With the arrival of the Repentance DLC, the Binding of Isaac is now basically a finished game. Sure, the developers said that about Afterbirth+. But the fan-made Antibirth mod was such a hit that the developers had to tie it all together for one final DLC. However, a big part of Repentance is that it gives us a final ending for the Binding of Isaac.
Note, this article contains spoilers. Please don’t actually read any further if you don’t want to be spoiled.
Okay, with that out of the way, I want to mention something first. I don’t actually own Repentance. I don’t even own Afterbirth+. That’s probably for the best because the Repentance DLC REALLY ramps up the difficulty. And I’ve barely managed to do anything in the base Binding of Isaac: Rebirth game. That being said, a big chunk of the streamers I watch tend to play Binding of Isaac, so I’ve been watching their content as well, where they’ve all been playing the new DLC. So that’s how I’ve seen most of the new endings.
A long road backwards.
Most endings in the Binding of Isaac involve going deeper and deeper into… well, somewhere. Probably Isaac’s mind. The further you go, the more messed up things become. Once you defeat Mom, you go into her body and kill her heart. Then you either descend into Sheol or rise up into the Cathedral, before fighting the Lamb in an inky abyss or fighting yourself in the Chest. Alternatively, you defeat Mom then descend downwards to kill Hush, then Delirium.
However, the newest ending involves turning around and going back. You find Dad’s Note and start retracing your steps back up until you reach Basement 1. You then ascent one further floor, appearing at “Home”. Here, you wander around (and unlock some new characters perhaps) before fighting a monster that comes from the television. A being called Dogma.
Once you defeat the television Dogma is attached to, you defeat Dogma itself, and end up getting knocked out. From here, Isaac grows wings, wakes up in hell and fights the four Horsemen (ramped up and new), before facing the Beast. The Beast is a huge, horrible monster, despite being slightly derpy. But as long as you are careful, it’s actually the easiest part of the cataclysmic finale.
It was all a dream, kinda?
After you defeat the Beast, you are faced with a long cut scene, presented in the same way as the initial intro to the game. Crudely drawn pictures, with a deep voice speaking over the top of them. The narrator describes what is going on, with Isaac rising up towards the light while the Beast sinks down. As Isaac rises up, he travels back through his memories: his mother mourning over her lost son, the arguments between the parents, his father leaving. The memories change though to happier memories, Isaac playing with his cat, being tucked into bed and, towards the end, seeing his parents happy at Isaac’s birth. The sequence ends with Isaac feeling nothing, and a blank piece of paper.
However, as we get to the last page, the page of nothingness, the narrator speaks once more, without the heavenly reverb. Isaac’s father speaks, asking Isaac if this is how he wants his story to end.
Isaac’s Father: Are you sure this is how you want this story to end, Isaac? You’re the one writing it, it doesn’t have to end this way. Here, how about we tell it a different way – maybe a happy ending?
Isaac: Okay, Daddy.
Isaac’s Father: Good. Are you getting sleepy yet?
The game ends as the story began, but with a slight twist.
“Isaac and his parents lived on a small house, on the top of a hill… ”
It’s completely at odds with the ending of Afterbirth/Afterbirth+
So it seems that, by defeating the Beast, Isaac gets a somewhat happy ending. Whether Isaac is alive and well or has died and is in heaven or not, I have no real idea. But it does seem very much that Isaac is escaping his pain and guilt. However, this ending is vastly different to the previous ending.
Afterbirth+ had a rather specific ending, with the inclusion of the then-final boss Delirium. When you defeat Delirium, you’re presented with a chest. You enter that chest and, well, you see Isaac die. The ending for defeating Delirium is Isaac slowly suffocating, after having locked himself in his toy chest, his memories flashing by him. The scene ends with a tiny child’s skeleton and a falling “missing” poster, followed by Isaac wandering a dull, ghostly landscape.
So having an ending where Isaac is almost happy, listening to his father, telling the story of defeating a great evil… it seems like a complete opposite to Delirium’s ending. However, this makes complete sense when you think about it. As you play and descend to each new floor, you travel further and further into Isaac’s dreams and nightmares. You can either continue to descend downwards, towards Isaac’s doom, or turn around and come back, perhaps for the better. The Beast fight is much harder, but it’s a better ending.
Isaac deserved a different ending anyway.
Either way, this new ending is at least an… optimistic ending. Sure, little Isaac has been through a lot of trauma. Guilt is a horrible emotion that crushes your spirit, and is insanely difficult for adults to deal with, let alone children. Whether you interpret Isaac’s latest ending as either him being dead and reaching heaven, or him actually starting a new story with his father, Isaac is at least happy for once.
At the very least, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.