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Dead Space Remake Ending Explained

Back in 2008, "Dead Space" delivered a sci-fi horror experience that was truly the stuff of nightmares. The game put players on a ship overrun by undead creatures called Necromorphs, which were controlled by an inscrutable alien Hive Mind bent on humanity's destruction. At the same time, the game forced players to puzzle out the plans of a death cult called Unitology and the protagonist's mysterious connection to their beliefs. The original game combined brutal deaths, solid combat mechanics, and truly spectacular imagery into an unforgettable experience that launched a universe of sequels and spin-offs. As the series wore on, "Dead Space" forced players to do awful things in order to keep themselves and their spacefaring companions alive. Every twist and turn of the story kept players on their toes, especially since every action scene sent blood and gore flying across the screen.

Now the "Dead Space" remake has arrived, and while it does a lot of things better than the original, the story from the original experience has been left mostly untouched. The ending of "Dead Space" is as shocking and ominous as ever, and the small changes introduced by developer Motive Studios only point to a future for the franchise that's darker than ever. Get ready to break down the horror and brace yourself for what might come after the ending of 2023's "Dead Space."

A tale of two Markers

Taking a deep dive into the ending of "Dead Space" actually requires that we first go back in time to events that transpired before the beginning of the game. Much of the game's plot revolves around the mysterious red Marker that causes the Necromorph infection, and there's quite a bit of history around the Marker and how it ended up on the USG Ishimura.

In the "Dead Space" universe, the Markers are large helix-shaped objects covered in alien symbols. Markers have disturbing effects on any lifeform that gets near them, causing mood swings and hallucinations and sometimes communicate strange bits of knowledge to certain individuals. Given enough time, the signal put out by the Markers can also make changes to an organism's biology, resulting in the creation of Necromorphs.

The Marker found in "Dead Space" is known as Marker 3A, and there's an important difference between it and standard Markers. Whereas most Markers are black and of unknown cosmic origin, Marker 3A is red and was reverse-engineered by EarthGov to study the possibility of using the Marker's signal as an endless source of energy. EarthGov hid the Marker on Aegis VII hundreds of years before the start of "Dead Space," eventually setting in motion all the other events in the game.

Unitology brings doom to the USG Ishimura

EarthGov's synthetic Marker created the Necromorphs that Isaac fights throughout the game, but it's not the only thing responsible for the chaos on board the Ishimura. To really understand what happens to Isaac, his crew, and everyone else in "Dead Space," you really have to understand the Church of Unitology.

"Dead Space: Martyr," is a prequel book written by B.K. Evenson, tells the story of how Unitology came into existence and what it has to do with Isaac and the rest of the "Dead Space" universe. Long before the doomed Ishimura mission, a man named Michael Altman discovers a Marker and realizes its horrifying potential. While Altman searches for a way to stop the Marker, another group of people come to believe it is a gift from a higher power. They see the Necromorphs almost as sacred beings, and they believe the Marker will transform all of humanity in an event they call the Convergence. This new group ultimately uses Altman as a sacrificial figure in a new religion devoted to the Markers: Unitology.

Before the release of "Dead Space" back in 2008, a direct prequel comic book also told the story of how Unitologists came to control the Ishimura and its mission. They wanted to find the Marker on Aegis VII and use it to start the Convergence. The horror that unfolds throughout "Dead Space" was no accident, which makes the events of the finale even more awful.

Not everyone stayed faithful to the mission

Most of the Ishimura's crew were Unitologists who believed in the power of the Marker and wanted to be turned into Necromorphs as part of their religion. However, even though they were fervent believers, none of them had seen Necromorphs before their mission on the Ishimura. As all the death and destruction got underway, some of the Unitologists began to lose their faith.

The most important Unitologist who changed loyalties is Chief Science Officer Terrence Kyne. In the game, Isaac gets to witness a hallucination of the moment in which Dr. Kyne completely changed his opinion of the Marker and began arguing with the Ishimura's Captain Mathius. The captain does his best to reassure Dr. Kyne, but it isn't enough. Kyne eventually meets Isaac in person and explains to him how the Marker has affected the Ishimura, revealing that they might be able to stave off the infection if they can return it to the surface of Aegis VII.

The Kellion crew was unprepared

Just before the game begins, Isaac and the rest of the Kellion crew are sent on a mission to assist the USG Ishimura. In the game's opening cutscene, Isaac is listening to a message from his girlfriend Nicole Brennan, and moments later the Kellion's computer specialist Kendra Daneils lightly teases him about how often he's replayed it. Not only will that video message come into play in both of the game's endings, but there's a reason why most of this crew doesn't make it too far into their mission.

