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The Games That Got Away

Wot I want to play again

Maybe it's just a symptom of getting old, but increasingly I want to revisit games I feel I could yet get more out of far more than I want to play something new. I've got these two awful tendencies: one is to run away from something if it's too demanding, and another is to be so preoccupied with collecting or unlocking everything that I don't stop and smell the flowers. I deny myself appreciation for and insight about some games because I'm too worried that I'm missing out on some infinitely more ephemeral aspect of them, like whatever's behind that door or what that high-level spell does. So these are just a few of the games I want to play again, in an impossible world where I had the time to.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Partly this is just seeing trailers for the new game and wanting it now-now-now, but partly it's because I feel there's unfinished business. I played DXHR non-lethally bar a couple of accidents, and of course bar the bosses, as this was pre-director's cut. But I'd like to go further and see how non-violently I can play it. Conversely, I'd also like to play it absolutely, horrifyingly lethally, as to this day I still don't really know how the elbow swords work and there were a bunch of augs I never even used. Most of all though, in my time with the game I was so preoccupied with getting into every door and earning every point that I didn't really stop to take it all in, appreciate its world-building or consider the issues it raised. If I can play again without my greed hat on, I feel as though I'd get a whole lot more out of it.

The Mass Effect series

Now we're - mostly - past outrage about endings and secret faces and all that business, I'd love to spend a few long weekends delving into Mass Effect without any pressure to reach a destination. Just enjoying the space operatic excess of it all, doing odd jobs across the galaxy. Not to mention that I was never nasty first time around, missed a bunch of side-quests and there are something like a dozen people I've never got sweaty with.

Football Manager

One of my greatest regrets on RPS is being too swamped with other games to get far with the chronicles of Ian Football. I don't have a particularly strong love of football - primarily because I've never had a team to call my own - but I've always hugely enjoyed football management games whenever I've played them. The grand strategising, the tension, the slow growth and improvement of my team, the certain knowledge that I know best even the evidence to the contrary mounts endlessly. What stops me is a fear that to do it properly essentially entails a second career. In another life, I will spend most of my time playing Football Manager.

XCOM: The Long War

Another time-devourer, this enormously ambitious and frighteningly hardcore campaign mod for XCOM was something I earnestly wanted to lose myself to, but its length and ferocity put paid to that. Now several major updates down the line it's a significantly different prospect to last time I looked at it too. I'm well aware it's out there, I'm well aware that it expands XCOM massively, I'm well aware it could take over my life, and for that reason I'm steering clear.

DayZ and/or Rust

The reason I don't look in on these much is less to do with time, and more to do with not having a steady group of chums who play it. These are games I want to play in a hooting gaggle, helping each other out in a hostile world and snorting at each other's misfortunes. It's the only way to play the end of the world. Of course, I could setup or join a group, but I'd almost certainly end up flaking after a few sessions, and then they'd hate me.

Elite: Dangerous

Another 'second career' game, I know that to really play Elite means abandoning any sense that it's a choose your own adventure singleplayer affair and accepting its brutal MMO nature. There's also a hell of a lot of learning and cartography to be done. I'm averse to none of that - indeed, I'm sure it's ultimately far more rewarding than the quicker, short-term thrills of the stuff I do play - but I know that half-measures wouldn't get me far at all.

The Hobbit (Spectrum) / Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (BBC Micro)

Landmark text adventures I played at the time, but remember nothing of now and thus have little to say about them. Why were they so acclaimed? Do they still deserve it? Is Hitchhiker's actually funny to a cynical 36-year-old? How many living world tricks does The Hobbit have up its sleeve really?


I played about an hour then bounced right off it, because I'm lazy and because I'm a coward. Quinns' remarkable series proves that without a doubt I have to play this properly, I have to give myself to it utterly, and from that maybe I shall learn to strive harder and have a thicker skin in games.

World of Warcraft

WoW lost its magic for me when it became a game about having the right equipment and about repeating and refining the same experiences over and over. But several expansions have come and gone since last I played it, and maybe, just maybe, going in late, without expectations or pressure to keep up with the Joneses, there's a chance it could, for a while, become a game about exploration and experimentation again. Some of my fondest gaming memories are invisi-sneaking through high level areas I wasn't supposed to be in, miraculous escapes from certain death situations, or simply ending up with a colour-coordinated outfit. For as long as there's any chance at all that WoW could be a playground again, there will always be a temptation to go back.

Dwarf Fortress

Due to the aforementioned reasons of laziness and cowardice, I didn't make it too far. Given my love of Dungeon Keeper, it's crazy that I'm not magnetically drawn to something which gives me that at vastly greater scope and scale, with far more meaning and variety attached to every dungeon denizen. One day, I'll make time. And, sadly enough, that day will probably be when I see a UI and graphics mod that smooths off all the sharp edges for me.


I've never played all of it. I want to play all of it. Just to see. Just to really, truly see.

And you? What are your ones that got away?

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In this article

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac

Dwarf Fortress


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XCOM: Enemy Unknown

Android, iOS, PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac

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About the Author
Alec Meer avatar

Alec Meer


Ancient co-founder of RPS. Long gone. Now mostly writes for rather than about video games.