Debate of the Day: Can a Video Game Be Too Long?

I’ve heard of a lot of complaints recently, and made a few myself, about new release titles being too short. Six, five, even four hour campaigns aren’t unheard of these days, and gamers feel like they’re not getting their money’s worth if they’ve shelled out $60.

But I want to ask if there’s a converse to this, if a game can actually be too LONG for its own good. You would think that more content always means you’re getting more for you money, but I think sometimes a game can drag so it taints the experience of what came before it.

Some games, you just don’t want to end. I could play Mass Effect for 100 hours or more and it would never get old if there was fresh content to be had. But now I’m having a different experience with its sister title, Dragon Age II.

I’m almost 30 hours into the game now, and that’s only doing quest and not dicking around to explore, because frankly, you can’t dick around and explore. Rather quests pile on quests, and I thought the game was over about three different times already. The missions are different yes, but I’m doing them in the same six maps over and over and over. These extra hours aren’t adding anything to my experience.

I think that concise story arcs sometimes work well for games. Titles like Assassin’s Creed and Dead Space sit at about 8-10 hours, and if they were 20 or 30? Even if we like the gameplay,I think that would have made the game worse in the end. But then titles like Fallout 3 or Oblivion or Grand Theft Auto where you can spend dozens of hours just exploring and fighting on your own, I think you can go for 100+ before you start to tire of the world.


  • JF Machado

    If a game can be played for dozens of hour, it’s great! If, instead, you have to GRIND for dozens of hours doing the same repetitive thing, it’ll suck.

  • ben

    omg just cause 2 is one of those game which can literally last for years without boredom exploring it’s vast world. but the gameplay does get old after a while.

  • RBourn

    I’ve actually been playing DAII through for the first time. I won’t go into how far I am in as that would be spoiling.

    I don’t really think it’s too long. I bought it on Friday 5th August, and have played quite a lot of the game already.

    I find the DAII experience to be quite good. As the maps are not really too big an issue, it’s what happens in them that is different. Largely the map reuse is an efficiency that allows the game to have really quite short loading times, and the lack of “exploration” is just lack of running randomly in a massive world looking for things you will probably look on the internet for anyway.

    DAII is mostly a character piece, mainly using the quests to develop and expand character’s stories. I think this is fine, as it requires you to actually invest some time into the story.

  • romple

    I found GTA 4 to be way too long. And yea. I agree tehre are PLENTY of games that can be too long.

  • Greg

    I think a game can be too long – especially when the things you are doing in that game are repetitive, annoying, or don’t seem consequential. My specific examples are FF XIII and Oblivion. I think I spent like 150 hours playing Oblivion but never actually took the time to beat it >:o

  • Dzuksi

    Longevity is good as long as it’s compensated with gameplay expansion, but sadly many games go other way around it.

    Bad examples of longevity:

    -Main story quests are repetitive
    -No evolution of gameplay in 2-3 hours (i don’t care how AAA is your game, if you don’t introduce new things in gameplay, you are becoming boring)
    -Fetch quests (worst enemy of RPG player)
    -Kill/destory “number” of things

    Good examples of longevity:

    – Main quests are great, side quests are ok (and not forced)
    – Constantly improving gameplay (metroid/zelda like games)
    – Interesting side quest (AC”:B did this very well)
    – Main quest is fantastic, no side quest but the world is rich

    All in all it comes down to a number of things – how developed world is, evolution of game mechanics, and designers will for innovative quests

  • cyranoone

    Ok the game I felt i got my moneys worth was Metal Gear solid 4, No grind time, just enough cinema to keep me going and when it was done, i felt like I had a great adventure. I think if I sat and played straight through it was roughly 12hrs. But a games time should leave you with the feeling that you did something. 4 hours in fallout is spent running and grinding. Its the grind time that helps eat up game time. thats why people are so use to 30-100 hour games.

  • Dzuksi, I agree 100 percent. I love metroid type games. I get way more of a challenge than what I would receive from any fighting, racing, or sports game. I am a Zelda lover as well and if it’s a challenge you want then that’s what you get playing such a classic. The last game I’ve been into lately is Black Hawk Striker 2. I’m on my final battle so I have yet to beat it. Wish me luck.

  • I find that the older I get, the less gameplay hours I actually want from a game. Halo is my series and I haven’t even finished Halo 3, let alone Reach. I just kind of find myself wanting to do other things, rather than spend hours playing campaign. And I want my time to feel ‘purposeful’ rather than grindy. Add in the fact that my OCD makes me want to find every little thing and accomplish every little goal, a game like Oblivion or GTA IV is pretty much unplayable for me.

    I’ll never finish.

    So, I think some direction (non-linear but not completely open world and self-managed) with a max of 10-12 hours would work for me. Think: old-school RPGs.

  • I nearly forgot, Black Hawk Striker 2 has only 5 levels. As far as the many hours it would take to defeat the game I have no knowledge of. I don’t know much about the game. Personality, I’ve been trying to beat the game for about 2 years but I play inconstantly. It’s my favorite game right now along side Cortex Command. (Female gamer)

  • Drester

    I am playing new vegas and the game is just to long. I’ve played for 50 hours now and still got 25% to do. Maybe it’s because I want to do all the side guest too, but I can’t wait for it to finish

  • trashcanman

    I haven’t found a game to be too long since the PS1 days when 4 discs wasn’t unusual. Legend of Dragoon was just….so repetitive on top of being average. As long as the game is awesome, it can’t be too long for me. DA2 is not long at all for an RPG on top of being exactly my kind of game so forget that mess. If you think a game is too long, you are probably just playing it to play it and not for enjoyment, which I believe is the reason “gamers” are so goddamn unpleasant these days. The love is gone, but they can’t think of anything else to do so they buy games they hate just because it’s the thing people are talking about and then they act like dicks about it because everything “sucks”.

