Earn Your Happy Ending

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Seven long years I served for thee,
The glassy hill I clomb for thee,
Thy bloody clothes I wrang for thee;
And wilt thou not waken and turn to me?"

"He heard, and turned to her."

The Black Bull of Norroway

Some series don't stick to one spot on the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism; rather, they end up somewhere in the middle by drawing from both extremes of the scale. Humans may act like bastards and the world may seem like it's crapsack, but that doesn't mean that the worst villain is beyond redemption, or that things can't be improved with hard work or even The Power of Love. The forces of Good may have to go through Hell, but in the end they will Earn Their Happy Ending. May overlap with a Bittersweet Ending.

Writing an ending like this is a balancing act: things have to be desperate enough to make it seem like the heroes could very possibly lose, but not so desperate that it seems there's no way the heroes can win. When pulled off poorly, it seems like the authors just Ass Pulled a Happy Ending; but when pulled off well, it qualifies for a Moment of Heartwarming.

Often comes after the Darkest Hour. In this case, things have gotten as bad as they can get for the hero, they may be at the brink of the Despair Event Horizon and need to be snapped out of a Heroic BSOD but in the end, they don't quit and manage to battle Back From the Brink to save the day. Done right, this version will likely be a Moment of Awesome as the hero prevails against all odds.

Compare Throw the Dog a Bone. Contrast Esoteric Happy Ending. A standard feature of A World Half Full. Its absence in a setting means Evil Only Has to Win Once.

Not to be confused with the Golden Ending in video games, where players actually have to earn their happy ending.

As an Ending Trope, Spoilers ahead may be unmarked. Beware.

Examples of Earn Your Happy Ending include:

Anime and Manga

  • Blue Gender. Very dark, gritty, cynical, cold world after the Blue has taken over the Earth. Human life has lost all of its value and the only thing that matters is defeating the Blue, regardless of any and all cost. Even the idealistic Yuji goes insane for a few episodes before the formerly cold and cynical but now warm-hearted and caring Marlene saves him. It has a happy ending for Yuji and Marlene, as well as the other humans who live in harmony with nature.
    • Which makes it insanely esoteric for anyone who knows how nature works beneath its pretty surface, and consequently, why humans strove to overcome it in the first place.
  • Welcome to The NHK seems to make this point. It even manages to approach it from a quasi-religious angle without seeming preachy--a rare feat, unfortunately.
    • The religious angle is arguable; the novel makes a point of that even though religion is well-meaning by nature, it's unable to help people suffering from serious depression. Misaki's uncle and aunt are deeply religious, and want to help their niece to the best of their abilities, yet are still quite blind to the fact that she's close to being suicidal.
  • Surprisingly, Code Geass ends like this. It takes a lot of planning, however, including the protagonist taking over the entire world as an evil dictator, and his best friend, at the protagonist's insistence, publicly assassinating him. OK, the hero's ending wasn't so happy, but he did achieve his goal of breaking the cycle of international conflict and creating a gentler world for his little sister.
    • One wonders if Nunnally would consider it a happy ending, though...
    • In Code Geass Nightmare of Nunnally, Nunnally manages to save the world from Charles' Assimilation Plot, regains her sight and her mobility, and is able to properly say goodbye to Lelouch before he leaves to become Demon King. Despite the difficult work for restoring peace that lies ahead, Nunnally believes that humanity can bring it about.
  • Macross Frontier did this as well, after at least five episodes of utter bleakness, kicked off with a Big Damn Heroes moment from SMS, and culminating in a nuclear disarming-of-giant-robot-via-shanking, one multi-kilometer high robot gut-punching another multi-kilometer robot, songs Saving The Day, the Vajra turning good and protecting the Frontier fleet, The Rival teaming up to take down the Big Bad, Alto blowing off the Big Bad's head with Mikael's sniper rifle, and everybody being happy happy love love on the Vajra home planet. Oh, and Everybody Lives except Mikael. Even the character with the terminal disease.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha does this every season. Mood Whiplash is used like a weapon by the writer, turning some of the darkest, most painful depths of despair into happy endings where almost everyone gets a Good End. A's has the darkest ending of the entire series, and it's merely a Bittersweet Ending. The sole exceptions to this are Precia Testarossa in Season 1 and the overarching conspiracy within the TSAB and Jail Scaglietti in StrikerS. Arguably, this prevents any case of Karma Houdini that even the series' heavily grounded idealism couldn't excuse.
  • The ending to the Rurouni Kenshin manga has Kenshin Happily Married to his second wife Kaoru, and having given away his sword. Kaoru has restored her school to a lot of students and is the happy mother of Kenshin's kid Kenji at the same time, Sanosuke is off to see the world, Yahiko is a famous swordsman, and Megumi goes to Aizu to practice medicine while trying to find the rest of her family. The anime on the other hand is a Downer Ending that wasn't even close to the manga's ending: Kenshin and Karou are deathly ill, he ends up amnesiac in China and along with Sano he has to go through Hell and back to return to Japan, Kaoru is barely hanging on thanks to her desire to see Kenshin one last time, and in the end Kenshin goes back home and dies in her arms, only to have her dying soon afterwards. The only bits of hope are these: Yahiko successfully dissuades Kenji from taking up the Hiten-Mitsurugi fighting style and helps him to stop hating his Disappeared Dad. Soon after, Kenji takes off with his girlfriend (who looks like a younger Kaoru) to build a new life away from Tokyo.
    • That's why Seisouhen is a Canon Discontinuity. Nobuhiro Watsuki publicly stated that it was made without his involvement, went absolutely contrary to his intentions, and he doesn't consider it canon.
    • Played straight in regards to Fuji, the Gentle Giant of the Juppongatana. Already an Anti-Villain who was mentored by a Smug Snake after being almost killed by scared guards, he's regarded as pretty much a living weapon and not even a human, until Hiko Seijuuro sees through him and treats him like a person in their duel. Later, he cuts a deal with the Meiji government and becomes a rural guard in Hokkaido, finally having a peaceful life with friends and co-workers that see him as the good guy he is.
  • Planetes waffles a bit at the beginning, then nosedives into increasingly cynical or even pessimistic territory... but idealism wins in the end, even with the terrorist characters.
    • Terrorist subplot was greatly overblown in anime, while the crazy salarimen antics were invented out of the whole cloth, but the manga had its share of troubles and hardships. They're mostly on the Fee's part, as most Clare's problems in the anime happened to her in the manga, though Tanabe didn't escape them too.
  • While not in full use in the series itself (since, y'know, it hasn't ended yet), Mahou Sensei Negima plays this in regards to Setsuna, a warrior who having lived her life as an outcast half-demon, found happiness in protecting Konoka as a simple bodyguard. In their childhood she failed to protect Konoka, causing her to distance herself from the girl in order to train harder and become colder, feeling that emotion was the weakness that caused her to fail. This distant relationship with Konoka was later resolved, and she become calmer and more cheerful, like her younger self. Later, in a pseudo Secret Test of Character, Evangeline forced her to choose between which was more important: becoming a cold-hearted swordsman without limits to better serve Konoka, or remain as she was in her current happy state, while losing her sword to Evangeline in doing so. With the two ideas conflicting with one another, only being able to lose with available options, she chose to have both. Whether she'd actually be able to do this or have a happy ending at all has been a running plot-line for her ever since.
  • Mars has this in escalating spades, culminating in a white-knuckled, tear-jerking Grand Finale when Rei gets stabbed in the gut by recurring Depraved Bisexual Masao Kirishima, while he's on his way to the party celebrating his marriage to the girlfriend he's been through hell and resolved all of their respective Backstory trauma with. They still get to live happily ever after.
  • Saji Crossroad from Mobile Suit Gundam 00. The poor guy had everyone he loved taken from him, spent most of a season finding out just how much he lost, wound up as the hostage of the very people he thought were responsible for it, then nearly died at the hands of the person (and also his love rival) he was trying to return to multiple times. And only barely succeeds in getting said person ( Louise) back to sanity. If anyone in recent fiction earned the right to a happy ending, it's him.
  • The Kyoto Animation adaptation of Clannad had Tomoya die, so that he would be reborn as the Garbage Doll in the Illusionary World. Only then could he be given the opportunity to save Nagisa and by extension, Ushio, when the Girl in the Illusionary World/Ushio sent him back in time, prepared to prevent Nagisa's Death by Childbirth.
  • Juri Katou from Digimon Tamers. Starting as a Genki Girl, then seeing her Digimon partner die, being captured by the D-Reaper and suffering through what may be weeks of Mind Rape where the viewer learns that her apparent persona was just a facade... even series creator Chiaki Konaka himself implies in his character notes that he struggled to give Juri her happy ending.
  • The Excel Saga anime ends on a very happy note. Excel and Il Palazzo escape the exploding ACROSS base by going down the trap door together, the closest thing to mutual affectionate gesture the two have ever had; Watanabe escapes with Hyatt and the rest of Daitenzin, technically beating ACROSS; and Pedro and Sandora defeat Tha Man and rescue Pedro's Sexy Wife. While it could be interpreted that everyone died in the explosion, the scenes shown during the credits show everyone alive and back to their old lives. Everyone is also alive during the next episode, but the canocity of that is dubious.
  • RahXephon. After episode 19, tragedies keep racking up until the world is saturated in an apocalyptic crescendo... then the Power of Love sings out. Cue symbolic surrealism followed by a Warm and Fuzzy Feeling.
  • Mirai Nikki: Yuno's "Yukiteru Diary" predicts that she and Yukiteru will "become one" on July 28, 20XX and get a HAPPY END. Said ending is threatened on multiple occasions; it goes away when Yukiteru discovers the corpses in the sealed-off room in her house (but comes back after the 6th is defeated), and after the defeat of the 10th (during which Yuno tries to snatch Yukiteru away from his friends), Yukiteru warns that if she wants to win his heart and earn her happy ending, she will need to accept his friends.
    • It seems she recently got this HAPPY END, though the story hasn't ended yet.
    • Looks like it's headed this way, though, what with all the diary holders preventing their screwed up lives in the new universe.
  • Liar Game seems to be heading this way - yes, most of the eponymous game's players are deceitful and desperate to come out of the game with a profit, but Nao's attempts to persuade them to unite against the LGT and share their money to keep everyone out of debt seem to be having some effect. Of course, it's too early to know to what extent this will work...
  • The ending of the Maya subplot in Azumanga Daioh. Suffer the animosity of a thousand cats so you can actually own one, happy ending definitely earned.
  • Princess Tutu ends with the heroine not getting the guy she spent the entire series trying to help and forced to give up the ability to be a girl forever on top of it, but in the end it's still shown that she's happy and with someone that cares for her. In fact, all of the characters are put through a lot of extreme emotional torture throughout the series (to the point that three of them threaten suicide at one point), but they all end up with a happy ending, although for some it's more bittersweet than for others.
  • Used in the Grand Finale of the Eureka Seven anime. When Renton is huddled in a fetal position, believing Eureka is dead and that current events are going to cause The End of the World as We Know It, and begging Holland to beat on him like he used to. Holland simply tells him to stand up and get ready to go to where Eureka is. His way of saying "Don't expect us grown-ups to fix shit for you." If that was too cryptic, Holland pretty much says it when Renton is about to pilot the new Nirvash into battle, telling him to "Go steal away the woman you fell for! You're a man, aren't you?"
  • The manga version of Chrono Crusade fits squarely within this trope. After the end, it's shown that almost all of the characters go on to live happy, normal lives, and those that don't are working towards their own chances to earn a happy ending. Even several of the villains get an Alas, Poor Villain moment at their deaths.
  • Fushigi Yuugi. In the first volume, Miaka successfully summons Suzaku--but not before losing nearly all her Seishi (including Tamahome), struggling to keep her virginity, and falling out with her best friend. In the second volume, however, Tamahome was reincarnated as Taka, making the ending considerably happier for her.
  • Kinda-sorta played straight in Neon Genesis Evangelion, but in such a twisted and subversive way that few will realize it, at least on first viewing. Rebuild of Evangelion seems to be playing it even straighter, though only time shall tell.
    • To expand a little, humanity has been reduced to a single mass of consciousness, but thanks to Shinji, everyone has the potential to become an individual human again. It's not really a happy ending, given that people can only come back if they're strong willed enough, and if they do come back, it's to an almost deserted world, but it's certainly happier than the Kill'Em All ending it first appears to be.
  • Among other things, Elie of Rave Master had to fake her death, go into a deep sleep for fifty years, and never really see her friends again in order to stop the ultimate evil.
    • And then, the Grand Finale has everyone else earn their ending when they believe Haru makes a Heroic Sacrifice to finally destroy Endless. Everyone (especially poor Elie) has to endure that knowledge for a whole year (with varying degrees of response). The ending's finally earned when they return to the site of the battle exactly one year later...and he reappears, having been sent one year into the future by Star Memory to save his life.
  • In 20th Century Boys, the Big Bad Friend actually manages to realise his plans of dominating the world, and manages to completely screw over the protagonist's attempts to stop him. Twice. This includes him releasing a virus that kills a ridiculous percentage of the world's population, among other things. It's only after 20 years (in story) since the series started that the heroes finally manage to overthrow him and save the world.
  • All the happy season finales of Sailor Moon are earned through blood, sweat, and an ocean-ful of tears.
  • Now and Then, Here and There ends on a bittersweet note, with Lalaru fading so as to bring water back to the world and a very good portion of characters we liked killed off, but given the utterly depressing way the series plays out up until that point, it's clear what sweetness there was to the ending had to be fought for tooth and nail.
  • Perfect Blue, not unlike a certain other psychological thriller with "Blue" in the title (see below), pulls a happy ending at the last minute. Y
  • Fullmetal Alchemist Ed and Al. I mean, come on, after everything that happens to them. Let's remember, shall we? Their father, Hohenheim, leaves them and their mother, Trisha, without telling them why (Trisha knew, though). They lose their mother at the tender age of 4-5. The parents of their best friend, Winry, were murdered. They try to bring their mother back from the dead just so they can feel the love they so desperately miss. They fail and come back screwed up. They than fail to save a little girl, Nina, from her insane father, Shou Tucker. Later they lose a close ally, Hughes, and later discover it was partly their fault he was murdered. They than have to deal with the fact they left a family broken. Next, they discover said best friend's parents murderer, Scar, and have to try and stop her from trying to exact revenge. Then their close friend, Ling, is possessed by a homonculus. Then they have to take on Father, the original homunculus on a quest for godhood, who blinds Roy and steals the souls of everyone else in the country (dooming all those people to A Fate Worse Than Death) to fulfill that quest. Next, Al sacrifices himself so Ed could survive and win. Then Ed sacrifices his ability to use Alchemy to bring back Al. In short: wow, they really did deserve that happy family photo at the end of Chapter 108.
    • Not to mention everyone gets their soul back; Father is defeated; Al is saved (body included); Ling befriends Greed, regains control of his body, and becomes emperor of his home country; and Ed hooks up with Winry and has two kids. It's also implied that Al hooks up with May, and Hohenheim can finally die in peace by Trisha's grave.
    • The death of Hughes wasn't their fault at all, despite what the boys may think. He was investigating the leader of his own military as a traitor. Even in Real Life, this could easily be seen as leading to treason; it didn't help that the people he was investigating were alchemical constructs with superpowers. It was only a matter of time, really.
    • This trope is practically the moral of the story.
  • Maison Ikkoku features the Ronin Yusaku Godai's near never-ending attempt to graduate college, get a good job, and marry the woman he worships. In his path are middling grades, general mediocrity, financial woes, Jerkass roommates, a "girlfriend" he's too cowardly to dump honorably, a teen girl who is obsessed with him, and another suitor to the girl of his dreams, who is extraordinarily wealthy and perfect. Does he earn it? Hell yes.
  • Zorua and Zoroark from Pokémon: Zoroark: Master of Illusions are kidnapped and taken from their home and then separated by the movie's sadistic Big Bad, Grings Kodai. Zorua does manage to escape but is left searching desperately for his mother, who Kodai tricks into believing he still has Zorua and forces to rampage through the city. Both get electrocuted (and NOT the harmless kind normal to Pokemon), beaten, tortured, and put through absolute heck by Kodai. Then when it looks like they're finally about to reunite, Kodai KILLS Zoroark right in front of Zorua! Finally, Celebi restores Zoroark to life to repay Zorua for working his tail off to protect it and is finally reunited with Zorua, they get to witness Kodai get one of the most satisfying Humiliation Congas in history, and are finally returned home. When you see them nuzzling each other as they arrive back home, you know they deserve it.
  • Black and White from Tekkon Kinkreet accomplish this, using their implied Psychic Link to stop Black's descent into madness and finally escaping the city to live by the sea. After all the beatings they took and psychological trauma they suffered, it definitely felt like they earned it.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica follows this trope to a T. The series itself is full of angst and tragedy, yet the main character manages to make things somewhat right by forcing reality to rewrite itself by preventing Magical Girls from becoming witches with her own hands. As a result, Mami and Kyouko are brought back to life because they never died fighting witches. It came at the cost of her own existence, though she doesn't seem to care about that. It is implied that Madoka takes fallen Magical Girls to some kind of afterlife, which is a much better fate than becoming a witch.
  • Gun X Sword is often praised for having a satisfying ending, but the characters really have to work (or, in some cases, wait) for it. Van gets his revenge, but he is left walking the earth alone again afterwards. Wendy loses her last family member, and she has to wait for at least a few years for Van to wander back into her life. Sadly, not all the good guys get such a happy ending.
  • Gosick In many stories the crowning moment of awesome is when the hero or heroine dies for the other; in the last episodes of Gosick, Victorique and Kujo take the harder path ... and go through hell to live for each other.
  • The Five Star Stories: Even though it took billions of years, Amaterasu and Lachesis are reunited and have a daughter, allowing mankind to continue evolution.
  • Kimi wa Petto rewards Sumire and Momo with this after they struggle through their feelings, relationships and fight to keep each other in their lives.
  • So far in the Shakugan no Shana anime at least, almost every battle the good guys have been in were very difficult to win. The bad guys often had some kind of ace up their sleeve, and the good guys had to really fight, or exploit a weakness, in order to win.
    • The last season Shakugan No Shana Final was this trope; Yuji Sakai pulls a Face Heel Turn in order to save the world knowing full well the ramifications of such an act and prepares to Walk the Earth as The Atoner before Shana calls him out and goes with him. FINALLY getting their happy ending in the process. It was Awesome.
  • After putting the two title characters through hell in the second half of Tiger and Bunny, they both get a happy ending. Kotetsu betters his relationship with his daughter and resolves to not let his declining powers keep him from doing the job he loves. Barnaby gets to see his parents' murderer be brought to justice and finally finds a purpose in life (being Kotetsu's partner in superheroics) besides the quest for vengeance.
  • Seldom has this trope been more triumphant than the ending of Mobile Suit Gundam MS IGLOO. Enduring episode after episode of disappointment and Pyrrhic Victory, at the battle of A Bao A Qu, the main characters make their final stand against the Earth Federation who continue to attack out of Revenge despite a ceasefire. The war crimes are caught on film by their science vessel, we see the main character's vehicles get shot up and the big mobile armor explode before everything goes fuzzy. However, many of the victims of said revenge attacks escaped, the two main characters included! A rare Crowning Moment of Heartwarming in what is otherwise a Crapsack Universe.
  • This is one of mangaka Tanaka Yutaka's signature tropes.
  • The main characters of Popotan get their hearts broken a lot in the series (especially Mai), but in the end they are able to accept their fates as reluctant time travellers, because that way they can still stay together. Of course, the ending isn't entirely happy for them, but they will probably suffer less Heroic BSODs from now on, so it's a start at least.

