Game Within a Game

Like a Show Within a Show, this is a videogame machine or console that exists (in-universe) inside a Video Game and which the player may use as a Mini-Game.

The distinction between this and a minigaming in general is that most minigames depict otherwise "real world" tasks (like chopping wood, fishing, or racing giant birds) tailored to the particular setting. Here, the minigame is a self-contained game, usually with no relevance to the surrounding plot (though this is not a requirement).

Sometimes the game is an Embedded Precursor (see that page for such examples), an older unrelated game, or a poorly disguised copy of a well-known existing game.

May overlap with Unexpected Gameplay Change and Bonus Stage. Compare Sidetracked by the Gold Saucer, depending on which one the player finds more engrossing. Or Betting Minigame where the game in question is used to farm in-game money. Also see Fictional Video Game.


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     Action Adventure 
  • The Warriors had a Final Fight or Double Dragon like Beat 'em Up called Armies of the Night.
  • The 'Raising Hell' expansion pack of Overlord had a section where you had to play miniature golf, and then Break-Out, with a fat halfling as the ball in both cases. The first was annoying, but the second was hilarious.
  • The Nintendo Wii version of Indiana Jones and the Staff of Kings has the LucasArts adventure Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis as an (easy) unlockable. Staff of Kings was apparently bad enough and Fate of Atlantis (before it was put on Steam a month or so latter) rare/good enough for someone to make a replacement cover for Staff of Kings that makes the box look like a Wii version of Fate of Atlantis see here.
  • An Untitled Story has a computer and several arcade cabinets with mini-games that you can access by buying them for your house from the store in Sky Town.
  • In La-Mulana (original version), by equipping certain ROM combinations with the MSX2, you can play PR3 and Mukimuki SD: Memorial. The former is a parody of Parodius for the MSX, and getting a certain score in it is required to progress at a certain point of Hell Temple. The other begins sort of like Tokimeki Memorial, but then drops its Dating Sim mask and turns into a variation of the "Snatcher Headhunter" game mentioned below.

     Adventure Game 
  • The Funmachine in Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People plays a different game in every episode. It occasionally even factors into the plot.
    • "Homestar Ruiner" has Snake Boxer 5, a parody of Atari Boxing where you fight a procession of increasingly aggressive snakes.
    • "Strong Badia the Free" has Math Kickers featuring the Algebros, a parody of edutainment games where you fight ninjas by making both sides equal.
    • "Baddest of the Bands" has Limozeen's Hot Babelien Odyssey, a game based on Defender where you pilot the flying space-bus from Limozeen: But They're In Space! to rescue "babe-liens" from the clutches of Nebulon and Mitch Overlord. Strong Bad tries playing the game at the start of the episode when his Funmachine breaks down.
    • "Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective" has Space Circus Catastrophe, a game reminiscent of the Space Mountain minigame in Adventures In The Magic Kingdom where you shoot clowns, dodge giant circus food, and rescue the other performers. Strong Bad uses it to simulate a space mission to the Sun.
    • "8-Bit is Enough" has Gel-Arsie's Pro Fruit Boarder, a skateboarding game starring the gelatin version of Marshie the Marshmallow ("Say it with me, the Cheat: Licensed games are never good!"), and part of the episode involves activating the game's "kill screen" so you can recruit Gel-Arshie. Completing the episode unlocks Trogdor's 3D-Ungeon, where you play as Ultimate Trogdor and try to burninate as many peasants as you can while avoiding getting "sworded" by Strong Bad.
  • Day of the Tentacle contains the original Maniac Mansion in the game. It can be accessed from Weird Ed's computer.
  • Astro Chicken and Ms. Astro Chicken in the Space Quest series.
    • In Space Quest III, the Astro Chicken game actually serves a plot point. In Space Quest IV, the Ms Astro Chicken game is just there for fun.
    • Space Quest V includes a space-based Battleships variant. You get to play it about halfway through the game at the Spacebar when Captain Quirk challenges Roger to a game of Battle Cruiser. You can win or lose, it doesn't affect the plot, it's just one of the game's many last lousy points.
    • In Space Quest VI winning a game of Stooge Fighter is required to progress. Most of the game up to that point is spent acquiring enough resources so you can successfully cheat your way to victory; your opponent is unbeatable without doing so.
    • The Fan Remake of Space Quest II has an enhanced remake of Troll's Tale, one of Al Lowe's earliest games, on Vohaul's ship that Roger can play as an irrelevant side quest.
  • Police Quest: Open Season has "Stroids", an Asteroids clone, as an arcade machine at the Short Stop Bar.
  • In the Point-and-Click room-escape Lights, you have to complete a handheld LCD game about chicks crossing bridges to get a code.
  • The Adventures of Willy Beamish has Willy training for the Nintari championships using a game called Monster Squad. In the PC version, it's a cutscene of a platformer, but in the Sega CD version, it's a playable Space Invaders clone (and the Nintari looks like a Game Gear).
  • Most Humongous Entertainment games would have at least one. Occasionally they would even factor into the plot.
  • Urusei Yatsura: Dear My Friends had three unlockable minigames.
  • In a couple of the Nancy Drew games, Nancy has to access a suspect's computer by solving or scoring points in their laptop's casual games. The Game Within a Game boasts a lower resolution than the rest of the ND game, presumably so it's obvious that this trope is in effect.
  • In LEGO Dimensions, objects called Arcade Docks can be found in various levels. If the Gamer Kid's arcade machine gadget is used on one, it'll grant you access to one of 23 different Midway Arcade gamesSpecifically... .
  • Obsidian has quite a few, with some examples being:
    • The entire "Play a Game" category on the computer terminals in the Bureau Realm.
    • The hilariously-ironic "Productivity" vidbot, also from the Bureau Realm, containing a sideways, double-breakdown game.
    • The Piazza sequence from the Bismuth Realm, complete with a board-sized version for tutorial.
  • The player character in The Dig had a PDA that functioned mainly as a way to communicate with other characters, but also had Lunar Lander installed on there. He'd even grumble about not beating another character's high score.

