When do you consider a game finished?

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. And 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!

Stack of games from my backlog with a watch and calendar
A selection of games from my backlog! Where to start??

Background research

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:

Picture of a few games I have not finished and lost interest in
Stopping a game I’m not enjoying is, in this case, when I consider a game finished!

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!

Yooka-Laylee

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:

Selection of games I've finished and done a few extras on
I love all of these games. But I don’t feel any need to 100% them!

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!

Completionist

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!

A selection of games I have completed 100%

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!

4 thoughts on “When do you consider a game finished?”

  1. I had always struggled with finishing games not necessarily out of disinterest but more because something better came around and I moved on. This left me with lots of games half done(if that) and a lot of unfinished stories! This bothered me so I changed my approach to dedicate enough of my time to complete at least one game each month.
    For the most part I consider the end credits as completed and I do what ever work is required to get to that goal. If I feel really good about the game I’ll spend the time to do all the side quests and extra content. It is very rare for me to shoot for that 100% mark but it happens (looking at you HZD 😍) been completing games like this for over 4 years and I feel like I have a more fulfilling gaming experience because of it. The hardest part of only playing 12 games a year is what do I play next!

    1. This is a very thoughtful approach! I’ve often had the same problem with getting distracted by a “shinier” new game partway into a playthrough, then am unable to go back to the original one!

      The idea of one game per month is very interesting. I feel like that would make me much more meticulous in thinking about what I want to purchase ahead of time as well!

      Also, Horizon Zero Dawn is my favorite PS4 game and I can’t wait for the sequel 😀❤️

  2. That completionist category is S-tier to me!

    I think your definition of a “finished game” is spot on. For me some games are never fully completed. If there’s a coop experience or online element it may be infinitely replayable but beating the main quest with a friend (different friends, etc) is a good checkpoint.

    I’ll never be “finished” playing TMNT Turtles in Time or Streets of Rage for example. I’ll always be finished and satisfied if I never play Super Mario Sunshine again. 🔥 🔥

    I also think when the side quests feel forced, overwhelming and “not fun” then the experience is complete.

    I still need to play Star Wars KOTOR…

    1. I really like your idea of certain games never being “finished” because they’re so replayable, especially with friends 🙂 Completely agreed on side quests and collectables that feel forced being a deal breaker. I feel like I’ve developed much more intuition in my older gaming years as to when I’m genuinely having fun. We’ve got such limited free time that I want to enjoy playing, not think it’s a chore to finish!

      And KOTOR still holds up well today! Probably tied with Jedi Fallen Order and Rogue Leader as my favorite Star Wars games!

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