Mini-games are usually short little diversions that give the player a break from the grave seriousness of saving the world. Other times, they serve to role-play another, more complex activity, like lockpicking or hacking into a database. In either case, mini-games are typically designed to supplement a greater gaming experience.
But there are some mini-games that shine brighter than anyone intended. In rare cases, they outglow the very game they were made for. (If you’re up for the challenge, make sure to get some Steam Wallet Codes and try out these mini-games for yourself.)
Now, here’s a list of the five best mini-games in big video games.
Triple Triad –– Final Fantasy VIII
While Final Fantasy VIII was one of the more polarizing Final Fantasy titles, its card-based mini-game, Triple Triad, is universally loved by fans. Triple Triad had all the elements necessary for a proper compulsive distraction: addictive gameplay, an intuitive ruleset, and endless replayability.
Triple Triad is deceptively easy to learn. Spend any time with the game and there’s real tactical depth to its warlike mechanics. But what really cements Triple Triad as one of the greatest mini-games ever is its collect-em-all spirit.
Players can obtain new cards by earning them from other players in the game’s world, or by using Quezacotl’s Card ability, which transmutes the enemies you fight into playable Triple Triad cards. Once you’re hooked, Final Fantasy VIII shifts lanes and becomes a game about traveling the world, battling card players, and capturing monsters. Saving the world can wait!
Gwent –– The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Another card mini-game, Gwent was so popular in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that it spawned its own dedicated release outside of the game it was made for. You can’t say that about many other mini-games.
Gwent is more than a momentary distraction in The Witcher; it’s the most popular game in the world, played by kings and peasants. No matter where you go, whether it’s a bustling urban hub or a lonely medieval village, there’s bound to be someone there willing to play a game of Gwent with you. You know a mini-game is good when the first thing you think of when you enter a new town is, “I wonder who else plays?”
It only takes a game or two before Gwent’s charm becomes apparent. Gwent was designed to reduce sources of randomness — a response to the perceived over-reliance on RNG in modern collectible card games. Because of this, you rarely ever feel like you’ve been cheated out of a win due to a bad hand.
Geometry Wars –– Project Gotham Racing 2
Geometry Wars was at one point the best-selling game on the Xbox Live Arcade, but what many people don’t know is that the top-down arcade shooter started out as a mini-game in Project Gotham Racing 2 for the original Xbox.
This twin-stick bullet-hell shooter will have your head spinning with all the ways it tests your reflexes. Levels flex and change as black holes emerge in the stage, pulling in nearby units and even warping the game’s grid, which also affects the trajectory of nearby bullets.
The simple geometric graphics belie the game’s complex mechanics. At times it feels like there are a thousand things to keep track of at once. The various enemy types each have their own distinctive behavior, and things often come undone in an explosive hail of bullets and fragments, sending you into a frenzied panic as you attempt to keep alive amid all the chaos.
Cook Off –– Suikoden II
Suikoden II is a criminally underappreciated JRPG about a young man in a struggle against destiny. The game was considered quite bold for its era, as it explored mature themes in a straightforward and often brutal manner. Of course, sometimes you need a break from all the murder and treachery, and there’s always time for a good ol’ fashioned cook-off!
Hai Yo, one of the 108 (!) recruitable characters in Suikoden II, is a master chef with a dark past. In order to redeem himself for the crimes he committed in the past, he must defeat his former gang, the nefarious Black Dragons, who seek to control the world through culinary dominance. After accepting Hai Yo into your crew, he will occasionally be challenged to a cook-off by aspiring chefs, culinary masters, and eventually the Black Dragon Lords themselves.
Choosing which foods to cook and serve is simple enough — just pick a dish and the ingredients that go in it. The hard part is choosing the right dish that’s best suited for the tastes of the four judges, who are randomly picked from your own character roster. Each judge has their own meal preference, and these tastes will often conflict. What do you do when one judge loves steak and another is a vegetarian? Finding the optimal combinations requires a bit of guesswork and a thorough understanding of the ingredients that go into each meal.
Karaoke — Yakuza 0
Karaoke scenes from Yakuza 0 have been making the rounds on gaming forums for good reason — it’s impossible to look away. But it’s only recently that Yakuza’s karaoke mini-game has exploded in popularity.
In earlier iterations, the visuals were straightforward and rather boring, with the protagonist off-screen pressing buttons to the beat as their date sang along to bubblegum J-pop tracks. Now every performance is dripping in spectacle, with over-the-top aesthetic, insane dance numbers, and extravagant vocal performances that will have you bowling over in laughter.
The karaoke mini-game was first introduced in Yakuza 3 as part of its hostess activities. But even though the Yakuza series’ cabaret acts have been pared down and hostess activities removed almost entirely, the karaoke mini-game is still going strong.
We’ve been playing rhythm-based mini-games since the days of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, when we helped CJ shake his booty in the club to thumping ’90s EDM. But there isn’t another mini-game out there that approaches the production quality, excitement, and energy of the karaoke mini-game in Yakuza 0.
Chocobo Breeding — Final Fantasy VII
Chocobos are giant flightless birds in the Final Fantasy universe, often used as steeds for knights and warriors, and usually background dressing. Final Fantasy VII put them in the spotlight for the first time, in large part thanks to its Chocobo breeding and racing mini-game.
Not all chocobos are created equal. Some have naturally higher stamina or faster running speed than others, which is where the breeding part comes in. Chocobos can be captured in battle, Pokémon-style, then stored in a stable where you can compare their stats and breed them to create the ultimate racing beast. If you breed two highly-rated specimens, there’s a chance they’ll produce a chocobo of a color other than the typical yellow.
Breeding different-colored chocobos means much more than simply improving your odds of winning in a chocobo race. These different-colored chocobos also have the ability to navigate areas that are typically inaccessible on foot, like bodies of water and mountains.
The incredibly elusive Golden Chocobo is the rarest and most exemplary of them all, with the ability to not just traverse rivers and lakes, but cross entire oceans on foot, granting you access to the game’s most powerful summon, the Knights of the Round.
What’s Your Favorite Mini-Game?
Mini-games are usually forgetful little additions to our favorite games, but the examples we’ve highlighted above show that sometimes they stick with us for longer than the games they’re in. What other mini-games do you think deserved a spot on this list? Let us know in the comments section below!