     Beat 'em Up 
  • Dynamite Deka included the old Sega Arcade Game Deep Scan, points from which could win more credits to play the main game. Dynamite Deka 2 did the same thing with Tranquilizer Gun, another old Sega arcade game. The PlayStation 2 remake of the original game substituted a simulation of the electromechanical game Periscope, the first coin-operated game Sega ever made.
  • Bayonetta has "Angel Attack!", a shooting gallery game that Bayonetta can play between chapters, aiming at targets to earn points to get things like Lollipops and other Power Ups. By collecting Arcade Bullets during the actual chapter, you earn more shots in the game.

  • Brain Age 2 contained Virus/Germ Buster, a touch-based remake of Dr. Mario. Brain Age: Concentration Training added Blob Blast, a touch-based remake of Wario's Woods (NES).

     First Person Shooter 
  • Time Splitters 2 had three games that could be found (via cartridges hidden in levels in story mode) that could be accessed by pressing the reload button with the Temporal Uplink out.
  • The Super Turbo Turkey Puncher 3 arcade machine in Doom 3, which uses the same graphics/sprites as the original Doom.
    • One enterprising modder took it a bit further with Terminal DOOM, which ports the original game's engine to the Doom 3 terminals.
  • In System Shock, the PC finds some memory sticks with useful programs and games. Just plug one into your interface and play. In System Shock 2, the GamePig Entertainment Device is an MFD Game Player that can be hacked to access all the games: Corporate Swine, Golf, OverWorld Zero, Swine Hunter, Swinekeeper, Street Hog, and Tic-Tac-Triop.
  • Left 4 Dead 2 brought us the sideshows in Dark Carnival. The Peanut Gallery, which was a shooting gallery (and unlocked the box with Gnome Chompski for an Achievement). There was Stache Whacker (a Whack-A-Mole game which, when beaten, would break the machine, spew winner tickets, and alert the horde as it dings happily). And there was the Strength Test which, when hit correctly, would knock the bell clean out and alert the horde. This one was also achievement-worthy.
  • The Deus Ex mod The Nameless Mod included several minigames, like Tetris and Breakout, that you could play on in-game computers.
  • Subverted in Duke Nukem 3D: Upon confronting a Duke Nukem II arcade machine, Duke simply says, "Hmmm, don't have time to play with myself."
  • In Call of Duty: Black Ops you can play a very old text-only adventure game Zork I on a terminal on the main menu screen as an Easter Egg.
  • In Prey (2006), the bar where the game starts features a playable video poker machine and an arcade game loosely based on Pac-Man. Later on the player can stumble across the video poker machine on the alien space ship with the minor change that you can win every single round because the game will always deal the best possible hand based on whatever cards you've held.
  • In Fallout 3, one of the computers has a text adventure game called "Reign of Grelok" on it that you can play.
  • Fallout 4 has several holotape games that you can play on most hacked computer terminals as well as your Pip-Boy. Included are Space Invaders, Missile Command, Donkey Kong, and Pitfall expies, and a Grognak the Barbarian text-based RPG. The Automatron DLC adds a Robotron 2084 clone.
  • In Call of Duty: Black Ops II, if you shoot off all the mannequin heads in Nuketown 2025, you can play old Activision games like Pitfall 2 or Kaboom!
  • The mid-90s Amiga FPS Gloom had an arcade machine on which a Defender clone could be played for one extra life.
  • A Mythology Gag version shows up in TRON 2.0. In the opening scene, the protagonist is shown playing the TRON arcade game. Explained in-universe as Flynn making a game based on his adventures down the digital rabbit hole (like much of the game,the same explanation got recycled into TronLegacy).
  • An interesting case, which may also be an example of Mythology Gag: Black Mesa ran a contest in 2006 to let the community design the monitors scattered around the facility. One of the winners is the title screen of the original Half-Life. (Another one is Counter-Strike.)

