There’s so little time to game when you’re an adult. Even more so if you have kids! Back in the day, I used to almost always complete games I owned to 100%. That was partially because I had so few games, partially because I had so much time, and partially because games were much shorter! I mean, most of my favorite-as-a-kid Sonic series could be beaten in an afternoon. Now I have to be much more thoughtful about what I choose to play. Sure, there are some great “short and sweet” games, but even so, our backlogs have all gotten completely out of hand! Which begs an interesting question: when do you consider a game finished?
I think every gamer’s answer to this question differs, often substantially. As an older gamer with two small children, I want to explain how I think about it and why!
Before I purchase a game, I like to check howlongtobeat.com to see what sort of time I’ll need to invest. The (excellent) website breaks games into three time categories of completion based on what you’re interested in doing. “Main story” is literally just charging through the story without any attention to extras. “Main + plus extra” is taking time to explore, do a few sidequests, a bit of extra content, etc. And “completionist” is finishing every single component and collection in the game to 100%. (all data is based on registered user votes).
For me personally, nearly all games I “beat” now fall into the “main + extra” category. It’s very rare that I want to rush through a game at blinding speed just to finish the story, and on the flip side I almost never have the time (or interest) to 100% anything. And nowadays, if a game simply doesn’t hook me within an hour or two of gameplay, I’ll stop playing it. Because time is precious! So in my personal approach, I change the category of “main story” to “did not finish/lost interest”. Here are a few examples of each my personal tiers!
Did not finish/lost interest
I’m pretty sure I’m going to offend some people here. Sometimes a game, even when very critically acclaimed and beloved by fans, just does not click with me. I usually try to give games some “benefit of the doubt” and play for at least two hours before deciding to stop. I’ll even go back and retry games years later if I keep hearing great things about them. But sometimes it’s just not meant to be! Here are a few games in this category; maybe I’ll give them another shot someday:
Super Mario Sunshine
I’m fully aware of the cult following this game has! And my friends, I’ve tried to get into it so, so many times. Most recently with the Super Mario 3D All Stars collection. While I loved coming back to Mario 64, Sunshine just didn’t do it for me, yet again. I don’t like the controls or the FLUDD mechanic. Mario feels too “slippery” and janky to move around, and I can’t say I’m a fan of the dialogue and “story”! I can appreciate elements of it, but it’s just not part of my GameCube nostalgia.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Oooooh boy. I got such flack from my students about not liking this game. I certainly respect it. It takes place in a beautiful world, the mythology is rich, and there’s a lot to do. But I don’t much enjoy the gameplay! The combat and movement feels far too stiff. After playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the exploration feels rather limited to me. If I had played Skyrim when it released, my opinion might be different. But I just don’t think it’s for me!
Banjo-Kazooie is one of my all time favorite games. It’s a near perfect 3D platformer that I play through almost every year, most recently with my oldest daughter, who loved it! So I was psyched when I heard about Yooka-Laylee, which was made by some of the former Rare team. But geez, I lost interest in this game fast! The layout of the worlds and flow of the game seems “off” and it never really hooked me. Sad, because these are fun characters! And I did enjoy the more Donkey Kong Country-oriented sequel, The Impossible Lair.
Main story + extra
This is usually my jam! I really like seeing a story through at a nice pace, and doing sidequests or tasks that I personally find fun or that have great rewards. And then I’m content! These are a few games I’ve finished in recent years that fall into this category:
I played through Luigi’s Mansion 3 this Halloween with my family and we had an absolute blast! It’s a pretty lengthy experience. Did I feel the need to go collect every last gem and boo? I did not. Jedi: Fallen Order is a phenomenal Star Wars game and tied as one of my personal best. I took my time with it, but did I need to collect every single poncho variation? Not at all. I didn’t even 100% complete Breath of the Wild, my favorite game of all time! I found every shrine because it was fun and I wanted to, but have no interest in tracking down 800 Korok seeds!
It’s exceedingly rare that I 100% complete a game now. This is reserved for my very favorite games that a joy to play from start to finish, with no “fluff” in terms of sidequests or collectibles. A lot of modern games have just gotten so gigantic that even if I love them, I just can’t complete theme. So a lot of these are classics!
Maybe when my kids are much older or I’m in retirement, being a “completionist” will be more reasonable? We’ll see!
When do YOU consider a game finished? How long do you give a game before you decide it’s not for you? Is your backlog completely out of hand? Let me know in the comments below!