Waypoint Weeklies: Miniature games inside larger games aka Mini-games!

The thing I really liked about it (and missed from Skyrim) was that once you got the Skeleton Key, you could just mash the “Auto-Pick” button until it opened. It was awesome. I love it when games give you a side thing to do and reward you by saying “Here, we’re just going to break the entire game for you - enjoy!”

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Somewhere, Josh Sawyer is smiling.

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This might be cheating a little bit, but I platinumed Yakuza Kiwami a little while ago, and it has made me fall in love with Mahjong. Played that a lot in game even after I didn’t have to play it any more for completion.

I also remember getting really into Triple Triad from FF8 when I was a kid. Give me a good card mini game any day.

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I’m going to shoutout Fire Emblem 3 Houses for having a surprisingly in-depth relationship sim and tactical combat minigames inside their game about fishing to become a better teacher

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Triple Triad from FFVIII is definitely my favorite minigame from that franchise. Although any time I’ve played that game, I never completely understand the way the rules spread from one region to another or what all they do so I end up losing a lot more than I win but, hey, at least I have fun doing it.

I was kind of surprised how much I loved the UFO Catchers in all the Yakuza games. When I got up to Yakuza 6 and it didn’t have it at all, I was legitimately disappointed even though it’s “only” a minigame. Also, I really liked the fishing in Yakuza 3 and 4. It was difficult but not in a way that I found unenjoyable and was probably the only time I’ve really enjoyed a fishing minigame at all.

I’ve been really enjoying the fishing in Final Fantasy XV.

When Pokémon first went big, I was way too young to understand Pokémon combat. English is not my first language and I didn’t actually own any Pokémon games to figure it out by brute force. I didn’t even watch the anime or read the manga because my parents thought it was age-inappropriate (ironically, later in life I felt I was “too old” for it). So at first, when visiting a friend who owned an N64, I wasn’t too crazy about Pokémon Stadium - or Pokémon Stadium 2 for that matter.

Then, they showed me the minigames.

Wanna be a funny-looking fish and try to jump higher and faster than everyone else? You bet I do. How about being a giant insect with swords for hands and trying to slice wood with precision like a ninja? Yes please! Turn based tactical combat? Boring. Rat race? Rat race!

I really adored every one of them, even the most button-mashy ones. Luckily, that friend never got Mario Party because I could get really competitive with that kind of stuff (and I think Mario Party was handmade to personally destroy anyone foolish enough to take it seriously). It was actually a formative experience that kickstarted my love for couch multiplayer. I still think many of those would, in the very least, make for some cool arcade phone games.

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Sure, I'll go entirely too long on Gwent

I ride up to this distant merchant on a hill, bloody and a little bruised. Out of armor kits. All to settle one question: is he gonna keep that Nilfgaard spy?

There’s minigames, there are some entirely-too-involved minigames, and then there’s Gwent. Memes about killing monsters for Gwent cards. Optimal builds for each class (there are four (and later on five) different classes). Assassin’s Creed Valhalla took a little step toward it by basically making a two-player version of the tabletop game King of Tokyo, but Gwent went so far as to push TCG design forward (the “rounds” system of Legends of Runeterra shares a lot of DNA with Gwent). And it’s fun!

Even beyond the game itself, though, the fact that every city/town/random hillside could (and very often did) have a Gwent player or a vendor selling new Gwent cards was really the carpet that tied The Witcher 3 together for me. Magic: the Gathering is the reason I even managed to talk to people in college, so the idea of going into a strange pub and breaking out my deck to throw down with someone after a long day at the office/monster den is one I can feel in my bones. It made Geralt, an emotionally flat killing machine who doesn’t have social anxiety nipping at his heels, relatable. And that’s some real magic.

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Idk if this exactly counts but I enjoy World of Warcraft pet battles. Its a surprisingly decent Pokemon-like inside WoW. It actually does a few things that I wish mainline Pokemon games would do:
Move cool downs so you can just spam the same thing over and over.
No healing items, status effects have set timers, damage over time continues even when the pet isn’t the active one.
Each pet type has a special ability so they matter a bit more than just strong vs/weak vs.
Wild pets get a full team so capturing them successfully is more of a challenge.

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the chao garden in sonic adventure 2 is my ideal minigame. there was a truly wild level of depth to that side of the game, with different ways chao could evolve and change their appearance (and reincarnate into gods???). also, as a child willing to put an absurd amount of time into the game, it added a really unique layer of planning your route through levels based on what stats you wanted to raise in your chao. im still forever bummed that it hasn’t made its way into more sonic games.

more generally, i think i struggle to get into minigames when they are wholly separated from the rest of the game, as opposed to something extra inside what you were already doing. i always rush through like, casino segments, and totally ignored stuff like chocobo racing. on the flip side, you could easily ignore the stuff you’re picking up in sa2, but it was always there if you felt like it.

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This was the serious gamer game. Things got hardcore with this minigame.

image

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Surprised all the great Zachtronics solitaire games haven’t been brought up. They’re so good they’ve literally been made into their own releases!

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I put the solitaire game in Eliza in my Top 10 of 2019 and didn’t put Eliza on that list.

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while many large games are richer for their inventive minigames, Breath of the Wild sorta does the opposite for me? most of its minigames are extremely conventional, but the botw foundation had me really invested in some of them. like most activities in botw, I’m just constantly thinking about how to cheese it to win easily, get absurd scores or do things in the most ridiculous ways possible. it pushes me to “make my own fun” and even think a bit like a speed runner.

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sometimes I’m just curious about what rewards I might get or what will the npcs say or do, but most often I find myself trying really hard to outsmart the game, thinking about all the combinations of items, powers and equipment I can exploit. it ends up making me engage with certain systems, especially the physics, in a different or more intense way.

for instance, with multishot bows, fire arrows, dry grass and stamina elixirs, it’s possible to go thousands of meters in the air in “bird-man research” and get almost all rings in the eventide paraglider challenge (I think my best was 50 or 60).

after spending all that time, energy and resources, you often get unimpressive rewards, but it ends up being a comedy bit: in a game where people are constantly telling you how amazing and uniquely talented your character is, you then do something really hard and people are like “yup pretty good here’s 300 rupees again”.

something that also happens quite often, in minigames or other activities, is that you’ll spend a ton of time trying something convoluted to solve a situation and then find a youtube video with an extremely easy method you didn’t think about, and botw is just a certain kind of game where that is funny and fulfilling instead of an annoyance.

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