Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Replayability. What exactly does this phrase mean? Why are people/reviewers so obsessed with this term? Today we are going to focus on what exactly this phrase means, what qualities a game is supposed to have for this label and compare games from the past and see if they qualify for replayability.

Let’s break the word down and try to give a good concrete definition of what this term means. The ending of the word “ability” refers to something’s capacity to achieve or do something. The first part “replay” refers to playing or viewing the item more than once. Combining the two we will get our definition of “the capacity of the item to provide entertainment more than once or one playthrough”. Now we have a simplified definition of what this term means.

Let’s take our definition and apply it to video games to determine what factors a game must have in order to “give entertainment value more than once.” Off the top of my head, multiple character classes, different endings, multiple choices, unlockables, achievements, being non-linear (we’ll explore this one later), open world environments and multiplayer are qualities a game is supposed to have in order to have replayability.

I’m now going to put two games to the test in order to test if they have replayability. Mass Effect 2 and Super Mario Bros (NES) are considered two great games from two different time periods. First Mass Effect 2 has multiple classes, different endings, multiple choices, illusionary non-linearity, and achievements. This game passes our replayability test. Thus Mass Effect 2 is a game that you are able to play more than once due to these factors.

Super Mario Bros. (NES)
Let’s take Super Mario Bros on the NES through our test. Let’s see… hmm it has none of these except multiplayer … sort of. I guess this game doesn’t qualify as being replayable meaning you will play this game once and instantly return it since it offers no replay value… or does it? That’s odd, I can remember back in the day playing this game over and over because it was a fun game. When did our definition of replayability go from being a fun game, to having gimmicky qualities like multiple endings?

Gone are the days when video games were bought from the sole value of being a quality piece of entertainment, not whether the ending changes or it has multiplayer. It’s a shame really that we are limiting the creativity of game developers by forcing these characteristics upon games in order for them to sell. It’s a perfectly understandable argument that you would like to have these qualities in a game to provide maximum value since video games are a chunk of money these days. However back in the day, console video games were about the same price that they are now (sometimes more expensive) and today’s dollar is worth LESS than it was in the 90’s and 80’s.

Atari Newspaper Ad
What happened in the gaming industry? What happened to our expectations of what a quality game is supposed to be? In today’s industry a game can be a brilliant linear story line with amazing gameplay that can move you emotionally and thrill you, but it won’t sell because the ending doesn’t change or there is no multiplayer. I am sometimes ashamed at the video game community when they refuse to buy a game not because it is a bad game, but because it doesn’t meet our “replayability” checklist. Have we become spoiled by the aspect of multiplayer that we demand every game to have it? Do reviewers push their idea of replayability down our throats due to our much faster routes of communicating through the internet? Am I simply stupid and not up to speed on how I am supposed to think?

Let me give my own definition of what replayability checklist of qualities I look for. In order for a game to have replayability for me… it must be a fun game that shows the love and creativity of the developers behind it. Maybe I’m to forgiving, maybe my logic is flawed; maybe I just come from a different generation of gamers. I’m curious as to your opinions of the obsession of the term replayability. Is your concern on based on the cost of the game or what affects your purchasing decisions?


  1. According to me, replayability is just bullshit :) For example, Bioshock 2 has multiple endings etc. I loved the game, but I had no interest in completing it more than once because I had already chosen my path in the game...no reason to play it again just to make different choices which don't agree with my morals. I could certainly play Bioshock 2 again, but I would probably play it exactly the same as last time.

    Another example: Uncharted 2...no multiple endings. Still, I completed it like 3 times just because I loved the story and the feeling it gave me.

    Replayability is hokum! Nice post Dan, as usual. :)

  2. I'll say this, when they exist, multiple endings are nice when they actually do something significant. For example, The Witcher (maybe, I only know of what I've seen on stream), ME2, DA: Origins, I may not replay those games right away since I remember the story but the opportunity to shape what happens later down the storyline or in a sequel is awesome.

    I loved the Medal of Honor storyline, a game that
    I've heard many people badmouth since it didn't have CoD's multiplayer, but I couldn't put the controller down on my first playthrough. Even though I still remember the story, I'm still willing to pop it back in the PS3 and play just because I enjoyed it so much. On the other hand, just taking Portal 2's single player campaign, I LOVED it but I would say the campaign has little replayability because once you know how to solve a puzzle, theres no more challenge. I'd say its a tiny bit different from Mario but even then, I'm not a big mario fan. I'm no trophy hunter and I'm no hardcore multiplayer gamer, I guess I'm no different from a lot of people when it comes to expectations. What I want from each genre is a little different so I can't really sum it up a single phrase but I'll say that if you give me a great story and/or gameplay I'll love you long time.
    (MGS, DA, Valkyria, Demon Souls, SW:Battlefront (yes its still awesome) etc etc)

  3. Games are for entertainment, thus the main goal of every game, should be to make the player enjoy the game, have fun with the game, tell the friends: hey check out this game its pretty awesome! People are forgetting this hole goal, and their buying games, not to have a good time, but to have hardcore time, playing 10+ hours online, cursing, saying total bullshit... A game should be good by what it is, by what their creators made it good.

    "War never changes..." but Video Games do unfortunately


  4. Good Read Dan! Added this to our news page. http://www.3dgameman.com/news/2011/05/13/replayability

  5. It all has to do with the "Fun" factor of the game. Nintendo has always had a good idea of what a "fun" game should look like and be. The Mario Franchise is superb in its fun factor. Mario Carts is an old game is still REALLY fun to play over and over, against friends or even alone. Dust off the old Game Cube and try it out again. My kids LOVE the sandbox shooters such as Fallout and the original Crysis, because they get flexibility.