The crew of the Kellion seems oddly calm and lighthearted considering the terrifying situation they're about to step into, but in reality, they don't have a good idea of what's happened to the Ishimura. In the message from Nicole that Isaac plays, she says, "It's falling apart here. I can't believe what's happening... It's strange... such a little thing." She isn't being vague about the situation on board the Ishimura just for the sake of gamers playing "Dead Space." As it turns out, the entire Kellion crew has been kept in the dark about what's really happening with the Marker.

The crew knows that something is seriously wrong, but certainly none of them are imagining the inhuman terror of Necromorphs when they show up to complete their rescue mission. From the moment they arrive on the Ishimura, the crew is simply reacting to what they're seeing and making up their plans as they go along. There's only one crew member who shows up on the Ishimura with anything resembling a solid plan.

Kendra and the Valor's crew had their own missions

Kendra Daniels is the computer specialist for the Kellion, and Isaac thinks that she's just another member of his crew assigned to help people on board the Ishimura. The two of them get separated shortly after encountering the Necromorphs on the ship, but eventually Kendra contacts Isaac with a plan for them to escape via the USM Valor, a military ship that supposedly received their SOS beacon. Isaac seems surprised that the Valor is in the area, but he decides to follow Kendra's advice.

The Valor could have saved any survivors from the Ishimura, but (long story short) things don't go as planned. The Necromorphs infect the Valor's crew after the ship crashes into the Ishimura, and security officer Zach Hammond is killed when he and Isaac attempt to recover the ship's singularity core. After that, everything goes from bad to worse.

Isaac and Kyne want to use the Valor's singularity core to power a shuttle that can return the Marker to Aegis VII, but just as they're ready to go, Kendra shoots Dr. Kyne. Over a video call, Kendra tells Isaac that she has secretly been working for EarthGov and the Valor was meant to help her relocate the Marker to a new planet, where research on its energy could continue without the interference of Unitologists. 

Dr. Mercer got what he wanted

Dr. Kyne wasn't the only Unitologist scientist who joined the Ishimura mission to study the Marker. He was also joined by a man named Dr. Challus Mercer, who Isaac first learns about through an audio log. In the log, Dr. Kyne and Dr. Mercer can be heard discussing the beginnings of the Necromorph outbreak, and though it's clear Dr. Kyne now has doubts about what the Unitologists are doing, Dr. Mercer seems infatuated with all the blood and violence.

No matter how terrifying the Necromorphs appear, or how many people they brutally murder, Dr. Mercer's faith in Unitology never wavers. All he cares about is speeding along the Convergence, which means increasing the body count on the Ishimura. Dr. Mercer tries to let the Necromorphs do most of the killing, but when he shoots Jacob Temple, he proves that he's willing to get his hands dirty, too.

Dr. Mercer's story is cut short when a Hive Mind tentacle crushes him while grabbing hold of the Marker. That might seem like a poetic end to one of the game's primary antagonists, but that death is aactually victory for Mercer. Being entirely consumed by the source of the Necromorphs is basically the highest honor he could hope for as a Unitologist.

The Marker manipulated Isaac and Elizabeth

The Marker's most prominent ability is transforming dead bodies into Necromorphs that kill anything in sight to add to their numbers, but living humans are also affected by the Marker. It changes their perception of reality and sometimes even speaks to them, tricking people into doing its bidding. Isaac spent so much of his time fighting off Necromorphs that he probably forgot about the Marker's other powers — and maybe the gamers controlling him did, too.

That all changes near the end of the game when Kendra Daniels forces Isaac to have a shocking realization. Throughout the entire game, Isaac has been hoping to reunite with his girlfriend Nicole Brennan, who'd been assigned to work on the Ishimura before it set sail for Aegis VII. Once Isaac returns the Marker to the planet's surface, the whole world seems poised to collapse, and Kendra confronts him with Nicole held at gunpoint.

Kendra forces Isaac to rewatch the video message from Nicole that he'd been viewing at the very start of the game. This time, though, Isaac makes it all the way to the end of the video and sees Nicole die. The entire time that Isaac has been on the Ishimura, the Marker has been infecting his mind, making him believe a woman named Elizabeth Cross is actually his doomed Nicole. At the same time, the Marker made Elizabeth see Isaac as her boyfriend Jacob Temple, who Dr. Mercer killed earlier in the game. The reasons behind the hallucination are mostly a mystery, but the implications are terrifying — another reminder of how the Marker can truly corrupt everything.

