That Completing Feeling

Perhaps fittingly, this article took me a long time to complete.

Some games take a bit longer to finish than others. Occasionally, a lot longer. A game you might enjoy isn’t necessarily compelling all the time, so sometimes you may need to take a long break. When you add the many distractions that life brings onto an already long game completion time, you might just find that several months pass you by before you have the chance to go back and finish what you left hanging long ago. On the other hand, sometimes you’ll try pretty consistently to finish something, but your skill level just isn’t up to the task. Only plenty of practice and determination will see you over the finish line (as in life). And then there are the games that just won’t end. Either way, finishing a game you started a long time ago is nearly always immensely satisfying.

This list is dedicated to those games that have taken me real effort to complete throughout my own personal gaming history.

Three clarifications:
One, this list does not take into account how long it took me to “get to 100% completion” in a particular game, but rather how long it took to reach the end credits of its story mode/campaign/etc.
Two, a game needs to have taken me at least 3 months to complete to be eligible for this list.
Three, this list is ranked by effort rather than length. Though I have included approximations of how long each game took to finish, this time figure does not determine the order of the list. Less quantifiable factors went into deciding how much of an effort each game represented to me.

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10. Sonic Adventure 2: Battle (Gamecube ~6 months)

Any fan of Sonic Adventure 2 Battle will tell you that the game has a ton of content, the most appealing of which comprises what is quite possibly the most in-depth Tamagotchi-style pet simulator systems ever put into a videogame. The Chao Garden was a notoriously addictive time sink for most players of the Dreamcast/Gamecube favourite and it was the primary reason that it took me so long to reach the end of the actual story. Sure, the release of Super Smash Bros Melee a mere two weeks after the Gamecube version launched certainly got in the way, as did my skill level and some confusing late level design (Crazy Gadget, anyone?). But above all, it was those damn adorable Chao that kept me from making a serious push to finish both of the game’s parallel storylines. When the game’s “epilogue campaign” then appeared, it came as a genuine surprise and a formidable challenge, so my satisfaction at the end credits only increased.


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9. Spacestation Silicon Valley (Nintendo 64 ~2 years)

Back when lending game cartridges to a friend and renting them from a video store were much more common activities than they are now, Spacestation Silicon Valley was the regular subject of both in our house. I didn’t own it until the game had long left store shelves, so the first time I finished it I did so after years of enforced stop-start playing. It was a decent measure of my slowly improving gaming ability in the late 90s and early 2000s, as I remember being incredibly frustrated with certain levels of the still rather unique robot-animal-control action platformer the first few times I played. Getting to that final level, which was so markedly different from everything that came before it, felt like a fever dream in more ways than one. Years later I even went on to 99% the game (a notorious glitch made 100% infuriatingly impossible), such was my fondness for it. A footnote: I only found out this year that its developer DMA Design, who I thought long dead, went on to become Rockstar Games, makers of the Grand Theft Auto franchise. Whoah.
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8. Persona 4 Golden (PS Vita ~4 months)

In terms of time from first session to end credits, Persona 4 Golden took less than anything else on this list – merely a third of a year covering the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013. Those magic four months, however, were marked by a single-mindedness the likes of which I rarely experience with videogames. Over the majority of that very busy time period in my life, P4G was the only – and I really mean only – game I played. Given my frequent tendency to juggle multiple games at a time and then hardly finish any of them, this was unusual to say the least. Yet anyone who has played the Vita gem will tell you that Persona 4 Golden is a lengthy and multi-faceted experience that tends to demand that kind of attention. Back in 2009 I had put some 20 hours into the initial PS2 version of Persona 4 and failed to complete it, so the catharsis was palpable when I finally reached the end of the story after 87 hours of gameplay. Then I found out a few weeks later that I had missed the “true ending” and a part of me died inside.
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7. Final Fantasy XIII (PS3 ~1.5 years)

This is a weird one. It’s a pretty well-worn saying among JRPG fans that Final Fantasy XIII only “gets good” after around twenty hours of gameplay – by that people usually mean the gameplay only opens up and sheds its rusty training wheels in its second half. Whether that can really make a game worth playing is an argument for another time, but it’s relevant to this list because for me, the division between that first and second half was marked by almost a year of the game sitting on my shelf untouched. Some might say I ran out of steam, tired of all the corridor running and melodramatic storytelling – but they’d be wrong. The reason I stopped playing FF XIII was that a little game called Pokemon Soul Silver came out 16 days after it did and there was never any chance I’d play anything else once that happened. After a hectic year of game release upon game release, 2011 opened with the usual quiet period for big releases and I came back to XIII, which was a bit of a struggle because at that point I had forgotten pretty much everything about the story. Blame my return on the lure of that unique battle system. It took a few hours to get back into the rhythm of the game but things got better and, after a few more months of intermittent playing, I was done. And it was so, so satisfying.
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6. Four Swords Adventures (Gamecube ~1 year)

