A very fundamental video game trope, a sidequest (or optional quest, or side mission, etc.) is any part of a video game that is not required to complete the game. Sidequests come in a variety of forms, and completing sidequests generally brings reward to the player such as additional equipment or abilities, areas to explore, supplemental plot related details, or fun unlockables.
Going out of your way and completing all sidequests results in one hundred percent completion.
Some side quests such as the Bonus Dungeon and Bonus Boss may provide challenges more difficult than any content available through the main storyline. This allows more casual players to still complete the game and see the plot resolved, while also giving gamers seeking an additional challenge something to go after.
It is important to note that this trope appears in practically every game which gives the player even a slight amount of free rein, and is one of the best way for a developer to add more content and extend the length of a game. If sidequests take up the majority of the game, it may be a Wide Open Sandbox.
In a lot of post-World of Warcraft MMOs (and games inspired by it), most sidequests fall into the Big Five templates: Kill Questsnote , Fetch Questsnote , FedEx Questsnote , Collect Questsnote , and Escort Questsnote . As discussed by Extra Credits, the prevalence of the Big Five is often a result of the common view among game designers that the only purpose of sidequests is to justify in-story the endless combat grind gameplay.
Related to Irrelevant Sidequest, Loads and Loads of Sidequests, That One Sidequest, and Sidequest Sidestory. Compare with Wacky Wayside Tribe, a non-interactive version. Also see Easter Egg, Infinity +1 Sword, and Quest Giver.
- Featured in every single The Legend of Zelda game since the beginning of the series. A well-known example is Majora's Mask for its sheer number of sidequests, which translates in several characters in need of help, more complex mini-games to play and more secret zones to explore. Other games in the series, such as The Wind Waker, The Minish Cap, Spirit Tracks and Breath of the Wild follow a similar trend (the latter one's case is especially notable because nearly all of its content is optional due to the availability of the Final Boss since the beginning). In general terms, the availability of sidequests in a Zelda game is inversely proportional to how many dungeons exist.
- In Ōkami, sidequests help Amaterasu to gain Praise units, which gradually enhance her health, paint storage, money and revival chance stats. Some sidequests also house Stray Beads, a bonus supply of Gold Dust (which will permanently power up one weapon) and secret brush techniques.
- Solatorobo has a plethora of sidequests. They're optional, of course, unless you happen to need to be a slightly higher Hunter rank to take a plot-relevant quest. Not all quests will increase your rank, however.
- The search for the Extra-Life clover boxes in Little Big Adventure and it's sequel. Little Big Adventure II also has the optional adventure in the form of a Bonus Dungeon; an off-the-main-path island cave off the coast of Desert Island which houses the Protection Spell. You do not need the spell to complete the game, and it will be lost for good once you leave Twinsun the second time.
- The Assassin's Creed games have plenty of extra quests that help the player complete the synchronization of the memories of the past, which in turn leads to unveiling several rewards. Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag goes as far as giving the player the opportunity to explore a very large part of the Caribbean to visit numerous islands, in which plenty of collectibles can be found, enemy bases can be confronted and dismantled, and treasure chests can be opened; then there's fishing, exploring sunken ships, doing requested assassinations, etc.
- You'll get a series of these in Avatar: The Last Airbender. Each area has different tasks available, some which have to be activated by talking to random characters. You have to get these tasks accomplished before a certain timeframe. If you don't, the sidequest will be unavailable and you won't get a chance to do it again. That is, unless you restart the file all over again or go back to an older file.
- In Stampede Run, you can run down side alleys. They're more challenging (no room for side-to-side motion, tight corners, etc.) but you can get lots of stars if you make it through.
- Present in Borderlands and its sequels, Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel!, with characters paying in XP, money, and/or loot. Especially notable is the (only) Face McShooty quest "Shoot This Guy In The Face". Should you find him in the middle of nowhere screaming about how he needs someone to shoot him in the face, accepting means you have to do so. Completing it actually awards you with cash and XP too, as well as the achievement "Well that was easy..."
- Most Command & Conquer games features optional objectives in missions, but Tiberian Sun went one step beyond and featured optional missions, unnecessary to progress further in the campaign but granting some sort of advantage in the associated main mission.
- Dawn of War: In Dark Crusade, you only need to defeat the enemy stronghold provinces to win, regardless of how many provinces you actually hold. In practice, however, you will need to hold several of the other provinces for the bonuses they give (attack twice in a turn, attack any non-stronghold province, start with a base, or simply more requisition with which to buy honor guard units or defense troops).
