It’s no great surprise that the rise in prevalence of slow-starting games coincides so neatly with the demise of the printed instruction manual. Where once a player was free to choose whether to read up on a game first or just dive right head first, they’re now often subjected to long-winded tutorial sections that can really dampen the excitement that goes hand in hand with starting a new game.
While there are certainly plenty of examples of well-paced tutorials, these can still be problematic when it comes to replaying a game after completion. On the other hand, some games opt to forego the tutorial section all together, which doesn’t always work out too well either due to how complex some modern games can be. Despite these issues, however, there are many great games that manage to overcome their slow beginnings, particularly on the Nintendo Switch.
10 Animal Crossing: New Horizons
The idea of a game that runs in real time is one that the Animal Crossing series has found great success with over the years. For as interesting as it may be though, this mechanic can often lead to the games starting out incredibly slowly and this is once again the case with Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
Upon arriving on their new island, there’s very little for players to really do beyond some basic crafting and material gathering exercises. Rather than a few hours, it can take days before it’s even possible to fully explore the island. Once Nook’s Cranny and the Resident Services building have been constructed, the pace does pick up quite dramatically, but the only way to achieve this quickly is by changing the date and time settings on the Switch.
9 The Witcher 3
For as fantastic as The Witcher 3 is once it fully gets going, the opening stages can be a bit of a drag. Players start out in White Orchard, which in many ways serves as a tutorial area for the game. In that sense, it does its job dutifully, although there’s a strong argument to be made that it goes on for a little too long with much of the content being unnecessary.
Just as how most motorists start to really learn how to drive after passing their tests, The Witcher 3‘s opening stages focus a lot more on theory than they do on providing useful experience. What’s more, the game’s story can also take a little while to get going and while learning about Triss and Yen in the game’s early stages is certainly interesting, it’s nowhere near as compelling as the narrative a little further down the road.
8 Xenoblade Chronicles 2
While still a very good game, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is nowhere near as good as its predecessor. The game’s story is perfectly fine after Chapter 3, but its weak cast of characters is definitely something of an Achilles’ heel. Compared to Shulk, Rex is little more than a pail imitation and this can cause problems for both new and returning players.
Having spent so much time with Shulk in earlier titles, the switch to Rex can be incredibly jarring for longtime fans, particularly in the game’s early stages. This problem is further compounded by the generic supporting cast, who are about as endearing as an angry Bengal tiger. Things do get a little better in this regard once the story really starts to kick in, although this is partly down to players either accepting or being distracted from how bland the game’s characters really are.
7 Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
While the gameplay in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate doesn’t really change over time, there’s one incredibly important thing that does. The roster. One of the biggest selling points for Ultimate was that “everyone is here,” but this just isn’t the case when players first boot up the game.
Just like the very first Smash Bros. game for the N64, the game begins with only eight playable fighters. For anybody who happens to enjoy playing as one of these characters this may not be a problem, but for those who main fighters like Cloud or Mewtwo, it can take hours upon hours of playing the game to finally unlock them.
6 The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
There are plenty of games that are far too heavy-handed when it comes to easing players into things. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, on the other hand, arguably strays just a little too far in the opposite direction. Players are thrown straight in to a sprawling and expansive world that is beautifully crafted and exquisitely laid out. This approach does have its problems though.
Although definitely liberating, it can take quite some time for players to get their bearings; let alone get to grips with some of the game’s core mechanics. Learning by trial and error is arguably a lot better than being dragged by the hand, but it doesn’t always make for an exciting experience. Once this period is out of the way, however, the game really does start to shine.
5 Super Mario 3D All-Stars
While on the subject of shines, replaying Super Mario Sunshine and the other two titles that comprise the Super Mario 3D All-Stars pack on modern day hardware was an exciting prospect for many. Sadly, however, not all of the games have aged particularly well, with both Sunshine and 64 requiring quite a lot of time and patience to become fully reacquainted with; let alone pick up for the very first time.
Playing these classic titles today serves as an excellent reminder of how far the industry has come over the past two decades. Most players will likely spend the first few hours fighting with the games’ unintuitive camera controls which can at times turn the dream into an absolute nightmare. Although nowhere near perfect, practice does make acceptable, but only for those who are willing to put in the work.
4 Steins;Gate Elite
The Steins;Gate series definitely isn’t for everyone, but it’s hard not to admire it for the things that it gets right. The games typically feature excellent stories and the well-written characters often linger on in the memory long after the climax has arrived. Steins;Gate Elite is very much more of the same. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have its fair share of problems though.
By far the biggest of these issues is its awkward pacing, which can at times be very difficult to battle through. The game’s first chapter in particular can be a lot to take in, with a ridiculous amount of exposition burring players right out of the gate. Although it’s all in the interest of world building, it’s an incredibly awkward way to begin what is otherwise a very good game.
3 Pokemon Sword & Shield
Just as replaying the same game for the tenth time can make its tutorial sections redundant, so too can playing yet another Pokemon title. Although dressed up a little differently this time around, the opening stages of Pokemon Sword & Shield play out incredibly similarly to those in earlier titles. In Game Freak’s defense though, this is a somewhat difficult problem to overcome without wholesale changes to the series.
Learning the games’ core mechanics will be essential to those who are new to the series and, given how young some of those people are, the excessive hand-holding definitely makes sense. For returning players though, it can be incredibly infuriating, with the first few hours of the game requiring no skill or strategy whatsoever. As the Galar region slowly starts to open up, players are able to start diversifying their team. Until that time, however, it’s all rather dull.
2 Hollow Knight
Hollow Knight is a fantastic game and one of the best indie titles to have ever made its way to the Switch. The problem is though, that its biggest strengths are arguably the fluidity with which players can traverse stages and the pinpoint accuracy of the game’s controls. With that in mind, it doesn’t really put its best foot forward.
While the latter is present from the beginning, many of the game’s movement options are locked behind power-ups and abilities, meaning that the game can feel incredibly slow during the opening stages. This problem goes away once players get their hands on the Mantis Claw and Moth Cloak, but until then, the slow pace can often feel a little underwhelming.
1 Dragon Quest XI
Due to their very nature, RPGs are often prone to slow starts and long play times. Some are better than others though when it comes to splitting up the inevitable exposition dumps with quality gameplay segments. Sadly, despite being one of the best JRPGs ever made, Dragon Quest XI is not one of them.
The opening few hours of the game are littered with cutscenes which are both long and frequently occurring. They often come at the very worst moments too; just as it feels like gameplay mechanics are starting to make sense. As the narrative unfolds, these interruptions do become far less frequent, but the first few chapters can be a real chore; particularly the journey from Cobblestone to Heliodor.