How do you measure the value of a game? Is it in the price and the quality of the content? Does a six hour game with high production values and an emotional story appeal to you? Or is it in multiplayer, the competitive nature of the experience pushing you to return time and again? Maybe it’s in the game’s social nature as you make friends and embark on epic quests tailored for groups.
It could be a number of things but in this age of lifestyle games, more and more people are looking to get the maximum amount of hours from a single title. To that end, we present four games which you can safely invest 1000 hours in (and probably more).
"To that end, Warframe’s gameplay offers two very simple tenets – freedom of choice and the overwhelming power that comes with it."
Honestly, it’s not just that Warframe has had a long, difficult journey and only the past couple of years have yielded any true success. The game’s continued support belies its oft-times buggy content updates that run PC players through the ringer before they’re stable. But again, the fact that there is such a dedicated fan base that helps to fund Digital Extremes and ensure this game stays alive is truly exemplary on its own.
Gameplay is often a huge motivator in a free to play game. When you throw in action RPG mechanics with loot grinding where the best mods and blueprints run into the 0.67 decimal range of drop chance, you need to give players a reason to come back. To that end, Warframe’s gameplay offers two very simple tenets – freedom of choice and the overwhelming power that comes with it. You may not get Maiming Strike in your lifetime but put in the time to Forma that Galatine Prime (which must also be farmed separately through Relics, which – as you’ve guessed – must be farmed separately) and you’ll gain a beast of a weapon with 200 percent more melee damage, numerous status effects, higher attack speed and a new stance.
The feedback from the gameplay is also truly special. One could argue that the shooting isn’t nearly as responsive or satisfying as, say, Destiny. However, there’s just something so satisfying about firing a Lenz, watching an arrow initially explode into a cloud of frost to slow enemies and then detonating for massive damage (with red crit numbers because you happened to gain a powerful Riven). The Akstiletto Prime makes you feel unstoppable at times as you down hordes of enemies with its fully automatic fire. However, on the other hand, the sheer precision of the Sybaris and its variants, delivering satisfying slash damage on head shots and built to effectively one-shot foes, can’t be ignored. Nor can the Opticor, a venerable BFG that nukes vehicles and mobs of enemies into dust.
"Even the starting frame Excalibur can channel an energy sword that fires waves of energy into crowds with each slice when he’s not dashing through foes or blinding them."
You probably get the idea by now and that only extends further into the melee combat since you can punch, smash, slash, dice and bash your way through enemies. Some weapons are definitely more effective than others but again, that satisfaction of channeling a katana like Nikana Prime to slice through hordes just feels…right. When we talk about overwhelming power, it would be remiss to not mention the Warframes themselves. Mesa is a DPS frame that can activate the rapid fire High Noon, mowing down enemies like a turret that scales in damage the longer it fires upon a single target. Valkyr has an insane amount of armour that can only increase (along with her attack power) with Warcry; that’s before she goes into Berserker mode and tears enemies apart with her claws in Hysteria mode, remaining invulnerable all throughout. Even the starting frame Excalibur can channel an energy sword that fires waves of energy into crowds with each slice when he’s not dashing through foes or blinding them.
So Warframe promises tons of power with awesome gameplay and the freedom to play how you’d like. What exactly do you do though? You could start by clearing the Star Map, completing each and every single mission, going through bosses and quest-lines. Eventually, after clearing enough Junctions, you’ll encounter a quest-line called The Second Dream. This is Warframe’s cinematic story quest which delves deeper into the origins of the Lotus, the Tenno and the Orokin. It’s followed up by The War Within, which further explores the Tenno’s innate power while introducing the Grineer’s higher command.
The Plains of Eidolon will open up early but really, it’s better idea visit them when a good portion of the Star Map has been cleared. Here you’ll find various bounties to complete that again lead to rare mods, Relics, set mods and parts of a Warframe. Hunting Eidolons, which appear in the night (incidentally granting access to a tougher range of bounties), can be highly chaotic. It’s possible to solo them but you need to find the right equipment for your character, which – you guessed it – requires some farming. Even going in as a group, fighting an Eidolon can be difficult and there are three in total. Finish them off though and you could net a few Arcanes that give neat benefits.
"Warframe wants your time. It just might kill you to get it but if you can appreciate the gameplay, though, and want to constantly pursue something cool, then this may be the game for you."
Earning premium currency aka Platinum can be a time-sink in its own right. You farm Relics for Prime weapon parts or Warframe blueprints. From there, you either trade these to interested parties or sell them for Ducats at weekly vendor Baro Ki’teer which can then be used to buy Primed Mods. These Primed Mods usually fetch a handsome price but require quite the trading tax. Good thing there’s the Index.
