Mini-games are a persistent and integral part of the RPG genre since the beginning. Have you ever asked yourself why? Why is it necessary to always include them when they contribute so little to the main story of the game? Sometimes it even seems that they distract us from it. Are designers simply wasting our time by including these pointless mini-games? Of course not. If this is indeed the question you asked yourself, then you are much closer to the answer than you think.
Mini-games exist exactly because of the contrast they provide with the rest of the game. They give us a little break, a chance to contemplate and, for a brief moment, avoid the high-stress combat of the rest of the game. This, on the one hand, allows the player more time to process the story, and on the other, the contrast makes the rest of the game much more impactful.
Sometimes, just sometimes, the designers are so successful in creating mini-games, that they are able to get us hooked even better than the main story. Here are a few examples.
Triple Triad – Final Fantasy VIII
Arguably one of the best mini-games to be programmed into a video game, Triple Triad is a completely optional mini-game offered during the game’s regular gameplay.
It’s a card game that uses a three-by-three grid. You take turns with your opponent in placing cards on the board. You can take the opponent’s card if your card has a higher value. But, Triple Triad also has a purpose in the main game: all cards can be converted to spells and items that can be used to boost your character.
Chocobo Racing – Final Fantasy VII
Another piece of art from the Final Fantasy series. This time it’s a betting game that allows you to step into the Golden Saucer and forget all of the sorrows of a very bleak world. For a moment at least. Capture the best-performing wild chocobos and breed them to maximize their stats.
The races have four ranks: C, B, A, and S, each with stronger opponents. In every race, you have a chance of winning one of three possible prizes.
Gwent – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
In the moments when you had just about enough of your quest for Ciri and of the Wild Hunt chasing her, you can play Gwent. In essence, it is a basic card game, but with many twists and turns, after all in this card game “two armies lock in mortal struggle on the field of battle”. That Elder Blood girl, who may or may not cause the end of the world, can take care of herself for a bit longer.
Fantasy card games as Gwent is, take the inspiration for their basic rules from the ever known classics, such as Poker or Baccarat. And the rise in popularity of fantasy cards is getting to the point of Gwent now being a stand-alone type. There are also more and more fantasy card players that are trying to translate the Gwent gameplay to mode with standard playing cards. But classics are still staying strong. Some exotic examples on the rise might appeal to fantasy enthusiasts, who wish to engage with new and, to them, unknown cultures. These include the old Hindu game Andar Bahar, along with Caribbean Stud Poker and other card games variations from the casino games list put together by asiabet.org.
Cooking Competition – Suikoden II
This cooking competition is excellent, and, we might add, a very silly feature of one of the best old-school RPGs ever.
If having a cooking competition which involves you preparing an appetizer, a main dish, and a dessert, to be judged by judges who are randomly picked out of the characters in your castle, is not silly enough, how about having it set up as a TV show parody with complete backstories for every “show” character? You will have to cater your meals to the very picky and specific taste preferences of each one of the judges. Bon Appetit!
Battle Arenas – Star Ocean series
Battle Arenas are very prevalent in this franchise and they offer you a chance to fight monsters and win cool prizes. In the arena that takes place in the Nedian Fun City (Star Ocean: The Second Story), you can choose between solo and team battles as well as between fights from Rank E to Rank A.
An important part of the mini-game is choosing a specific character for each fight as well as knowing how to use the character’s equipment.
Bombchu Bowling Alley – The Legend of Zelda
Ah, the legendary Legend of Zelda…. This all time classic series brings back so many memories. One of them is from the 1998’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time sequel.
You can find the Bombchu Bowling Alley in the Hyrule Marketplace, but the mini-game is only available after you unlock the Bombs. Your goal is to hit a series of targets with Bombchu and avoid various obstacles in the way. The game requires 30 rupees a go.
Blitzball – Final Fantasy X
We are rounding up this list with another example from the Final Fantasy series. This time it’s a more controversial mini-game that split the fans of the series in two – those who love it, and those who think Blitzball is a bore. Anyhow, the game is essential in a way that you need to play and win if you want Wakka’s ultimate weapon. But, the thing is, (if you don’t know the strategy) you constantly lose. That’s why many FF fans find it ultra difficult.
The core of the game is two teams that fight over a ball in this weird combination of water polo and football, and if you want to win, you need to know how to beat Luka Goers in the first place, which can ask for a good plan of action.
The mini-game consists of equal amounts of math and emotions – while playing it you make discoveries about Tidus’s family history along the way.