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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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39 comments
Abhilash MP
Abhilash MP

gr8 one man i had understood the game in pieces and u helped me to join it...... thanks a loot

Max Faga
Max Faga

Booker is still able to exist because only all of the Comstock versions of him were killed. That's why at the end, right before he drowns, he say's, "No, I'm both (booker and Comstock)." He's both because he has neither rejected the baptism to become booker, not accepted it to become Comstock. That's why the Elizabeth's drown him. If they had just shot him (or killed him any other way), they would have eliminated all Bookers from existence past that point, but since they drowned him, they effectively killed him during his baptism. Ie. They killed every Comstock in the 'womb' while still allowing for all of the non baptized Bookers to still exist.

Tj Friestad
Tj Friestad

Biggest question of all does this game show what the meaning of life is and what happens after death, that you never die just live the other versions of yourself or keep redoing a crucial time in your life ooooo spooky o.O

Chris Hewitt
Chris Hewitt

I'm not sure whether it's explicit or not but the baptism ending is 1890.  Elizabeth has taken the 38 year old Booker who saved her back to the moment where he had a choice.  It's his choice not to be baptised, and that starts the infinite loop.  The key to remember is, like No Country for Old Men, we've viewed the entire story from the wrong perspective.  Yes the game is played by Booker but it's not his story, it's Elizabeth's.  

Remember at the end how he wants to be baptised?  That's the inevitability of him becoming Comstock.  There's no choice there, that baptism will result in him becoming the monster he had just toppled.  

Elizabeth finally realises this in this 122nd time line and kills him.  Breaking the cycle.  Booker has no choices here, Elizabeth does.  

Just look at the dates.  


Booker DeWitt    born 19th April 1874

Battle of Wounded Knee       29th December 1890    (Booker aged 16)

Baptism                     sometime after Wounded Knee, presumably 1891

Elizabeth is born           1892

Columbia is launched   1893 (Booker aged 19 - mentioned that Booker used his connections with the US Government - looks like an old man)


It's just not feasible that he's the same person and the split happens at the baptism and two timelines split from there.  At that baptism I think we see a split but we have no idea the man that Booker will become.  All we see is the world when Booker refuses.


Look at the overall story, the Prophecy, the Angel that told him.  That's the game.  That's us playing the game.  That's us living the prophecy.  The Angel is Elizabeth.  


It is the 38 year old Booker who from 1890 onwards seeks to make the prophecy real by building Columbia off what he had seen.  From that moment he dedicates himself to God and his path is set.  Booker is doomed from the beginning.  What changes is that Elizabeth from the future seeing the destruction of New York realises how to fix it.  She pulls Booker to the future after he's been knocked out, tells him how to beat the Songbird and something else .......... she then sends him back to 6 months after the bird has taken her.  Not immediately after he's been knocked unconscious.  I believe there's some mention at that point about when "hope died".  Presumably having suffered the torture herself old Elizabeth knew exactly the moment to best break the cycle.  




I think a lot of people seem to think there's a split at the baptism in 1890.  There isn't.  The story is fundamentally about an infinite loop that is finally broken.  


I also think people have taken the sterility and ageing process a bit too literally.  


A 17 year old Booker doesn't stumble upon Rosalind Futuce.  Age 50 years and looks 70 at 21 where is he declared ruler of flying city.

A 38 year old Booker knows to seek out Rosalind Futuce after the baptism.  Uses his contacts in the Government to build the prophecy.  He begins to age in game, the bleeding from the head, and is made sterile from the jumping around that he does in game, not some out of game piece.


Also I'm not sure he allows himself to be drowned.  I think Elizabeth, having been tortured and realising the truth knows she needs to end it and they collectively drown him against his will.  If you remember the ending I believe he struggles and is certainly offered no choice.  


Yoav Nahman
Yoav Nahman

But if Booker was Comstock and Comstock was Booker, Why in the game they showing that Comstock took her?

like, Booker took or or Comstock? didn't understood this thing.

and also, why Elizebeth Didn't just tell Booker the truth about her finger?


i am still confused even that your explanation was great, but still didn't get the idea of the tale that shows weird scenes all over the game like why the people in the cage took Elizebeth and connected her to a machine and what was the wound on her back after Booker disconeted her from the cable on her back?


Oh, and who's the prophet?

Its comstock right?

William Holmgren
William Holmgren

Doesn't he only stop Comstock from being born in that particular dimension? Like honestly the only thing he accomplished was deleting the Comstock dimension and Elisabeth to instead raise Anna when he's a single father with huge debts. I don't understand what the purpose of killing Comstock before he was born was, like how does that stop Comstock from being born in other dimensions? Seems like he only made a whole dimension dissapear and ended all those lives for nothing instead of just letting them keep living. Yeah sure Elisabeth wouldn't have grown up like that and he would be able to raise Anna but how can that possilby make up to destroy a whole dimension, a whole universe, instead of just letting Elisabeth start over in Paris or w/e. They could still meet eachother since she could make a tear so it's not like he wouldn't be able to see his daughter ever again or anything..

