Streets of Rage Switch OLED
Image: Nintendo Life

There was a time when we wished every video game were never-ending.

Back in the old days we'd save up all our pocket money and wisely invest in only the very finest games after weeks and months of meticulous research; consulting reviews, collating opinions and perhaps even renting or borrowing from a pal to make absolutely certain we weren't buying a turkey. Once we'd settled down and finally begun playing the thing, sheer lack of anything else to play meant we'd wring every last drop of enjoyment from the software, good or bad, and try to make the experience last as long as humanly possible.

Now we're older, of course, and it's the other way around. We've got more disposable income — not a lot, you understand, but enough to buy a video game without having to wait for birthdays or Christmas. However, we're incredibly time-poor these days, and with so many more games vying for our attention it's got to the point where we often can't stomach the thought of scratching the surface of games which offer more than we can manage — especially with the niggling feeling that they've been padded out for players with much more time on their hands.

it's got to the point where we often can't stomach the thought of scratching the surface of games which offer more than we can manage

Don't get us wrong — some games need 60+ hours to tell their story, to really tease out details and explore the depths of their mechanics... but most absolutely do not.

For this writer, it's the same with movies; some films need three hours or more to tell their tale, but brevity is a real boon, too, and 90% of theatrical releases would be improved if they ran a nice tight 90 minutes. Of course, opinions will differ on that — complaints to the usual address — but in our opinion a great many movies and games could do with tightening up in the hour count department. It'd be lovely not to have to consult How Long To Beat quite so much, but here we are.

Metroid Dread met with near universal acclaim when it released earlier this month, although we've noticed online murmur grumbling about its length. There's obviously a factor here regarding the value proposition of a $60 game, but that's hard to analyse because the value of $60 will vary on a person-by-person basis.

Metroid Dread
Image: Nintendo

By all accounts a first playthrough of Metroid Dread will take the average player 8-10 hours, although subsequent playthroughs will obviously be much swifter. For this writer, that's a decent chunk of time. Sure, it's nowhere near the 275 hours (or more) we've apparently ploughed into Animal Crossing: New Horizons, or the 280 hours logged on Breath of the Wild over the last four-and-a-half years, but that's a perfectly respectable game length — far from a long game compared to those examples, but by no means 'short' in our books.

We've got an entire list devoted to short Switch games, and there we defined them as games you can finish in a single sitting, maybe two. Around three hours is the sweet spot, although we'd stretch to five or six at a push. Beyond that and by our measurement you're out of the 'short game' category and into the realm of plain old 'game'.

Or are you? Maybe our definition is all askew compared to public opinion! If you expect to spend 40-60 hours with your average game, an 8-hour romp around ZDR will be a slight experience. With that in mind, we invite you to vote in the poll below and let us know what qualifies as a short game for you.

For you, how many hours makes a 'short' game?

Feel free to let us know your favourite short games — or the games you wish were a bit shorter — in the comments below. Alternatively, definitely explain to us in great detail how Kill Bill would have been improved had it been three movies instead of a measly two.