Exploring the fun world of minigames within video games

Minigames have become commonplace in big blockbuster titles and indie gems alike. Certain franchises have made it their signature move to include subgames by the dozens. Others have been so successful with their minigames that they have become their own standalone titles. But what’s the story behind this minigame frenzy? And what games offer some solid minigame fun? Let’s find out.

Minigames: a recent hype that goes way back

Gamers live in an age of minigame galore, but the practice of including short games in much larger entries has been going on for decades. Minigames have always been part of the gaming experience. Crafting-based and fishing minigames now integral to cozy gaming date as far back as the first installments in the Legend of Zelda series. As early as the 1980s, sports games like Olympic Decathlon consisted of nothing but separate track and field events with no overarching story. The Super Mario party games took the concept to further commercial heights by developing minigames designed for multiple players of all backgrounds.

However, the popularity of extra games within a game can be pegged to the introduction of Gwent in The Witcher 3. This game of strategy eventually turned into a top-selling digital collectible card game. Most triple-A titles took notice, sprinkling minigames left and right in the form of cleverly hidden Easter Eggs or skippable side quests. These distractions can be used for world-building, adding to the lore of sci-fi RPGs like Star Trek Online, or acting as immersion tools in sprawling epics like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Retro minigames also appeal to nostalgia, while others break up the gameplay just enough to get gamers going who would have otherwise turned off their console.

A few games offering the most minigame fun

Kingdom Hearts 2

Developed by Square Enix, Kingdom Hearts is a crossover between JRPGs like Final Fantasy and Disney’s magical world. While microgames have been a franchise staple from the onset, Kingdom Hearts 2 stands out the most with its staggering array of 45 minigames. You only need to pick and choose your favorite Disney character to embark on a fun quest with.

If you fancy gathering honey pots alongside Winnie the Pooh, you can slide to your heart’s content through the Hundred Acre Woods. You might also soar over the ruins of Agrabah on a magic carpet to escape from the clutch of an ever-scheming Jafar. If you’re looking for a quieter pastime, why not orchestrate a musical spectacle in Atlantic with Ariel and Sebastian? To keep track of all your minigame records, you can check out Jiminy’s Journals at any time.

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth

Released this year, Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth set a new precedent in a franchise already known for its plethora of minigames. From inventive spins on arcade classics to addictive card battlers with a satirical edge, there is plenty to explore alongside Ichiban Kasuga and his crew in Honolulu City and Yokohama. With their unprecedented replayability, some new additions feel like full-fledged games. Dondoko Island, Infinite Wealth’s take on an Animal Crossing-like resort, is a mode so deep as to be ridiculous, and perhaps the most complete subgame ever made. Additionally, the game brings back tons of fan-favorite activities like batting cages, karaoke, and gambling.

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Stardew Valley

Whether seasonal or permanent, minigames are all around Stardew Valley. Some are more covert than others, such as the machine slots hidden in the backroom of the Oasis store in the desert or the darts minigame available in the Pirate Cover on Ginger Island. Others are parts and parcels of your new life in the country, including a fishing minigame that can make you good money early on.

Besides, you can hit the Stardrop Saloon to socialize with townsfolk or play arcade games like the top-down shooter Journey of the Prairie King. If you’re especially interested in befriending Abigail, one of Pelican Town’s bachelorettes, honing your skills gives you a good shot at impressing her during her 2-heart event.