How long is too long?

Spoiler Warning: Minor spoilers are present for Dying Light 2, Red Dead Redemption II, Kena: Bridge of Spirits, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

I’ve talked a couple of times about video game length here on the website, and specifically about how some games can feel too short to offer good value at their price point. Games which cost £65 or $70 but only last five or six hours routinely get criticised for being too short, but my argument is that they’re really just priced incorrectly – had a six-hour game cost £25 instead of £65, it feels like a better price point and thus better value.

Take Ori and the Blind Forest or Kena: Bridge of Spirits as examples – relatively short games (under twelve hours) yet priced around the £30 mark. Both games felt like great value at that price point, and no one seemed to argue that they were somehow “too short.” In my review of Kena: Bridge of Spirits I even argued that padding out the game much beyond the 12-hour mark would’ve been too much.

Kena: Bridge of Spirits was the perfect length for the kind of game it wanted to be.

Over the past 24 hours I’ve seen a different argument arise online, particularly in relation to upcoming action-horror game Dying Light 2. Developer Techland recently claimed that total completion of the game is expected to take in excess of 500 hours – longer, they say, than it would take to walk from Warsaw in Poland to Madrid in Spain. That’s a distance of 2,631 kilometres, or 1,634 miles.

Long-distance hiking aside, I’ve seen a lot of folks online actually criticising Techland and Dying Light 2, proclaiming that its length “isn’t a selling point,” or that the game is “too long.” Having tackled a similar argument before with games that were said to be too short, I wanted to take a look at this and consider whether a game can indeed be too long.

This recent boast from the Dying Light 2 developers hasn’t gone down well with everyone…

In 2020 I spent in excess of 120 hours playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and the longest I spent in any single game in 2021 was Red Dead Redemption II, which took me 103 hours to complete the main story and the epilogue. I’m not a completionist who has to get every single achievement and discover every single hidden item or collectable. According to Red Dead Redemption II’s in-game progress tracker, after my 103 hours I’d completed 84% of the game.

However, the remaining 16% was – for want of a better term – fluff. It consists of collectables, travelling to obscure locations, catching at least one of every fish… in a word, boring nonsense that I had no interest in! Likewise with Animal Crossing: New Horizons – after 120+ hours I felt I’d done everything that the game had to offer at least once, and I had no real interest in continuing to dig up fossils or buy random junk from the shop to keep playing.

After more than 100 hours, I’d completed 84% of Red Dead Redemption II.

Games have a natural lifespan, just like any other entertainment product. That length will depend on what the game has to offer, how repetitive some of the tasks and missions are, and many other factors. If Red Dead Redemption II had offered another 103 hours’ worth of proper story missions, I daresay I’d have kept playing because I found the story to be engrossing – but I wasn’t going to spend that time in a fairly static endgame world where all of the missions were complete and all I had left were collectables to find and minor tasks to perform. That doesn’t hold my interest.

For some folks, though, it does. Some games encourage players to keep playing over and over again, and in some quadrants of the gaming community, it isn’t uncommon at all to find players who’ve dedicated literally years to a single game, sinking thousands or even tens of thousands of hours of playtime into titles like Minecraft, EVE Online, or even the aforementioned Animal Crossing series.

EVE Online is well-known for having very dedicated players who play for years and years.

But statistics would seem to suggest that those kinds of players – and those kinds of games – are comparatively rare. For example, in Red Dead Redemption II, most players have unlocked the achievement or trophy for completing the game’s first chapter. Yet on all platforms – Xbox, Playstation, and PC – barely one in three make it to the end of the epilogue and see the credits roll. Red Dead Redemption II has been out for more than three years, so there’s ample time for most players to have progressed that far if they’d wanted to – but it seems that the game’s length sees more and more players drop out as the story goes on.

I like a long story. I’ll happily watch a television show with seven seasons or something like the extended versions of The Lord of the Rings films. And I enjoyed my time with Red Dead Redemption II. But perhaps players who seek out these very long experiences are in a minority – achievement stats for a number of big titles would seem to bear that out.

Scarcely one in five Steam players who started Red Dead Redemption II actually managed to finish its story.

I mentioned the length-versus-value debate at the beginning, and I think a variation of this argument comes into play for long titles just as it does for short ones. If a game is unnaturally “long” because it’s padded out with repetitive fetch-quests, a massive open world that takes ages to traverse, and hundreds of hidden collectables that make no impact whatsoever on gameplay and story, then a developer shouldn’t be bragging about length. That isn’t a long game – it’s a bloated, padded one, and one that probably won’t be much fun for 80% of the time!

This is what I think people were getting at with the Dying Light 2 situation. While some folks may feel that any game can be too long to be enjoyable, the real criticism seems to be that players are concerned that the developers of Dying Light 2 are making a nonsense brag based on how the game world is going to be stuffed with minor, inconsequential fluff. Tasks like shooting 200 pigeons in Grand Theft Auto IV aren’t actually a lot of fun for most players who wanted to complete the entire game, and while finally unlocking that last achievement or trophy may provide some folks with a brief hit of dopamine, the frustration of having to track down 200 obscure, hard-to-reach locations across a large open world probably wasn’t worth it.

Shooting pigeons was a minor task in Grand Theft Auto IV.

So is Dying Light 2 “too long” at 500 hours? Until the game is in reviewers’ hands and we can find out how many of those hours are spent on fun, interesting, or original quests, I don’t think it’s possible to say. Some people may argue that 500 hours will always be too long, and for them that may well be the case. Aside from Civilization VI, I can’t think of any game in the past decade that I’ve spent much more than 100 hours playing – so I guess I’m part of that crowd as well.

In principle, though, I don’t think 500 hours has to be too long for Dying Light 2. But it depends what the game has to offer by way of story, exploration, and engaging gameplay. If the bulk of players’ 500 hours is spent chasing boring collectables or slowly trudging across an open world that’s too large for the game’s mediocre level of content, then yeah, I’d agree that it’s too long and has been overstuffed with meaningless fluff. But if there’s a long story that manages to hook players in and keep their interest, then it’s a whole different conversation.

At the end of the day, we all want different things from our games. Folks who have busy lives and other commitments might feel the need for a shorter game, or a game that they can dip in and out of easily. Players with more free time or who like to stream their gameplay on Twitch might prefer longer, open-ended games that are chock-full of collectables. We all like different things, and there really isn’t an answer to a question like this that can satisfy everyone. If you think Dying Light 2 is going to be too long for you to enjoy… don’t play it, I guess. There are plenty of shorter games out there to take your interest instead. For my two cents, I’d rather see a game have too much content than too little, and be too long rather than too short – especially if it’s charging me £60 or $70!

Dying Light 2 will be released on the 4th of February 2022 for PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One/Series S/X, Nintendo Switch, and PC. All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective developer and/or publisher. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

A handful of older films, games, and TV shows that I enjoyed in 2021

Spoiler Warning: Minor spoilers may be present for some of the entries on this list.

At this time of year, practically every outlet – from dying newspapers to new social media channels – churns out list upon list of the best entertainment products of the year. The top threes, top fives, top tens and more of 2021 abound! I have something similar in the pipeline, but today I wanted to take a look back at a handful of films, games, and TV shows from previous years that I found myself enjoying in 2021.