This all may sound like Warframe is nothing but grinding. And you’re right – the grind is very much real and you’re pushed to do the same activities over and over again, using the same actions, to get what you want. However, you’re free to pursue that grind in whichever fashion you choose. Build a bad-ass Warframe that nukes everything or go with one that punches stuff with combos. Try to play Survival for as long as possible or simply farm the new Sanctuary Onslaught mode as much as possible. With instant matchmaking for every activity, ship interior and exterior customization, living quarters, the Focus system for additional benefits, hundreds of weapons and dozens of Frames to collect, numerous cosmetics, and constant changes and content updates, Warframe wants your time. It just might kill you to get it but if you can appreciate the gameplay and want to constantly pursue something cool, then this may be the game for you.
"Once you get bored spending a couple of hundred hours in the base game, there are three DLC packs to work through."
What can you say about The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim that hasn’t been said already? Released in 2011, the open world RPG is revered for its massive world full of little details to discover and sights to see. Granted, it’s beyond showing its age at this point and is still plagued with a number of different bugs. But the fact that Skyrim is still one of the most consistently played games on Steam – with a faithful fan-base clamouring for the next edition of Elder Scrolls – is saying something. It’s a testament to the game’s staying power, if nothing else.
By now, you know the drill. Your player character is the Dragonborn, an entity that possesses the power to control dragons and harness shouts for the expressed purpose of saving the world. After escaping an execution, the journey to combat Alduin, the World Eater, begins. Of course, you can completely forgo that quest if you’d like and just get lost exploring Skyrim. Head off the beaten path and discover a number of handcrafted dungeons with fancy loot. Take up side quests for the world’s denizens. Get involved with the Thieves Guild and see what quests they have to offer. Craft better weapons, learn powerful shouts and eventually go up against dragons, harnessing their souls to become stronger.
Once you get bored spending a couple of hundred hours in the base game, there are three DLC packs to work through. Hearthfire lets you build a home and adopt children. Pick up furniture, create a garden or stuff your trophy room. Heck, own multiple homes across the land if you so desire. Dawnguard gets into the real meat of things, adding new armour and weapons, a chance to become a Vampire Lord,and explore a number of new locations like the Soul Cairn, Castle Volkihar and so on. Dragonborn is the best of the bunch, taking place in an entirely new region called Solsteim and tasking you to fight the first Dragonborn for supremacy. New shouts, new armour, new dungeons, new everything permeates the DLC.
"The highly customizable nature of the game is the key to Skyrim’s staying power. There are just so many ways to mod it, from graphical and UI mods to entire regions and quests."
Of course, aside from the various ways to customize the experience – from your class, appearance, path and overall playstyle – using what’s present in the game, there are mods that completely transform the game. Falskaar is an entirely new world to explore and contains 26 quests with 20 to 30 hours of gameplay, not to mention new music, a wide range of voice actors for the new characters, and a bunch of open world content to explore. Moonpath to Elsweyr takes you to the Khajit’s homeland with vast jungles to explore and new enemies to battle like forest queen spiders, river crabs and whatnot along with featuring its own quests. Cutting Room Floor actually brings back a lot of the content that was removed from the base game, further enhancing it with different villages, NPCs, items and quests. The Forgotten City is a delightful murder mystery in a brand new city with new NPCs and various secrets. Want a brand new start? Live Another Life is here for you.
The highly customizable nature of the game is the key to Skyrim’s staying power. There are just so many ways to mod it, from graphical and UI mods to entire regions and quests. Notice boards from The Witcher for various quests and bounties, smarter NPCs, better dialogue choices, an improved map, survival mechanics, the list goes on.
Skyrim is far from perfect. The melee combat can be pretty clunky and, as noted, there are tons of bugs. There are a number of mods that unfortunately aren’t supported by Skyrim Special Edition, whichis a major bummer. Bethesda may have pushed Skyrim for all its worth, especially with its controversial Creation Club. It’s entirely possible to bypass that though, invest in the old version and its DLC, and have a ball of time. At the end of the day, there’s no denying that Skyrim offers so much to do and see before you truly start to define how you’d like to play.
Path of Exile
"So right off the bat, there’s a very strong campaign to play through with a deep levelling process. Every upgrade makes a difference and you’re free to pursue any course/build you so desire."
Another free to play action RPG that’s been doing the rounds and arguably racked up more acclaim than Warframe is Grinding Gear Games’ Path of Exile. When it launched in October 2013, the world was already long past dealing with a troubled Diablo 3 launch. Where was the epic isometric action RPG that we could pour so much time into? Path of Exile turned out to be the correct choice, despite server issues and disconnects that still continue to this day (though nowhere near as much as the early days).
