I have never finished a Zelda game.
The Zelda formula loses its appeal over the course of a 40+ hour adventure, and I stop playing after reaching a point of contentment with the game's story and mechanics. Each new Zelda game in the series is a known quantity; they all follow the same basic design blueprint and have similar story arcs.
And I find that formula engaging for roughly 20 of Zelda's 40 hour play time. After 20 hours, the effort required to slog through the remaining 20 hours of adventuring is greater than the final payoff for doing so.
Why finish it if I already know the story? Link saves the world and rescues princess Zelda, and it will all reset for the next game in the franchise.
Of course, my Attention Deficit Disorder doesn't help. Dealing with ADD has been a haphazard adventure for most of my life, with a constant rotation of medication, lifestyle changes, diet plans, study strategies, and other forms of treatment. ADD makes completing any sort of task difficult, as I lose interest in tasks rather easily.
However while it makes certain areas of my life needlessly difficult, ADD has given me a unique perspective when judging the entertainment value of a game. I have a very low tolerance for repetition.
When a game fails to stimulate the player's mind in new ways, why should they continue playing it? Whether this stimulation comes through introducing new mechanics or compelling story bits, a good game should continually evolve from the second you press start to the second the credits roll.
When a game reaches the point of stagnation I put it on my shelf without a second thought, and rarely do I return. When someone tells me that a game gets better after x hours, I treat it as a presidential campaign promise. If a game can't hold my interest until that point, why should I trust that it gets better over time? In fact, I often assume that the person who gave this opinion is a victim of gaming Stockholm syndrome.
Many prestigious games have entered the perilous ravine that is my backlog, never to return. Examples include Borderlands 2 (60%), Deus Ex: Human Revolution (40%), Sleeping Dogs (30%), Dark Souls (30%), Assassin's Creed Revelations (10%), Dead Rising 2 (40%), Bayonetta (60%), Dead Space (50%), Fallout New Vegas (8%), Assassin's Creed 3 (35%), Super Meat Boy (35%), Darksiders (35%), and many others
Each of these games crossed the threshold of diminishing returns that made the necessary time required to complete them more valuable than seeing the game through to its completion.
When a game spends too much time forcing the player to revel in it's features, it reeks of arrogance on developer's part. Taking pride in hard work is one thing, but developers shouldn't treat the player as if they should feel privileged to be playing the developer's game.
Assassin's Creed 3 is a recent example of developer arrogance, and the game feels up its own ass.
While their rendition of 17th century America is beautifully crafted, Ubisoft spends far too much time forcing the player to trek across the large open world for no practical gameplay reason. Instead of spawning you near a story objective, Assassin's Creed 3 loads you half way across town so that you have the privilege of seeing the world.
As it turns out, I don't feel all-that privileged.
Assassinís Creed 3's world activities have the approximate entertainment value of washing the dishes and painting the shed. I don't care what century you set it in, a chore is still a chore. Without strong gameplay mechanics, even the most intricate of worlds feels empty.
So after 9 hours I put the game on my shelf, and I'm likely to never return.
If developers design their games with a sense of humility, players will appreciate them for it. They need to stop worrying about run times and side distractions, cut out the fluff, and provide an equally engaging experience from beginning to end.
It would be nice to finish a Zelda game at some point in my life.