I have long and seemingly ever-growing lists of films, games, and TV shows that I keep meaning to get around to! I still haven’t seen Breaking Bad, for example, nor played The Witcher 3, despite the critical and commercial acclaim they’ve enjoyed! I also have a huge number of entertainment properties that I keep meaning to re-visit, some of which I haven’t seen since we wrote years beginning with “1.” In 2021 I got around to checking out a few titles from both of these categories, and since there are some that I haven’t discussed I thought the festive season would be a great opportunity for a bit of positivity and to share some of my personal favourite entertainment experiences of 2021… even though they weren’t brand-new!

Film #1:
The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03)

We’ve recently marked the 20th anniversary of The Fellowship of the Ring, the first part of Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s magnum opus. The passage of time has done nothing to detract from these amazing films, and this year a 4K Blu-Ray release has them looking better than ever before.

The early 2000s had some serious pitfalls for film and television. CGI was becoming more mainstream and many filmmakers sought to take advantage of it, but just look to the Star Wars prequels and how outdated the CGI in those titles is; it hasn’t held up well at all. The majority of the special effects in The Lord of the Rings were practical, and combined with clever cinematography even incredibly dense and complex battle sequences still look fantastic two decades on.

Though I don’t re-watch The Lord of the Rings every single year without fail, I’m happy to return to the trilogy time and again – and I almost certainly will be for the rest of my days! The Hobbit and Tolkien’s Middle-earth was one of the first fantasy worlds I encountered as a young child; I can vaguely remember the book being read to me when I was very small. The conventional wisdom for years was that The Lord of the Rings was unfilmable – but Peter Jackson proved that wrong in some style!

Film #2:
Despicable Me (2010)

I spotted this while browsing Netflix one evening, and despite having seen at least one film with the Minions, I hadn’t actually seen the title that started it all. I have to confess that I didn’t have particularly high expectations, thinking I was in for a bog-standard animated comedy. But Despicable Me has heart, and there were some genuinely emotional moments hidden inside.

The Minions got most of the attention in the aftermath of Despicable Me, and can now be found on everything from memes to greetings cards! The critters are cute, but they’re also somewhat limited – and I think it’s for that reason that I didn’t really expect too much from Despicable Me except for maybe a few laughs and a way to kill an empty evening. I was pleasantly surprised to find a much more substantial film than I’d been expecting.

There were still plenty of laughs and a ton of cartoon silliness to enjoy and to keep the tone light-hearted. But there was a surprisingly emotional story between the villainous Gru and the three children he adopts – especially Margo, the eldest. I can finally understand why the film has spawned four sequels, fifteen shorts, and a whole range of merchandise!

Film #3:
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

The Final Frontier has a number of issues that I’m sure most of you will be aware of. It arguably suffered from a little too much involvement from William Shatner, who sought to put Captain Kirk at the centre of the story at the expense of others. But The Final Frontier has some truly great character moments, including one of the final times that Kirk, Spock, and Dr McCoy would be together before The Undiscovered Country brought an end to Star Trek’s original era.

The film has some truly funny moments, too: the scene where Uhura catches Chekov and Sulu pretending to be caught in a storm being one, and Scotty’s moment of slapstick being another that never fails to win a chuckle. The Undiscovered Country was a great send-off for Star Trek’s original crew, but it was quite a heavy film with a lot of tense moments and high-octane action. The Final Frontier brings more light-hearted moments to the table, and that’s something I can appreciate when I’m in the right mood.

There are some exciting sequences too, though. The shuttle crash is a very tense and dramatic moment, and the final confrontation with the entity at the centre of the galaxy, while silly in some respects, does succeed at hitting at least some of those same dramatic highs. Though I wouldn’t suggest that The Final Frontier is anywhere near the best that Star Trek has to offer, it’s well worth a watch from time to time.

Game #1:
Control (2019)

Though hardly an “old” game, I missed Control when it was released in 2019. It had been on my list for a couple of years, and I was pleased to finally get around to playing it this year. The game had a far creepier atmosphere than I’d been expecting, with protagonist Jesse having to battle an unseen enemy called the Hiss.

One thing I really admire about Control is the way it made incredibly creative use of some fairly plain environments. The entire game takes place in what’s essentially a glorified office building, and rows of cubicles or the janitor’s workspace could, in other games, come across as feeling bland and uninspired. But Control leans into this, using the environments as a strength, juxtaposing them with incredibly weird goings-on at the Bureau of Control.

I also liked that, for the first time in years, we got full-motion video sequences in a game! FMV was a fad in gaming in the early/mid-1990s I guess, primarily on PC, and titles like Command and Conquer and Star Trek: Starfleet Academy made use of it. It had been years since I played a game with FMV elements, and it worked exceptionally well in Control – as well as being a completely unexpected blast of nostalgia!

Game #2:
Super Mario 64 (1996)

Despite the serious limitations of Super Mario 3D All-Stars on the Nintendo Switch, which I picked up last year, I can’t deny that it’s been fun to return to Super Mario 64. One of the first fully 3D games I ever played, Super Mario 64 felt like the future in the late ’90s, and even some titles released this year, such as Kena: Bridge of Spirits, owe parts of their 3D platforming to the pioneering work that Nintendo did with this game.

Super Mario 64 is and always has been good, solid fun. There doesn’t need to be an in-depth, complex story driving Mario forward to collect stars, because the game’s levels and bosses are all so incredibly cleverly-designed. Jumping in and out of different painting worlds is relatively quick and feels great, and the sheer diversity of environments is still noteworthy in 2021. Mario goes on a journey that takes him through snowy mountains, a sunken shipwreck, sunlit plains, cities, clouds, and more.

I can’t in good conscience recommend Super Mario 3D All-Stars. The way these games have been adapted for Nintendo Switch isn’t worth the asking price. But even so, going back to Super Mario 64 has been one of my favourite parts of 2021, a chance to reconnect with a game I played and loved on the Nintendo 64. If you’ve never played it, track down a copy and give it a go. You won’t regret it.

Game #3:
Red Dead Redemption II (2018)

I’d been meaning to get around to Red Dead Redemption II for three years – but I’d always found a reason not to pick it up (usually it was too expensive!) It took forever to download on my painfully slow internet connection, but it was well worth the wait. I’ve had a fascination with America in the 19th Century for as long as I can remember – I guess partly inspired by playground games of “the wild west” that were fairly common when I was young. I even had a cowboy hat, toy gun, and “Davy Crockett” hat when I was a kid!

Red Dead Redemption II transported me to that world in a way that I genuinely did not think was possible. Films and TV shows can do a great job at pulling you in and getting you lost in a fictional world, but the interactive element of video games can add to that immersion – something that was absolutely the case with Red Dead Redemption II. The amount of detail in the game’s characters and open-world environments is staggering, and having finally experienced it for myself I can absolutely understand why people hail this game as a “masterpiece.”

