By the Last Token Gaming Staff
Like any passion, video games are a time commitment above all else. You sink hours of your precious time into just one, soaking up every detail and pushing through obstacles with tireless resolve. Sometimes, though, you get distracted, whether by another game or by other life priorities. A common occurrence…except when it ends up taking you literally years to finish it. In this article, members of the LTG staff look back at the games it took us way, waaaayyyy too long to complete, whether because of school, difficulty, shame from a game over, or whatever else. Let us know what games took you forever to wrap up in the comments!
Marshall Garvey – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Like any 90’s gaming kid, I got OoT for Christmas in 1998. Like any 90’s kid, I played it obsessively. Like any 90’s kid, I loved every second of it like nothing I’d experienced before. Like any 90’s kid, I was set to beat it well before the new millennium dawned. (Or before Majora’s Mask came out, that is.)
And then….Bongo Bongo happened.
Let’s be real: The Shadow Temple was already hellish to begin with. As you may recall in my first ever article for LTG, ReDeads absolutely traumatized me as a kid. I would literally stay awake in my bedroom in Roseville at night, my eyes fixated on the door with nightmarish visions of a ReDead walking through and aiming his paralyzing gaze on me. So having to go through a temple full of them and their mummified bastard twin Gibdo was kind of like having an arachnophobe crawl into a tub of spiders.
But that’s not the reason I stopped playing the best game ever for a couple years. There was another factor at play: Thanks to my meticulous strategizing and fairy-hoarding, I had the distinction of never having a single game over on my file, of which I was certainly proud. (Largely because the game keeps track of just how many you’ve had.) And I was *obsessed* with maintaining that zero all the way until I beat the game. I advanced to the boss battle against Bongo Bongo, whose demonic Sam Clayton impersonation proved too much for me. All my lives were drained, and at long last, I was saddled with my first ever “Game Over”.
If I were an even remotely normal kid, I would have gotten over this setback instantly and plugged away at beating him the next day. But the disappointment of my first game over became a source of real shame and humiliation in my mind. And I mean real. I immediately stuffed the cartridge in my N64 game case, where it would stay for awhile without disturbance. It reminds me of the boxer Floyd Patterson, who won far more than he lost. But the few times he did lose, he was so deeply humiliated he would wear a disguise in public. My embarrassment didn’t go to that extent…but whenever my sister Morgan asked if I was going to start playing OoT again, I sheepishly avoided the subject.
And so it would be for over a year until finally, sometime in early/mid 2001, I resolved to jump back in and purge my demons once and for all. With my old official guide at my side, I waltzed back into the Shadow Temple (albeit with the largest amount of fairy bottles possible), and stared down the one-eyed drumming machine once more. While Bongo Bongo did land some good shots (taking one life, if I do recall correctly), the rematch went my way this time. Rejuvenated, I proceeded to beat the entire game well before the year was over, even managing to beat Ganondorf/Ganon without dying once.
A redemption tale for the ages, no doubt.
Jake Rushing – Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door
Ah, nothing excited me more than the prospect of playing the solid sequel to one of my favorite N64 games. I never had any means to play Gamecube games until i got my Wii console back on Black Friday 2010. Then the following summer, I picked up Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door from Gamestop (back when they were still selling Gamecube games), and played through the majority of the game. I got 6 out of 7 Crystal Stars, got to the final area, ready to romp the final dungeon to get the final Crystal Star.
And then I stopped playing. I forgot exactly what caused me to take a break from Paper Mario, but I do remember that my second school year at UC Santa Cruz started, along with many stressful events that came from my previous year at school, and I focused on what I had on my plate. Then I got multiple games and Paper Mario fell by the wayside for a long time.
Fast forward to 2017. I was in the midst of collecting games, I already got Paper Mario for N64 re-added my collection along with obtaining Paper Jam for 3DS and Super Paper Mario for the Wii. I had just got Paper Mario Color Splash for Wii U, and it just occurred to me that I never finished The Thousand Year Door. I kept telling myself that I should go back and finish the game. And yet more months pass by and i never got back into it.
August rolled around, and I finally had enough of putting it off! I decided that, in my quest to play all of the games that I’ve collected (900+ and counting), I must finish Paper Mario. Between job hunting, it took me 4 sessions to finally beat the game. I finished it last night at the time of this writing!
Isaac Smith – Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX
So three of my all-time favorite games were the three PSX Final Fantasy releases, and for good reason! They are still largely regarded as being some of the best JRPGs ever made, if not some of the best games ever made. (Except VIII, of course. What the heck was wrong with that game?) For three separate reasons, I got almost through ALL of those games and didn’t beat them.
