Up For Debate - Are Quality Single-Player Experiences Dying Out?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sat, Mar 2, 2019 1:41 PM

If we ever put up an article about an EA game, or a battle royale, or pretty much anything, come to think of it, one of the most common refrains is to hear folks bemoaning the death of single-player gaming; the proliferation of games as a service, loot boxes, and all the big baddies coming to steal your lunch money. But is there actually any truth to it?

Let’s take 2018 as an example. Arguably not the strongest year in games but a decent one all the same. But, I think we can all agree that any game that averages a review score of 80% or higher probably qualifies as being well-received. So, we used review aggregator OpenCritic to determine how many games got great reviews over the last year, as well as how many were predominantly single-player. The results may surprise you.

Approximately 147 games averaged a score of 80% or over on OpenCritic in 2018. That’s a game with strong reviews every 2.5 days of the year, give or take.

10 of these 147 games scored 90% or higher, and can legitimately claim to have fantastic reviews. Of these 10 games, only two could be argued to have a multiplayer focus - Forza Horizon 4 and Super Smash Bros Ultimate. However, both have lengthy single-player campaigns that last dozens of hours.

If I were to strip out the multiplayer-focused titles and remove each and every single game that features a paid loot box, here’s the full list of games that averaged a score of 85% or higher:

Game Average Review Score
Red Dead Redemption 2 96
God of War 95
Nier Automata: Become as Gods Edition 92
Shadow of the Colossus 92
Celeste 92
Divinity Original Sin 2 - Definitive Edition 91
Mark of the Ninja: Remastered 90
Return of the Obra Dinn 90
Hyper Light Drifter - Special Edition 89
Astro Bot Rescue Mission 89
Tetris Effect 89
Injustice 2: Legendary Edition 89
Sonic Mania Plus 89
Bayonetta 1 & 2 89
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire 89
Dead Cells 89
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age 88
Into the Breach 88
Ikaruga 88
Hollow Knight: Voidheart Edition 88
Spider-Man 88
Just Shapes & Beats 87
The Messenger 87
Diablo 3: Eternal Collection 87
Toki Tori 87
Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom 87
DJMAX Respect 87
Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends Edition 87
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom 87
Yakuza Kiwami 2 86
Guacamelee 2 86
Unavowed 86
CrossCode 86
Civilization VI Switch 86
Subnautica 86
GRIS 86
Moss 85
Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology 85
Final Fantasy XV: Windows Edition 85
Total War: Warhammer 2 - Rise of the Tomb Kings 85
Football Manager 2019 85
Octopath Traveler 85
Slime-San 85
Frostpunk 85
Two Point Hospital 85
Dark Souls Remastered 85
428: Shibuya Scramble 85
Assassins Creed Origins: The Curse of the Pharaohs 85

That’s 48 games there that averaged reviews of 85% or higher and are single-player focused. I took out Smash Bros, Forza Horizon 4, Monster Hunter World, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition and Dragon Ball FighterZ for their multiplayer focus. Yes, some are remasters and re-releases, but the overall picture shows the wealth of quality on offer here, and none of these games in this list feature a dreaded loot box. There are a further 100 games that score 80-84%. The way that doom and gloom culture can pervade the news, you’d think the sky was falling on gaming. Yet the evidence says otherwise. Clearly, there’s room for single-player games to exist alongside the likes of Apex, Fortnite, DOTA 2 and Rocket League.

We're less than two months into 2019 and we've already had Metro Exodus, Resident Evil 2, Far Cry New Dawn, Slay the Spire, Sunless Skies, Kingdom Hearts 3, Civ: Gathering Storm, Wargroove, Dirt Rally 2, ApeOut, Eastshade, Ace Combat 7, Trials Rising, Battlefleet Gothic 2. The quality's there, maybe people just aren't finding it?

Let’s take a trip back to a golden year, just in case my rose-tinted spectacles are failing me. Back to a wondrous time called 1998, when Metal Gear Solid, Half-Life, Grim Fandango, Resident Evil 2, Gran Turismo and Baldur’s Gate launched. Removing repeats, fewer than 50 games averaged 85% or higher. The results are nearly identical. There’s a heck of a lot of sports titles in this list though, including NFL Blitz, All-Star Baseball 99, NBA Live 99, NFL GameDay 99, Madden NFL 99, FIFA 99, NHL 99, NBA Live 99 (again!), ISS 98, 1080 Snowboarding.

My point being that the quality and quantity of great games is still here, and arguably even stronger than they’ve ever been before. And yet the pervading narrative is that single-player games are dying a sad death, replaced by an army of battle royale clones. The evidence kind of points in the other direction.

Or do you disagree? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the supposed death of single-player games and the rise of games as a service!

Do you think single-player focused games are dying out?

Do you prefer single-player or multiplayer?

Our favourite comments:

I don't know. I play probably 95% single player. I have a backlog that's a mile long and a watch list of unreleased games just as long. AA and Indie really pulling a lot of that weight but not entirely.

velcroboy

I prefer MP, but I probably forgot how to aim in BFV ever since I touched Witcher 3 (2.5 weeks now without even touching the DLC). A good single player is always welcome and I doubt it's dying, just a rarer breed now.

havoc92

Nope, they aren't dying out. It is just that AAA industry wants to move to more profitable multiplayer pastures, because it is easier for them to make all the money with microtransactions in multiplayer. But singleplayer games are still going strong and will continue to do so, since they offer different experience.