I wasn’t prepared for the many emotional gut-punches that Red Dead Redemption II had in store. In many ways the game tells a bleak and even depressing story, one with betrayal, death, and many examples of the absolute worst of humanity. But every once in a while there are some incredibly beautiful moments too, where characters sit together, sing, play, and revel in their bonds of friendship. Red Dead Redemption II gave me the wild west outlaw fantasy that my younger self could have only dreamed of!

TV series #1:
Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-69)

I’ve re-watched quite a lot of The Original Series this year, probably more episodes than I’d seen in the past few years. Because of its episodic nature, it’s easy to dip in and out of The Original Series, firing up an episode or two to spend an hour with Captain Kirk and the crew without feeling the need to commit to an entire season of television.

The Original Series started it all for Trekkies, and I’m always so pleased to see that modern Star Trek hasn’t lost sight of that. In this year’s episodes of Lower Decks and Discovery we’ve gotten many references and callbacks to Star Trek’s first series, keeping the show alive and relevant as we celebrated its fifty-fifth anniversary – and the centenary of its creator, Gene Roddenberry.

Though dated in some ways, many of the themes and metaphors present in The Original Series are still relevant today. Society has changed since the 1960s, but in some areas we’re still fighting the same or similar fights for acceptance, for equality, and so on. The Star Trek franchise has always had a lot to say about that, being in some ways a mirror of society and in others depicting a vision of a more enlightened, optimistic future.

TV series #2:
Fortitude (2015-18)

I went back to re-watch Fortitude this year, for the first time since its original run. The series starts very slowly, seeming at first to be little more than a murder-mystery in a different setting. But it builds up over the course of its first season into something truly unexpected, crossing over into moments of political thriller, action, and even horror.

There are some truly shocking and gruesome moments in Fortitude, and it can be a harrowing watch in places. But it’s riveting at the same time, and I managed to get hooked all over again by the complex characters, the mysteries and conspiracies, and the bleak but beautiful arctic environment.

Fortitude featured some star names among its cast, including Michael Gambon, Stanley Tucci, and Dennis Quaid – the second-most-famous Dennis to be featured on this website! Although it was fun to watch it weekly during its original run, Fortitude is definitely a show that can be enjoyed on a binge!

TV series #3:
Family Guy (1999-Present)

Family Guy’s sense of humour sometimes runs aground for me, dragging out jokes too long or failing to pay off neat setups with decent punchlines. But with the full series (up to midway through Season 20 at time of writing) available on Disney+, I’ve found myself putting it on in the background a lot this year. The short runtime of episodes, the lightheartedness, and the way many of the jokes are often disconnected from whatever nonsense plot the episodes have going on all come together to make it something I can dip in and out of while doing other things.

There are some insensitive jokes, and some entire storylines in earlier episodes have aged rather poorly. But Family Guy seldom strikes me as a show punching down; it satirises and pokes fun at many different groups. In that sense it’s kind of halfway between The Simpsons and South Park; the former being more sanitised and family-friendly, the latter being edgier and meaner.

I rarely sit down and think “gosh, I must watch the latest Family Guy episode.” But if I’m in need of background noise or something to fill up twenty minutes, I find I’ll happily log into Disney+ and put on an episode or two.

So that’s it.

There have been some great films, games, and television shows that were released in 2021. But there were also plenty of entertainment experiences from years past that, in different ways, brightened my year. As we gear up for New Year and for everyone’s end-of-year top-ten lists, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge that.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas, a Happy Holiday, or just a relaxing day yesterday! I did consider writing something to mark the day, but I found that I had remarkably little to say that was different from the piece I wrote last year. 2021 has been “2020 II” in so many respects, unfortunately. However, unlike last Christmas I will be able to visit with some family members – I’ll be seeing my sister and brother-in-law later this week, which will be a nice treat! So here’s to 2021’s entertainment experiences – and as we enter the new year, it’s worth keeping in mind that we don’t only have to watch and play the latest and newest ones!

All titles on the list above are the copyright of their respective broadcaster, distributor, developer, network, publisher, studio, etc. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Red Dead Redemption II – First Impressions

Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for the opening act of Red Dead Redemption II.

Red Dead Redemption II has been out for three years now – two years for the PC version – so it’s a bit late to just be getting started with the game! However, if you’re like me and missed it when it was new, maybe you’ll find my first impressions of the game helpful or interesting.

As I said when I included Red Dead Redemption II on my list of some great games I haven’t played, there was nothing about the game that put me off. In fact, Red Dead Redemption II was incredibly appealing to me – I find American history fascinating, particularly in the 19th Century, as it was a field of study while I was at university. Rockstar is also a developer whose titles are usually well-made and fun to play; they basically perfected their open world style with Grand Theft Auto III in 2001 and haven’t looked back. So there was a lot going for Red Dead Redemption II in 2018, but as someone with limited funds for gaming I couldn’t afford it at the time. The game ended up in what I call “the pile” – a long (and growing) list of games that sound great that I just haven’t got around to playing for one reason or another!

I finally got around to playing this game – it’s widely hailed as a masterpiece.

However, Red Dead Redemption II was on sale on Steam at some point in the last few months (I forget exactly when) and I was able to pick it up at a reasonable discount. The game’s massive 119GB file size took an eternity to download on my painfully slow internet connection, but I was able to eventually get the game installed and start playing.

Before we go any further, let’s acknowledge something important that too many fans and players have overlooked: Rockstar’s treatment of some of its employees. Though not at the same level as companies like Activision Blizzard or Ubisoft, both of which have wrangled with major scandals in the past couple of years, Rockstar pushed its staff hard in the run-up to Red Dead Redemption II’s launch. “Crunch” has been a part of game development for years, and when I worked in the video games industry I experienced it firsthand. In Rockstar’s case, “crunch” wasn’t always voluntary and some members of staff and ex-members of staff have gone on record sharing the physical and mental toll it took on them and their colleagues. In short, producing Red Dead Redemption II was difficult and even harmful for some people, and it’s important we acknowledge that and call out Rockstar’s poor working environment.

Is there a visual metaphor here? Surely not…

Setting that aside, let’s talk about Red Dead Redemption II itself. If I were to pick one word to summarise the game from the perspective of a complete newbie it would be “dense.” The game has a huge amount going on, and drops you into a story that’s already ongoing from the very first moment you boot it up. Red Dead Redemption II is a sequel – technically the third entry in its series – so on the surface that seems to make sense. But the game is actually set before the previous entry in the series, despite the confusing numbering!

The opening chapter of the game serves partly as a tutorial and partly as an introduction to the story and characters. As mentioned, though, it really did feel like protagonist Arthur Morgan’s story was already in progress. He and the gang are in the process of escaping a city after a job gone wrong, and maybe players of the first two games in the series know a bit more about what happened and why, but I certainly didn’t! I still don’t, in fact!

The game’s opening chapter sets up parts of the story and some of the characters, as well as introducing players to some in-game systems.

The opening sequence also gets you acquainted with some of the game’s systems – but by no means all. The signature “dead-eye” mechanic – which works similarly to the VATS system in the newer Fallout games, allowing Arthur to slow time and lock on to specific enemies prior to shooting – was one important gameplay element that the opening act of the game didn’t go into much detail on at all.