Comic Books

  • Transmetropolitan is set in a crapsack future that's not too different from our world, just more futuristic and more screwed up. When Gary Callahan becomes President of the USA, he starts to turn it into an authoritarian state. Over the course of trying to bring him down, Spider Jerusalem, the main character, starts to suffer from a seemingly incurable brain condition. In the end, however, he manages to take down Callahan, survives and ends up being among the one percent that doesn't suffer from major long-term effects of his condition, but lets everyone else believe that his brain is a mess so he can live in peace. The world is still a mess, but not really worse than it was at the beginning of the series.
    • YMMV The ending is seen by many to be a copout.
  • Marvel 2099: Manifest Destiny ends the 2099 line in this way. After several series of escalating catastrophes, culminating in a mass flood wiping out almost all of humanity, a re-frozen Captain America is discovered. He finally fills everyone in on the cycle of events that turned the 2099 universe into such a Crapsack World, and Miguel is able to steer what's left away from total annihilation. By the year 3099, war has ceased, humanity has accepted mutants and superhumans as their successors, and Earth has become one of the dominant forces in the universe.
  • During Mark Waid 's run on Fantastic Four, the eponymous group ends up in Heaven. Then they meet God—who happens to look like Jack Kirby. He gives Johnny a sketch of the foursome—something to remember the trip by—and tells them 'you'll earn it'. The sketch? The Fantastic Four: merely older, happy as ever, close as ever, and a caption that reads "To Be Continued!"
  • Marvel Universe since 2004 to 2010. First, Scarlet Witch goes crazy and kills some people and the Avengers disband. Then House of M whipped ninety percent mutants on Earth, and stopped new ones from being born. Then heroes have to fight each other, one of Earth's greatest heroes dies, another makes a deal with the devil, another is labelled a fascist, Hulk is shot in space by people he thought were friends, has to fight for survival on another planet, and when he finally finds a place when he's accepted and loved, it's destroyed, so he comes back, pissed off. Then we find out that Skrulls have infiltrated the superhero community, destroying the last bits of trust among heroes. And when they attack, the heroes taste Pyrrhic victory. Oh, and then Complete Monster Norman Osborn becomes the most powerful man in the United States, creates the Dark Avengers, attacks and destroys Asgard and....Good guys won. After all of it, the heroes still won, managed to overthrow all those things, and their lives are returning back to normal, heading towards a Heroic Age.
    • Except for you, Spider-Man.
      • Though, one might say that by the end of Spider Island, ol' Spidey prolly earned his happy ending.
        • Except at the end of Spider-Island, he loses his latest girlfriend...though considering most of the fandom never liked her to begin with, one might say he earned a different kind of reward being freed from her. He also got Mary Jane to admit she still loved him, although he wasnt privy to her declaration of love
  • Spider-Man pays a heavty price earning his happy ending in the Marvel Comics 2 Universe's version of his mythology, which follows a lot of his late 90s continuiity. After apparently losing his baby at the hands of Norman Osborn, Peter is left to deal with Osborn's resurfacing as a legit buisnessman and a huge bounty placed on his head as he is framed for the gajillionth time. He's stalked by a mysterious new Green Goblin, the original Hobgoblin, and yet another son of the then-deceased Kraven The Hunter, before he finally clears his name. In the 616 continuity, he defeats Norman Osborn and is reunited with his elderly Aunt May and goes on to live in luxury with Mary Jane, having retired as Spider-Man...until the pull of the ol' "power and responsibility" kick gets the better of him again. In the MC 2 Universe, Peter is reunited with his infant daughter, but opts to remain Spidey anyway. Things go well for him and MJ before a fateful final battle with Norman Osborn costs Peter one of his legs...ouch. Peter decides that THIS is as big a wake-up call as ever to grow up and he puts his web-swinging behind him to raise his daughter...and then his daughter grows up, realizes she has powers, and sets about continuing where her father left off. Peter just can't catch a break trying to earn some peace and quiet...but that's why we love 'em.
  • Top Ten: Beyond The Farthest Precinct. The villain becomes a caring a benevolent God despite his seeming death, and everyone is happy. May seem contrived but good damn did they earn that happy ending.
  • Neil Gaiman's Batman epilogue "Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?" (Batman #686; Detective Comics # 853). Batman eventually realizes that he's having a near-death experience at the end of his life, and comes to accept that even though any telling of the story of Batman has to inevitably end with his death, what defines him is that he will have never given up or stopped fighting to protect Gotham City or to save even one life, and that having the opportunity to do that as Batman has been its own reward.
  • Kingdom Come. After going to hell and back, Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman (despite having major differences) manage to get along, save the day and restore the world population's faith in the heroes by basically acting like heroes, leading to a CMoH in the epilogue shared by Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman.
  • This is the biggest problem with the Utopia Initiative in Squadron Supreme. They do come up with solutions to crime, poverty, war and even a stop gap measure for death, but the solutions are generated, implemented and maintained by a small team of superheroes and relies on them to maintain it. Humanity didn't earn it's happy ending the way Zarda's Utopians must have.
  • After ten years of Love Dodecahedrons, Romantic False Leads and Tear Jerkers, Strangers in Paradise ends with Katchoo and Francine finally proclaiming their love for each other.
  • Wallace from the Sin City story Hell And Back, went through an entire army of assassins and even saw an old friend die in order to be reunited with his girlfriend Esther. Not only did he earn his happy ending, but considering the typical ending to Sin City stories, someone had to earn a happy one sometime.
  • Scott Pilgrim and Ramona Flowers: Both are forced to face their pasts and learn from their mistakes in order to have a working relationship.

Fairy Tales

Fan Works

  • After much work and strife, the ending of The Man With No Name has the crew even managing to earn some much needed cash. With how things usually end up, Mal is stunned by this turn of events.
  • The Hill of Swords ending has Shirou, after 5 seperate resummonings, and who knows how many years finally reuniting with Saber in Avalon.
  • Even with all the madness and downright cruelty in All He Ever Wanted, Austria was at the receiving end of some the worst abuse to the point of being forced to see his beloved Hungary raped by Prussia. He also happens to have one of the better endings compared to the other characters.
  • This trope is essentially the center point of the Pony POV Series. While it hasn't ended, even the ends of story arcs tend to lean this way. The two Sixth Rangers especially had to go through Pony Hell to get to the point where they're genuinely happy with their lives. In the case of Fluttercruel, she literally went through Pony Hell!

Film - Animated

  • WALL-E. The Earth had fallen into decay and waste. After 700 years life finally sprouts again. Despite having lived lives doing almost nothing, the people of the Axiom are happy to set foot back on Earth and try to fix it. In the credits, we see society develop back to its former glory, and lush green fields and lakes are once again alive. Mankind has grown fit and thin again as they start doing things again. The real trick to it all? This is the SECOND happy ending, and this all happens in the credits.
    • The part in the credits was actually added after a test screening because about half the audience walked away making the rather realistic assumption that humanity died in about a week.
    • Everything WALL-E does to win EVE's heart pays off with EVE deciding she'd rather spend her life with WALL-E than follow the life her programming leads her to do. This leads to another potential happy ending that needs earning: WALL-E gets badly damaged and needs to be fixed with parts that can only be found on Earth, leading everyone who was affected by WALL-E in a beneficial manner to work together to bring him home. Naturally, WALL-E's Heroic Sacrifice does not improve his chances of survival, but it helps the above ending come to pass. Cue thirty seconds of EVE's hardcore repairmanship, coupled with True Love's Kiss, in an effort to save WALL-E's life. Guess how well that pays off.
  • While on the topic of Pixar movies, each Toy Story film had the characters go through so much to return home. A cruel, sadistic kid, nor a villainous prospector, nor an evil pink bear could stop them. They did technically give up when they reached the metaphorical gates of hell, but they didn't really have any hope of escape short of someone operating the giant claw to save them - which is, of course, exactly what happened. And as bittersweet as the ending may have been, all the good guys earned a happy ending indeed.
  • Sleeping Beauty is one of the few instances in a Disney film where the hero has to directly confront and slay the villain, rather than causing them to be Hoisted By Their Own Petard. Considering Malificent is considered one of the most dangerous villains in Disney history and you've got yourself a textbook case of this trope.
    • I’d say that Pinocchio, Dumbo, Bambi, The Lion King, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame also make their protagonists earn their happy ending.
    • Likewise with Mulan. She disguises herself as a man to save her father's life, struggling to keep up at the training with the rest of the army. But she did it and earned the respect of the army. After being discovered as a woman, she goes to warn her old team that the Huns had survived the avalanche and were coming and got to fight the leader Shan-Yu. And defeated him using a paper fan. Not to mention along the way she earned the respect and admiration of her captain without needing a matchmaker.
  • The Brave Little Toaster from the start sends its characters through an endless amount of crap and presents the harshness of reality in an upfront fashion, but they keep positive throughout the adventure and never lose sight of their goal. In the end, it definitely pays off.
  • Treasure Planet. First old Jim loses his home, after trying to do something right, then the pirates mutiny against the ship he's on, then he's almost gets destroyed by a self-destructing planet. Only in the last five minutes when Amelia and Delbert are dancing do we see any real joy.
  • Don Bluth made his career from this, and even his lesser films are united with his earlier work by this trope:
    • The Secret of NIMH: A frightened mouse mother struggles to keep her family safe from humans and conspiracies amongst the rats and literally is only able to save her family through her courage.
    • An American Tail: Another frightened mouse has to protect himself from the dangers of the shady corners of New York City to reunite with his family.
    • The Land Before Time: A group of dinosaur children undergo an odyssey to find paradise.
    • All Dogs Go to Heaven: A former criminal dog must change his ways and literally go through hell to redeem himself.
    • The Pebble and the Penguin: A penguin goes through great lengths and several oceans to be with the one he loves.

Film - Live Action

  • Enchanted: So the world isn't perfect... but hey, maybe there still is something to The Power of Love.
  • It's a Wonderful Life: The movie begins with George Bailey on the verge of suicide, and then shows everything that drove him to despair. But by the end, even though his financial situation hasn't changed (at least until the end) the realization that he is appreciated makes all the difference.
  • This is one of the big draws of The Crow, other than seeing Brandon Lee give his final performance and watching him carry out his Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Serenity ends with the people of Miranda avenged, River somewhere closer to sanity, and Mal having put some of his demons to rest... but only at the cost of two of his crew members and a lot of innocents. It says something about Joss Whedon's Signature Style when Serenity has one of the more upbeat endings of his works.
  • Saving Private Ryan ends its War Is Hell theme with this quite explicitly, with Captain Miller telling the eponymous private to earn it when he returns to the 'States.
    • The Epilogue shows him as an old man at Captain Miller's grave in France with his wife, children and grandchildren, and has him breaking down and asking his wife if he was a good man. Manly Tears were shed, especially by battle hardened old men in the audience.
  • The world of Quantum of Solace may be a Crapsack World, with the official stances of the CIA and MI6 to let Quantum, the Nebulous Evil Organisation, do what they want in the name of oil, but at the end of the film, James Bond has torn open a huge hole in Quantum, earned his solace over Vesper's betrayal and death, helped Camille get revenge and remove a would-be dictator, and given the Bolivian people their resources back. Leiter also gets promoted to his corrupt chief's position.
  • Slumdog Millionaire, applies this literally—almost every horrific thing that happens to the characters contributes to Jamal's win.
  • From The Two Towers:

Sam: It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.
Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?
Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for.

