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What Makes A Video Game Great

From Tetris to Mario to Zuma, FIFA, God of war, Assassins Creed, Need for Speed, Call of Duty and not forgetting the Grand Theft Auto series. You’ve probably played them all and many more –have a high five- some of these games have absolutely nothing in common except for the fact that they are all video games.

So when I get asked what makes a good video game, most times, I would shrug my shoulders and say “I just play them.” In hindsight that’s not a bad answer, it avoids any lurking arguments and counterarguments. Phew!

Yet, video games as we have established previously is a form of art(combining visual and performing arts) and we know that all art is subjective, you like what you like. However every good art still has core elements like; negative space, proportion, value, composition etc. therefore if we tried to find some dominant features across successful video games, it shouldn’t be impossible. should it?

There’s always Tetris

A new version of Tetris developed by Play studio.

Intense, violence, blood, gore and an insane story are my friend’s core elements of a good game, but to be fair Joshua is obsessed with zombies but for every game with these characteristics you can always contrast them to a simple yet evergreen game like Tetris. There is no storyline just a classic easy to understand gameplay, it goes to show that a game with good gameplay and easy to understand controls can make up for any lapse in other areas.

You may say “oh Tetris is an old game!” but even in modern games like Call of Duty, for instance, the importance of excellent gameplay still rings through, most people don’t even bother with the campaign, they’re more interested in the multiplayer. This is true as well with Fortnite and PUBG.

Kratos’s Vendetta

One of the reasons I enjoyed playing the God of war series was the curiosity that Kratos’s journey always sparked in me. A great story can keep the player immersed in the game, players become attached to the characters and want to continue playing to see how the story unfolds, just like I did with Kratos.

A good story becomes essentially important if a game is a single-player only experience like the aforementioned title. The gameplay alone will not always save such a game. Other good examples for this are the Batman Arkham Series and Ubisoft Assassin’s Creed series.

Sport titles and Realism

With many other games, realism would not be one of the first things criticized but with sports titles, it is absolutely essential. I don’t want a FIFA game where Ronaldo looks like a mushroom and I am sure you don’t as well. The nearness of the in-game characters to the real-life sports stars they try to mimic is critical to their success. Therefore with titles such as FIFA, PES(now E-football), Madden, NBA 2k a lot of work is put into their graphics and design.

Yet, graphics and design don’t always have to be realistic to be engaging and a big example of this is the borderlands series and its cartoon-inspired Cel shading. However, with every FIFA/Borderlands, there’s always Minecraft.

The important thing with graphics then maybe that the game’s art style should fit the objective it pursues and the story it tells. For a game to be great visually doesn’t mean it must be grounded in realism, but rather help to enhance the overall experience.

Challenge, Reward & Grand Theft Auto

The concept of challenge and reward cannot be more vividly explained than with a mission on grand-theft auto. The balance of challenge and reward is something Rockstar games have mastered over the years and not just with individual missions but from getting control of zones and gangs on San Andrea’s, to getting Diaz’s mansion in vice city or being filthy rich in liberty city the balance of challenge and reward ensures that players feel a sense of accomplishment after overcoming a difficult mission or level.

So Far So Good

We now of 4 features that I consider to be dominant across the most successful games out there:

  • Gameplay
  • Story
  • Art, design and graphics
  • Challenge and reward

Honorable Mentions

Obviously, the 4 items above could be appended with a million other things and it still won’t be enough but for me, I believe these two deserve a mention as well:

  • Excellent sound and music: whenever I play need for speed, apart from the graphics and it’s gameplay, I find that the music playing on the radio helps me with my immersion as well as the sound the car is making as I go through different gear levels. It simply won’t be the same without it.
  • Replayability: This is not always obvious from the get-go but the ability of a game to keep you coming back even after you might have completed its campaign or story mode is critical to its success. If you won’t play it again, then it wasn’t good the first time.


A major factor that cannot be neglected but is different from game to game is the intended audience. We would always like different things and that’s okay therefore important consideration is given to people’s interest before a game can be made. Something for everybody usually ends up being nothing for nobody.

You want video games ?

The following titles are currently available for free for a limited period:

The Tomb Raider series(All 3): free on epic games till January 6 at 11am

Star wars: Jedi fallen order; free on prime gaming till February 2

Total war: Warhammer; free on prime gaming till February 1

World war z: Aftermath;  free on prime gaming till February  7

WRC 7 FIA World Rally Championship; free on prime gaming till February 1

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