This probably is not a shock to anyone who has read the blog lately but I am a big fan of running Star Wars in movie-sized chunks. I don't run it as a sandbox. I don't run it completely open-ended. Unlike a lot of other RPG's I really think a Star Wars game feels truest to the spirit of the movies when it's run with a definite plot with some definite end conditions.
- It may be a classic quest: We need to find something or someone and deliver that to a particular place, possibly by a particular time.
- It may be a classic supervillian type plot: bad people are planning bad things that are bad for a lot of people, including the PC's. Discover it, react to it, then stop it are the traditional parts of the campaign.
- It may be a war story: gather a group of specialists and then undertake a dangerous mission for one side in a war.
Any of those basic frameworks is a great setup for a movie style limited campaign. Add in other elements to taste - greed, personal loyalty, combat prowess, political entanglements, or even discovering more about the Force - and you can build exactly the kind of game you want to run and your players want to play.
The long term connectivity payoff is allowing characters from prior "movies" to appear in later runs. You don't have to have the same group of characters or players, but bringing in just one PC ties this story to that other story and pretty soon you're weaving tales of a connected universe, not just one party.
- Supers - you can run a good superhero tale in ten episodes or less. Here's one example of such a game.
- Shadowrun - a classic "shadowrun", including the setup for the run and the inevitable complications and betrayals that follow, are easily covered in ten sessions or less.
- Dungeon Crawl Classics - pick a 0-level adventure. Run it. Pick a 1st level adventure. Run it. Continue. You will see an incredibly enjoyable progression from pitchfork-wielding nobodies into wizards and warriors of notable power over the course of these games.
The big difference for me in most of these limited campaigns is that they benefit immensely from being planned from the beginning as a limited campaign. I like a sandbox campaign just fine and some games (Traveller springs to mind) just flat-out work better in that mode. Others though, feel like they were written for exactly this kind of scenario (a fixed number of sessions) and the games listed above are my top choices.