There’s hunting wild animals, combat with guns, unarmed combat, horse riding, horse care, picking plants, doing chores around the camp… and so much more going on in Red Dead Redemption II that it’s difficult to know where to start. The game’s opening act is mostly linear, taking place in a smaller area and with only a handful of missions that Arthur has to undertake in a certain order. But after departing the opening location in the high mountains and making camp, the open world is at Arthur’s feet – and it’s a big one!

Red Dead Redemption II’s game map.

Rockstar has always excelled at world design, but I confess I wasn’t sure how well the open worlds of the Grand Theft Auto series would translate to the 19th Century. The open worlds of games like Grand Theft Auto V were based around large modern cities with roads laid out for traversal by car. The world of the 19th Century was, in many ways, bigger because of how slow travel on foot or by horse and cart was. Red Dead Redemption II’s world captures that feel perfectly, and any doubts I might’ve had about an open world game using this kind of setting melted away faster than the snow in the mountains!

The game’s open world feels authentic. If you’ve ever seen old photographs of America in the late 19th Century, or even modern depictions of the era in television shows like Deadwood, you’ll instantly recognise the look and feel of everything from small farmsteads and frontier towns to the bustling big city with its industrial revolution influence. The visuals and graphics used to bring this world to life are stunning – the game is one of the most realistic-looking I’ve ever played, with moments of genuine beauty as I traversed its open world. I feel Red Dead Redemption II sucking me in because of how impressive its world design is; I want to spend more time in this incredibly real-feeling depiction of a time and place that has long fascinated me.

Arthur on horseback in the town of Valentine.

If you’ll forgive a history nerd geeking out about small things for a moment, things like the mud on the main street of the town of Valentine – the first major town Arthur is able to visit – and the wooden boards put down to the side to walk on do so much to capture what it must’ve felt like to actually walk through a town like that. These places were dirty and muddy, just like the game depicts, and even though it might seem like such a small thing it’s actually a huge part of the immersion for me.

The colour palette is likewise exceptionally important when it comes to capturing the look and feel of the time and place that Red Dead Redemption II is set. Most things in this era were made of wood or metal, so seeing Arthur walk over dirty wooden boards or eating stew from a beaten up old metal bowl are again minor details but they add to the immersion. Brighter colours were the preserve of the wealthy, so most townsfolk Arthur encounters are wearing drab colours: browns, tans, creams, and so on.

The game makes excellent use of colour.

Many buildings have a hitching post outside for patrons’ horses – because traveling by horse was the main way folks got around in the 19th Century. Life in those days was very different – and so much worse for practically everyone than it is today! But Red Dead Redemption II gives us a taste of what it might’ve been like thanks to all of these smaller details, and because I’ve had such an interest in the history of America in this era I find it absolutely fascinating.

Countless smaller details come together to present a game world that feels real and lived-in. And that’s before we get into all of the myriad realistic elements that Red Dead Redemption II includes through its gameplay systems. Obviously a lot of games have a day-night cycle, and as far back as Shenmue in 2000 I can remember seeing things like shops closing after dark and NPCs having their own daytime and nighttime routines. But Red Dead Redemption II goes all-in on the realism. Arthur has to eat and sleep. If he gets dirty he has to change his clothes or take a bath. In cold weather he needs appropriate clothing – likewise for hot weather. His horse needs to be cleaned, fed, and taken care of too. So do individual weapons – without proper care they stop working reliably.

Gang leader Dutch van der Linde.

Around the camp Arthur has chores to do. Some of these are basic things like chopping wood – which took me back to my youth as I was often assigned that chore at home in the late summer and autumn months! But it also seems to be largely the responsibility of Arthur to keep the camp supplied and to bring in money – without regular donations of food and other supplies, the camp quickly runs out.

At points I felt like I was playing Barbie Horse Adventures and not an authentic 19th Century outlaw simulator because of how much time I was spending playing with and caring for Arthur’s horse! Brushing the horse, feeding it, giving it pats, calming it if it got scared… horses need a lot of attention in Red Dead Redemption II! Luckily as an animal-lover – both real and virtual – I had a blast doing all of these chores, and even found time for Arthur to befriend several dogs as well!

Arthur with his horse. Horse care is a big part of the game.

On the flip side, Red Dead Redemption II offers a whole lot of animals to hunt. I confess to being squeamish about hunting in person; bird shooting, rabbiting, and even fox hunting all took place in the rural area where I grew up, but even as a kid I was uncomfortable with the idea of killing animals like that. That squeamishness has extended to the virtual world too – I can’t imagine playing a hunting simulator, for example. But Red Dead Redemption II makes hunting feel like a necessary part of Arthur’s life – and there are many in-game reasons to hunt as well, from making money to crafting upgrades.

There’s an in-depth tracking system that the game uses, allowing Arthur to investigate an area using a similar “slow time” animation to the aforementioned “dead-eye” system. After detecting an animal’s track, Arthur can follow it stealthily and then use an appropriate weapon to take the animal down. Some of the animations involved in hunting are very gruesome and gory, particularly when it comes to skinning an animal for its meat and hide. But as we were talking about, these details add realism to the game. Whether you think that’s a good thing in every instance… well, that’s up to you!

An example of the game’s “dead-eye” system.

Gunplay in Red Dead Redemption II is helped immensely by the dead-eye mechanic. However, even without this the game does offer a degree of lock-on targeting – something I find incredibly helpful. The game doesn’t have difficulty options per se, but there are a few ways to make things slightly easier, such as by making the lock-on targeting easier. Proper difficulty options would definitely be an improvement, though. I haven’t been involved in that many big shootouts yet, but so far I’m impressed with the third-person shooting aspect of the game. It stands up well when compared to many other action-adventure titles.

I find the game’s characters to be compelling. The excellent voice acting and beautiful, realistic animation brings them to life in a way many games simply can’t manage. Though Arthur is the main protagonist, the bond he has with the members of the gang makes each of them feel important to the story and worth helping or protecting.

After almost twelve hours of gameplay (including a short section I had to replay after messing it up) I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of Red Dead Redemption II. I’m only at chapter two of the game’s story, I’ve barely seen any of the open world, and I know for a fact that there are still in-game systems that I haven’t even unlocked. Red Dead Redemption II is a long game and an incredibly detailed one. I’m having a lot of fun with it right now, and it’s one of those rare titles that I find myself thinking about even hours after I stop playing. I honestly can’t wait to jump back in and play some more. It was definitely worth the wait!

Red Dead Redemption II is out now for PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series S/X. Red Dead Redemption II is the copyright of Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive. Some screenshots and promotional artwork courtesy of Rockstar Games and/or IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Some great Steam Holiday Sale deals for PC gamers

Important: The Steam Holiday Sale has now ended. Prices below will no longer be accurate.
Check back in June-July for the Summer Sale, and December for the next Winter/Holiday Sale deals.

Spoiler Warning: There are minor spoilers ahead for some of the games on this list.

The Steam Holiday Sale runs from today (22nd December) through to the 5th of January. Prices and discounts listed below are for the UK versions only and may vary by region. Prices and discounts were correct at time of writing but may be subject to change.

