A Mini Game is just that: a miniature game.
More specifically, it's a specific type of highly temporary Unexpected Gameplay Change
in a video game, in order to break up the tedium of doing exactly the same thing over and over - as a result, they hardly ever Genre Shift
to anything even faintly close to the original game's genre. They're one of the oldest video game tropes, and one of the most persistent.
Mini Games vary so widely that it's difficult to summarise them all, but they ultimately divide into two categories - mandatory and not mandatory. A mandatory Mini Game is one you have to succeed at just to continue the game (such as hacking in System Shock
); a non-mandatory Mini Game is one which is optional (such as Triple Triad in Final Fantasy VIII
). Occasionally a Mini Game might be so optional it isn't even accessed via the story, and has to be accessed via the main menu. Completing a Mini Game can give the player rewards in the main game, or be required for 100% Completion
. If the Mini Game is luck-based
, and needs to be beaten in order to continue the game, it's time to grind up some money, tape down the controller and go and do something else for a few days.
Good Mini Games can be an excellent and fun way to reinject life into an otherwise repetitive game, and a good way of stretching the gamer's skills by forcing them to do something a bit different. Similarly, there's a shock value in springing a Mini Game on a player unexpectedly, which can add drama (such as Metal Gear Solid 3
, which sprung a Mini Game on the player as a nightmare
Some Party Games
even consist entirely of Mini Games, usually bizarre and highly varied - such as Mario Party
, Cooking Mama
, Bishi Bashi
and the Ape Academy
series. You might not get the same mileage out of a Mini Game package as you would from a hundred-hour RPG, but that doesn't mean they're not fun.
Occasionally there is the slightly disturbing situation of the Mini Game being more fun and exciting than the real game
. There are games with many minigames included in a Minigame Zone
Game Within a Game
is a subtrope in which Mini Game is a in-Verse
game playable by Player Character
. Video Mode
is a common type of Mini Game for Physical Pinball Tables
Important, significant, arty, egregious and funny examples:
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- Vexx includes two different varieties of mini-game in the main game, with several different levels: A "ring battle" game, and a "platform battle" game. While they're single-player only, they pit you against three CPU enemies, which suggests that multiplayer might have been planned at one point.
- What's the mini-game equivalent of a mini-game? Mario Party Advance was already a mini-game game, but included even smaller games (more like toys) called "Gaddgets." Some of them were actual mini-mini games (like one where you tried to pick the right-colored wire to not blow up a bomb, one where frogs race to catch a fly, and others), but others were more just for fun. One, for example, let you decorate a cake, one translated messages into Morse, one created different foods based on the ingredients you picked, and one let you smash things for fun.
- Shenmue had a variety of minigames to play, including darts, pool, a QTE-based boxing game, and fully emulated versions of classic Sega games like Space Harrier and Hang On.
- Shenmue 's spiritual successor, Yakuza, had myriad ways to kill time when not beating the snot out of gangsters, including casino games like Blackjack and Poker, slot machines and pachinko, fishing, UFO Catchers, batting cages, table tennis, golfing, arcade games, karaoke, hitting the hostess clubs, and more.
- The Quest for Glory series has a number of mini-games, most relating to the Thief and his abilities. Shadows of Darkness and Dragon Fire each had separate mini-games used to disarm traps, while Trial by Fire had a tightrope-walking mini-game that appears optional at the start, but makes a comeback as part of the Thief's endgame. Wages of War had Awari, a boardgame based off of Oware, a real game played in Ghana.
- Escape From The Mindmaster had five mini-games that tested your memory and reflexes.
- Steambot Chronicles had a stellar 9-ball minigame, as well as rhythm minigames for all sorts of instruments from a humble harmonica to an accordion.
Beat 'em Up
- MadWorld has 'Bloodbath Challenges', incredibly bloody sessions of cruelty that involve killing Mooks with special props and weapons. Some are more difficult than others.
- The Super Smash Bros. series has a tradition of having a shooter minigame during the credits. In Brawl, you can actually earn extra coins with this. Brawl also has the Coin Launcher minigame, which lets you use said coins to shoot things and earn extra trophies and stickers.
First Person Shooter
- Left 4 Dead 2 has three mini games you could play in the Dark Carnival campaign. The first one is a shooting gallery where you shoot Moustachio and his cronies for points in order to get Gnome Chompiski, which would get everyone an achievement if he is seen all the way to the end of the campaign. Another mini game has you test your strength against Moustachio buy smashing a red button with a melee weapon to hit a bell, but you could only succeed by taking an adrenaline shot beforehand and smacking the bell gets you an achievement, but alerts a horde. The last game is basically whack-a-mole with the park's mascot instead of a mole and you gain points if you smack or shoot the characters popping out. Getting 42 points nets you an achievement and a horde.
- The Conduit requires the player to solve a minigame to unlock secret weapons caches.
- Lupin The 3rd: The Shooting has different objectives for each level, primarily objectives of simply shooting the bad guys. Different levels have the player attempting to shoot a certain target, use a special device to nab treasure, or steer a car to avoid traffic. Failure to meet the objectives results in a life lost and losing all of them is instant game over.
