Finishing Games

Image: Steam

I finished NieR: Automata this weekend. Well, not quite finished. I had unlocked the first of 26 endings, five of which are necessary to see the whole story.

It got me thinking, what counts as finishing a game?

After beating NieR: Automata's final boss and seeing the credits roll, I was greeted with a message from Square Enix PR. I wasn't finished.

There's more to NieR: Automata than just the first pass through of the main plot. After completing route A, you unlock route B which gives a significantly different perspective on the game's plot. Then there's routes C through E, which players must complete to see the full story.

Post-game content, multiple endings and locking things behind New Game Plus modes are not new inventions. Even Shadow The Hedgehog had eleven endings (I unlocked just one). They do raise a question for players though: When are you done?

Endings and achievements serve as convenient signposts to indicate that you're done. Credits roll and you can put the controller down. Not satisfied? Go unlock every achievement.

That's what I did with Spelunky and with over 600 hours invested into that game, I'm still not finished.

Beating Spelunky's boss, Olmec, barely scratches the surface of what the game has to offer. There are achievements that encourage you to play in vastly different ways with Big Scorer demanding the player slow down to collect a lot of gold while Speedlunky makes them race through the game. There are characters to unlock, secret levels to explore and a secret boss that requires of chain of events to happen.

I've done all of that. I'm still not done with Spelunky because I have never completed a solo eggplant run.

Eggplant runs involve finding a gift box in the shop on the same level as an altar. Sacrifice the box on the altar and the music changes. You also get a very fragile eggplant with no obvious purpose. If you can take that fragile purple vegetable to the secret final boss, Yama, and throw it in his face you have achieved the seemingly impossible eggplant run.

It's not easy. Not only does the eggplant splat with the slightest provocation, you have to rely on erratic AI controlled characters to carry items between levels so that you can make it to Hell to fight Yama.

How to complete an eggplant run is well known at this point. The hard part is doing it.

Players working on eggplants run use a save file with the robot character still locked, so they can go into the Mothership level and unlock it. Freshly unlocked characters act as helpers, erratically running around after the player. Players do this so that the robot can carry a scepter from one level of the Temple to another while the player carries the precious eggplant. This involves a lot of carefully protecting the robot from committing suicide.

An old technique involved blowing up multiple altars to unlock a ball and chain used to destroy part of the Ice Caves level needed to advance along the road to hell. That was always my pitfall. Whenever I tried to destroy the ball and chain so that I could move freely again, something would go horribly horribly wrong.

Most of my attempts ended here.

Luckily, players have found a new way to carry the eggplant past that point, so maybe one day I'll try my luck at throwing an eggplant in Yama's face again. Until then, I'm not finished with Spelunky.

Back to NieR: Automata and its many endings. Before buying the game, I knew that it had multiple endings that unlocked through multiple playthroughs.

That's normally a deterrent for me for bigger, story driven games. Retreading old ground to find a sliver of new content doesn't appeal to me at all.

Yet with NieR: Automata, I didn't mind. The combat looked fun, the soundtrack was amazing and I figured that if I didn't want to see the story through after one playthrough, I could just put my controller down and move on to something else.

After putting my controller down, I want to pick it back up and play some more.

Oddly enough, it's not the multiple endings that make me want to explore the game more. They're just things to unlock along the way. I want to play more of NieR: Automata.

I want to chase machines. I want to bop things on the head with giant swords. I want to go fishing. I want to explore the world, meet interesting NPCs and see what madness lays ahead.

I guess that means I should continue the plot so that I get more chances to do all of that. If the game didn't grab my attention, I wouldn't have bothered to get halfway through the first playthrough. Yet knowing that there are multiple playthroughs meant that I didn't mind missing things the first time through. Knowing that I would be coming back meant that I didn't feel like I was missing opportunities by skipping sidequests or wasting time trying to complete them all before tackling the story.

It was a nice balance.

There are other games that I've finished just to be done with them. Instead of walking way, I powered through for the sake of knowing that there would be no lingering doubts about if I should go back.

Uncharted 4 was one of those game. Don't get me wrong, Uncharted 4 is a very good game. Specifically, it's a very good Uncharted game and embodies all of the tropes that have defined the series over the years.

By about halfway through the game, those tropes started to feel tired and worn. It wasn't that they were bad. Hell, when I first booted up Uncharted 4 they were exactly what I was hoping for. I had had enough.

Despite this, I powered through the rest of the game, growing more frustrated that Uncharted 4 was simply more Uncharted. The temples followed the same usual patterns. The enemies continued to swarm in, lobbing grenades and soaking up bullets. The dialogue was witty. My interest wasn't there.

