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At least on most current-generation consoles, achivements, trophies, or whatever some other company may call them have become a permanent feature. They’re far from universally beloved, but whether you like them or hate them, the fact remains the same: they’re there.
Unless, of course, you’re talking about a Nintendo console. While Microsoft was the first to use the concept, Sony, Valve and others followed suit relatively quickly. Nintendo, however, has refused to add achievements or anything remotely resembling them for multiple console generations now.
Why Nintendo Has Avoided Achievements So Far
Unlike Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo has been in the game console business since high scores were a big deal. You might think that this would lead the company to adopt a system similar to achievements, considering they’re the closest modern equivalent we have to high scores in many ways. It may actually be the opposite.
When legendary Nintendo game designer Shigeru Miyamoto was asked what he thought about the then relatively new Achievements system on the Xbox 360, he said he hadn’t paid much attention to it. He then added that the idea seemed “like something we’ve been doing for the last 15-20 years.”
Add to that that Nintendo has never felt the need to keep up with its contemporaries in various aspects. Look no further than its online system for further proof. While online services on the Switch are much better than older Nintendo consoles, they still seem somewhat behind the times compared to the PS4 or Xbox One.
The Case Against Achievements
There are many arguments against achievements, but one of the biggest seems to be that they break immersion. As games become more capable when it comes to storytelling, this becomes important. Most of us have likely seen an emotional scene in a game come to a close, only for an achievement or trophy to pop up, somewhat ruining the moment.
Many achievement systems in games are also trivialized. When a game hands out an achievement for passing the tutorial, is that really an achievement? It’s similarly disappointing when you get an achievement or trophy simply for passing an arbitrary point in the story.
The Case for Achievements
While achievements are far from necessary, they’re not harmful. If you find that they break immersion, it’s usually fairly easy to disable notifications for them system-wide. This means they won’t intrude on key story moments, nor will you be alerted for trophies like beating the tutorial or a game’s first level.
On the other hand, achievements can be a great way to spend extra time with a game once you’ve completed the main single-player component. We’ve all had those experiences where you beat a game and just don’t want it to be over. Well-crafted achievements can give you a reason to stick with a game without feeling like you’re jumping through hoops.
Whether or not achievements are worthwhile is up to the developer, but when they’re well done they can bring some of a game’s most fun moments.
Will Nintendo Change? Or Will Everyone Else?
With a new generation of consoles on the way, we’re at a time where changes are possible. It doesn’t seem likely that Microsoft or Sony will simply drop achviements or trophies, even though the idea of GamerScore doesn’t seem nearly as important as it did around 2008.
Nintendo could always add a system like this, and of course developers are free to add their own systems, but without a unified system, these often feel hollow. It seems that Nintendo would prefer to let its games speak for themselves, and as a result, this extends to every game on its systems.
Could this change? Yes. Will it? Probably not.
You Don’t Need Achievements to Spend a Long Time With a Game
While achievements at their best can serve as an extra challenge or reward for putting extra time into their game, they’re not the only way to make sure you get your money’s worth from a game. Nintendo may never add achievements, but you can still spend hours upon hours with many games on the Switch.
For an idea of where to get started, take a look at our list of the longest games for the Nintendo Switch.