The Thematic Beauty Of Undertale’s Genocide Route

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You feel your sins crawling down your back.

Story Highlights
  • Undertale uses the common troupes of exp and killing monsters to call out human cruelty and the emptiness of grinding.
  • The game actively punishes the player for going down this route, deleting enjoyable elements from the gameplay and skipping over certain events completely.
  • Undertale’s Genocide Route calls out how gamers often forget the purpose behind an act, taking away their enjoyment just to grind for hours on a whim.

Undertale is a game that touched the hearts of many. Speaking for myself, I doubt I’d be the person I am today if the game didn’t make me reconsider what it means to put yourself in others’ shoes.

According to IGN, “Undertale is a traditional role-playing game where no one has to get hurt. Fighting is wholly unnecessary” Reading this, the existence of a Genocide Route might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s one of the most genius decisions in game-making history.

How To Reach The Genocide Ending

Sans Fanart
Judgement Hall Fanart by Mnstrcandy

The Genocide Route is difficult to get. In fact, the route is not designed to be your first. For someone playing the game for the first time, it’s almost impossible to get the route.

This is because you cannot reach the Genocide Ending by merely playing the game. You have to kill every monster you encounter, sure, but you also have to run around trying to find monsters that may be hiding. To achieve the ending, you have to go out of your way to walk the now-empty map for hours, just so you can kill the last remaining Jerry.

A World Devoid Of Life

But Nobody Came - Undertale
You’ve killed everyone, there’s no one left

Undertale’s Genocide Route isn’t just a dark mirror of its pacifist route – it’s a shattered one. This route strips away the heart of Undertale, transforming a world brimming with quirky charm into a desolate wasteland devoid of the playful spirit that captivated players. You can’t participate in Mettaton’s dazzling shows, you can’t hang out with Papyrus and learn about his spaghetti obsession – all the lighthearted activities that made the game special are ripped away.

The Purpose Of Killing

Unlike most RPGs, the Genocide Route doesn’t reward violence. You do get EXP points, but instead of unlocking meaningful and fun rewards, they just show you how used to killing you’ve become. There aren’t any monsters to take revenge on, there isn’t a danger you pick up your knife to protect your loved ones from. You only kill for the sake of killing.

Flowey Pleading
Flowey Pleading

A feeling of obligation replaces the thrill of overcoming battles. Every battle becomes a monotonous slaughter, devoid of the witty dialogue and quirky attacks that made encounters with monsters so engaging. Even the game’s main antagonist, Flowey the Flower, pleads for your mercy.

Sans: A Frustrating Climax to a Hollow Journey

Sans Dialogue
Sans – The Climax Of Genocide

The Genocide Route’s theme culminates in a brutal showdown with Sans, the laid-back, pun-loving skeleton. Here, the lack of reward truly hits home. Sans’s fight abandons the playful spirit of Undertale’s combat entirely. He employs a relentless barrage of attacks, designed to frustrate and demoralize the player. His witty remarks turn into sharp barbs directed at the person playing the game, his attacks become near-impossible to dodge. There’s no satisfaction in defeating him, just a hollow sense of accomplishment for enduring the torment.

Genocide On A Whim

Genocide Ending Fanart
Genocide Ending Fanart by Palidoozy Art

Some players might be drawn to Undertale’s Genocide Route for the sake of completion, a desire to see everything the game has to offer. However, Undertale exposes the emptiness of such a pursuit. The reward is not a sense of accomplishment, but a stark reminder of the destruction you’ve wrought. The hours spent grinding through tedious encounters and enduring Sans’ relentless assault serve only to highlight the value of the kindness and mercy you’ve abandoned.

The game uses this purposeless genocide as an allegory for players who torture themselves and end up flipping out on others after a losing streak. Nothing should force you to play a game that you no longer enjoy. It’s perfectly fine to take a break after a losing streak, you don’t have to end on a win. In a world where games encourage competitiveness and cast away casual players, Undertale calls this out. Games, at their core, are meant to be enjoyed. If you turn them into a chore, why even bother playing?

“There’s a reason that many people suggest just skipping the Genocide Route altogether or watching it on YouTube. Oh, and if it’s completed first, the game will remember what you did in every other playthrough.” – The Gamer

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