  • Exyle

    It really depends on the game. Fallout for example could excellently rope you into the destroyed, old world mood. The side quests were entertaining and interesting, the characters were deep and involved, and the over-all level of exploration of the apocalyptic world could keep me occupied for hours with no quests. That with the DLC’s, you could look at 2-3 days of complete game time before you had sucked such a game dry. Red dead Redemption was just as deep, but could get mundane at times. That’s when I found the multiplayer to be great. I would slice up the story with some online, to even the excitement of multiplayer, and the exploration of the single player. What I’m trying to get across is, a game have 4 weeks of content for all I care, as long as its worth your time.

  • Dzuksi


    You should definietly try Darksiders – it has simmilar gameplay and mechanics of Zelda and is set in postapocalyptic brutal setting. It’s a great game with a nice comic bookish art design.

  • I think on the other side of the spectrum, you have games that are made longer because of something annoying/stupid/etc. Skies of Arcadia was a great, fun game with probably the right amount of gameplay hours in it. But you wouldn’t know that because, when exploring and wandering, you’d literally have a random encounter for every 5 seconds of flight time. It’d take over an hour just to cross the world…IN A SKYSHIP. Although it still didn’t break the game for me, for the Gamecube re-make they dialed the chances of encounters way down.

  • steve p

    as many said, it depends on the game.

    longest game i can remember playing was dragon quest 8, which took me about 80 hours to complete as close to 100% as i cared to. this game was too long. towards the end it wasnt even a matter of the plot being long, it was taking hours traveling around the map looking for one minuscule item or person.

    i have no problem with a game being 80+ hours, just make sure there is 80+ hours of story in there.

    fallout 3 almost falls into this category. there is plenty plenty to do and the sidequests are interesting enough not to get repetitive, but there are times when you are just walking around the wasteland and you see a location pop up on your radar, so you take time to walk out there only to find out its an empty warehouse.

    IMO the best game length is about 60 hours. twilight princess took me about 60 hours to finish, i didn’t get 100% but i took time to explore and do what i had to do. i had fun all 60 hours and that was perfect to me.

    more games need to be like that. batman arkham asylum could go down as one of the best games ever for me, if not for its 6 hour story line. and thats with all the riddle missions. i played through it the other weekend to tide me over for arkham city and i beat it in 3 hours. granted i skipped all the riddler stuff, i knew where i was going, and i played through on easy… but still, 3 hours is way too short

  • Leonard

    Bioware didn’t create enough maps!!!

    That’s why Dragon Age 2 sucked. It’s the same areas over and over again. If they wanted to make downloadable content, they should’ve created additional maps to add/change the feel of the game. The game feels half-assed and unfinished.

    Environment/Atmosphere are key aspects of any game. Get it together Bioware. You were my favorite developer. Sadly, I couldn’t have been more disappointed in Dragon Age 2. 🙁

  • Lima Zulu

    Yeah, the map issue for DA2 sucked. Everything else was phenomenal.

  • Tabor

    I think it depends on the game really, I just finished my second play through of Fallout New Vegas, and am thinking of going back just because I’m sure I haven’t seen everything. I like a lot of the free form sandbox games, where there are different ways to play, and lots of places to explore. Fallout, Elder Scrolls, and Grand Theft Auto, and Zelda are the best examples. They don’t feel like things were just thrown in to pad out the game length, and a lot of the more repetitive things you can take or leave as you like. Dragon Age, and Mass Effect both lack the exploration elements I like, there’s not a lot of room to wander, and not a lot to do there anyway. It keeps you moving from story point to story point, and conversation to conversation making the getting there part really annoying.

  • Steve

    It’s funny to think that people of my generations (born in the early-mid 80s) probably spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours trying to beat NES games, yet if you watch speedthroughs on youtube, a lot of them can be beaten in only 15 minutes.

  • jason

    Very good point. Just finished DAII last night, and I have to agree. DA1 was just as long, but was the game of the year for me, because of two reasons:

    1. New territory/zones/areas all the time (which you mentioned).

    2. No long term goal. An ongoing badguy (the Archdemon) was a long term goal you were working towards. DA2 was three separate games with three short term goals with the same characters in the same areas.

    Keep up the great work!

  • As far as game length goes, to echo the sentiments of most above, it certainly depends upon the game. I like Paul can play and have played Mass Effect 1&2 through maybe 4 times now. I think more important then just the total number of hours in a game is the importance of “quality hours” and the pacing of the game. The biggest comparison of this I can make is between ME2 and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Both games feature scenarios that are similar, it is usually fairly apparent in both games when you are entering a combat area, because there is all of a sudden things to hide behind. I have less of an issue with this in ME2 compared to Uncharted, because even though in both games you are placed in similar scenarios, the pacing of the combat sequences in ME feel as if they flow better then in U:DF. The action flows from one battle sequence to another in ME, where as in U:DF the arriviall of a combat sequence feels as if it breaks the flow of the game play that is established in the platforming elements. I personally love the platforming in D:UF, and get really disappointed when I know that I need to head into another combat scenario.

  • 240 hours into Skyrim and still going strong !

  • Nate

    I hate DA2… Dragon Age Origins was awesome, but when the second one came out, they took the whole wide open story/world and condensed it into a linear game with half-asses character modelling. There was no room for creativity and the elves looked like mutated watermelon-headed freaks.