As gamers who have become a bit jaded with the hobby, we tend to do 1 of 2 things. We either flit between new titles hoping the next game will be the one that recaptures our imagination or we resort to our tried and true favorites we know and love.
New games offer new experiences, challenges, visuals and sounds. The classics, however, are exactly that, classics. Many a gamer has opted for yet another playthrough of Skyrim over the shiny new game still with 0 hours played (I swear my 700 mod monstrosity will be my last foray into Tamriel).
Deciding between new titles or replaying old favorites can be difficult. While it’s not an either-or situation, knowing the pros and cons of each can help prevent choice paralysis. Rather than spending time deciding, you can then simply dive into a game and enjoy it.
Most of us got into gaming to experience something completely new. While there are exceptions (like truckers coming home to play Eurotruck Simulator), gaming gives us a break from the norm, providing us with sights, sounds, and stories that feel fresh. Most 90s kids, for example, will vividly remember the panoramic shots of Final Fantasy 7’s Midgar, with characters and stories that were new and interesting.
In the (worryingly) long time since, games have only gotten more immersive. Picking up a modern title like The Last of Us 2 is now as impressive as any Hollywood movie, if not more so thanks to branching storylines and interactivity. It can be hard to justify reaching for a game you’ve already played when there are rich, immersive worlds like Red Dead Redemption 2’s or Breath of the Wild waiting to be explored.
There’s also a seemingly endless amount of genres to try out. If you’ve plumbed the depths of Japanese RPGs and not really liked where you’ve wound up, you can switch it up and try some FPS titles. In this way, new titles offer a way to avoid burnout, something that bored gamers are often frustrated with.
Throw in the chance to learn the challenge of learning new mechanics and for some types of gamer it can be hard to justify replaying old games.
New games are an investment and a risk
On the flip side, playing new games isn’t always what we want.
The most immediate barrier is price. Choosing a game you’ve never played before costs money. Reach for a brand new title each time the credits start rolling and your gaming hobby can start looking quite expensive. While this can be counteracted, somewhat, by being a Patient Gamer, even older titles can soon rack up quite the tab.
A new experience is also an investment of time and interest. It took me 3 times to get into the Witcher 3 simply because I didn’t care about the world’s plight. It wasn’t that the game was bad, it’s just I didn’t have the free time to learn the lore and new mechanics. Finding your feet in a game can take a while and sometimes it can feel like a chore.
With so much choice on offer, if a game doesn’t immediately hold our interest it can be hard to justify sticking with it. And so a vicious cycle begins. New titles, then represent a bit of a risk. We don’t know before we purchase them whether we’re going to like the game or if we really want to invest time and interest into it to begin with.
Replaying our favourite games: guaranteed fun
As a result, many of us bored gamers tend to reach for our favorite titles. Replaying old games is guaranteed fun. We know what we’re heading into, we know the mechanics and controls, and we know roughly the sort of time we need for a decent session.
Replaying games is not just retreading your steps either. You can replay games at higher difficulties for more of a challenge, add mods, or approach game decisions in a completely different way. Ever tried killing Wrex in Mass Effect? Give it a go. Always wanted to complete Dark Souls without clothes? Have at it.
It’s probably true that a lot of the replayability of some titles comes from nostalgia. If Ocarina of Time were to launch now, it would probably not hold up against even some mobile games in terms of graphics and gameplay. That doesn’t stop the likes of me from going for one last hurrah through low-poly Hyrule and enjoying the 16-bit intro music though. Nostalgia is a powerful thing and sometimes is exactly what we need if feeling low or stressed.
Revisiting a classic title or a personal favorite, then, is a safe choice. Far from feeling like a novice, we go into these games empowered, knowing we are capable of completing the title and even picking up on new things we’ve previously missed.
It’s not just story-driven games either. When I’ve found myself in the gaming wilderness and not known where to turn, I’ve often returned to games like Rocket League. Mastering mechanics like wave-dashes and air dribbles can be deeply satisfying. Highly replayable titles like Civilization, too, are a great go-to for replayability, with mechanics that you can never really exhaust.
Of course, reaching for the same old doesn’t exactly broaden our horizons. We often find ourselves stuck in a gaming rut reliving the same experiences and stories because they once brought us some happiness and enjoyment. Expecting a game to continue delivering on this is perhaps unreasonable.
A lot of our favorites are childhood hits. This means putting up with clunkier controls, graphical limitations, and gameplay mechanics that don’t always hold up. While some of this is all part of the charm, it might also be a bit of Stockholm syndrome. Goldeneye 64 for example, is indeed a masterpiece of its time but is probably better off simply remembered than replayed.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that our favorite games were also new titles to us at some point. We went in as noobs and had to keep checking the controls, couldn’t remember the character names, and got stuck on that dungeon or boss. There’s no reason we can’t find new favorites just as we did before.
While only you can figure out what’s best for you to play next, we can help make things clearer at least. While on the surface, it seems like your choice is between new and old games, there are actually a few other options. In fact, there’s a whole spectrum of choice between the new, the familiar, and the known.
- Brand new title: Best if you want a completely new experience and have time and interest to follow a new story and learn characters and new mechanics.
- New genre: Trying a new genre is a time-sink and can be an uphill battle at first. It offers completely new experiences, however. Going from RPGs and FPS games to sims like Farming Simulator, for example, can be a welcome change of pace.
- Same genre: If you want new characters and stories but know your niche, finding a game in the same genre is a way to change things up without starting from scratch.
- Familiar game: If you liked Grand Theft Auto, for example, you’re probably going to like Saints Row. Sticking with a familiar game is good for those who want a new spin on things.
- Sequel: Playing a sequel or prequel is perhaps the best compromise for most gamers. You’ll experience new (and hopefully improved) mechanics, new characters, and familiar faces, but already know the controls and pacing.
- Replaying a game: If you want the comfort of the known or you just want to revisit a world you loved being in, replaying a game you know you like is a guaranteed way to have fun. Adding mods or changing the difficulty is one way to keep things different, however.
The main takeaway
There’s no right or wrong game to play next. Ultimately you have to decide how you want to spend your time gaming and the sort of experience you are looking for. You may find different points in your life suit replays and others suit trying something new. Your time should be valued and identifying what kind of experience you get the most out of can help make gaming fun again.