Path of Exile focuses on a single Exile who ends up shipwrecked on Wraeclast. The Exile quickly meets other characters, taking on quests, finding gear and weapons, and progressively growing in power. Like Diablo, the focus is on scrounging for loot, killing mobs and clearing chapters with seven different classes. Each class a Passive Skill Tree to work through and depending on the nodes activated, you can choose to more tankiness, more agility to dodge attacks, dual attack damage, single sword damage and so on. Then each class has three Ascendancies, which can be considered deeper specializations with their own extremely valuable talents. Of course, each weapon and gear piece also has slots for gems that act as the core abilities. If a multi-strike, ice shard, fast hitting, increased elemental damage with heal on hit skill is the ability desired, then choose a loot piece, make sure it has the adjoining slots linked and go to town.
So right off the bat, there’s a very strong campaign to play through with a deep levelling process. Every upgrade makes a difference and you’re free to pursue any course/build you so desire. Granted, the Scion has only one Ascendancy so that’s 19 different Ascendancies to choose from and spec into. What do you do when the campaign is finished?
"Of course, Path of Exile isn’t just about replaying the same content with hardly any changes. Grinding Gear Games is constantly updating the game, bringing free expansions and new Leagues."
A robust end-game called the Atlas of Worlds awaits. The basic premise is finding maps (which can be dropped by select enemies) and accessing these nodes on the Atlas. With the recent War for the Atlas expansion, the end-game has received 32 new maps with new skill gems, 48 unique items and 19 new bosses to battle. As such, the developer is continuously adding new items and gems, providing something worth pursuing. One of the most endearing parts of Path of Exile, however, is just how addictive the combat is. Even if RNG doesn’t bless you with that loot or gem drop, it’s possible to level your own gems and gain in strength. Bored with the current build on your character? Perusing Orbs of Regret allows for starting from scratch (though it should be noted that newer players won’t be able to abuse this in the short term).
What build options are available? A quick look at the official forums for the Ranger class indicate the following choices: Elemental Spectral Throw Pathfinder, Kinetic Blast Deadeye, Dreamfeather Frost Blade Rapier, an over 30K HP recovery per second build, Quill Rain Tornado Shot, Spectral Shield Throw Deadeye, Voidfletcher Dead Eye, Lightning Arrow/Blast Rain Pathfinder with max block, the list goes on. Those are just a small percentage of viable builds for a single class. Will you immediately find all the items listed for these builds? No but it’s something to work towards, providing endless replay value on that aspect alone.
Of course, Path of Exile isn’t just about replaying the same content with hardly any changes. Grinding Gear Games is constantly updating the game, bringing free expansions and new Leagues. The Leagues place interesting modifiers and goals on new playthroughs with the promise of unique rewards and loot. Take the Abyss League, for example, where players had to hunt down various cracks called Abysses which would spawn enemies as the rupture spread forth.
"Like Warframe, Path of Exile is for a very particular kind of action RPG player. The combat may not be as fluid and polished as Diablo 3 and there are a fair number of bugs."
The end point provides a powerful boss and treasure chest, granting Abyssal Items and Jewels. Sometimes that end point can provide an Abyssal Trove which grants up to three Abyssal Items; Abyssal Depths spawn post-level 40 zones. Then there was the recent Bestiary League which tasked players with hunting down and capturing various monsters. New Leagues are often added and the most popular ones can become mainstays of the base game. The recently announced Incursion League tasks players with traveling to the past, assault a Vaal temple and eventually find its location in the present day to raid it for loot.
There’s still so much to go through in the game like Divination Cards which grant rewards when trading a stack; Exalted Orbs which grant random affixes to rare equipment and Chaos Orbs which reforge weapons with new stats; two different entities to side with in the War for the Atlas; map tiers to grind for; trading, which honestly can range from great to incredibly shady; and joining with other players. Even the microtransactions are pretty fair, restricted as they are to stash increases and cosmetic items.
Like Warframe, Path of Exile is for a very particular kind of action RPG player. The combat may not be as fluid and polished as Diablo 3 and there are a fair number of bugs. However, the sheer amount of fun content, addictive combat with endless customization and new rewards to hunt is simply staggering.
Monster Hunter World
"Though Monster Hunter World has a campaign, its progression system is weaved seamlessly into it. Low Rank is your introduction to all that is killable."
I debated which Monster Hunter deserved to be on this list. It was a toss-up between Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate and Monster Hunter World. So many accolades have been heaped upon the latter. Surely it was the easier choice just because it looks and plays better right? Well, no.
