What makes a game truly great?

2 min read

Having finished playing The Last of Us, I have been contemplating great games I’ve played.  There have been many, but which of them are really memorable, and why?

For a long time, I was convinced that it was fantastic plot with believable characters.  Give me a great story with some cool people and it should make for a great game.  Yet this isn’t always the case.  I mean, look at Dragon Age 2.  It wasn’t a bad game, and it had an interesting plot and a whole range of intriguing characters.  But the gameplay was just wrong – too much back and forth, repetition and the one dungeon that was recycled throughout.

So maybe all we need are good game play mechanics.  But no, I can’t say that either.  I mean, I thoroughly enjoyed Prototype (I know, I’m the only one), but it was so weak on story and character that the rest of the game fell apart – somehow the “you are mutant, go!” approach to plot didn’t resonate with gamers.

Then we have some great games, such as Beyond Good and Evil.  It really wasn’t anything special regarding graphics, or even game play or plot.  Yet the way the story was woven together, and how the game play was used, made for a truly unique and exciting game.

Or there’s The Last of Us, which goes beyond any game I’ve played in years, if not ever.  Why?  The plot isn’t particularly brilliant, and most of the game play borrows from one game or another.  And yet, the relationships, the attention to detail, the realism, they all come together to make it such a special game.

Now, I’m not saying that a game needs to be great to be enjoyable.  Sometimes, all you want is pwnage, and there are games you will reach for again and again just to blow of steam and relax.  Yet there are games that define gaming for you and raise your level of expectation.  So I ask you, what makes a game go above and beyond?  What takes it from the level of being “a good game” to being memorable, exciting or even reinvigorating as a gamer?

Last Updated: June 28, 2013

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