Playdead's Inside is all kinds of crazy.
Very little is explained, and by the end, players are left staring at their television screens in disbelief and confusion. Without spoiling anything, the game's end does little to resolve many of the lingering questions players have accumulated over the course of the game.
That, of course, is the point. While there are numerous theories about what Inside as a whole means or represents, the game's secret ending in particular is well worth talking about.
Spoilers for Inside below!
If you have yet to play Inside, this article isn't for you. If you've finished the game, it's likely you stumbled upon at least a few of the 14 hidden orbs sprinkled throughout the game world. Exactly what these hidden orbs are is unclear. Unplugging each one not only unlocks an achievement, but also puts you on the path toward the game's secret ending.
The secret ending can only be acquired after snagging each and every orb. That sounds difficult, but it's not all that hard. The orbs can be found in any order (except the last one), and the game's Load feature allows players to skip to almost any area in the game in a matter of moments. Most of the orbs are fairly close to each checkpoint, so even if you only found one or two in your first playthroughs of the game, it takes maybe an hour to find the rest.
We're not going to go into the specifics of how to get each orb here. For that, Prima Guides is a great resource, and there are also plenty of video guides on YouTube on how to track down each one.
Once you've done that, you'll arrive at the location of the Last One. A board in the background has 13 lights, each representing the orbs you've unplugged. Pulling the plug on the last (and giant) orb will cause all the lights but one on the board to go out, and that light is the location of the second orb in the game.
The location of the second orb is under the cornfield in the beginning of the game. You may remember a vault door that couldn't be opened from your first visit. Now, you can go inside (ha), but first, you'll have to input a very specific series of commands with the lever in front of it. Moving the lever in various directions makes different tones. It seems random at first, but the tones actually play out of speakers in the game at two different points. Using that information, players put together the necessary input commands to open the door: Up, Up, Up, Right, Left, Left, Left, Up, Up, Right, Left, Right, Right, Right.
At the end of a long tunnel, players will find a room sporting one of the game's mind control machines, which appears to be hooked up to a number of monitors. A plug at the end of the tunnel, when removed, shuts down not only the TVs and the mind control device, but also the boy himself. He slumps over, much like the other mindless men and women the boy controls over the course of the game. Then, the screen fades to black.
What does it mean? Fans have a number of theories. Some believe the ending to be a very "meta" commentary on gaming itself, with the final mind control device the boy unplugs representing the player. Unplugging the device makes it impossible for the player to control the boy, thus, the game ends. How it relates to the regular ending is still unclear. Most fans assume the human blob controlled the boy's actions from the start in order to free itself from captivity. By having the boy unplug the mind control device in the start of the game, he shows that he — not the blob or the player — is in control of his own life. Other players think Inside is secretly a prequel to Playdead's previous game, the equally-mysterious Limbo.
Whatever it is, the ending can only be activated once without having to travel to each orb and repeat the entire process. It will likely remain a mystery as to what exactly Playdead was attempting to say with Inside, but it's the mystery that makes the game so captivating in the first place. Spelling nothing out for the players and allowing them to make their own conclusions is something that most video games are too afraid to try and regularly fail at. For Playdead, it's what it does best.