At the dawn of the video game era, the time it took to complete a title was rarely a consideration on anybody's mind. With the market being dominated by the likes of Pacman and Tetris, the goal for players was to improve their skill levels and beat the high scores of others, rather than 'complete' every possible task within the game. However, as the gaming industry has evolved leaps and bounds, so have people's expectations.
With the biggest game titles now consisting of complex narratives and massive open worlds packed with hundreds of side quests, the time it takes to complete a playthrough is rapidly becoming a mark of quality. Many people would rather spend money on a game that they know they will get hundreds of hours of playtime from, rather than spending the same amount on a game they will finish in an hour or two. However, some people prefer shorter games, especially if they manage to pack a rich experience within a short timeframe. One genre of gaming that is no stranger to lengthy playtimes is, of course, the casino gaming genre. Especially when you consider the amount of time some players sit in front of slot machines.
Longest Video Games
Monster Hunter: Freedom Unite (455 Hours) This 2008 PlayStation Portable and iOS title is considered one of the longest games ever, not because it is a massive open-world game, but because it is so damn hard to beat. The Monster Hunter series is already a notoriously difficult one, but this expanded edition, in which you continue the protagonist's quest to capture monsters from Japanese folklore, has one of the steepest learning curves in any game ever. If you have plenty of time to kill, this is the one for you.
Animal Crossing: New Leaf (400 hours) On the surface, the Animal Crossing game series does not strike most people as one that can keep you playing for countless hours, as there is no clear endpoint at which you can say you have 'completed' it. However, if we take completion to mean the point where you have unlocked everything in the community, paid off your housing debt, and obtained all possible upgrades, then you're looking at a solid 400 hours.
Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (399 hours) It should come as no surprise to gaming fans that the Elder Scrolls franchise features highly on this list. The team at Bethesda is known for throwing immense resources into creating the massive open-world fantasy realm where the game takes place. There are countless settlements across Morrowind, offering hundreds of detailed ide quests to complement the main story. Completing this one requires true commitment.
Fallout 4: Complete Edition (228 hours) Anyone who thought Fallout 3 was a slog should not be surprised that its sequel is an even lengthier undertaking. While the standalone game can actually be completed in about 100 hours, the Game of the Year Edition contains so much DLC content and bonus missions that the playthrough time more than doubles. There is plenty to uncover in this post-apocalyptic open-world wasteland.
Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (224 hours) The most recent installment from the Elder Scrolls series may not be as lengthy as Morrowind, but it certainly tries its best. The vast open-world of Skyrim, located on the fictional continent of Tamriel, is chock-full of palace intrigues, guild quests, dragon-slaying, and tribal conflicts for you to get involved in. Completing all of the playable missions takes players an average of 224 hours.
The Witcher 3 (200 hours) Arguably the most critically-acclaimed open-world role-playing game ever released, the Witcher 3 is designed to keep you playing and playing. There are countless side missions and quests to keep you busy when you're not battling demons in The Continent of Redania, but what makes this game unique is just how rich each of these side missions is, with many of them being more engrossing than the actual storyline.
Xenoblade Chronicles X (200 hours) This 2015 open-world Wii game is unlike anything ever released on the console in that it is incredibly in-depth, with a detailed world to explore and a playthrough time that comfortably eclipses anything ever released on the Wii. The plot sees you don a cyborg exosuit and explore the wastes of New Los Angeles, a space colony filled with all sorts of sinister creatures. There are few gaming experiences like it.
Persona V (150 hours) This 2016 Japanese game, in which you play a Tokyo student who discovers that he and his classmates have various superpowers, takes the title for having the longest playthrough for a main story. Even if you ignore all of the side quests and 'social link' activities, you're looking at around 100 hours just to complete the plot. This is largely due to the focus on plot and character development, which means that the action moves at a glacial, if rewarding, pace.
Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 (133 hours) Everyone's favorite theme park building franchise released this monster of a game back in 2002, and it remains a firm fan favorite. While there isn't much of a linear plot, the time it takes for an average player to reach the top career level and acquire all of the land and assets possible is around 133 hours, making this by far the lengthiest simulation management game around.
