Narrative Exhaustion

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Many games, in particular narratively driven ones, end when the story is told or uncovered. We draw an analogy between playing a game and reading a book. A game ending due to narrative exhaustion is like reaching the end of a book. The player knows the end of the story and is not allowed to continue playing (the player may, of course, play the game again). Many games end with a simultaneous exhaustion of both the narrative and the gameworld (see gameworld exhaustion) since they are tightly integrated.


Strong Examples

Baldur's Gate 2: Shadows of Amn

The end of the storyline of Badur's Gate signals the end of the game. The game has an extremely open, non-linear structure within each chapter. For example, each chapter has many optional side-quests that can be very fun, and can give background, but are non-essential to the main story arc. As you finish each chapter, many of these side-quests close off and become unavailable, or unfinishable. With the closing cinematic of the final chapter, you cannot continue playing the game, despite the fact that you may have many side-quests still unfinished, glaring at you from your quest log.

Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

This is a strong example of a Narrative exhaustion because when the story line of a game ends and the final cinematic cut scene is over, credits begin to roll. The only option to continue playing is the mini games, or to start over completely and play with knowledge of how the games story will progress. Essentially, after beating the final boss and watching the last movie cut scene, the game is over.

Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII is completed when the story ends with the cut-scence after defeating the final boss. This is common for a final fantasy to build up to one big boss fight then resolve the story thus ending the game. Final Fantasy VII is a strong example of narrative exhaustion because the game is completely over once the story is finished being told and in order to continue playing you have to reload the game before the end cut-scence/boss fight or start a new game.

Hotel Dusk Room 215

Hotel Dusk Room 215 (DS) follows a fairly linear storyline. The game itself is a mystery game and once the puzzle has been solved there is nothing for the player to do further. When the player "completes" the game by mechnically collecting all of the necessary clues which result in the outcome or ending of the game the game is of no further value to the player. There are no additional aspects to explore and the game does not change. The mystery has been solved.

Final Fantasy Tactics

The game progression is based heavily in the narrative of the game. Once the player completes the main game play narrative they are faced with the option of beating the final boss, or participating in side quests. Eventually the player will have run out of side quests and the player will be forced to fight the final boss in order to continue meaningful progression in the game. After completing the final boss the game runs out of narrative and the game is over from a story and game play perspective.

Lufia and the Fortress of Doom

This RPG is an excellent example of a game that ends in narrative exhaustion. The game is dictated by its storyline, one that captivates and forces the player to go to specific places. There are not as many side-quests as in other RPG's, and once they are completed, the player must beat the last boss. Upon victory, the end of the story is told, and the game is over.


XIII is a first person shooter for PC which uses extensive cell-shading to get a comic book feel. Since it is based on comic books, it is story driven and very linear with nearly no room for different approaches to problems. Once the story ends the game does as well- the single player mode has been exhausted.

Weak Examples

Gears of War

In this game the story takes you through the whole game. But at the end of the game you just blow up everything, or so it would appear. Bu then they show more bad guys and say the fight is not over yet and that they will not stop fighting so the story is just left there with no conclusion

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon has a main storyline, but is primarily based around going on randomly generated missions. Even when the main storyline has been exhausted, the game is still intended to be played and has other goals to be obtained. After the "ending," the game finally allows the Pokémon characters to evolve, and still presents missions for the characters to go on, new Pokémon to be recruited for the player's rescue team, and new dungeons to be unlocked. Technically, the main storyline is only half of the game, and the game never ends due to narrative exhaustion.


In most Pokemon games, there are very linear storylines. Once the Elite Four have been beaten, the challenges consist only of multiplayer elements and collecting pokemon. Narrative exhaustion finishes certain, but not all aspects of gameplay.


Chronotrigger, the Squaresoft RPG written for Super Nintendo Entertainment system, is a weak example of Narrative Exhaustion. The game allows you to progress through the story as any other RPG. However after defeating the final boss, the player is given an option of New Game +. A player can choose to play through the entire game again keeping equipment and levels. The difficulty of the enemies are adjusted accordingly to keep the player challenge. When playing again, it is possible to encounter different endings.

Star Ocean: Till the End of Time

In Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, there is a story and the story does technically end after defeating the final boss. But, after defeating the final boss, you unlock extra dungeons that you can only go to after defeating the final boss. So, the game isn't a strong example of narrative exhaustion because even though the story does technically end after the final boss, the player is still allowed to continue playing.

Katamari Damacy

In Katamari Damacy, by the time you've reached the final level and have completed it, the story has finished. However, if you can get your Katamari up to a certain size, you unlock Eternal Mode. This Mode allows you to continue playing forever, with no time limit, even though the story is over. This game is a weak example of Narrative Exhaustion-the story is complete but the player is still allowed to play.

Grand Theft Auto 3

In Grand Theft Auto 3, the player acts as a mafia footsoldier that has just been released from prison and must do a series of missions to earn money and earn back his honor. Though the game can be played thoroughly and the credits will roll, you are given free reign after this to continue wreaking havoc on the streets and there are plenty of unfinished assignments, bonus stages, etc. to fulfill even after the narrative has been completely exhausted.

Super Mario 64

In Super Mario 64, the player is able to beat the main boss Bowser completely with only 70 stars. However, the total stars that can be achieved throughout the game, including the secret castle stars, is equal to 120. This means that the game with multiple levels within each world are still left to complete, long after the original narrative for the game has been exhausted.