The Greatest Games Within Games

Sometimes we get bored of shooting robots, saving the world from evil time sorceresses and rolling around at the speed of sound. We could (and probably should) take a 15 minute break to breathe and look at something that isn’t pixels, but those pesky game developers managed to sneak smaller games inside the much larger games, and those now constitute the “break” from the main game.

We might be developing severe eyesight problems, but these mini games are so much fun that it’s probably worth a bit of blindness sometime in our 40s.

Here are the best mini games we could think of with a loose attitude to content deadlines. Enjoy!

Triple Triad in Final Fantasy VIII

Mini games are usually a nice little distraction every now and then, with small rewards so you don’t feel like you’ve completely wasted your time. Usually.

Square unwittingly made the rewards for the Final Fantasy VIII mini game Triple Triad SO GOOD that working out its nuances and rewards can break the game, using the Card Mod ability. It’s a vestige of those old video games where you felt like you were doing something you weren’t supposed to, but through legitimate means.

Aside from its impact on the main game, it’s an incredibly enjoyable card game in its own right, and has a bouncy, unforgettable theme song to go along with it. Shuffle or Boogie? It’s hard not to do both tbh.

Nathan Butler

Chao Garden in Sonic Adventure 2 Battle

Sonic Adventure 2 is inarguably the best Sonic game ever, and it’s not cause Eggman fuckin’ blows up the moon or cause Knuckles gets his own dadrap soundtrack. It’s instead because of the adorable, tamagotchi-esque Chao garden.

Despite the simplistic racing, the Chao garden’s depth is found in the raising system, giving a Sonic game unique replayability, as you revisit levels a shameful amount of times searching for an elusive dragon or some goddamn fly drives, while the simple act of playing with your Chao (or abusing it if you’re a worst video game dad) can decide whether it goes to heaven or creepy as hell.

This all ultimately leads to a Chao growing and developing in a variety of unique ways, hours on the clock and money on your parent’s electric bill can happen attempting to get that perfect Chaos 0 Chao, we all knew Sonic Chaos are for chumps.

Connor Cass

NES Games in Animal Crossing

Video games weren’t as commonplace in the late 80s/early 90s as they are now, and most parents probably weren’t willing to pay £40 on a new game. That meant a lot of excited kids missing out on a lot of fun games.

In 2001, Nintendo made the biggest retro power move and made former poor kids jizz their pants by including 10+ NES games on Animal Crossing. It allowed players to replicate real life by avoiding gardening and household responsibilities and instead playing Excitebike and Donkey Kong.

The best kind of mini games are full games within games. Two (or 10) games for the price of one is the best kind of bargain. Free nostalgia!

Nathan Butler

Hacking in Nier: Automata

When (SPOILERS!!!) Nier: Automata hands the story over to 9S, you’re greeted with a less combat ready droid then his partner 2B. Fortunately, Platinum gives him a fresh playstyle with a fun but tough mini game that reveals new ways to navigate the desolate open world.

Hacking an enemy bot reveals an Asteroids-style game that gives you a tight deadline to wipe out triangles unrelenting in their gunfire, naturally dropping you into more unforgiving areas when hacking stronger enemies. In the spirit of this arcadey mini game, even the music switches from dramatic choirs and lingering emotion for almost comical 8-bit delight.

The game rewards you kindly for a successful hack, allowing you the chance to play as a wildly different array of robots (protip: hack a link sphere to sneak into hard to reach areas).

Connor Cass

Gwent in The Witcher 3

Bluffing and deception are two very important skills in any game, and amidst the Machiavellian ultraviolence of the Witcher series, it’s not surprising that these are the central attributes of the third game’s engrossing mini game Gwent.

The game, centered around deck building a la Magic The Gathering, is very much a TCG in its own right – centered around playing card’s abilities off of each other masterfully and moving in for the kill at just the right time. In fact, the game’s popularity has resulted in its release as a free standalone app, so it’s now also one of the best virtual TCG’s on the market too.

Gwent is everything that a mini game should be – whilst it’s fast paced and fun, it’s also an excellent vehicle for raking in cash, and deep enough to sink a lot of time into. Just make sure you don’t bait yourself out by winning the first round.

Richard Lowe 

Trophy Rush in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U

Super Smash Bros. for Wii U’s Trophy Rush – a game where you basically hit falling boxes on a platform until a timer runs out and receive a random selection of trophies based on your performance – isn’t on this list because it’s the pinnacle of engaging game design. It was merely the first example from a AAA title that dishes out cosmetic collectibles at random which sprung to mind. Because whilst nabbing a sweet weapon via a somewhat skill-based aside might bring some relief to your future questing, it’s an inferior feeling to the adrenaline rush generated by an RNG system that dispenses loveable trinkets with absolutely no bearing on your play-through whatsoever.

Don’t think for a second that game companies aren’t well aware that a lot of players’ insatiable urge to collect things far eclipses their desire to experience some form of intriguing or satisfying gameplay either. It’s that reason alone why every franchise with highly marketable characters has a mobile gacha game that coerces you into investing your time and money just to nab the super-ultra-limited-edition-alternative-colour-swimsuit-with-kawaii-pose variant of your favourite character. Don’t start swindling your food budget, though – your ‘waifus’ are not an acceptable source of nourishment and they never will be.

With that taken into consideration, Trophy Rush does have one noteworthy asset tucked away within its trifling antics – it just requires in-game currency to play, meaning there’s no risk of you starving yourself to death in your plight to nab the polygonal goodness that is that Mecha-Fiora trophy from Xenoblade Chronicles. Best of luck and glory be to RNGesus.

Joshua Pauley

Caberet Club Czar in Yakuza 0

One of the most enjoyable aspects of Yakuza 0 was running your own little side business, where you would run a cabaret club and assume position of manager. As manager, it is your duty to assist your staff members (hostesses) in welcoming and being hospitable to customers. You must make the right selection of hostess to suit the needs of your customer and action the correct request from the hostesses in a timely manner. Failure to do so can result in unsatisfied customers, affecting your reputation within the district.

Once your reputation within the area grows, you can be challenged to 1 v 1 fights against rival owners; as well as battles to see which club can make the most money on a given night.

There are side stories to be unlocked as you carry out and complete training for each of the recruited hostesses. Furthermore, each girl has their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses, and it is up to you to select the right attire for them in order to enhance their best qualities. This certain feature is what you’d probably find in a Kim Kardashian or Barbie type game, and it’s most definitely going to be problematic for an over 20 something year old man to be taking part in this, so be prepared to disappoint your parents.

Mark Palmer

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