     Hack and Slash 
  • Ninja Gaiden for the Xbox has an arcade machine that can play the old Ninja Gaiden trilogy, if you can find the cartridges, that is.

  • EverQuest had "Gems" — a Bejeweled knockoff to pass the time while meditating/healing/looking for group.
  • Guild Wars 2 has the limited-time event "Super Adventure Box", a homage to both Nintendo's golden days and their modern descendants.
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 is a game that can say that it features itself as a Game Within a Game. What sets this apart from other, similar examples is that the game co-exists with the universe that the real game is set in. The in-story version is almost identical to the real thing, but the in-story version is developed by the Nebulous Evil Organization Mother Cluster to spy on the Parallel Universe that the Player Character and ARKS resides in. The avatars that players make in the game manifest as Ether constructs in the ARKS dimension, and depending on the Ether potential of the user, it's possible for Earthlings to "dive" into their avatar and experience the game through them, or outright use Phantasy Star Online 2 as an interdimensional portal to send themselves to the other dimension.

     Platform Game 
  • Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal had the Captain Qwark Vid-comics, which are a side-scroller similar to Mega Man.
  • Pitfall: The Lost Expedition had both the original Pitfall and Pitfall II: The Lost Caverns as bonuses.
  • Sonic Generations has a Sega Genesis in the hub for Green Hill Zone that lets you play the original Sonic the Hedgehog, but you'll need to buy the controller for the Genesis from the Skill Shop first. You can also buy unlimited continues for it.
  • Hero 3D in Iji is accessed from an in-game computer terminal.
  • In the Xbox 360 game Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, you can go to Klungo's Arcade and play his masterpiece, "Hero Klungo Sssavesss Teh World", an eight-bit Self Insert platformer where the entire control system is a single button. And it regularly crashes, prompting Klungo to appear and reboot it for you.
    • A later DLC pack unlocked the sequel: "Hero Klungo Sssavesss Teh Universsse", which added a gun to Klungo's arsenal.
  • Donkey Kong 64 has two minigames to obtain the Rareware and the Nintendo Coins. Cranky offers you Jetpac as a example of the good past times in videogames. The other game is the original Donkey Kong game, in a Arcade placed in one of the levels. These are not optional, however; you had to play through both of these Nintendo Hard games to get into the room that unlocks the final boss fight.
  • In Legend of the Mystical Ninja, the Konami theme park level has an attraction that lets you play the first level of Gradius.
  • In the Hub Level of Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, there are several arcade machines that can only be played with a sufficient amount of the corresponding fruit. There's a bit of Fridge Logic when you see that said hub is Pac's high school — wouldn't the staff worry about students getting distracted in the halls?
  • The Mega Man-esque free platformer Khimera Destroy All Monster Girls features "Cakeboy", a simple platformer with NES-inspired graphics that can be played on the console at the protagonist's home. It actually gives you a Steam achievement and an item that is needed for 100% Completion if you beat enough levels.
  • Zool had an arcade machine on one level that allowed the player to play a simplified version of Zool itself. The twist was that the machine was gigantic, requiring Zool to jump about on the huge buttons in order to control his own avatar.
  • Night in the Woods has Demontower, an isometric dungeon crawler featuring "The Palecat" on a quest to scale the aforementioned Demontower as her health drops from level to level.

