What's the best value video game? Here's our guide to completion times

A complete shambles

Before we begin on this epic trip of number crunching oddity, let's just get one thing straight - video games aren't actually about the numbers. No, not even those crappy maths titles on DS. What video games are really all about is interaction, investment and the player's own sense of engagement with a world beyond their own. Whatever a particular game's credo we should always be open to experiencing it, not merely rushing through on our way to bagging some useless achievement or other.

That being said, sometimes it can be awfully useful to know just how long a particular game intends to stick around. I'll never forget hopelessly misjudging the runtime of Okami, before spending the final 20 or so hours rushing headlong through everything as if the endgame was in sight. This article is first and foremost intended as a bit of fun, a harmless insight into some of the basic facts and figures of video game completion. All of the figures given relate to the main game only (unless otherwise stated), meaning no side quests, DLC or multiplayer numbers made the list. Got that? Good.

Oh, and before I forget - a great big thanks to my various sources - including gamelengths.com, howlongtobeat.com and numerous YouTube walkthroughs. Begin!

What are the best value video games?

Thanks in large part to the modern supermarket most folks nowadays tend to equate the word 'value' with something akin to 'cowpat'. 'The value added beef burger, now with 16% more horse'. Extra value noodles - now even more studenty'. 'Value branded shower gel, intense burning sensations for all!'. 'Value' may have become synonymous with shoddy, but that doesn't mean the core concept isn't worth pursuing. True value is about getting as much of the good stuff as you can for the cheapest possible price, and then enjoying that stuff for as long as you're humanly able. Like any industry, video gaming (and its fans) endure their fair share of dry spells - weeks and even months bereft of any decent releases. It's in these sorts of moments that gamers most need their games to present proper value for money. Listed below are some of the very best titles, alongside their especially generous runtimes.

LoZ: Ocarina of Time (97% on GameRankings) - Approximately 26 hours
Grand Theft Auto IV (97% on GameRankings) - Approximately 28 hours
Grand Theft Auto V (97% on GameRankings) - Approximately 31 hours
Mass Effect 2 (95% on GameRankings) - Approximately 25 hours
TESV: Skyrim (95% on GameRankings) - Approximately 30 hours
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (95% on GameRankings) - Approximately 33 hours
LoZ: Twilight Princess (94-% on GameRankings) - Approximately 35 hours
LoZ: the Wind Waker (94% on GameRankings) - Approximately 27 hours
Star Wars: KOTOR (94% on GameRankings) - Approximately 30 hours
Persona 4 Golden (94% on GameRankings) - Approximately 70 hours

What are the best value video games? (cont.)

TES4: Oblivion (93% on GameRankings) - Approximately 25 hours
LoZ: Skyward Sword (93% on GameRankings) - Approximately 40 hours
Fallout 3 (92% on GameRankings) - Approximately 25 hours
Final Fantasy IX (92% on GameRankings) - Approximately 44 hours
Okami (92% on GameRankings) - Approximately 40 hours
Fire Emblem: Awakening (92% on GameRankings) - Approximately 30 hours
Final Fantasy 7 (92% on GameRankings) - Approximately 40 hours
Chrono Cross (92% on GameRankings) - Approximately 36 hours
Xenoblade Chronicles (91% on GameRankings) - Approximately 70 hours
Final Fantasy 10 (91% on GameRankings) - Approximately 47 hours

And now, like the vaguely irritating QVC salesman I truly wish I could be I'm going to talk up the fantastic, buy now value of these incredible games! Take Persona 4 for example. Even at full price Atlus's critically acclaimed adventure still works out at about 57 pence/ 42 cents per hour of gameplay - and that's not including the game's vast swathes of side-content. By contrast, going to see a standard two-hour blockbuster equates to spending roughly 3.50/ $4 per hour. Truly this is a golden age!

What are the best 'quick fix' video games?

In contrast to the previous entry, this slide might easily be construed as a 'worst value' selection, each game offering no more than 2 to 3 days of 'main game' play - hardly the best bang for your buck. Then again, there are those situations in which a short and snappy title can prove ideal. Say, for instance that you're much too busy to commit to an RPG, or perhaps you'd just prefer to play a half dozen classics to the one lengthier release? What follows are some of the best-rated games bearing the shortest overall runtimes. As ever we're not going to include any incalculable elements i.e. multiplayer modes, so depending on your tolerance for tweenaged mic fiends, some games may prove far more valuable.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (94% on GameRankings) - Approximately 7 hours
World of Goo (94% on GameRankings) - Approximately 6 hours
Call of Duty: Modern Wafare 2 (93% on GameRankings) - Approximately 6.5 hours
Resident Evil 2 (93% on GameRankings) - Approximately 6.5 hours
Rayman 2: The Great Escape (93% on GameRankings) - Between 5 and 8 hours
Devil May Cry (92% on GameRankings) - Approximately 6.5 hours
Journey (92% on GameRankings) - Approximately 2 hours
Braid (92% on GameRankings) - Approximately 5 hours
Jet Grind Radio/ Jet Set Radio (91% on GameRankings) - Approximately 6.5 hours
Crash Team Racing (91% on GameRankings) - Approximately 6 hours

What are the best 'quick fix' video games? (cont.)

