For some, a game’s end credits are a time to put the controller down, sit back and appreciate the efforts of the people that brought you the experience you’ve (hopefully) just enjoyed.
For others, it’s an opportunity to pop the kettle on—or in the case of Assassin’s Creed games, make a brew, drink it, nip to the shops to buy some biscuits, and still have time for another cuppa—and reflect upon their achievements.
So many games finish with little more than a scrolling list of names, but there are plenty that go that extra mile to keep you watching—or even playing—while the development team get their moment in the sun. Here, and in no particular order, are 15 of the best credits sequences I’ve encountered. Do big up your own personal favourites in the comments.
MILD SPOILERS, obviously, but we won’t spoil the endings of games, just their credits.
Shinji Mikami’s sublime shooter concludes, oddly, with a first-person sequence in space, tasking you with destroying a series of asteroids, each of which has a headshot of one of the development team on it. Blast one into space atoms and you’ll get to see exactly what that person did on the game. Mikami, of course, gets a giant asteroid that takes quite a few shots before it explodes. Your tally here even counts towards your ultimate final score.
Given the maddening difficulty of Super Monkey Ball’s later levels, the playable credits sequence is remarkably easygoing, with a long, straight, wide strip and dozens of bananas spread across it. Your job is to collect as many as possible, while avoiding the letters of the AM2 staff members’ names as they drop into your path. Each collision loses you several bananas, and it’s possible to end up in negative figures as you ricochet between two or three obstacles—though after the blood-boiling frustration of the Expert stages, you’ll barely care.
A deep, challenging brawler disguised as a knockabout comedy, Clover’s much misunderstood thump-’em-up concludes in gloriously silly fashion, with an outro song as catchy as it is hilarious. The awkwardly stiff synchronised dance moves as protagonist Gene leads the rest of the cast are amusing enough, but the falsetto backing vocals are, if anything, even funnier (“roulette wheel” sets me off just about every time I hear it). All together now: “my arm, my arm, my arm, my arm…”
SCE Japan Studio’s bright, happy PSP platformer has a brilliant soundtrack, but it saves the best for last with this feelgood credits theme, which features all the different colours of LocoRoco contributing gibberish vocals as they bounce through the world together. It sounds kind of awful written down like that, and yet it’s weirdly uplifting. As it builds to a repeated refrain it’s hard not to sing along. Its celebratory feel is so potent that they tried to repeat the trick for the (incredibly similar) sequel.
You’ve just spent 20 hours gunning down Ganados as floppy-fringed pretty boy Leon S. Kennedy, but now Shinji Mikami wants you to feel terrible for doing so. A chiming melody—finding the sweet spot where gentle meets creepy—soundtracks hand-drawn images of the villagers going about their daily lives in this sleepy hamlet, before taking a turn for the ominous as religious sect Los Illuminados arrives, injecting the poor townsfolk with the Plaga parasite. In three masterful minutes, it efficiently establishes their backstory, while making you feel like a heartless git.
Shigesato Itoi’s cult favourite concludes in truly heartwarming fashion, as every character—from the protagonists to enemies to minor NPCs—is acknowledged in a cast list that goes on past three full minutes. They all bop along to a jaunty theme, before the staff credits roll over the various photos you’ve had taken along your journey: snapshots of an unforgettable adventure. There’s one last surprise in store, with a brief post-credits scene that suggests this might not be the end after all. Two decades on, that final question mark feels particularly poignant.
The Marin/seagull ending of Link’s Awakening runs it close but the goosebump-inducing grandeur of Skyward Sword’s credits theme—if that opening brass fanfare and percussion crash don’t send shivers down your spine, you might want to check your pulse—puts it right up there with the best credit rolls of any Zelda game. The spectacular orchestral soundtrack would be enough on its own, but as an added bonus you get to see exactly what Zelda and Impa got up to in Link’s absence.
