LIMBO; Ending Interpretations

LIMBO intrigued me the second I heard about it. A glimpse at a single noir screen shot and I was pretty much sold on the idea. I instantly fell in love with this little Arcade gem because it really did excite my love of the morbid and creepy. At 1200MSP it’s definitely a hefty price to pay for such a short game which is easily completed in 4 hours, but I certainly do not regret spending my time and money on it.

LIMBO is a game that focuses heavily on puzzle solving, and not characterisation or emotive game play. You still cannot help but feel emotionally involved with the young boys cause though. Every time he dies a gruesome death at the hands of a vastly oversized spider, or is maimed by a flying bear trap, you can’t help but cringe and feel some remorse for him. The poor thing is only trying to find his sister.

I would like to take this opportunity to talk about my thoughts and feelings on the ending of LIMBO though, not the gameplay or processes. There are going to be huge spoilers from this point on, so if you haven’t finished the game, or are intending to play it at some point, close this page down now.

I have seen mixed reviews about the ending to the game, and a multitude of theories about what really happened. My theory is this; the boy and his sister are stuck in ‘Limbo’ with no escape. The ending of the game to me acted as a circular narrative, almost like a Tarantino style film. Falling through the glass at the end and arriving at the point you were at when you first started the game signifies to me a never ending circle. Whether the boy will realise that he is doing the same things over and over again now that he has found his sister is something that I cannot answer. It also appears to me that his sister perhaps started elsewhere in LIMBO, seeking out her brother in a similar way. With this in mind, both the boy and his sister must of course be dead, or at least battling to stay alive. LIMBO may even be a test to see how much they desire to live.

The other children that you saw along the way may be others who have met a similar fate to you and your sibling, but have perhaps lost their souls by travelling through Limbo for so long. They say that the eyes are an open door to the soul, and these other children that you see are merely dark shapes with no eyes and no souls to speak of. At the end of the game, the character who we assume to be the boys sister also appears to have no eyes, so does this mean it is too late for her to be saved and the boy took too long in his journey to find her?

To me, LIMBO is a huge success for reasons that it really shouldn’t be. The main character is nameless and also faceless. There should be no emotional bond between you, but somehow there is. Even though the puzzles can be frustrating, they are also extremely rewarding and sometimes enjoyable. When you finally reach the end of the game, you will either be left bitterly disappointed with how things end (or don’t end) or you will be pleasantly surprised with the clever yet simplistic way that PlayDead have left the entire game open ended for the players personal interpretations.

I suppose LIMBO is a little bit like Marmite. You will either love it or hate it. I love Marmite, and I loved LIMBO.


3 thoughts on “LIMBO; Ending Interpretations

  1. “They say that the eyes are an open door to the soul, and these other children that you see are merely dark shapes with no eyes and no souls to speak of.”

    As a graphics designer I can completely agree that this statement might be true, i’m surprised I haven’t seen this described elsewhere.

    I agree wholy that the ending indicates that the boy was in an accident (perhaps a car crash) but i don’t think the girl was.

    As you said, his sister is no more “soul-filled” than the other children, IMO meaning that she was not with him when he died if at all. I think that the boy died in the car crash but can’t escape limbo because of his relentless search for his sister.

    I reckon he died whilst travelling to see her, so she isn’t dead, and what the boy sees is his craving to finally see her after his travel. This is why he never catches her and why the game goes full circle again and again as he tries desperately to get to her.

    I think this was a very good interpretation though =]

    • Hey, thanks for your reply!

      I like what you said about the girl not being dead. I didn’t even think of that to be honest. That’s an even sadder story than them both being dead =( Makes the whole limbo thing even more eerie.

  2. The best explanation that I could come up with, in my warped mind, was that each chapter represented two years of the main character’s life, as he had remembered them, and relived them while he was in limbo. His first four years, he walked, jumped, and even climbed. In Chapter 3 (years 5-6) he developed his fear of spiders, and ultimately uses cognitive skills to get past the spider, but not yet overcoming his fear.
    When he is ten (Chapter 5), some older kids are messing with him. In Chapter 6, at twelve years old, he pulls the last leg from the spider, and ends his fear of the creature. We see in Chapter 7, when he would be a freshman in high school, those same older kids are now chasing him, as usually happens with freshman hazing. The mind bugs in Chapter 8…I can’t decide if it is him experimenting with drugs, or possibly a brain tumor in that part of his life. Either way, it inhibited his brain function.
    Chapter 9 (when he would be 18) is where, I believe, he starts a job at some sort of industrial setting. I feel like he took an entry level job in plumbing in a factory, with hopes of moving up someday. Chapter 11 looks like either the brain tumor resurfaced, or more drug use occurred. I’m still stuck on that.
    Chapter 12, due to the fact that it stands out more than others, I believe this is where his sister died. The memory seems overly vivid, which makes me think his sister was electrocuted during a road trip. Who takes a road trip with their sister when they are in their mid-twenties? I don’t know, but that’s what I took from the game.
    In Chapter 13, the main character breaks through what is some sort of glass ceiling, but for him, it is a floor. This could be the beginning of his depression, pushed forward by the untimely passing of his only sibling. Once again, the brain cancer/drug induced bug gets into his brain again. More years of work go by, and although his fear of spiders has passed, his fear of being electrocuted has been intensified. The main character turns 34, and now the world has begun spinning. Gravity is not what he has known for his entire life.
    In Chapter 18, you finally get close enough to your sister to watch her, but the cancer/drugs draw you away. Your world continues, working and trying to maintain your senses, but the world continues to spin in your mind.
    In Chapter 20, all of a sudden there are guns. Did you get shot at? Was there some sort of small invasion? I have no idea, but at 40 years old, it’s way too late to be in the military for the first time. I’m picturing that the main character was close to some kind of gunfire, and, since it is a traumatic event, stuck with him as an important part of his life.
    In Chapter 22, his life begins to spiral out of control. The lack of consistent gravity leads me to believe that his mind was spinning constantly. In Chapter 23, you see a reminder of the hotel sign. I don’t know if that means he was thinking about his sister even more near the end, or if he was driving near the site of his sister’s death.
    Maybe he found himself at the end of his rope, and decided to commit suicide near the place his sister had died, so they could be together. Maybe it was coincidental that he had gone back to the site of his sister’s death and was involved in a car accident that took his life.
    These are my own idiot theories on the game. There is so much to be interpreted, that next time I go through the game I may have a completely different view of what happened. This is basically what I felt the story was, though, at least for now.

    Dammit, I haven’t played this game in ages, and now I want to go play it again. Catch you on the other side.

Ramble with me

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