Heartbreak, horses and the staggering Red Dead Redemption 2 ending explained (2023)

By Dave Meikleham


The (multiple) finales of the sandbox classic explained

Heartbreak, horses and the staggering Red Dead Redemption 2 ending explained (1)

Rockstar’s original open-world Western had a fabulous finale. With a twisting, gut punch closing act, the first Red Dead Redemption delivered one of gaming’s all-time great endings. Thankfully, its prequel/follow-up also finishes on the highest of notes. Below, we break down the main beats from Red Dead Redemption 2 (opens in new tab)’s multiple climaxes – spanning both the game’s sixth chapter, and its two epilogues – and how they tie into the first game.

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*Massive spoiler warnings below*

RDR2’s ending is essentially 10 hours long, and actually has two parts. Taking its cue from the original’s thoughtfully paced closing chapter on John Marston’s ranch, the prequel doubles down on careful character development as it says goodbye to outlaw lead Arthur Morgan over multiple hours.

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The credits may roll on the ‘American Venom’ mission at the end of the game’s second epilogue chapter, yet the main thrust of RDR2’s story is capped off in chapter six. In the aptly titled ‘Red Dead Redemption’ mission that closes Morgan’s final act, Rockstar sends its melancholy outlaw out on a respectful note.

Well, provided you don’t play through the game’s first half dozen acts like an utter bastard. Play RDR2 like you really should, and an semi-honorable Arthur meets his end with grace. After being diagnosed with tuberculosis at the beginning of act six, Morgan spends his final days trying to free his fellow gang members from the increasingly self-destructive grip of Dutch van der Linde.

In Arthur’s last mission, he teams with Sadie Adler to rescue John’s wife Abigail from corrupt government forces. After sniping dozens of G-men from a clock tower, Morgan and Sadie eventually rescue Mrs Marston from the clutches of the nefarious Agent Milton, but not before the dastardly stooge admits that Arthur’s fellow gang member Micah Bell was the one that tipped the government off regarding the group’s criminal plans.

Heartbreak, horses and the staggering Red Dead Redemption 2 ending explained (2)

Once he knows Abigail and Sadie are safe, Morgan rides to confront Dutch to tell him about the rat among his ranks. Upon arriving back at camp, Arthur spills his outlaw guts, though a reluctant Dutch is hesitant to believe his close ally Micah has really betrayed him. Soon after, a presumed dead John Marston shows up to cover Morgan’s back, but the government appear before the four cowboys can blast each other to bits.

There’s also a heart-shredding optional scene that plays out if you have a high bonding level with your horse. Provided you and your pony pal are close, Arthur goes back to comfort his dying mount after government forces shoot both he and John’s horses. Seeing Morgan tenderly pet his steed/filly - that you may well have been riding for 30-40 hours at this point - as it writhes around in agony is easily the game’s most upsetting moment.

After a prolonged shootout with dozens of agents, Arthur is faced with a choice: either help John escape so he can reunite with his family, or go after the fortune Dutch is hiding in a nearby cave. Providing you have any sort of heart Morgan chooses to create a diversion for John, so that the younger outlaw has a chance to start a new life with his family. If you play through the game as civilian-slaying swine, your dishonorable Arthur can opt to go after the money.

Heartbreak, horses and the staggering Red Dead Redemption 2 ending explained (3)

Cue a big old smackdown with Micah Bell. Depending on your honor level, Arthur either meets his end peacefully looking upon a sunset as he succumbs to TB, or Bell straight out shoots him if your honor is low. Play the game being respectful of NPCs, and Morgan’s end is quiet and dignified.

Heartbreak, horses and the staggering Red Dead Redemption 2 ending explained (4)

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The big twist comes with the epilogue. In a flash, you’re suddenly catapulted forward several years; now in control of John Marston as he attempts to go on the straight and narrow. Assuming the alias of Jim Milton, Marston at first embraces a life of peaceful solitude when he takes a honest farm job to support his family. Of course, this being a Rockstar game, John’s criminal past soon comes back to haunt him.

