Lockpicking Minigame

Video games that rely heavily on stealth gameplay, such as Stealth-Based Games and Role-Playing Games that implement the full Combat, Diplomacy, Stealth spectrum, sometimes let the player participate in the Kleptomaniac Hero's lock-picking activities. This generally takes place in a minigame revolving around setting pins inside a tumbler lock with a lockpick, with several possible variations:

  • Timing-based vs. position-based. In timing-based minigames, you generally have to press a button at just the right moment to set a pin. In position-based minigames, you have to zero in on the exact spot to put your lockpick in, based on subtle clues like sounds and pick vibration.
  • Lock complexity. Locks may come in several difficulty levels, with more complex ones having more pins or requiring more precise timing/lockpick placing.
  • Consumable lockpicks. Optionally, lockpicks can be either expended on a successful lockpick attempt, broken upon failure, or spent on every attempt regardless of outcome. Sometimes, unbreakable lockpicks may be found late in the game.
  • Skill Scores and Perks. In RPGs, a high lock-picking skill may reduce the difficulty of the minigame, allowing the player to take on more complex locks as it levels up. If an auto-attempt option is included, this skill will determine the success chance.

Subtrope of Mini-Game. Compare Hacking Minigame, which often replaces this trope in more futuristic settings (as a rule of thumb—if it doesn't involve lockpicks and tumblers, then it's probably not this trope). See also Master of Unlocking, which often occurs when this task is delegated to a Non-Player Companion.


    open/close all folders 

    Adventure Game 
  • Post Mortem includes a lockpicking minigame as a frustratingly hard puzzle, where you have to bring not one but five lockpicks into the correct (randomly generated) positions around the keyhole, based on how much they wiggle when you pull the doorknob. Thankfully, you only ever get one set of lockpicks and in both locations where it can be used, it is technically optional.

    Horror Game 
  • In Guise of the Wolf, pickable locks have four tumblers, and four buttons that cause certain tumblers to turn 90 degrees. The goal is to press the buttons in the right order so that the gaps in the tumblers are all aligned to one side.
  • The same mechanics as in Skyrim are also used in Dying Light. It's more annoying, though, because you can't see whether zombies are near you while you pick.
  • In The Last Stand: Union City, you press a key to shove a pin back and another to try and secure it in place. You have to judge by the sounds the pin does as it passes by its secure point; miss it and all pins get undone. You can also force the lock, but that's a Luck-Based Mission, and if you fail, the lock can only be opened with the key, which is fine on paper... but aside from a select few doors, nothing has a key, so if you fail to force a container's lock, kiss whatever loot might be in it goodbye. Needless to say, this risk makes it far better to just take the time to carefully pick the lock, no matter its level.

  • In The Elder Scrolls Online, similarly to the main series, you are shown five pins on springs and must press down on each one until the right moment (when it starts to shake slightly), and then release. If you push it down too far, the lockpick will break; if it is not far enough, then it simply will return to its normal position (although repeated attempts may still break the lockpick). It is also has a time limit based on the difficulty of the chest: the more difficult the lock, the less amount of time is given to open it.

    Platform Game 
  • Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves introduced safe-cracking to the Sly Cooper games. This is done via a Mini-Game, in which the player must rotate the safe's lock dial with the joystick. Once the controller starts to vibrate, the player must change the direction of rotation, and keep doing this untill the safe opens up.
  • In the first Ratchet & Clank game, a gadget called Trespasser is used to open special kind of locks. The following games have similar gadgets (Electrolyzer, Infiltrator, Hacker...), though they are used to (de)activate all kinds of technology, making them rather all-around hacking tools. In all the games, the resulting Mini-Game is different. The Trespasser puzzle, for example, has the player rotate a group of rings with laser-beam generators, that need to be positioned so that each beam connects to a receptor on the outside of the rings.

