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Irrelevant Sidequest

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"And so the mighty warriors come to the end of their lengthy, needlessly complicated journey!"
Ryudo, Grandia II

RPGs allow you to roleplay many different types of character. You can be a fierce warrior, a powerful mage, a noble Knight... okay, let's face it, you're probably some kind of fighter. So why do you seem to spend half your time delivering packages or gathering mushrooms for the local apothecary? Especially when you're supposed to be dealing with that invading demon horde?

Everyone, but everyone, whom you meet in the game has some kind of task they want you to perform. Very often this has nothing to do with your official job; you may have gained fame as a slayer of monsters and bandits, yet people will be asking you to sort out their marital disputes or fix machinery. It's not quite the same thing as Dude, Where's My Respect?, as they may well have a healthy respect for you - in fact, that's often why they've sought you out in the first place. If you're lucky you'll receive a rare item or a monetary reward, but sometimes all you get is a warm fuzzy feeling and karma points. In some cases, Treacherous Quest Giver would deliberately mislead you to do some Irrelevant Sidequests for him only to betray you later.

A result of this is that every RPG hero comes across as a jack-of-all-trades capable of performing any task asked of him, regardless of how little experience or training they have in that field, and can often outperform actual experts that have been doing it their entire life. This can be really weird if your professional soldier PC is asked to say, babysit some kids or decorate for a dinner party by a complete stranger, especially if you aren't given the option to refuse.

Bonus points if the sky is a weird color or the world is in the process of changing into an infernal hellscape at the time.

This trope is useful in that it allows for more varied gameplay, but when taken to extremes you can end up feeling more like a glorified errand boy/girl than a hero. It can also lead to some pretty major Gameplay and Story Segregation, especially when your main quest would appear to be considerably more urgent. Can be made more forgivable if the player character is some kind of mercenary.

Can become a Plot Tumor. Related to Apathetic Citizens (your clients), It's Up to You (nobody else will do these things for you), and Take Your Time (do as many sidequests as you want!).


  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura has a number of these in every major settlement, particularly in Tarant where you can do bill-collecting for the local brothel, wade through the sewers to recover a lost wedding ring, run numerous errands with no twists or ambushes involved at all, or settle a quarrel between rivaling mediums. It's an excellent source of early XP for non-combat focused characters.
  • Baldur's Gate has lots of them, where you need to pick up rings, gems, books, nymphs... whatever, for no real reason that has anything to do with the plot. Fortunately, many provide experience, gold, and reputation, as well as making your journal quite an interesting read.
  • Baldur's Gate 2 is much better about it: the sidequests are just as irrelevant, but you either a) have a personal stake, b) can make it clear that you're looking for a large sum of cash for a personal quest, or c) given to you because you're an ass-kicking demi-god. Throne of Bhaal is also significant in that there are no irrelevant sidequests per se: some seem that way, but end up being relevant later.
  • Particularly jarring in EarthBound (1994), in which Ness, a fourteen-year-old boy, performs exorcisms and corporate espionage, overthrows a cult, and enters a partnership in a startup mining venture.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Standard for the series in general. The vast majority of the Loads and Loads of Sidequests offered are completley irrelevent to the main quest. From the opposite perspective, this is also true for the main quest itself. As soon as the Sandbox is opened, you can move away from the main quest and spend hundreds of hours on everything else the game in question has to offer. Some of the series' faction questlines are nearly as expansive as the main quest itself and can keep you occupied for a while on their own. That said, the majority of the main quests in the series have in-universe reasons for why you shouldn't Take Your Time.
    • One exception is Daggerfall, which instead has reasons why you'd go off and do entirely unrelated things for a while.
    • Morrowind even takes it a step further than usual by having it explicitly recommended to you to go do things outside the main quest in order to keep up your cover story as a freelance adventurer and as a way to gain money and experience.
    • Skyrim continues this fine tradition and even does it one better by introducing Radiant Quests that give you mundane, infinitely repeatable tasks of all sorts (most are about killing something, though). They usually pay very little and have no impact on the larger story, but they work nicely to provide you with something to do after the hundreds of more elaborate quests have been exhausted. They also often send you to locations you haven't explored or even discovered yet, which is always welcome in a Wide-Open Sandbox as huge as Skyrim's.