Heartbreak, horses and the staggering Red Dead Redemption 2 ending explained (5)

Forced into a gunfight to protect the property he’s farming, John quickly returns to a life of (at least well-meaning) crime. After saving the ranch for his employer, Marston’s boss thanks him by acting as a guarantor for John when he attempts to buy a ranch for his family near Blackwater.

Heartbreak, horses and the staggering Red Dead Redemption 2 ending explained (6)

With a respectable businessman backing him, Marston’s loan is granted, and soon he begins to build a home for he, Abigail, and their son Jack at Beecher’s Hope.

Heartbreak, horses and the staggering Red Dead Redemption 2 ending explained (7)

With the ranch completed, and his wife and child finally back by his side, it looks like Marston is about to ride into a peaceful sunset… until his past catches up with him. After reuniting with Sadie in Blackwater, John helps his old pal catch some criminals - Adler becomes a badass bounty hunter once Dutch’s gang breaks up. This reunion eventually leads Marston to a lead on Micah Bell. Cue a revenge mission that sets out to honour the memory of Arthur Morgan and the sacrifice he made for the Marston family.

The second part of the epilogue pays tribute to Arthur’s selfless acts as John enacts a bloody revenge among the mountains of the game’s map in a extra snowy shootout. Once John takes out Micah’s cronies, he accepts a showdown with Bell.

Heartbreak, horses and the staggering Red Dead Redemption 2 ending explained (8)

Enter the returning (beardier, fatter) Dutch van der Linde. Following a tense standoff, Dutch ends up shooting Bell, leaving John and Sadie to return safely to Beecher’s Hope… but not before Marston steals the gang’s saved-up riches from a nearby cabin.

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Upon a newly minted Marston and Sadie returning to the Great Plains, RDR2 finally wraps up. With Arthur avenged, and John set with a huge amount of cash to pay off his mortgage, all looks rosy in the outlaw’s garden.

Heartbreak, horses and the staggering Red Dead Redemption 2 ending explained (9)

Not so fast. When the end credits start to roll, it’s immediately apparent this companion piece is paving the way for the original Redemption. The last game’s dastardly agent Edgar Ross soon sniffs a scent of Marston’s trail, and upon finding out he’s stolen $20,000 from van der Linde, the government jobsworth is in a unique position to exploit the remorseful cowpoke.

This piece of sleuthing perfectly contextualizes John’s motivation from the original Redemption: he turns into a government turncoat because The Man finds out his ranch was built on stolen earnings. With a debt he can never pay off lawfully, Marston is forced to do Ross and the government’s bidding, which involves hunting down the charismatic cowboy’s former pals, namely Dutch van der Linde and Bill Williamson.

The climax of RDR2 perfectly explains why John Marston was so (albeit reluctantly) in the pocket of corrupt agents in the original Redemption. With the proof he’d stolen vasts amounts of money, Edgar Ross is free to manipulate John in any way he sees fit, which just happens to involve tracking down and killing Dutch. When Marston’s tragic end finally comes for him, the parallels with Arthur’s doomed fate are hard (and upsettingly) hard to escape.

Heartbreak, horses and the staggering Red Dead Redemption 2 ending explained (10)

With RDR2 so perfectly bridging the gap between Rockstar’s last two Westerns, it opens up the question of what’s next. If there is to be a Red Dead Redemption 3, when will it be set? Who will star in it? Considering the original’s somber climax, don’t be surprised if a three-quel involves a descendant of the Marston clan, perhaps in a No Country For Old Men-style post-modern Western.

At any rate, GTA 6 better have one hell of an ending if it’s going to live up to RDR2’s finale.

