Inside’s Ending Explained: Our Theory On the Limbo Sequel’s Brain-Bending Conclusion
Inside is the best Xbox One game I have played thus far. Developer Playdead Entertainment’s follow-up to Limbo, Inside is worthy of every bit of success its predecessor received, if not more. Similarly bleak but with a great deal more polish than Playdead’s previous ultra popular indie game, there’s a great deal to parse as Inside’s end credits start rolling, from the myriad of strange events you’ll witness during your playthrough to its head-scratching finale.
With that being said, we’re going to go heavy on the spoilers here (seriously, if you haven’t played Inside yet but plan to do so in the future, I advise you to stop reading this) and take a closer look at the game, its ending and what it all means. While there’s no set confirmation from Playdead in regards to the game’s story, this is a pretty watertight theory, even if I do say so myself. Let’s press on, shall we?
The secret ending suggests the boy is being controlled, too
Inside will see the player-character take control of a number of zombified, brain dead humans, with him able to move them along a level using mind control. However, the secret ending for the game drops a strong, almost bulletproof hint that he is a mindless zombie, too.
The secret ending can be revealed by first finding all of the hidden orbs scattered throughout the game, with you then able to return to the cornfield segment near the beginning of your journey, clambering into a hidden vault tucked away beneath the ground. After entering a musical code, you then venture through a tunnel that eventually leads to a room with a mind control helmet and a switch. Unlike the other helmets in the game this one is connected to the floor, with it shutting down when the boy flicks the switch, simultaneously causing the boy to become motionless and thus ending the game.
So what does this mean? Well, considering that the boy’s stance following his flicking of the switch mimics those of the zombies when they are disconnected from a mind control machine, this seems to suggest that Inside is breaking the fourth wall here and pointing out how you are in control of the boy. When you turn off the switch, you are effectively cutting off the mind control connection between you and the player-character, therefore ending the game. This suggests that the boy hasn’t been fighting towards the end of the game of his own volition, but rather because you have commanded him to do so.
However, there is another equally – if not more – convincing theory regarding the effects of the switch, but we’ll get to that later. You can watch the secret ending below:
Who is – or was – the boy?
Even though the boy reacts to being disconnected from mind control in a similar fashion to the zombified humans you encounter, it’s clear that he is different from them. For one, they appear to possess a superhuman level of durability, with them able to fall from great heights without so much as breaking a sweat, whereas the boy would die upon impact. Then there are the extra abilities the boy possesses, such as being able to swim, jump and, later in the game, control the minds of others without the use of a helmet.
If the boy is also a test subject, which is hinted at by the secret ending, then he is clearly more advanced than the other experiments he encounters. He even has audible reactions to the events around him, exhibiting shock and fear when confronted by enemies. This suggests that he is at least partially cognizant in regards to his surroundings and actions, unlike the other experiments that litter the factory which behave more like reanimated corpses than actual human beings. If the boy is an escaped test subject, as has been suggested, then it’s curious as to why he’d want to return to the factory he has escaped from. This is where the second theory regarding Inside‘s secret ending comes into play – perhaps the boy is actually being controlled by the blob he becomes swallowed by later in the game.
If this is the case, then this would suggest that the switch located in the vault buried beneath the cornfield doesn’t disconnect the boy from the player, but rather from the blob. This would then explain why the boy is so keen to venture into the factory and sacrifice himself in order to rescue the blob, with him unplugging it from the cables holding it in place, before it promptly envelopes him and begins rampaging through the factory. With the boy seemingly being an advanced experiment, the blob only gains the ability to effectively escape from his underwater cage when he gains access to the boy’s substantial “powers” by swallowing him. As such, the boy appears to merely be a catalyst for the blob’s escape.
It’s set in the same universe as Limbo
A major theory that is validated pretty early on in the game is that Inside is set in same universe as Limbo, Playdead’s previous platformer. There are a few of reasons why this appears to be true, with the mind-control slugs that appear around the game’s introductory sequences being chief among them. This time around these slugs don’t latch themselves onto the player, but rather onto animals – specifically, pigs – with them leaving a slew of dead pig bodies behind. Now, their fondness for pigs rather than humans this time around is likely a result of them being manufactured by the factory for future experimentation upon humans, with pigs actually being used for human medical research in the real world. Given that pigs can carry and transmit the same parasites and diseases as humans, that they’re so prominent in the early stages of the game is no coincidence.
