The virtual worlds we play in have become more real as games have become more immersive. And what kind of world doesn’t have games? There’s a long history of games within games in video games, whether they’re different modes, mini-puzzles, games that add to the realism of the world, or even completely different games. Some of these minigames are fun and hard to stop playing for a few hours. Some games keep you coming back for more, while others go beyond the original game. Here are some of the best minigames for you to try out.
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Not seeing anything you like here? Don’t forget to check out our other guides, like the Best Games for Mobile Phones or the Best Games for the Nintendo Switch. Check out our Best Keyboards and Best Controllers guides for information on hardware.
Witcher 3 (2015)
Witcher’s Gwent could be the most fun and addicting strategy card game that has ever been in an RPG. It’s perfectly balanced and a lot of fun, with artwork and characters from the world you explore as Geralt of Rivia. You play as one of two armies that are at odds with each other. The armies use different cards and abilities to fight each other.
Gwent is mentioned in the original Witcher books, so playing it adds a layer of depth to the story. It’s also a fun game on its own. Gwent eventually led to a stand-alone game, but I prefer the elegant version that was built into the game. It was easy to learn but had enough depth to be hard to master.
Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014) and The Old Blood (2015)
Wolfenstein’s nightmare scenes in The New Order and The Old Blood make it the winner of the meta-minigame award. If you choose to sleep for 40 winks in certain places, you’ll make BJ Blazkowicz have nightmares. Some of the hardest and most classic Wolfenstein 3D levels are these nightmares, where you have to fight Nazis, attack dogs, SS soldiers, and eventually Hans Grosse, the big boss. Wolfenstein 3D was the first game to be played from the first-person point of view.
Red Dead Redemption (2010)
I learned how easy it is to play until the sun comes up when I went to the local saloon to kill some time. I’ve played poker more in Red Dead Redemption than in real life, because the mini-game is so well made and perfectly captures the excitement of no-limit Texas Hold ‘Em. In the original game, if you wear the elegant suit, you can take an extra card from the bottom of the deck. However, you have to balance an arrow so that the other players don’t notice that you’re cheating and throwing down. The cheating option was taken out of Red Dead Redemption 2.
Tekken took fighting games to a whole new level, and it was a big hit on the first PlayStation. It was easy to use, had 3D graphics, and hand-to-hand combat that felt slower and more strategic than other games at the time. Due to the limited power of the first PlayStation, loading screens were always going to be long. However, Namco had the great idea of making Galaga, one of its older arcade hits, playable while Tekken was loading. When you beat the Galaga minigame, Devil became a playable character.
I thought it was such a good idea that every game should have loading screens with minigames that you could play. It turned out that Namco had already put a patent on the idea. In 2015, the patent ran out.
Grand Theft Auto III (2001)
In GTA, things can get a little crazy, so it’s helpful to have a side job that helps you improve your driving skills and gives you a little extra cash. Between mob hits and drug deals, driving people around the city streets is strangely relaxing. The GTA series is full of minigames. Some of the early games let you play as a paramedic or firefighter, and some of the more recent ones have golf, bowling, tennis, and dart games that are very detailed. Even calming yoga is in GTA V, but when I need a break from all the violence, I still prefer to drive a taxi.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)
Slow, calm, and maybe a little boring: It seems strange that fishing has become a standard mini-game in any big virtual world, but if The Legend of Zelda is to blame, it must be for this. Fishing has been a part of many games in the series, in one way or another.
It can be a lot of fun to take a break from exciting quests and spend the afternoon fishing. Different games have different ways to catch fish, but I think Twilight Princess took fishing to a whole new level by letting you fish in any water and use different kinds of bait, hooks, and lures. With the weather, time of day, and even season factoring into the prospective catch, you need knowledge and technique to land the best fish.
Blade Runner (1997)
As a big fan of Blade Runner, I spent many hours in the rainy streets of Los Angeles looking into murders. In Westwood’s point-and-click adventure from 1997, you played the role of detective Ray McCoy. The game had an original story that crossed over with the plot of the movie. Since it’s hard to find replicants, the game sometimes let you give a suspect a Voight-Kampff test to see if they were a replicant or a human. It let you see their eyeball up close, and you had to choose questions that would make them sweat a little but not so much that they would freeze up before you could tell if they were a replicant or not.
Hacking | Bioshock
This game is a variation on the old Amiga game Pipe Mania, which was also called Pipe Dream. You had to play it to unlock vending machines and other items in Rapture, the underwater dystopia in BioShock. You had to connect the beginning of the maze to the end by guiding a current through a series of rotating pipes.
No one ever really understood why this was the only way to get superpower hormone injections from vending machines, but the puzzle-like nature of the minigame was always a nice break from getting your head bashed in by a Big Daddy.