Have you found these 17 amazing moments in Red Dead Redemption 2? Here are the most must-see, exciting outlaw sights in the open-world masterpiece. (opens in new tab)

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Heartbreak, horses and the staggering Red Dead Redemption 2 ending explained (11)

Dave Meikleham

Paid maker of words, goes by many names: Meiksy… Macklespammer… Big Hungry Joe. Obsessive fan of Metal Gear Solid, Nathan Drake's digital pecks and Dino Crisis 2. Loves Jurassic Park so much, may burst at any moment.

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What is the secret ending in rdr2? ›

However, what many players don't know is that Red Dead Redemption II also contains a short bonus ending that can only be discovered with 100 percent completion of the game. In it, John visits Arthur's grave to wrap up the epic Western in an emotional bow.

Does Micah shoot Arthur in the head? ›

With his dying breaths, Arthur swears that Micah is the traitor and begs Dutch to kill him, but Dutch abandons them both. After Dutch leaves, Arthur starts to crawl away, but Micah approaches him with a knife and finishes Arthur off by stabbing him in the back.

Is it possible to save Hamish? ›

Unfortunately, like most quests and characters in Red Dead Redemption 2, The Veteran Stranger Mission has a tragic end. While hunting for a wild boar, Hamish Sinclair is skewered by a tusk and mortally wounded.

What happens to Buell when Arthur dies? ›

If the player wishes to keep Buell after the story, they must complete the last part of Hamish's mission after Chapter 6, as John. If the player completes the mission as Arthur, Buell will be lost along with all the other horses owned by Arthur after the mission “Red Dead Redemption”.

Can you get a happy ending in RDR2? ›

A Handful Of Happy Endings

Players are given a glimpse of this in Red Dead Redemption 2's epilogue, and while John successfully starts afresh with Uncle, Abigail, and Jack, players who know how Red Dead Redemption pans out know John's end wasn't so happy after all.

Does Arthur go to heaven RDR2? ›

In any case, the setup of the video is that Red Dead Redemption 2 protagonist Arthur Morgan has gone to Heaven following his death, where he reunites with some of his friends that died before him.

Can you shoot Micah as John? ›

While there's only one way for the final encounter with Dutch to play out, Micah's death in Red Dead Redemption 2 offers the only alternative — being shot to death by John Marston. There's ultimately very little difference between how it all ends for Dutch and Micah, and even John.

Who kills Micah Bell? ›

Morgan Kills Micah Bell!

Where is Buell after Hamish dies? ›

Luckily, you won't have to go very far. Buell is located near O'Creagh's Run lake, just a short distance from where you found Hamish. Head toward the lake and look for an agitated golden horse near the shore. Slowly approach Buell and calm the horse by patting him.

Can you keep the lion alive RDR2? ›

The lion can be only encountered once in Emerald Ranch, The Heartlands during the Strangers side-mission "He's British, of Course" where he must be killed.

How do I raise my Arthur honor? ›

What will earn you honor
  1. Donate to gang via tithing box.
  2. Disarm a duelling opponent.
  3. Complete camp chores.
  4. Peacefully surrender to a lawman and serve time in jail.
  5. Pay off your debts for crimes.
  6. Help strangers.
  7. Honorable actions in story or optional missions.
Aug 10, 2022

What happens to Dutch at the end of Rdr2? ›

Marston and the group of lawmen chase Dutch to Tall Trees. During the chase, Dutch's automobile crushed, leading also to the death of the bank manager. Dutch flees from the scene, and sends his men to take down the lawmen. The ambush fails and Dutch's men are all killed.

Does John get everything in Arthur's Satchel? ›

While Arthur gives John his satchel with his belongings in it, it doesn't contain all of his money. That said, John recovers the money stash from Micah and Dutch at the end of the epilogues, effectively replacing any money you may have lost when you completed Chapter 6.

Is Arthur Morgan Dutch's son? ›

Although Arthur does have a biological father who raised him for quite some time, he's more a son of Dutch and Hosea than anything else. It does make a considerable amount of sense when you stop to think about it. After all, Arthur was raised by Dutch and Hosea for nearly twenty years.