There's a good chance that I wouldn't have gone back to Uncharted 4 if I didn't play through to the final credits back then. As soon as the credits rolled, I went outside, played with the dog and felt glad that it was over.

On reflection, it was a great game. All of the faults came from me trying to play something I just wasn't in the mood for. I'm still not in the mood for more Uncharted but that will change.

Games are funny things. They have an unusual hold on our attentions. Deciding when we're finished with a game isn't as simple as getting to the end credits.


    Games are like meals. Once you're full, you're done. Nothing good happens from ploughing through, trying to clean your plate out of sense of requirement.
    I can think of two examples where I finished a game before completing all of the missions/levels. I played GTA IV to experience the story, so when I got up the the final mission and realised how idiotic it was and how bad the check pointing was, i turned it off, I knew Nico was going to end up shooting what's-his-name in the face and the credits would roll, there wasn't anything left for me to experience, so I was finished.
    Toward the end of Far Cry 3, I had found every collectable that game had on offer, but still had a bunch of missions to go, I realised that it was the hunt I enjoyed in that game, both the story and the structured missions weren't doing anything for me, so I quite, uninstalled and did something else with my life.

    Other times, I need to go back for seconds, gotta get that SSS rank, all those trophies, complete it on ultra hard mode. Only after I've got what I wanted out of a game have I finished.

      For me, it depends on how much I've put into it. I'm currently playing Divinity Original Sin. I'm just over 80 hours into it and I'm pretty much over it. But at the same time, I reckon I've probably only got maybe 15 - 20 hours left (I cheated and looked at a walkthrough :P). As much as I feel like moving on to something different, I also don't want to walk away from the investment of time I've put into it when I've only got a (relatively) short way to go to the end.

        I’ve put about 10 hours into Divinity on the Xbone, and I really like it. Don’t imagine I’ll finish it though.

        I can’t help but think how much I’d love a portable Switch version (and the sequel).

          Yeah, I've really enjoyed it (apart from the inventory management which is a pain in the arse, and the weapon / armour deterioration which is just pointless). I would have enjoyed it just much (if not more) if it was done and dusted after 40 or 50 hours, though.

            I agree, there are a lot of games that I'd prefer were 30-50hrs long that I'd replay rather than a one time play through of 70+ hours. I love Bioware games, but Inquisition and Andromeda had extra time filling activities that I could have done without.

            I also really enjoyed Battle Chasers, but you had to redo each dungeon on a higher difficulty to not be underlevelled and also to get the achievements (which added stats so were a must have). It made the game feel longer than it needed to and then there was NG+ that I never touched even though I might have if it wasn't artificially long.

            Don't game devs know we have 100s of games on Steam that we haven't finished. Just make the game a decent length and leave out the grind.

        There's quite a few games that I'll stick it out to the end even when I'm receiving diminishing returns (80% of games are too long for me), but more and more I'm starting to recognise the moment I realise there's no more fun to squeeze out of the current game I'm playing. That's when I put it down and move on.

          Agree completely - I find that the VAST majority of games that I play these days are way too long. I'd be much happier if pretty much everything was about half the length.

          I'd also buy twice as many games that way, too!

    I’m generally ok with finishing games at least once to the credits, but this year I haven’t even been doing that.

    ME:A lost me completely as soon as the guy from EA said they were putting the second one on hold, given that I was already to the point where I was only playing it in the hope that a meaningful sequel wouldn’t be such a POS and that I might care about the running storyline.

    Wolfenstein: NC lost me about half way through. The story and characters are unfathomably stupid , the difficulty is broken as far as I’m concerned, and design choices like making you spend half the game picking up +5 health packs (only for them to disappear if they go over a certain number) are terrible.

    Prey got off to a flying start, but it’s lost a lot of momentum the last few hours. I’ll probably finish it…. later.

      Spoiler: You're never going to finish Prey :P

    I think it depends on the game really.
    I finished playing Horizon once the credits showed, but still occasionally play No Mans Sky every few weekends. My daughter and I just enjoy exploring No Mans Sky so I don't think we'll ever really "finish" it, just get to a point where we stop playing it.

    I think Nier: Automata has been out long enough for this pretty big spoiler... when you finish the first ending you've actually finished a kind of prologue. You don't play through the game again from there on in, you play something else. The five 'endings' are five completely different games, not just playthroughs.
    It's like you've just finished The Hobbit and are eyeing off The Lord of the Rings thinking "meh, probably just more of the same".
    The game is a masterpiece.

