What do you do after you finish a game? Usually, it is time to make a decision. If it is something you didn’t care for, you might get rid of it. That could mean deleting it from a hard drive, if it was a digital purchase, or selling it a physical copy. If you did enjoy it, though, it stays on your shelf waiting for you to touch it again. Considering how many great games have been released in the 2010’s alone, that means a lot of great games. Which makes it more important now, than ever before, that developers include new game plus options.
Most are familiar with this bonus, but let’s go over it anyway. A new game plus option means someone who returns to a game with a cleared save file will get to enjoy some sort of extras as an incentive to replay it. These could be the ability to keep the equipment, money, items, or levels you had earned in that first run. In some especially cool situations, you might find new bosses, new equipment, and new challenges in a subsequent playthrough.
The most basic ones just allow you to carry over a few of the most important things. Borderlands 2 has all of your experience and equipment remain, then cranks up the difficulty level so you are forced to make good use of everything you brought with you. Most follow the same sort of formula set by action-RPGs or RPGs like the Yakuza and Persona series. You get to keep levels, money, items, equipment, and stats, so you can focus on all of the side stuff you might not have had time for or missed the first time around.
Other games get more comprehensive. Take games like God of War, Horizon: Zero Dawn, or Batman: Arkham Knight. All of them significantly tweak things when a new game plus file is started. More equipment may appear. Enemies could be stronger or in different locations. You might even see new challenges or story segments. But the real stand out in this category is NieR: Automata. The first time you play, you get Ending A. If you go through the whole game again with a file that beat Ending A, you get to see more story segments and earn Ending B. Another go around means another ending. Basically, if you haven’t played enough to see Ending E, you haven’t really seen all NieR: Automata has to offer, which is a really great replay incentive.
Fortunately, it seems like some developers are realizing how important a new game plus option is. God of War ended up getting one after the fact. It’s the comprehensive sort, with new fights, a new resource with more forging opportunities, and different sorts of equipment. Xenoblade Chronicles 2 ended up adding a new Blade with a familiar face (T-elos from Xenosaga), new Blade specials, and Traveling Bards. Overcooked 2 received a new game plus option after the fact that gives each of its 45 levels a fourth star to earn, on top of the existing three in each already. All of these things make the games more attractive.
New game plus is an important part of a game. If we really love a title, we are going to go back. Having the option to use a cleared game save to unlock new content or give us a head start a second time around is a great reward. It makes us want to return again. It even gives the game value long after the hype has gone. It might even be enough to make people return once they've moved on to the next big consoles. Never forget the impact a new game plus option can have!