  • David Mamet's Redbelt. Through a veritable Deus Angst Machina noble jujitsu instructor Mike Terry loses his business, his reputation, and his best friend, and is forced to fight in a PPV match. Once there he not only discovers the matches are fixed, but that it was his own wife who caused his downfall. After a brief Heroic BSOD he becomes determined to make it to the ring and reveal the truth about the fixes. On the way there, he defeats the arrogant jujitsu guy, is awarded the championship belt, has a moment with the woman whose life he probably saved, and when he reaches the ring is embraced by his life-long mentor, who gives him the highest honor in jujitsu - the eponymous red belt.
  • Sky Blue follows Shua as he desperately tries to bring down Ecoban in order to mitigate the environmental damage it has caused to his home. Dr. Noah notes that most of its inhabitants will survive and be able to forge a better world, but it will take a lot of work.
  • The 1924 version of The Thief of Bagdad. It's written in the stars...
  • Don Bluth's An American Tail heaps as much trauma on a (mouse) child as inhumanly possible, not giving poor Fievel a break until the last five minutes of the movie.
  • In Star Trek III the Search For Spock Kirk and the others sacrifice almost everything, including the Enterprise and Kirk's son, in order to bring Spock back to life.

Sarek: Your ship... your son.
Kirk: If I hadn't tried, the cost would have been my soul.

  • In a genuinely unexpected twist, Blue Velvet has a happy ending.
  • The prequel to Twin Peaks, Fire Walk With Me. With lots of elements of Gainax Ending and Mind Screw.
  • After facing much girl trouble in both Clerks films, Dante Hicks finally hooks up happily with Becky Scotts at the end of Clerks II.
  • Hotel Rwanda.
  • The Shawshank Redemption.
  • Schindler's List: The movie adaptation of his life implies he never recovers from the events of WWII, either emotionally or financially (because Reality Is Unrealistic), but seeing Liam Neeson portraying Oskar Schindler standing in front of all the people he saved at the cost of virtually everything he owned, hundreds of people there, and then having a Heroic Blue Screen of Death because it was only virtually everything he owned, when if he'd gotten rid of literally everything he may have saved perhaps a dozen more... and then the epilogue reveals that the Final Solution in Poland was so severe that fewer than four thousand Jews remained there at the time of the film's release... and then, finally, The Reveal that the descendants of the Jews Schindler saved number over six thousand.
  • Inception, it has one of the most tense climaxes seen in recent cinema. Cobb has to deal with the nearly impossible, and has almost everything going wrong at just the wrong time during the job; which makes the ending that much of a satisfying Crowning Moment of Awesome and Crowning Moment of Heartwarming when Cobb repairs Fischer's relationship with his father, successfully performs an Inception and Everybody Lives.
    • That's assuming one interprets the ending of the movie as actually happening in reality. An other possibility is that several of the characters never actually emerge from Limbo and the happy-ending is just part of the main character's dream. Given the alternatives, being trapped in a happy dream forever (relative to one's perception of time) may qualify as a happy ending for him though anyway.
      • If you take Christopher Nolan's own interpretation as canon, it doesn't matter if Cobb's back in reality or not, what matters is that he's finally gotten over his wife's death and he's finally gotten to see his children again. The fact that he's finally happy since he first fled the US is what matters, and the fact that he had to work to achieve that happiness certainly qualifies for this trope.
      • That way of seeing it even holds true when you go with the most extreme interpretation of the ending: that in fact his wife was right and we never saw the real world in the entire movie.
  • In Love Actually, most of the couples fought and made sacrifices for the name of love. Sam learned how to play the drums and then escaped the security guards at the airport to reach his crush. Both Jamie and Aurelia learned the other's language so they could properly speak to each other when they meet again. David and Natalie went through a Second Act Breakup, only to realize that it was a misunderstanding and they make up. Colin sold his apartment to go to America, where he meets four stunning American girls who were very interested in his British accent. The couples that didn't work was because they didn't take the chance to make it work or were unable to move on (like Sarah whose duties to her mentally illy brother took priority over her crush Karl).
  • What Dreams May Come - "Let this hell be our heaven."
  • In a rare example of this trope spanning several connected films instead of just applying to the course of the plot throughout one film, Young Frankenstein. All the five earlier Frankenstein films in the original series (alluded to being in continuity with Young Frakenstein with the line, "We're still having nightmares..from five times before!") had unhappy endings. Young Frankenstein was the first to end quite happily—because it was the first Frankenstein film in which the doctor does take responsibility for his creature and even shows fatherly caring for it.
  • The characters in Mystery Team had to go through their first REAL case in order to grow up and become respected.
  • In Arashi no Yoru ni, things just seem to get worse and worse for the main couple, but it all works out in the end eventually.
  • Jenna has to go through a lot of abuse and self assessment in Waitress till she gets her independence.
  • Transformers: Dark of the Moon has Sentinel Prime turn out to be a traitor to the Autobots, Chicago decimated by Decepticon forces, Sam and Carly having relationship troubles, and the Autobots untrusted by the world. But by the end of it all, Sentinel Prime and all of the Decepticons are killed and defeated, Sam and Carly get together again by the end, and the Autobots have proved they're not the reason the Decepticons are staying on Earth.
  • In The Last Samurai after the destruction of the samurai army and the death of Katsumoto, although the Narrator says that no one is sure what happened to Algren, the final scene shows that he made it back to the village and Taka to find "some small measure of peace."
  • The Artist has George Valentin lose everything as a silent film actor and filmmaker in a artform that seems to have passed him by and comes within a hairsbreadth of suicide, only to be saved at the last moment and shown that he has talent that would make him a star in the sound era.
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory When Charlie gives up the everlasting gobstopper and places it on Wonka's desk, he finds out that the "YOU GET NOTHING!" rant was just a test. Not only that, Wonka then introduces Charlie to his employee Mr. Wilkinson, who had impersonated Slugworth. And the real grand prize turns out to be the entire factory -- making Charlie the new owner.


  • Ciaphas Cain series can fit into this trope, ok, Cain sometimes gets really lucky, but we must recognize luck usually works as many times against him as in his favour, he still has to fight and figure out a way to save his life most of the time, but in the end, when he has managed to save the day (and usually the entire sector), he and his friends can go to a nice place to enjoy some amasec and tanna while tasting some delicacies.
  • K.A. Applegate's Everworld series. It's set in a world where all the gods and creatures from mythology exist, and as anyone who's read their mythology can tell you, that means horrible deaths and fates worse than death abound. And that's before Everworld is invaded by psychotic, heavily armed Neo-Nazis and an alien horde with their own god that eats other gods. For most of the series, the four teenagers who make up the main cast are barely able to keep themselves from killing each other, let alone staying alive, yet in the last book they actually manage to forge an alliance among the squabbling gods, start an industrial revolution in Everworld, and (while the series ends before the aforementioned Nazis and aliens can be defeated) the prospects for obtaining something close to peace are actually looking up.
  • This is one of the reasons why Terry Goodkind is so annoying. Every single book of the Sword of Truth series makes it seem like the heroes have earned their happy ending, but the next book always reveals yet another previously-unexplained plot device that the author can use to torture them for another 600+ pages.
  • Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles: Taran becomes the King of Prydain and marries the girl of his dreams, but only after losing several friends (and many others leaving forever) and having his idealistic image of a 'hero' shattered. Not only that, all the magic in the world is disappearing, leaving him to rule a much-more-mundane kingdom. Even then his ending isn't that happy, but the afterword seems to indicate that he at least accepts it, as his fading into legend would indicate an ending that may not necessarily be happy but at least positive.
  • Blade of the Flame: The evil wereshark plot is foiled and Makala is no longer possessed, but Asenka is dead, Makala is still a vampire, and the two male leads and their Love Interests are forced to go their separate ways.
  • Robin Hobb's later fantasy trilogies The Liveship Traders and The Tawny Man go through an incredibly dark journey and emerge to a more or less happy ending.
  • Characters in the Discworld books frequently have to earn their happy endings.
  • The Gormenghast series practically defines this trope. Titus goes through Hell and back, losing almost everybody he cares about to take down Steerpike, but in the end, he has a world to explore, a world to win.
  • Paradise Lost may seem like a Downer Ending at first, but read it again:

The world was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, & Providence their guide
They hand in hand, with wadding steps and slow
Through Eden took their solitarie way.

    • I think I've got something in my eye...
  • World War Z chronicles the entirety of a Zombie Apocalypse, from the dark portents of danger, the manic reaction of humanity, the soulless survival techniques that many resorted to, and the horrors of the living dead. Despite this, it manages to have an undercurrent of hope that gets stronger, running side by side with the cynicism and blackness. After all, Humanity did win the war, in the end.
    • Tell that to the whales.
  • This is presumably the rationale behind New Jedi Order and Legacy of the Force, but for some fans the excess of doom and gloom (not to mention main character deaths) just make it (and, by extent, the franchise as a whole) a Downer Ending.
  • Both Sabriel and Touchstone in the first book of The Abhorsen Trilogy are put through the metaphysical wringer. By the end, they've both lost their entire families and a lot of their friends to Kerrigor's undead minions. In the end, though Sabriel is saved from death by relatives in the beyond telling her it's not her time, and she and Touchstone are well on their way to a happily ever after. They even managed to save Mogget.
  • Stephen R. Donaldson's books are invariably like this.
  • Catch-22 is a Only Sane Man story in a Crapsack World featuring Kill'Em All, but still has a very uplifting ending.
  • Compared to some of John Brunner's other works (particularly The Sheep Look Up), The Shockwave Rider might have an ending that qualifies. "Well-- how did you vote?"
  • Averted, Subverted, and Justified at the same time in Stephen King's The Dark Tower Series. After a journeying for untold years to reach the Dark Tower (and consequently losing the greater number of his friends, lovers, and followers along the way) Roland FINALLY reaches the Dark Tower. However, upon reaching it he finds out that his existence is a cycle; he has made the journey to the tower an unknown number of times before this one. He is made to repeat his journey again and again until he finally learns his lesson (which is up to the reader to decide). He is, literally, sent back to the beginning of the series with no memory of what just happened. The trope is potentially played straight, however, by the fact that Roland may well be able to finally complete his quest this time round.
  • Harry Potter goes through hell and loses several friends along the way, but in the end, he is able to defeat Voldemort through The Power of Love.
  • Mistborn- both the first and third books, actually. The second is more of a Downer Ending, since the Big Bad just escaped its imprisonment thanks to the heroine.
  • Drizzt from Forgotten Realms is this trope incarnate
  • Melina Marchetta's spectacular On the Jellicoe Road (just Jellicoe Road in the US and UK) is an example of Earn Your Bittersweet Ending. Just about everybody who survives to the end has lost at least one loved one (often more), and the ending is still incredibly sad. And unbelievably heartwarming.
  • "Reader, I married him."
  • Honor Harrington really has to do this in one case especially. Over the course of "In Enemy Hands" and "Echoes of Honor" she is forced to surrender a ship captained by one of her oldest friends, with that friends' birthday party on board, captured, put into the hands of someone who is basically Himmler without the intelligence to not believe the propaganda, has her empathic and emotion - sharing treecat permanently crippled (found out later - he can no longer speak to other treecats), has her artificial eye and half her face electrocuted, is sentenced to death, sees her sworn retainers die in the (barely) successful escape attempt, loses an arm, lands on a prison planet, takes over said prison planet, builds a navy from all the ships stopping by at the prison planet, steals transports for all the people on the prison planet, and finally arrives back in the nearest friendly system to discover everyone thought her dead - and they'd held the funeral, and named ships after her, and she had a brother and sister that were planned to inherit her title. And somehow the whole thing is worthwhile in the simple sentence: "She was taking them home, and they were taking her home, and that was all in the universe that mattered." Yes, all that happens in between her leaving on an escort mission and getting home again.
    • No, the line that makes everything worthwhile is, "We're home, System Command.... It took us awhile, but we're home."
  • Many characters in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium fall under this trope, especially Beren from The Silmarillion and Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings. Beren has to go to the Big Bad's fortress and take a jewel from his crown to marry Luthien; He ends up dying just to get this, but gets better. Aragorn has to become king of two kingdoms for Arwen, and it ends up taking decades for it to happen, with a huge war right before it.
  • The Candy Shop War is surprisingly dark for a kid's book, and features, among other things, a Jerkass witch-hunter, a Bad Future, a ten-year-old getting trapped in an And I Must Scream scenario, and enough Body Horror for five books. However, it ends with all the kids back to normal, everyone friends, good changes on the horizon, and the Big Bad herself rendered harmless as a friendly little girl.
  • Blade of Tyshalle, to a degree that can neither be safely summarized without spoiling everything, nor summarized well in a manner that does the novel justice.
  • In the second Empire From the Ashes book, humanity suffers heavy losses against the genocidal Achuultani invaders, destroying the entire wave at the cost of many heroic sacrifices galore, the destruction of most of the military--including Colin's big damn reinforcements--and a death toll on Earth exceeding 500 million people.
  • Quantum Gravity: by the end of the fourth book, Lila has been tortured by elves, lost her trust in Sarasilien, the humans she worked with, and generally finds that it's going to be hard to grow up. She also literally goes through hell. Zal goes through hell, and then things get worse. But by the end, they're together, and Lila has figured out how to Be Herself. It's...less sappy in context.
  • In Vampire Academy, Rose finally gets her happy ending after one of her closest friends dying, nearly going insane, the love of her life being turned Strigoi and gets eventually turned back after Rose nearly killing him twice, being tortured both through the bond with her best friend and actually tortured, getting accused of assassinating a monarch and nearly executed before she finds out that one of the people she trusts, likes and admires was the killer and set it all up on her.
  • Maurice by E.M. Forster ends on this note. This was the reason why the book was not published until 51 years after it was written.
  • The cast in Dragons in Our Midst go through hell and back for their happy ending. And no, that's not speaking metaphorically, a few of them literally go through hell.
  • The Acts of Caine: what could count as a Downer Ending in another work is a rather happy ending in this book, compared to the hell the characters have been through.
  • In the Xanth this is pretty much the entire schtick behind Good Magician Humphery's missions: Successfully completing a Humphery-given task pretty much guarantees you (and those who helped you) a Happily Ever After. And most who get stuck with the year's service as payment for his answers end up better off for the experience. It's implied that many of Xanth's citizens know this for a fact and that's why so many are willing to give up a year's freedom (at a minimum) to petition Humphery.
  • Les Misérables: After 2000 pages leaning very, very hard to the cynical side, Valjean dies redeemed in his own eyes and Marius's, confident that he's kept his promises to Fantine and Bishop Myriel, and confident that his beloved Cosette will be happy.
  • John Taylor and Suzie Shooter from Simon R. Green's Nightside series. Though given how things work in the Nightside in general, and relating to John and Suzie both together and individually, bittersweet is almost more than they or pretty much everyone in the series would expect/hope for. Though in the Nightside, Bittersweet IS happy when you put things in perspective. Of course there's still one final book left to finish the series, so it's possible they might not even get that.
  • All of Ayn Rand's fiction, except for We The Living. Howard Roark gets his skyscraper, recognition of his artistic genius, and the girl in The Fountainhead; John Galt gets America, and the girl, and the heroes are setting out to rebuild a second golden age in Atlas Shrugged; and Equality 7-2521 escapes, gets the girl, and sets out to rebuild the world in Anthem.
  • In The Hunger Games, Katniss is forced to do this three times! And the second time she fails-badly. In the end, the games are abolished and the war/rebellion ends, but many well-liked character (many of them Katniss' friends, family, and companions) die horrible, tragic deaths. They include, but are not limited to Rue, Prim, Finnick, Cinna, Mags, Wiress, Cato, Snow, and Coin.
  • The two characters who get the happiest endings in the first duology of the Arcia Chronicles are Shander Gardani, the Stoic Woobie who performs several Last Stands and is magically tortured for months by the Big Bad, and Princess Ilana, whose ambitions lead her to become the Big Bad's personal plaything and to lose everyone she loves. The two end up surprisingly Happily Married and found a dynasty that endures uncorrupted for many centuries.
  • Matteo in Someone Else's War has lost his home, his entire family, most of his classmates, one of his best friends, and by all accounts, his innocence. But thanks to some craftiness and cooperation from his friends (whom he never would have had had he spent the entire novel as cold and judgmental as he was toward the beginning), he manages to dismantle the world's largest army and send the Child Soldiers home.

