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Playing Old Favorites on a Handheld Is an Entirely New Experience

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If you’ve felt like there are just no new video games to play, you’re not alone. Covid-19 hit the video game industry hard, and the delays continue to mount. The only new game I finished in 2022 was Horizon Forbidden West (which was amazing), and while I’m looking forward to Disney Dreamlight Valley and Gotham Knights, the rest of the year looks pretty quiet.

That’s why I’ve been relying on replays to get me through. I’ve discussed before how gaming is an important part of my relaxation routine. If I don’t escape into the vivid world of a video game for a few days, the change in my mental health is noticeable. And without a steady supply of new releases, my old favorites have been showing up for me again and again.

What I’ve really taken pleasure in, though, is the art of a replay. I play games differently every single time. If I’m hooked on a story, often I’ll hurry through a game the first time to get to the end and understand what happens. On the second playthrough, I go much more slowly and become a bit of a completionist, paying a lot more attention to my gear and exploring all the dark corners of the map.

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Playing on a new platform adds even more dimension to a replay. Sure, it’s the same game—but it’s an entirely different way to experience it.

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I haven’t been shy about my love for Mass Effect, and I’m actually on my third replay since the Legendary Edition remaster came out last year. The first and second times, I played it on my PS5, but this latest time? I’m experiencing it on a handheld—the Steam Deck.

I honestly don’t know what is so appealing about replaying a favorite game on a portable system, but I want to replay every game I’ve ever loved on this little device. I feel the same way about replaying games I love on the Nintendo Switch—I picked up the Final Fantasy X/X-2 remaster for the device and thoroughly enjoyed working my way through Tidus and Yuna’s story all over again.

Part of it is surely that I know the beats of the story so I don’t need a large screen to find the world truly immersive (I’ve also never been a person who has to play a game on the best screen or highest graphics settings possible. I just need it to be playable). Plus, being able to boot it up and shut it down at a moment’s notice is incredibly convenient. Because I already know what’s coming, missing a little dialog here and there isn’t a huge deal.

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And being able to carry a handheld around, and play on a plane or in a hotel (I’ve been traveling a lot for work) is such a comfort. Playing on a handheld also makes it easy to dip in and out of a favorite game, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m a gaming monogamist for the most part—it’s the easiest way to get truly immersed in a video game—but there is certainly an appeal to switching between multiple games if you’re the type who gets bored with one title. (If you have strategic saves, something I’m trying to do on this Mass Effect playthrough, you can even just replay your favorite scenes.)

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