    Role-Playing Game 
  • Wizardry VII: Crusaders of the Dark Savant (1992) may have contained the Ur-Example: to pick a lock, you had to hit a button at just the right moment as the tumblers roll.
  • In the post-Morrowind installments of The Elder Scrolls series, lockpicking is framed as a minigame. All locks can be opened if you find a matching key (some locks can only be opened this way), but otherwise, you must use lockpicks to try and pick them. Lockpicks are cheap and break easily on a failed attempt (except at highest Skill Score levels or when using the unique Daedric artifact called "Skeleton Key").
    • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, you are shown the one to five pins inside the lock (depending on its complexity) and must use your lockpick to push each one up in succession, then try to set it with a button press before it falls down. The speed at which pins fall back varies, and if you're too slow, your pick breaks and some of the already set pins fall (how many depends on your Security skill). Alternatively, you can Auto Attempt to pick the lock, which either opens it or breaks the lockpick instantly, with the success chance determined by your Security skill.
    • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you are shown the keyhole and can move a lockpick in a circle, then rotate the lock when it is in position. If it is just right, the lock will rotate 90 degrees and open; otherwise, it will stop at some point (the further down it gets, the closer you are) and the pick will break. The more complex the lock, the more precise you have to be in placing the pick, although a higher Lockpicking skill score gives you more room for error. Breaking picks gives you a small skill boost, while opening a lock gives a larger one (how large depends on its complexity).
  • The lockpicking mechanics from Skyrim were first introduced in the earlier Bethesda game Fallout 3 and reused in Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 4. It's worth noting that failing an auto-attempt in either of these games will break the lock permanently'' and won't let you try to pick it again (unless you have a certain perk). But that's nothing a little Save Scumming can't fix.
  • To open a lock in Risen 2: Dark Waters, a line of tumbler pins should be pushed out of the way by moving a lockpick back and forth. "Start at this one, then go left until this one, then go right until that one, then..." until all pins are out of the way.
  • Anachronox: Main character's specialty skill is lockpicking. In-game locks are essentially combination locks with several "rotating discs", the right numbers from 0 to 9 needing to be guessed in sequence in a minigame fashion. An indicator shows size of tried-number-vs-right-number offset, upon a wrong guess. Going over time limit equals failure to pick the lock, and complex locks have the time limit so short it would be impossible to put even a known combination in. Getting the master lockpick skill (via a missable side-quest) adds a button, which can be clicked to reset any limiting timer as many times as needed, making any lockpick possible.
  • Unlimited Saga: Locked chests can be opened and traps can be disarmed if you have good enough timing and/or luck in hitting the right symbol on a series of reels.
  • Two Worlds has a lock-picking game where you have to lock your pick into consecutive rotating cylinders within a time limit. Level Scaling makes it a luck-based proposition fairly quickly even with maximum ranks in lockpicking.
  • Alpha Protocol has a simple minigame where you have to bounce cylinder pins into place sequentially. This applies to any sort of lock.

    Stealth-Based Game 
  • In Thief: Deadly Shadows, tumblers are represented by three to six rings (depending on the lock complexity) that appear in the bottom-right corner of the screen when picking a lock. Each ring has an opening on it that is invisible at first and has to be located with the mouse-controlled pick based on subtle clues (like sounds made by the lock). Once the opening on the outermost ring is found, its tumbler is set, and Garret moves on to the next one; setting all tumblers opens the lock.
    • The Thief (2014) reboot uses a similar minigame to Deadly Shadows, with a slight variation in that unlocking a certain focus skill allows the player to see the insides of the lock mechanism when they use it.
    • The first two Thief games had a less complicated version where the player used one of two different lock-picks —square or triangle shaped— with more complicated locks having an unknown combination of the two, while simpler locks only used one or the other. This arguably heightened tense situations more than later minigames for a few reasons: a player could only hear yet not see the tumblers, the time it took to pick a lock varied (as set in the level editor) with no way for a player to know the duration beforehand, and that old video-game standby: some locks required a key (but a player wouldn't know that until after trying both picks).
  • In the original Splinter Cell, you are shown the innards of the lock you're picking, with a varying number of pins, which you have to set one by one by figuring out which WASD button triggers each one and pressing it repeatedly until it sets. The mechanic remained for most of the rest of the series, but Chaos Theory allows Sam to simply break locks with his knife at the cost of discretion.
  • In BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Part 2, picking locks always consumes a certain number of lockpicks (which you have to find or purchase from vending machines) and requires timing. You are shown the six color-coded pins inside the lock: white ones open it, blue ones give you a bonus item, and red ones raise the alarm. The pick moves back and forth across them continuously, and you have to press a button just as it's under the correct pin to set it.

    Web Games 
  • The Last Stand: Union City. You can use your Intellect and Security skill to help you open storage devices and find items. The game involves adjusting tumblers to open the lock.

    Wide Open Sandbox 
  • Present in Bully. Certain lockers can be picked, retrieving ammo or cosmetic items, and producing a new place to shove classmates into. The lockers all have combination locks, so the minigame involves rotating the analog stick in a direction until you hear a click, doing the same in the opposite direction, and then doing the same in the first direction again.