Ok, so I exaggerated a little. For a game to have replay value, it has to have good gameplay first. But let’s consider that a game is good; forget graphics and sound: I want to know if it will stand the test of time. How many times have you beaten a game and then neatly placed on your shelf just to gather dust? A few months later you remember you own the game and never want to play it again, so you are forced to take it to some used game store to trade it in for a fifth of its original price. Why do we feel we must do such horrible things? Because the game had no replay value.
If I pay $30-50 for a game, I want to squeeze out as much juice from it as I can. I don’t want to go through 15-20 hours of gameplay and then never boot it up again. *cough* Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time *cough*. Wait, enough coughing; let’s explore this more. Why do I never want to play that game again?
It’s repetitive. I grew tired of killing the same Shroobs over and over again. Nintendo felt like it was a new enemy just because they gave the stronger Shroobs different colors and attacks, but in essence they were all the same alien. I didn’t feel like learning the complicated four player attacks, which made it more difficult later in the game when I was still using Bro Flowers and Ice Flowers.
But enough of my ranting... let’s get to the real point: once you beat Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, there was nothing else to do! No unlockables, no new characters, no new difficulty levels. Nothing. That was the main problem with this game. By the end of the game, I had only logged 19 hours. That means I paid more than a dollar per hour to play. So let’s think about this... why do we buy games? Some are for realism, some just for fun, but ultimately when you buy a game, you want it to have lasting appeal. So below I will discuss some key replay value factors you should look for when buying games.
Whether it be new characters, new levels, extra art, or simply alternate costumes, unlockables will keep a gamer going until his thumbs bleed. The most pertinent example is Super Smash Bros: Melee. Not only does Nintendo include new characters and new levels, but it has over 200 trophies you can collect – some of which can keep you playing for quite a while. Another example would be the two most recent Mario Karts for Gamecube and Nintendo DS. Like SSBM, you start out with limited characters and levels, and progress throughout the game unlocking tracks, karts, and drivers.
This might fall somewhat under unlockables depending on which game you’re playing, but being able to replay the game under a Hard Mode so you can challenge yourself extends the life of the game for at least a few more weeks. One game that really exploits this is Phantasy Star Online, where you can eventually reach the “Ultimate” difficulty. Although I can’t quite imagine a Rap Rappy as being “ultimate.”
A mode which I personally love is New Game +, where you are able to replay the game, but start with all the armor and weapons you currently have. Several of the Castlevania releases and Boktai for GBA have implemented this option. There’s just nothing like going back to the very first boss that gave you crap and killing him in two or three hits with the badass weapon you got near the end of the game.