Worth sticking around for...
In 2017 we expect value from games. Our time is precious, our money limited - so video games need to deliver hours, weeks, and even months of quality entertainment. Some - like Battlefield 1 - can fall back on excellent multiplayer, but more single-player focused franchises - like Resident Evil 7 - need to offer more. And throwing in a few collectables just isn't going to cut it. We demand extra stuff to see and do once the credits have rolled. What follows is a list of games that deliver significantly more stuff once the main story is finished. The experience changes in some way, you get brilliant new items, or you can restart and replay in whole new ways. These games, truly, offer some of the best entertainment for your money.
Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim SE (2016)
Ok, so finishing the story in Skyrim really doesn't add anything to the experience (although you need to play through a portion of it to unlock Dragon Shouts and access certain areas of the map) but I'd argue that the true Elder Scrolls experience - roaming the world, making up your own stories - is so divorced from the narrative that it really doesn't matter. When the plot is done, chances are you'll still have so much 'Rim left to explore. And exploring the world is the true beauty of the game. Do you own all the Daedric artefacts? Go and get them - it's like playing a whole other game. Top dog of the Companions are you? No? Better go and play that 15-20 hour side-quest too. Unless you've scoured every inch of the land, you have not completed Skyrim.
Dark Souls 3 (2016)
Dark Souls 3 is like a high class, outrageously expensive dominatrix. She punishes you thoroughly. Then, when you're all finished, you shell out for more. That's what NG+ is all about. More punishment, but also more teeth-grinding, fist-pumping, screaming at the telly satisfaction. Starting an NG+ after finishing the main story, delivers you back to the beginning, only this time complete with your weapons, inventory (minus keys) and stats from the end of your first game. Enemies are of course tougher, but as a result, the game experience is very different to the first play through. You easily glide through the first few hours like a vengeful god, before taking time to explore the fathomless depths of From Software's world. And therein lies the real joy of a second play though: the knowledge of what is up the road allows you to soak up the detail, instead of cower the shadows, edging round every last corner. And then there is New Game++. And New Game+++. And... you get the idea.
GTA 5 (2013)
Simply having an open world isn't enough to qualify you for this list. No. That world needs to expand or take on new meaning as a result of finishing the story. GTA 5 does that in style. No spoilers here, but we will say that you end up as a rather wealthy player after finishing the narrative, and this reveals the true potential of Los Santos. While the regular heists leave you loaded, there's always the need for restraint. Gamble all your money on BAWSAQ and you could end up embarrassingly broke, unable to even buy flimsy body armour. Once the story is over that doesn't matter. You can snap up night clubs, deal confidently in stocks and shares, and grab every weapon at Ammunation. You can die repeatedly while exploring the map and your bank balance barely gets dented. Essentially you become a millionaire playboy, with GTA's world as your toy box. And that's before you head online... Oh my.
Hitman: Complete Edition (2016)
It's possible to spend hours simply exploring a single environment in this latest iteration of Hitman. There are secrets, hidden items, and strategies buried deep in each level, meaning that multiple playthroughs are not only entertaining, but essential. However, technically it's all available from the start... so why does finishing the story in each stage help? Well, by killing your targets and achieving your objectives you not only unlock additional strategic options (new spawn points etc) and weapons, but you also get a feel for how everything works. You see the way your targets move and interact, and this gives you fresh ideas for how to murder them.
You've defeated all the gym leaders, caught some legendaries, walked the path of champions along Victory Road and smashed the Elite Four into next week. So you're done now, right? WRONG! Completing the main quest in Pokemon only does one thing: gives you the tools needed to actually start playing Pokemon properly. Now you have all the badges, all the Pokemon will obey you, even those gained in trades. You can now settle into breeding your pocket monsters, nurture EV stats and fill up your Pokedex. You could even catch em all. With new islands opening up to allow fast levelling, countless secrets and one of the best competitive game modes ever designed, Pokemon only really begins when it ends. And there you were thinking it was just a kids game about a yellow mouse.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)
Finished Castlevania have you? Well done. Quite tough, wasn't it? Were you smart enough to kill Shaft, the evil spirit possessing Richter by wearing the Holy Glasses? Ok... NOW PLAY THE GAME UPSIDE DOWN, WORM! That's how you get the true ending. Killed Richter did you? Game over: sorry. Ok, while playing inverted will undoubtedly piss many people off, it is a fresh perspective (haha!) on Castlevania, and a huge challenge for those hard enough to clock the main story. If finishing a game like this is something of a test of skills, then beating it inverted is the ultimate mark of skill. That's why it's worth doing... if you're that keen for bragging rights.
Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes
Sure, MGS5: Phantom Pain is out now, providing a wonderful, complex, and labyrinthine adventure. But Ground Zeroes - pound for pound - is a more replayable game, and offers far more to see and do once its narrative has finished. Like Hitman, there are so many ways to play a single area, and a wealth of hidden stuff to find. Completing the story once not only opens up more missions (and ways to play them) but it starts to give you pieces of the story as a whole. If you're an MGS enthusiast there is so much to uncover in such an outwardly 'small' game, even if you've played and finished its bigger brother, Phantom Pain.