Steam treats PC gamers to big sales twice a year, in addition to the many smaller sales that seem to run almost all the time. As I’ve said before, these sales go a long way to making PC gaming competitive from a price standpoint, even though the initial expense of buying a gaming PC is higher than buying a console.

That’s especially the case in 2020, as the launch of new consoles has meant that getting a gaming PC of comparable spec has become pricey! However, if you do spend the money on a PlayStation 5-beater – or even if you don’t – there are some fantastic deals on great games this holiday season. Let’s look at a few.

Number 1: Halo: The Master Chief Collection (2019)
40% discount, £17.99

If you don’t already have Halo: The Master Chief Collection on Xbox or Game Pass, it’s well worth picking it up on Steam. The first six games in the Halo series – i.e. every title except for Halo 5 – are included in the package, and have been updated over the last few years to meet current-gen specifications.

Halo had, until last year, been exclusive to Xbox consoles, so many PC gamers haven’t had the opportunity to try out these great first-person shooters. There is an online multiplayer mode, but for me the enjoyment of the Halo series has always been its single-player campaigns. It could be a long wait for Halo Infinite, so why not replay the rest of the series in the meantime?

Number 2: Fall Guys (2020)
20% discount, £12.79

Though a 20% discount isn’t huge – and I was half-expecting something larger – for less than £13 Fall Guys is fantastic. It’s my second most-played game of the year, behind only Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and it’s a ton of fun. I logged back in for the first time in a few weeks to check out the most recent update, which has brought a lot of Christmas- and winter-themed costumes and events.

Fall Guys, if you’re totally unfamiliar, is an online “battle royale” game in which players run obstacle courses. The courses are based on classic television game shows like Total Wipeout and Gladiators, and it’s an absolute blast.

Number 3: Ryse: Son of Rome (2013)
70% discount, £2.39

Ryse: Son of Rome was one of the few Xbox One launch titles back in 2013, which was when I first played it. It was arguably not worth the £45-50 I paid for it back then, not least because it isn’t very long at around 6-7 hours, but it did a wonderful job of showing off what we could expect from what were then the next generation of consoles in terms of visuals. Ryse: Son of Rome’s graphics hold up remarkably well today, and the PC port of the game is decent.

It’s a single-player hack-and-slash game set in the Roman Empire, and for history buffs or fans of anything to do with Rome it’s well worth a play for less than the price of a pint!

Number 4: Hotshot Racing (2020)
50% discount, £7.99

I picked up Hotshot Racing when it was released in September, and even for its £16 original price I thought it was well worth it. This isn’t a hardcore racing sim that needs a racing wheel, it’s purely an arcade racer.

What first drew me to Hotshot Racing was its retro aesthetic which mimics titles from the mid-1990s. But there’s far more to this fun, fast-paced racer than just its visual style, and I’ve had a lot of fun with it.

Number 5: The Deus Ex Collection (2000-2016)
88% discount, £7.79

If you’re desperate to play Cyberpunk 2077 but have been put off by the bugs and the backlash (or if you just don’t have a good enough PC to run the game very well) then the Deus Ex series is an interesting alternative. The four games in the series are far more linear than the open-world Cyberpunk 2077, but many elements cross over between the two titles, such as first-person action, augmenting your human character, and a dystopian future setting.

The two most recent titles in the series – Human Revolution and Mankind Divided – made my list of ten games to play instead of Cyberpunk 2077 a couple of weeks ago.

Number 6: Plague Inc: Evolved (2016)
60% discount, £4.79

Depending on your sense of humour this could either be timely or incredibly offensive! Plague Inc: Evolved is an expanded port of a game that was originally released on Android and iOS in 2012 and sees players take on the role of a disease looking to wipe out humankind. In that sense it’s a unique experience as there’s nothing else quite like it on the market!

Plague Inc: Evolved is a lot of fun, and offers a number different ways to play as well as different upgrade paths for your chosen pathogen. Obviously the current pandemic makes it a somewhat controversial choice, but it is undeniably an entertaining little strategy game.

Number 7: Star Wars: Squadrons (2020)
40% discount, £20.99

Since I wrote up my first impressions of Star Wars: Squadrons back in October I’ve continued to play the game. It’s been an incredibly enjoyable experience, slipping into the role of a fighter pilot in a galaxy far, far away. I know some folks are put off by the “realistic simulator” style of play and the mandatory first-person viewpoint, but if you can look beyond those limitations and are willing to invest a few hours into learning the way it works, under the surface is a fun game.

I haven’t played much multiplayer; as you may know I’m not really an online multiplayer fan. But if you like that, and you want a different Star Wars experience to enjoy with friends, this could well be the game for you.

Number 8: Control (Ultimate Edition) (2020)
50% discount, £17.49

Big caveat here: I have yet to play Control for myself. It’s been on my radar for a while, though, and I may even write up my playthrough as part of my Let’s Play series here on the website. The game is a single-player action-adventure title with a strong narrative, focusing on Jesse as she has to figure out a supernatural event.

Control and publisher 505 Games have rightly received criticism for the way they handled the rollout of the Ultimate Edition – refusing players a free upgrade despite the game being only a few months old. If you can look past the controversy, however, Control has received great reviews and I’m excited to try it for myself.

Number 9: Skully (2020)
50% discount, £12.49

It’s unusual for me to spend so much money on an indie title, but Skully is an absolutely delightful 3D platformer in which you get to play as a disembodied skull. That premise alone sold it for me, and I was not disappointed when I sat down to play the game in the autumn. I have an article about Skully in the pipeline, but as with so many writing projects here on the website I haven’t bashed it into shape yet!

Despite the game’s protagonist being a literal skull, there’s more to it than just rolling around – though the physics used for the rolling sections is exquisite! Skully can take on different golem-style bodies, and even though a game based on a skull might seem spooky, there’s a magical fantasy theme rather than anything grotesque or horrifying. I thought it was great value when it was full price, but with a 50% discount it’s absolutely worth picking up this underrated gem.

Number 10: Steep (2016)
80% discount, £5.19

It’s winter! Or at least it is here in the northern hemisphere, so snow and winter sports are on our minds. Steep is a fun winter sports title that lets you ski and snowboard in a large open world, as well as take on the extreme sports of paragliding and wingsuit flying.

Steep has a few DLC options available – which are similarly discounted – but one which stands out is Road to the Olympics, which added in extras related to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Even without any DLC though, the base game is great fun. It’s one of those sports games which is easy to get started with but difficult to really master.

Number 11: Black Mesa (2020)
50% discount, £7.49

The non-existence of Half-Life 3 has become a meme at this point, and although the VR-only title Half-Life Alyx may have offered a glimmer of hope that the series isn’t entirely on ice, there’s been no announcement of future titles at this stage. What we did get in March this year, though, was Black Mesa, a fan-made remake of the original Half-Life from 1998.

As you’d expect from a remake, Black Mesa incorporates everything that players loved about the original, but updates the visuals to bring it in line with more recent first-person action titles. If you missed the original Half-Life in the late 1990s or just want to relive that experience, Black Mesa comes highly recommended!

