Gamers love a challenge, but more than that, we love a steady challenge. We love a game that starts off by being challenging and remains so throughout its five to ten to twenty to hundred hours of play. So, naturally, we love a game with a consistent difficulty curve, one that ramps up at a stable rate, never spiking and never slouching. But the problem with this kind of difficulty curve is that it’s so predictable. A game usually introduces us to all of its mechanics by the halfway point, and then spends its latter half simply throwing tougher and tougher opponents at us. It’s true for any genre or game. Call of Duty, Bayonetta, Dead Space, Need for Speed, Sleeping Dogs—by the time I’m halfway through (sometimes sooner), I’ve seen everything the game has to offer.
Purely by coincidence, two recent games that I’ve played bucked this trend by introducing new mechanics—or at least new contexts for old mechanics—during their climatic final levels. Rather than petering out with an ending that I’m likely to forget in a few days, these games end with a bang earned through the introduction of something new. Not only did I remember these endings, I remember loving these endings. All games should strive to end on such high notes, to have our final memory together be a good memory.