There are lots of possible Baldur's Gate 3 endings if you're looking to finish off your first adventure into Faerun, but it's always hard to rid yourself of that nagging sensation that there was an ending you somehow missed along the way. While there are only a couple of options for a good or evil ending, there are lots of variations in terms of how you get there, and some resulting consequences.
I haven't included any Dark Urge specific endings in here or the unique extra endings that some origin characters can get, because I haven't played them yet, but this guide does handle the game's primary ending if you're a custom character, plus the variations and choices you can make. I'll be sure to update this over time with others, plus character-specific endings, since I only really address Karlach, Lae'zel, and Gale here.
Since this will contain lots of ending-related spoilers, you should look away now if you want to experience that stuff yourself.
How to start the ending
Depending on the order you do things in act three, once you've got Orin's Netherstone, you can start the ending without killing Gortash, though you will have to ally with him. When you go to see him just make sure to refuse to hand over the stones and he'll partner with you. You can also kill Gortash, though you'll likely have to destroy the Steel Watch Foundry to handle the fight, which is a fairly long quest chain in itself.
Once you've got Gortash's stone or you've killed him, head to the Temple of Bhaal waypoint in the Undercity and go north until you find the boat and the pier with all of the Cranium Rats. This is the point of no return, so make sure you save. In fact, it's probably best to save before you take Gortash's stone, since there won't be much time for relaxed questing after that.
Can you beat the Netherbrain's skill checks?
Short answer; no. Even if you're successful in all four skill checks when you first face the Netherbrain, including the final difficulty rating 99 one, if you roll a critical success, the brain will always break free and you'll get pulled into the Astral Prism by the Emperor. If you choose to ally with Gortash, the brain will kill him after the second skill check, which actually makes for a real time-saver if you want to finish the game quickly, and don't want to do any of the Steel Watch Foundry or Iron Throne quest stuff to get his Netherstone.
There are two main ending variations you can choose in Baldur's Gate 3 that effectively amount to good and evil:
- Destroy the brain: This is the good ending, where you command the brain to kill itself, saving the city of Baldur's Gate and becoming heroes.
- Control the brain: This is the evil ending where you choose to control the brain, dominate your companions, and send your armies out to take over the world. In some variations, this ending involves stabbing the Emperor or Orpheus in the back as they shackle the Netherbrain.
Both of these endings are a little more elaborate if you're running a Dark Urge character, plus there are quite a few different routes you can take to get to them. After the skill checks when you first confront the Netherbrain, the Emperor will pull you into the Astral Prism and ask you to give him the Netherstones. Your decision here won't change that ending choice above, with one exception, but it will determine the flavour of your ending and multiple character outcomes.
Trust the Emperor
You give the Emperor the Netherstones and let him eat Orpheus to absorb his power. In this variation, you fight your way to the Netherbrain with the Emperor by your side. When you finally beat the Netherbrain and the Emperor shackles it you can either let him destroy it, or brutally stab him and take control of the brain for yourself. In this ending, Orpheus dies, and so Vlaakith continues to rule over the Githyanki.
Become a Mind Flayer
You accept the Emperor's offer to undergo Ceremorphosis and you consume Orpheus. You'll fight through the final section as a multiclass Mind Flayer plus your previous class, and once you defeat the brain you'll get to decide whether to control it yourself or destroy it. The key variation in this ending is that there are extra post-ending scenes where you get to decide what you'll do with your time now you're all tentacled, including the option to end your life. It's important to note that you can do this whether you side with the Emperor or free Orpheus.
Let Karlach become a Mind Flayer
Karlach becomes a Mind Flayer and eats Orpheus. It's unclear whether you need to have repaired Karlach with infernal iron fully to get this ending, but if Karlach is in your party when the Emperor explains about someone needing to become a Mind Flayer, she'll offer to do it. If you choose dialogue option three after she says so, you'll get a minute to chat to her about the choice.
You can even do this if you free Orpheus—you just have to select Karlach and talk to him as her, accepting that you'll become a Mind Flayer. Considering Karlach's eventual fate is to die from her engine overheating, unless Wyll becomes Blade of Avernus at the end of his quest, this is one way to save her and Orpheus both. If you choose this, there's no final choice to betray Mind Flayer Karlach, so you're locked into the good ending.
This version of the ending requires you to get the Orphic Hammer from Raphael. There are two ways to do this in Act 3:
- Steal it from the House of Hope.
- Make a deal with Raphael at Sharess' Caress.
If you do the second, you'll get the Raphael post-credit scene where he tells you that he's going to use the Crown of Karsus to take over all of creation—slightly worrying. Either way, it'll save you doing the House of Hope, which has one of the most challenging boss battles in the game. You can also break into the House of Hope to steal your contract if you've already made the deal, but honestly, if you're doing that you may as well just steal the hammer in the first place.
First things first, freeing Orpheus will make the Emperor betray you and join the Netherbrain, since you're taking away his protection, which means you'll have to fight him during the final battle. After you smash the barrier crystals with the hammer, Orpheus will reveal that the Emperor was telling the truth and someone needs to become a Mind Flayer to beat the Netherbrain. Again, this can be you or Karlach, but Orpheus himself will also agree to become a Mind Flayer, asking that you kill him once it's all done. Again, you can stab Orpheus in the back if you want to take control of the brain instead.
If you destroy the brain with Mind Flayer Orpheus, and Lae'zel is still around, he'll entrust her to defeat Vlaakith and free the Githyanki. After that, there are a few potential outcomes:
- You kill Orpheus as he asked.
- You persuade Orpheus to live and watch the Githyanki from afar.
- You refuse to kill Orpheus and he kills himself.
In any of the endings where Orpheus lives, such as if you or Karlach become a Mind Flayer, he'll ride off on his dragons to face down Vlaakith, and he'll take Lae'zel with him. You can try to convince her to stay, but she will flat-out refuse if you're a Mind Flayer.
You can also get a little sort-of secret ending where the Netherbrain turns you into a Mind Flayer if you free Orpheus and then kill him. This is the same cutscene sequence from the end of act two if you fail to get into the Astral Prism quick enough when the Githyanki monks attack.
Though I haven't found loads of these yet, I'll add more as they appear.
Gale blows up
You can get an early ending to Baldur's Gate 3 towards the latter half of Act 2 if you've pursued Gale's quest, fed him magical artefacts, and met Eliminster Aumar in the Mountain Pass. He gives Gale the mission from Mystra to use the magical orb inside him to blow up the heart of the Absolute—or brain in this case. When you arrive in the Mind Flayer Colony and see the brain for the first time, along with Ketheric, Orin, and Gortash, you can let him detonate himself, killing you all, and ending the game. It's not the most cheery ending, as the narrator describes that the Mind Flayer tadpoles still out there took over anyway, making your dramatic exit a little lacklustre.
What's the best Baldur's Gate 3 ending?
Of course, this is entirely personal, but for my money, the best ending is stealing the hammer to free Orpheus and letting Karlach become a Mind Flayer. Firstly, you get to save one of the best characters in the game and don't have to go through a, frankly tragic, cutscene, and you get to save Orpheus so he can go and kick the crap out of that jerk Vlaakith.
You are also left un-Mind Flayered, so can continue to adventure with your companions without having to go into hiding. It's not like you're forcing Karlach to become a Mind Flayer either, since she literally says she wants to do it. I'd say close second is Orpheus becoming a Mind Flayer and Karlach going back to the hells with Wyll, if he became Blade of Avernus at the end of his quest.