It seems that over the last few years a large segment of the gaming community has started lauding massive AAA titles as the only worthwhile purchases. There are always a few standout smaller games that achieve critical and even commercial success, but those are few and far between. For the most part, if a game isn’t at least X amount of hours long or doesn’t have X amount of content, it’s not seen by many as a worthwhile investment.
This becomes an issue when great games are dismissed because of their smaller scope, especially when they’re targeting a lower price point. A game like Snipperclips was praised for its whimsical art direction and fun co-op mechanics but was simultaneously derided for being too short for its $20 price tag. This is coming from a game with 45 regular stages, 15 multiplayer-specific stages, and three extra multiplayer mini-games. The physical release of The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ was similarly critiqued for being $40 despite the base game and all of the DLC adding up to $35 digitally on Steam. For some reason, if it’s not a meaty AAA experience or an established franchise, people expect to pay sub-$15 for a game—a mindset likely spurred by the mobile game market, Steam sales, and Humble Bundles.
Of course, it’s natural to want to get the most for your money. The basic premise that the more hours of gameplay spent on a game equates to more value theoretically makes sense. AAA offerings like Red Dead Redempton, Pokemon Sun & Moon and Persona 5 can each provide over 100 hours of gameplay for a premium price. But what about spending less for a shorter—still polished— experience?
As I’ve graduated from school and gotten into the job market, I find myself with less and less time to devote to meaty single-player games. Multiplayer games are a bit different in that it’s easy to hop in for a few rounds and then leave, but games like Breath of the Wild and Xenoblade Chronicles X are way too intimidating to even start. With more time-consuming responsibilities than ever, I’ve started to run into a problem almost every gamer can relate to; a backlog full of amazing games I might never get a chance to finish. The bigger it’s grown, the tougher it’s become justifying a new game purchase.
But what if I knew a game would only take me 5-6 hours to finish? What if I knew that, for $10-$20, I could have both a fun time and easy conscience knowing that the games I’m buying won’t be added to the growing stack under the TV?
For gamers with less time than they used to have, smaller experiences can be vital. It’s not only about buying something and knowing that it’ll be played through, but it’s also about a sense of accomplishment. That sweet, elusive feeling that arises when you finally conquer something you’ve been working towards for hours. For those who can’t spare the time to plow through the latest Zelda or Persona entry, smaller games can fill that void quite nicely.
This is one of the core reasons why the Nintendo Switch is so appealing—its indie lineup perfectly feeds this need, and they can all be played portably. Need a quick fix? Grab FAST RMX or the upcoming Pocket Rumble and knock out a few sessions online. Want something more substantial? Check out the 15-level Snake Pass or conquer the 30+ levels of Graceful Explosion Machine. How about something with replay value? Rogue-likes The Binding of Isaac: Afterbirth+ and TumbleSeed have you covered. All of these games provide quality experiences on a smaller scale for a much smaller price than your average AAA. Whether it’s successfully finishing a run up the mountain in TumbleSeed or finally collecting that last gem in Snake Pass, the quick nature of these playthroughs means consistent feelings of success without the guilt that comes with having to shelve something because you can’t find the 40+ hours to put into it.