  • Fallout 3:
    • Often lampshaded, as there's a radio station on which the DJ periodically gives news reports about the various side-quests your character accomplishes (i.e. if you help the settlement of Arefu in the Blood Ties quest, he'll praise you for doing so). One quest involves collecting 30 bottles of a limited edition soda for a cola addict. When you finish the quest, the DJ's news report is simply "The Lone Wanderer is done collecting soda bottles. Sheesh, talk about your slow news days".
    • Subverted in the first two games, though. No matter how irrelevant they may seem, many of the sidequests you can undertake can, and often do, directly affect the game's ending depending on how you completed them. This is also the case in Fallout: New Vegas, which came after Fallout 3. This is true towards the end of the game, where your now (supposedly) experienced and well equipped character is entrusted with all sorts of important tasks by the various factions. Throughout the early game on the other hand, most of your quests still involve inconsequential things such as guarding cattle or saving some nobody, despite the fact that any delay may very well lead to the destruction of your entire tribe (from a storyline standpoint at least).
    • The Dunwich Building, notorious for being the scariest location in the game, has no relevance to any of the core game quests, although one of the Bobbleheads is found here, and if you have the Point Lookout DLC installed, you can burn the Krivbeknih book here as part of the Dark Heart of Blackhall quest from that.
    • One of the objectives to the Agatha's Song sidequest is to use the Vault Tech HQ's mainframe to reveal the locations of all the vaults, but you do that anyway with the Citadel computer during the story quest Picking Up the Trail.
  • Final Fantasy XI:
    • The adventurers are never explicitly stated to do anything... just "adventure". Said adventures somehow include collecting stamps and grocery shopping. Apparently the little kid definition is what comes to mind to these people...
    • The Abyssea expansions are based entirely around an alternate version of Vana'diel (called Abyssea) in which all of the adventurers simply disappeared one day in their world, the Alternate Universe version of the Player Character failed the final fight of Chains of Promathia and was absorbed by the awakening god. Without adventurers to grease the wheels and do the dirty work, it doesn't take long for The End of the World as We Know It to set in.
  • Kingdom of Loathing: "Get me some fingerless hobo gloves!" "Can't I just cut the fingers off of the hobo gloves I already have?" "No."
  • In Knights of the Old Republic you play a Jedi trying to save the galaxy from evil, but along the way you get to resolve a family feud, act as the defense lawyer in a murder trial, and return a runaway droid to its master (amongst other things). As with the Mass Effect example below (same studio, go figure), this is justifiable because in-universe, Jedi are supposed to be "guardians of peace and justice" who give help to whoever needs it; the masters on Dantooine explicitly point out that the Jedi are not a cloistered order. A reoccurring theme of both KOTOR and its sequel is that the Jedi's isolation from the common people is harming their reputation, to the point where a lot of regular people see little difference between Jedi and Sith. Of course, if you're playing for Video Game Cruelty Potential, you can add refined kerosene to that bad reputation.
  • The Legend of Zelda is the god of this trope, to the point most Links (who all have rather raging cases of Chronic Hero Syndrome) tend to spend considerably more time helping people round up their chickens than doing any actual world-saving. Especially The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, where you, ingame (not a player "diary", it was an actual in-game item) were given a notebook recording all the troubles of all the people in town so that you could personally solve each and every one of them.
    • And besides that, the time-limit meant that everything you'd done to help them would be undone the next time you played the Song of Time. So it was all really for Link's own satisfaction.
    • CollegeHumor parodied this in one video.
    • This is notably averted in the original game, due largely to the sparse space of an NES release being almost entirely dedicated to dungeons, all of which provide bits of the main Plot Coupon. The only traditional sidequest is delivering a letter to an old woman, at which she then lets you buy health potions.
  • In Mass Effect, many of the Citadel sidequests are like this. At one point your character (a soldier) can intervene in an argument over whether a pregnant woman should get gene therapy for her unborn child. Meanwhile, almost every other instance of this is a Justified Trope; the Spectres are free-range commando/police/diplomat hybrids with a sort of high-octane diplomatic immunity. Shepard's immediate priority may be saving the galaxy, but helping out where any of these functions is needed (or just abusing the immunity for personal gain) is still his/her day job.
    • Shepard frequently lampshades this, to which the quest-giver usually responds "I can pay you", which makes it all fine and dandy, since shopkeepers have no time for galactic saviours.
