love the art so hard
Illustration: Sony/ Naughty Dog

I rarely, rarely complete video games to one hundred percent. If I do finish a game, it’s usually just to get through the story mode. I might do a few sidequests here and there; it depends on the game. I blasted through the main campaign in Titanfall 2, and didn’t regret a minute of it; however, I didn’t play one single round of multiplayer because I’m pretty sure it’s not for me. In a Zelda game I’ll upgrade the sword and find as many heart pieces as I can to make it through, but ultimately I’m in it to get to Ganon and get out.

And yet. There are a couple games that gave me that urge. To see all the boxes checked. I’ve talked about how much I hate wasting time in games but I haven’t talked about the feeling of pride that can accompany plumbing a game all the way through to it’s depths. It isn’t always the ones that I think would grab me, and I’m sure there will be less as time goes on and my time grows more limited, but I wanted to bring up a couple games that I felt compelled to complete. I’m not The Completionist, but there were a few games that made me want to go there.

Super Mario 64

For the unfamiliar: this is a great goddamn video game. It was revolutionary for it’s time, and it still does some things better here than in any other Mario game. The feeling of zooming through the air with the flying cap, the running slide kick, shell surfing. I grew up with this game and it’s still the source of so much nostalgia and happy memories.

It’s also the first game I ever one hundred percent completed. I found all 120 stars and it made me so happy. I would bring my cartridge over to friends’ houses to show them. Firing up my copy and seeing my save file still stirs up a fierce feeling of pride.

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I’m not super sure why. I’ll be honest- I used a guide to find a couple of the stars. I came by most of them in a “legit” way, but the lure of the Nintendo Power guide was too strong. I remember the ghost level in particular giving me a lot of trouble. Still though: having a guide map it out for you is one thing, execution was another. And I executed, damn it.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Getting the Biggoron Sword in Ocarina is a legendary accomplishment and so, so worth it. Trekking through the entire game, interacting with what feels like every NPC, finally receiving your reward... it was really a thrill. You can bet that I used this beast in the final battle against Ganondorf and Ganon.

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Now that I’m thinking back on it, I don’t think I ever actually one hundred percent completed this game. Pretty sure I was missing a Gold Skulltula or two. But I definitely found all the hearts and the Biggoron Sword, and that was enough for me.

Severed

I played through all of Severed on my Vita during one of the worst time periods in my life. It helped to have a game to focus on during that time. I love everything about that game. The art direction is stunning, the battles are fun and frantic, and it’s relatively short.

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It’s the first PlayStation game I ever earned a platinum trophy for. It might be the only one I’ll ever get. I felt compelled to earn it for this game; it was my way of honoring it. Playing Severed helped me through an extremely difficult personal crisis and by getting all the trophies it felt sort of like I was giving back to the game.

The Last of Us

I didn’t go for the platinum for this game, and I probably won’t ever do so. There are just enough little finicky achievements that make me not want to go there. However, one thing I did do that still makes me smirk and say to myself fuck yeah I did that was beat the campaign and the DLC on “survivor” difficulty.

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It completely changed the way I look at the game. It made each kill matter in a different way than playing on an easier mode does. Crucially, I learned to avoid combat as often as engage in it, and the game became was more tense and nerve-wracking as a result. I think I made it through the final area in the game only killing a couple of enemies, instead of the wholesale slaughter I brought with me the first time through. I used the smokebombs more often, and bottles and bricks to distract enemies as often as I could.

Not being able to use the “super listening” also totally changes the game, for the better. You learn to play more strategically, and rely on pattern recognition and sightlines. There are systems in place that I don’t think can be fully appreciated until you’re playing on this difficulty level.

I’ll always be proud of making it through the campaign on Survivor. Even if it isn’t one hundred percent-ing the game.

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My proudest gaming moments are few and far between, but these are a few that I know I’ll always think back on fondly.