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A Casual Gamer’s Thoughts on 100%-ing Video Games

I’ve been playing video games for my whole life, and I’m glad to say that I’ve improved dramatically over the years. I went from being unable to fight monsters in Wind Waker to where I am now: 100% completing some of my favorite games.

I’ve always enjoyed completing quests and sinking a lot of hours into the assorted games I played. Back around 2019 or so, I was close to having Breath of the Wild completed before I reset my save to play again, but that was the closest I ever got.

During 2020, I was playing a lot of Stardew Valley on my Switch between classes. I casually started working toward the achievements to add some more challenge to the game. It was fun, but I didn’t get too far before early 2021. The final update to Stardew Valley had come out a few months prior, and I had a lot of new content to experience. I created a new save file and enjoyed doing my favorite farming simulator things: raising animals, fishing, and foraging. Once I had gotten enough out of the main story and had done my usual Stardew experience, I began a new challenge: completing everything.

One of the things included in the final update was a way to track your progress and reach 100%. Some of the tasks include catching every fish, crafting every item, reaching maximum hearts with every villager, and making one million gold over the course of the game. In order to keep track of everything, I made one of my favorite things: a spreadsheet.

Spreadsheets are a fantastic way to keep track of progress in games. When you have a million things to do at once, knowing what’s coming next helps to stay on track. Over the last few years, I have perfected my Stardew spreadsheet and now have one that’s 13 pages long. My first one wasn’t as conclusive or well crafted, but it was a necessary step in my journey.

October 3rd of 2021 was the fateful day when I finally 100%-ed my first video game. After a little over 150 hours and five years in the game, I had accomplished my goal. It was so satisfying to have all of my efforts culminate in one final moment. I’ve since started working on another 100% profile on my switch. It’s slow going, but I enjoy marking things off my to-do list, one line at a time.

Pokémon games are great ones to 100%. I’m currently working through Pokémon Legends: Arceus, and am working on catching every Pokémon, completing the PokéDex entry, and having one of every Pokémon in my storage at the same time. Progress for this game is also slow going, as I’ve been working on it for just under a year now, but it’s a fun one to binge and collect a dozen Pokémon in a day or two. I have a spreadsheet for this one as well.

Some games don’t need spreadsheets to 100%, or even can be 100%-ed, but it’s a fun challenge nonetheless. One of my absolute favorite games is Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which I have completed six times and am now on a seventh save file. This game is story driven and doesn’t have many side quests or collectibles, so completing each of the four routes is essentially completing it. I’ve added the extra challenge of getting as many of the character endings as possible, meaning I have yet another spreadsheet. This one is more for fun and not serious at all, but it allows me to add some more incentive and variety for each time I play the game over again.

This summer I was able to make great progress on two of the games that started it all: Animal Crossing: New Horizons and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I played the original Animal Crossing as a kid and have such fond memories of it. In the game, there is a museum where you can donate the bugs, fish, and sea creatures that you catch, as well as famous paintings you can purchase. This summer I managed to finish catching and donating every fish, bug, and sea creature, completing almost all of the museum. This is the first time I ever completed the museum. Accomplishing something that I wanted to do as even a little kid was such a great feeling. Now all I have left are the paintings, but I finished the part that matters most to me.

I managed to 100% Wind Waker just last month. In this game, you need to have completed the game itself, have every heart piece, collect every treasure chart and find each treasure, and have every item, and to do this, you need to complete every island and each side quest, including some interesting challenges. For this game, I didn’t make a spreadsheet, but I did keep track on my phone and in a notebook, as there weren’t too many things I had to remember, at least compared to games like Stardew Valley. This game was another that I’ve played since a child, and even grew up watching my dad play for my siblings and I. This accomplishment was a dream come true, and it’s something I’m going to do again.

Two weeks ago I started a game that is incredibly daunting in it’s list of requirements: Breath of the Wild. This game requires one to collect and upgrade all the armor, do every main and side quest, find and beat all 136 shrines, beat the DLCs, and find all 900 Koroks hidden across the whole map. I’ve already sunk 20+ hours into this save file (on hard mode, no less), and I only have 300 Koroks and about 30 shrines. This game has been one of my favorites since it released in 2017, and I want to have it 100%-ed by May of 2023 when the sequel releases. I have yet to make my spreadsheet for this game yet, as I’m currently working on the map-based goals, but once I need to start with side quests and armor, I’m making another extremely long spreadsheet to track my sanity.

I clearly have my own way of playing video games, and it’s not for everyone. But for anyone who is interested in spicing up their gaming, 100%-ing is a great way to do it. Even if you never finish, it adds some extra challenge and more incentive to play and replay some old favorites. My main suggestions for anyone crazy enough to join me in this art would be to make lots of lists; nothing is worse than trying to find that last heart piece or finding out last minute that you’re missing one item that needed crafted. It doesn’t need to be a crazy spreadsheet, but any way of tracking and visualizing will be useful.

Video games wikis are also a great resource. Sometimes I like to try things blind, but there are already great resources online that can help you discover what time to catch a salmon in Animal Crossing or teach you how to evolve your Hanuter into a Gengar in Pokémon. Don’t be afraid to look things up when you need it.

My last piece of advice is to have fun! Playing games should be enjoyable, not a chore. Sure, collecting 900 Koroks isn’t always that exciting, but I get a lot of enjoyment from watching the number get higher and higher. Taking breaks from the game or even changing up to something different in game can keep you motivated and will help ensure you don’t get totally burnt out. There’s a reason it took me almost a year to 100% Stardew Valley. I gave myself the time to do things at a pace that allowed me to enjoy every moment. Work at your own pace to make sure you still like your favorite game by the time you’re done with it!

There are plenty of games on my list to be 100%-ed, and I’ll likely be working on some of these for a few more years. For me it’s not just about the destination, but it’s also about the journey. If anyone is looking for something to sink dozens of hours into, or wants some cool bragging rights, 100%-ing your favorite game is a great place to do so.

secondary education major and creative writing minor. frog enthusiast, dog mom, and plant collector.