Sidequests and other odd jobs. Many games thrive on replay value, and so with more stuff to do in more varieties of ways, a game in theory, gains more replay value and thus general value.
Often it's a wonder the Player Character has time to do them all with the world about to end/be taken over/succumb to darkness/all that generally not nice stuff.
Western RPGs in general tend to have a relatively short 'main' questline, with the majority of content being in the form of sidequests. Depending on how the difficulty/balancing works, it will often be expected that the player spend some time on side missions between parts of the plot in order to earn new abilities and equipment before pushing on to harder areas.
Games that feature this generally fall towards the open end of the Sliding Scale of Linearity vs. Openness. Compare Sidetracked by the Gold Saucer, where a particular sidequest is so good and addictive it might distract one from the main quest altogheter, as well as Quicksand Box, when the sidequests are so expansive one gets confused on what one should actually be doing. See also Play the Game, Skip the Story.
- Most entries in The Legend of Zelda series feature several sidequests ranging from simple Collection Sidequests to potentially massive Fetch Quests, but the following entries in the series stand out:
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask is rather known for the huge amount of Sidequest Sidestories it features. Fortunately, this is the first—and thus far only—game in the series to include a daily planner (the Bomber's Notebook) to help keep track of them all.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker has lots of extra content besides the usual ones. These include completely optional islands with their own puzzles and enemy matches, treasure charts to find sunken treasure, and the notoriously long Nintendo Gallery. Even just filling the Great Sea's map can take a while.
- One of the distinguishing features of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is that all the content is optional to complete the plot except for The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. Even the four main dungeons besides Hyrule Castle can be skipped if you want to head straight for Ganon. This is not recommended though, as completing the four dungeons along with as many Shrines as you can make Storming the Castle much easier. And skipping the dungeons and the retrievable memories would result in you missing the bulk of the story.
- Ōkami has enough sidequests to double the total play time, which is already quite big with the main story alone. They can be anything, from making the biggest snowball or catching a huge fish, to a Nintendo Hard Multi-Mook Melee.
- Theres plenty to do in BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm. The games main quest-giving location is The Inbox it has thirteen missions in total, all of which must be completed to unlock the best ending. But even aside from that, there are plenty of hidden items to collect, citizens to help, minigames to play, books to read, Bonus Dungeons to explore, and a Tournament Arc to compete in. Its safe to say that about a third of the games content is made up of sidequests.
- Chrono Trigger has practically the whole last half of the game composed of sidequests.
- Final Fantasy:
- Final Fantasy VI has practically the whole last half of the game composed of sidequests.
- Final Fantasy X-2 has an astounding number of sidequests, most of which can easily be missed. Most of them are required to get 100% completion and the Golden Ending, but the game can be completed with around 50% completion, meaning that about half the game's content consists of sidequests. The International release takes it Up to Eleven with the Creature Creator, which is approximately as large as the main story in its own right, making it closer to two-thirds of the game's content that's sidequests.
- Final Fantasy XII has tons of these, ranging from hunting marks and getting rewards to just running around and running stuff. It could be said that the amount of extra content is larger than the main plot.
- The Final Fantasy Tactics subseries is centred around a large number of sidequests. In the first two games, most of the sidequests were "Dispatch" missions where the player takes the right unit for the job, and then sends them off to take care of business while they went about on their own. Final Fantasy Tactics A2, on the other hand, made things get nutty by making nearly all of the game's 281 sidequests directly playable. Only twenty quests are actually required to finish the game, with the longest sidequest chain clocking in at fourteen quests long.
- Final Fantasy XV throws multiple sidequests at you, especially in the form of bounties to be hunted, fetch quests, tours with your party members, and optional dungeons. It's very easy to end up quite overleveled for the main story if you stop to pursue each sidequest as it is offered.
- In the Monster Hunter series, each hunting rank has several quests of which some are necessary to progress in the main plot (as far as there is a plot). But out of the 200+ quests available in each game, only a select few of them in each rank are required to unlock the "Urgent Quests", which are the ones that allow the hunter to proceed to further ranks. The rest of the quests are optional, and are useful to grind materials from monsters.
- NieR. The game can be finished in 15 hours (there's even an achievement for it) but can take over seventy if you do the sidequests, especially if you want to max out all your weapons which requires a massive amount of item farming.
