8-Bit Christmas' Bittersweet Ending, Explained
Renaldo Matadeen
8-bit christmas
8-bit christmas
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for 8-Bit Christmas, streaming now on HBO Max.
HBO Max's 8-Bit Christmas focuses on Jake (Neil Patrick Harris) in the present, relaying the story to his daughter, Annie (Sophia Reid-Gantzert), about how he and his friends ran a scheme to get a Nintendo back in 1988. However, as the film keeps jumping between both timelines, Jake's adventure transitions from a superficial one to something much more emotional to paint a very bittersweet ending.

Do Jake And His Friends Get The Nintendo in 8-Bit Christmas?

Jake's crew trades in baseball cards, pulling an Ocean's 11-like heist on a school trip to get the gaming system. As they distract their teacher on the bus, Jake slips away and tries to purchase the item at a mall to keep up with the popular kids at school.
Farmer, the group's resident liar, ends up phoning the mall to distract two moms who are part of the anti-video game campaign in Chicago, allowing Jake to buy the Nintendo and race back to the bus as it's leaving. However, he slips on some ice and falls, and the bag containing the Nintendo drops onto the street and gets crushed by the bus.

Does Jake Learn The True Meaning Of Christmas?

A black market toy dealer then helps Jake to get back to his crew as the guy feels sorry for him. He actually encountered Jake and his dad, John, earlier on as John bought an illegal Cabbage Patch Kids doll for Jake's sister, Lizzy, but rather than give him a Nintendo, the dealer insists Jake appreciate the real things he's got in life, such as family.
Ultimately, Jake's heartbroken as none of his friends get a Nintendo. There's even a fake-out where a relative sends Jake a gift that has the same dimensions as the system, but it's not it, breaking the kid even more. However, before they depart to visit Jake's grandparents on Christmas night, Jake discovers his dad built him an epic tree house so they could bond together. Jake absolutely loves it, with both engraving their names, putting aside the many differences they have as Jake was a spoiled brat.

What Happens To Jake's Family In The Present?

It turns out, the Nintendo Jake and Annie are playing in the present at his mom's home wasn't given to him that year. Jake confesses he worked the following summer and bought it himself as John always instilled in him the value of hard work. As they have dinner, Annie's more understanding of the lesson imparted, no longer nagging Jake for a phone as she's now content to spend time in the tree house as she can tell there's a lot of history behind it.
Sadly, as Jake's family sit around the table with his mom, the chair John sat in is empty. The movie doesn't reveal the cause, but he died years ago, which is why Jake's so sentimental as he scours the pictures and his dad's woodwork using the sander he got that very year.
There's a ray of light, though, as the '88 Nintendo journey and his dad being cheap did help him find his wife, Katie. John bought Jake a girl's snow boots that year, which kids made fun of, but actually caused Katie to crush on young Jake. The film doesn't show it but they fell in love thereafter, proceeding to make Annie and a newborn. It's the ultimate gift Jake has always wanted: a family of his own, and one he wants to care for, like John did for them.
To see 8-Bit Christmas' emotional, bittersweet ending, the film is available now on HBO Max.