- Warcraft III, being an RTS with RPG Elements, has both Main and Optional Quests, which usually give rare items or advantages to the player. The expansion's Blood Elf campaign has a secret Tower Defense level which gives you an extra hero in the next level if you manage to win.
- NetHack has two:
- The Gnomish Mines, a Bonus Dungeon which has Minetown halfway down (with guaranteed shops and a temple) and a guaranteed luckstone at the bottom.
- The Sokoban Bonus Dungeon, four levels with lots of food, a guaranteed ring and wand on each level, and either a bag of holding or an amulet of reflection at the end of the final level.
- Gear Head features both more conventional sidequests that can be completed once, and also constantly refreshing series of random quests. The random quests are generated by creating events in the gameworld, and then creating quests based on those events. For example, if a city is under attack, you can travel there and talk to members of the military to get quests to help fight enemy forces, or if you're well-liked by a town's mayor they may ask you to help with renegotiating contracts for town services with the corporations. Watching the news will give you some hints on where these quests are, or you can wander around and stumble upon them.
- Elona has a job board in most towns with quests that cover all the sidequests types above. Jobs are regularly added and removed as time passes. They're a good way for a new character to get some starting capital, or can be used by a higher-level character who wants resources like platinum coins or music tickets.
- Capella's Promise has forty listed sidequests in the quest log, though most of the optional postgame dungeons and optional characters aren't listed, including the one that requires you to finish all forty listed quests.
- Xenosaga Episode 2 was condemned for having what many have argued the vast majority of its gameplay be in the form of crappy Fed Ex sidequests and minigames.
- The Elder Scrolls:
- After seeing how much time players spent on the much more limited sidequests in Arena, Bethesda responded by adding dozens of unique sidequests and an infinite number of randomly generated sidequests in Daggerfall. (Though they do get repetitive rather quickly.)
- Morrowind drops the infinite randomly generated sidequests in favor of having non-random Loads and Loads of Sidequests, and even has an in-story explanation for why your character would do them. (You're a spy for the Empire and need to keep up a cover identity as a freelance adventurer, cleverly playing with Take Your Time.) The Guilds and Factions all have their own Side Quest Side Stories, which are nearly as expansive as the main quest itself.
- Oblivion keeps the trend going with plenty of sidequests available and expansive faction questlines as well. However, the main quest's sense of urgency conflicts rather sharply with the still sidequest-focused gameplay.
- Skyrim continues the trend, with dozens of sidequests available and plenty more in the faction questlines. It also has a "Radiant Quest" system that revisits the same ground as Daggerfall's procedural generation to the same effect.
- Baldur's Gate
- Baldur's Gate is just full of lazy, lazy gits always asking you to go and fetch them a book, a sword, a dead body, a scroll, or something else that's often less than thirty feet away. To the point where your character has the opportunity to go on a long tirade that anyone who has ever played RPGs will agree with. Your journal will be full of snark about it.
- Baldurs Gate 2 is famous (amongst other things) for having no pure Fetch Quests. Subverted and parodied in "Throne of Bhaal", where you can subcontract a recovery quest to younger adventurers you just depetrified. They try to kill you for more loot, but reload the game after you slaughter them.
- It also has one pure Fetch Quest but you have to go out of your way and wish for "A quest unlike any other(Sic)". You then have to find a gong which ends up being a cow dung shovel.
- Ghost Tales gives you some optional sidequests to complete. Some are mandatory for the main game, but you will be presented with some that are available for a limited time.
- Planescape: Torment has a clever subversion of optional Fetch Quests. An old witch will only teach the PC magic if he fetches her three seemingly-innocuous and useless items: some herbs, rags and a fish. Not only do the apparently pointless errands actually have meaning attached to them but the items themselves are used to create spells.
- Paper Mario had a good deal of them as well. The second game made it easier to find the minor ones by means of a Trouble center, where NPCs would put up help requests.
- It is traditional in Shadow Hearts for every playable character to unlock a personal sidequest once The Very Definitely Final Dungeon shows up on the world map. These sidequests contain the character's Infinity +1 Sword, and usually fill out their Character Development. In addition, the later two games come with game-long sidequests for certain characters that complement or replace the last-dungeon-cued one.
- This idea has unfortunately spread to the PSP game Crisis Core. There are 300 missions and just the very first one is required to continue with your game. What's worse is that there are only eight or nine "dungeons" the missions take place in with varying parts of them blocked off and all of them boil down to "find all enemies visible on the map and kill them", meaning the gameplay requires you do to the same thing over and over and OVER again...