Live-Action TV

  • The central plot of Angel was the titular character Angel "helping the helpless" to make up for the evil he had done in the past, after discovering that an ancient prophecy stated that a "vampire with a soul" would become human again by playing a part in one of the upcoming apocalypses. The entire series is Angel earning his happy ending. Ultimately subverted by the end of the series, when he must give up his chance of ever becoming human in order to defeat the Circle of the Black Thorn.
  • Happy never comes cheap in Star Trek. Voyager had seven rough years before making it home, the folks of Deep Space Nine went through war and hell before putting down the Dominion once and for all, and both the Enterprise and her captain got beat up pretty good before they defeated the Xindi.
    • In Voyager, specifically, the end episode begins with a Bittersweet Ending, but then Janeway travels back in time and we get a really happy ending.
  • Steven Moffat's episodes of Doctor Who (with the possible exception of "The Girl in the Fireplace") tend to go this way.
    • Especially true of the two-parter "The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances"; after all the loss and suffering he had seen in his life, not to mention the fall of the Time Lords during the Great Time War, for once the Doctor was able to achieve a complete victory against death. "Everybody lives, Rose! Just this once, EVERYBODY LIVES!"
    • And codified again in series 5. "The Big Bang" provides the biggest, happiest ending of any DW season ever.
  • Arguably, this is how most of the episodes of House turn out, although occasionally, the writers throw in a Downer Ending.
    • Perhaps it's most accurate to say that sometimes, they leave it up to the audience to sort out whether it's a case of Downer Ending, Bittersweet Ending or Earn Your Happy Ending.
  • The 2004 reboot of Battlestar Galactica]] sees our heroes finally reaching Earth in the last episode.
  • Stargate SG-1. Applies to the series as a whole, but most particularly in season nine and ten. World after world bows down to the Ori, SG team members getting killed left and right (even a lot of normal people on earth thanks to the Prior plague), villains constantly getting away scot free and in two years, barely a dent is made in the Ori attack. Then The Ark of Truth kicks down the Downer Ending's door, beats it up with some Crowning Moments of Awesome and proceeds to give the team the Happy Ending they deserve.
  • NYPD Blue: Andy Sipowicz went through one murdered wife, one murdered son, two dead partners (and a third quitting in disgrace), and two cancer scares (His own and his toddler son's), all while trying to clean up his act after spending much of his career being an alcoholic Rabid Cop. He ends the show's run as squad commander, with a beautiful wife and newborn daughter at home.
  • The original UK version of The Office may be some of the darkest television ever labeled as a comedy, which is probably the reason why the Crowning Moment Of Heartwarming ending feels so damn good.
  • The Wire: In a show in which practically all victories are of the Pyrrhic variety, and happy endings few and far between, there was much rejoicing in seeing Bubbles walk up those steps...
  • Blackadder: Back And Forth was a long awaited Happy Ending for the Blackadder series. After four seasons, over five hundred years of trying to take over England, or at least trying not to die, (a) Blackadder finally controls England, openly, with a hot wife and a puppet Prime Minister, and is universally loved.
    • Blackadder III could qualify, if you weren't too attached to Prince George...
  • Lost is ultimately an example of this. And how, as the True Companions reunite and Ascends to A Higher Plane of Existence.
  • On Alias, Sydney leaves the spy world behind and finds peace in Santa Barbara.
  • Helen Stewart and Nikki Wade on Bad Girls. It takes three years of torment, unrequited love, Paolos, denied appeals, breakups, makeups and tears before those two get their happy ending.
  • Babylon 5: Five years of war, a change in commanding officers Both who sacrifice themselves, Sinclair becoming Valen, Sheridan getting the 20 year curse and a civil war to give birth to the Interstellar Alliance and end the machinations of the First Ones. And oh yeah, Sheridan and Delenn...happy for 19 years, anyway.
    • At least, they decide to make the best of it. The ISA, despite its teething troubles, flourishes first under Sheridan, then under Delenn.
    • Several of the most important characters earn theirs in the end as well. Ivanova goes through hell herself, endures a couple decades ground down as "an old war horse" before the Grand Finale, when Delenn chooses her to lead the Rangers. As post-series canon notes, she devotes the rest of her life to the organization, and it too gains tremendous respect and prestige, and she is honored as highly as Sheridan and Delenn for her contribution to society, an ending she could at least appreciate.
    • Garibaldi spends most of the series as a jaded Knight in Sour Armor and recovering alcoholic who believes he'll wind up shot in the back in a dark corner of the station. (He has reason, too—it actually happens to him, but he survives.) He rides the roller-coaster of helping to secure the ISA, falls Off the Wagon a couple of times, but finally reunites with his lost love, marries, and becomes a corporate tycoon, his unusual ways actually giving the company excellent standing. Literary canon reveals he even manages to get some long-sought payback for getting Mind Raped by Bester back in 2261. And unlike his cynical prediction, the last years of his life (according to Word of God) are actually very quiet and uneventful, as if the universe finally decides to give him a break.
  • It might have been a Bittersweet Ending for the rest of the outlaws (heck, maybe even a case of Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending) and just a hallucination for the Official Couple, but when Robin Hood and Marian are finally reunited in their Together in Death scene, there's not a single viewer that can't say they didn't shed literal blood, sweat, and tears for that moment.
  • Friday Night Lights: Kind of the whole point of the show.
  • Part of the reason How I Met Your Mother was able to get away with so much misery and misfortune and such serious fights is because of its backstory: Future Ted confirms that everything turns out fine in the end -- Ted meets his wife, Lily and Marshall stay married, Robin is very close to Ted's kids, and Barney was finally seen to be alive at least until the year 2021 (The Exploding Meatball Sub). Also, by the way Ted talks about them in 2030, the group is still close enough to be referred to as "aunt" and "uncle" to Ted's kids, and usually referred to in the present tense.
  • The Haunting Hour the Series has many episodes end on either a Downer Ending or a Cruel Twist Ending, but the episodes that don't do this tend to have this as their main rule: The characters will have to go through hell to get their happy ending.
  • To an extent, the ending of Hawking (the 2004 BBC drama with Benedict Cumberbatch). Stephen's had to deal with a serious incurable illness while working very hard, but by the end of the movie he's made a scientific breakthrough, his university's offered him a fellowship, his girlfriend's agreed to marry him, and despite his medical issues, he's still alive and doing science.


  • At the end of the Ludo rock opera, "Broken Bride," the time traveler has, after slaving at a time machine for fifteen years, gotten stranded in the Cretaceous era, come forward in time to the end of the world. He gives up his last chance of seeing his wife in order to save what's left of humanity. But angels arrive, and grant him his request: to return to that last morning in May. And then -- he gets into the car with his wife, so that they can die together. *wibble*
  • The Steve Miller Band's "Jet Airliner": "You know you gotta go through Hell before you get to Heaven."
  • Some Bruce Springsteen songs fall into this trope, notably "Badlands", "None But the Brave" and "Land of Hopes and Dreams". Also, in his concert DVD "Live From New York City", filmed during the E Street Band's 1999-2000 tour, during an extended bridge in "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out", he delivered an impassioned speech, telling the audience that joy, faith, healing, companionship, a second chance, all of life's blessings can be yours-- "But you gotta work at it!"

Myth And Legend

  • Odysseus embodies this trope so much you could call it The Odyssey. He gets chewed out by Poseidon, loses all of his friends and crew in some very bloody deaths, is lost for 10 years when he finally comes back, and finds that his wife is being forced into picking a suitor, so he has to bring bloody death to them all with his son.
  • The tale of Cupid and Psyche. Her own temptation isolated her from the one she loved. She went through hell for him - quite literally - and had to stand up to her mother-in-law - all while pregnant with his child - but in the end Cupid forgives her and rescues her, and marries her. And their daughter's name? Delight.
    • Technically she fails - she falls into an eternal sleep. It's Cupid who, coming out of his depression, gives her her happy ending, by pleading to Zeus.
    • Though, they both needed to earn their happy endings. So, even if Psyche had finally gained Aphrodite’s forgiveness and approval it would not change a thing if Eros had not forgiven her (he too had to earn it by coming to terms that his wife is fallible and standing up to his mother).
  • Hercules seemed to have had this misfortune. Before he is even born Hera conspires to make his life as hellish as possible by denying him the kingship Zeus intended for him. Throughout life he is attacked by snakes as a baby, forced to undergo twelve years of harsh labors after killing his family in a Hera-induced rage, additional torments thrown on by Hera during those years, everywhere he goes he has to fight monsters or gods, is often cheated by kings after he fulfills his obligations to them leading him to seek retribution later, save Olympus from a race of giants, and is betrayed by his second wife who inadvertently poisons him with hydra blood leaving him in agonizing pain and has to be burned alive. His crime that started all of this? Being born the son of Zeus. All that waited for him in the underworld? Wandering around wheat fields in the dark for all eternity. The least Zeus could do was elevate him to godhood.
  • Some religions have this as their premise - life is hard. Being Good Sucks. But it is worth it, in the end - the evil are punished, the faithful are saved, and we go on to our reward, forever and ever.
    • From the last book in The Bible, describing the end of time, Revelation 21:3-4,

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away."

      • {sigh} heartwarming...
      • Subverted in that people can't "earn" or "work" their way to heaven by filling out a checklist. In Paul's letter to the Romans (specifically, Romans 11:6), he says this in regards to how to "work" your way to heaven:

And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace."

        • In other words: no matter how hard you work, you can't earn your way to Heaven. This sounds pretty bad at first, until you realize that Paul's meaning in this is that because Jesus died for our sins, all we have to do is accept him as our savior to make it to Heaven, which is a lot easier than trying to earn brownie points with God.
        • To be clear, it is a bit more complicated than that. A person's good deeds do not directly merit their salvation, but refusing to do good deeds when given the chance is a mortal sin that can lead to damnation.
      • The principal is similar to the principal of Noblesse-Oblige. It is a feudal not a capitalist one. For a parable Prince Harry did not earn the right to be a prince as if Britain was America and he was a nerdy tech-designer who started in a garage. Nor did being an infantry officer make him a prince as if Britain did not have tons of infantry officers. Prince Harry was an infantry officer because he was a prince and not the reverse. Likewise a Christian is to act as if he is a son of God-because he is-and do good deeds because it reflects well on his Father not because it will bring a payment.
  • Well, it is played straight for Jesus. After all the hell (literal and symbolic) He went through to save us, the Book of Revelations seems to position Him as the future ruler of the Ressurected faithful. This is somewhat subverted in that, being God, his dominion over us should have been His birthright rather than something earned, and many people will end up in Hell anyway.

Newspaper Comics

Professional Wrestling

  • Arguably this is the main format of a standard wrestling match. The face starts out strong but is quickly taken over by the heel, is beaten up and worn down to when the crowd is sure they're done...until they manage to come back and pull off the win.
  • Trish Stratus embodied this trope as she was hired by WWE with no wrestling ability and appalling mic skills. Over the years she trained and became one of the most accomplished wrestlers in the company. She was rewarded with a retirement match in her hometown of Toronto against long time rival Lita with the Women's title on the line. She ended the match by making Lita tap out to the Sharpshooter and was given a standing ovation from the crowd as well as the staff at ringside.
  • Jeff Hardy also embodied this trope during the second half of 2008. He fought countless times for the WWE title against Triple H; he always came close to beating him, but was never able to. In a promo, Triple H even tried to undermine Hardy's self-esteem by claiming that he'd never win a world title, and that they're in different leagues. To add insult to the injury, Edge took Hardy's place at Survivor Series, winning the WWE championship. However, at the next PPV, Armageddon, Jeff Hardy defeated both Edge and Triple H in a Triple Threat Match to become WWE champion for the first time.
  • This happened to, believe it or not, Zack Ryder. He started off 2011 as just a perennial lower card jobber, but quickly gained popularity through his Z! True Long Island Story web show. As the year progressed, he started to pick up steam and became a contender for the United States Championship, even gaining the support of John Cena.[1] The culmination came at Tables, Ladders, and Chairs, when Ryder defeated Dolph Ziggler (the current US Champion) to finally capture his first singles title in WWE. Not bad for an Internet sensation.