Then there are the gravitational puzzles, which utilize switches similar to Limbo in order to reverse the gravity of the world, with Inside predominantly using them to alter the direction of water. Finally, the supersonic machine that delivers insanely powerful explosions for no discernible reason in Inside is very similar technology to the rainmaker featured in Limbo, which used similar explosions to incite rainfall in an area. These three prominent similarities – and I’m sure plenty more will be discovered as more people play the game – have led to the suggestion that the factory workers in Inside are reverse engineering the technology featured in Limbo, but I’d wager that Inside instead takes place prior to the events of Limbo, given that the mind control slugs are evidently still in their prototype stage at that point, as evidenced by them latching onto pigs rather than humans.
What was the rebirth scene about?
The most downright terrifying enemy you encounter throughout the duration of Inside is undoubtedly the long-haired, naked creature that chases you underwater throughout the latter half of the game. However, when it eventually catches up to you and appears to finally drown you, in actuality it effectively prompts your “rebirth,” hooking you up to a machine similar to the mind control helmets that allows you to not only breathe underwater indefinitely, but also control every other human experiment you come into contact with on a whim.
This is undoubtedly one of the most curious scenes in the game, but does explain why out of all the experiments, the underwater creature is the only one that actively appears to be hostile towards you. This is seemingly due to it not wanting to kill you, but rather “help” you by attaching you to the machine and granting you new powers. Each time you die as a result of it drowning you, it was actually due to it failing its goal, which explains why after being “reborn” you’re never confronted by it again.
But why is it so concerned with sparking your rebirth? Well…
The blob is in control of everything, including the player
Inside concludes with a lingering image of the blob lying on a patch of grass next to the shore, the sun beaming directly down upon it, with it still finally completing its goal of escaping from its watery cage and finally gaining freedom from its captors/creators. Unless the boy willingly sacrificed himself for the blob, it is presumable that it was directly in control of his actions, a theory which is further evidenced by the secret ending. Then there’s the aforementioned water creature who helps the boy gain extra powers, all of which are crucial to eventually getting the boy to rescue the blob. It’s therefore quite easy to theorize that the blob shares a telekinetic link with each of the experiments in Inside‘s world, with it able to manipulate them for the sole purpose of freeing itself from the factory.
This would suggest that, despite its gelatinous, monstrous appearance, the blob is actually an intelligent life-form and is the only experiment featured in the entire game that is acting of its own free will. This essentially means that although the player only physically controls the blob in the last few chapters of the game, in actuality they’ve been playing as the blob the entire time by way of controlling the boy.
However, there is another, decidedly more interesting conclusion I’ve landed upon: the blob is actually in control of the player, too.
If the game was always about rescuing the blob from the factory, and in order to do so the blob manipulated the various test subjects both inside and out of the factory’s walls, then this suggests that the player has also been manipulated. Think about it: the player is given little insight into what they are doing throughout the game. As with most games, all they know is that they must keep running towards their vaguely outlined objective. Despite them physically controlling the events of the game, they are also being controlled by the game itself by way of being forced to follow the game’s instructions in order to continue their progress.
The blob is therefore controlling the player, who is then in turn controlling the boy who is being forced by the blob to free it from the factory. The game ends with the player no longer able to control the blob, which could either be a result of it having died due to the mighty fall from out of the factory, or because the blob simply does not need controlling any longer. It has reached its destination, so therefore the player has fulfilled their duty.
Considering Playdead refused to outline the exact plot of Limbo following its release, it’s likely that the developer will follow suit with Inside and again leave the game completely open to interpretation. We’ll therefore see plenty of other theories over the coming days/weeks as more players complete this fantastic game, but I feel that right now this theory is as good as any.
Paul Tamburro is the Gaming and Tech editor of CraveOnline. Follow him on Twitter @PaulTamburro.