Final Fantasy XII (120 hours) None of the Final Fantasy titles are known for being particularly short and sweet, but the twelfth installment from 2006 is on another level. The main plot itself is a lengthy slog, whilst the number of side quests is mind-boggling. However, the main reason this takes to long to complete is that much of the travel through the 'overworld' where the game is set must be done on foot, meaning that getting from one mission to another can take hours.
Shortest Video Games
Gone Home (45 minutes) It should come as no surprise that an indie title takes the top spot here. This simple yet enchanting narrative game, in which you play a college student who has just returned from a backpacking trip and must find clues in the family home to find out what happened to your sister, is the definition of short but sweet. The ending, which can be reached in mere minutes, will take your breath away nonetheless. Pokemon Snap (1 hour) This unusual Pokemon release, which originally came out in 1999 before being re-released for the Wii in 2007 with virtually no changes, is almost unbelievably brief. Despite being billed as a full-length Pokemon title, the splot, which consists of you taking photos of different pokemon for Professor Oak, can easily be clocked in just under an hour. Given that there isn't much to do in this game, that might be for the best.
Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zero (1 hour) This MGS release rightly provoked the ire of legions of fans of the franchise. The game was advertised (and priced) as a fully fleshed-out Metal Gear Solid title, despite it basically being a single mission that can be completed in an hour or less. It has been described as the shortest open-world experience of all time, which, given the immense length of the game's prequel, is doubly disappointing. The Bouncer (1 hour) This 1999 title is really all about the multiplayer deathmatches. The story mode, in which you play a nightclub bouncer who must save his friend from a murderous technology company, is over in the blink of an eye. Most of the playtime consists of cinematic cutscenes, whilst the actual gameplay is just a series of repetitive Street Fighter-style brawls with men in suits.
Papers, Please (90 minutes) Sometimes the shortest games have the greatest emotional impact, and Papers Please is a shining example of this. In this quirky indie game, you play a border guard in a fictional Soviet state that must decide who to grant entry and exit visas to. Despite the very short playtime, this is a game that forces you to consider the morals of your everyday decisions, as well as the myriad ways in which totalitarian states force us to confront our beliefs.
Mirror's Edge (3 hours) Easily one of the most gorgeous, sleekest games in existence, Mirror's Edge offers two or three hours of a completely immersive experience. Set in a dystopian surveillance state, you play a 'runner' who must sprint across the rooftops of a fictional megacity to deliver intel to your underground clients, dodging bullets and barbed wire along the way.
Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days (3 hours) This highly-anticipated sequel to Kane & Lynch: Dead Men was a disappointment in more ways than one. While many were quick to criticize the run-time of the violent shooter game, which comes in at around 3 hours, others also pointed out that the controls, narrative, and plot were equally disappointing. It made several rankings for the worst video games of 2010, and the producers were even sued by a Chinese court for 'vilifying' the Chinese people in the game's half-baked plot.
Quantum of Solace (4 hours) While many James Bond games are shining examples of how video game adaptations of movies can be done right, Quantum of Solace does not make the cut here. The game basically recreates the film scene-for-scene which, given that nobody's favorite bond film is Quantum of Solace, was not a recipe for critical or commercial success. On the bright side, this one can be completed in just under four hours. Saints Row: Gat Out of Hell (4 hours) This spin-off of Saints Row 4 follows Gat as he attempts to fight off demons and escape hell in a characteristically over-the-top installment. However, this game feels more like a DLC release than a fully-fledged standalone title, with the entire game, including all side missions, being easily clocked in about 4 hours. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (5 Hours) A departure from the more serious Far Cry games, Blood Dragon is more of a parody of 80s sci-fi movies, where you play a 'part man, part machine, all-American' commando who must defeat a roster of outlandish villains in a post-nuclear apocalypse society. Since the plot is nowhere near as detailed as it is in most other Far Cry games, it shouldn't come as a surprise that you can play through this open-world title in 5 hours or so.
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