  • The New Orleans Saints. For most of their existence they were, by any measure, one of the worst teams in NFL History. They played 20 years before making the playoffs the first time, and they were such a sad sack franchise that their fans took to wearing paper bags over their heads out of mock-embarrassment of being seen at the games. Then, of course, came Hurricane Katrina. They were forced to play the entire 2005 season on the road, while their home stadium became a shelter for storm victims that news accounts were describing as a hell on earth (later shown to be exaggerated, but still). During that road season, the owner publicly flirted with the idea of permanently moving the team to Texas. After the return, the team made some successful hires and became a serious contender, ultimately culminating when New Orleans won the 2010 Super Bowl. And when we say "Happy Ending," we mean it. The Super Bowl fell two Sundays prior to Mardi Gras, and by all accounts, the continuous party was so epic that it would have made Caligula blush.
  • Much like the Saints, the famed Boston Red Sox. A franchise whose (in)ability to win became legendary. Over the course of 80 plus years, the Sox were constantly foiled in their attempts to win a World Series, either losing their division to the Yankees, or being beat in the Series, usually after having some sort of lead. Numerous star Sox players went their whole careers without a title (e.g. Williams, Fisk, Yastremski, Bruckner, et. al). As recently as 2003, the Sox, who were leading the Yankees in the 7th game of the ALCS, BLEW THE LEAD AGAIN, and were beaten. The VERY NEXT YEAR, Boston curb-stomped the entire American League, flipped the script on the New York Yankees, by BEATING THEM after THEY HAD TRAILED; and then took down the vaunted St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. Staunch Red Sox haters had to bow to the awesomeness, and stand and applaud the Sox finally winning a hard-earned title at last.
    • And not just any trailing in the ALCS. The Red Sox fell to an 0-3 deficit in a 7 game series and did something that no other baseball team had done before—come back and WIN from that. And it wasn't easy either. They were down 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th on the 1 year anniversary of that fateful 2003 ALCS game. But as Kevin Millar went up to bat, the clock struck midnight and somehow he managed a walk against probably the best closer of all time, Mariano Rivera. Then Millar was substituted for with Dave Roberts who stole second on an extremely close play. Then Bill Mueller hit a single that was just out of the reach of Rivera to score Roberts for the tying run. And that was just the beginning. Games 4, 5, and 6 were real tough battles throughout full of twists, turns, strange umpiring calls, and Keith Foulke basically sacrificing his career for the chance at glory. Needless to say, the Happy Ending was earned in a huge way.
  • For balance's sake.... even though the same Yankees that the Red Sox defeated have long been reviled because it seemed they simply waltzed to their titles, that particular Yankee team had to earn their happy ending. After the Yankees lost in the 1981 World Series, the team became a joke. For the next almost 15 years, the Yankees were either average or just plain lousy. They blew tons of money on stars like Dave Winfield and Rickey Henderson and watched those players win titles, with other teams. Then comes 1993 and manager Buck Showalter has the Yankees in a tight 4-team race for the AL East Division, one of the closest finishes ever. The Yankees lose the division that year to Toronto. Then comes 1994, the Yankees are in first place, almost from the first month of season....BUT THEN COMES THE '94 STRIKE!!! 1995, the Yankees blow a lead in the opening series and get eliminated in five games by the Seattle Mariners, crushing the Yankee fandom. And then to top it off, the manager who got them to that point leaves and is replaced by Joe Torre, a man of dubious managerial skill. Honestly, nobody had any idea that that same team was going to win 4 of the next five World Series.
  • Oftentimes, an expansion team has to earn their happy ending; struggling to establish an identity and a fanbase and respect among more established teams. Some teams do it and succeed, big time. Two New York sports teams exemplify this trope. The New York Mets in baseball and the New York Islanders hockey team were both expansion clubs that were considered pale imitators of their more established and storied rivals, the Yankees and Rangers respectively. Predictably they both began their first few seasons actually being dismal and finishing at or near last place. But patience from the fans and the executives with these teams led to them surviving. The Mets staged a Crowning Season of Awesome by winning the World Series in 1969, 8 years after they came to be. The Islanders pulled off something greater; a Crowning DYNASTY of Awesome. Beginning in 1980, the Islanders won FOUR STRAIGHT Stanley Cup Championships, one of the most impressive eras of dominance in North American sports. They too, won a little over 8 years after their inception. In a side note, it was William Shea, he who also brought the Mets to New York, who played a role in bringing the Islanders to Long Island.
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were, much like the New Orleans Saints, a franchise born under a bad sign. Their history opened with the longest losing streak in pro football history (Oh-and-26 across the 1976 and 1977 seasons) before beating the Saints(!) to end the skid. After a brief flirtation with the playoffs between 1979 and 1982, the Bucs slid back down into mediocrity with 15 straight years of losing seasons replete with terrible coaches, horrible draft picks, and penny-pinching ownership. By 1997, with new ownership, a decent head coach in Tony Dungy, and after a series of pretty smart drafting, the Bucs earned a winning season and a re-appearance in the playoffs. Although Dungy would get kicked out by 2001, it was still pretty much his lineup that won the 2002 Super Bowl under Jon Gruden.
  • The 1991 World Series as a whole, played between the Minnesota Twins and the Atlanta Braves: The 1990 Twins and Braves finished at the bottom of their respective divisions. The '90 Twins in particular suffered the ignominious distinction of losing a game AFTER setting a historical first during that game: Turning two triple plays. The '91 teams played the longest (in number of innings) seven-game World Series to date, drawing four of its contests into extra frames, including a marathon 12-inning Game 3, decided when Twins manager Tom Kelly ran out of pitchers in the bottom of the 12th, and the decisive, 1-0 Game 7, which was won in the bottom of the 10th inning by a Texas league single hit by Gene Larkin over the heads of a drawn-in infield, scoring Dan Gladden from third base, capping starter Jack Morris' heroic ten-inning three-hit complete game shutout. Morris earned the World Series MVP award; teammate Kirby Puckett had made Game 7 possible the previous night by launching a Charlie Liebrandt pitch into the left-center-field seats. Sports Illustrated named the 1991 World Series the greatest of all time.
  • Manchester United were red hot favourites for the 1958 European Cup (and everything else besides) - until the Munich disaster killed eight players, left two so injured they never played again, and the manager so close to death he was read the Last Rites twice during his stay in hospital. Somehow they still managed to make the FA Cup Final that year (losing to Bolton); they next won the FA Cup in 1963, the League in 1965 and finally, with only two of the surviving players still present, the European Cup in 1968.
  • It took NFL Hall of Famer John Elway nearly his entire 15-year career to win a Super Bowl. He took the Denver Broncos to three Super Bowls between 1987-1990 (XXI, XXII, & XXIV), and was blown-out every time, in addition to suffering jarring playoff exits (including being defeated by the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars in the '96-'97 playoffs after a 13-3 regular season). Finally, in 1998, the Broncos defeated the heavily favored Green Bay Packers (led by 3-time NFL MVP Brett Favre) in Super Bowl XXXII, giving Elway his elusive Super Bowl ring, a day many thought would never come for the veteran. The following year, the Broncos won Super Bowl XXXIII over the Atlanta Falcons; Elway was the MVP of the game, and it proved to be a fitting end to a long journey, as he retired shortly afterward.
  • How about Jerome Bettis? Plays the first 12 years of his career without getting so much as a sniff at the Super Bowl, and by his final season, he was practically a cripple (he was in pain just from walking), and then the Steelers have to play the vaunted Indianapolis Colts, led be future HO Fer Peyton Manning in the divisional round of the playoffs. When the Steelers got the ball at the Colts 2 yard line with a 21-18 lead, and only 1:20 left in the game, they hand it off to Bettis, who hadn't fumbled once that year to seal the lead. He fumbles. Then cornerback Nick Harper scoops up the loose ball, and starts running for the Colts endzone, with only quarterback Ben Roethlisberger the only Steeler between him and a go ahead touchdown. Somehow, Roethlisberger makes the open field shoelace tackle to save the game, and a few minutes later, after a missed field goal, the Steelers win and advance to the AFC championship game. After beating the Denver Broncos, the Steelers advance to the Super Bowl, being played in Bettis's home town of Detroit, Michigan. And then after the Steelers win the Super Bowl, Bettis announce's his retirement.
  • Ray Bourque, who set several team, position and league records in his 21 years for the Boston Bruins...including one for NOT having his name on the Stanley Cup despite his lengthy career of 1,826 regular and playoff games. A secret trade to the Colorado Avalanche in 2000 put him exactly where he needed to be for the 2001 Finals. After trailing 3 games to 2 against the New Jersey Devils, Colorado came back to win in Game 7. Avs captain, one of the greatest players in recent memory, and all-around great guy Joe Sakic violated tradition by handing Bourque the Cup to take the first victory lap rather than himself. And it was sweet.
  • Sachin Tendulkar,the India cricket legend, made his international debut at the age of 16 and over the course of a career spanning 21 years and counting has come to be recognised by many as the best batsman to ever play the game, setting individual records that may never be broken and leading the team to victory in many matches single-handedly. For most of this time, he was part of a below average team which failed to progress much at major international events. In 2003, the team made it to the finals of the World Cup in South Africa only to be hopelessly outclassed in the first half of the game by Australia, leaving no chance for victory by the time Sachin came in to bat. And when in the next world cup the team crashed out in the first round, many felt that that's one trophy he'd never have. And then, the 2011 world cup, his 6th as a player, where he was playing as a 38 year old, with many of his teammates being toddlers when he started his international career and who had repeatedly stated their desire to win the cup for their childhood hero Sachin. With Sachin playing an instrumental part in their progress, that is exactly what they did! Manly tears were shed aplenty on that beautiful night... none more so than when after giving Sachin a lap of honour on their shoulders, a young member of the team said: "He(Sachin) has carried the burden of the country for more than 20 years, its time we carried him".
  • The brand new 2011 NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks are a prototype example. For the first 20 plus years of their existence, they were either mediocre, or they were great...right up until the playoffs. On top of that, every period of Mavericks excellence coincided with another team's dominance; i.e. the Lakers in the 80's, the Rockets in the 90's, and of course, their hated rivals the Spurs in the early 2000's. It never helped that while the the Mavericks couldn't make to the Finals, their rival Texas teams managed to win multiple championships. But then....the Mavs finally make it to the NBA Championship in 2006 against the Miami Heat..and even managed to take a commanding 2-0 lead. The Miami Heat behind the phenomenal play of Dwayne Wade beat the Mavs 4-2. Also, the Golden State Warriors eliminate the heavily favored Mavs the following year in the first round, making them the best regular season team ousted in the first round in NBA history. Beyond that, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry wind up being the only two guys from that '06 squad to remain with the team over the next few years. By the time the '10 - '11 season rolls around, the Mavs are largely forgotten. But they win 57 games to clinch a spot in the playoffs, they then outlast the Trailblazers in a tense 6-game series. They then take on the vaunted superstar-packed LA Lakers AND SWEEP THEM. After beating a talented OKC Thunder team, they make it to the NBA Finals and face.......that's right, the same Miami Heat team that defeated them five years ago, only now instead of Shaquille O'Neal, Dwayne Wade is joined by LeBron James and Chris Bosh, two of the NBA's biggest stars. It certainly seems like history will repeat itself when Miami goes up 2-1 on Dallas. But, Dallas, led by Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd (another guy who earned his happy ending), Terry, Chandler, et. al. pull it out and wind up beating the mega-team of the Miami Heat. Well earned, indeed.
  • Jenson Button, the 2009 Formula One World Champion probably counts. It was his tenth season, he'd only won one race and had most recently endured two years in absolutely hopeless Honda cars and few people believed he really had what it takes any more. Then to cap it off, Honda pulled out of the sport after the 2008 season - leaving Button possibly without a drive for the next season, which he had sacrificed a strong performance in 2008 in anticipation of. Then, Honda Racing F1 Team Principal and co-architect of Michael Schumacher's string of successes at Ferrari, Ross Brawn took over the team with Honda's blessing (They even supplied some funds to help pay off debts & get through the season - they felt it was the honourable thing to do) & Button seized the day - winning six of the first seven races (Including four in a row and the the first three races ever won with a single F1 engine) becoming the first man to win the Championship before its final round since Fernando Alonso did it in 2005. He has since gone on to success at the prestigious McLaren team (Britain's answer to Ferrari), including becoming the first man to ever beat Lewis Hamilton whilst driving the same F1 car as him in 2011 - a season in which he was also pretty much the only driver able to consistently challenge the dominant Sebastian Vettel (Who is often called the Baby Schumacher with good reason). All this after his career had at one point looked like it had run its course without him fulfilling his early promise.
    • The salvaged team Ross Brawn put together to do all this probably counts as well. They were essentially founded as British American Racing in 1999 (British American Tobacco having acquired the once-proud Tyrrell as that outfit floundered) as, what amounted to "Team Jacques Villeneuve". Management claimed they'd win a race their fist season. Cue them scoring no points and Villeneuve retiring from the first 11 races. They then spent several years bumbling around the midfield before Button joined in 2003 (Eventually outperforming Villeneuve enough that season to see the Canadian former Champion ejected before the last race for Japan's Takuma Sato to get a shot). Button led the team in a fairly successful 2004 campaign (They came second, him third) and a hit & miss 2005 season before Honda acquired the team. In 2006, they managed their first win and Button had a fairly successful second half to the season. Unfortunately, the team was screwed by Executive Meddling, resulting in the loss of star aerodynamicist Geoff Willis right before that win. This led to two years propping up the grid with the disastrously slow Honda RA107 and the better, but fundamentally flawed enough to scrap further development on long before halfway through the season, Honda RA108 before the rug was pulled out from under them by Honda's abrupt departure. Suffice it to say, the team that became Brawn GP (And is now Mercedes GP) had been around the bend a bit before becoming the only team in history to win every championship it contested (Those being the 2009 World Constructors' Championship & the 2009 World Drivers' Championship with Button).
    • In 2005 Gymnast Nastia Liukin lost the world all around title by less than one hundredth of a point. She was poised to defend her title in 2006 but had a major ankle sprain that left her unable to compete any event except bars at Worlds. Liukin's ankle injury required surgery and did not heal properly. The recovery period kept her out of both national and international competition for much of the year. Her supbar performances in 2007 led many to believe her prospects as an all around competitor were greatly diminished, especially in light of the rise of teammate Shawn Johnson, who had won every all around competition she competed in during 2007. In 2008, Nastia won an early match over Shawn due to her falling on a vault, but after that Shawn beat Nastia in ever all around meet, and was touted as the favorite to win the all around competition at the 2008 Olympics. At the Olympics, Nastia performed at peak performance and won the all around competition.
  • Everyone remembers how the 1980 US Olympic hockey team beat the Russians, generally thought at the time to be the greatest hockey team in the world, and that they would go on to win the gold medal. But what very few people remember is that their first game in that Olympics ended in a draw, and that every time they won, they did so by coming from behind. Every single time they won.

Tabletop Games

  • Promethean: The Created is the only game in the New World of Darkness to have anything approaching a predefined "happy ending"... but as this is the World of Darkness, it's a long road to hoe. Prometheans get some of the worst Blessed with Suck of all supernatural types—they come into existence in adult bodies with undeveloped minds, their very nature makes humans flip out and want to kill them over time, the very earth rejects them, and since they're so rare (for obvious reasons), it's hard for them to band together in groups. But as they're unfinished works, they can undertake a long and arduous Pilgrimage to figure out what humanity is... and, in doing so, become human themselves.
    • Vampire: The Requiem has Golconda, which similarly allows a vampire to escape their state—although into what is vaguely defined. It's arguably even worse, though. On top of having similarly stringent requirements to actually obtain, it's entirely within the Storyteller's power to rule Golconda doesn't actually exist and you've just been wasting your time—unlike becoming human in Promethean which is a core part of the game's premise.
    • The worlds of Changeling or Mage don't have quite as defined a "happy ending", but the games stress over and over that despite all the doom and gloom, there is a very real chance that a Changeling can reconcile their trauma and live out their lives in relative peace, and that Mages truly can make the world a better place if they avoid the pitfalls of hubris.
  • Wraith: The Oblivion was, in many ways, the precursor to Promethean, only even darker. Right, so you're stuck in a decaying afterlife with the foot soldiers of Oblivion, a power-mad undead empire that would just as soon ask for your vote as melt your corpus down to fill the treasury, and a voice inside your head trying to convince you to give it all up and tear the world down. But if you can remember what made you human and come to terms with the ties that bind you to this world, you're free to move on to the true afterlife.
  • The Time of Judgment, the series of supplements that finished the Old World of Darkness lines, included multiple scenarios where the players have the chance to overcome the World Half Empty and earn their happy ending (for themselves and for the world, even).
    • In Wormwood, one potential resolution for a Vampire: The Masquerade game, the player characters are offered a shot to atone and seek redemption as God judges the ultimate fate of all vampires. That is, if they can last 40 nights without succumbing to their beastly nature...
    • Judgment, a scenario for Mage: The Ascension, covers the last moments of reality. The players will be entrusted with the means to save the world from total destruction... But in the path to achieve this goal, terrible secrets will be revealed, friends will turn again each other, institutions will collapse, nations will be thrown into anarchy, monsters will be freed to roam and feed, and millions upon millions will die. There will be too many chances to fail as magical wars ravage around them, cosmic forces hunt after them and inner weakness and flaws will surface to haunt them... But, if they fight for everything and manage to fix the error that made the world a world of darkness, all of humanity will be freed from the shackles of doubt and disbelief and Ascend. Hard to ask for a happier ending for the entire universe.
  • Exalted has The Return of the Scarlet Empress—a campaign detailing the culmination of the Reclamation Conspiracy. The final climax includes the Ebon Dragon, the Yozi who created the concepts of misery, vice, cowardice and evil, returning to Creation and attempting to install himself as a fundamental aspect of Creation. The Exalted heroes, unlike the time when they combined their heroism and strength to defeat the Primordials, are shattered and turned against each other. The Solar Exalted, the most mighty of all, are only young and weak. Creation has been ravaged for decades by the demonic forces of Hell... But if the Exalted stand against the Yozi and fight with all their might, they might -- might—defeat the invaders and protect Creation from another apocalypse. But it will be a bloody fight where giving up seems to be the comfortable and sensible option...
    • This is Exalted as a whole. The challenge isn't saving the world from horrible monsters, it's saving the world from yourself and/or making it a place worth saving.
  • Feng Shui models itself on Hong Kong action movies. And as anyone who's seen a Hong Kong action movie knows, the heroes are not guaranteed to win the day or get out of things alive—in fact, tragic endings are rather common in Hong Kong cinema. So while happy endings are indeed possible in the world of Feng Shui, you're going to have to go through hell to get them.


And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered in scars
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach - the unreachable star!

