Every so often, games come along that are so good that they almost feel like they’re endlessly replayable. Whether because of oodles of content being on offer, because of incredibly tight and enjoyable gameplay mechanics and design, an excellent story that you keep want to revisiting, or any number of other reasons, these games keep pulling us back to them time and again- often aided by re-releases that end up offering at least something new that’s enough to make us want to go back. Here, we’re going to be talking about a few such games.
THE ELDER SCROLLS 5: SKYRIM
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim is a nearly a dozen years old at this point, and in that time, it has been re-released countless times and ported to every platform under the sun- but there is, of course, a reason for that. The staying power and enduring quality of Skyrim is undeniable, and even though it has been overtaken by other massive open world experiences in several ways in the years since its launch, taken as a whole, what it offers as a package as incredibly difficult to find elsewhere, and it’s what keeps us coming back to the game.
It’s massive open world, the endless choice it presents to players in how they want to play, the oodles of content it has on offer in terms of its main story, all of its many, many side quests, the plethora of optional activities available throughout its world, the emergent nature of its gameplay- there’s no shortage of reasons that have compelled many of us to go back and start another save on Skyrim multiple times over the years.
Its re-releases, too, have added to that- want to play Skyrim on the go? Here it is on the Nintendo Switch. Want to play a remastered version for your new consoles? Here’s Special Edition. Want to play it again with some additional bells and whistles to celebrate its 10 year anniversary? Here’s Anniversary Edition. Bethesda has smartly kept offering up Skyrim to the masses at regular intervals, and thanks to the timeless design and endless replayability of the game, we’ve been more than happy to oblige.
SUPER MARIO 3D WORLD
Many would argue – and not without merit – that every single 3D mainline Super Mario game is an unabashed genre-defining masterpiece, and yet, even in that lofty company, Super Mario 3D World may very well be one of the series’ shining lights. Releasing on the Wii U didn’t do it any favours, and it wasn’t helped by the initial skeptical response to its reveal back in the day, but once we actually played the game, we were floored by it- the ingenious level design which displays such exhaustive creativity and variety throughout the course of the game, the sheer inch-perfect tightness of the movement and the controls, how incredibly fun it was to play both solo and co-op, how effectively it brushed aside any fears over it being a pared down and linear platforming experience.
Smartly enough, Nintendo decided to re-release Super Mario 3D World on the Switch in 2021, allowing it to be able to flourish on a platform with a massive install base and a userbase that was always actually engaged- and of course, we were more than happy to jump back into the game, because it has the sort of gameplay and design ingenuity that doesn’t fail to delight even on replays.
Of course, it helped that there was another pretty big reason to play the game again, seeing as the Switch release also came packaged with Bowser’s Fury, an entirely new standalone Super Mario experience that offered a meaty chunk of excellent platforming gameplay. Combining the mechanics and movement of 3D World with the more open-ended and sandbox style design of something like Odyssey, Bowser’s Fury proved to be an excellent experience in and of itself as well, and a worthy companion to the 3D World re-release.
THE LAST OF US
The Last of Us may not have the replayability of something like Super Mario 3D World, or the endless player choice and content offerings of Skyrim, but this is just as much of an enduring experience that keeps pulling players back in. That, of course, is down first and foremost to the stellar story, which has been praised to the stratosphere and back countless times of the years, and the characters that populate it, all of it driven by wonderful acting performances and solid, enjoyable stealth and combat gameplay.
Once again though, it helps that Sony has overseen a handful of re-releases to keep giving people another reason to experience The Last of Us all over again. A remaster was released on the PS4 a year after the game’s launch, bundling the game and its DLC together while also bringing significant visual improvements to a game that already looked stunning. Coming at a time when the PS4 was very much the new kid around the block, we (and millions of others) were ecstatic to experience an improved version of one of Sony’s biggest releases of all time on our new, shiny console.
That, of course, was followed last year by The Last of Us Part 1, a ground-up remake that stays extremely faithful to the original in terms of gameplay and story, but once again, makes massive technical and visual improvements, entirely rebuilding the game from scratch while leveraging the PS5’s hardware. And as controversial as its very existence might be, re-experiencing The Last of Us with all of those enhancements once again proved to be a proposition we couldn’t say not to. Sadly, its PC launch has been something of a disaster- but that’s a different story…
Good game design is timeless- it’s something that’s been said countless times, and very few games out there prove that as thoroughly as Metroid Prime does. It’s the peak of level design and atmosphere, of how to expertly blend combat and exploration, of how to craft a game that will still be far more compelling to play decades on from its launch than almost anything that has followed it. Metroid Prime took the industry by storm on the GameCube with its release in 2002, and even back then, it was easy to see that this was a game that people would be coming back to again and again and again over the years.
Of course, the Metroid Prime’s trajectory has been a bit more rocky, especially from a commercial perspective, yet even so, Metroid Prime, at the very least, is a game that we’ve had plenty of opportunities to dive back into, whether that’s with its launch on the Wii, which let players play the game with full motion controls, or with the much more recent Metroid Prime Remastered.
The latter in particular is deserving of heaps of praise. It really is a remaster that goes above and beyond in more ways than one, to the extent that calling it a remaster almost doesn’t seem to do it justice. From a gameplay perspective, Retro Studios has left everything about the design and the actual content untouched, but the simple act of being able to play with twin stick controls and finally being able to aim and shoot while moving completely changes the game, and arguably even improves it. Meanwhile, on the audio visual front, the glow-up that Metroid Prime has received with this remaster is almost startling- hell, it may even be one of the best looking games on the Nintendo Switch.
GRAND THEFT AUTO 5
Well, of course people keep going back to GTA 5– it’s sold over 175 million copies, and by the time this sentence is finished, it’ll probably have sold another million. New players, returning players, you name it- there’s no shortage of people out there who are constantly jumping into GTA 5, and then jumping back in. And yes, it has an excellent campaign that probably does hold the attention of a great many players, even now, a decade on from the game’s launch- but let’s face it, GTA Online is what has primarily fueled this train over the years, and still continues to.
No one could have predicted that GTA Online would grow into what it went on to become, but by now, it’s a dynasty in and of itself, driving so much engagement, attracting so many players, and earning so much money that thanks to it, GTA 5 still manages to outsell some of the biggest new releases, even today. Is it disappointing that that had to come at the cost of Rockstar making single player DLC for the game? Absolutely it is- but you can’t argue with the results.
And of course, there has been no shortage of re-releases either, from its PS4 and Xbox One port a year after its initial launch, to a PC version not long after that, to, of course, the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S remaster in 2022. Of these, the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S has obviously been the most underwhelming, but time hasn’t done nearly enough to dull this game’s quality just yet.
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