The Hive Mind won

Isaac is the only character who makes it to the end of "Dead Space," but the ending still feels somewhat like a victory. He managed to return the Marker to the surface of Aegis VII, which Dr. Kyne believed would end the Necromorph infection, and before escaping the planet, he comes face to face with the Necromorph Hive Mind living on the planet and manages to kill it. Or does he?

Just moments before battling the Hive Mind, Isaac learned that the Marker had been making him hallucinate that Nicole was still alive. Throughout the entire game, the Marker, which is connected with the Hive Mind, influenced Isaac's decisions and pushed him in a direction that served its own plans.

Isaac can't possibly know what the Marker's plans are, but he should be very concerned that it allowed him to return it to Aegis VII, regardless of its influence on his mind. He may have given the Marker exactly what it wanted. And of course, anyone who's familiar with the original "Dead Space" series timeline knows that Isaac's horrifying story is far from over.

The Marker isn't done with Isaac

"Dead Space" leans just as heavily into horror tropes as it does sci-fi staples, and that mix stays true to the very end of the game. Using a classic horror jump scare, the final shot of the game clears up any doubt that the Marker has been subdued after being sent back to the surface of Aegis VII. 

Isaac clearly appears to be alone in his space shuttle as he pulls away from the planet. As he scans through the ship's computer, Nicole's final video message begins playing one last time on the holo screen. Before getting too far into the message, Isaac turns it off and sits back in his chair. Just then the camera pans, and a Necromorph Nicole leaps out at Isaac before the screen cuts to black.

It's not impossible that a Necromorph using Nicole's body managed to board the ship, but it is pretty unlikely. The Necromorph would have had to travel all the way from the Ishimura, and there's really no way the Hive Mind controlling it could have known Isaac would eventually make it to the escape ship. It's much more likely that Necromorph-Nicole is just another hallucination caused by the Marker. If that's the case, it means the Marker still has influence over Isaac's mind, which lends credence to the idea that his actions at the end of the game are just playing into the Marker's broader plan.

New Game Plus heightens the horror

Fans of the original "Dead Space" loved the game enough to play through it multiple times, and anyone who carries that passion into the remake will earn a new surprise when they reach the end for the second time. New game plus offers a different ending that replaces the famous jump scare with a much more eerie turn of events.

In the alternate ending, Isaac begins speaking to the vision of Nicole as soon as he leaves the surface of Aegis VII. Their conversation makes it more clear than ever that Isaac hasn't freed himself from the Marker just yet. Nicole asks him if they're going home, presumably to Earth, but he tells her he needs to build something before they can return. Then Nicole walks forward from the back of the ship and rests her hand on his shoulder before the game's mysterious second ending closes out.

This new ending might actually imply that the Marker's power over Isaac has only gotten stronger since his battle with the Hive Mind. Before, it needed to project the Nicole hallucination onto Elizabeth, but now it's able to summon her up without another body. The ending also opens up some new questions for longtime "Dead Space" fans. Isaac's plan to build something could imply that a new sequel will change the original timeline. Is he going to make a new Marker of his own? Whatever it is, it won't be anything good.

New mysteries

2023's "Dead Space" is remarkably faithful to the original game. There are obviously graphical changes, and Isaac now has a voice actor, but the storyline is basically unchanged from what EA released back in the day. There are hints, however, that there are more significant changes on the franchise's horizon.

This rundown already discussed how the game's alternate ending has some sinister implications for Isaac's future, which don't appear to tie into anything that happened in the original "Dead Space 2." However, there's one other significant secret in the game that points at a potential new direction for the series.

Dedicated players quickly discovered a grim translation for a supposedly "indecipherable" text log in the game. The log contains a jumble of characters that look like they may have come from the Marker itself. The text left many gamers scratching their heads, but others began immediately searching for a deeper meaning in the symbols. It turns out that the text is actually poem that refers to shepherds walking in white beyond the stars. Fans are still puzzling out what the poem means for the series, but it could be pointing to a new take on the Brethren Moons, the giant spacefaring Necromorphs seen in the original "Dead Space" sequels. If that's the case, the next game in the franchise could finally present players with a more in-depth origin story for the Markers themselves.