Screenshot taken from the game’s store page on Steam.

Dream Daddy, a popular new dating simulator in which you date hot dads, has a reputation for being a heartwarming game. But since its release, players have started wondering if there’s something more sinister hiding beneath the original story, thanks to rumors of a “cult ending” that is allegedly hidden in the game’s files.

Rumors of a cult ending began a week ago when Tumblr user notyourdreamdad posted pictures of game code referring to a new, undiscovered ending. According to these screenshots, in this alternate finale to the game, one of the dads is revealed to be a sadistic cult leader. Those screenshots, coupled with a Steam achievement no one has been able to unlock, has many fans believing the ending must be real, except nobody has figured out how to unlock it yet.

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Since the rumors spawned, fans on a massive Reddit thread have shared their theories as to why the ending could not be played despite allegedly existing in the code. Players of the game speculated as to whether or not the ending was canon, or if it was a part of some forgotten Halloween DLC. Others thought the ending was a bug, or perhaps not intended to be seen by players. That said, players also noted that a character warns the player that Joseph, the supposed cult leader, is “a bad guy.” In normal playthroughs, this wariness is never fully explained, which is why fans believe that the cult ending must be legit—it would be the final piece of the puzzle. When Kotaku reached out to a PR person representing the game, they said they weren’t commenting on the situation, but also helpfully added, “OooooOohhh, mysterious.”

And so, members of the game’s fan base on the Discord forum banded together to recreate the controversial “cult ending” somehow. YouTuber Hoodie Panda in particular spent almost nine hours streaming the game just trying to figure out how to get the ending. His methods included choosing different dialogue choices, as well as choosing different dads to date and dating them in different orders. Despite his attempts, Hoodie could not find a way to trigger the cult ending.

Joseph’s image is a bit stretched out in this version of the ending.

Instead, a few days later, a Twitter user named Lawfulless alerted Hoodie to a recreation of the cult ending, rendered in a visual novel engine called Ren’py. Hoodie told Kotaku that fans like coffinwifi and josephdaddy ripped unused sprites from Dream Daddy proper to gather all the assets of the alleged ending. According to Lawfulless, the ending is in the game, but it is not properly coded for unknown reasons. Players have no idea if the assets aren’t available in the game intentionally, or if it’s all unfinished code that was never meant to be seen.

User Lawfulless tweets the download links for the recreated ending at Hoodie Panda.

In the ending that players have recreated, the protagonist —your “Dadsona”— wakes up in a dungeon. Here, Joseph reveals that he is a conduit for a darker ethereal creature, and that he will “...fuck each Dad whose life I destroy until the shame and stink of their failures has returned our eternal king to life.” You manage to escape, but Joseph’s whereabouts are unknown.

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This dramatic, dark ending sharply contrasts with the rest of the game’s generally cheerful and easygoing tones: while you can be rejected by a dateable dad in the end, the blow of that rejection is lessened by the fact that you have a loving daughter. At worst, you’ll finish the story without a boyfriend— but you don’t have to worry about your boyfriend turning into a murderous cult leader and having to escape from him.

“The ending was AMAZING!” Hoodie told Kotaku. “I’m highly anticipating them adding it to the game, seeing as a new dad would be an awesome update and something fresh and exciting for players to get behind.”

But others don’t seem quite as fond of the ending. Just by examining the search results for “dream daddy cult ending” on the Twitterverse, you can see how divided players are regarding this supposed ending. Some players love it, while others consider it a harmful demonization of religious queer men. One user commented “the internet loves dream daddy a cute dating sim for mlm! *5 min later* we regret to inform you that dd made a cult ending demonising a bi man.” Another user suggested that the cult ending is homophobic, saying “Hey so Dream Daddy has sexual assault, weird religious homophobia other really bad bullshit in it so, uh, Bye”. One user tweeted out, “HI YEAH JOSEPHS CULT ENDING IS COOL AS FUCK, PLEASE DON’T PUT DOWN PEOPLE BC THEY LIKE IT.” Others users want to play the game more after finding out about the ending, whereas some call to boycott it, or even encourage others to download the game illegally. But as dramatic as the cult ending might be for visual novels in the Western world, it’s not necessarily unexpected of a visual novel. Japanese visual novels, such as Dramatical Murder and School Days, usually have endings on a sliding scale: good, to okay, to disastrously bad.

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Despite that controversy, the cult ending— which may or may not be real— has many players discussing the badassery of Mary, an underappreciated character who saves you from the demonic Joseph. Several users have been sharing fanart and cosplays of the character, and voicing their support for their “dream mom.” 

Mary, the real MVP of Dream Daddy, rescues you in your darkest hour.

If you are interested in playing the fan-created cult ending, you can download it for Macs here and PCs here. Or, you can always check out Hoodie’s playthrough.