  • The more seriously themed Cirque Du Soleil shows invoke this trope.
    • Alegria - Power is too often in the wrong hands, but the forces of good can and must fight and (re)claim it. The movie inspired by this show takes this trope much further: the world it takes place in seems to be a World Half Empty where (as a song puts it) "children suffer and then want to die", but beauty and love have the power to change someone from despairing to hopeful - and to change everyone around them in the process. And every person has the power to be that source of beauty and love to someone else.
    • Quidam - The modern world is an alienating place, but people can still connect with each other, and every person deserves to be seen as an individual with needs and wants.
    • Varekai - Just because you fell doesn't mean you can't fly again.
    • KA - Things that can be used to destroy can also be used to create, and even the most evil hearts can be turned by all the manifestations of The Power of Love and The Power of Friendship.
  • Dog Sees God - This incredibly dark Peanuts parody pulls one of these. Snoopy contracted rabies and was put down, Woodstock was killed by Snoopy, Schroeder deliberately overdosed and died, Lucy is in an insane asylum for setting the Little Red-Head Girl on fire, Linus is a pothead, Marcy and Peppermint Patty are alcoholics, Freida is bulimic, and Pig Pen is a psychopath -- but Charlie Brown finally got a response from his pencil-pal, and that gives him the strength to keep going.
  • A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry is a good example. The end of the play sees the African-American Younger family moving into a house in a white neighborhood so hostile that they sent a representative to offer to buy their house out from under them. Walter, the family patriarch, having blown the bulk of his father's life insurance payout, including money earmarked for his sister's education, nearly accepts the offer, but finally realizes that the family's pride is more important than money. Despite the looming challenge of being the first black family to live in their new community, and knowing that they will all have to work harder than ever to maintain their suburban life financially, the tone of the final scene in which they are moving out of their run-down apartment is one of hope.
  • Angels in America, while ending on more of an uncertain ending, still had Prior survive a terrible fever he had been fighting since his HIV infection, after being haunted by the ghosts of his ancestors, losing his boyfriend, having bizarre visions, being ordered to serve as a prophet, and finally going to heaven and telling off the angels for trying to have humanity not move forward.
  • "Les Misérables", to a tee just like in the book.

Video Games

  • Arguably, any video game that has happy endings and is at least the slightest challenging invokes this trope, especially if it has Multiple Endings as the happiest ending tends to be reserved for achieving 100% Completion.
  • Thief: The Dark Project. Almost a Trope Codifier. After going through some of the scariest and most intense scenes in shooter history, you finally have a moment to breathe at the end. Not all is well, though.

Garrett: Tell my friends that I don't need their secret book, or their glyph warnings, or their messengers. Tell them I'm through. Tell them it's over. Tell them Garrett is done.
Artemus: I will tell them this: nothing is changed; all is as it was written. The Trickster is dead. Beware the dawn of the metal age.

  • Kingdom Hearts' ending forces Sora, Riku and Kairi to get through the series up to near the end of Kingdom Hearts II (nearly 3 different video games, and technically a fourth if you count the year that Sora was sleeping and Roxas and Riku were running around) before they can joyously reunite with each other. Then they have to finish off the Big Bad before they can return home.
    • And as if that wasn't enough, Sora and Riku now have to become true Keyblade Masters and earn happy endings for every single good guy that's been killed or somehow similarly lost.
  • Final Fantasy VI has this, though they could have emphasized it a lot more with more programming freedom.
    • For a storyline example, Final Fantasy X leads directly into Final Fantasy X-2. In particular, Yuna's entire journey as a sphere hunter is so she can earn a happy ending with Tidus after he ends the first game with a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Final Fantasy XIII's characters definitely earn their happy ending, after what they went through in the game to get there. Well, except Hope. Poor Hope.
      • On the other hand, although Hope's lost his mother, the Web Novelisation epilogue Final Fantasy XIII -Episode i- features him discovering that his father is alive. Given that said novelisation is also a lead-in to the coming sequel, Final Fantasy XIII-2, it counts as canon - and speaking of which, Word of God has it that Lightning herself will finally find her happy ending during the sequel, though it remains to be seen how true this is.
  • Metal Gear Solid has the situation getting worse and worse in the last three chronological games (MGS 1, 2, and 4), with MGS4 revealing the one happy part of MGS2‍'‍s ending went horribly wrong shortly after. This persists right up to the very last scenes, promising Downer Ending after Downer Ending yet averting each one at the last moment for a genuinely uplifting finale.
    • This is a truly bizarre but awesome example, since the series properly establishes that Anyone Can Die, and in the end, a lot of people manage to live.
    • Not necessarily a completely happy ending, but the hopeful future that looms at the end is definitely heartwarming.
  • Ar tonelico does this in two ways: the game has multiple endings, in some of which you can redeem the Big Bad instead of killing it off; Also, in the visual novel-like adventure within the "soulsphere" of Lady Shurelia, which plays like a Magical Girl TV show, you get a surprising Bittersweet Ending, unless you go back again- then you find out that it was actually due to tampering by the Big Bad itself, and you get the chance to earn a happy ending instead.
    • Of course, in the second game you find out that it was actually Shurelia who tampered with the story to make it have a happy ending, not Mir/Jakuri tampering with it to give it a Downer Ending. In fact the only reason Mir interfered in the first place was because she was pissed that Shurelia tampered with her story.
  • The Suikoden series actually makes this into a game mechanic: the characters will suffer through all the tragedies and losses of war and then some, but if you recruit all 108 Stars of Destiny, everyone gets a truly happy ending. Keep in mind that this is not at all easy, and neglecting to get even one of them will result in a much more Bittersweet Ending, or even downright tragic ending.
  • The Silent Hill games have an incredibly literal example of this; in each of the games, there is a potential good ending, but the player has to earn it through his actions while playing the game with the exception of Silent Hill 3 and Origins, which actually force a good ending on the player the first time through. But, well, the characters still literally go through Hell to get it, so...
  • The Baldur's Gate series leans heavily towards this, though the vagaries of being a somewhat open-ended RPG with a great deal of choice as to the nature of the protagonist keep it from being blatant. That said, the player does go to hell. Twice. Among other things.
  • Neverwinter Nights: The city is safe, the Old Ones finally destroyed; but Aribeth is dead and the Luskan army has torn up the city beyond all recognition.
    • Shadows of Undrentide: The eponymous floating city is destroyed along with the Big Bad and her dreams of world conquest, but Drogan and your sidekick are dead and your character is presumed dead.
    • Hordes of the Underdark: Getting lost in Undermountain, exploring the Underdark, waging a war against the Drow, accidentally freeing Mephistopheles, one of the Archdukes of the Nine Hells, dying, saving the soul of Aribeth battling the hordes of demons and devils around the prison of the Knower of Names, and then finally returning to life to battle Mephistopheles for the fate of Toril. The epilogue afterwards gives everyone important in the story their properly deserved endings.
    • A Dance With Rogues.
    • The Bastard of Kosigan (at least as far as it has been translated into English) has more of a Downer Ending.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 as well. The original campaign not so much, but definitely in Mask Of The Betrayer.
  • Mass Effect 2 definitely invokes this trope. The squad members Shepard gathers are basically the platonic ideal of Dysfunction Junction, but if you do their loyalty missions, you and they can help heal their myriad personal issues through a lot of hard work and shooting things. In a wider sense, depending on both your actions and decisions during the endgame mission and preparations you make for it throughout the game, you can either A: succeed, but lose some or most of your party, B: lose the entire team, including Shepard (the Player Character) or C: choose everyone right, get every upgrade for the Normandy and do every loyalty mission, and you'll not only get through the end unscathed, you'll get the first game's theme playing as you gaze into dark space, full of thousands of Reapers, Badass Crew intact.
  • And, of course, It Got Worse in Mass Effect 3. Within about the first 15 minutes, the first Reapers ever are detected in human space, effortlessly overrun all defense lines, and forcing a general retreat of all human forces and civilians out of the cities. The situation looks just the same for the Turians and the Bataarian species has become virtually extinct, pretty much removing all major military forces from the picture. The rest of the game deals with finding a way to destroy the reapers, hopefully while there is still at least someone left alive. However, that last point is not necessarily very high on the priority list.
  • The newest incarnation of the Spyro the Dragon series by Sierra ended its trilogy based on this trope. The world literally cracks apart after the Dark Master has seemingly won and accomplished destroying the world. But Spyro uses his powers to save the world at the last moment with Cynder at his side. All their friends are okay and Ignitus, thought dead, is now the new Chronicler. The bittersweet part is that Spyro and Cynder are apparently dead... until its revealed they miraculously survived and after all the crap they've gone through, they've earned the happy ending they both deserved after all those scenes of angst. Oh, and apparently Cynder loves Spyro so they're more then likely in love now. Only took the end of the world for the relationship to become canon.
  • Persona 4 features a literal incarnation of this trope, as most players will unexpectedly receive a bad ending after picking the wrong choices of dialogue in two different scenes. Achieving the good ending is such a Guide Dang It that beating the game actually makes you feel like you accomplished something. All of this is doubly true for the True Ending since the game actively tries to steer you away from it during the "ending sequence." Nobody said reaching out to the truth was easy.
  • Valkyrie Profile is this trope embodied. Not only does the player have to go through endless frustration to get to it, but in order to achieve the happy ending, the main character herself must become the Lord of Creation in order to remake the worlds.
  • Max Payne 2 has the player literally earn the happy ending. Only by beating the game on the hardest difficulty level do you see the ending where Mona Sax lives.
  • Drakengard 2, surprisingly enough, pulls this off in its third ending. After grueling fights against Cosmic Horror, a lot of sacrifice, and torrents of blood having been spilled, the game ends with both the dragons and the Gods fading away, and leaving mankind free to pursue their own destiny. Meaning that Nowe and Manah will get the normal lives they longed for, Eris won't have to sacrifice her future and become the new Barrier Maiden, and the world finally regaining a semblance of peace. Also, a literal use of this trope since, to achieve this ending, the player must complete the game twice at the lower difficulty settings, and then finish the game in Extreme difficulty.
  • In the game version of I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, if the main characters manage to overcome their flaws and face their past (Gorrison deal with his guilt about his wife, Benny being able to show compassion for others, Ellen conquering her fears, Ted proving his love for Ellen and Nimdok atoning for his Nazi war crimes), this initiates a Logic Bomb for the mad AI, who cannot fathom why the humans are not complete bastards. The players can then proceed to take down AM and revive the human population hibernating on the Moon.
  • The Shadow Hearts trilogy pretty much demands this in all three games, playing through normally, with no, or few, side trips, nets you the bad end. in fact the first games Bad End is established as canon in the second. However, if you put the effort in, you can and will Earn Your Happy Ending. The second game's Good End even implies that the main character, Yuri, gets transported back in time to just shortly before the events of the first game, memories intact, meaning it's quite possible he went through those events again, and that canonically, he got his Happy Ending.
    • Actually, this is canon. In Shadow Hearts 2, which doesn't happen if Shadow Hearts 1 has a good ending, Bacon performs the Emigre Manuscript's ceremony to raise the dead. In Shadow Hearts 3, upon seeing the Emigre Manuscript's ceremony performed, Roger comments that he's never seen it done before. Since, in Shadow Hearts 2, he does it himself... it means that the only way this makes sense is that Shadow Hearts 2 never had to happen. Yuri got his happy ending in the end.
  • In Oddworld Abe's Oddysee, if you don't save more than half your coworkers (who you don't even know you're meant to save until halfway through, and over half of whom are in secret areas), you get dropped into a meat grinder at the end by the Big Bad. You get to see the bits go flying, too.
    • The manual mentions that rescuing enough of them turns you into a god, so there is an incentive.
    • If you leave enough of them to die, you get the arguably worse ending of being recruited by your Corrupt Corporate Executive bosses for your rampant disregard for your coworkers and skill in getting them killed.
  • If you choose the Neutral (Freedom) Ending in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, you more or less fulfill this trope. You see your teacher end the world, deal with no longer being fully human, see your best friends being tortured and responding to that by twisting themselves into cruel and monstrous parodies of their character flaws, see said teacher - the only one who still somehow remained sympathetic - murdered before your eyes, perhaps almost destroy time and all worlds, and finish by striking down the master of the Vortex dimension in the name of freedom. In the end, despite everything, you end up with your friends again, your teacher's got a positive outlook on life, and even the World's Most Epic Widow's Peak gets to go around still being The World's Most Epic Widow's Peak. Believe me, though; you have to earn it.
    • The original Shin Megami Tensei also qualifies with its neutral ending. If you go with law, you side with the forces heaven, who got intentionally got Japan nuked at the start of the game, a later destroy Tokyo with a flood, so you know they're bad, and they kill most of humanity in the law ending. Go with chaos, you ally with the forces of hell, who want to turn the world into a place of chaos and anarchy. Neutral ending, you defeat them all there's no doomsday. Staying the on the neutral path, however, is much more difficult then staying on law or chaos, plus you have to fight the final bosses for each side (so I've heard).
    • Devil Survivor is a bit evil with this: there's an event on Day 3 involving Haru. If you don't do it, you cannot get any ending except for Yuzu's because it disables the Belial fight on Day 6, thus screwing up the War of Bel, and making the Laplace email predict something completely different. Not to mention, of course, that you have to fight at least one friend regardless of your ending.
      • The game also qualifies story-wise. The only way to win is to fight. Screw This, I'm Outta Here is a quick way to wreck the world, even if you can fix the mess in Overclocked. On the other hand, if you do seize the Tower of Babel, you can make a difference and save the world.
  • Eversion‍'‍s endings. The bad ending is a horrifying subversion. After spending half the game in a world that you've turned from bright and colorful to dark and hellish, you find yourself in a World X-1-styled room with the princess. Happily ever after? Nope! After a few seconds, the entire room reverts to World X-8, the princess reveals herself to be an Eldritch Abomination, and eats you. The good ending may or may not be a double subversion; shortly after the room goes X-8, you turn into an Eldritch Abomination yourself and become united with the also-monstrous princess.
  • Mega Man Zero 4 finally featured the human side of the Robot War's story (showing the humans' perspective of the Reploids, which border on Fantastic Racism). However, over the course of the game, the humans and Reploids finally learn to put aside their differences, creating true peace that lasted for almost two centuries. Tragically subverted, since the ones who fought so hard and so long for this peace gave their lives in the process just so the war could finally end.
  • The ending for Advance Wars: Days of Ruin is hopeful, light and upbeat in a Darker and Edgier game set After the End. You just have to go through Sunrise to get it.
  • The ending of Okami. Amaterasu and Waka finally get to return to the Celestial Plain, but not before Ammy's died once and had to be reincarnated in a statue, kick the ever-loving crap out of Orochi three times, make most of Nippon believe in her and give her 'praise', regain all of her Celestial Brush Techniques and power, create a Stable Time Loop, involving a double of dose of Help Yourself In The Past/Future, do various jobs here and there, beat up several dragons twice, but more if you're Orochi and then finally destroy Yami, God of technology, but not before it has stolen all of Ammy's powers, and knocked Waka out for the count, leaving Ammy literally having to beat her power out of it, and kill it for good. It's worth it.
  • This is more or less how the Celestial Bureaucracy in Grim Fandango works: Upon arrival at the Land of the Dead, each soul has to take a four-year-journey through the land to reach the Land of Eternal Rest, and how saintly they were in life determines how comfortably they can get there. The saintliest souls are eligible for a ticket on the Number 9 express train that shoots through the Land of the Dead in four minutes, while the biggest schmucks and sinners may have to just walk the whole trip, or even get sent in by parcel post.
  • STALKER Shadow of Chernobyl has one of these, about 2/3s of the way through the game you get a brief text prompt telling you to backtrack to the first map. If you don't notice this, then it is impossible to get an ending where the player survives, you never learn who or where Strelok is, and the game ends without closure of any sort. Backtracking will wrap up most of the storyline's threads kind of. Hope you were checking your journal.
  • Ico. Ico has to lose everything first. There's a superb essay about it here.
  • Xenogears. The game starts with an unending war between two countries, and it just gets worse from there. The unbelievable bastardry of humans towards each other and the sheer power and cruelty of Deus provide a soul-crushing and emotionally draining atmosphere, where if anything good ever happens, it is because something unimaginably bad is sure to follow. Most people die horribly or are grotesquely mutated into biological parts for Deus, resulting in a Class 2 Apocalypse. The dismal nature of the game makes the ending all the more satisfying- Fei slays Deus and the Urobolus factor that binds humanity to it, and even rescues his lover of 10,000 years after many lifetimes of being Star-Crossed Lovers.
  • The Burning Crusade expansion of World of Warcraft definatly ended this way for the Blood Elves. After having their homeland ravaged by the Scourge, becoming addicted to magic due to the Sunwell's loss, abandoned by the Alliance and betrayed by their own Prince, they finally manage to redeem themselves and cure their addiction through the combined efforts of Velen, Lady Liadren, the Shattered Sun Offensive and, of course, the player. The fact that they managed to banish Kil'Jaeden from Azeroth was icing on the cake.
  • In American McGee's Grimm, Grimm seems to be a believer in this. A main reason of his hatred for Lighter and Softer Fairy Tales other than being disgustingly saccharine is the fact that he believes that none of the protagonists truly deserve the happy endings since they're all either Too Dumb to Live or because he sees them as Karma Houdinis. He Grimmifies the stories so that the hypocrisy becomes much more clear or that the characters get a more "proper" ending (which in some cases allows female protagonists who go through plenty of crap like Cinderella or Mulan a chance at brutal revenge).
  • Cave Story. The story is dark enough, with cute NPCs dying or being transformed into monsters, and the Big Bad threatening to unleash said monsters on the world. But, by making the right choices, it's possible to not just defeat the apparent Big Bad, but to avert the Bittersweet Ending by saving two main characters (who would otherwise die), preventing the island from crashing, and killing The Man Behind the Man so this threat will never arise again. This requires the protagonist to storm Hell, the hardest level in the game—so both the characters and the player have to earn the good ending.
  • This is pretty standard for the Wild ARMs series. Pretty much every game has the heroes go through hell emotionally and psychologically, but in the end, they overcome the obstacles and save their beleaguered world...though more often then not at a price.
  • Much like Silent Hill, Fatal Frame has the protagonists going through hell, almost literally, to get to the end, but it's really up to the player to do what's necessary to unlock the Good Endings. The requirement this time is to play the games in higher difficulties.
    • Of course, the effort put into this becomes kind of pointless when the series is infamous for making the worst possible endings canon...
  • The good ending of BioShock. You had to go through Hell on Earth and be exploited by madmen, and it was hard to keep on the right side of that Karma Meter, but now you're free, and you finally have a family for real.
    • The sequel has this as well, since your actions influence Eleanor, the girl that Delta was bonded with. If the player remains good, the ending has Eleanor save her Complete Monster mother Sofia Lamb and absorb Delta's essence so that they can finally be together as one.
  • Phantasy Star IV has the happy ending earned by every single character in the series. We find out that Algo and its inhabitants were created solely to produce heroes meant to keep the Sealed Evil in a Can in its can, and that the struggle against Dark Force has gone on for thousands of years because of a flaw in the seal; Chaz loses his mentor and has a crisis of faith when he realizes that the forces of Light are just as ruthless and manipulative as the Darkness, and refuses to fight on its terms—but chooses instead to fight for the sake of all the people who came before, and lived, fought, died, and were forgotten or lost in their struggle. The ending finds the heroes of the game continuing on and happily living the lives they always wanted to, and the souls of the heroes from the previous games finally being able to rest.
  • Of all things, God of War ends with this, in that it is revealed that deep down, Kratos was driven by hope from Pandora's Box. The ending has him travelling through deep within his mind, witnessing the worst that he has done and learning to forgive himself. In one of his rare moments of selflessness, he ends up performing a Heroic Sacrifice to release the power of hope back into the world.
  • Arguably subverted in The Bard's Tale. The best ending for The Bard is to side with the Demon Queen and kill the Hero Antagonist leader of the Druids, upon which you and Caleigh end with a Happily Ever After over a ruined world and to the utter disgust of the Narrator, whereas the good ending for everyone else in the world has the Bard side with the Druids and kill the demonic princess, but then he ends up in the exact same position he was in at the beginning (completely broke and having to con people for a living).
  • A wonderful example of Earning your Happy ending would be in Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter. The game is so ridiculously hard that it can easily take restarting the game more than once to actually beat it. The ending, however, is well worth it.
  • Legacy of Kain has some form of this, if not an actual definitive ending. After two complete games spent chasing Kain, learning about his world's history and prehistory, and moping about his fate, Raziel is eventually absorbed in the Soul Reaver after having gone through multiple trials to enhance his soul through absorbing Ariel, only to grant Kain the ability of seeing the Elder God, his true enemy. More like, Earn your Bittersweet ending, really.
  • Planescape: Torment has you jump through numerous hoops to get the best ending, but it's oh so worth it. Having faced down your previous incarnations and being forced to watch as the Transcendent One (aka your own mortality made sentient) butchers your party one by one, you finally confront it and convince it to give up its hopeless plan to be independent from you and rejoin with you, ending your immortality. After this, you restore your friends, bid one final farewell to them, and finally, finally die and begin your penance for the crimes of the First Incarnation. Yes, it seems bittersweet, but the Nameless One still has the knowledge that his friends are all alive, in some cases (Dak'kon, Morte) absolved of their guilt/servitude, and can leave their adventures with him better people who will likely go far. Besides, TNO now has all the power and knowledge of all his incarnations, so it's not like he'll be defenseless in the battlefields of the Blood War.
  • The best ending for Splatterhouse 3 definitely counts. Rick manages to finish every level of his house in time, saving his wife and son, destroying a Cosmic Horror, and finally taking down the Terror Mask once and for all. After being forced to kill his girlfriend in the first game, and then punching his way through the Gates of Hell and taking out an Eldritch Abomination to save her in the second, he damn well deserves a happy ending.
  • Radiant Historia has this. Stocke goes back and forth between the real history and the alternate history, trying to right the wrongs committed. Even the slightest mistake can result in Stock's friends' lives being ruined and at worst, entire races going at war. What's worse, even after Stock fixes most problems in the history, he will still have to sacrifice himself in the end to save the world. However, if the main character manages to fix everything which takes enormous amount of time and effort, Big Bad witnesses the new history that the main character created and decides to sacrifice himself in Stock's place, allowing Stock to return to his friends.
  • Dragon Age: Origins potentially allows for this.
  • At the end of Dragon Age 2 the Kirkwall Templars' power has been broken, the mages have been rallied to fight for their freedom, and Hawke has gotten out of Kirkwall alive with his/her team intact, but the city of Kirkwall has been all but destroyed, circumstances force Hawke's True Companions to leave (except for his/her Love Interest), and the world is poised on the brink of a tremendous war to end all wars.
  • Fable III handles this... interestingly. In the game's third act you become the King or Queen, and you're now on a one-year timer before an Eldritch Abomination conquers your kingdom. The game expects you to have to make some tough decisions -- do you keep all your promises to your subjects only to watch them die in the coming war, or do you oppress your people in order to raise money for an army to save your country? Or do you Take a Third Option, making all the "right" decisions and paying for the army out of your own pocket, thereby proving to your brother that you're the leader he never could be? Well...
  • The good ending for the Play Station 3 game Heavy Rain has this, at least for Ethan. It starts out with one of his sons died in a car accident and then the other was kidnapped. If Ethan survives, the epilogue will end with a high note as Ethan starts to move on.
    • Actually, Ethan cannot have a happy ending unless another person finds out who the killer was or Shaun was at least. Ethan going in alone will wind up getting him killed.
      • If you complete the Bear Trial without failing any QTEs, Ethan won't break his ribs and the police won't shoot him.
  • Dead Space 2. It took one original game, one prequel, and a thousand torments, but Isaac finally received a happy ending...for now.
  • Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. The monsters in the game mutate as you progress, based on the memories of your missing daughter. If you're a slowpoke, they become emaciated, and zombie-like ("I could be dead by the time daddy comes to save me. I was never very important to him."); if you're a boozer, they become diseased ("Alcohol is bad for you, daddy"), and if you're a man-whore, they become curvy and buxom, and wear high-heels ("All those women weren't mommy"). But if you make all possible haste, they become more like cranky modern-art pieces, and less disturbing ("It's going to be OK. Daddy will be here soon").
  • Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, after all the crap he went through, finally got his happy ending at the end of Epic Mickey, and he most definitely deserves one.
  • American McGee's Alice has this, because Alice has to battle the Red Queen and kill her in her true form so she can regain her sanity.
    • Even more so in Alice: Madness Returns, where after yet another Journey to the Center of the Mind, this time to rediscover her memories, Alice confronts Dr. Angus Bumby, the man responsible for burning down her house and the cause of all her grief and exacts some brutal justice all at the (arguable) cost of her perception of reality.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, arguably. It gets pretty dark before it gets better.
  • Especially when compared with the original Portal's Yank the Dog's Chain ending, Portal 2 is a prime example of this trope. After fighting off two! psychotic A Is, traveling through the bowels of a nightmarish Mad Science lab and basically going through hell and back, Chell finally succeeds and earns her release from Aperture. The game ends with a lovely scene of the blue skies, wheat fields and Not Quite Dead Companion Cube outside the facility.
  • Fate of the World really makes you work for your happy ending. Between the Apathetic Citizens, conflicts breaking out, never having enough money for your job and being a perpetual Slave to PR, finally succeeding in your mission to save the world from Hollywood Global Warming is ever-so-satisfying.
  • Vincent Brooks. The guy has to climb a tower in the world of nightmare, fighting a plethora of perversions of his worst fears and defeating the Dumuzid AKA the bartender and what is his result? Taking over hell, becoming a powerful incubus and not only having Catherine, but a lot of succubi in his hand, finally being able to marry Katherine and have a happy family or breaking bounds with both of them, and continue his own free way.
  • The Arc the Lad quadrilogy tells 4.000 years of struggle, tragedies, Difficulty Spikes, no less than five team of semi-godly fighters powered by the local gods and three near or complete collapse of civilization before the Eldritch Big Bad bites the dust
  • The Resistance trilogy. Over the course of the first two games, humanity is slowly overwhelmed by the Chimera. By the start of the third game, the Chimera look set to wipe out what's left of humanity. But once Joe Capelli destroys the wormhole the Chimera are using to freeze Earth, things start to turn around as the humans finally begin to beat back the invasion.
    • The Resistance example is arguably the most surprising example of this trope. In the lead-up to the third game, Word of God all but promised that the Chimera would erase humanity.
  • Ezio Auditore of Assassin's Creed II fame spent most of his life fighting the Templars as an Assassin, but lived to retire peacefully, find love again, and raise a family. And after one last adventure aiding a fellow Assassin in "Embers", he dies peacefully.
  • At the end of Mother 3, the player is personally assured that everybody is alright, and that you helped Lucas and the others save the world. To get to that point:
    • Lucas, Boney, and Flint lost Hinawa, and Claus went missing. Flint dedicates all his time to looking for Claus, so Lucas has to basically grow up by himself. When Claus is finally found, he's been mind raped and gets Driven to Suicide.
    • Kumatora has to watch as, one by one, the people who raised her, the Magypsies, disappear, and she is forced to help make it happen.
    • Salsa and Samba are kidnapped and tortured by the Pigmasks.
    • Countless (note: sentient) creatures across the Nowhere Islands are torn limb from limb and reconstructed into Chimeras.
  • The Director's Cut version of Afraid of Monsters has four endings. The first three are Downer Endings that are each more bleak than the last, and the final, happy (albeit bittersweet) ending can only be achieved by first seeing the first three endings, as well as solving a game long puzzle.
  • In the LaserDisc game Time Gal, the eponymous anime-style heroine is pursuing a time-traveling criminal throughout history, and frequently in danger of being smashed, eaten, blown up, shot at, sliced to bits, and subjected to other horrible deaths. Even worse, every time this happens, you have to listen to him cruelly laughing at her. Still, if you manage to finish the game and nab him, it's not only pure Catharsis, but there's an award ceremony where Time Gal is given a medal with an entire army cheering for her. Definitely worth it.

