest that the players themselves are being "indoctrinated" into picking anything but the "Destroy" option. If the theory holds true, which I believe it does, then Bioware has made one hell of a story-telling element and one that isn't quite finished yet.

    LOL... "the Normandy escapes to an alien world" You've completely ignored this hole in the story.

    Did you miss the part where - throughout ME1, 2 and 3, Joker and the Normandy have never run from a fight in order to backup Shep should he/she need a helping hand? There is no way Joker would have fled the fight until it was decided or he had rescued Shep.

    How could the Normandy be running - in the Mass Relay, within moments of Shep "doing the deed"?

    How did a companion, who was on the mission on Earth with me, somehow manage to get to the Normandy and get into the mass relay?

    WOW never played mass effect and now no longer intend to. THOSE ENDINGS SUCKED!

      DOn't let the endings persuade you not to play. Even with all of the issues with the ending ME3 is one of the best game of the last 12 months. Gameplay, Aesthetics, Story are all excellent. My only problem with the game is the ending. Looking past that it is still a great game.

    I just watched that theory on indoctrination and it definitely has some good points. I was confused when presented the options at the end. The colouring of the options lead me to believe that controlling the reapers was the paragon ending, while obviously the destroy the reapers options appeared to be the renegade option with the red right emitting from the area. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. As this can also be an answer for why Joker was trying to escape. After they said no one survived they thought Shepard was dead and did the bolt. OR again with the indoctrination idea none of that happened.

    I agree there are a lot of unanswered questions, but I just think that leads to DLC...or Mass Effect 4. I mean there is going to be more Mass Effect, whether that involved Shepard or not remains to be seen. I for one hope it does, as I've grown quite attached to all the players involved in the series...and shed a tear for the ones I've lost

    I don't think we should be too down on the series, I loved every second on ME3...including the endings. I just want more...

      I think that maybe the reason joker was trying to escape that wave of energy so bad was because he was trying to save edi.

    Yeah, change the ending as a DLC. Pleeeese!!!!

    I'm willing to wait for few months and even pay for it,
    But this is what MUST be addressed in a proper END version:
    1) Instead of lame God compromise choices, make it Truth or Dare option. Either get a mind changing reason to finally give up and let Reapers finish the job (something like reason of afterlife or whatever) or a tough choice of daring to survive given the provided timed opportunity of maybe another 50K years (considering how much more advanced the AI civilization is and we never really had a chance)
    2) Give us an insight on the Reaper controlling civilization, its origins and apply either Big Bang scientific facts or Religion base facts (where all universe is one major node of communication of thought process called God)
    3) Expand the aftermath of the choices made regarding characters who had impacted Shepard either in Video, or if funds lack, in text (will be just as imaginative). Example: visit dead comrades graves, rebuilding of Earth and planets, or final moments of those who really trusted and relied on you.
    4) If a possible ME4 prospected, dont make a crappy fog, but rather foggy bridge
    5) Give us at least something in video or text as an insight regarding future living of all things without war.(ie: chilling on the beach, seeing lights of harmony, beginning of another cycle, or maybe even the end and new struggle)
    6) Pleeeeese, give us what we have worked on soo hard while playing: a REAL WEIGHT on the CHOICES

    none of these endings are very good, and I played god knows how many hours with the three games put together, should have just given me the better ending with no messing around. The first time I saw the ending with the world blowing up and the door of the ship opening without showing who was coming out I was just like WTF?
    I put a million dollars the third game was winged, I can tell they would have finished the second and had to think up a third game around a table after it. Finding the cruicible, spending so much of the game getting every race to join in, it was apparent the reapers wanted to kill everyone, it's like having to ask everyone one by one to leave a burning building, I enjoyed playing the third game, I just didn't build to anything, just felt like a 'how do we end this' kind of thing in the writers room. Fun but for all the time people put in three games over they really should have put in a super long clear ending to end it all and not just leave questions or hint at sht, we've all put in like 500 hours of our lives, don't mess around at this point, you had two other games to do that.

    Wow, just finished the game. I have to agree, these endings are horrible. The "destroy all tech" ending reminds me of the "Day after Tomorrow" which had probably the stupidest ending ever. But at least i only put 2 hours into that waste.

    Seriously though? What stupid choices! I can see those for choices if you've done a really bad job through the game, but the "perfect" ending outcome should be:
    1) Destroy the Reapers
    2) Let organics and synthetics make their own destiny (has been a recurring theme in the series)
    3) Mass relays and citadel remain (otherwise there's no "galactic" civilization)
    4) No nonsense with the Normandy on a deserted world - that sucks
    5) Shepard survives and gets with his/her significant other. Seriously, how can the perfect ending not include this.

    PS- in place of the movie refernce to "day after tomorrow" i mean "day the earth stood still"

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now