In case you haven’t heard, Returnal is a fantastic 2021 video game, a very innovative PlayStation team-supported project, and one of the biggest reasons to be frustrated that the PlayStation 5 is so hard to find. One of the most intriguing and perplexing narratives in modern video game history can be traced back to Returnal.
Returnal’s roguelike gameplay serves as the foundation for a convoluted time loop narrative that culminates in a number of endings that, like Hades’, have left many players befuddled.
So, where does Returnal leave off, exactly? Here’s a quick overview of the key events in Returnal’s two endings and a few popular interpretations of what they signify, though it seems the game’s writers intended for the precise events and their consequences to be left open to a fair degree of interpretation:
Returnal Ending Explained
When you’ve defeated Ophion in Act 2, you’ll go to the bottom of a big body of water by entering a crater. There you’ll find an automobile that seems like it spent a long time underwater, as well as what starts out as a globe but quickly transforms into some sort of aquatic creature.
Soon, though, Selene’s memories of a time when a woman and child were riding in the car you just saw take a turn for the bizarre. The mom looks a lot like Selene, for sure. The child asks her mother whether she sees the “White Shadow” as the radio plays “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”
The mother is kept from noticing the mysterious man in the vintage astronaut outfit who has suddenly appeared in the middle of the road when the radio begins to intermittently cut out shortly after.
The mother makes a last-second evasive maneuver to avoid colliding with the figure, but she ends up crashing through the bridge’s support and into the river below. Unfortunately, the mother is unable to rescue her child from the rubble and is soon taken away (possibly by the creature).
A figure is seen swimming away from the wreckage, but as this is presented in first-person we cannot be certain of who it is. If not, the screen will be completely obscured by fog very quickly. It appears that Selene is being dragged back into the time loop.
One of the earliest and most widely held theories on this ending postulates that Returnal itself is a dream.
This theory proposes that Selene, who was work-obsessed to the point of exhaustion, had a tragic vehicle accident and has since imagined her voyage through Returnal as a dream constructed in her final moments or as a strategy to cope with the events of the disaster by replacing them with a spectacular adventure.
There is some proof that this is the case. Selene’s mother, herself a working woman, was clearly work-obsessed, so it’s no surprise that Selene herself developed a similar fixation.
The strange signal that led Selene to investigate Atropos was only known as the “White Shadow,” and we had glimpses of that astronaut figure throughout the game. When you add it all together, it makes for a pretty convincing case that the future will be perfect.
But there are some inconsistencies in that account. How else can we explain the multiple “false” endings we witnessed in the title, in which Selene returned to Earth only to be pulled back into the loop?
If she is making everything up, what made her realize what “actually” occurred? When exactly did Selene have her dream? Why does the radio keep cutting out? Who is the mysterious figure on the road?
It’s possible that the accident has placed Selene in a limbo where she must relive her final moments as penance for her sins.
That would be a great way to clarify the story’s underlying message about the game’s difficulty while also tying up a few other loose ends. The novel Returnal has one end, but it turns out there’s another one that introduces fresh options.
Returnal Secret Ending Explained
Players Will Unlock the Game’s Secret Ending by Completing a Series of Challenges and Receiving a Car Key as A Reward. a Wheelchair-Bound Monster Tries to Slash Selene’s Throat in This Returnal Ending.
After Selene Defeats the Monster, the Players Learn that The Monster’s Name Is Theia, Which Is Also Selene’s Mother’s Name.
The Next Thing Selene Knows, She’s Standing in The Centre of A Bridge While Wearing Her Spacesuit and A Car Is Barreling Down on Her from Behind. if Selena Is in The Way, the Automobile Swerves to Avoid Her, but Then It Goes Careening Off the Bridge and Into the Water Below.
Next, We See the Driver Swimming Away from The Debris While Selene Yells the Name of Her Ship, Helios, and The Credits Roll.
As if They Weren’t Already Confused Enough, This Ending Adds to Their Perplexity. Because of This, Several Participants Have Concluded that Selene Is Involved in A Time Paradox in Which She Is Both the Cause and The Victim of A Vehicle Crash.
They also believe that Selene has escaped the Time Paradox as a result of these occurrences. The young Selene has complete autonomy over her own life and decisions.