🔖 3 min read

Minigames in video games are an increasingly popular element of open-world and RPG genres—which might raise a few brows. After all, what’s the point of embedding minigames into video games in the first place? Do gamers actually crave these types of challenges, especially if they derail players form the main narrative and mission?

The answer is yes. Minigames are beloved for a variety of reasons. On the one hand, they add even more depth and meaning to expansive, open-world games, letting players literally get lost in another world. On the other hand, they can add critical meaning to certain plotlines and offer players the chance to build up their resources. Some minigames, such The Witcher 3’s Gwent, become so popular in their own right that they earn independent releases.

In fact, minigames are so popular that some gamers specifically get lost in these side missions. For them, the game isn’t ‘complete’ unless they’ve fully explored and mastered each minigame. Let’s take a look back at some of the most memorable minigames from differing genres, including what makes them so special for gamers.

Poker, Red Dead Redemption (2010)

Red Dead Redemption’s poker minigames are often regarded as the highest echelon of minigames. This boils down to two factors. First, poker variations like Texas Hold’em are hugely popular around the world. Beyond traditional video gaming, millions of poker players compete via virtual platforms in tournaments and table games, sometimes with the hopes of going pro. Second, poker is a game that the main character John Marston really would have played during the frontier era. In other words, this minigame further embeds the game’s narrative in the American Southwest frontier reality.

Fishing, The Legend of Zelda (Various)

A game like poker challenges players to think critically, but Nintendo took an entirely different direction with The Legend of Zelda series. In almost every release, players are able to take a load off by fishing. The goal is simple: catch a mammoth fish and reap the benefits. Each game offers a unique approach to fishing, with many players preferring the setup in 2006’s Twilight Princess. In this game, players must mind the weather and even the season when fishing for a big catch, adding more depth and complexity to the straightforward minigame.

Disco, Yakuza O (2015)

Poker is a straightforward and challenging minigame, while fishing is more geared toward relaxation. In Yakuza 0, there are plenty of minigames for players to choose from, which are designed to break up the dark storyline. One of the series’ most beloved minigames is dancing. Rather than fight it out traditionally, players must dance to the rhythm as their character takes on other crime bosses on a 1970s-inspired dancefloor. It’s a kitschy and highly memorable take which offers a break from more intense themes.

Blitzball, Final Fantasty X (2001)

Similar to The Legend of Zelda, the Final Fantasy series has some of the most beloved mini games in video games. Many of these games precede the minigame zeitgeist, which made them even more special upon release. Back in 2001, Final Fantasy X put blitzball on the map. This underwater game lets players take a break from the main narrative, where they compete in a bizarre rugby-esque game. Developers created a tournament mode, which allows players to fully dive into this minigame. Many spent hours getting happily sidetracked with blitzball.

Orlog, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla (2020)

Above, we mentioned Gwent, which was popularized by 2015’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Since then, it’s been held as the paragon of card-based minigames—but Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla might have a challenger with its mini-games in video games Orlog. The minigame has since been released as a separate board game. Similar to poker in Red Dead Redemption, Orlog harkens back to the historical content in the game, including actual gods and goddesses within the Norse pantheon. The game itself is titled after the Old Norse word that relates to destiny and fate, which is written as ørlog.