Note: Seriously, if that heading above didn't make it any clearer, this will be talking about Uncharted 4's ending, so to say this will be filled with spoilers is an understatement. So quit while your ahead or keep reading if you've finished the game or just DGAF.
I was certain someone was going to cop it at the end. I felt all but certain someone was going to die at the end of Uncharted 4. First, it was Sully. But then Naughty Dog trolled on that one with Uncharted 3, so surely not. Then, considering the subtitle of the game - A Thief's End - it was Sam. Or surely Naughty Dog would break the 'Use in case of last internally made Uncharted game' glass and actually bump off Nathan Drake.
But as it got towards the end of the game, I felt considering their relationship towards the end of the game as a married couple, that the vibes were heavily drawn towards this conclusion and that surely this would kill Drake more than any literal death to him would, it'd be Elena would be the one going 'Peace, I'm out'.
I was so ready for someone to die out of that core group that I didn't stop believing it wouldn't happen until we saw Nathan, Sam, Elena and Sully back on the mainland of Madagascar. What if Elena got killed by a Shoreline sniper for real after lying in that muddy puddle towards the end of the game with Nate after that earlier fake out a minute or two earlier? What if Rafe came and shot Sully just as the group got to the plane to get off the island? What if Sam died after being crushed inside Avery's ship? What if Nate was going to sacrifice himself in order to save his brother, leaving Sam to break the news to Elena? These were all actual scenarios that ran through my head as I headed towards the final two or three chapters of the game.
The fact it didn't happen caught me off guard. But as I'm writing this, nearly 24 hours since I finished the game, I can only feel genuine relief neither of them bit it. You usually expect some big death in the final game of a series (Mass Effect 3 the biggest of the lot that springs to mind - well, depending on what ending you choose anyway) that the genuine relief I mention is down to the fact Uncharted 4 didn't play up to that trope.
We got caught up in the notion that because this is Naughty Dog's last Uncharted game - possibly the last Uncharted game full stop - that the meaning 'A Thief's End' was a literal meaning, one of death to its main character (or possibly one or multiple of the support cast) when it wasn't. A Thief's End is a proverbial full stop to Nathan Drake's career as a treasure thief.
It was only when I finally saw Nate and Elena together in that final scene that the emotion hit me. This is a series that I'd consider one of my favourites ever - Uncharted 2 is among my top five favourite games ever (something upon which I'm sure I'll touch upon in my eventual episode of My Favourite Game) - and of course my favourite developer. This almost being the last Uncharted and certainly the last Uncharted from Naughty Dog, seeing the happy ending was bittersweet. Wonderful but saddening. There were tears.
Those tears soon turned into rapturous laughter when the game threw me back into Crash Bandicoot unexpectedly, having been absolutely rubbish at it from the first instance of playing it earlier in the game. Never have I felt such a simultaneous mix of emotion at the same time playing a game than I did playing the epilogue of Uncharted 4. Feelings of sadness, laughter and irrelevant frustration as I miss the final jump on that Crash level on my last life.
It's then we see that we're a few years out from the end of what happens in the story - the Drakes, Nathan and Elena, have gone on to become successful and famous after the revival of the latter's old TV show, live on an island and have had a family since then, a dog and their only daughter, Cassie (who I copped on after the fact is named after the Drake brothers mother). It's only when after snooping around after trying to find her parents that Cassie finds out the past of what her parents and Sully did in the old days.
This was the true happy ending for Nathan Drake. Far more worth in its weight than any gold or treasure brought back in the past three games before and the one this ending was wrapping up. This was the final emotional hit in which a few more tears were shed. It was the best ending we could have hoped for. It was the one we got.
Making endings are hard. And if not done right, chances are the fanbase is going to throw it right back at you. You just have to look at what happened with Mass Effect 3. Yet, instead of going down perhaps a route predicted by most, Naughty Dog actually gave a happy ending that felt earned.
It was bittersweet but wonderful. I was certainly happy and content. Albeit with a mix of other emotions too in the fray.