This piece WILL ruin anything and everything Danganronpa for you. As a series that relies heavily on surprises and twists, I highly recommend you play all four games and watch the show, in this order, before reading this.:
Trigger Happy Havoc: Danganronpa
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
Ultra Despair Girls: Danganronpa Another Episode
Danganronpa 3: The End Of Hope's Peak Academy (Alternating between the arcs, starting with Future Arc Episode 1,Despair Arc Episode 1, Future Episode 2, Despair Episode 2, and so on)
Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
You have been warned
Danganronpa V3 pretty conclusively ends the series. It's not like the Uncharted 4 style of ending where a loophole can be found so they can make an Uncharted 5. After all, Toy Story 3 wrapped up the series nicely, but they're still making a Toy Story 4 for some reason. There's a long standing rule that if it makes money, there's no way to kill it. Companies pump out sequel after sequel, creators vision be damned. Danganronpa is by no means a small franchise. There are the four games, an anime that closes off a trilogy of sorts, another anime adaptation of the first game, stage plays for Danganronpa 1, 2, and 3, merchandise, novels, and even a VR concept demo. It has built something of a name for itself. So how does one end the series when it comes time? What's to stop the company who owns the rights to make a Danganronpa 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 through 53? V3 finally answers this question. Simply burn the franchise and everything it has done to the ground.
Danganronpa V3's big twist, grandly revealed in the final trial, is that the entirety of the franchise was fiction. That doesn't sound like much of a plot twist when you assume that all video games are inherently fiction, but I mean that in universe it's considered fiction. All of the aforementioned games, shows, novels, and stage plays are all part of a fictional world so the people of the world can enjoy the thrill of killing entertainment without the guilt of killing real people to see it all take place. It's set up by a team called Team Danganronpa, and the participants of V3's killing game were selected by them, given placebo talents, had their memories and personalities wiped, given new names and identities, and thrown into this game. All for the fans of the game to enjoy. The mastermind is grandly revealed to be the Ultimate Cosplayer, Tsumugi Shirogane, who constantly swaps between cosplay of random Danganronpa 1 and 2 characters during the final trial of the game. She is literally taking on the form of Danganronpa itself as the games, and the series, final boss. On her side is the fans, shown as images of real people, constantly making comments such as “Kyoko is my waifu”, “I’m not here for a damn lecture”, and “This is getting kinda meta”
It's not so much a fourth was break as it is a tactical use of the Tsar Bomb on it.
The ultimate goal of the surviving characters is to find a way to shut down the killing game for good. Not just this one, but all of them. Fictional or not, they felt real pain by what they went through, and they want to prevent the future use of murder as entertainment. It’s not exactly subtle what the Danganronpa team was trying to say here: It’s time for Danganronpa to end. There will always be the publisher, who will see a franchise as money. I’m not saying it’s always right or wrong, but logically, as a company, publishers will use a franchise if they believe they can profit from it. If the creator or the artistic visionaries behind a project believe that an idea has done all it can do, but the company still sees profit in the IP, then they will most likely be shunned. They will give the franchise to a new team, which opens up a can of worms of possible missteps, from not understanding the heart of the series to not being as talented as the original developers. We’ve seen it time and time again, from Jak and Daxter to Halo. So the creators behind Danganronpa did something incredible here. They destroyed any possibility of a sequel by having the series turn on itself. Quite literally. It calls itself out by name, and calls out the fans that don’t want to see their favorite series end. The mastermind argues that you can’t change peoples minds as a work of fiction, because everyone knows it’s just a scripted story. Death and sorrow in Danganronpa isn’t real, so it shouldn’t be held to same standards as real death and sorrow. The created characters of V3 argue that they underestimate fictions power, and they themselves convince the outside world that killing games are morally wrong.
This mirrors what the creators sought to do. How do you kill a franchise that has a lot of devoted fans? By making the fans not want another one. Keebo, the ultimate robot, was the audiences camera the entire time, and is ultimately usurped by them. In that moment, he becomes a figurative representation of the fandom, and Shuichi becomes the figurative representation of the developers of Danganronpa, as both battle it out. Keebo shouts random and varied comments of outrage, sorrow, comedy, and good old fashioned "Hope" and "despair". Shuichi bats them all away, getting to the straight and simple point: The Killing Game is wrong. In the end, it's the audience that makes the deciding move to end the killing game, and by extension, the Danganronpa franchise. Proof that these fictional characters can do good and change the opinion of the world. Again, the symbolism is thinly veiled, but far more effective for it. The creators wanted to use this fictional game to not just send a message, but convince its players of that message. It's up to the players, not the developers, if a series continues or not. And players would not stand for a Danganronpa 4 or V4 or whatever after this. The publisher could make a new game, but it would be so controversial it's bound to have lower sales or get negative press. The ending of V3 would linger over the whole thing, no matter what excuse they make up to have another game.
That's the absolute brilliance of this game. To go this far to tear down the Danganronpa series is super risky, but that's what makes it interesting. Agree with the statement made or not, this is something that almost no other game series would fathom doing. Ever since I beat this game, I've been thinking of how it would have played out if another long standing franchise went this bananas on the ending. Like at the end of Super Mario Odyssey, if Bowser, Peach, and Mario ran into Miyamoto who informed him them they were game characters and all three ended up deleting themselves from the game code. It'd be an ending that would hang over the rest of the game realizing Mario was a helpless little man that relied on your button inputs to live. The point of V3 isn't to instill such horrible thoughts, but that's an inevitable side effect. The point is that Danganronpa sacrificed itself to be a response. Fans of nearly any franchise know when an idea has run dry and all that's left is a cash grab for corporations to feed on, becoming a shell of what you loved to begin with. But no other game, and few other pieces of media, have ever acknowledged this, let alone present an effective solution for it. When our entertainment presents a point of discussion, it's the audiences job to discuss it. We really should talk more about the rights and wrongs of extending the things we love beyond the intended length. We should send a message that, as much as we love our entertainment, we know when it's time to move on. I don't have to tell you how many movies and shows are remakes and sequels to old ideas. But we need to tell the corporations that we want more fresh material. And that's Danganronpa's ultimate contribution to gaming and society as a whole. I would have expected nothing less.