Team ICO’s second game compounds an incredibly bleak, downbeat denouement with tragic images of the vanquished colossi. And yet, after a brief pause for a final bit of dialogue, the credits resume over scenes that see the game conclude on an optimistic note. It’s made all the more affecting thanks to Kow Otani’s stirring soundtrack – and (SPOILER ALERT) your heart will break a little more with every limping step the wounded Agro takes. There’s a wonderful symmetry to its final shot, an eagle gliding past the camera to end the game as it began.
The New Super Mario Bros. series might not be the plumber’s most beloved outings, but the credits sequence for the Wii version is a cathartically destructive treat. Each staff member’s name is displayed on brick blocks that scroll upwards, and it’s your job to punch and ground-pound as many as you can, locating as many coins as you can in three minutes. It’s even better in multiplayer, as it turns into an impromptu competition as you battle to get the highest score. A brief mention for Rayman Origins, which pulls off a similar idea almost equally well.
In which Greg Proops and John DiMaggio—in character as the game’s commentary team Howard Holmes and Kreese Kreeley—spend several minutes aggressively mocking everyone involved in the creation of Platinum’s Wii-exclusive brawler. It’s essentially a series of coarse, foul-mouthed insults, but it’s very funny and endearingly self-aware. As anti-hero Jack rides past a sign for dialogue writers Ken Pontac and Warren Graff, DiMaggio sneers “I hate those guys—they’re always putting words in my mouth.”
The credits for the original Katamari Damacy let you roll up the countries of the world using the moon—cute, but it’s just more Katamari. The follow-up, meanwhile, has an unusual treat in store as you play the Prince of All Cosmos running away from your father as he finally gets off his backside and rolls a giant Katamari of his own – to a tune artlessly sung by what appears to be a Japanese Frank Sidebottom. “Don’t expect another sequel,” we’re told, the dialogue clearly reflecting the thoughts of its burned-out creator. Though we all know how that turned out.
After the euphoric climax, the calming coda. In this interactive credits sequence—essentially a bonus level—each member of the development and publishing team is represented by a single, glowing bud: blow through it and the flower will bloom, scattering the letters of that person’s name and job title. So much of Flower is an exhilarating rush, inviting you to experience the thrilling sensation of flight, but here Vincent Diamante’s sparse, piano-led soundtrack encourages you to take it slow, as you whisper gently through the long grass. Gorgeous.
A predictable choice, yes, and it’s been tainted slightly by the zillion memes it spawned—not to mention reviewers attempting to shoehorn one or both of the first two lines into reviews of anything tangentially related to Portal or Valve thereafter (and yes, I’m including myself among them). But Jonathan Coulton’s sumptuous Still Alive isn’t just a great song; it highlights its central character’s arrogant and defiant streaks and the game’s wry sense of humour. And yes, there’s something wonderfully ballsy about that opener—”this was a triumph” succinctly summarising what we were all thinking at the time.
I’m a sucker for an outro that shows the highlights of the journey you’ve just taken, whether it’s reminders of the NPCs you’ve encountered, the people you’ve helped or the environments you’ve visited along the way. Okami keeps things relatively simple: you’ve got the staff members’ names gliding by on a paper scroll in the background, with short clips of key story moments, as Amaterasu trots along in the foreground, with cherry blossoms then snowflakes gently falling as the seasons change. Finally, Ammy reaches her destination, lets out a howl and settles down for a well-earned rest. A lovely, understated finish.
WayForward’s Eighties-centric reboot concludes with you punching the game’s antagonist Skullmageddon off a cliff, which naturally prompts him to break into song. At first, it sounds like it’s about to break into F-Zero’s Mute City theme before turning into a Queen offcut, complete with singalong lyrics as the defeated villain croons about his imminent demise. The best part, however, is the line “here’s a medal for your victory,” timed immaculately to coincide with a Trophy/Achievement notification. Neon may be far from perfect, but you can’t say it doesn’t reward your perseverance.