      Yep, i was at first sighing that I had to replay Nier automata again, but then i realized each play through was remarkably different. The last chapter being totally different. Reminds me of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Kill Dracula... but noooo.... upside down castle comes into fruition and you discover you are only half way through the game. Mind blown. I love it when games do this to me.

    Does not rage quitting a game of Battlefront 2 count as finishing a game?

    I think a game is finished when you're satisfied with walking away. That could be after the first playthrough, once it ticks you off enough you no longer play, or in the case of games like Nier, once you've seen the multiple endings. If you're happy moving on after the first, that's when it ends for you.

    Problem with measuring from a certain point of the game is that some games just don't have an ending. Did WoW end when Onyxia was killed for the first time, given that was the only raid at the time? Of course not. Or arcade games that just keep going until you run out of lives or money. No true ending there either.

    Does Elite Dangerous have an ending? Does No Mans Sky end when you get to the center of the galaxy? Both debatable and up to the individual. What about games that just up the difficulty with newly unlocked playthroughs?

    For me, if its not when I get bored, it would normally be when I kill the final boss for the first time. Subsequent playthroughs are just bonuses to reward that.

    This is why multiplayer games are bad. There's no end, so you just keep playing forever and ever and ever and oh hey look at that I've barely touched anything that isn't Splatoon all year someone send help I miss Zelda.

      That's why I have made a pact with myself to NEVER play an online multiplayer game by myself, only when playing with friends. Otherwise I will never get through my backlog of games.

    Oooh ooh ooh....good subject!!!!!111!!.
    K SO....Start to finish single player game, no problem, the end, for me a game like Dead space series, mass effect or Darkstalkers, I'll play through a couple of times because I enjoyed it, the story, if it's linear, I'll still play again because I just damned well enjoyed it.
    On the other hand....Stardew valley, Minecraft, Space engineers, No mans world, creative and non ending games, that's a tough one. Usually I'll get bored with something like that or have a "time invested" clock out point. Like any other pc gamer or someone who spends a stupid amount of money during sales, I have too many and I'll never be able to play them all!

    This year I've completed a few games with varying degrees of what I would consider finished.
    • Super Mario Odyssey - I have around 470 moons and whilst I'll probably go back from time to time, I consider it to be finished.
    • Kingdom Hearts 2 - I'd finished it back in the day with a full synthesis catalog, ultima weapon and a gummi ship that was basically a weapons platform but I picked up the remaster and played through the story on critical mode. Whilst I've not done the O13 Data battles, I still consider myself to have fully completed the game.
    • Persona 5 - Play this game if you haven't, it's my game of the year. I haven't quite finished finished it. I've played through the story twice but because of a miscalculation, I wasn't able to max out some of my confidants, I'm currently on my 3rd play through to platinum the game but haven't recently had time to properly finish.
    • Xenoblade Chronicles 2 - I finished the story this weekend and am now looking at unlocking the rest of the blades, finishing off side quests and generally tying up loose ends. I wouldn't
    say I've completed it but the end is within sight.
    • LOZ Breath of the Wild - All shrines, Master Sword, all quests but this was before any DLC dropped. I still would say I've finished it though I'm aware that there would be something for me if I were to go back.

    Those are probably the big ones, It seems I sink much more time and am more inclined to over-finish RPGs than I am any other genre. Adventure games I am content to simply finish the story component and spend a day or two afterwards faffing about but I set my bar higher for RPGs.

    A special mention should go to The Last of Us and the Left Behind DLC which I completed on Grounded Mode with single player platinum trophies.

    A special special mention should go to Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns, which I have something to the tune of a 7 consecutive New Game Plus completions for some ungodly reason. Each play through a refinement of the one before it to see just how much of the game I could beat using as little of the timer as was possible.

    When the credits roll is usually when it's finished, though there are many where that doesn't work and with those it's when I feel like there's nothing left for me. I play mostly for the story/experience. Very rarely have I played a game that has outlasted it's welcome before the credits roll. Also very rarely will I bother to do the 'collectable' stuff in a game, I'm not a completionist I just do the stuff I enjoy, ACII is the only game I've ever 100% completed but that's because it's a masterpiece.

    I'll finish a game at least once to the credits, and MAYBE do some post-game stuff. If the game has multiple endings though I don't play through it again just to see them, I'll usually just look them up on youtube if I'm really that interested.

    I do finish all the games I start, since I set myself a rule to not start a new game until I finish the one I'm currently playing.

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