Fans of RPGs will be familiar with the concept of mini-games. They are a great mechanic to encourage players to explore the world as well as giving boosts for taking the time to complete them. While some series, such as Yakuza, are known as much for their side quests and mini-games as they are with the main story, most see these as an add-on to the rest of the gaming experience.
Famously, Red Dead Redemption 2 included an in-depth poker system that really brought the world to life and went all-in on the Wild West setting. Poker is a popular minigame and has been found in plenty of other big titles, from Grand Theft Auto to Far Cry. As Poker.org explains, it is one of the world’s most popular pastimes, which means the rules and concepts are familiar. That makes it simple for players to pick up and a great way to engage players outside the main storyline. However, plenty of developers take a more creative route, coming up with their own games to flesh out their settings. Sometimes these fall flat, but occasionally they create magical moments for players to find and become almost as enticing as the main game.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is widely considered one of the best Western RPGs of all time and a big part of that is because the world feels so alive. There is no shortage of things to do in The Witcher 3, but the most prominent and fun of these is Gwent. This card game is a favorite pastime of many of the residents of the setting and consists of strategically playing cards in order to overwhelm your opponent’s cards. It doesn’t provide any mechanical benefit for Geralt on his quest, but it is a welcome distraction from the gritty world he finds himself in. Beating an opponent will allow you to grab unique cards in return, so if you want to get all the cards in the game, you need to beat every opponent you can find. It is a great way to pass the time when you need a break from slaying monsters and saving the world. Gwent was so popular, it even spawned its own, more fleshed out multiplayer game.
Like most entries in the Final Fantasy series, Final Fantasy VIII is a long game so you would be forgiven for wanting to ignore some of the mini-games that are presented in it. However, Triple Triad is a fun strategy card game that gives you the chance to test your mental prowess against NPCs across the world. The game is played by capturing cards played by your opponent, placing your own cards around them with higher power scores in different directions. The winner receives a random card from the loser’s deck, so it is a good chance to bolster your own deck but you have to risk your own. The artwork on each card is a gorgeous representation of the monsters and summons in the game, which is the main benefit to collecting them all.
What game set in Vegas would be complete without a card game to gamble on? In Fallout: New Vegas, you can bet your precious bottlecaps on games of Caravan. This card game is pretty easy to play, with more of the strategy coming from how you build your deck ahead of time. Like most of Fallout, it is a chaotic game that embodies the loose nature of rules in the post-apocalyptic setting.
There are dozens of Star Wars video games, but none have been as well received as Knights of the Old Republic. This RPG gave players the chance to explore the galaxy far, far away in a way that they never had been able to before. Pazaak was a way to showcase how the different species in Star Wars spend their time and is a good way to make money in the game. It is similar to blackjack, in that your goal is to get as close to 20 as you can without going over, but it has a layer of complexity added that you have a direct opponent you are trying to beat rather than the dealer at the table. With a remake of KotOR currently in production, we can only hope Pazaak makes another appearance.