     Puzzle Game 
  • Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures features an arcade in both the countryside and the city. The arcade contains both the original Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man. The Sega Genesis version of the game replaces Ms. Pac-Man with a new game called Pac-Jr. (not to be confused with the Bally-Midway produced Jr. Pac-Man), since Ms. Pac-Man had already been released on the Genesis as a standalone game. Both Ms. Pac-Man and Pac-Jr. require three cartridge pieces in order to play.
  • Try summoning an "ARCADE MACHINE" in Super Scribblenauts.
  • Catherine has Rapunzel, an arcade game in the Stray Sheep with eerily similar mechanics to the nightmares but the time limit replaced with a movement limit. In fact, its similarity to the nightmares is why it was put there.

     Racing Game 
  • Project Gotham Racing 2 had Geometry Wars in it. Later PGR games have their own editions/sequels of Geometry Wars

     Real Time Strategy 
  • StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty's Campaign Mode features an arcade machine with The Lost Vikings on it. Not that Lost Vikings though, it is a Space Shooter entirely made within the capabilities of the map editor.

     Role Playing Game 
  • Tales of the Abyss had the classic first generation side-scroller Dragon Buster as an unlockable bonus.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, the player can engage in an arcade game on Nam Cobanda Isle called "Tales of Draspi."
  • In Marvel Ultimate Alliance, you get trapped in Murderworld for one level. During said level you get to play games like Pitfall and Break Out.
  • Club Penguin spy missions are all minigames anyway, but in one mission, an arcade game was yet another minigame, making it a game within a game within a game.
  • NASU (the most depressing game in the universe) for the NES in Yume Nikki.
  • Tin Pin Slammer in The World Ends with You. Another Day is all about that.
  • In Super Mario RPG, you can buy a Game Boy off a guy in Mushroom Kingdom and start playing Beetle Mania.
  • In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, you can play Star Stache Smash at the arcade in Little Fungitown. The first time you play that game, it's actually a plot point.
  • Anachronox has this in the form of game cartridges that can be played on a machine back in Boots' office.
  • Xenosaga Episode III had HAKOX, an arcade game. The player is required to play it for a while at one point of the game for the main story to progress.
  • "Captain Square" in Live A Live is an interesting twist - it's ostensibly an arcade game, but it plays exactly the same as normal battles do. There are, however, no normal battles in the same chapter that take place outside it.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep contains the Command Board, which takes all of the gameplay and rules of Square Enix's Itadaki Street boardgame videogame series and mixes them with this game's characters and settings.
  • SD Snatcher features "Snatcher Headhunter", a Whack-A-Mole arcade game, which needs to be played for Plot Coupons.
  • Final Fantasy VII has the arcade games found in the Gold Saucer, some of which curiously parallel events that actually happen to your team. For example, there's a motorbike racing game, which uses the exact same graphics as an actual motorbike chase that your team goes through earlier in the game.
  • Final Fantasy XV has Justice Monsters Five and King's Knight: Wrath of the Dark Dragon, which turned into this trope when Square Enix released the game for iOS and Android devices in several regions.
  • In Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, the arcade in Asakusa has a Manikin kid who dares you to complete all twenty levels of Puzzle Boy (a Game Boy version of which was the first game ever published by Atlus).
  • The .hack series revolves around The World, a fictional MMORPG that serves as the series's main setting.
  • Ultima references the game Ultima V as a poster in Ultima VI, and posters in Ultima Underworld II reference previous Ultima games. Ultima VII's intro shows The Avatar playing a "normal" Ultima VII game that becomes possessed by The Guardian. In Ultima VII, Ultima VIII appears as a pirated game on an anachronistic computer. In Ultima IX, a preview of Ultima Online 2 is found on The Avatar's home PC.

     Simulation Game 
  • Animal Crossing had a number of classic NES games ranging from Super Mario Bros. to Donkey Kong Jr Math.
  • The Tokimeki Memorial series loves this trope:
    • The first game has a Twinbee Time Attack minigame.
    • The second game has Circus de Aimashou, a remake of Konami's old game Circus Charlie.
    • Tokimeki Memorial Pocket has a beatmania minigame.
    • Dancing Summer Vacation is built around the Dance Dance Revolution Tokimeki Mix minigame.
    • Several games of the series have original Shoot 'em Up minigames such as Force Gear, Stardust Symphony EX and Psyth (in 1), Star Crusher (in Tabidachi no Uta), Space Ring Fighter and Melting Point (in 2), and Go-Driller (in Leaping School Festival).
  • Stardew Valley has two arcade games at the Stardrop Saloon. Journey of the Prairie King is a shoot-'em-up where you play a cowboy fighting off hordes of monsters (it also has a home version that you play with Abigail during one of her friendship events), and Junimo Kart is an Endless Running Game unlocked with the Skull Key found at the lowest level of the caves.