Number 12: Red Dead Redemption 2 (2019)
33% discount, £36.84

Another title which needs the “I haven’t played it yet” caveat, Red Dead Redemption 2 is widely hailed as a masterpiece. The Wild West-themed action title comes from Rockstar, best known for the Grand Theft Auto series, and promises to transport players back in time to the latter days of the American frontier.

I’ve been waiting and waiting for Red Dead Redemption 2 to go on sale, and while a 33% discount isn’t huge it’s certainly more than generous enough to make this fun title worth a try. The main campaign alone is said to be over 40 hours, with many players spending 60+ hours in Rockstar’s American west setting. I’m genuinely interested to try it for myself, and if reviews from professional and amateur critics alike are to be believed, it’ll be a fun time.

Number 13: Pillars of Eternity Collection (2015-18)
70% discount, £24.06

Obsidian Entertainment developed these two fantastically detailed old-school role-playing games, and to see both titles plus their DLC so heavily discounted is great. There is literally days’ or even weeks’ worth of gameplay and story to get stuck into here, and again if you’re craving a role-playing game to play given the recent release of Cyberpunk 2077 these two games could be a worthwhile – if wholly different – alternative option.

It’s hard to say too much about either game without spoiling the narrative – which is, of course, the primary focus of such titles. But they’re amazing, in-depth experiences and if you get stuck in you’ll find yourself playing for hours on end.

Number 14: Resident Evil 2 (2019)
60% discount, £13.99

The remake of Resident Evil 2 won many awards in 2019, and was many folks’ choice for game of the year. The horror title debuted in 1998, but was rebuilt from the ground up for this version. There are mutant monsters, zombies, and jump-scares galore in this gory, visceral horror title, and it is not for the faint of heart!

After the disappointment many felt at Resident Evil 3′s cut content and short runtime earlier in the year, Resident Evil 2 seems even better by comparison. It’s possible to pick up both remakes for a little over £25, though, and for the heavily discounted price, Resident Evil 3 doesn’t feel quite so bad. It’s like I always say – length doesn’t matter, as long as a game is priced accordingly!

Number 15: Vampyr (2018)
75% discount, £8.74

Set during the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic, Vampyr is another game you might consider timely given the state of the world today! It’s got a unique premise as far as vampire titles go – the player character is a doctor, a newly-turned vampire who must balance his bloodlust with his Hippocratic oath in a hauntingly beautiful rendition of interwar London.

The pandemic can be a touchy subject, and it’s totally understandable for folks to want to skip Vampyr for now. But give it a chance and you’ll find an enjoyable title, one that blends reality and the supernatural within a truly interesting historical setting. Though arguably a little short, it’s the kind of narrative-heavy game where you feel your choices genuinely matter in the world you’re inhabiting.

Number 16: FIFA 21 (2020)
63% discount, £25.89

Ah, the annual FIFA series. Not to every gamer’s taste, I admit, but if you like football and support a team in any of the major divisions around the world, there’s no other football title that offers as much. I’m surprised to see FIFA 21 so heavily discounted so soon after its October release, because there’s nothing wrong with it at all.

That being said, modern FIFA games are iterative rather than transformative with each new release, and players who’ve picked up any title in the series in the last few years won’t see a huge difference or improvement with FIFA 21. Personally, it isn’t a series I buy every iteration of every year, and having waited three or four years since I last picked up the latest entry, there was enough going on in FIFA 21 for me to have an enjoyable time with its single-player mode.

Number 17: Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King (2019)
60% discount, £9.51

With an original asking price of over £20, I felt that Aladdin and The Lion King was far too expensive for what it was when it was released last year. Despite Aladdin in particular being an outstanding platformer, I found it hard to justify the steep cost for two games which are now more than a quarter of a century old. With a reasonable discount, however, this two-game bundle feels more accessible and appropriately-priced.

I fondly remember both games from the SNES days, and though it’s the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis versions that were used for this collection, those nostalgic feelings are still present! If you’re in the market for a couple of cute but surprisingly difficult 2D platformers, Aladdin and The Lion King could be just what you need. It’s also well worth showing games like these to younger players, to let them experience a slice of gaming history.

Number 18: Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning (2020)
40% discount, £20.99

Though I adore Kingdoms of Amalur, this version must come with a caveat: despite claiming to be a remaster, it’s really little more than an upscaled version of the original title. Very little has been changed, and players (like myself) who expected more of a remake were left underwhelmed. So if you already own the original Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning, there’s basically no reason to get this version.

If you missed Kingdoms of Amalur when it was new, or never owned it on PC, however, it’s definitely worthwhile picking it up. What you’ll find is a fantasy role-playing game that combines some of the best elements of franchises like the Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age series into one exciting title. There’s a unique and interesting story at the core of the game, too, and if it hooks you in you won’t want to put Kingdoms of Amalur down until you’ve unravelled all of its mysteries!

Number 19: Jurassic World Evolution (2018)
90% discount, £3.49

Jurassic World Evolution is the dinosaur park builder that every fan of the Jurassic Park/World series has always wanted. A blend of the dinosaur-themed series with the likes of “tycoon” games such as Rollercoaster Tycoon, it’s a surprisingly detailed yet incredibly fun experience. And with such a heavy discount, there’s no excuse not to give it a try!

As someone who returned to the theme park-building genre after a long absence, it took me a while to get to grips with the plethora of options and massively expanded nature of titles like Planet Coaster and Jurassic World Evolution. Better technology means these games can offer a lot more – and that means that there is a learning curve! But stick with the tutorial and you’ll learn all you need to step into John Hammond’s shoes and run your own dino park!

Number 20: Star Trek: Bridge Crew (2017)
60% discount, £8.39

When it comes to gaming lists, it’s hard to find Star Trek titles to include! The franchise has not always been well-served in the gaming realm, unfortunately. Star Trek: Bridge Crew was originally designed as a VR-only title, but an update not long after its release allowed for non-VR play too. It’s best enjoyed with friends, as each of you can take on the role of a character on the bridge of a Starfleet vessel.

I wrote up my first impressions of Star Trek: Bridge Crew a few months ago when I picked it up, and suffice to say the VR-oriented controls take some getting used to. But if you’ve ever wanted to take command of a Federation starship and have your own Star Trek adventures, this is one of the only modern titles that allows you to get anywhere close to that experience. And as I often find myself saying, it wouldn’t be one of my lists without at least one Star Trek title!

So that’s it. Twenty recommendations from the Steam Holiday Sale. If you were to buy all of them I reckon you’d have spent £269.29. That doesn’t sound as impressive as some of my previous lists of Steam sales, but this time I tried to focus more on recent titles instead of going back to games of yesteryear! If you consider that it averages out to £13.47 per entry on this list (several of which are bundles) I think it’s pretty good considering we’re looking at mostly new titles! These sales give PC gaming an edge over consoles, and even as services like Game Pass begin to take off, there’s still a place for the Steam Holiday Sale!

