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Understanding BioShock Infinite’s ending

This post has been edited by the GamesBeat staff. Opinions by GamesBeat community writers do not necessarily reflect those of the staff.

MASSIVE SPOILER WARNING: Do not, under any circumstances, read on if you have not played and finished BioShock Infinite. Everything about the game is spoiled below and discussed in-depth. You have been warned!

Here’s another view of the artistry of BioShock Infinite.


OK, so I noticed a lot of people are confused about the ending of BioShock Infinite. Admittedly, the last 25 minutes throw a lot at you at once, and you don’t really have enough time to process it or make much sense of it all.

I also want to point out that this explanation is also an actual explanation of the ending. I have seen many people explain the entire plot in detail — which I will also be doing — but they all seem to brush over exactly what the ending means and how Irrational leaves things off. If you watched past the credits, you should know what the true ending. But if you didn’t, you will no doubt still be a bit confused. Basically, what I’m trying to say is: Don’t worry; everything is explained here — not just the plot but the actual end and its context, too, so if you want closure, then I guess just read this.

I’m still unsure of a couple of things, but these aren’t massive plot points that really matter, and either I just missed something or they are actual minor plot holes that weren’t explained in the game properly.

So, let us begin. At the beginning.

The basics

Booker Dewitt, the player’s character, has been entrusted with the job of going to Columbia to rescue a girl, Elizabeth, and bring her back to New York. Apparently, this deed will rid Booker of all his (gambling?) debts.

After blasting off into Columbia, Booker goes about trying to get to Elizabeth, who’s locked away in a tower. Before he can reach her, he receives a telegram telling him NOT to pick number 77. He ignores it, not understanding what it means. He then sees a sign showing off a somewhat devilish hand with the letters “AD” printed on the back of it. These letters (AD) match the letters imprinted on the back of Booker’s, hand.

The prophet Comstock, the ruler of Columbia, predicted that a “false shepherd” would come to Columbia to try and steal their lamb (Elizabeth) from them. This false shepherd can be identified by the AD mark on the back of his hand. This false shepherd is Booker.

After going to watch the Columbia raffle on his way to the tower, Booker is told to choose a raffle ball, which he does. It is number 77, and he wins the raffle. His prize is getting to throw his ball at a couple of tied up Columbians — one white, one black. After going to throw the ball, Booker’s hand is stopped by a police officer, who reveals him as the false shepherd. Now Booker must fight through hundreds of people just to get to Elizabeth — and hundreds more to try and escape Columbia.

After he finds her, things become pretty straight forward; escape this city in the sky.

Ripping time and space

It isn’t until near the end that the plot heats up again. Before we go into this though, we need to take a look at Elizabeth’s “tearing” power.

Oh, off topic but it is also important to remember she has one of her little fingers missing.

Elizabeth received this tearing power after the Lutece’s twins experimented on her (she did not naturally have this power). The twins had previously made machinery that could open tears. After these experiments, Elizabeth could do so without any help.

Tears are basically otherworldly things. Other dimensions. A open tear can bring in something from another world — or you can enter an entirely new world. However, and I stress this, new universes or items can’t be created from scratch. They have to already exist for them to be brought into either the current world or accessed in their entirety.

With Elizabeth’s power out the way, let’s move on.

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17 comments
Kirstie Bell
Kirstie Bell

Thank you for your article, but there's one thing I don't fully understand still...what exactly was the deal with ending up in Rapture? Are both the stories supposed to be linked? It's been a few years since I played the first Bioshock game and, although I loved it, I cannot remember it very well.

Phillip Sullivan
Phillip Sullivan

So I don't believe columbia has its own dimension, although, anna was pulled through rip...

Phillip Sullivan
Phillip Sullivan

First, We didn't go through a rip in the beginning of the game. Second, the DLC doesn't add up to the ending of the game. We killed all of the comstocks at the end, but in the DLC, elizabeth calls us comstock, and the twins show up, then our character gets stabbed. Did the developers forget about all of the comstocks dying?

Danish Teo
Danish Teo

i have a question..What If there is another dimension where elizabeth did not drown booker after he was baptised??did u think this through?? As You said , every decision had a diffrent dimension..

Richard Schaefer
Richard Schaefer

Nice explanation. Thanks. However, I still don't get how it is possible for "our" booker to act as the booker that accepted baptism and get himself killed. What happened to the booker of that dimension?