     Survival Horror 
  • Penumbra: Black Plague includes a shooter minigame in one of the PC's.
  • In Siren 2, there is Kunitoris (Country Tetris), a Famicom-style puzzle strategy game for the SN-AG1999 AGE MANIAC game system.
  • In Siren: Blood Curse, there are the Game & Watch-style games Jackalopeman, Skyfish, and Tsuchinoko on the JOYLiNK Ultra Network King portable LCD game system.

     Third Person Shooter 
  • Second Sight had two games (which could be played on the PDA/Pause Menu), one found as a cartridge and another by playing on an arcade machine.
  • The Xbox 360 version of Ghostbusters: The Video Game allows the player to play Q*bert. It's one of the arcade machines at the firehouse.
  • Jet Force Gemini has at least one instance of this in one of the later levels, involving an arcade machine where you play a top-down racer against the AI. Tokens are even necessary to play it.
  • Splatoon has an arcade machine in the main plaza that allows you to play the same 8-bit minigames you can ordinarily play at the loading screen before starting a match.
  • In Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, Nathan attempts to beat Elena's high score on Crash Bandicoot, specifically, the Boulders level. You later replay the game during the epilogue as Nate and Elena's teenage daughter.

     Wide Open Sandbox 
  • In Goat Simulator, there is Flappy Goat, Drug Wars, Box Pusher, and Snake, playable on a flat screen TV.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas had clones of Tempest, Asteroids and Defender (Go Go Space Monkey, Let's Get Ready to Bumble, Duality, and They Crawled from Uranus). You could also play billiards at one of the local bars.
  • Grand Theft Auto IV/V has the puzzle game QUB3D.
  • Bully had several with names like "Nut Shots", "Monkey Fling", "Consumo" and "Future Street Race". The last one also has a more modern 3D version available to play in-game.
  • Shenmue had Space Harrier and Hang-On in it. Shenmue II had those two with After Burner II and OutRun.
  • You can go into the main character's crib in Saints Row 2 and play a console video game called Zombie Invasion.
  • Occurs in No More Heroes; whilst travelling via train during one of his missions, Travis pulls out a hand-held console and starts playing Pure White Tiny Giant Glastonbury (which itself is a spin-off of a fictional anime Travis is obsessed with). Once the game is complete, the mission continues and the game is unlocked at his home for future playing.
    • The sequel gives us "Bizzare Jelly 5", also a spin-off of the anime, that you can play from the start of the game.
  • Yakuza 5 has an Arcade Perfect Port of Virtua Fighter 2 that even supports online play (though you need to download a separate software to go online).

  • The Israeli video game Tchachei Harating has a couple of arcade consoles in the lower floor of the hotel, where you can play, for instance, a karate fighting game.
  • In Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events for the Game Boy Advance, an arcade machine is located in the town of Lake Lachrymose. Playing it gives you the 'Handsome Man' video game, where you turn sad faces into happy faces. A rain cloud always comes along and changes them back though; you cannot win the game and all the happy faces will eventually be sad again.
  • Presentable Liberty features the "Doctor Money Portable Entertainment Product" that can run up to five different minigames. Most of them are intentionally bad, but they help pass the time between story segments. Finishing them nets you medals to hang on your cell wall.
  • Activision's Battle Zone 1998 and Space Invaders 1999 both imply the original games serve as interfaces within the more modern looking vehicles/space craft.
  • WarioWare is a game series about a game company making large quantities of "microgames" (Shovelware). There are some original games, and many ports, knockoffs and sub-par clones of other games by Nintendo during the NES era, especially Super Mario Bros. The "Fly Swatter" game from the SNES Mario Paint is also included.
  • SeGaGaGa (SGGG) is a Sega Dreamcast RPG about running a game development studio. The game development and publishing simulation aspects feature Sega games being sold to the public to gain greater market share. The RPG portions appear to be game aspects coming to life within the office environment.

Alternative Title(s): Gameception