Make no mistake – Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate is an excellent game. There are tons of Monsters to hunt, diverse builds to pursue, deep combat which makes for a fun grind since enemy encounters never stay monotonous and Relic Weapons to incentivize long-term investment. Even Monster Hunter XX would have been a good choice with its huge variety of monsters, environments and Rarity 8 weapons. Monster Hunter World, however, doesn’t do all these things better. Instead, it expands on the core concepts of the franchise while presenting more dynamic battles on a larger scale.
Though Monster Hunter World has a campaign, its progression system is weaved seamlessly into it. Low Rank is your introduction to all that is killable. High Rank is where the big prey come out to play as you start learning about elements, Affinity, properly stacking gear bonuses and specializing in certain weapons. Before you know it, Hunter Rank is unlocked and tougher beasts are being slain, left and right.
The core foundation around Monster Hunter World is simple but the gameplay loop is extremely addictive. Kill monsters to craft more equipment and weapons that enables you to kill tougher monsters. The monsters themselves boast easy to grasp attack patterns but unpredictable temperaments depending on the environment. What happens if the monster enrages? What if a turf war starts? How do you deal with certain attacks? It all sounds so simple but no single monster is a cookie-cutter encounter. Instead, they span across the environment, using their strengths accordingly and doing their best to keep you down. If two monsters are engaged in a turf war, don’t be surprised if the target simply slinks away.
"As time goes by, you’ll battle Tempered Monsters and unlock Augmentation. This allows for additional buffs to weapons like Health on Hit, increased Affinity, etc."
Along with these bigger environments that encourage more different types of encounters compared to previous Monster Hunter tittles, it’s the combat that really keeps pulling you back. Monster Hunter World doesn’t just offer 14 weapon types like its predecessors, asking you to apply what’s already been mastered. Instead, it brings aspects like the Tackle to Greatswords or the Foresight Slash to Longswords. There are challenging weapons like the Charge Blade and Insect Glaive to properly grasp, support weapons like the Hunting Horn, long-range weapons like Bowguns and the regular Bow, and so on. There is a ton of depth to each weapon type and that further mixes up the encounters, builds and playstyles.
As time goes by, you’ll battle Tempered Monsters and unlock Augmentation. This allows for additional buffs to weapons like Health on Hit, increased Affinity, etc. Some armour pieces and weapons come with decoration slots to further reinforce certain passive skills and resistances. Charms can also be crafted for passive skills like increased weapon Sharpness. Armour can continue to be upgraded, thus bolstering your defense all the more. Decorations have their own rarities and can either be farmed from different tiers of Tempered Monsters (like Tempered Elder Dragons) or melded. There are so many different aspects to the game that it’s staggering. However, all of it feeds back into the same addictive combat, the dynamic encounters where anything can happen and the feedback loop of crafting.
Monster Hunter World has other ways to keep you busy though. Keep collecting monster tracks and eventually Investigations will be unlocked that provide special rewards but with different conditions. These can range from killing multiple monsters within a time limit or capturing a certain monster. The Arena exists with various challenges, pushing you to battle different monsters with pre-made builds.
"At times, it can feel like the RNG is against you in Monster Hunter World. There aren’t traditional loot drops, per say, and everything is focused on crafting."
Event quests like those that reward special weapons and armour from games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Devil May Cry, Mega Man and Street Fighter are cycled in and out. A new quest type was introduced with the Kulve Taroth Siege that offered a bevy of weapons to grind for, each presenting an existing weapon but with “melded” properties for that extra bit of oomph. Of course, seasonal events like the Spring Blossom Fest and newer monsters like Deviljho also provide all sorts of new challenges to tackle.
At times, it can feel like the RNG is against you in Monster Hunter World. There aren’t traditional loot drops, per say, and everything is focused on crafting. You will fight the same monsters again and again and again. However, in Monster Hunter World, these encounters can be fun every time. Well, almost every time (screw you, Bazelgeuse). However, both in the short-term and long-run, Monster Hunter World feels innately rewarding, bestowing an element of mastery to those who stay awhile and grind out that Hunter Rank.
Don’t worry if you don’t see World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2, Destiny, Overwatch, Team Fortress 2, Halo 3 and so on in this list. They’ve also earned their place as worthwhile experiences that are worth investing in. While games-as-a-service continues to be a bad word in today’s industry, there’s no denying the numerous games that deliver fun experiences over extended periods of time without robbing you blind. Regardless of your taste, it’s a great time to be a gamer with numerous titles on offer to invest years of your life into.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to GamingBolt as an organization.