      • The gene therapy couple get a bit of Self-Deprecation in the sequel in incidental dialogue. She's still worried.
        Man: Maybe we should ask random people on the street what they think?
    • The sequel has probably the most irrelevant irrelevant sidequest ever: finding out if there are fish in the Presidium lake. That's it. True, nobody actually asks Shepard to do this, but they still seem to find settling what amounts to two tourists arguing to be a worthy use of their "preparing to save humanity" time anyway.note 
    • Averted, however, in Mass Effect 3, where every 'sidequest' is simply a mission to recover stuff that will help people who are trying to fight the Reapers. More over in that most if not all side quests come in the form of walking past people and over hearing their conversations over their needs. You just sorta... present what they want to them after (often reacting just as confused as you'd expect them to).
      • One example is defied in 3. Traynor is a bit exasperated because the rapid deployment of the Normandy in the beginning meant she wasn't completely packed, so she forgot her mass-effect-powered toothbrush. Shepard offers to pick another one up, only to withdraw the offer upon learning that the toothbrush costs six thousand credits. And then, in the Citadel DLC, as a sort of retroactive relevance, the toothbrush saves the day.
  • Have you ever wanted to find a banana, cure recurring nightmares, take a picture of snow, or give unsolicited weight loss advice? Well, then Mega Man Star Force 2 is the game for you!
    • Mega Man Battle Network was only slightly better because it had a valid reason for them to be given to the PC (he accepted them via a job board).
      • That, and the fact that most of the time your PC is basically a just an elementary-school student. Major threats only come up in specific Closed Circle events, while the rest of the time the series is more Slice of Life, so it makes sense for you to do odd jobs on the side when there's no major disaster in progress.
  • Played with in Opoona. Although there are a vast number of non-fighting-related sidequests in the world, in game, you actually receive "licenses" to do these different jobs, and you can even get promotions in them for doing enough sidequests. You're even encouraged to try all the different professions on the planet to (in-character) find the one that fits you best.
  • Averted in Phantasy Star IV, where the sidequests are all either completely relevant to the plot or to Chaz and Alys' status as professional monster hunters. Even the ones that don't actually have an impact on the plot come about because of the plot, or are found by the player taking the party around doing things of their own accord, like exploring alternate routes around the maps or renting a walkalong giant penguin and barging in on people's homes.
  • The Quest for Glory games take it one step further and have "adventurer" as an actual job title. You can even earn a diploma in adventuring by correspondence course.
    • Subverted, however, in that none of the sidequests in the game are truly irrelevant; the hero is, in addition to trying to save the day, is looking to constantly improve. Sidequests are optional, but never worthless.
  • Taken to ridiculous extents in Sacred and Sacred 2. One moment you're crawling through fetid sewers, fighting off thieves, cultists, undead, dragons and gods know what else, another you're approached by a tearful girl asking you to help find her pet bunny.
  • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is notable in that the entire middle half of the game is one of these.
  • Mostly averted in The Witcher. Geralt is a professional monster-slayer and he can take out lots of contracts in each chapter of the game, though ultimately these amount to Fetch Quests; even if your contract is to kill the Drowners harassing some poor villagers, all you need to do is return a bunch of Drowner Brains to the contract-giver, regardless of whether or not you actually killed those specific Drowners. Still makes sense in the context of his job, though, and there are some quests that do require you to kill the right monster(s).
  • Any of the playable characters in the Like a Dragon games are extremely community minded, which seems to be a open invitation to provide them with ridiculous requests for help. "Please, you have to stop my corrupt boss by becoming a male escort!", "Please, you must run my Hostess Bar while I go to see my sick mother!".
  • Justified in the Ultima games from IV onward, where your character is explicitly a role-model for the population and helping people out boosts the Karma Meter. In VII, Lord British encourages you to mingle with the citizens and solve their sidequests.
  • In Dead Space, you're a space repairman on board a spaceship full of mutilated, reanimated corpses, looking for your girlfriend while also trying to figure out how to get the Hell away from the aformentioned undead freaks. Cue spending time at a shooting gallery or playing zero gravity basketball! Granted, it's all optional, but still. Isaac, you've got better things to worry about than getting the high score.
