I began playing video games way back in the NES days. Since then, I’ve noticed certain secondary elements in games besides graphics or regular gameplay. As games changed, different experiences caught my attention. All the little things I think make a game great don’t have to be present together, though. These are my favorite secondary, but great video game elements.
Being able to explore
Not being shipped from one goal to another is a great secondary video game element. Even newer platforming games like Super Mario Galaxy don’t lead the player directly to the next level. Mario can pick from a few different worlds. The best games I’ve found for exploring are action/adventure titles like the Legend of Zelda, RPG’s like Oblivion, and even some First person Shooters.
In many video games, the action and exploring are broken up with puzzles. This secondary element forces players to slow down, sometimes to a grinding halt. You might have to figure out what order to move statues only using a single, forgotten clue or maybe how to get out of a sealed room in a certain amount of time. Puzzles require thinking about the game’s environment and items in a different way. Great games like the early Resident Evil titles have a variety of puzzles with difficulty levels that can be extremely challenging.
Lots of zombies!
There’s nothing like running around in a video game and killing zombies. I’m not sure why zombies are more satisfying them just a regular human enemy. It be might because they’re are mindless killing machines who just want to eat brains. With this secondary element, your goal in the game feels greater then your own survival. Zombie games have gone from the slow walkers in Resident Evil to hordes of super fast undead in Left 4 Dead. To me, it doesn’t matter if the zombies or the game itself is slow paced or fast. As long as I get to shoot them, I’m happy.
Creating a character
I have no problem playing a game where the main character is exactly the same for everyone. Although, there’s something great about being able to create your own. Games like Fallout 3 and many MMOs let players pick a gender, facial features, and hair color. With this secondary element, you can spend hours making the character look exactly like you or maybe like something out of a horror movie. Either way, nobody else is going to have the same look. It creates a special bond between the character and yourself.
Long games and replay value
I feel a bit cheated if that awesome new game is only 10 hours long, especially if there’s no reason to replay it. Great longer games usually have the ability to explore. The more I can wander on my own to find every hidden item or side quest, the better. For me, a great single player game is well over 40 hours. Think Final Fantasy or even sandbox games like Red Dead Redemption with its numerous side quests and challenges. Video games with exciting multiplayer modes like HALO 3 or Left 4 Dead 2 are well worth spending $60.00 on.
Everyone has an opinion on what elements make a video game great. Some players don’t care about zombies, long single player campaigns or puzzles that are too challenging. For me, having at least one of these five makes a game stand out from the thousands released each year.