- The Last Remnant has a wide variety of sidequests, which is the main way to unlock map locations and the ability to hire some powerful people. There's also Guild Tasks which are similar in function but aren't classed as quests.
- Chrono Trigger has six optional sidequests that can be performed between the end of the main quest up to the final boss and the actual fight with that boss. So much Level Grinding is needed to defeat it, though, that they are pretty necessary on your first playthrough, anyway.
- Final Fantasy
- Final Fantasy III is full of Broken Bridges and situations which end in benefits for the party (like, say, a nice new airship) and quite a lot of them are just sidequests woven into the main plot, or sidequests that remove something to inhibit you - come on, do heroes normally have to beat up some guy when he chains up their airship?
- The second half of Final Fantasy VI is free form. There are three missions you have to do, but other than that, the missions are all side-quests, with rewards like powerful magic and recovering your party members.
- In Final Fantasy VII, most are contained within the Gold Saucer location.
- Final Fantasy IX averts this with two of the mini-games, as they are required to play in order to advance the story.
- Final Fantasy X-2 is a game constructed almost entirely out of sidequests.
- Final Fantasy XII has many sidequests, one example of which is killing of "marks". Actually, you could say most of this game are sidequests.
- Similarly, Final Fantasy XIII has sixty-four side quests available in Chapter 11. All of them revolve around killing a fairly powerful enemy.
- Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII: The official guide states that completing all of the side quests will raise Lightning's stats more than the five main quests and the Canvas of Prayers quests combined.
- The Dragon Quest series has quite a few of them, but the one that stands out is Dragon Quest IX, which has one hundred and twenty of them... that came in the box. With DLC, this gets upgraded to over one hundred and eighty. True, the majority of them are either Fetch Quests or killing a certain enemy a number of times and/or in a certain way, but the rewards are almost always worth it, such as class-exclusive armour, rare alchemy ingredients, or even new Vocations. This is a Justified Trope as well, your PC is part of a race of Winged Humanoids called Celestrians, who all have justified Chronic Hero Syndrome.
- Dark Souls features many optional quests, most of which involve you assisting other NPC adventurers, in addition to many optional dungeons and bosses. Most of these quests are difficult to accomplish if you don't know what you are doing, so it will probably take multiple playthroughs to beat them all.
- In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, the Castle Town has two sidequests; you need to find a man's missing 'Beanlets' and dig up ancient artifacts for another man.
- Mass Effect 2 has a subversion. The loyalty missions are under the plot-relevant "Missions", but are mostly kinda-sorta optional. You had better get 100% Completion of them if you know what's good for you.
- Skies of Arcadia has a ton, and you wouldn't realize half of them actually are sidequests. How can you tell? In Legends, there are special ranks for completing these things, included catching 1000 fish.
- Exit Fate. The majority of your 75-person crew roster are optional. How do you get them? Side quests! And if you get them all, you unlock the Shadow character Bonus Bosses. More side quests!
- Dragon Age: Origins not only has a ton of side-quests, it even gives you an Achievement for completing 75% of them. The achievement is called "Easily Sidetracked" The sequel features many as well, some of which come back to haunt or reward you as the game goes on. One notable type is the inverse fetch quests, where you find an unusual item then locate someone who can make use of it.
- Might and Magic tended to have a fair number of sidequests. VI, in a minor twist, made a fair number of them connected to the main story... in ways that you don't find out until the end of the sidequest, and maybe not even then if you miss a single chest or fail to read that letter you found.
- Played with in Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. At one point, Zoe must complete one that involves a lot of running around. She comments on this and there's an option to be lazy and skip a step—with its own consequences.
- The Pokémon contests, which were first introduced in Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire.
- In The Last Story, sidequests range from single-step item deliveries, going through a very long Chain of Deals, to entire playable chapters that are optional.
- In Persona 3, Elizabeth, or in Portable, Theo, offers nearly one hundred-fifty different requests throughout the game, some of which need to be unlocked by completing others, not to mention filling the Persona Compendium.
- Robopon has a couple in the first game. There's the Brownie quest with Sam, accessible only at 5 o'clock, rescuing Princess Darcy with the Teardrop of Morris, found by fighting Hunter on Cherry Hill, and the Underwater Creature you give Dream Shells to in order to unlock the Underwater Health Spa.
