A little while back, I completed New Super Mario Bros. U in a series of live streams. Beating the game was never part of the plan. However, after that first stream, we were almost half way through and I was having a lot of fun. It was a rare moment for me, as I don’t really take the time to go back and revisit old games.
When I first started gaming as a young child, I was more inclined to play games through more than once. The games in front of me were all I had most of the time, so you make due with what you have. Furthermore, I didn’t know what was out there beyond whatever my friends had or whatever my local rental store had available.
Before I became a teenager, I discovered gaming magazines. That was my source for everything that was new and everything that was next. All of a sudden, playing through Contra for the 80 billionth time didn’t sound so appealing. Within those pages were all sorts of games I wanted to try. Still with little income outside of birthday money, I was instead able to experience new games by renting, buying used or trading in my old ones with my parents covering the difference if the price was small enough. There was no way I could afford Super Street Fighter II for $100, but I scooped up a used copy months later for $30 at my local video store.
As soon as I became aware of the greater gaming zeitgeist, I wanted to be a part of that mix. I wanted to either be a part of or lead the conversation about games with my friends. In order to do that, I had to keep playing new stuff. I’ve played through the 8-and-16-bit Super Mario games many times over, but I’ve only beaten Super Mario 64 once. Same for Ocarina of Time. Single-player games in particular got left by the wayside after I was done with them in order to chase the next new thing.
It only got worse when I got a job in high school. With money to burn, I was buying games I’d never end up playing. I played the original Wind Waker for a total of an hour before abandoning it. Then I bought Wind Waker HD and have never played it. I own Metroid Prime 2: Echoes on Gamecube and Wii U Virtual Console as part of the trilogy and have never played it.
The pressure to stay fresh has been amplified even further by In Third Person. In order to have new things to write about, I keep needing to play new games. God of War in 2018 was fantastic, but I didn’t even bother trying to get the side stuff after the credits rolled because I felt the need to move onto the next game. There are hundreds of fantastic games in my collection that may never get played again because seeking out the next thing fuels this content creation hobby of mine.
Certain games I can always come back to. Titles like Contra and Mega Man 2 are comfort food to me. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re short, making the process of getting in-and-out to be fairly painless. Multiplayer games are also easy to dive into after an extended hiatus. But lengthy single-player games? That’s a tough proposition. Mass Effect 2 is one of my all-time faves, and I don’t know if I can sacrifice the 40+ hours needed to beat it again when I could play so many other new games with that time.
How often do you indulge in your back catalogue? What keeps you coming back? Or what keeps you moving forward?