What is the saddest ending in rdr2? ›

Arthur Morgan Dies At The End Of Red Dead Redemption 2

However, the game is finished with possibly the biggest emotional blow of all, as Arthur Morgan dies in the final act. Arthur is the game's protagonist, the character who the player has been controlling since the beginning.

Is it better to help John or get the money? ›

He's seeking redemption, he's a dying man, why would he even need the money? If you're looking for a bittersweet payoff, I'd recommend going down the John route, which seems to be the canon choice - after all, it's the option the game selects if you don't choose.

What is the best rdr2 ending? ›

Good Ending

Like in the bad ending, Dutch will eventually appear to stop Arthur from killing Micah. At this point, Arthur, now very close to death, will tell his former companions that he tried to change, unlike them. Dutch will stop Micah from finishing Arthur, letting him die in peace.

What was Arthur Morgan's last words? ›

Arthur's last words to Micah Bell if he has low honor. DAMN US BOTH! You let him damn us all, Dutch.

Why does Arthur always see a deer? ›

Perhaps the most obvious form of symbolism in Red Dead Redemption 2 is the morality system. On a surface level, players who do good deeds cause Arthur to see visions of a deer, while players who are morally corrupt see visions of a wolf.

Who ends up killing Arthur? ›

Before going away for battle, Arthur left Mordred (his nephew) temporarily in charge of Camelot. But power-thirsty Mordred soon wanted the kingdom for himself, which resulted in a swordfight between Mordred and Arthur that ended in the deaths of both of them.

Who kills John Marston? ›

With his old gang dead, John and his family are returned to their ranch. He spends some time working on the ranch, but it is soon attacked by U.S. soldiers, and Uncle is killed. John defends his family, but is shot and killed by a gang of soldiers and Ross. His body is buried on a hillside at the ranch.

Can you find Dutch after killing Micah? ›

Dutch Van der Linde walks away unharmed at the end of Red Dead Redemption 2 after helping John and Sadie put an end to Micah. He simply walks away at the end of the game.

Is there a peaceful way to save Micah? ›

Over on Reddit, one player revealed that you can actually just walk straight into the Sheriff's office where Micah is being held and blast away the three lawmen inside. From there, you simply collect the key to Micah's cell and let him out.

What was Hosea sick with? ›

Hosea Matthews may have been killed by Agent Milton, but it turns out he was also sick. Throughout the game, players can hear Dutch and other members of the gang discuss the fact that Hosea is suffering from what seems to be a certain type of lung disease.

Can you get Micah without killing? ›

Begin by entering the jail at Strawberry. You'll find Micah round the side of the building, at the barred window. To set him free, use the Steam Donkey contraption opposite. Pull the winch, attach it to the window, then use the machine to pull the window out of the wall.

What happens if you dont help Sadie RDR2? ›

Declining the mission will lower the player's Honor and the player will not be able to do Part II. If the player accepts, Arthur reluctantly says that he will go with her, but asks her to do something for him in return - to help John, Abigail and Jack to leave the gang "when the time comes".

Why did Dutch leave the money? ›

Following an encounter with John and Sadie, however, Dutch has a change of heart. After realizing his mistakes and Micah's betrayals, he eventually allows the pair to leave with the money after killing the traitor.

Why did Dutch shoot the girl in Blackwater? ›

Arthur mentions that Dutch shot a woman in Blackwater.

This was likely Dutch's attempt to create some distance between the gang and Pinkertons. From there, several gang members slowed themselves down and, instead of helping them, Dutch left them behind so that he could escape.

What happens to Sadie in RDR2? ›

Some time after Charles leaves, she gives her farewells to the Marston family as she leaves the ranch. Sadie's fate is left uncertain, but it can be assumed that she left for South America, having mentioned to John that she wished to live there.

