My Top Five Unfinished Games

Ah, there you are, Dear Reader,

Ever own a game that you loved, got way into, and then didn’t finish? We all leave mediocre games un-mastered without a second thought, but why is it that sometimes you abandon an experience you truly loved? I’m on a quest to find out the answer, and to do so, I’m going to drag up an ordered tally of the five games I most egregiously left at the altar. Maybe I’ll notice some kind of theme or something. I don’t know, just go with me on this, Dear Reader, and try not to judge too harshly.

It's not you, GTA, it's me

5. Grand Theft Auto. You’ll notice I didn’t put a number next to the title there, because honestly, take your pick. I’ve played every GTA ever made, I’ve never beaten one of them. And as if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, I pretty much licked the plate clean on “Saint’s Row.” Where is the justice in that?

Where I Stopped: Normally about 50% of the way through the story missions. You know, right around the time they get challenging. In “GTA IV,” I recall pulling off some bangin’ bank heist gone wrong that was very reminiscent of “Heat.” That’s about the time Niko and I went off on an odyssey to date every floozie in Liberty City.

Cause: Distraction. I’ve dumped a massive amount of hours into “GTA IV” and “Chinatown Wars” in particular, but I don’t resolve the story because I’m too busy collecting exotic motorcycles, blowing up police helicopters, and taking girls on dates. Rockstar has just never given me a good enough reason to subject myself to their narrow-minded little mission structure, not when there’s an open playground like that beckoning my inner anarchist.


4. Final Fantasy VII. “Final Fantasy” offends me. There, I said it. You don’t get to be a sequel if you have nothing in common with your progenitors. It’s not allowed. No one enforces that rule, because until FF no one was a big enough douche to violate it. What would the world be like if everyone acted this way? You don’t see Steven Spielberg whipping out a movie about some kid with down syndrome who can throw a mean fastball and calling it “Jaws 2.”

All the same, VII hooked me in with its uniquely fantastic story. I put a lot of hours into this one.

Where I Stopped: Remember when you’re following that trail of blood through the compound, trying to get to Sephiroth? Right there.

Cause: Tech malfunction. My PC broke down, and I lost all of my save data. I just never rebounded from the frustration.


3. Thief: The Dark Project. And this one really hurts me, because “Thief” is one of my favorite games of all time. Why have I not completed one of my favorite games of all time? Why?

Where I Stopped: The last bloody mission. The very last one.

Cause: I really felt the game lost its thematic footing. The essential formula of “Thief” was, for me, mastered in the first level, the so-called “Bafford Job.” That was perfect game design, I played that mission dozens of times just for the pleasure of it. But once these weird, mythical creatures got involved, I just disconnected from the experience. The first time I crept up on one of those crab people, whacked him with a blackjack, and saw it do absolutely nothing, I felt the game had lost what made me love it.


2. Half Life 2. Ahem. If you weren’t judging me before, you certainly are now.

Where I Stopped: In that burnt out village where you get the gravity gun, and you have to use the rusty old blades to decapitate head-crab zombies.

Cause: I have no idea. I recall I had died a few times in that town, but it was nothing overwhelming. And I was loving the game, too, but I got to this place where I died a few times, and I suddenly just couldn’t summon the will to work out what I was doing wrong. To this day, I’ve never picked up and finished. I may never understand why.


1. Super Mario Bros. Yep. It’s all out there now, Dear Reader. Oh, I walk and talk like I have the same rich background in conquering SMB that you do; I even pretend to know about those shortcuts and warp pipes. But it’s all a lie, I’ve never tasted the victory myself.

Where I Stopped: Nowhere in particular. Throughout the years, I’ve played all of the eight worlds out of order, on different peoples’ systems.

Cause: Environmental factors. During the heyday of SMB, I was forbidden to own or play video games. I sneaked a bunch in on the computer, but that was a strange, non-canonical time to be a PC gamer. All the real action was happening on consoles, and I largely missed it.

This had two consequences: for one, I couldn’t play the games at their peak, and so I never really felt like I was a part of the Mario experience (until “Super Mario 64,” which I conquered six ways from Sunday). And secondly, even when I did finally acquire SMB for myself, I hadn’t built the platforming skills most people take for granted, and I found the game frustrating.

A combination of feeling like an outsider and mild frustration resulted in a permanent rift between Mario and me. I’ve played almost the entire game in pieces, but I’ve never conquered the ending boss for myself, and there are still those errant levels I just didn’t have the patience for. I’ve never truly beaten “Super Mario Bros.” I hope we can still hang out, Dear Reader.


death therapy, bob; it’s a guaranteed cure.

  • TheCrimsonKing

    If the more modern games listed were around pre high school, I’d probably beat them all 4 times over. But being they came out five years after high school and having job with long hours, girlfriend who needs to “do things” with “my money”, and other “hobbies”. There’s no way to justify sitting around taking them all in to their fullest. However, like you I left no stone unturned in Saints Row, that game was just plain old fun.

  • Maul

    ” You don’t get to be a sequel if you have nothing in common with your progenitors. It’s not allowed. No one enforces that rule, because until FF no one was a big enough douche to violate it.”

    I’ll have to introduce you to Halloween 3, Season of the Witch.

  • Eric Robbins

    You’ve never finished Half-Life 2 or any Super Mario Bros (what about Super Mario World)? You’re dead to me.

  • Andrew Allen

    No no no, I’ve finished many of the SMB games. Just not the ORIGINAL.

  • Eric Robbins

    You’re partially alive to me.

  • Bill Cover

    Ninja Gaiden…

  • Andrew Allen

    Bah! I blame them for that. Some of us like to ENJOY our play experience.