When To Give Up And Try Again In A Game

Screenshot: Dead Cells, Motion Twin

Calling it quits is part of the human condition, but more often than not our natural impulse is to press forward in the face of insurmountable adversity. But, as anyone who’s lived in the real world for roughly 0.6 seconds can tell you, things don’t always work out.

It especially doesn’t work out that way in video games. Sometimes, you just have to try again. A well-considered restart can be a potent skill for time management and save you a lot of aggravation. There’s no exact formula, but here are some guidelines for when to restart a level or checkpoint.

Your HP bar suffered a mortal wound.

If your HP drops to zero, most games will just reset for you. But there are times when your HP has dropped to a point where you’re still alive but, sorry, there’s no way you’re winning the fight. This can be especially true in turn-based games, where your team might not have a lot of health or damage in the early stages. If things are looking grim, you don’t have to stick around to watch, in humiliation, as your team gets wiped. Quit out and try the battle again.

When failure hasn’t yet happened but is imminent, consider backtracking. Consider restarting a boss fight if your sliver of health has you thinking more about avoiding getting hit than mastering the boss’ patterns. There’s no shame in recognising that the odds aren’t in your favour and starting from scratch.

You don’t mesh with your teammates.

The unsystematic nature of multiplayer matchmaking means that you sometimes get paired with some awesome players. On the flip side, just as often, you get matched with some folks you’d rather not be on a team with. Whether they’re goofing off, playing poorly, or simply being mean, you’re well within your rights to restart the matchmaking process.

If your teammates are bigots, they don’t deserve a second of hesitation. The minute you hear something racist, sexist, or otherwise discriminatory, feel free to deliver a hearty “Fuck you” and make your way back to the lobby.

You missed the window on an achievement.

Fact: Everyone loves knocking out achievements. (There’s another bit of the human condition for you.) But sometimes it becomes apparent that your quest is in vain. In battle royales, for instance, the drop might land you too far away from a designated area for you to feasibly complete an elusive objective. In first-person shooters, you might miss too many headshots to meet a count before the level wraps. Run some mental calculus, and refresh things as needed.

You started a long battle with the wrong loadout.

We’ve all been caught by an unexpected boss battle without the right loadout. Other times, you think you’re prepared only to encounter a boss who changes things up on the fly. If you go into a fight with the wrong weapons or a poorly optimised moveset, you’re looking at a true slog of a battle.

In cases like this, restarting is a huge time-saver. No matter the game, learn to spot the moments when you’re barely chipping away at a boss’s screen-wide health bar. Chances are, if it’s a game where you’re juggling multiple loadouts and managing massive inventories, a tweak or two to your gear can shift the course of the battle in your favour.

You’re making bad time in a time trial.

Plenty of games have time trials, which you might either select yourself or accidentally stumble on to. In some games, you’ll need to beat them to get access to new abilities or gear. If you mess up a time trial at the start, or if you’re midway through and realise you’ll never hit the goal time, it’s better to call it and try again. A failed attempt can be good practice, but restarting a race you know you can’t win can save you a lot of frustration.

You had a bad start.

Every time you play a roguelike, you’ll generally start from scratch: randomised loadout, randomised dungeon layout, randomised enemies. But let’s say you start off with some seriously weak gear. Or maybe you take too much damage in an early level and beating a late-game level becomes a statistical impossibility. Or maybe you’re simply not feeling it. Why bother sinking an hour or more into a roguelike run you’re not even going to enjoy? Tap out—but be smart about it. In many roguelikes, your currency carries over between rounds. Hold off on restarting until you have enough if your pocket to make an impact in the next round.

And then there’s the matter of Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Didn’t get peaches from the jump? You know what to do.

You just know, you know?

At the end of the day, no guide on the internet can tell you when, exactly, you should throw in the towel. No formula can figure out how many minutes you should sink into a challenge before restarting. You can only listen to your gut.


    Most of these are the best times to stick with it and learn. Nothing promotes learning than being challenged by adverse scenarios.
    Your HP bar suffered a mortal wound - This is how I play most games, pushing through until I die. It's surprising how good you can get by knowing you're a hair's breadth from death.
    You don’t mesh with your teammates - Obviously toxic teams are an instant out, I get enough of people in the day to day. But if they play bad, use it as a chance to try and be a better player. If you can win with a bad team, imagine what you can do in a good team.
    You missed the window on an achievement - Well sure if you're actively trying to get the achievement. Otherwise learn the game so you can come back and get it easily next time.
    You started a long battle with the wrong loadout - Sometimes this leads to discovering new metas. Sometimes not insta-gibbing an enemy teaches you how to survive against the harder and more durable enemies later on.
    You’re making bad time in a time trial - Like achievements, unless you're actively pursuing it just use this as a learning opportunity. Even speedrunners will continue a bad run at times because it leads to finding new tricks and time saves.
    You had a bad start - This is the culmination of all the others. Use it to learn so when you get a good start it makes it all that much easier. If you're good when it's bad, you're amazing when it's great.

    You missed the window on an achievement:

    Not an achievement as such, but I did start Metroid Prime over a number of times back in the day because I missed a scan and wanted to 100% it. There was a few enemies who only appeared once and were so insignificant and similar to other enemies that I forgot to think about scanning them. Also bosses whose second phase also needs scanning etc.

    Also I restarted Mass Effect 1 and 2 multiple times because events happened that I didn't WANT to happen.

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