From here on in the countdown you’re going to see a lot of local co-op slogs. I’ve already talked about the joys and frustrations of Four Swords Adventures in two separate countdowns on this blog – my Top 10 Gamecube games and my Top 10 Zelda games – so I’d only be repeating myself if I said much more. But oh, how good it felt to beat that last boss after all those shenanigans…
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5. Tales of Graces f (PS3 ~1.5 years)

The newest entry onto this list is also the immediate reason why I decided to write it. Several years after a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to plow through Tales of Vesperia on the Xbox 360 with all three of my siblings, I was referred to this PS3 title by a friend and decided to see who I could get on board to join me in giving it a go. One brother and one sister agreed and another lengthy saga began. The usual difficulties with getting three busy people together to play one extremely long game meant Tales of Grace f was a shoo-in for this list, but it deserves special mention for the fact that after some 50+ hours of battles, exploration and cutscenes, the end credits rolled… Only to unlock another 10 hour bonus campaign. Thankfully said campaign is highly entertaining and we burnt through it at a much faster rate than the main game.
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4. Borderlands (360 ~2 years)

It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that the original Borderlands was a game that significantly changed my life. It was the game that ultimately convinced me back in 2009 that getting an Xbox 360 was a good move, which indirectly led me from the path of a simple Nintendo-only man to that of a must-have-every-major-console whore. It also led to an imprudent opening weekend binge that turned me off peach flavoured ice tea and hommus dip for years – long story – and rendered me unable to play the game without feeling physically ill for a period of about 6 months. After I got back into the shootin’ and the lootin’, I had several characters going at once, but steadily over the next year and a half I pushed through several hurdles in co-op with my brother – including a significant accidental character wipe that set us back dozens of in-game hours – to complete the game’s main story. Then it was on to the four excellent DLC packs, which added up to almost another whole game’s worth of length and brought us right up to the launch of Borderlands 2 in late 2012. What a game.
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3. Donkey Kong 64 (Nintendo 64 ~1.5 years)

The approximation I’ve given for this one is more approximate than anything else on this page, because I just couldn’t tell you exactly how long it took me to finally beat King K. Rool at the end of Donkey Kong 64 – It was that long ago. My first ever console videogame absolutely stumped me on multiple occasions, such was my inexperience with the general structure of game design. I distinctly remember being unable to even reach Diddy Kong’s cage in the game’s first level for days. Of course as collect-a-thon platformers go, Donkey Kong 64 had some notoriously difficult sections, each of which tripped me up to the extent that might easily have caused me to give up. But back in my day (*shakes walking stick*) we didn’t have Steam sales and cheap mobile games, so a young’un like me didn’t have another videogame to turn to – I just plodded on. Until I reached that door near the end – yes, the one that required the dreaded Rareware and Nintendo coins. Cue a rage quit that lasted a fair while, because beating the original arcade Donkey Kong not once but twice seemed damn near impossible. Eventually, though, I came back to the game and toppled that 8-bit behemoth, powered through the marathon final boss fight (so many deaths) through sheer adrenaline, put down my controller and rejoiced.
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2. Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii ~8 months)

Another DK game, but one I finished under very different circumstances. When Donkey Kong Country Returns hit the Wii at the end of its last strong year, 2010, I got right into the hype. Despite my general preference for 3D platformers over 2D ones, I was more than happy to follow the advice of the critics who praised its level design, aesthetic and unforgiving difficulty. For some insane reason, I pledged to finish the entire game in co-op, meaning double life losses for bad screw-ups and generally more difficult progress due to having to synchronise with a partner. My self-set task was pretty far from easy, as one by one the people I chose to play with fell by the wayside out of frustration. By the end of the arduous campaign I had made my way through seven different co-op buddies over eight long months of stop-start sessions. Then, at the end of all eight devilish worlds, the gate to a secret ninth unlocked, requiring eight uber-collectables from the preceding levels. And we hadn’t even found one. Yep.
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1. Tales of Symphonia (Gamecube ~4 years)

In terms of effort or scope, nothing in my gaming career will probably ever reach the sheer drawn-out saga that was my first Tales game. From Christmas 2004 to the embers of 2008, my three siblings and I slogged through one of the longest and most rewarding JRPG experiences I have ever undertaken. Four completely different personalities and, let’s be honest, four completely different life priority lists ensured that ToG sessions came along rarely, but the large and diverse character list, twist-laden story, action packed co-operative battle system and an ongoing search for the Wonder Chef kept us slowly chugging along to the game’s epic conclusion. The ordeal was made all the more satisfying by the fact that we moved house twice before finishing the game, and a sizeable chunk of progress was made during a disappointingly rainy family trip to Coffs Harbour in 2005. I hope I don’t ever forget that special gaming memory in my life.

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So I have this game that I bought in August last year – Tales of Xillia (yep, another one of those)… We only just started it recently. I shudder to think how long it will take to finish that sucker. I’m still making my way through Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze on Wii U too…

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