Even though I’m not a huge fan of Epic Games these days, there’s a sale running over on the Epic Games Store too. In addition, Epic is giving out several free games this holiday season, and a £10/$10 voucher. Cyberpunk 2077 is available on the Epic Games Store, and even though it isn’t discounted right now, if you use your free voucher to buy it you can reduce the cost of 2020’s hottest mess!

So there’s some inspiration for you as you head over to Steam to check out the holiday sale. I hope this has been useful, and if your favourite title isn’t on sale this time, don’t panic! It might be included in the Steam Summer Sale next year!

Prices and discounts included in this article were correct in the UK at time of publication. The Steam Holiday Sale begins today (22nd December 2020) and runs until 6:00pm GMT on the 5th of January 2021. Prices and discounts are subject to change at any time, and may vary by region and currency.

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, publisher, and/or corporation. Some promotional screenshots and artwork courtesy of press kits on IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Ten of the best games… that I’ve never played!

After Star Trek, gaming and the games industry is probably the subject I write about most here on the website. I used to work in the games industry as regular readers will recall, and I’ve enjoyed the hobby for decades – though I spend less time playing these days for a number of reasons. However, with decades of gaming under my belt, and time spent on the inside, I like to think I can write about the subject from a unique perspective and perhaps even with some degree of authority. So let’s completely ruin that by looking at some of the biggest games and game franchises that I’ve never even played!

The entries on this list are games (and franchises) that I’ve heard almost universal praise for; these titles are undeniably good. However, for a variety of reasons I simply haven’t got around to playing them, or they seemed like “not my thing” so I never gave them a try. I’ll make an attempt to justify myself… but I’m sure you’ll agree that this seriously harms my “gamer” pedigree! There shouldn’t be any major spoilers because these are games I haven’t played, but we will be discussing some details. If there’s a title you want to avoid even the slightest chance of spoilers for, it may be safer to skip that entry and move on to the next.

Here comes the disclaimer: just because I’m not interested in these titles or haven’t played them doesn’t mean I’m saying that they’re bad. Look at the title of this list! These games are generally held in very high regard, so if one of your favourites is here and I’m being negative about it, please try not to take it personally. Our experiences are all subjective; we all enjoy different things. And that’s great!

So without further ado, let’s look at the list!

Number 1: The Pokémon series (1996-present)

When I was still at school in the late ’90s, Pokémon cards became a short-lived craze among some of the younger kids. I considered myself “too grown-up” for a silly card game like that, which was a pretty typical attitude among my teenage friends at the time! I did, however, receive a pack of the cards as a gift at one point – and promptly gave them away to someone I knew who was collecting them.

I also didn’t own a Game Boy at the time – though in those days they were available to rent! Do you remember going to a rental shop and literally checking out a whole console? But because I didn’t own a Game Boy – and could afford to rent one so infrequently – I never got around to trying out the first entry in the series. Since then, there have been eighteen mainline Pokémon games across eight “generations” that have come out on six systems, and a number of spin-off titles too, including Pokémon Go, which seemed to take the world by storm in 2016.

And I’ve managed to avoid playing any of them! Japanese-style RPGs aren’t my favourite kind of games usually – particularly due to their style of combat – and combined with Pokémon’s youthful style and seemingly ever-growing list of critters, it’s something that’s never seemed like “my thing”. The increasing number of creatures in particular feels a little daunting at this point, and the series has developed a lore over the course of almost a quarter of a century that spans not only the games but a long-running animated series as well. At this point, even if I were interested in the series, I wouldn’t know where to start!

Number 2: Practically every arcade game!

I grew up in a rural community, and none of the small towns in this part of the world had arcades, not even during the height of their popularity in the ’80s. The closest I got was a small “penny arcade” in a seaside town which had a couple of video games alongside claw machines, slot machines, and pool tables. On the odd occasion that I’d get to go to bigger cities in my youth, visiting a video arcade was never a high priority.

As such, I’ve only ever played a handful of arcade games, and even then not many times and not for very long. The one I can remember playing most is 1994’s Sega Rally Championship, which I was fortunate enough to play a few times when I lived overseas. But I missed out on the arcade experience that many gamers of my generation had, and I’ve never played the arcade version of titles like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Out Run, the Star Wars arcade titles, or Space Harrier. The closest I got to playing Space Harrier in an arcade was in Shenmue on the Dreamcast! Though this entry might seem like kind of a cheat for this list since I have technically played many of these games when they were ported to consoles or via emulators, the experience isn’t the same.

Because of my health, I’m no longer in a position where I can travel very far, nor would I be able to really use an arcade machine for any length of time (unless I could do so from a seated position). So unfortunately it looks like I’ll never really be able to have that arcade experience.

Number 3: Red Dead Redemption 2 (2018)

So far we’ve looked at games I wasn’t interested in and games that were generally unavailable to me. Red Dead Redemption 2 is in neither of these categories. I could have played it upon its 2018 release on PlayStation 4, or after its 2019 PC release on my computer, yet despite being interested in its historical setting, I simply haven’t got around to doing so – at least, not yet.

As a history buff, a game like Red Dead Redemption 2 should be exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for. It ticks almost all of the boxes for things I’d enjoy – a single-player game with a detailed story, an open world with lots to do, and a fun historical setting. American history is one of my favourite fields of study (despite not being American), so there’s really no excuse for not playing this game, right? The only real drawback is that it’s a sequel (technically a prequel, despite the somewhat confusing numbering) and I’m not usually someone who likes to jump into a series that’s already in progress.

I’ve been interested in Red Dead Redemption 2 since it was released, for all of the reasons listed above, yet I just haven’t got around to picking up a copy yet. I think if I’d seen it discounted I might’ve, but on Steam during the recent summer sale event it was only 20% off, which still left it priced at over £40. I don’t have a huge budget for games, so that’s definitely one reason why I haven’t picked it up yet. Unlike some of the other entries on this list, Red Dead Redemption 2 is a game I absolutely plan to get around to playing… one of these days!

Number 4: The Dark Souls series (2011-2016)

This entry could really be expanded to encompass a number of other titles besides the three main Dark Souls games which fall into that new pseudo-genre inspired by the series. “Souls-like” games are notorious for their high difficulty, and the three Dark Souls games pioneered and epitomise that. I respect people who play games for the challenge, and I’m sure it must be very rewarding to finally overcome a difficult level or boss after numerous attempts. However, I’m not that kind of gamer!

If you read my playthrough of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, you’ll recall I played on the easiest difficulty setting. I usually do this where possible, because in single-player titles I’m more interested in an engaging story than a challenge. The Dark Souls series deliberately doesn’t offer lower difficulty options, which is an artistic decision that I respect; I’m not going to argue that the game should go out of its way to accommodate players like myself. However, it means that it’s a series I have no interest in playing.

I’m not the world’s best gamer. Completing Jedi: Fallen Order and The Last of Us Part II on their lowest difficulty settings have been two of my big gaming accomplishments of 2020, and perhaps the most challenging games I’ve played have been rounds of Fall Guys! But I’m not really someone who seeks out a challenge. I don’t have the skill to be a top-tier gamer, nor the patience to play one game over and over and over again to “git gud”. If Dark Souls seemed like it had a genuinely interesting story underneath the difficulty, perhaps I’d be willing to try. But everything I’ve seen from the series looks like an incredibly generic fantasy world with hack-and-slash gameplay, so I don’t think I’ll be convinced to give it a try any time soon.