    • Long before Dead Space, System Shock 2 had a sidequest where you could go around the Von Braun and collect a Game Boy-esque portable system and several 8-bit games for it (along with audio and text logs from crew members talking about how addicted they were to the game).
  • Paper Mario 64 has a lot of these. Especially in the form of mail delivery and Koopa Koot's favors. The sequel justified it a bit better by accessing them from a "trouble center" where you could specifically take on jobs for extra cash and items.
  • In Ōkami, you can end up helping an old lady with her laundry, getting ingredients for a restaurant (twice!), racing messengers, taking vases as offerings to shrines, feeding kittens, and what-have-you. And you're playing as god. Heck, the plot requires you to do some of the odder ones, like helping clueless people fish with no line and having a turnip-digging contest with a kid's pet dog. Vaguely justified in that you need to re-earn the people's faith, but still, you'd think that there would be better ways to do it.
  • In Borderlands, irrelevant sidequests are the fastest way to level up characters in the early-game.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), some of these are mandatory. Despite having no plot relevance. Somehow, things just happen afterwards, not always explained why.
  • In Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption, you are frequently tasked with doing silly side missions, oftentimes to get NPCs out of debt. If you are someone who spends a lot of time roaming the Wide-Open Sandbox, you can easily have enough money to settle these debts for your friend without jumping through the hoops, but this is not an option.
    • Many Grand Theft Auto games are like this. In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas your beloved Grove Street is overrun by drug dealers, smackheads and people who personally hate you. But hey, let's go race cars and dance!
  • NieR lampshades this quite thoroughly. Weiss often complains about the inanity of some of the sidequests you take on, while Nier claims he's grateful for whatever work he can find. In the latter half of the game, Nier's actually become somewhat famous for this, and a few NPC quest-givers will greet you with something along the lines of "Hey, you're that guy who'll do anything for money, no matter how demeaning! Find my boyfriend for me!"
  • Used a lot in Soul Nomad & the World Eaters, to the point where resident team Jerkass Gig openly lampshades it. Then completely and utterly subverted with The Reveal that every single one of these sidequests was set up by World Eater Raksha in order to remove any obstacles that would prevent him from taking over the world.
  • There are several in Dragon Age: Origins, but they tend to pay well and so usually worth doing in a game built on Anti-Grinding and anti-gold farming.
    • Early on, if you ask one merchant if you can help him find his AWOL employee he Lampshades this, saying "I'm sure you have more important things to do than help me with my problems."
    • Also, Sten gets frustrated with what he believes is this trope:
      Sten: Are you planning on running until north becomes south and you sneak up on the Archdemon from behind?
      Warden: I'm not running.
      Sten: No, you're not. I'm taking command.
      • Ironically, the quest that triggers this conversation is actually part of the main plot. And you can avoid Sten's attempted rebellion by completing his plot-irrelevant sidequest to find his missing sword beforehand (he'll even lampshade how astounding it is that you could and would find a single missing sword in a country that's wracked by monsters and civil war).
    • Played for Laughs with the "children" quest on the billboard. You will realize very soon that those who appeared to be poor hungry children asking for favors are actually illiterate adults who are playing a trick. Yet, you can continue to complete their silly "quests" being completely aware of the waste of your time with that, if you so wish.
  • Dragon Age II is absolutely brimming with these, as the focus is less on any overarching threat and more on Hawke's rise to glory. However, there are a lot of quests that appear to be irrelevant, but later are revealed to tie into the main plot. An example would be the serial killer story arc, which suddenly comes to the fore just before the climax of Act II, then again at the climax of Act III.
  • Most (side)quests in Dragon Quest IX. Downloadable ones include a lot of story-related ones, but the others tend to be about things such as getting mushroom for someone and whatnot. There are also, however, quests related to the class system.
  • Persona 3 justified these by having the sole questgiver wishing to test your resourcefulness and power (or just indulge her curiosity about the outside world). Meanwhile, in Persona 4 all of the side quests fit this trope to a T - random people needing random problems solved and items gathered. One questgiver notes that she wouldn't bother you except you've gained a reputation as being able to find anything people ask for. Persona 5 justifies it in that all the people you're helping are Confidants and you're explicitly told in-game that helping them and forging strong bonds with them is necessary to achieve the power you need. And everyone who you helped will show up to return that favor after Joker is sent to juvenile corrections for violating the terms of his parole.
