Top 5: The Grind to Unwind

When it comes to most games that don’t involve action sports, “grind” is typically a bad word. It means that players will have to spend hours upon hours slogging away at routine tasks and combat to obtain necessary (and sometimes unnecessary) levels and gear to progress. It can also be applied to the act of obtaining full completion in a game – finishing every single side quest, getting all the achievements, finding every secret, leaving no stone unturned. Whether it’s built into a game or self-imposed, getting to and through the grind is often a thing that simply must be done.

Like some, I imagine, I’ve quit games over the grind. (Count Final Fantasy VII for me, for one.) The reasoning for that has varied, from lack of time to lack of access (i.e. when I was heavily into renting games) to lack of stamina/interest. But there have been instances in which the grind wasn’t…well, wasn’t all that bad. Maybe I enjoyed it, and maybe, heck, I even welcomed it, not because something about the build-up through grinding was worth the effort, but also because it was kind of…relaxing? Yes, relaxing. Maybe not in the most traditional sense, but in the sense of accepting the need to and taking some comfort in the grind. Here are five games in which I actually looked forward to “the grind to unwind.”

Persona 3 Portable

Image taken by author during gameplay of Persona 3 Portable (© Atlus, Sony)

I’m sure that Persona 3 Portable’s towering grindfest called the Tartarus didn’t sit well with all players, but boy, did I ever enjoy it. I came very close to completing all of its 264 floors, and I don’t even know what compelled me to do so. The chance to obtain new personas was probably the largest contributing factor, but something about game’s easy-going combat and leveling system made exploring the Tartarus almost Zen-like. I don’t if spending so much time in the Tartarus was how things were supposed to go, but I enjoyed each and every moment in it.

Fallout 76

Image taken by author during gameplay of Fallout 76 (© Bethesda Game Studios, Bethesda Game Studios Austin).

When it comes to Bethesda games, the low-level grind is my comfort zone; and the grind to level 50 in Fallout 76 is especially compelling. Not only does it occur during the most story-rich part of the game, but it’s also the most challenging in terms of survival. As well, it provides the opportunity to think about one’s future build(s), develop a personal playstyle, and just explore the game’s world, perhaps tentatively, though, with just a pipe pistol in tow.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Image captured by author during gameplay of Dragon Age: Inquisition (© BioWare.)

I’ll be the first in line to say that BioWare’s open world in DA:I is very disappointing — it contains whole lots of nothing, generally. And still, every time I play it, I always end up in a grind to reach every corner of its many maps. From the hills and valleys of the Hinterlands, to the war-torn Exalted Plains, to the sand dunes of the Hissing Wastes, I just want to see it all. There’s no reason for it, there’s usually nothing to find, and yet…the edges of these maps call to me every time I play.

Yoshi’s Crafted World

Image taken by author during gameplay of Yoshi’s Crafted World (© Nintendo)

Yoshi’s Crafted World lacked a little in comparison to its predecessor, Yoshi’s Woolly World, however, it proved enjoyable nonetheless. And, it’s probably not a game that comes to mind in terms of grind, except, perhaps, when one chooses, as I did, to attempt its optional backside challenge. When playing through the game for the first time, players do so “frontside,” as in they traverse the front of every level. Upon completing the game, players are given the option to traverse the game “backside” in order to rescue three Poochy Pups from each level. It’s a great way to keep people players, but trying to get through all the levels again is a definite grind, one for which I was not up to the challenge but was nonetheless fun to try.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Image captured from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild gameplay (© Nintendo).

Speaking being “not up to the challenge,” The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sadly remains on my DNF list. But before I lost interest in seeing the end credits roll, I was fully invested in the game’s grind to find and beat ALL the shrines. ALL OF THEM, I said! Okay, well, maybe not all, but most! I didn’t find all 120 in my first go round with the game, but I was far more interested in the challenge they posed than completing Link’s story. I looked forward to each new shrine’s unique, self-contained puzzle, whether I could beat it in the moment or not. Forget the Divine Beats and Ganondorf. Breath of the Wild‘s shrine grind was the grind for me!

If you don’t occasionally mind the grind, what are some of your favorite grinds in games?

Lede taken by author during gameplay of Fallout 76 (© Bethesda Game Studios, Bethesda Game Studios Austin).

One Comment Add yours

  1. cary says:

    Reblogged this on Recollections of Play and commented:

    “Grind” can be an angry, four-letter word when it comes to games, but it can also be a little less grumpy, at times. Here on Virtual Bastion, I listed off five games in which I find the grind…dare I say…okay?


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