How short is TOO short for a video game?

A lot of people are complaining about the length of God of War 3, claiming it takes 8 hours to finish. We reckon it takes between 10-12 depending on the difficulty setting, but it's definitely somewhere around there.

Considering the game is clearly a triple-A release, these complaints arguably say more about what people expect for their money than they do for the quality of the gameplay. 

So tell us - how much game do you expect for your £40/$50? We've put together a short list of games to help you decide at which point you'd be happy with your purchase:

Tomb Raider Legend: 4-6 hours.

Modern Warfare 2: 5-6 hours to finish story mode, but months of online play await.

Uncharted 2: 10-12 hours.

Batman: Arkham Asylum: Around 13 hours for the main game.

God of War 3: Somewhere between 8 and 12 hours.

Metal Gear Solid 4: 10-20 hours, depending on whether you watch the cutscenes (fnar).

Grand Theft Auto IV: Approx 25 hours, unless you want to 100% it, in which case you can easily double that.

Pokemon Platinum: 40-60 hours to beat the Elite Four and finish the story. Collecting 'em all? How long have you got?

Final Fantasy XIII: 50-60 hours.

Final Fantasy XII: 50-100 hours. Probably nearer the latter.

Disgaea: Probably 35-ish to finish the story. But if you want to do it properly, you're looking at anything up to 250, maybe 300 hours.

If you put them into a sexy graph, you can see the whole story. Most actioners are between 8 and 20 hours long, before you get into the realms of GTA and RPGs. Some games are shorter, but equally well-received. We've put Portal in there to show that even ultra-short, cut-price games can be awesome. We even said it was perfect.

And just to put all of the above into perspective, we all used to pay similar prices for 16-bit games that you could finish in an hour. And how many of those are counted as classics today? Times change, sure, but if you consider inflation, we were actually paying more for the privilege.

Perhaps the problem is more to do with replay value than the first trip through a game's world. Back before we had game saves, you would see the early sections of a game several times, getting a little further with every subsequent foray into its world before one day making it all the way to the end in one piece. God of War is simply not that kind of game, as you never have to start again from scratch when you die.

What would make you return to a game like Uncharted 2 or God of War past the obvious visual splendour and set-piece spectacle the games offer? In Bayonetta, you're graded on every fight, so there's always the incentive to try again for a better rank, or on a higher difficulty level once you've done that. God of War only really has its combo meter and Uncharted has nothing of the sort. And yet it was still a contender for Game of the Year.

So what's your ideal game length? And does that have any effect on whether you buy a game or not?

16 Mar, 2010 


  • austin128 - March 19, 2010 4:15 a.m.

    Don't forget Oblivion. All the missions not including DLC lasted me 125 hours, and there's many different kinds of characters to play as.
  • darnell7979 - March 19, 2010 3:16 a.m.

    I don't know about you guys but when I buy a game I usually keep them, I like to collect them. Sometimes I get the itch and I want to play a certain game again. A lot of times I've forgotten parts of the game, so I get that 'whoa' feeling all over. I don't mind that a game is 'only' 8-12 hours, because if I like it, I'll keep it and end up playing it again in a few years. Plus if there are any really cool 'water cooler' moments I want to show them to friends and family. Do you toss out a good movie just because you already saw it once? How many times have any of us watched Star Wars (the good ones)? One last thing: How many of you have kids? Being a parent it is a gift to be able to sit and play for even a half hour straight. Just saying.
  • wastedspace - March 18, 2010 8:03 a.m.

    I love short, average games because I don't have much time on my hands and have rented terminator salvation, wanted etc, and buy these sorts of games when they're in a bargain bin for a fiver, but never new. If I were a publisher, I'd definitely make it at least 7-8 hours.
  • Darkhawk - March 18, 2010 4:24 a.m.

    @JizzyB: I Kno-ow! It pains me that I'm so far behind. I actually just picked up all of them in about a period of 2 months via eBay, so I have quite some work cut out for me. Mercifully, summer soon so I'll get on that. But, in a way, aren't you jealous I'm delving into some of the best games ever for the first time? Don't you remember those experiences? :D
  • JizzyB - March 17, 2010 9:37 p.m.