- Opoona features tons of sidequests—some are simply part of larger, ongoing sidequests through the whole game, like collecting all the art or puppies, and some are connected to the game's "license" system that shows the jobs you hold. There are also a ton that are connected to raising the friendship of several side-characters in the game, and you'll need to complete at least a few of those to have the required number of friends (at least 7) to complete the game. There are also a ton of one-offs not connected to anything else, even the license system.
- Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has a decent number of side quests given by NPCs. Then there are the Star Pieces, Shine Sprites, Badges, Recipes to find/make, the Pit of 100 Trials, and so forth.
- Shadow Hearts Covenant has a truly obscene number of side quests and subplots, though most of the time they do offer worthwhile things (like powers to the party members or new weapons). A lot of them are under the pretense of being a club or society the party is randomly asked to join, varying from dog fighting to step counting. Yuri lampshades it:
"What, another club? We don't have time for this!"
- About half the 108 playable characters in the Suikoden series are optional, and the optional ones usually have some kind of sidequest that needs to be completed before joining. Everyone seems to think one has hours available to go cooking, fishing, exploring dungeons, backtracking, fetching things, taking them to see people... and even after you recruit them, a number of them still have minigames to play.
- In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, there are several "quests" given by the Katz guild. They involve either defeating one enemy, or slaying monsters in long, simplistic dungeons. There are lots of neat items to gain from these quests, so go ahead, the salvation of the world can wait.
- Xenoblade Chronicles features hundreds of sidequests, ranging from simple Mass Monster Slaughters, to major Sidequest Sidestories; the biggest sidequest by far, the reconstruction of Colony 6, even slowly grants more sidequests as it's completed. Besides money and loot, oftentimes these grant generous EXP, so completing them as the story advances is a good way to avoid pointless Level Grinding later on.
- Xenoblade Chronicles X offers numerous sidestory missions, with many of them involving gathering resources for the people of NLA, and salvaging the wreckage of the White Whale. But the two biggest undertakings, by far, are a lengthy search and rescue operation dedicated to recovering what's left of the Lifehold. The other is to fully explore and map out the planet itself - all 400sq. miles of it.
- Following series tradition, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has a ton of sidequests. So many, in fact, that they're split between several different systems: the standard sidequests in the quest log, missions you send your blades on through the merc group, and blade affinity charts. Not only are all of these present, but they interact with each other, taken to the extreme with Bearing Her Soul, a quest that requires (dozens of) merc group missions to finish and is required to fill out a character's affinity chart.
- Sacred 2 has a shedload of them: there's loads of people you can talk to that will give you quests. It's around the 400 ballpark in total.
- EverQuest and EverQuest II are both ALL ABOUT THIS. They both have Quest their names! The majority of the thousands upon thousands of quests found in each game are sidequests compared to the few quests actually relating to each expansion's storylines.
- Aside from the main story quests in Granblue Fantasy, there are a lot of other quests to do which provide additional crystals when completed, and almost all of them involve defeating mobs. This does not end there, as the list of side-quests also include the "Special Quests" designed for grinding and farming materials and items, and the Story Events which focus the spotlight on other characters.
- The Lord of the Rings Online has a generous number of side quests, several hundred of them in Moria alone. While it varies according to NPC population, the different game areas tend to have somewhere around 50-200 quests which have nothing to do with the "epic quest" storyline.
- Believe it or not, World of Warcraft does have main questlines in most of, if not all of its areas. They're buried so deep in side quests that they sometimes are impossible to make out. Alhough since "Cataclysm", most zones have been greatly enhanced so that most questlines are directly related to the story at hand. World of Warcraft's quest log does not make any distinction between "main storyline" quests and sidequests; they are all listed simply as quests. All quests you undertake are meant to build upon each other to create the huge and expansive lore of the Warcraft universe.
- The Professor Layton series has shades of this. While the entire gameplay is always puzzle solving, some puzzles are relevant to the story, either with the puzzle directly being related or the giver using a puzzle to test Layton's ability, but many puzzles are just completely random. This is often lampshaded in The Curious Village, when people keep stopping Layton to have him solve random puzzles despite Layton telling he's has more important matters on his hands.
- Wasteland Empires has a ton of sidequests... not sure how many yet, but they seem to never end.