Where did Kieran go RDR2? ›

Dutch orders Reverend Swanson to bury Kieran somewhere that's "close, but not too close". After this, Kieran's grave can be found in the meadow west of Shady Belle.

Does the white Arabian Respawn if you sell it? ›

Yes it will come back, but you have to leave the area far enough. I rode back to Watson's Cabin and when i returned to Lake Isabella, the horse was there again on the same spot. Thanks!

Should I help Mary or don't help Mary? ›

Help Mary or Decline

Arthur will get to decide to help Mary, or decline her. Declining to help Mary will prevent players from being able accept a future mission to help Mary's father. If Red Dead Redemption 2 players want to avoid this mistake, they should agree to help Mary.

Is there a tiger in RDR2? ›

Where to find the lion and tiger. Speak with Margaret, who'll convince you to find yet more animals. Head Southeast of Mattock Pond, West of where the third A is in Kamassa River. You'll run into one of Margaret's co-workers and her wagon where you can round up the lion and tiger.

Are there any extinct animals in RDR2? ›

"Hunting played a role in the Carolina parakeet's extinction; if players shoot this species in the game, they are warned of their endangered status. If they continue shooting, the species becomes extinct, highlighting the environmental consequences of players' actions."

What happens if Arthur has no honor? ›

If Arthur had low honor, then the grave will have a weathered looking tombstone that reads "Blessed are those that mourn for they be comforted". There will also be no flowers at his grave and it will be seemingly guarded by a nearby black coyote, reflecting a low honored Arthur's spirit animal.

How do I get Arthur's health? ›

At the start of the game, Arthur's bars are pretty low. He won't be able to survive many bullets in a gunfight, and he won't get too far if he's sprinting away from the law.
  1. Fist fights - Brawling with people and winning gives you health xp. ...
  2. Hunting - Hunting and killing animals will grant you health xp.
Nov 2, 2019

Can Arthur get max honor? ›

Honor is a returning system in Red Dead Redemption 2. Unlike its predecessor, honor plays a more important role in the story. Unlike in Redemption, the protagonist's honor is capped at the beginning of the game, and – until later in the game – can't be maxed out as fully bad or good.

What happens to Trelawny RDR2? ›

After the gang begins falling apart, Trelawny eventually decides to leave. He packs his bags and quietly leaves for good after Arthur gives him his blessing.

Does Dutch turn on Arthur? ›

He returns to Dutch to inform him of this, but Dutch turns on Arthur and the newly returned John. As Pinkertons invade the camp, Arthur and John flee. Arthur begs John to return to his family. The vengeful Micah soon ambushes him, and Dutch intervenes.

Where is Sadie after epilogue? ›

Afterwards, Sadie also bids farewell to the Marston family as she leaves the ranch. Sadie's fate is left uncertain, but it can be assumed that she left for South America, having mentioned to John that she wished to live there.

What does John get when Arthur dies? ›

Arthur's wallet of money is also cleared out, but John receives $20,000, which is more than enough to buy anything. A few missions into the epilogue, John does inherit all of Arthur's outfits and weapons.

Can John lost Arthur's hat? ›

Arthur's hat can be shot off or punched off if he gets into a brawl and if players don't stop to pick it up, it'll get lost.

Can Arthur make a move on Mary? ›

When you accept the offer of Mary, Arthur has a chance to make a move to Mary Linton. After the first show, there will be a menu selection when you focus to Mary. The Make a Move menu.

Who is a better gunslinger Arthur or John? ›

While John Marston appears to be one the most lethal gunslingers in the West, Red Dead Redemption 2's Arthur Morgan may have taken the crown. The acclaimed Red Dead Redemption 2 continued the franchise tradition of having compelling and memorable protagonists.

Who is Arthur Morgan's wife? ›

Arthur Morgan's Love Life

Perhaps most notably, he falls in love with Eliza, a waitress he meets. They have a son named Isaac, and while Arthur isn't around to be a father to the child, he does try to support them however he can. Eliza isn't an outlaw, though she knows how Arthur makes his money and accepts his help.

