Do you think there is anything interesting about Gears of War or its sequel, apart from the mechanics? Anything that will make you want to return to that game in some ill-imagined future? I'm thinking of trading them in, since they don't really offer any unique experiences I can think of, beyond the first playthrough. The story is laughable and other games have stolen their mechanics and improved them.
This is true of many games: You play through them once, maybe longer if they have some appealing mechanic or compelling multiplayer, and then you forget them forever. I enjoyed Mirror's Edge, Darksiders, the Professor Layton games, and Assassin's Creed, but I don't see myself returning to them.
A lot of people trade in every game they've finished, but I keep all my favorites. There are some works of fiction that I return to frequently; I play Half-Life 2 as often as I read Slaughterhouse-Five or watch Brazil. It is unthinkable that any of them would be absent from my permanent collection.
Replay value is enhanced by allowing the player to make different choices on a second playthrough or by including an in-depth multiplayer experience, but to gain a place in the hallowed, arcadian halls of gaming excellence requires something more. The games that we revisit time and again are the ones that provide an experience that can't be found anywhere else. I just haven't played a story-driven first-person shooter as exciting and interesting as Half-Life 2 and its episodes. I've never played a tactical role-playing game as well-designed, both in fiction and mechanics, as Baldur's Gate 2. I've played games that come close, like Dragon Age: Origins, but they don't reach those heights. That's also why we anticipate sequels so strongly to the games we love: we want to see those classic games be outdone, so that we can have an even better experience than the one that has consumed our minds and imaginations in the past.
Gears of War 2 makes Gears of War irrelevant. There's nothing to go back to, no interesting story or fascinating gameplay that wasn't carried over to the sequel. This isn't true of all franchises; God of War 2 improves on the action set pieces of God of War, but it's a step backwards in terms of the narrative and puzzle-solving. Kratos doesn't develop as a character after the first game. The God of War sequels are worth playing for the epic battles and titanic action sequences, but the first has something more profound to offer. There is a character, and a narrative, and a very creative dungeon of complex puzzles and difficult platforming.
So, readers, what makes you want to keep a game and return to it? What does a game have to do to earn a spot in your permanent collection?