'Returnal'
Source: House Marque

The Ending of 'Returnal' Leaves Players With More Questions Than Answers

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May. 20 2021, Published 6:27 p.m. ET

Sony's newest PlayStation 5 exclusive game, Returnal, has already been deemed one of the best games of the year by many players and outlets. The title follows Selene as she crash-lands on an alien planet and is forced to make her way through the foreign landscape, caught in a time loop to restart her journey every time she dies.

Beyond the stunning gameplay, Returnal's ending is a bit confusing for players, so we've explained what it all means (or attempted to).

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What does the ending of 'Returnal' mean?

Once you defeat Ophion, you're transported to a scene in a vehicle. It appears that Selene is driving the car and there is a child in the back seat. An astronaut appears in the middle of the road, causing Selene to swerve and crash in the water. Selene is dragged out of the vehicle by a mysterious figure, leaving the child still in the back seat.

'Returnal'
Source: House Marque
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Many have interpreted this to mean that it was all a dream (a theory that frustrates many players), and Selene's obsession with her work is what caused the accident that killed her child — making her partially responsible.

This seems to imply that Selene is being pulled through the time loop once again — this is important, because it's how you unlock the secret third act and ending.

How to get to the secret ending in 'Returnal' and what it means.

To access the secret ending, you'll have to work through the game again, from the beginning, to access Act 3. As you're completing your second playthrough, be sure to find all six Sunface Fragments located in each biome.

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'Returnal'
Source: House Marque

You'll also have to complete all of the house sequences in Act 1 and 2, in order, once you've located the Sunface Fragments. In the final house sequence, you should be taken to a room where you'll find a car key. Take it and use it on the car you find at the bottom of the crater after defeating Ophion.

There are a lot of theories as to what this ending means, but many of the conclusions drawn by players imply that this is the game's "real" ending.

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The final scene begins with a figure named Theia (Selene's mother's name) attacking Selene before she is transported to another world. We again see the scene of the car crash, though instead, Selene is the one standing in the road in her spacesuit.

We then see Selene in the car that crashes into the water — though she is a passenger, not the driver. She manages to escape and calls out "Helios" (the name of her ship) before the credits roll.

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Many of the fan interpretations believe that this ending has more of a metaphorical meaning to it. This ending suggests that Selene is complicit in the course of events that has led her here, and some go as far as to say that she caused her ship to crash-land herself. But by taking the car keys, she is, in a sense, taking control of her life again. It's also unclear if this still implies the entire game was a dream, or if this is just an alternate reality.

This ending really deals with Selene's guilt and the cyclical nature of the story, and also suggests the potential for parallel dimensions. Of course, this is only one interpretation of the ending, and many other players have different and conflicting theories.

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