Mario Kart DS (91% on GameRankings) - Between 2 and 5 hours
God of War: Chains of Olympus (91% on GameRankings) - Approximately 5.5 hours
Metroid Fusion (91% on GameRankings) - Approximately 5.5 hours
Pac-Man Championship Edition (90% on GameRankings) - Approximately 4 hours
Half-Life 2: Episode 2 (90% on GameRankings) - Approximately 6 hours
Limbo (90% on GameRankings) - Approximately 4 hours
Killzone 2 (90% on GameRankings) - Approximately 7 hours
Ico (90% on GameRankings) - Approximately 6.5 hours
The Stanley Parable (90% on GameRankings) - Approximately 1.5 hours
Super Mario 3D Land (90% on GameRankings) - Approximately 7 hours

Those of you still wondering which game represents the worst overall value we reckon it's got to be Charlie's Angels for the NGC (Game Rankings score - 23%). While it may seem farcical to think that this virtual abomination ever even carried a price tag, it also seems pretty damn certain that at least one retailer would've marked it up at the full R.R.P. After all, how were they to know the sheer terror that awaited within? If we're still talking runtimes, however then you can't go far wrong in looking up the worst reviewed games on the Apple Itunes store. Sure, they may not be all that pricey but these shovelware spectaculars also won't last you more than a few frustrating seconds.

How much longer are completionists spending on their games?

It's at this point in the article that Samuel, aka your writer, began to regret his complete inattention in maths class. Pah, to hell with accuracy. Who needs it? Well, NASA for one, and err snooker players? But I digress For this particular figure I decided to compile 20 of the biggest and best games of 2014, including as wide an array of play types and production budgets as possible - before breaking them down into their 'main game' and 'completionist' figures. From that point on it was simply a case of totting up both columns and comparing the two. The results of which will be revealed right after this commercial break!!! No, not really.

While admittedly limited in scope said data did suggest that the average player only spends around 45% as long on a game as does a more 'committed' completionist. So, what exactly does this tell us? Well, besides the fact that Half-life 3 is actually a vast Illuminati conspiracy (also revealed by my research) it also provides players with a handy guide to deciding which games to total. For instance, did the main game take you 20 hours to complete? Then you'd best expect to drop another 20-plus in order to see it all. Speaking of which here's hoping all of you Witcher 3 completionists are still enjoying it way into your 80s

How long to play catchup on an entire series?

There's nothing like a hot new instalment on the horizon to get players looking to the past. Just look at the recent surge in popularity for Fallout 3, an obvious by-product of its sequel's much-trumpeted reveal. Some will take said announcement as their cue to return to an unfinished save game, while others will decide that the time has finally come to give mutant nuking the old college try. Whatever the case may be, it's always useful to know just how much time your quickfire catchup will take. We do it all the time with TV, so why not with video games too?

Mass Effect (ME, 2, 3) - Approximately 65 hours (140hrs completionist)
Uncharted (Drake's Fortune, Among Thieves, Drake's Deception)- Approximately 30 hours (60hrs completionist)
Batman Arkham (Arkham Asylum, City & Origins) - Approximately 35 hours (115hrs completionist)
Metal Gear Solid (MGS, 2, 3, 4 & 5: Ground Zeroes) - Approximately 60 hours (95hrs completionist)
Grand Theft Auto (GTA, 2, 3, Vice City, San Andreas, 4, 5) - Approximately 150 hours (375hrs completionist)
Halo (CE, 2, 3, ODST, Reach, 4) - Approximately 50 hours (150hrs completionist)
Call of Duty (COD, 2, 3, Modern Warfare, World at War, MW2, Black Ops, MW3, Black Ops 2, Ghosts, Advanced Warfare) - Approximately 80 hours (160hrs completionist)

How long to play catchup on an entire series? (cont.)