- The Fallout series generally have a game-spanning storyline that consists of a handful of major quests in key locations and a plethora of sidequests to fill out the world, such as rescuing a town from raiders or clearing out monsters from an abandoned mine. The results of these quests may determine the fate of settlements and people you come across in your travels.
- Kiseki Series Has what is called "jobs" that players can fulfill outside of the story. Some may be a bit harder than others, despite that they garner great rewards.
- The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel Is more fleshed out and more streamlined than that of The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky as the optional jobs are mixed with the required tasks.
- Rune Factory 2 has an optional sidequest composed almost entirely of fetch quests. The townspeople post requests on a message board that you fulfill to win their money and affection. Marvelous and/or Neverland apparently thought that wasn't enough, so Rune Factory 3 adds a mailbox and a message-delivering owl in addition to the message board. (Each one can only have one request fulfilled per day, so a total of three can be done per day if each one has at least one request.)
- Resident Evil 2 has an optional room in Umbrella's facility that can only be accessed in Scenario B. However, in order to get to the room, the player character in Scenario A has to unlock the first lock on the door to the room, then the second character has to release the second lock in Scenario B. The room contains three Lickers and a submachine gun. The weapon is a good find if you had the character in Scenario A take the same weapon from the police station weapons locker. You don't have to go to the double locked room to complete the game, but if you want the machine gun or want to get more ammo for it, it's there.
- Resident Evil 3 has a minor side quest with a key item in the disused disposal facility. You get a key that has a scannable card on the key ring and it's used to open a door. However, if you take the key to a certain machine, you can insert the card into it to change its ID. The newly written tag can then be used a bit later on to open a weapons locker that contains a rocket launcher. You can still defeat the Final Boss without the rocket launcher, but having it makes the fight easier.
- Blazing Souls has so much side content that you don't even know what part of it is required to advance the story, and you need to do every sidequest and nail everything right in order to get the True Ending. That said, this is true of basically all Idea Factory games of this genre.
- Final Fantasy Tactics opens up a lot in Chapter 4. The PSP version even added new sidequests.
- Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and its sequel both have tons of sidequests (out of 300 missions, around 30 are mandatory to see the ending). The sequel has up to 400 missions if you count random encounters etc.
- Tactics Ogre is quite unusual for its genre, in its approach in which the game opens almost completely after you do the first half of Chapter 4. In the PSP version, you get new quests in earlier chapters, too.
- The Grand Theft Auto games all feature numerous side-missions that are not essential for completion, but often give you abilities that will make the game easier, such as fireproofing (for completing the firefighting mission) or the ability to get out of jail for free (for completing the vigilante mission).
- The Simpsons: Hit & Run has collector cards that contain items from the cartoon (Such as crab juice), collecting all in a level unlocked a multi player bonus track that was specific to the level, collecting all in the game allowed you (in level 3) to trade all of them (although they're still there in the pause menu) for a ticket to the "Itchy and Scratchy: 300 Yard Gash" from the Comic Book Guy.
Non-video game examples:
- Otakon LARP naturally has a plot that's supposed to string together the events of the weekend, but you wouldn't necessarily know it from the individual players inventing their own side goals and quests. "Player Specialists" often run a storyline that runs parallel to the GM plot, making what looked like a side quest part of the overall story.
- Herakles makes this trope Olderthan Feudalism as he frequently had unrelated adventures (like wrestling '''Death''' to return someone that had died) while performing his 12 Labours. To the Ancient Greek tropers this was known as a Parergon (plural "parerga").
- Adventurers!: Karn is obsessed with these, defending them with "Sidequests are an efficient way to increase experience", and once admonishing Ardam that he needs to get his priorities straight when he complains about the team going on sidequests instead of saving the world.
- Roy Greenhilt, on the other hand, hates wasting time on sidequests. And Tarquin refuses to be one.
- In 8-Bit Theater, Red Mage points out in strip 180 that sidequests are the primary source of EXP for adventuring parties, and are what distinguishes them from thugs and monsters.
- In Homestuck, Vriska and Tavros apparently spent quite a while doing side quests on the Land of Maps and Treasure, hoarding wealth and experience.
- Lampshaded in Ian's Adventures in Morrowind (archived here).
Dagoth Ur: What the hell are you doing here? I'm the end boss!Ren: Correction, you were the end boss. That's my job now...Dagoth Ur: But you can't just skip to the end of the game without doing any of the 400 side missions!?Ren: Fine then, you can go tramping around this God forsaken rock for years on end, doing odd jobs for complete strangers, which in some twisted way ends up saving the whole world for no reason at all...