Games That Finish Better Than They Start


Most video games are made to win you over with an opening sprint, but which games do better over the distance?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at


MGS3 is the easiest answer. The story in large part is actually rather weak except for the ending, and the ending occurs entirely in the final cut scene. The ending IMO is one of the only good parts about that game’s story. But the ending is one of the best endings in any game ever.


I think the closest to a bad or hard start to a game would be Demon’s souls with how bizarre it is and just only letting you know the controls. The fact of dying at any point in the beginning is disheartening when it sends you to the hub world without learning how things work.


As much as I disagree with hyoshi about MGS3’s story as a whole, he’s definitely right about it having a slow start - the entire Virtuous Mission is kind of a drag of an opening. A long string of cutscenes and codec calls right from the get-go, then the game throws you off the deep end without giving you a decent interactive tutorial (like the VR missions in MGS1 and 2), with very punishing stealth and lots of new systems to experiment. The game in earnest doesn’t really get going until the Ocelot Unit fight, but once it does, oh boy.

Anyway, my personal go-to example is killer7. Just like MGS3, the game throws you off the deep end in-medias-res, with tons of concepts to explain that it never gets around to, with boring and confusing maps - and then it keeps going like that for three more chapters. But by the time you get to Cloudman and meet Andrei Ulmeyda, you’re good.


I’m not entirely sure it qualifies, because it doesn’t really change much at any point, but the experience of Nier (200…6?) Is just so unforgettable that I encourage everyone to stick with it to the end.


I’d argue Nier: Automata is only truly interesting for maybe the last 8-10 hours. All the stuff before it is so straightforward and dull. It’s about midway through playthrough C before I thought the plot started getting interesting.


For me, the best example was Persona 4 Golden. I didn’t even know what I was playing for the first 10 hours, let alone whether I would like it or not.


I know it’s all exposition, but the first four hours of Persona 4 are barely interactive beyond making some dialogue choices and very, very basic tutorial fighting. I remember going back to play a New Game + after beating it, and I pretty much stopped immediately because, oh, right.


I’d say plenty of JRPGs fit the bill here. Persona 3,4, and 5 each get far better as time goes on and (more or less) stick the landing. Some visual novels, (Danganronpa comes to mind) usually build from a slower burn rather than coming out with a compelling bang at the beginning. Oddly, games like “The Witcher 3”, “Skyrim”, and “Fallout 3” did the opposite, usually focusing on presenting an impressive, compelling opener, so as to motivate the player to get out soak everything in and see all the game has to offer. The downside to this though is that the endings never feel as satisfying as the spark of curiosity created at the beginning.


I can see the argument. While the setting is great, I couldn’t get past the first 5 hours of that game. There’s so much potential there, but the open world style just sucked the wind out of my sails when it came to experiencing the actual story.


I kind of want to go with an RPG for this, but really the whole thing with that genre is generally that the longer you are playing the more things you can do and the more attached to the characters or world you will get. So instead I will go with Vanquish, which despite being quite short gets so much better just once you really realize how the combat rewards you for being active not passive unlike most 3rd person shooters these days, it goes from a kind of whatever Gears clone to the predecessor to the recent Doom game, get moving and shoot the hell out of everything as fast as you can. So much fun, need to grab a copy of this game again.


I figure Persona would come up. I think it failing is the lack of interactivity for people who want to playing the game despite being a smooth opening. The fast forward feature with P4G & P5 allows NG+ to move faster.


I only kept going because several of my friends insisted it would get better, but I could just never get past how the game could have taken half the time and had twice the impact. The open-world design did also bring down the game a lot.


FFXIII has the loooooongest tutorial. About 20 hours by my timer. Which I did 3 times. And then, another 5 hours until you emerge from your Cocoon (subtle, Squeenix) and reach the open world of Gran Pulse.

Even then, you STILL might miss where the game gets good. After reaching Pulse, you can find the optional sidequests in the form of Cieth (sp?) stones, and the specific monsters they want you to hunt down. The game points out 1 when you first enter the huge plains with the Adamantoise mulling about, but never pushes you to find and complete these. My second and third times through, I made sure to catch the first 9 or so (out of 50) that are available in the opening of Pulse, and discovered that the rest of the story content on Pulse was MUCH more manageable.

In short, FFXIII doesn’t trust the player with the combat for 20 hours, then doesn’t direct them towards optional content that would teach them the type of play the game expects for its next 10 hours or so. And finally, it doesn’t ever encourage them to go back and find what has changed on Pulse once the story is over (Titan, for instance).


No kidding! It definitely seems like a game that would’ve better benefited from taking a more linear approach. Instead of making multiple endings layered over the same open world (that you’re supposed to fast travel through repeatedly), it seems like the best bet would’ve been to just go with a linear “Bayonetta” style game that makes its points and moves forward. When I’ve brought up the comment about the actual “game” of Automata dragging Automata’s points down to friends, they usually respond by explaining how I can fast-travel and cheese the game. Goes without saying that if that’s the solution, there’s probably something wrong with the game.


Vagrant Story. It has an amazing start, but the catacombs can be rather underwhelming after a while especially since the game opens up to some really gorgeous backdrops.

Deadly Premonition has an awfully dull start up until the lumbermill dungeon where it becomes very fun.

Flower, Sun, and Rain also has a deliberately obtuse and frustrating start to open up to some really great moments with likeable characters that you get to know more and more.


I mean, your friends are trying to help you through the content you dislike. They’re not exactly saying that this is the way to go.

While I understand the issue with the open-world, I find it really good in terms of creating an incredible atmosphere that a linear stage wouldn’t have been able to deliver, as well as being able to experiment with the gameplay system and experience the writing through quests to spice things up with unique things that a linear game would also be hard-pressed to deliver.


Came here to say that. Until you get to the weird/quirky stuff it’s just a terrible RE4 clone.


I understand. I’m likely getting too harsh on it. As someone who likes the game, what about the side-quests/general gameplay worked for you? How would you recommend I play through it in order to better appreciate the things you liked about the game?


I liked the writing, liked it enough to always talk to the NPCs around, and some sidequests had different things than what you expected from the main quest in terms of situations, enemies and also new areas. Some were definitely dull run of the mill fetch quests though. I just tended to stick to the sidequests that felt the more interesting to me and since the main quest is very dynamic and quick I would pick it back up whenever I needed more spice.

There were small things that definitely appealed to me and made me take my time to enjoy what’s around me. Something innocuous but I like that the dynamic music is decided upon the location you are and not because of the enemies around, so you don’t have to go through the repetition of a music change everytime you decide to fight. It makes more immersed and it doesn’t give any headaches. Also, enemies are much less prevalent in the world and a lot of them are not hostile so you can actually explore around without having to fight all the time. I find it really smart, you can decide your own pace, and fighting doesn’t affect the quality of the environmental landscape in terms of atmosphere and music. It doesn’t cut the rhythm, it contributes to it. When I realized that, it made me enjoy it much more.