Resident Evil (RE, 2, Nemesis, 4, 5, 6) - Approximately 70 hours (120 hours completionist)
Final Fantasy (FF, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13) - Approximately 450 hours (950hrs completionist)
Half-Life (HL, 2, Episode One, Episode Two) - Approximately 35 hours (45hrs completionist)
The Elder Scrolls (Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim) - Approximately 92 hours (750hrs completionist)
Fallout (Fallout, 2, 3, New Vegas) - Approximately 100 hours (330hrs completionist)
The Legend of Zelda (Legend of Zelda, Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past, Link's Awakening, Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, Wind Waker, Twilight Princess, Skyward Sword, Link Between Worlds) - Approximately 215 hours (300hrs completionist)
Assassin's Creed (AC, 2, 3, Black Flag, Unity) - Approximately 86 hours (170hrs completionist)

Wow, that's an awful lot of hours. Too many, in fact for us to be able to make a proper assessment of it. Time methinks to get some perspective. How's this - you could conceivably re-watch all five series of Game of Thrones (twice!) in the time it'd take you to experience Fallout's 1 through New Vegas. And what of Zelda? The average employee earns around /$ 2800 in the time it'd take to marathon that storied franchise. And what about Batman? Would you rather play all three games in the Arkham series or watch The Dark Knight 14 times over? Tough call.

How long would it take to marathon GR's top 100 games?

There's no better way to attaining the total respect of your peers and/or becoming a haggard, yellow-nailed shut-in, than attempting to play every top game in existence. But where, oh where to begin? 'Should I stop bathing today or perhaps tomorrow?'/ 'Am I really feeling this tin foil hat?/ and which games should I even be playing!? Well, in answer to your final question - you could certainly do a whole lot worse than GamesRadar's patented, good-time All-American - but also British - top 100 games list! Here's how long it'd take

*Lethargic drumroll* 1400 hours! And yes, that does seem like too neat of a figure to be real. Hmm, perhaps I'll just do what the bloke who first measured Everest did and stick a cheeky extra digit on the end. Crikey 1402 hours?! Alright alright, so 9 of the titles were too actually tough to gauge, what with them being mostly persistent 'unending' types like the Sims or FIFA, but we still managed to include a whopping 91 from the list. That roughly works out at around 15 hours per game. Not too bad, providing you can get your hands on all of them - which if we were to completely ignore ports require a whopping 19 consoles.

Which genre boasts the lengthiest & shortest titles?

Ok ok, let's not kid ourselves here. We all know that RPGs are the longest-lasting genre by some way, but where does the rest of the field stack up? Well, aside from a few 'uncooperative genres' - i.e. those that don't really conform to the standard 'start to finish' setup (here's looking at you puzzle games, tycoon titles and sports sims) many of the remaining entries might surprise you. To produce this list I took 5 successful titles from each genre - those with the strongest sales/ reviews and/or the most reliable data - before rounding up their runtimes. The following figures represent the averages of those 5 titles.

Fighting Game (e.g. Street Fighter) - Approximately 2.5 hours
First-person shooter (e.g. Call of Duty)- Approximately 9 hours
Adventure Game (e.g. Grim Fandango)- Approximately 9 hours
Action-Adventure/ Third-person shooter (e.g. Gears of War) - Approximately 9.5 hours
Hack n' Slash (e.g. Bayonetta)- Approximately 10.5 hours
Platformer (e.g. Super Mario Galaxy)- Approximately 11 hours
Survival Horror (e.g. Dead Space)- Approximately 12.5 hours
Racing Game (e.g. Gran Turismo)- Approximately 15 hours
Action Sandbox (e.g. Grand Theft Auto)- Approximately 21 hours
Real time strategy (e.g. Starcraft)- Approximately 25 hours
Role-playing game (e.g. Final Fantasy)- Approximately 40 hours

Which platform has the longest exclusives?

Here it is folks, the proverbial dick-measuring contest of the list, and yet another reason for committed console cultists to incite full-blown flame war. But, before all of that, allow me to take a moment to reiterate just how massively unscientific all of this is. Hell, this 'research' may well represent the least scientific process ever attempted, and I've tried shouting chickens into ducks... So, yes, take it all with a hefty pinch of salt, especially if you're one of those stuck on the side with the 'least' supposed value.

Which just so happens to be Microsoft. Yep, sorry Xbox fanboys but of the three major brands included old MS appears to deliver the shortest overall exclusives. Oh, and that goes for both 'general' exclusives, as well as those being matched by type, i.e. lengthy RPGs with other lengthy RPGs, (as opposed to the likes of Ni No Kuni going up against some hour-long indie darling). Ninty leads the way with an average length of around 17 hours, followed closely by Sony on 16, with MS trailing behind on 13.5. Make of that what you will

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

When he's not busy saving small animals from dangerous brush fires, Sam enjoys writing about the weird world of video games. All-time favourites include Half-Life 2, Knights of the Old Republic, GTA: Vice City and Final Fantasy 10. Last year, Sam finally succeeded in besting Rayman 1 for PlayStation, leaving his life utterly without meaning.
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