- It has been argued that Portal is a mini game. Short? Yep. Side-story to an existing series? Yep. Same engine as an existing series? For the most part. Released in a package alongside various other games, including a continuation of the previously mentioned existing series? Yep.
- Kirby games often have mini-games.
- In Kirby Super Star, three of the eight games were mini-games. Gourmet Race was a mini race-game where you raced against King Dedede to collect food. Megaton Punch was a timing game, and the last was a quick-draw game. Kirby Super Star Ultra added more.
- The "bosses" in Kirby Canvas Curse were actually special varieties of mini-games. After fighting the boss, you could play the mini-game later for fun.
- Kirby's Dreamland 3 had one mini-game per world that you needed to beat to earn a Plot Coupon. After beating the game, you unlocked "Mini Game Mode," where you got to play through all five at once.
- Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards had no real minigames to speak of in the main game, but included 3 little multiplayer mini-games in a side mode. They actually had their own little goals to complete, but didn't affect the main game.
- Ty the Tasmanian Tiger: Bush Rescue included an entire mini Wacky Race game, with a fairly large roster of selectable characters and a number of tracks. While they could be played in the main game, the "cart mode" was accessable straight from the main menu without having to be unlocked. (Playing the main game did get more tracks, though.)
- Loco Roco 2 has several unlockable mini-games including a whack-a-mole type game, a crane game, and an Expected Shmup Level.
- La-Mulana has two minigames, both of which are, just like La Mulana itself, tributes to past MSX games. One of them is a dating sim-like game that eventually turns into a brief round of Snatcher. The other, PR3, is a Parodius clone, and is required to complete the Bonus Level Of Hell.
- Mushroom Men not only has several mini-games in the main game (including one that's a homage to the original Donkey Kong, it includes several mini-games in the "gallery" menu (like pachinko, memory, and a maze-building game) for the fun of it.
- Ape Quest is an RPG, but uses minigames in addition to Random Encounters.
- Another Ape Escape example would be Mesal Gear Solid: Snake Escape, a Metal Gear Solid clone (no pun intended) starring a Solid Snake monkey named Pipo Snake. Mesal Gear was actually marketed more aggressively than the actual Ape Escape 3 and was probably responsible for most of its sales.
- The Wario Land series has had a few mini games, ranging from a roulette type game to target shooting to golf in the earlier games, and some strange little mini games used to get the coins to buy items for boss battles in Wario Land 4
- The WarioWare series had the toy/sovenir room, which came with various weird interactive stuff to mess around with and quite a few full length mini games of some of the microgames in the main game itself. Two of these that appeared quite often, Paper Plane and Pyoro, were actually made into standalone games and released for the DSi's download service.
- A few characters who started out as platformers are now in the minigame business, namely Rayman (Raving Rabbids) and Wario (Warioware)
Real Time Strategy
- Starcraft II Wings of Liberty's campaign has the Lost Viking game inside of the cantina, which is a Bullet Hell type shooter.
Role Playing Game
- After the success of Final Fantasy VIII's Triple Triad game (the rules of which changed as you progressed through the game), all Final Fantasy games succeeding it contain a card or collectible game with number-based rules. Final Fantasy X-2 contained a particularly incomprehensible multiplication-based Mind Screw which, unfortunately, was required to win a powerful Dress Sphere on top of 100% Completion. Apart from this, Final Fantasy games have oodles of Mini Games. Again, Final Fantasy X-2 had the most, feeling at times like a Mini Game package. Final Fantasy VII had some very high-quality ones, including a painfully-addictive motorcycle game, a clever strategy game, and a submarine combat game.
- Sphere Break, said unfortunate mini-game in X-2, has the benefit of being a Luck-Based Mission where Continuing Is Painful and the tokens required to play are not readily available from any obvious source. Fortunately, the only opponent worth playing (the one with the Dress Sphere) is standing right next to a save point and playing to win is substantially easier than practicing (since a good amount of possible, otherwise correct moves have the side effect of eating your tokens and making it impossible to ever play again, which you don't have to worry about in your last game). You also have to be really good at adding and multiplying small numbers quickly, which no amount of grinding or online walkthroughs can help you with.
- It should be emphasized that Final Fantasy VII ran a gamut of mini games in and of itself, with varying levels of quality. One mandatory example required you to perform CPR on a little girl through use of a pressure gauge, which may be the dumbest idea for a mini game ever. Another pit your party's lead female hero against the resident Evil Empire's lead female villain in a bitch-slapping fight, which may be the best idea for a Mini Game ever. Previously, there was an interesting puzzle sequence involving getting her out of a chair she was tied to with only the use of her head and legs.
- Final Fantasy IX had a horribly implemented card game that most people don't remember because it wasn't clearly explained, there were no rewards outside of a card player ranking, and the ranking system made it so difficult to max out that the only person in the world who bothered to do it discovered that the game designers never even anticipated it happening as he was rewarded with a glitch.
- Oddly, it was this card game that Square chose to include with their PlayOnline service, alongside Final Fantasy XI.
- Final Fantasy X's lightning dodging minigame and blitzball minigame deserve special credit for both being mandatory to access the most powerful weapons for two characters, and being about as fun as being struck by lightning and a drowning simulator would sound.
