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.
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.