In Final Fantasy VII, in the final dungeon, you get a unique item: a save crystal, which lets you spawn a save point wherever you so choose. This is past the point of no return, so I couldn’t leave and grind for this final battle with Sephiroth (for which I was woefully unprepared). I foolishly assumed I’d get more save crystals later in the dungeon, so I used mine on the very first screen of the dungeon. I then spent hours upon hours running part of the way down the path, getting beaten nearly senseless, and then running back, only to have gained a tiny part of the many levels I’d need to actually beat the damn thing. So I gave up.
In Final Fantasy VIII, I had discovered CodeBreaker, a GameShark-esque cheating device that I used to make my first-position character invincible. In the final fight with Ultimecia, I had Squall, Zell and Quistis geared to the teeth, level 100 (which I later found out was a terrible idea), and I was ready to go. However, a unique mechanic of that fight is that if a particular character is dead for too long, they disintegrate and are replaced by the next character in your party until all are dead.
Well, somehow, Level 100 Beefy Invincible Zell Deluxe got fragged, and when he disintegrated, he was replaced by… Rinoa. I never used her. She was level 27. She had no Guardian Forces equipped and had a low-level weapon. This meant that all she could do was her basic attack, and it dealt between 50 and 100 damage with each strike. But she was invincible, so it was really just a battle of attrition. Because Ultimecia had millions of HP, it meant I had to attack her over and over for a couple of hours, leave my PlayStation on overnight, wake up the next morning, and repeat. After three days, I gave up.
In Final Fantasy IX, there’s a part about three quarters of the way through where you must choose four party members to a dungeon, in order to rescue the other four from the Big Bad, Kuja. I naturally sent my four favorites, overleveled and ready for anything. What the game neglected to mention was that the four remaining captive characters escape and must do a dungeon on their own, which is arguably harder than the quest the strong characters pursue. Since my ungeared, underleveled team got one-shotted by literally everything in the whole dungeon, I tried for several days and then finally gave up, once again.
I’m happy to say that I actually beat all three of them at a later date (and appreciated them more the second time around), but those three marathon-length games each thwarted me in their own way, and took me many more years to complete than they should’ve.
Benjamin Fitzgerald – Diablo II
I have a long history of starting video games and never finishing them. Growing up, I ascribed this fact to the limited time I had to play computer games, as my two brothers and I competed for computer time with both each other and our father. I didn’t beat my first computer game until I was in high school; I don’t think I beat my second computer game until I was in college.
In 9th grade, a friend of mine gave me a copy of Diablo, and we used it to play BattleNet with each other over landline internet connections. I never quite beat the game in high school, but I rectified the situation when I went to university. It didn’t really take me that long. If you’ve ever played Diablo, you know the game is only 16 levels (give or take a handful of side dungeons).
After I beat the first game, I made a New Year’s Resolution to finish Diablo II by the end of the year (2010). For a while, I worked devotedly on the game, and got through the first quarter or half of the game. Then I got busy with college. Classes, work and friends all kept me busy, and soon I’d forgotten all about Diablo.
Before I knew it, it was late November. Suddenly I remembered my New Year’s Resolution, and I only had a couple of weeks to finish the game before I had to leave my computer behind and go back home for Christmas break. And unlike the first Diablo, you can’t beat Diablo II in a day. So I diligently started the game and hacked through it piece by piece, and by the middle of December, I was glorious and triumphant.
It was the only New Year’s resolution I ever kept.
Terry Randolph – Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
Funnily enough, like my colleagues on here, I have a bad tendency to start games and get caught up in starting another game and getting lost in that. Eventually, I’ll find a way to make a return back to the game and all balance is restored in the world. Also funnily enough, both of my games that took me an insanely long time (and, coincidentally 3 years for each game) have Kingdom Hearts in the title.
Kingdom Hearts is absolutely one of my favorite video game experiences of all time. The cheesy, upbeat storyline mash up of Disney meets Final Fantasy was that odd couple marriage that seemed to click on all fronts. In many ways, Kingdom Hearts was a homage to the Disney legacy with Final Fantasy elements and characters spruced in for good measure. Scattered within this sweeping story were secrets to find, like crafting the ultimate blade, or secret bosses to face. Kingdom Hearts has the right elements to create an atmospheric, satisfying (yes, even with the shitty camera) game. The worlds were each self-contained stories that felt like retellings that all lead to a grandiose, major finale.
That said, I have a slight confession to make: I didn’t finish the game until right before Kingdom Hearts II came out. Not because I was bored, and not for lack of enjoyment. I just forgot about the game, and continued to play other games instead. It took finding the game box again to realize that I had not completed the game. After finishing it, I scratched my head wondering why I never finished the game until that point. Needless to say, I ensured I did not repeat my mistakes with Kingdom Hearts II, and burned through the game much faster.
The same spell happened with Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep for the PSP. I started it, got through roughly ⅔ of 1 of the 3 storylines…and then just stopped. Same as my experience with Kingdom Hearts, I picked it back up and found myself why I did not finish when first starting.
I know right now I’ve probably got more games suffering the same fate, I can only hope it won’t take me 3 years to finish them as well.