Dan Teuton
Dan Teuton

I predicted quite early on that Elizabeth was Anna, Bookers daughter (AD) but with Booker being Comstock I never saw that coming! I even shouted out HOLY F*CK NUGGETS as soon as it happened.


One of the best single player games I've played in a while. I'm gonna go back and play Bioshock 2 as I missed that one.

Bhagat Singh
Bhagat Singh

Yes I do agree that this plot has a lot of holes in it. One particular thing that caught my attention: The game tries to resolve the issue with Elizabeth killing of the Booker we played that was about to become Comstock who created the future city of Columbia. My question is: During the the alternate timeline where Booker refused baptism after Wounded Knee, thus creating a parallel universe where he had accepted baptism, then wouldn't our playthrough be pointless? As such when Elizabeth kills off our current Booker, who's about to become Comstock should he have been baptised, then wouldn't another parallel universe open up where Elizabeth didn't kill off Booker and he would still end up as Comstock? This would turn out to be a case of infinite regression/loop. I'm sorry if I sound silly but this game really messes with your head.

Kilian mccray
Kilian mccray

 There is a major issue, the first split is not at Bookers Baptism, it was when the Luteces' were conceived. So the split happens there. For their timelines the story continues: there is a Booker, that Booker was faced with what they did at Wounded Knee, they felt guilt they were faced with the choice of being Baptized, one timeline fallows Comstock, one Booker. We now have 4 versions of Booker Two who accepted the Baptism one in each of the Lutece timelines and Two Bookers who did not. The only way to make sure you close up those possibilities is to go back and kill the Lutece' Parents and prevent that birth. 

The claim that you only kill the Booker who was baptized thus cutting off that series of events just creates a lot of loops in logic its self.  It is an odd statement to make because the character of Booker we were playing was the one who didnt get Baptized yet we were the one who was drowned. The other issue with it is it still ends in a grandfather paradox, how can a child from the future kill a parent from the past, if they killed the parent they would not exist to kill the parent. The one way you could resolve that paradox is to claim that the Elisabeth who does kill the "about to be Comstock Booker" is from a different universe such that his death would not effect her existence thus removing the paradox. The issue with that solution is it contradicts what we see in game, and even if it did not then it would still prove that the action of killing Comstock had no effect because Elisabeth still exists as we know her thus rendering the exercise mute. 

You did a great job summarizing the ending and explaining it very well, the issue is that the plot has a lot of holes as it exists. The story can be summarized but it still has a lot of narrative problems. I think they took a big risk trying to use a time travel/parallel worlds story because its so easy to end up with enormous paradoxes or massive narrative loop holes. Lots of well look at all of these splits Would Booker going to the baptism changing his mind, then a week later changing it back count as a third split? does that have 2 splits one where he backs out again? You can fallow those paths literally infinitely and those are extremely challenging waters to sail in when writing a story,

Anna de Keijzer
Anna de Keijzer

You forget the fact that Booker made Comstock this powerful. Comstock is seen as a prophet by his people because they believe he can predict the future, but actually he knows what is going to happen because Comstock is a different Booker. So theoretically there would be a Columbia too where Booker did not go to Columbia. The twins got him there so there is also a dimension where they didn't bring him to Columbia. If Booker didn't go to Columbia at all, Comstock could never have been the powerful prophet the people of Columbia look up to and would never misuse his power as a prophet because there was no false shepherd to predict. So even if he stole Anna like he did in that dimension, it would never turn out the way it did because there would not be Comstock the prophet.

So basically if they could convince Booker to not go to Columbia, or just do not let him go to Columbia (He could only get there with the help of the twins) there would never be a Comstock who would steal Anna away because he didn't need an heir.

Does this make sense?

Matt Emeny
Matt Emeny

 So why does Comstock have slow swimmers, but De Witt is fine? It is pretty much gives purpose to the entire story


Dennis Kranz
Dennis Kranz

Okay, hold on. The moment you get drowned by all the Elizabeth's, it means Comstock will never be "born".. But shouldn't there be a universe where you don't get drowned, meaning Comstock still exists?

r w
r w

I just realized... every time you rez... you say "WTF just happened..." makes sense a new "alt" dewitt just got on scene.

Spicy Curry
Spicy Curry

@Dennis Kranz I think the reason why there were multiple Elizabeths means that every single Elizabeth who ever existed chose to drown Dewitt, meaning that there is no universe where an Elizabeth did not drown him. That's only my guess though...

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