  • Played straight in Diablo (1997) and Diablo II, when the player character, on his way to killing demons that threatened a small town or destroyed it and overran the world, also can collect medicinal herbs for people suffering from random diseases, recover heirlooms with purely sentimental value, seek out treasure troves completely unrelated to demons, and help a not immediately hostile demon because he offers you a reward. Mostly averted in Diablo III, which generally has a tighter plot.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics A2 has a lot of these. There's an in-game justification for it in that the main character is held in this world by a book that fills up by having adventures, so irrelevant side-quests are still relevant to him getting back home (in theory— you can only see the ending by clearing the final story mission). Also helped by the main story not usually being much of a danger.
  • Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII justifies this as Lightning is the Savior tasked by God to go and save the souls of people so that they can be reborn in a new world, as the current one is on its last legs and will be destroyed in 2 weeks at best. You save people's souls by helping them with their various, somewhat trivial problems.
  • Many sidequests in Planescape: Torment can be safely ignored if one so wishes, but few are truly irrelevant - many expand upon the universe or reinforce the game's themes, while links and clues to The Nameless One's history can be found in the oddest places. One really does get a sense that The Nameless One's endless quest has been going on for untold years and has had countless unintended (and very intended) consequences on the lives of those around him.
  • Lampshaded hilariously in Dungeons of Dredmor where players can accept tasks from Inconsequentia, the "Goddess of Irrelevant Sidequests". True to her name, any quests she offers have absolutely no outcome on the game aside from a minor reward. Most of these quests consist entirely of placing a randomly generated artifact onto a randomly generated shrine. Fitting for an Affectionate Parody of Roguelikes and RPGs in general.
  • Justified in Fantasy Life. You'll almost inevitably be a jack of all trades (and end up a master of them all), and there's a two-in-three chance that you'll be specialized in a industrial Life (read: profession) such as miner or tailor, so the busy-work requests make perfect sense.
  • Justified in Xenoblade Chronicles X. BLADE is explicitly a combination of armed forces, police force, and every public service there is. The Mediators might specialize in keeping the peace in NLA, but every BLADE is expected to at least consider every job that needs doing, from mundane coffee machine repair through to Tyrant hunting.
  • Rakenzarn Tales justifies these in that the sidequests are specific requests sent to the character's guild, which serves as an all-purpose help center for clientele. Hence, if you didn't have that whole world-saving business to take care of, it would literally be your job to go out and provide whatever help is requested of you. For an added touch of realism, you will have to call on one of your allies to solve some quests, as some quests are simply outside of Kyuu's skill set and knowledge to take care of.
  • Incredibly common in Starbound: If you wander into a settlement, there will be no shortage of people eager to distract you from your quest to save the universe by roping you into chores to help them make friends, acquire cool hats, expand their store's inventory, or rescue missing friends from bandits.
  • Rampant in Jade Empire. While the Player Character is the last member of a mystical order, unlike most of BioWare's other RPGs, that mystical order is not for We Help the Helpless heroes like Jedi or Spectres. The Spirit Monks are supposed to help ghosts move on from the world, put down malignant spirits, and liaison with strange supernatural beings, and while some sidequests are about ghosts and spirits and the like, most have nothing to do with that at all. What's even stranger is that most people you meet don't know that the player character is a Spirit Monk or any variety of adventurer at all, but still request that you solve their legal issues, or their love life, or taste their bizarre food.
  • Side quests in the Anno Domini series have no bearing on the plot, assuming there even is one. Their main purpose is to provide you with an additional source of cash, resources or (in later titles) Socketed Equipment, as well as improve your standing with the Quest Giver. Most of these quests are fairly reasonable, from delivering specific resources to rescuing castaways or destroying rival ships, but some can come across as plain weird instead. Why, for instance, does the leader of La RĂ©sistance in 1800 want so many pictures of her harbor building taken while her people are on the brink of being wiped out by the Big Bad?
  • In a non-video game example, Screen Rant Pitch Meetings references the term by referring to sequences that are at best tangentially relevant to the plot as "sidequests." The term is first used to describe the controversial Canto Bight storyline on The Last Jedi, where Finn and Rose recruit a codebreaker so they can sneak onto the First Order's flagship and disable the hyperspace tracker, only for said codebreaker to betray them and the Resistance to escape the First Order another way.