Why does John Marston look like Arthur? ›

Many players believe that the developers placed John Marston's skin on Arthur Morgan's character model. The build of this version of Marston does looks very similar to that other protagonist. And it doesn't seem unreasonable as dozens of players report mistaking the John Marston of the epilogue with Arthur Morgan.

How many endings are there for RDR2? ›

In total, Red Dead Redemption 2 has four distinct endings. Three of those endings are easy to come by, based entirely on a choice you make towards the end of the game.

Can you find Arthur's body RDR2? ›

Arthur Morgan's grave is located east of Donner Falls and northeast of Bacchus Station in Ambarino. It's in a fittingly wonderful spot overlooking the valley and the mountains. Those who finished the game with high honor will find his grave covered in flowers.

What is the best ending in RDR2? ›

Good Ending

Like in the bad ending, Dutch will eventually appear to stop Arthur from killing Micah. At this point, Arthur, now very close to death, will tell his former companions that he tried to change, unlike them. Dutch will stop Micah from finishing Arthur, letting him die in peace.

Which RDR2 ending to choose? ›

Choosing to help John Marston will trigger Red Dead Redemption 2's Honorable and best ending. At this point, Arthur will help John up the cliff, and then take on a group of Pinkertons before eventually fighting Micah. Arthur and Micah's duel results in a draw that ends with Dutch and Micah heading off into the sunset.

How Arthur Morgan dies? ›

Arthur Morgan is a character in the Red Dead series, appearing as the protagonist of Red Dead Redemption 2. He was part of Dutch Van Der Linde's gang until falling out due to each other's trust deteriorating as a result of a rat among the group. Tuberculosis ended up taking his life in the end.

What is the longest mission in RDR2? ›

One of the later chapters, Chapter 6, is by far the longest of them. You have access to the open world from Chapter 2, so you can go hunting, craft gear with perfect pelts, and search out the best unique weapons from then.

What happens if Arthur goes back for the money? ›

Arthur will be stabbed in the back if he went back for the money or shot in the face if Arthur helped John escape. An honorable Arthur will be left where he lies and succumb to his TB watching the sunrise for the last time.

Can you find Arthur's grave before he dies? ›

Arthur's Grave – Can be visited as John Marston after Arthur Morgan's death, located on top of the mountain to the northeast of Bacchus bridge. Whether players had high or low honor as Arthur Morgan will impact the epitaph, with high honor also spawning an eagle and low honor spawning a coyote.

What does Arthur Morgan's grave say? ›

Red Dead 2: Arthur Morgan's High Honor Grave

His grave will say, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” The condition of the gravestone states the obvious: that he was loved in life and is missed now in death.

Is there an ending where Arthur lives? ›

Red Dead Redemption 2 contains quite an emotional ending, and regardless of player choice, Arthur Morgan will die. And it's made even more tragic by the fact that Arthur dies alone. If the player has low honor, Arthur is directly betrayed by Dutch and killed by Micah, either by being stabbed or shot.

Is Arthur the villain in RDR2? ›

Despite his low-honor character being significantly more villainous, Arthur still does retain some of his standards and redeeming qualities, such as wanting to help John Marston and his family escape the Van der Linde gang's downfall.

Is it better to let Jack win the race RDR2? ›

If Jack does win, he'll be really happy about it, and John will compliment him on his riding. After returning, the next mission will start automatically - Old Habits.

What happens to Dutch after RDR2? ›

In reality, Dutch survived the bank robbery. He began to live between, and inspired Native Americans to follow his cause to stop the upcoming government. The Native Americans followed him, despite hating white people, eventually re-creating a new Dutch's Gang, this time known as "Dutch's Tribe".

Does RDR2 have 4 endings? ›

There are the four different endings you can get with Arthur Morgan, depending on your amount of honor and the last big decision you get to make as him.


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