    Darkhawk, your To Play list is shameful. Those are some of the best games ever made. Ocarina of Time, KOTOR, Deus Ex, DEUS EX! Get to work, son.
  • JizzyB - March 17, 2010 9:31 p.m.

    Best single-player value has got to be Morrowind or Oblivion.
  • JizzyB - March 17, 2010 9:26 p.m.

    If a game is under 10 hours it's definitely a rental. With so many good games vying for my attention it's gotta be playable for close to twenty hours at least, on the first play through. I really wanted to play Mirrors Edge but all reports said it was only 6-8 hours long. No way am I buying that. I regret buying Brutal Legend because of that. Fun game with a lot of music nostalgia but 12 hours long with no reason to go back and play it again.
  • JamesTQuest - March 17, 2010 9:22 p.m.

    @ Wuh, I feel that way a lot when I look at the articles posted here...
  • Samael - March 17, 2010 6:59 p.m.

    Considering 8-10 hours was about the length of the previous God of War games, I don't see this as a problem. Add in the post-game challenges and the length increases even more.
  • oryandymackie - March 17, 2010 6:22 p.m.

    TES: Oblivions says hi.
  • majorsuave - March 17, 2010 2:45 p.m.

    Most games I buy new tend to have 30 - 50 hours worth of play time or at least a really compelling MP experience. If I ever get to understand I can beat a game in one or two seatings then I will probably wait to be able to find it for 19.99 or less. Simply put: I don't really want to pay more than 2$/hour. If I ever pay more it is for DLC.
  • philipshaw - March 17, 2010 2 p.m.

    If a game is great, I don't care about length I prefer games that only take 8-10 hours to complete because I don't have the time to playthrough a 60 hour RPG. Also with games like Uncharted 2, I go back and get trophies I missed out on the 1st playthrough
  • veryweirdguy - March 17, 2010 11:29 a.m.

    I'm starting to prefer shorter games. As someone who has a life outside of gaming, with other responsibilities, being able to complete a game and still have a schedule for other new releases is a great thing. Quality over quantity, always.
  • Cernunnos - March 17, 2010 10:19 a.m.

    the length of the game isnt all that bad, but it has no MP, very little replay value and its the closing chapter in a trilogy (discounting CoO), so this game could have stretched itself a bit longer than previous GoW games. go out with a bang.
  • GaryRedShoes - March 17, 2010 8:59 a.m.

    you guys played doodlejump? literally DAYS of replayable fun.
  • Nocturne989 - March 17, 2010 7:42 a.m.

    @DrFred79-i agree as well. A playthrough may only be 10 hours, but when you can play through that 10 hours 5 times over without losing the fun in the math. @Jordo141-Another huge game is Persona 3 FES. It's 40-70 hours depending on if you do requests or want to 100% the compendium, and ive played through it at least 3 times now (working on a 4th), and that doesn't even include the 30 hour epilouge chapter that comes with it (and for only $40 at launch, not a bad deal imo)
  • CH3BURASHKA - March 17, 2010 5:16 a.m.

    Game length does not a game make. To quote Martin Luther King, "Something, something, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character something something". Had he been talking about video games, it would have totally applied. Games should be judged by their value, both physical and emotional, not their length.
  • capnoakley - March 17, 2010 2:40 a.m.

    If it has multiplayer that is gonna last for a little while, then 6-8 hours would be fine. But if its a story specific game I would expect it to have replay value at least once or twice and about 12-20 hours.
  • penguinsrule3 - March 17, 2010 1:51 a.m.

    Mass Effect 2, 30 hrs and that was just the main story. Count the infinite replayability plus awesome side missions and it's worth a lot more than $60
  • OneEyedGoon - March 17, 2010 1:07 a.m.

    I don't care how long a game is, as long as it's quality, I'll continue to play. Wouldn't mind if some shorter games, like Mirror's Edge, for example were priced lower than something like Oblivion, say.

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