Visual Novels

  • The ending of Ayu's route in Kanon implies that Ayu gets better (as opposed to being dead, which was what it seemed like even to Yuuichi) precisely because he had the strength to face and accept what happened seven years ago after admitting he loved her and always would.
  • Ever 17 has five different endings, with the fifth achieved by earning the other four. Two of said endings end with the death of at least one of the main characters, and the other two are stacked full of Tomato in the Mirror and tragic Break the Cutie. The fifth ending keeps up with the Tomatos, throwing The Mole, Luke, You Are My Father and even a Soap Opera Disease... before giving you one of the most gloriously happy (if really improbable) endings ever. Considering the Diabolus Ex Machina Visual Novels love to throw at you this was a genuine (and very welcome) surprise.
  • Fate/stay night. Any ending that can remotely be considered "happy" is earned in gallons of blood, sweat, and tears. Mostly blood and tears, actually.
  • In Tsukihime, Hisui's Good End, which is still rather bittersweet, and Kohaku's end. Kohaku's end gets the benefit of looking like not only did this path's heroine just die, but you'll have to kill Akiha because Roa is corrupting her. But neither happens.
  • In Clannad, to obtain the True End, where Nagisa and Ushio do not die, you must obtain every other Light Orb in the game, a.k.a. near 100% Completion of each other route. Some of them are pretty tricky: Misae's could only be obtained when you play Tomoyo's route immediately after Misae's route. It's the scene at the Founders Festival, where Misae is looking for her cat, a.k.a. Shima Katsuki.
  • Little Busters! requires the player to have gone through each of the other girl's route in order to have Riki and Rin become stronger and even after you have gained access to the refrain route it requires you to have Riki live through the 'real' events where the bus crash killed everyone but him and Rin, and then fix that reality so everyone lives
  • Family Project. Seriously, for a game where a Dysfunction Junction is the premise, things turn out pretty well in the end.
  • G Senjou no Maou is designed as such: If you want to get the final, 'true' ending you have to have had the opportunity to access every other route in the game during a single playthrough and pass it up. This means playing the game for as long as possible, and averting every chance to take an alternate route and walk away from the Devil's games. At which point the game goes on to subvert it because said ending leads to the main character's entire family dead, his foster father dead (although nobody will probably miss that one), the main character disgraced and spending eight years in the slammer for murder (to say nothing of the backlash of having a mass-murdering terrorist for a brother), and several hundred people dead during the chapter 4 riots. None of which ever happens if you pick one of the other routes instead. On a lighter note, he does get some extra Character Development and the Victorious Childhood Friend out of it. So, um... Yay?
  • Ookamikakushi also works in a similar manner, where, in order to unlock arc after arc to obtain the story's true end where none of the main characters die, the Kamibito and the Ochibito take a step towards co-existence, the village is not destroyed, and even the villain gets something resembling a happy end even though he will eventually go to prison you need to play through all the endings in the other arcs, including the bad ends.
  • The final chapter of The Reconstruction is the Darkest Hour, where the plot has gone completely Off the Rails and the world is in ruins. To make matters worse, an all-powerful "Lord-God" is sweeping up the remains and killing any survivors. The main characters are the only remaining hope for the world, but many of them are incredibly scared and nervous that they'll fail—after all, how will they be able to kill a god?
  • In Yume Miru Kusuri, both Kouhei and the chosen heroine go through many, many trials together (such as horrific bullying, drug-addiction and existential crises), but they eventually resolve their problems and go forward together to a well-deserved Happy Ending.
  • Katawa Shoujo: All of the routes involve some deal of angst, but two routes stand out amongst the rest. In Lilly's route, she seems to go off to Scotland and Hisao runs after her only to have a heart attack and appear to die. Even when you realise he's still alive he's stuck in a hospital again with an even more reduced lifetime knowing that Hanako is happy away with her other friends and that Lilly is gone forever. At least, until you hear the music box and Lilly reappears, promising to stay in Japan and with Hisao. Secondly, in Rin's route, which is as a whole noticeably darker than Act 1 and the other routes, she goes through a slow spiral into depression in her attempt to create art and find herself and doesn't really snap out of it until the very end, leaving many players to become convinced they've accidentally gotten a Bad End.
  • In every route of Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai!, but particularly the Ryuuzetsuran one, where even Invincible Hero Momoyo comes close to biting it at one point.
  • Togainu no Chi. Akira has a lot to go through; most endings has him killed horrifically, raped to death, or go insane, his best friend Keisuke always takes Line and goes insane, in three routes he's killed because of Akira's blood, gives his life to save Akira in another route, and almost dies in his own. Then there's Shiki's route, where he is sexually and emotionally tortured, develops Stockholm Syndrome, and the possible endings are somewhat depressing. Either a) Shiki goes insane and Akira turns into a sex addict, b) the two of them join the military and set out to conquer the world, or c) Shiki becomes a vegetable which Akira takes care of. The last one is the canon "good" ending and is very bittersweet. Thankfully the drama CD implies Shiki is waking up.

