What Does ‘Replayability’ Mean Today, Anyway?


It’s one of those critical yardsticks of a game’s quality that doesn’t seem to factor so much anymore—at least, not in the old-school sense.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/3kneej/what-does-replayability-mean-today-anyway


It all depends on the structure of the game. Games like Persona, which has different pacing with stat building and interactions with characters, enables you to replay the game and with stuff like fast forwarding cut scenes allows it to be smooth. Games like Gone Home are one play experiences as there no reason to go through it unless it been a long time to play it again.


I think replayability has become a more personal thing. Different people get replayability from different things. I don’t get it from rogue-likes, rogue-lights, and procedural games, I just get bored of them instead. But I’ll play GTA or Borderlands repeatedly because, even though the story is the same, it’s a story that I like and my approach to completing missions varies. I can vary how I play each character as well and, if I feel like it, I can take on additional challenges for each mission. I get similar replayability from Dishonored, playing through high chaos or low chaos, Corvo or Emily, and I can challenge myself by not upgrading abilities.

I get the most replayability from Diablo 3 with its seasons and, ironically, procedural elements. I’m playing a necromancer now because I’ve already played monk, demon hunter, or wizard every other season. I’m not really seeing new content as I’ve played it so much already but I am still working towards a new goal of gearing up a character and progressing through greater rifts. But I wouldn’t keep coming back to it though if it weren’t for the community of people that I play with. I play every season with friends and a lot of us get the most replayability out of being able to play with each other. So for me? Replayability is mostly playing with friends, but sometimes another game will click in just the right way and I’ll want to play it a second or third time.

These games are by far the exception though. With most games though, I don’t at all feel like replaying them once I’ve finished them because I have other games to play. Like most, I have a permanent Steam backlog to get to full of games that I feel different levels of excitement to start playing. Now that I have a surplus of games, I don’t have to spend hundreds or thousands of hours playing Earthbound or Final Fantasy Tactics over and over again unless I want to, and I don’t really want to anymore.


“Replayability” has always been towards the top of my list of what I thought was valuable in games, to the point where friends have made fun of me for it. Last generation, I would play through Skyrim, Dark Souls, Mass Effect 2 over and over, putting hundreds (or maybe thousands, in the case of some Elder Scrolls games) of hours in to content that I had already seen a half a dozen times, but I’d pass on critically acclaimed games because I knew they would take 10 hours to beat and then I’d never pick them up again.

These days I don’t often buy games full price at launch, unless I feel like I’ll get a ton of time out of them, so replayability is still pretty important to me. Doom was one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had in the last year, but I finished it in a long weekend and didn’t see myself playing through it again for at least a couple years, if ever. I would have felt that $60 would have been costly for that experience. I don’t have room in my budget to be buying a new game or two every month, though I now have a gamefly subscription that I use to rapid fire my way through shorter games (like Doom), that I feel are going to be a one and done experience. There are tons of newer games that I need to get to, and gamefly is helping me do that, but when I finish my current game and wait for them to send the next one, I’ll probably be playing through Bloodborne for the XXth time.


I think a big part of what’s changed is that video games focus on story so much more than they used to. The kinds of games mentioned in this article, Red Dead, Bioshock, Gone Home, Uncharted, The Witcher 3, they are all particularly narrative focused with mechanical interaction kindof taking a backseat. In contrast, games of old like Super Mario World, Mega Man, Super Metroid, etc all have fairly minimal narratives which serve only to provide context for what you’re doing.

A key part of that older design ethos was that those games became much shorter the more you learned them. I can sit down and play through Mega Man 2 in an hour or so, but that game took me well over 20 to beat it the first time. This does not tend to be the case with modern games which tend to not put up brick walls for the player to overcome. A repeat play through of Uncharted is going to be roughly the same length as the initial playthrough.


I have four playthroughs each of Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age II and almost five in Inquisition, because if you give me new fun and exciting romances and party banters I will play and play and play and play.


For me, there’s like this new type of game like Super Hexagon or Downwell that you can pick up and play for ten minutes every once in a while for your entire life. (At least I’m going to do that)

And replayability is obviously a factor in multiplayer-only games like Overwatch or Plunkbat.

I think that replayability is not something that every game should be judged on, as games have gotten longer and more complex, and it’s not like the old-school hard days where blistering difficulty and stage restarts were what made a game take up time, and once you get past that it’s basically a speedrun. Games are big ol’ chunks now and there’s not often a lot of reward for going through them again; there doesn’t need to be. They’re built so that one time is enough, and the player can decide how long or short their time with the game is to some extent.

Replayability is now what keeps you playing a game over a long period of time and have it not get old, and games that have a clear replayability factor should be judged on it, but you shouldn’t even ask about the replayability of Uncharted 4 or something like that.


I best gravity rush 2 almost five months ago and yet you can still catch me booting it up and just flying around the in-game world. There are still sidequests I need to finish up and I want to platinum the game but I get an almost therapeutic high just moving around in the game world, or running around marketplaces taking pictures of NPCs. Definitely “replayable” but not in the sense that I’m completing objectives over again in a different way.


For me, a game’s replayability comes down to how good the game loop is, how much friction there is between enjoying that loop and how well the game is communicating the player’s mastery or progress of that loop. Some examples: Splatoon’s core loop comes down to shooting and traversal. Shoot ink to take out enemies and spray the floor to move around in the level. A newbie can learn all the mechanics they’ll need and understand it in the tutorial and they won’t need to worry about getting tripped up by new weapons. And basically, the shooting the moving is the same in online and offline. But for me, what made it different than a lot of other shooters is that the online matches are brief, bit sized explosions of joy, misery, elation and defeat. The game is good at letting players know what has to be done to meet a win condition. so even if one loses, it doesn’t stick for long as a new match starts. So, win or lose, the core loop of gameplay remains the same and remains fun, making it replayable.

Another example I got is Xenoblade Chronicles. Even for a JRPG, the MMO-inspired mechanics make this a daunting game to get into and even after I beat this a couple of times, I do love playing it over and over because of how well each mechanics flows into one another, even though they can exist independently from one another. In any session, I can grind XP from the very generous combat system (making it real time helps). Or my random wandering can help me get items I can use for a sidequest. The lack of friction comes in from how much land I can explore and how easy I can access parts of the world that I’m clearly underleveled for.

Replayability always come down to how much fun doing something is and how much work it takes to get to the fun parts. If the fun comes from the actual playing, I know it’s a keeper. Bayonetta is a game I can beat and even though I’m not trying to get Pure Platinums, I love seeing how better I’ve gotten at each battle.

And replayability for me doesn’t come from unlocking something after completing some inane challenge where the difficulty spikes for no reason. Trophies/achievements don’t help either. If the moment to moment is fun and there isn’t a huge gap between each moment, I will replay that game until the game breaks