Let's get the obvious (and untrue) joke out of the way first: lol, does Destiny even have a story? Yeah, it does, get over yourself. There are a couple of reasons Bungie's epic MMO shooter makes this list. Essentially, the narrative is just one long training session, preparing you for the meat of the game - the Strikes, the Raids, the Crucible. So, if you stopped playing after finishing the story, you did Destiny wrong. More subtly, the story hints at some genuinely interesting stuff that you'll find by reading the Grimoire, Destiny's unlockable cards. By completing missions, you get access to deeper narrative cuts, so this is another reason to keep going.
Resident Evil 7 (2017)
Like most Resi games before it, Resident Evil 7 becomes something very different on a second playthrough. The taught survival horror of your first sitting gives way to a bolder, more action-oriented approach when you replay, allowing you to uncover more secrets about the world and tackle boss fights and action scenarios with more aggressive tactics. Especially if you're carrying the super destructive Albert gun. The 'more action' option for Resi playthroughs is a staple of the series (remember the rocket launcher in the original?), but one added bonus that Resi 7 has on PS4 is the addition of VR. Maybe if you've seen all the scares once you won't be too chicken to play the whole thing again in VR...
Final Fantasy 15
Final Fantasy 15 is a wonderful, emotionally-memorable roadtrip. It feels like you and a bunch of buddies going on an adventure that just happens to involve saving the world, killing loads of beasts, and maybe doing a spot of cooking. At the end of the game, though, you get to transform that car of yours into a freakin' jet, opening up the game even further. As is FF tradition, there are some secrets to find post-story too, so it's well worth sticking with.
Until Dawn (2015)
When various members of the GR+ team first finished Until Dawn we just assumed it was a numbers game. How many people survived your playthrough? Oh, like four. It really isn't. The choices you make in Until Dawn aren't merely binary decisions that kill off its unfortunate teens at a pre-set point - they genuinely change the whole story. You can miss massive chunks of Until Dawn by making a seemingly innocuous choice near the start, or witness some amazing story-telling by chancing upon a single diary note. As such, replaying this one - having seen the ending from one perspective - is absolutely essential.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)
To a lesser extent than Skyrim, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is more about exploring the actual world than progressing the story. Sure, the main plot is ace, but the real gems here are the superb side-quests that distract Geralt for hours on end. So, finishing the main plot simply frees up the player to explore some of the juicier stuff. Plus, the amazing expansion - Blood and Wine - follows on directly from the central story, so you need to (well, not technically) complete that before experiencing a whole new chunk of Witcher. As if this game wasn't long enough. And as if you're not still playing Gwent instead of polishing off the plot. We see you!
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag (2013)
In many ways, finishing the main story in AC4 sets you free to do all that delicious piracy that makes Black Flag truly enjoyable. While much of the post-game will involve hoovering up various Animus shards and sea shanties, there's actually a whole other story going on with side-quests like Templar Hunts. You probably shouldn't attempt to take on the Legendary ships until the Jackdaw is fully upgraded either, so you can take your time, post-credits, buffing your warship (ahem, so to speak). Got all the post-it notes in Abstergo? Better collect them too, and have fun looking for Easter Eggs. Sure, Syndicate and Unity are newer games, but there's more delight in Black Flag's post-story, so it stays in this list.
Hotline Miami (2012)
Masks are the key to this one. During your first playthrough of Hotline Miami you'll unlock a bunch of animal masks, which have drastically different effects depending on which you wear. Going back through the game (and it has a pretty circular plot anyway) allows you to try levels using different head wear; forcing/encouraging you to switch your tactics. Given the relative simplicity of the game, it's amazing what a startling effect a rule change can have on the way you play. Some masks help - one prevents dogs from attacking, for example - while others hinder you by dimming the lights. Rasmus the Owl even allows you to spot secrets that you may never have been aware of during your first run-through.
Batman Arkham City (2011)
In some ways, Batman: Arkham City becomes an even better Batman simulator once you've completed the main story. It certainly takes on a whole new tone and provides one Hell of a poignant, playable coda to the campaign. Following that ending, the city goes on, but is irrevocably changed. The fallout among the criminal fraternity is palpable in their dialogue, expressions of mourning, confusion and disaffection overheard as you glide by on patrol.
And although things are quieter in the stillness of that post-endgame snow, without the distraction of the next story mission to push you forward, the sense of simply 'being' Batman, doing what he does, night after night, is amplified immensely. You'll stalk the rooftops. You'll scan the streets for signs of trouble. You'll follow up loose ends and chase investigative leads at your own pace. With the main story's cast of characters greatly diminished, it's a lonely, reflective experience. But that's what being Batman is all about.