Web Comics

  • Gunnerkrigg Court, so far at least. There's lots of grim details in the background, particularly the details of Annie's Parental Abandonment, and her extensive prior experience with The Grim Reapers, as well as poor Robot's misfortunes. The main characters remain well-balanced and optimistic in spite of these, and there's nothing to suggest that this is naivety on their part.
  • The Order of the Stick: Elan wants to stay up waiting for his promised happy ending; Roy tells him it will be much better if he works for it. After all, Roy is working to kill Xykon…for good.
    • To elaborate, the Order visits an Oracle who tells everyone on the team the answer to one of their questions. The Reveal heavily implies the imminent death of one member, the ultimate demise of a second, the corruption of a third, and the fall of a prominent good nation because a fourth phrased his question poorly -- even after the Oracle heavily hinted this last one. While a fifth's foretelling is positive, only the ending to Elan's story is guaranteed to be happy.

Web Original

  • Broken Saints: despite all the suffering they have had to go through, each of our "broken" heroes is healed in the end, the men by the power of Shandala's love, Shandala by the power of theirs, and the world is saved.
  • The two main characters in There She Is go through a number of tribulations before they get to their happy ending.
  • In the interactive poem Today I Die, this is used as a metaphor for overcoming depression. The protagonist must swim with a boulder tied to her waist.
  • Ditto with Ruby Quest, where the characters have much bigger problems: Mutations, monstrous abominations, unspeakable evils from the beginning of time, and trying to escape from a mysterious facility where they have been trapped for over a year already, with several dozen failed escape attempts. The main characters get the happy ending they deserve, some of the others don't.
    • In addition, how the happy ending is earned in Ruby Quest is quite possibly one of the most literal and unintentional examples around (think of it as having been a point-and-click adventure game, except by virtue of being roleplayed by post on an Imageboard, it was very open-ended). Ruby and Tom come across a medical cabinet with a small lock, which the players have Tom bash open with the crowbar. Some tranquilizer is found inside, which they take in a syringe. A little later, they encounter, have a fight with, and eventually subdue with the tranquilizer a psychotic and suicidal Stitches. Immediately after, it is discovered that Stiches actually had the key they were supposed to open the medical cabinet with. Then, instead of killing him and being done with it, the players stuff him into a revival locker and leave him, but not before also slipping him a portrait with himself, Ruby, Tom, and all the other patients and staff in the facility before things went to hell. Cut to the endgame of the story. Ruby, Tom, and an also unintentionally-rescued Jay, have unlocked the escape hatch to the facility, but Ace is in close pursuit. Tom realizes that Ace will catch them if all three of them try to go up the hatch, as they won't be able to close it in time. Someone has to stay behind and delay Ace. After much wailing and gnashing from the players and cry of foul play, it is somehow painfully decided that Tom be the one to stay behind. Ruby and Jay make their way up the ladder, just as Ace appears in the doorway. Tom prepares himself for the inevitable outcome, but then...guess who? Stitches suddenly tackles Ace out of nowhere, and gives Tom enough time to scramble up the ladder and slam the hatch (and also causing quite a few players to fervently thank the "Deus Ex Machina"). By a combination of breaking something they weren't supposed to and being incredibly merciful, the players literally earned their happy ending.
  • Sailor Nothing is a huge Deconstruction of the Magical Girl genre that has the main character being repeatedly broken, her friends not faring much better, and the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism generally getting cranked up all the way to the Cynicism side, yet it manages to end on a happy note, with the complete defeat of the Yamiko and every character on the good guy's side surviving and earning the normal lives they very much deserve.
    • Which apparently was a bad thing, because it meant someone's pick for "designated casualty" failed to die horribly.
  • Summed up spectacularly with The Nostalgia Chick's review of Don Bluth's Thumbelina, where the despairing heroine is surprised to find her prince Cornelius alive and well - "Things are impossible! Things are... oh! Hi dead boyfriend! Thanks for coming along and proving my pessimism wrong and not making me work for that happy ending!"
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: R (Prime ending)
  • When The Nostalgia Critic fell into pretty epic depression in his "Commercials Special", he got to win by doing a Crowning Music of Awesome and be happy for the first time in a long while.
  • Sir Ron Lionheart, in his Let's Play of Majora's Mask, went out of his way to set everything right, and we mean every last sidequest. It was a long haul, but it was worth it to see a dawn of a new day.
  • Spoony's account of the final adventure of his longest running RPG character, Tandem the Spoony. After making it through a horrendously difficult campaign against all odds, Tandem and the only other survivor find themselves with a ship that can cross dimensions, so they first go home to resurrect their friends, and then everyone was last seen sailing away to whatever adventures await them next.

Western Animation

  • Osmosis Jones has Ozzie spending most of the movie struggling to stop a deadly virus named Thrax from killing Frank, the man in whose body Ozzie lives. It isn't until the very end, when Frank is half-dead, do things turn around.
  • Moral Orel ends in this way, where despite the fact that the main character lives in a Crapsack World of hypocrisy and zealotry and having one of the worst father figures imaginable, Orel ends up growing up to raise a genuinely happy family, with his brothers becoming a fireman and a policeman, though his parents are seemingly doomed forever to misery and hatred. That and throughout the final season it's been shown that there's a few residents of Moralton that have a chance at happiness.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Century-long war? Check. Implacable foe, impossible odds? Check. Last, best hope for peace victory is twelve? Check. Multiple heroes dead already? Check. Countdown to utter, utter defeat? ..oh, guess. Sounds like the sort of situation very few people walk away from alive, right? Wrong. At the end of the Finale, all of the good guys alive at the start of the finale are still here, there are three romantic pairs among them, the war ended without either side getting reduced to paste, Zuko gets to be king, and Iroh gets his tea shop back. Win, win, win.
    • And don't forget: Aang is able to make it all happen without sacrificing his personal or ethical values. Which doesn't come easy either; his friends, his allies and his prior incarnations - even the previous airbender incarnation that he expected to agree with him - were against him in that matter. Awesome, indeed.
  • South Park has a bunch:
    • In "Chef Aid", the boys hold a benefit concert for Chef after he is sentenced to jail due to bad legal judgement over the song "Stinky Britches". However, the executive, who claims he is "above the law", tries to sabotage the concert and nearly succeeds, but Johnnie Cochran saves the day in the end.
    • Stan gets to do this in "Asspen", whether he wants to or not.
    • Cartman does this in "Red Sleigh Down" to get on Santa's Nice List.
    • Everybody in South Park does this in "Red Man's Greed". Even after becoming homeless and contracting SARS, Stan helps them earn it with Sprite, soup and Dayquil.
    • After Wendy leaves Stan in season 7, we had to wait until season 11 for this trope to work its magic again. The two of them reunite after exposing a fixed list on who the cutest boy in school is.
    • Kyle earns his happy ending in "It's Christmas In Canada". After having Ike taken away by his birth parents, the boys go all the way to Canada to get the prime minister to change his mind. The prime minister turns out to be Saddam Hussein, who made up those absurd laws for the hell of it, the Canadians beat the crap out of him, and Kyle is finally reunited with his little brother.
    • "Quest For Ratings": The boys' news show is getting low ratings because everyone prefers to watch Craig's stupid show with the dogs wearing hats. The reason? The viewers liked it because they were on cough syrup.
    • An odd variation in "The Losing Edge". The kids are fed up with playing baseball and want to spend summer doing something else. Stan's dad Randy manages to cause their team to lose inadvertently, earning the kids their happy ending.
    • After being brutally injured by Cartman over the fate of Family Guy, Kyle earns another happy ending in "Cartoon Wars", both things happening in part 1 and 2 respectively.
    • The boys let themselves go and spend 2 months on the computer to earn another happy ending in "Make Love, Not Warcraft".
    • The boys, Ike, and every last Canadian earn theirs in "Canada On Strike".
    • Mr. Garrison earns his in "Eek! A Penis!".
    • "Margaritaville": Kyle earns everyone their happy ending. However, Barack Obama was praised for it instead, much to Kyle's dismay.
    • One-shot character Kip Drordy earns his happy ending in "You Have 0 Friends", thanks to Stan.
    • Kyle yet again earns his happy ending in "Crack Baby Athletic Association", with help from Slash of Guns N' Roses fame.
    • The ultimate South Park expression of this trope may well be the "Imaginationland" storyline. An apocalyptic war between good and evil in the subconscious of humanity! Beloved characters die gruesomely! Kurt Russell gets raped by forest animals! But in the end, it is Butters of all people who pulls victory from the jaws of defeat and saves the day, insuring everyone gets a happy ending. Even Al Gore is vindicated about the Man-Bear-Pig!
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series: Ever since Angel's capture by Gantu, fans were not happy about this ending at all and have made fanfics about how Angel came back. Eventually, there was a canon way in the form of the series finale, "Snafu". The plot: Lilo was organizing her experiment log when she and Stitch suddenly remember Angel, who Lilo promised that they will get back, but she doesn't know where Angel is, so Nosey, who has escaped an episode earlier thanks to Woops, tells them the location. While Lilo and Stitch were devising a plan, Lilo discovers an experiment pod labeled "120", which causes Jumba to explain that 120 shouldn't be hydrated, which Pleakley does accidentally. As the title suggests, Experiment 120 ruins anybody's plans, the protagonists', in particular. However, when Stitch and Angel meet again, The Power of Love saves the day, as well as the several experiments Gantu captured over the course of the show's run.
  • After over ten years of various defeats, setbacks and humiliations, Ed, Edd 'n' Eddy ends with the eponymous characters being actually liked and respected by the neighborhood kids who previously detested them.
  • Every one of the Disney Princesses went through this in one way or another - as they tell Vanellope in Ralph Breaks the Internet living Happily Ever After is not a right that is easily won. Some that stand out:
    • Tiana and Naveen from The Princess and the Frog, so very much for a Disney film.
    • Cinderella does this in Twist in Time. After he stepmother turns back the clock and enchants the prince to love Anastasia, Cinderella sets off to the palace and tries to first jog the prince's memory and then steal the magic wand from her stepmother. When that fails and the prince falls for Cinderella anyway, the stepmother makes Anastasia Cinderella's double while sending Cindy to be trapped in a pumpkin carriage that is to be driven off of a cliff on a mountain. Cinderella proceeds to escape, jump onto a horse, and ride all the way back to the castle to stop the wedding.
  • Could be considered to apply to Fry and Leela in Futurama.
  • With so many downer endings for the DCAU Batman, the Fully-Absorbed Finale for Batman Beyond, "Epilogue", was about as happy an ending as Batman can ever expect but boy, did Bruce, Terry, and the audience have to go through a lot to get it. Terry finds out that Bruce is his biological father and is pissed about it. For most of the episode he's angry and bitter about Bruce, Batman, and fate. But with the help of Amanda Waller (again It Makes Sense in Context), he realizes that he has control over his own life and that he isn't Bruce even if he may be his son. So in the end, Terry is determined to live a happy life and be Batman at the same time while Bruce is left with a protégé he trusts to carry on the/his fight after he's gone and a family he's always been looking for.
  • The Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child episode, "The Frog Princess," has Prince Gavin, who just won his father's kingdom thanks to the Lila, a frog he was forced to marry, and should be happy, but he can't get over his wife being, well, a frog. So she goes back to the swamp, and Gavin realizes that he actually loves her. But in order to find her again, he ends up swimming the longest lake, climbing the highest mountain, and running as far as he possibly can.
  • The Animaniacs movie Wakko's Wish gives all the characters (except the Mime and the movie's Big Bad) a well deserved happy ending. Sure, some had it kind of easy in their series, if not a little strange, but some of the series Woobies, particularly Rita, Runt, and Buttons, finally get their happy endings. And in the movie, everyone worked hard to try and get their own happy ending, everyone ultimately obtaining it.
  • The eponymous character from Danny Phantom certainly qualifies. After three seasons of being despised by everyone as a human and a ghost, hunted down, and having a just plain miserable life, in the Grand Finale, it all pays off: He becomes known as a hero to the entire planet, his secret is let out to everyone including his parents thus leading to perhaps a more popular reputation and perhaps becoming closer to his family, and to top it all off, he finally hooks up with his female friend which has been hinted at since the series began. It definitely seems that his future is brighter than it was originally intended.
  • Balto earns his big time. He started the movie the hated outcast who was constantly being chased away from the one he loved, with the movie's Jerkass Big Bad trying to ruin his life, and being unable to accept himself as a dog or a wolf. He has to go on an epic adventure through a blizzard, facing horrible danger at every single turn, and ultimately getting the tar beaten out of him by Steele, but in the end, he saves the entire town and is honored as a hero. On top of that, he finally accepts what he is and manages to get the love of his life. Sure, the next film shows there are some dogs who still make fun of him for his wolf half, but his life is a lot happier than it was.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic two-parter "The Return Of Harmony", the Mane Cast has to do this, especially Twilight Sparkle. Discord breaks and Mind Rapes all of them (except Twilight), turns their homeland into a chaotic World Gone Mad (centered in their hometown of Ponyville, no less), and Twilight crosses the Despair Event Horizon when the Elements Of Harmony won't work because of the previously mentioned events. She was getting ready to pack up and leave before Princess Celestia sends her all the letters she'd sent to her on friendship the past season. She then has to literally fight her friends to let her use her magic to remind them of all the good times they've shared before they can finally use the Elements Of Harmony to vanquish Discord. They saved all of Equestria and restored their friendship but it was far from easy!
    • "A Canterlot Wedding" is another prime example of this. By the time Celestia finally gets around to declaring the real bride and groom formally married, there's no doubt that both of them have earned it after what they've been through. And of course Twilight Sparkle, after having her suspicions blown off by everypony and for a while seeming to lose her friends, her mentor, and her big brother over it only to have the main villain promptly banish her underground as soon as everypony else has left...ultimately gets them all back and gains a new Cool Big Sis in the bargain.
  1. Cena ultimately sacrificed a WWE Championship shot at WWE TLC to give Ryder a well-deserved US Title match.