It’s not uncommon to see games within games. Mini games, as they have become known are an extremely popular way for developers to flesh out their games and give them more life and playability. In reality, they only serve to elude the player into believing the game is full of content and depth, whilst distracting them from what they’re meant to be doing. More often than not, there are a number of mini games within a game. Rockstar Games love adding additional activities to their games, such as BMX races in Bully, Rampages in GTA and Five Finger Fillet on Red Dead: Redemption. They’re not the king of mini games and side-activities though. They may add a lot of content to their games, but they have yet to beat the record set by a certain Final Fantasy game. Released way back in 1997, Final Fantasy VII boasted over 30 mini games. The highly anticipated re-release however, will not feature all of the mini games in the episodic offerings. Unfortunately, Square-Enix have said that cuts will have to be made, and I think we’d all rather some of the mini games were axed over something much more meaningful. I’ve previously been rather hesitant over remasters (I had a rant not too long ago, actually), but I can fully get onboard this hype train. However, it remains to be seen exactly what will be included, and what will be left on the cutting room floor. Chocobo Racing was one of many memorable mini games included in Final Fantasy VII, so lets hope it makes the grade.
Occasionally, you fall upon an absolute gem of a mini game. Here are some of my all-time favourites…
The Legend of Zelda games have many mini games in each release, often gifting the player with prizes upon successful completion, e.g. Pieces of Heart, Rupees, and item upgrades (quiver, wallet, etc.). I’ve spent a lot of time fishing in my time in Hyrule, especially in The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time. I’m not sure if i’ve ever felt as much pride as I did the day I caught a Hylian Loach in that stupid pond.
Bowling!… or is it babysitting?
We all have that one cousin we don’t particularly like; and if you don’t think you do, I’m sorry to say that you’re probably the cousin people aren’t too fond of. Everyone’s favourite cousin though, has to be Roman from Grand Theft Auto IV (I had to mention Grand Theft Auto, I just had to!). He’s a bubbly little chap who enjoys spending time with Niko. He’s always up for a drink or a lap dance. He’s the life and soul of the party, but he’s awful at bowling! After a couple of goes though, it soon grows tiring. That frequent phone call “Hey Niko! It’s Roman, let’s go bowling!” still makes my skin crawl. The bowling game itself is decent; the company you share it with? Not so much. Roman quickly found internet stardom and found himself at the heart of a load of memes. That’ll teach him.
I was tempted to mention Red Dead: Redemption’s poker mini game. It was well made, and it’s not every day you get to play a bit of Texas Hold ‘em with the undead, if you had the Undead Nightmares DLC installed. But personally, the poker experience in 2005’s Gun means much, much more to me. It effectively taught me how to play in real life and really helped me understand weird terms such as ‘Big Blind’, ’The Flop’ and why the ‘Dealer’ moved every round. Most importantly though, Gun taught me that you can keep a card up your sleeve and whip it out in times of need. I was still young at the time, so it made a real lasting impression. Just the nostalgia alone trumps Red Dead’s card game offering. I bought the game a second time on PSP, Gun: Showdown. The controls were awkward, but the game retained it’s character I loved on the Playstation 2. I mainly played poker anyway so everything else was just a bonus, a compact, portable bonus!
Back in 1999, arguably one of the greatest 3D platformers ever made was released on the Playstation. It had you chasing and catching monkeys in different times through history. Of course, it was Ape Escape. It was actually the first game to require the use of Playstation’s Dualshock controller. For it’s time, the graphics were awesome and the music was great. All round, it was a really good game. The mini game Galaxy Monkey earned a lot of love from me and will always have a very dear place in my heart. It was effectively a rebrand of the 1979 Atari smash, Asteroids. A simple game where you’re in a UFO-type thing avoiding and shooting space debris in order to earn points. It was multiplayer too, meaning that you could play with your friends if you had any.
Erm… tripping out?
Sometimes, a mini game can be so good, and prove so popular that it actually gets published as it’s own standalone title. Quite possibly the biggest example of this is Geometry Wars. This was originally a mini game within Project Gotham Racing 2 and started life rather bizarrely… The company behind these games are called Bizarre Creations. Get it!? Bizarre? Any who, it was simply a way of testing the Xbox controller whilst developing the first Project Gotham Racing game and the developers included it in the sequel simply as an added extra. Of course, it blew up and the standalone version became one of Xbox Live’s most treasured arcade games.
More card games
More recently, another mini game has been made into it’s own standalone title. Which gets me incredibly excited because it’s my favourite mini game ever made. Gwent. Yes, the hit card game built into The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It’s everything a mini game should be; it’s simple and easy to get your head around. You quickly understand how things work and what strategies work best. Each game is short as well, meaning one of two things; you can have a quick game when you feel like it without detracting too much from the main questline, or you can play it for hours and have got quite a bit done. Which leads me onto the key detail that makes this little game so great; it’s incredibly addictive. For me anyway, I spent ages tracking down rare card owners and challenging them for it. It was a little awkward for Ciri, mind you. Instead of investigating her whereabouts and trying to rescue her, I was stuck in some tavern in the countryside playing cards.
The fact that CD Projekt have already released the standalone version as Beta is really exciting and it seems to have come about really quick since it was first announced. The orignial minigame had a real ‘pickup and play’ feel, and I hope thins is transferred into the Standalone copy. Unfortunately, it was a closed beta and I haven’t been lucky enough to get my hands on copy.
So that was a quick rundown of my favourite mini games. There’s plenty of cracker’s that I’ve missed off here, and I’m well aware. But what mini games have you enjoyed? Feel free to shout out any honourable mentions in the comments below. Let me hear them!
I’ve typed the word ‘game’ that many times now that I’m looking at it wondering if it’s even a word… is that the way it’s spelt? It just looks strange.