- The online game AdventureQuest and its variants DragonFable, AdventureQuest Worlds and WarpForce, all have this.
- Baldur's Gate has so many that they will consume the bulk of the time for any player willing to do them as compared to the mainline quests. Might well be a BioWare staple on reflection.
- Dragon Age: Origins goes so far as to give you an achievement, "Easily Sidetracked," if you complete 75% of the sidequests.
- The Drakensang games are full of sidequests of any kind. Given that experience points are really precious there, their presence is tolerated and justified.
- The Elder Scrolls
- In general, the series has offered sidequests ever since Arena. There, the sidequests were simple, minor, and random, existing as a means to help the player gain money and experience. After the developers saw how much time players spent on Arena's sidequests, they gave the sidequests in Daggerfall greater detail and complexity. With each new installment in the series, this trend has continued to the point where the faction questlines have their own story arcs and have become nearly as expansive as the main quests themselves.
- Additionally, the games often give some of justification (however flimsy) as to why the Player Character can spend so time sidequesting instead of working to save the world from its latest existential threat. To note:
- Daggerfall has an implicit justification — there isn't really a looming threat (or even a Big Bad technically), so taking your time is perfectly reasonable so long as you don't linger during the main quests that have a time limit. You are supposedly there as an agent of sorts so doing other things helps with your cover identity, and the nature of the main story means the difference between a main quest and a side quest isn't always apparent until in retrospect.
- Morrowind justifies it, as it is recommended to you to keep up your cover identity as a freelance adventurer to hide that you are working for the Blades. And later, after you've been named the Nerevarine/Hortator, completing side quests works to fulfill your duty to protect the people of Morrowind.
- Oblivion's sense of urgency for the main quest (the mortal world is currently being invaded by the Legions of Hell) makes a stark contrast with the still sidequest focused gameplay.
- Skyrim integrates some of the sidequests with the main quest; the "Civil War" questline is a fully fledged B-plot which ties into the main one (with some parts of each changing based on progress in the other). Like Oblivion, it still leaves open the question of why the Player Character is able to spend time working for the various non-Civil War factions while the Beast of the Apocalypse is on the loose bringing dragons back to life.
- Fallout: New Vegas is an excellent example of this. Even without the downloadable content, there's still a lot of interesting places to visit and sidequests to undertake that aren't touched by the main plot at all. It's probably a good idea to spend some time doing just that too, as focusing entirely on the main plot can lead to finding oneself sorely underleveled and underequipped to deal with the mid/late game challenges. Don't worry, the guy that shot you in the intro isn't going anywhere.
- Between side quests and faction quests, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning has more than enough extra content to make you forget all about the main plot line even without the DLC.
- Planescape: Torment, if played thoroughly, is mostly sidequests, but it makes sense considering the point of the game is finding out who you are and where you came from (instead of, say, defeating an Evil Overlord), and the sidequests all develop the Player Character in some way.
- Planet Alcatraz features a lot of sidequests. Some requires you to run a mere 30 meters, others are optional Pre-existing Encounters on the planet map.
- The Grand Theft Auto series in general, with its trademark Wide-Open Sandbox gameplay, falls into this. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the biggest offender in this regard, as the story missions only count for a very limited percentage for the 100% Completion.
- The Yakuza series is well-known for having a sizeable number of "substories" in each game. In comparison to the dark and gritty tone of the games main storylines, the plots of these substories tend to be Denser and Wackier: depending on the game, you could be teaching a dominatrix how to be mean in her line of work, attempt to deliver ramen on a slick ice-filled road, or dress as a local mascot for a children's show.
- The first Nintendo DS entry for Chronicles of Narnia has around 70 sidequests. The creatures of Narnia will ask the player to do things for them in exchange for new skills. Most are fairly simple, and can be ignored without a hassle... At least until the very end of the game, where it turns out that to face to White Witch one has to complete ALL of them.
- Team Fortress 2 becomes this with the many different Contracts the player has accesible (some behind a paywall). This also comes with its fair share of LevelGrinding as the player has to complete these contracts in order to receive items.
- Lampshaded in Smiling Friends when Charlie enters the Enchanted Forest and dismisses sidequest offers from a centaur, a goblin, an elf and an alien.