Styrk Finnøy
Styrk Finnøy

None of this needs to make sense. Much because you can't explain fictional laws of nature without other fictional laws of nature, and as the story does, this too loops infinitely. I think the entire story is something that Booker creates in his own mind as he tries to cope with his memories and guilt for failing to protect (selling) his own daughter. "Bring us the girl, and wipe the dept(guilt) away". His regret of not protecting her projects an imaginary hero protector that can fight any challenge to keep his daughter safe. Booker uses salts (alcohol) to drown his memories, while the Rapture ones uses drugs (needles). He creates Comstock to blame his daughters disappearance on him. Comstock is a part of him. All of this is a fight against the part of himself that he hates. In the end he kills himself, thus killing the one guilty(Comstock/Dewitt) for abandoning his daughter. Have you guys thought about how all the other Bioshocks have the father-daughter/protector-daughter relationship as the motive force?  I know I'm onto something. Guys?

Adrian Padilla
Adrian Padilla

Wait, this doesn't make snense. The booker that was killed was the one who accepted the baptism. The booker after the credits scene was the one ago declined the baptism. So why why was that booker surprised to hear Anna crying? Booker said "Ana!" "Ana? Is that you?" Why was he so shocked to see that his daughter was there in the baby crib? If the booker that accepted the baptism died, that would mean that comstock never happened, therefore meaning that the booker who declined the baptism, wouldn't have ever met comstock who took away his baby daughter. So why was he shocked to see that Ana was in her crib? This doesn't add up.

Todd Green
Todd Green

So question. Booker has gone to Columbia over 100 times to take Elizabeth to new work to pay off gambling debt blah blah blah we know that... Did he ever successfully complete this task? Or was it just a non stop cycle of rejecting the baptism and starting over?

I'm confused because I don't get how the cycle keeps going on?

Abhishek Ghante
Abhishek Ghante

listen guys.... this sounds crazy

we see at the end that Booker DeWitt is drowned off by his daughter(s). This supposedly stops Comstock from appearing ever again and we go back to Booker leading a relatively happy life. but they cant change the past from happening. This means that Booker will fight the battle of wounded knee and will be faced with the option of either having a baptism or not, which opens up two other new dimensions where the plot gets played again, again and again


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.

Tony Chinchar
Tony Chinchar

No cause once a decision is made it can't be undone

Chizzle ♥
Chizzle ♥

@Adrian Padilla Good question, my only quess is that, some people did remember some thinks (bookers nose bleed and dead soldiers) from previous dimensions, so even tho Comstock dissapeared (and elizabeth) it might be possible that booker remembers something about the other dimensions.

Max Faga
Max Faga

The version of Booker we play as was the first one to succeed and break the cycle. However, there wasn't any actual gambling debt that he had to pay off by bringing Elizabeth to NY, that was a memory he created to make sense of being brought to another dimension by the lutece(s).

"Bring us the girl and wipe away the debt" actually refers to him handing over Anna to get rid of his gambling debt.

Joseph A
Joseph A

But they killed the Booker that chose baptism and the only Booker that keeps on living is the one that rejected baptism

Anthony Lynn
Anthony Lynn

@Kirstie Bell  I think that it serves two purposes.  1. To create a tie-in with the other BioShock games.  2. To show just how infinite the possibilities of realities are.  Elizabeth said something to the effect of "There is always a city, and there's always a man."  I think that this implies that there are other utopian cities in differing realities.  That being said, I think that any two of the utopian cities are not necessarily in the same reality.  That is to say, there was no Columbia in the reality in which the previous two games existed.

Anthony Lynn
Anthony Lynn

@Phillip Sullivan  You did, but you aren't shown it in the beginning.  You are shown it when Booker is remembering everything.

Greg Gettings
Greg Gettings

@Danish Teo You're right. Make a game that follows that storyline. This is just the path the game shows you.

Tony Chinchar
Tony Chinchar

No, because once something happens all of the dimensions would be affected by it. Dies,died, will die. I had to play the game twice to figure out out.

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...

Jason Copeland
Jason Copeland

@Joseph A But can he not make the decision to still do the baptism later on. Although if he decided to do it at slightly different time it could create huge changes in how he behaves after and may never create a comstock.

Irshad Husain
Irshad Husain

@Danish Teo @Bhagat Singh Yeah, the problem is the creators didn't think this through, and fact is, there will be a dimension where the Good guys win (yay!) and the bad guys win (awww.). Nothing you can do to change that. And that's what happens. Boom. The end. 50% sad, 50% good. That's LIFE.

Irshad Husain
Irshad Husain

@Danish Teo @Bhagat Singh Yeah. What happens is that the creators didn't think this through. There will be one storyline where everything is fine and dandy, and you win at the end. Then there's another where evil wins, and there's nothing you can do about it. At the end of the game, the creators just ignore the fact that there's another dimension. So, that's what happened. That's the main plot hole of the game, but other than that, this was a great story.

Max Faga
Max Faga

No, no more Bookers can choose the baptism, because they eliminated all of the Bookers who accepted it. Basically, they turned his decision from a variable (bird or cage) to a constant (always landing on heads."

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