Warning: Major spoilers for Returnal below
It’s a pretty cryptic game, with the main narrative playing out in fragmented flashes and audio logs playing without greater context. However, once you defeat the game’s final boss, Ophion, in the underwater depths the tragic truth about Selene’s past is revealed and the credits roll. Fin. Well, not quite.
Returnal doesn’t actually conclude when the credits play. In fact, downing the game’s toughest antagonist is just the close of act 2, there is actually a third act that unlocks the game’s true ending filling in the final mysteries about Selene’s past and the time loop she’s stuck in.
The game itself gives very little indication that this is the case. And many gamers might actually think they’ve seen all Returnal has to offer after completing act 2. But seeking out the true ending is well worth your time and extends the runtime of one of the best PS5 games currently available.
Here’s what you need to do to unlock the secret ending of Returnal.
1. Complete the first five house sequences and defeat the final boss
Before you can begin working towards unlocking the secret ending to Returnal, you need to actually start act 3. This is achieved in two steps. Firstly you need to make you’ve completed the first five house sequences.
These first-person sections delve further into Selene’s past and feed you narrative breadcrumbs. There are six in total, but only the first five can be completed before starting act 3.
There are three to unlock in the first biome, Overgrown Ruins, and two to unlock in the fourth area, Echoing Ruins. If you’ve not completed all five house sequences keep running these biomes until you have. The house only ever spawns in these two levels, and usually comes pretty early on, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding it. Once you’ve seen five house sequences, you’ve unlocked all you can for now.
Now you need to defeat the games final boss in the Abyssal Scar biome. Ophion can be a tough nut to crack, but by this point, you should be well-versed in the game’s system and mechanics. So long as you avoid the deathly attack where the monster swipes at you with his hideous arms you should be fine. The rest of its attacks are fairly straightforward to dodge.
Once they go down, jump into the hole in the floor the boss was covering and the game’s first ending will play out. Once this cut scene has played, and the credits have rolled, you’ll wind up back at the crash site. You’re now officially in act 3 and ready to start unlocking the true ending.
2. Collect six Sunface Fragment items
Now that you’re in act 3, six Sunface Fragments will spawn in the world. You guessed it, one per biome.
Unfortunately, as the game is procedurally generated there’s no way for us to give you the location of each fragment. They are different for every player. There’s only one option, you have to explore each biome individually.
At this point, you should be pretty comfortable with Returnal, after all you’ve beaten all it has to offer, so venture out into each level and explore with a fine-tooth comb. Leave no stone unturned in your search for these Sunface Fragments.
They do get marked on your map (as little turquoise triangles) so you shouldn’t have any huge issues spotting them. You might even get lucky and have them spawn near the entrance to each biome saving you the hassle of needing to explore each location fully.
While previously the game didn’t actually keep track of which fragments you’d already picked up, the game’s first patch has amended this issue. You can now see in your inventory where each fragment you've collected was picked up which makes locating them all much easier.
Thankfully, the fragments do persist across death as well. So even if you die after picking up a couple you can carry on your search without needing to start over.
3. Return to the house in Echoing Ruins
Once you have all six Sunface Fragments, Selene will comment on this fact and the final house sequence will unlock.
Return to the Echoing Ruins and the house should once again have a lit-up porch, indicating that you can enter. If the house is still dark and you can’t enter, then you’re missing a fragment, so double-check your inventory to make sure you have them all.
Enjoy this last house sequence, it’s pretty spooky! Afterward, you will come away with a car key with an astronaut keyring. Can you guess what this key opens?
4. Defeat the final boss a second time
Now you need to return to the game’s final boss and kick its butt once again! Make sure you take your time in the Abyssal Scar biome picking up a decent weapon and some valuable items, so you can go into the fight with Ophion with a strong arsenal.
Once Ophion goes down for a second time, you once again jump into the crater they were sitting on. This time once you hit the ground below, instead of running straight forward to unlock a cutscene, stop at the curiously sunken car with its headlights beaming.
You should be prompted to unlock the driver-side door with your freshly acquired set of keys. Congratulations, you’ve just unlocked the secret ending to Returnal, an extra cutscene and a gold PlayStation trophy are your rewards for your hard work.