Number 5: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (2016) and Fortnite Battle Royale (2017)

I’m not really into competitive online gaming, at least not unless a title offers something genuinely different. Fall Guys, which I mentioned above, does fall into that category, but PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite really don’t. Both titles are in the action/shooter genre, and if I wanted to play a game like that I could choose from myriad single-player offline titles.

However, in both cases I have a great respect for what the games bring to the table. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds didn’t exactly create the battle royale genre, but it certainly elevated and refined it, and Fortnite is a phenomenon that the gaming world hadn’t seen since Minecraft. Both titles brought millions of new people into gaming as a hobby and helped the medium grow to the point where it’s wholly mainstream. I’ve touched on this topic before, but when I was younger, gaming wasn’t exactly a niche but it was certainly a nerdy, geeky hobby to be associated with, shunned by adults and self-proclaimed cool kids. The rise of titles like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite – and their ubiquity on practically every platform from consoles to phones – has meant the video gaming hobby has expanded far more than I would have ever thought possible a few years ago.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I’ll be tempted to try either of these games any time soon.

Number 6: World of Warcraft (2004)

Earlier, I criticised the Dark Souls series for feeling very generic and uninteresting in its fantasy setting. The same simply cannot be said of World of Warcraft, the title which arguably defined the massively multiplayer online roleplaying game (MMORPG) genre. It has a rich lore and a deeply detailed, painstakingly crafted world, all of which has been built up over more than fifteen years with updates, patches, and expansions massively improving the game in that time.

From my perspective, World of Warcraft falls down simply because of its online nature. I just don’t enjoy playing with other people in this kind of always-online environment, and I find that interacting with other people is immersion-breaking. In a fantasy world, I need that sense of immersion to enjoy myself and have a good time, and as I said in the previous entry on this list, there are many single-player titles which offer something similar.

The longest I’ve ever stuck with an MMORPG was Star Trek Online, which attracted me for obvious reasons! However, even being set in my favourite fictional galaxy and having some enjoyable story missions couldn’t overcome the issues I have with this kind of game, and after struggling on with it for a while, I eventually stopped playing.

Number 7: The Final Fantasy series (1987-present)

As I mentioned when talking about Pokémon, I’ve never been the biggest fan of Japanese-style roleplaying games. The combat in particular is something I find offputting, not because it’s bad but there’s something about its slower, turn-based nature that I tend to feel doesn’t gel with an action-oriented title. The Final Fantasy games have always had this style of gameplay, which is one reason I’ve never been all that interested.

The second major reason why I’ve never jumped in is that the Final Fantasy series is complicated. There are sixteen “main” games (counting Final Fantasy XIV twice as it has an online and offline version), as well as dozens of other titles (perhaps as many as fifty if you consider mobile games and spin-offs). There are also films and other associated media, making the series quite daunting to get started with. While I gather many of the games are semi-standalone titles, there is a lot of background and lore that connects them and keeps the series intact. Maybe that’s a bad reason not to jump in, but coupled with the style of gameplay being something I generally don’t enjoy, it’s enough to be offputting.

Though I have owned several of the consoles that Final Fantasy titles released on – like the SNES – many of the most well-received entries in the series are or were PlayStation exclusives. As someone who didn’t own a PlayStation until the dying days of the PlayStation 3 (which I bought so I could play The Last of Us) I didn’t have access to most of the games released between the mid-90s and the mid-2000s.

Number 8: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017)

The SNES was the first home console that I owned, but for many of the same reasons given above regarding my general dislike for Japanese-style RPGs, I didn’t play the only Zelda title released on that system: A Link to the Past. Nor did I play the Zelda titles on the Nintendo 64, Wii, DS, 3DS, or any other Nintendo console I’ve owned in the years since. I wouldn’t say I’ve deliberately shunned the Zelda series; it’s more a case of having other priorities and putting my money elsewhere.

I must be practically the only Nintendo Switch owner to have not played Breath of the Wild, as the game has been one of the system’s best-selling titles since it launched in 2017. Though I have been tempted to pick up a copy, especially if I could find it pre-owned or at a discount, I simply haven’t got around to it yet, as I’ve had other games I’m more interested in playing.

Number 9: Super Mario Galaxy (2007) and Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010)

Ever since I received Super Mario 64 for Christmas in 1997, I’ve been a huge fan of Mario’s 3D adventures. I was even lucky enough to play through Super Mario Sunshine on a friend’s GameCube as I didn’t own the console for myself. Yet I skipped the two 3D Mario titles that were released on the Wii.

The Wii had one of the best Mario titles ever in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and I had great fun playing that game. But the two Mario Galaxy titles didn’t hold much appeal, mostly due to the level design, which consists of a number of spherical planets and asteroids to navigate. I found those environments looked incredibly confusing, and the Wii’s motion controls seemed like they would make that worse. With so many other titles to play on the Wii, which was a fantastic console that had a great library of games, I kept putting off playing Super Mario Galaxy. When a sequel came out I put that to the back of the queue as well, and I’ve just not got around to picking up either game.

I think I still have my Wii in the attic, so perhaps one day I need to get it out, dust it off, and finally pick up one or both of these games. In 2018 I had a great time with Super Mario Odyssey, so it’s clear that my enjoyment of 3D Mario titles hasn’t waned at all!

Number 10: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)

A couple of years ago I set out to play the famed Witcher series. Not wanting to begin with the third entry, I started with the first game – but I had a hard time getting into it and haven’t picked it up since. It wasn’t the world, the lore, or the story that I found offputting, but rather the mouse-and-keyboard controls. I’m so used to playing most action/adventure titles with a control pad these days that it was a bit of a jolt, and I’m surprised that a game from as recently as 2007 didn’t have any controller support on PC!

As a result, I didn’t get into the series and haven’t got to its incredibly popular and critically-acclaimed third entry yet. The Witcher 3 is many people’s pick for game of the decade or game of the generation, and I’m very interested to try it for myself. I own the game and both its expansions, so I will one day get around to playing it – once I’ve completed the first two titles!

The Witcher and The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings are supposed to take around 40 hours each to complete, so it may be a while before I finally get to this acclaimed game, but unlike some of the other entries on this list, it’s one I hope to play one day.

So that’s it. Ten great games and franchises that, for a variety of reasons, I’ve never played. Sorry if your favourite made the list, but remember that this is all one person’s opinion, and I’m in no way trying to argue that these games are bad. Some of them just aren’t my thing. If you love them or are passionate about them, great! Diversity takes many forms, including the titles we enjoy in the entertainment space. It would be a very dull world indeed if we all enjoyed the same things!

Hopefully this list has been a little bit of fun. If you’re new to the website, I write lists and articles on gaming and related topics often, so I hope you’ll check back for more in future. Until next time!

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective studio, developer, and/or publisher. Screenshots and promo artwork courtesy of press kits on IGDB. Arcade machine photo courtesy of Unsplash. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.