Long games were totally back this year, baby

At the beginning of this year, I said something that I would deeply come to regret: “I’m sick of 100-hour RPGs.” Long-ass games were my entire personality for so much of my life that I don’t know why I ever thought such a thing. Twelve months down the line I’m glad I can eat my words, because long games are totally back, and I couldn’t be happier.

Did they ever go away? Not really, especially on PC. Crusader Kings 3 continues to lock people down for hours on end and Factorio is one of those games that my pals never shut up about—albeit for a good reason, if our 91% review score is anything to go by. But 2023 feels like the year where long games have felt fun again, and reignited my drive to play them. It’s the first time in a hot sec I’ve really appreciated just how nice it can be losing my life to a sprawling RPG. 

I used to love the grind of levelling all my characters up, the excitement of lengthy cutscenes filled with world-building and tender moments shared between the cast. I always think of how much I adore Final Fantasy 10, a game that can be a real slow burn but has immaculate narrative payoff. Or how much I came to love every single party member in Persona 4 Golden thanks to being able to regularly interact with them, and shedding a tear when the credits finally rolled after 100 or so hours. 

Long life, good life

Of course, no game helped that more than the modestly successful Baldur’s Gate 3. Our highest review score in almost two decades and a slew of awards across various shows secured Larian’s new RPG as one of the greatest games we’ve played in a hot sec. It’s an absolute giant of a game—HowLongToBeat estimates that the main story itself is just shy of 57 hours, while the whole thing is around 146. I put almost 50 hours into the first act alone, so that hour count feels a little conservative.

(Image credit: Larian)

A lot of people on our team have poured 150 – 200 hours into Baldur’s Gate 3, and even then not a single person has seen everything it has to offer. It’s so vast and yet rarely does it feel like you’re going for long stretches without seeing anything worthwhile. And the chances of nothing new happening in subsequent playthroughs feels minimal. 

Even Starfield—a game whose vastness was not so replete with activity—was warmly received, even if its Steam rating has dropped off since launch. That’s a pretty damn long game too, with HowLongToBeat’s completionist estimation identical to Baldur’s Gate 3. And when we start venturing slightly out of triple-digit RPG territory we can find even more bangers. Looter shooter Remnant 2 scored 84% in our review, an 80-hour spectacular that does a bloody good job of innovating from its predecessor. Games like Sea of Stars, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor and Lies of P have been huge faves among my friends, critics and gamers this year and they’re all fantastic 50 – 60 hour experiences.

It’s the first time in a hot sec I’ve really appreciated just how nice it can be losing my life to a sprawling RPG.

I forgot just how satisfying it was to go back over a game across hundreds of hours, finding new things and yelling “How the hell did I miss this?!” at my monitor. Being able to spend so much time becoming acquainted with a world and its characters, and that feeling of starting to care way too much about a fictional bundle of pixels. It’s just something I can’t always get from a fantastic yet concise 10 – 12 hour game, and there’s something really special about investing so much time with a cast of characters so lovingly crafted.

(Image credit: Bethesda)

The remarkable thing about 2023’s long games is that hardly any have felt tiring to play. They’re not long because they’re pointlessly open world, stuffed with side missions and collectibles to artificially inflate playtime. Was all that stuff why I thought I was sick and tired of long games? That’s something I discussed with Lauren Morton on an episode of the PC Gamer Chat Log podcast earlier this year. The long games I played, watched and talked to my friends about this year all seemed cut from a different cloth. Their size has felt far more purposeful, the hour counts less of a chore and more a symbol of my desire to know every little detail about what I’ve been playing.

Hour by hour

I still love shorter games—they’re a low-commitment way to graze on cool concepts and contained stories. They make for great weekend gaming, or something to fill the void when I’m lost on what to play or don’t want to lose weeks of my life. But I grew up on the huge JRPGs like Final Fantasy, Persona, and Kingdom Hearts. They’re games I would still cry over on my third playthrough even though I knew what was coming, games I was more than happy to sink another hundreds hours into just to feel those emotions all over again. Hell, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve repurchased Final Fantasy 10 and Final Fantasy 13-2, two of my absolute favourites. Being an adult I sometimes forget just how much I love these juggernauts, and I’m so grateful to 2023 for reminding me what makes them so darn special.

So I say bring even more my way in 2024. We’ve already got Persona 3 Reload and Dragon’s Dogma 2 on the horizon in the first quarter of the year. There are a ton of other upcoming PC games with release dates already, too, and I totally hope I’m once again drowning in 100-hour specials. Just maybe not as close together as everything was in 2023, please?

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