Seth22087

I think it's the opposite - quality of (paid) multiplayer games is decreasing, battle royale introduced tons of low quality products and cash grabs, most of the (60$) mutiplayer games are also filled with microtransactions, season passes and lootboxes. There is almost no difference in monetization between 60$ Black Ops 4 or free to play Apex/Fortnite, lets not even mention Anthem or BattlefieldV.

icreaka

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12:14 Mar-08-2019

I'm late to the party, but I'm glad these comments are sensible. Gaming has been facing the end of its life since its inception and I've been laughing at the hysterics my entire life. Of COURSE sp games aren't going anywhere. Just look at that list, 2018 wasn't lackluster at all. Some absolute diamonds in that lot. It was only really a let down for online games.

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12:26 Mar-08-2019

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15:54 Mar-07-2019

Who needs an incredible plot, deep mechanics, improved ia and fantastic ambience?


What the gamer needs are lots of repetitive actions and online looting. Reach the next level to loot more and reach the next level.

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13:41 Mar-06-2019

Stupid question.

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17:10 Mar-04-2019

Singleplayer with a good plot will always have value. look at the COD series and why they are famous? it's single player with a heart-catching story.

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17:22 Mar-04-2019

Is it though?

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15:21 Mar-07-2019

Truly saying, they were best when they were released. But right now they are not even competitive because of too much emphasis in multiplayer mode. Crysis story was also good. My point is not to support any specific series but to show they became popular with singleplayer.

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17:22 Mar-04-2019

Well, they used to be back in the day and with some modern exceptions. But BO2, Ghosts, AW, BO3 had quite weak campaigns. WWII was ok, IW and MW3 were very good, BO1 and prior were awesome. Bo4... well you know XD

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09:20 Mar-05-2019

I like COD 1 & 2's campaigns but that's about it for me. I think the series lost its way with COD4: Modern Warfare. It's still okay, just not the thing I'm really looking for.

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09:55 Mar-05-2019

Internet Explorer is amazing

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15:16 Mar-04-2019

I think there was a lull in sp a few years ago but now it's gone back up

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20:47 Mar-06-2019

That's what I'm thinking too. When I saw the headline I thought "Didn't that already happen a few years ago?" But I guess it didn't stick long. yay

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13:46 Mar-04-2019

I rather have a single player game now than a multiplayer. Don't get me wrong i love multiplayer. But i love diving into the story and what the devs have worked on for so long to bring us this game to action.

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10:02 Mar-04-2019

My thoughts summed up


SP Is the best!

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17:46 Mar-06-2019

Yeah, I really miss the good old times where every games were SP focused.

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09:50 Mar-04-2019

Good SP games released past few years from the top of my head.


Pathfinder Kingmaker, PoE 1/2, Tyranny, DOS 1/2, AC Origins/ Odyssey, Kingdom Come, TW3, Spider-man, God of War, HZD, Metro Exodus, Vampyr, Spellforce 3..I'm probably forgetting a lot, so please don't hold it against me (I know there aren't any indie games on this list).


SP games aren't dying, and got plenty of cool ones coming.

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08:38 Mar-04-2019

i hope not, thats where the fun is

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00:01 Mar-04-2019

I think the success of the new God of War pretty much debunked this. Great single player games will always sell as long as they are fun and polished.

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20:03 Mar-03-2019

I don't know. I play probably 95% single player. I have a backlog that's a mile long and a watch list of unreleased games just as long. AA and Indie really pulling a lot of that weight but not entirely.

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13:59 Mar-03-2019

Single player game is not dying out,It is the quality experience that is dying out.
Some company are killing it on purpose to shove their newly sugar coated old sh!t in our mouth.

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10:06 Mar-03-2019

It's not SP games in generals that dying. It's the Subject, trend, and Setting about that used too much. Like military shooter. Steamer baited horror, Gears clone. After RE7/RE2 pulled itself out of Action TPS it becomes great again.

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09:54 Mar-03-2019

I prefer MP, but I probably forgot how to aim in BFV ever since I touched Witcher 3 (2.5 weeks now without even touching the DLC). A good single player is always welcome and I doubt it's dying, just a rarer breed now.

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09:34 Mar-03-2019

Devs nowadays are focusing on multiplayer so much, most of the games are multiplayer only and i think that is why single player games are made less...

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09:23 Mar-03-2019

Single player Quality games aren't dying. It's the PUBLISHER/DEVELOPER who is dying! Especially for the fact that they're adding microtransactions to the game! And making it harder for those who don't purchase microtransactions!

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09:31 Mar-03-2019

Most games that are released by AAA companies are either half baked, or it isn't complete. And some of them are only added as an expansion to the main game. This kind of practice is very known, and many people are fooled by it!

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08:54 Mar-03-2019

Since i've got PS4 and played Horizon,God of War,Last of Us,all the Uncharted ones,Spidey (still boycotting RDR 2) can't say NO in a heart beat.But then again,i was always a SP gamer.

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07:11 Mar-03-2019

The pc platform was kind of sad for the last 3 years when in comes to memorable single-player experiences for me. The only ones i can think off is Kingdom Come Deliverance, Resident Evil 2 Remake(never played the original), Prey, Enderal(mod).

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01:05 Mar-03-2019

I really dont think so.
We have to accept the fact that multiplayer is a common thing nowadays. I started playing games in the early 90's where it was vice versa.
But still in my opinion there are still lots of games that come out that are single player focussed. And even games that are below 85% can be great games.
So no, single player is not dying out, despite multyplayer more common now!

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22:41 Mar-02-2019

I fail to see how review scores are an indication of the viability of singleplayer games. It is not the quality of the singleplayer games being in question here. The reason why people say it's dying is because the sales for singleplayer games is generally lower, as it has lower re-playability.

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22:44 Mar-02-2019

Ever since the lootbox got implemented broadly among a lot of games, it seems developers and publishers tend favour going for games that can have these boxes, rather then thinking of a singleplayer story that can be broken up in multiple games (like Mass Effect or Dragon Age).

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