All Longer Video Games Need To Include Recaps

Link in Breath of the Wild cooking something at a campsite

After enjoying the Hyrule Warriors: Age of Calamity demo a few weeks ago, I went back to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild because it was a game I never actually finished. I got through two of the Divine Beasts but still had a lot more in the game to complete. Based on the save files, I hadn’t touched the game in nearly three years, so I forgot a lot about the game and it took me a while to get back into the groove of things. Even after playing for a handful of hours, I am still trying to re-learn some of its mechanics so I can try to finally finish it. But that got me to thinking, why don’t most games offer a recap feature after a user hasn’t played for a prolonged period of time?

A screen from the game Judgment showing off how the game would recap the events of the previous chapter.
Judgment_20201115104730

This isn’t a novel concept. In fact, some games do have ways of reminding the player what just happened. Remedy’s Alan Wake and Sega’s Judgment each had a “Previously…” video snippet between its chapters. RPGs and Open World games like Breath of the Wild, Red Dead Redemption, Assassin’s Creed contain deep stories that if you haven’t played in weeks, months, or in my case, years, you are not going to remember the events that transpired.

Some games need to take it further. Using BOTW, I don’t remember how to cook. So, I had to use a wiki. I forgot that I needed to visit Goddess statues to redeem the orbs I collected completing shrines, and there are other aspects of the game I have completely forgotten about and now must search the web to get the answers. I want to avoid spoilers but I may have no other option but to use these guides to remind myself of what I need to do.

Maybe with the promise of fewer and shorter load times on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, it will be harder for developers to add a recap feature. At the very least, every game should include an in-game tutorial that users can replay when necessary. If they can’t even do that, just give us a menu option that serves as an in-game wiki that I can easily scroll down to ‘crafting armor’ and be able to read what I need to do.

I get that adding a feature to a game isn’t easy and I’m probably in the minority. I suspect most people play a game from start to finish in a short period of time or if they stop playing a game, they rarely go back. But I also think making games more accessible is also important. 

The menu controls for Breath of the Wild

For games like Breath of the Wild, I am at a point in the game where it makes no sense to restart. There will be those opportunities. For example, I started but never finished God of War (2018) but I was pretty early in the game that I could start over and not have to do too much, or I can continue playing since I’ll probably still encounter new gameplay elements so I won’t feel too lost.

If you’re developing a game and you come across this blog post, please consider adding something to your game that aids the lapsed user. Accessibility is such an important aspect of gaming and forgetfulness is something a lot of us suffer from.