- Even the original Final Fantasy I had a minigame, if you get on the ship and press B enough times.
- Dark Cloud includes a Fishing Minigame, and Dark Cloud 2 added fish races ("Finny Frenzy") and a golf-like minigame called "Spheda".
- Breath of Fire IV was often criticized for its onslaught of minigames. Indeed, each town had it own minigame you needed to complete in order to progress. The Fishing Minigame though was really well done.
- The Battling Mini Games in Xenogears, while a good basic 3D fighter, first appeared in a mandatory context, to the frustration of many gamers.
- Xenogears also had a card game in it, which was mostly a simple math exercise.
- Xenosaga had Xenocard, a surprisingly full-featured, well-developed TCG, with booster packs and everything.
- Pazaak in Knights of the Old Republic. Utterly pointless, only occasionally mandatory.
- Similarly, Swoop Racing in the sequels was, mercifully, entirely optional.
- Any minigame in Mass Effect 1, from opening a safe to disarming a nuclear bomb consists of pushing the A, B, X and Y buttons at the right time. Except for resetting the AI core, which was just a simplified Towers of Hanoi puzzle.
- The racing sequence in Chrono Trigger.
- Chrono Trigger was full of minigames far beyond that; the opening "Millenial Fair" area is one big mini-game fest, from betting on races to soda drinking contests and a button-matching sequence that actually becomes integral to the plot later on. And that's excluding the in-story minigames, such as a
soup-drinking contest in the stone-age to prove your worth to a bunch of cavemen.
- The Kingdom Hearts series features quite a few, especially the sequels. Many of them are mandatory, and all of them are required for 100% Completion:
- The Gummi Ship, a rail shooter that you're required to play to travel between worlds. The sequel made it easier on you by only making you play each level once. (Though the "Bonus Missions" are insanely difficult)
- The 100 Acre Woods, a world filled with nothing but minigames.
- Mushroom Heartless. In KH 2 FM+, each mushroom has a different challenge, many of them very difficult.
- The Twilight Town Help Wanted board, which you are required to play during the Five Hour Prologue.
- Not strictly required actually, but you get a small reward for earning your portion of what the group needs, and a bigger one for getting all of the money for everyone.
- The Atlantica Rhythm Game levels.
- The Tron Light Cycles, which killed This Troper countless times on his first play through.
- 358/2 Days is relatively free of minigames, unless you count the Grandstanding game (keep a ball airborne as long as possible) and following Pete as minigames.
- Birth by Sleep introduces the completely optional Command Board game, as well as having Disney Town replace 100 Arce Woods as the minigame world of that game.
- And countless others. They even make you play one during the final boss battle.
- The World Ends with You has Tin Pin Slammer, which is either quite endearing or...quite the opposite. Either way, it's the only way to get certain pins and items. Feel free to wail in despair. It's also the subject of a particularly funny bonus chapter parodying it.
- Towards the end of Mother 3, Porky challenges Lucas to a series of three mini-games: a whack-a-mole game, a race, and a balloon-blowing contest. The thing about these games, though, is that Lucas has to lose on purpose in order to advance the plot. But only by a small margin. While this part is annoying to many people, it really helps depict Porky as the big fat jerk he is.
- Romancing Sa Ga 3 had 3 of them 2 were limited only to Mikhail's Scenario: A War Game in which you could control an army which starts off as retaliation against a coup to actually assailing an enemy fortress and holding it for a brief time. You could play the game with other characters but it could only be played twice; one is being paid as a mercenary for an army, and the other is distracting the enemy forces to allow you to sneak into the Point of No Return. Another was a simulation where you control the kingdoms' assets and rule over provinces, this also allowed you to make armor; some that required materials. The third Mini-Game involved you creating a company and buying out commodities in 3 rounds; The first was to make your company large, the second was to defeat a company importing illegal goods, and the last was to defeat human businesses that allied themselves with the Abyss demons. You get paid 10,000 after completing each round and it also allows you to recruit a character after you clear the first round.
Wide Open Sandbox
- The Grand Theft Auto series have worked in more and more as they go. Most are optional, and those that are mandatory are usually mandatory once, with optional repeats. In San Andreas there are two different rhythm Mini Games, one for dancing on foot, and one for dancing in a low rider.
- The infamous "Hot Coffee" section is a rhythm minigame (though this is only available in early versions of San Andreas before the morals police forced its removal).
- Both San Andreas and the three games that make up the Grand Theft Auto IV series contain multiple minigames including pool, bowling, arcade games, air hockey, darts, car races, casino and card games, arm-wrestling and San Andreas even has two triathlon events that one can compete in, if one knows where to find them and when. Liberty City Stories and Vice City Stories also have a few mini games, but nowhere near as many.
- Bully/Canis Canem Edit had a variety of Mini Games to play as lessons. This involved rhythm Mini Games for Chemistry, fighting Mini Games for Gym, and timed anagram games for English. All were actually pretty good fun.
- Not to mention the literal games that you have to complete in order to get 100%.
- Animal Crossing had "minigames" that were entire NES games.