Your Quest Is Over
If you've ever completed Super Mario RPG on the Super NES, you probably remember watching a game ending that must've lasted about five minutes altogether, inclduing with it bits of character interaction, conversation, and animation that brought the game to a perfect close. Games didn't always come packaged with such elaborate endings, though. In the days of the NES, game players had to learn to compensate all the missing glitter and glory of a game ending with the mere satisfaction derived from the completion of a game. Many endings, in fact, were nothing more than a note of congratulations offered within the confines of a single page. As we're soon about to explore, most NES game endings had just one prominent style or feature that stuck out among other things, leaving with them a fairly simple, but often memorable, finishing touch.
These types of endings are typical of older NES games, which were less advanced than its successors were. The original ending that seemed to define future one-page congratulations was the ending to Super Mario Bros., offering not only a congratulations, but even a chance to play the game with a harder difficulty, something most later one-page endings failed to do. Despite its age, though, Super Mario Bros. had one of the best one-page congratulations you'll ever find, with it's distinguishing music and Mario/Princess scene, compared to games such as Back to the Future, which ended in nothing more than a small note of congratulations printed across a plain black screen, playing the same exact music you've already heard all throughout the rest of the game. One-page endings are only satisfying, though, when they are orchestrated very well, so more pizzazz needed to be added to the art of game endings.
High Score Lists
High score lists weren't very far from becoming a typical NES inclusion, short-lived as it may have been. After all, arcade games included high score lists for players to compare their total score with the progress of others, so why shouldn't video games use this feature as well? But there was one problem with NES games' high score lists: the only players you could really compare your score to were the default high score listings included with a game. Games without an included save pack could only store players' high scores while the NES system was still on; once the power switch was hit, the scores were lost. High score lists appeared as a portion of the ending to a number of NES games, though later NES games used this method less and less until video game high scores lists practically slid into oblivion.
NES games were never really known for their complex storylines, but some games did put little story openers at the beginning of their games. Most of these games would typically polish itself off with a short ending to the story. Many of these story endings would display one page at a time of character conversation or interaction displayed in a storybook-like fashion. Usually, story endings are some of the best endings that a NES gamer could hope for, but poorly-created endings can leave the gamer displeased. That is, they can be displeased unless the ending contains one element that, when done well, can blow all other endings right out of the water...
Musical endings are among some of the best endings you'll ever experience on the NES, or any other system for that matter. A good graphical ending is definitely a major plus, but an extraordinary final tune can sometimes make up for whatever else the ending seems to be missing. How could anyone forget the wonderful musical score that accompanied the ending to Super Mario Bros. 3? I know that when I had first beaten the game years ago, I left my NES system on for many minutes after the graphical ending had come to a close, all because I wanted to keep hearing the final song; I even tried emulating the song on my piano, though to no avail. A good story ending mixed with a good musical number is by far the best kind of game ending you will ever experience.
There are other endings that have been used in NES games through the years, such as the act of scrolling through every one of a game's characters, good and bad, an act which became more popular among later games on systems such as the SNES and Game Boy. But of all the NES game endings, the most often seen have been generally categorized above. One thing NES players really need, though, is the endurance to play through a game that will most likely end with a short congratulations that will then send you off on your merry way...