Undertale’s story can be completed in roughly six to eight hours, but what is arguably the full experience takes a lot longer than that at upwards of twenty hours. This is a game where a great deal of time and effort has been put into pushing players to achieve multiple endings, and each run is short enough that doing so is a joy.
Having beaten many runs over my tenure and seen each unique main ending, in this short article, I’ll be covering the ins and outs of how long it will take you to complete the game in various different play styles.
The Multiple Endings Explained
At the core of discussing the game’s length are it’s its different endings. Without spoiling anything, let’s first explain this aspect.
The Three Main Endings
There are a total of three main endings in the game, and each is reached depending on how you express the protagonist’s moral compass. These are True Pacifist, Neutral, and Genocide. To delve into what these endings mean would be to delve into spoiler territory, but I take it you get the gist.
My first Undertale run took eight hours, with each subsequent one taking roughly six. So, to achieve the main three endings, I’d expect most players would be looking at around twenty hours.
A lot of people choose only to play the game twice — the second run representing the polar opposite of whatever moral choices they made their first time around. An estimate of about sixteen hours give or take would seem reasonable here.
For serious fans, there is a fourth main ending to consider, however.
Hard mode is a call back to the original Undertale demo, wherein the player character was unalterably named Frisk. In the full retail release, naming your character Frisk will activate the new mode automatically, with the playthrough taking place entirely in the Ruins area as the demo did.
As such, this is a much shorter experience: it only took me roughly thirty minutes to complete.
Hard mode expectedly makes Undertale much more difficult: enemies are more powerful with their attacks, and there are replacements for some of the classic foes. There are also some minor dialogue changes, and of course, a new ending.
But There are Many More Endings than Four…
Technically, Undertale has a whopping ninety-three possible endings. How is this even possible I hear you ask? Let’s take a look.
These possible endings mostly take the form of variations on the neutral ending. Several of the possible endings come from where you land on s spectrum of neutral morality: who you kill and who you don’t. Being able to kill or spare every character you encounter means that, depending on how you play, some of those characters will be alive and others will not be. This means the neutral ending can change slightly, and you’ll experience different dialogue at the end based on what happened.
Users on Reddit originally pieced together each ending and what it takes to get there. Their digging was eventually made into this comprehensive flow chart. While most are, not all of the endings are based on a neutral play-through. There are four related to a pacifist run, and four for genocide playthroughs.
Each of the ninety-three endings is separated into groups encompassing nine different branches, making the whole thing much easier to follow. I certainly haven’t experienced all of these and I imagine few have, but it’s cool to read through the flow chart to see what’s possible. There are even cutscene variations for some of them, and it’s amazing to see the developers pay this much attention to detail in deepening their game world.
To 100% the game, you’re expected to have completed the four main endings — the original three and Hard Mode, which would likely take a little more than twenty hours. With a possible of ninety-three endings, though, a new badge of honor entitled the True 100% run exists, which entails the exhausting task of achieving all ninety-three of those possible endings.
I couldn’t find any data on how long it would take you to True 100% of the game, but speed runners have done it. Cookiepocalypse on Twitch was the first to do so, finishing the mammoth task in thirty-three hours. Parts one and two of his adventure can be found in this Reddit post, along with a document containing his full route for the most efficient approach.
As you can see from the details of the post, he only took three hours of sleep once he was twenty hours in. That’s some serious dedication and not something I’d recommend! Still, it shows what it takes and how long to truly complete everything in this game.
Some Helpful Tips
Now you know how long you can expect your adventure to take, here are my top tips for getting the most out of your first and second runs.
For your second run, behave as differently as possible: While there are several potential endings, you should think of it as a spectrum. If you only change something very slight about the way you behave in the game, your ending and playthrough overall will be very similar to your first one. Most players want to see the gameplay end radically different than their first run, in which case, behave as the complete opposite as you did initially.
You don’t have to kill any enemies: People often miss that you don’t actually have to kill an enemy during a fight. You’re able to pick and choose who you kill, and you can play through the entire game without killing anyone at all if you want to.
Don’t Google anything: While I’d recommend this for most new games you’re playing, it’s especially important in Undertale’s case. The game relies heavily on the element of surprise, and given the cultural phenomenon the series has become, it’s become particularly easy to spoil your experience. As well as refraining from internet research, I’d also recommend keeping off sites like Reddit or other forums that discuss the game (excluding those specific threads I’ve linked). Go in totally blind if you can!
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Playing the Game More than Once Seems Pretty Important in Undertale’s Case. Is it Essential?
Answer: It’s certainly not a prerequisite to enjoying the game, but I do think you’d lose out on some of the nuances if you don’t. Undertale is all about morality, and seeing how drastically your game can change based on your choices is a big part of the fun. You’ll still love the game with only one playthrough, but I’d argue that the full experience is had at the end of your second run.
Question: Is it Possible to Speed-run the Game?
Answer: Of course! Undertale has a big speed-running community if that’s something you’d like to get into. The place to be for that is speedrun.com’s Undertale page. You’ll find the current leaderboard on the main page, as well as a forum where you can discuss the latest strategies with other speed runners.
Question: What’s the Best way to Play for your First Run?
Answer: There is no set formula for the best run. The best way to experience the game for the first time is to make the choices you think are right organically. To try and go for a specific playstyle should be saved for your second run; if not, you’ll miss out on one of the most important aspects of the game — feeling the weight of your own logic.
I hope this article cleared up any questions about Undertale’s length and has also provided you with some worthwhile tips as you embark on your journey. When you’ve finished the game, be sure to check out our other Undertale articles here on Indie Game Culture. Have fun!
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