14th Dec2020

The Greatest Side Quests and Mini-Games

by James Smith

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, video games were released on tapes and cartridges. In the case of the NES and SNES, these cartridges typically couldn’t fit much more than 100 MB of data, though many Game Boy cartridges stored less than 1 MB, even less than the 1.4 MB of a floppy disk. This tiny capacity meant those game developers couldn’t fit anything superfluous in their code. Everything had to be optimised perfectly, with the focus solely on the main game.

With the launch of the Sony PlayStation in December 1994, this changed forever. Instead of clunky cartridges, it used shiny CDs that could store up to 700 MB, six to seven times more than a cartridge. This gave developers the freedom to include new features in games. Going beyond useless Easter eggs, they created side quests and mini-games that gave the player a break from the main part of the game or to practice certain skills to help to perform better. Some were mediocre and added little value, but others were great and fun enough to have been released on their own.

So here are some of the greatest mini-games and side missions of all time that are still worth trying out.

Driver – Driving Games

Driver, which was released for PlayStation in June 1999, featured a main storyline that saw you play as an undercover cop posing as a wheelman for hire. Each mission required you to help your employers evade the police, capture contraband, and destroy property.

But going beyond this, Reflections included mini-games that let you do other things behind the wheel. The “Take a Ride” mode gave you free-roam around each of the game’s city’s similar to what you have in Grand Theft Auto today. This was fun for a while, but there’s only so much you can do without getting out of the car.

Driving Games was a set of mini-games that extended the life of the game and allowed you to challenge your friends. It included one where you had to escape the police and a set of time-attack challenges. The most notable driving game was called “survival”. In it, you would be chased by an exponentially increasing number of cops, each one attempting to ram you off the road. Lasting just a dozen seconds was a real challenge, though with enough practice it was possible to go for much longer.

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas – Casinos

There aren’t many opportunities to play casino games on consoles, at least not compared to the abundance of online casinos you can find online and on smartphones. So when Rockstar Games added the ability to play casino games like roulette inside the large resort buildings in Las Venturas, it’s no surprise it was a hit with fans.

Despite Las Venturas being a fictional version of Las Vegas, the game uses only a single “0” just like in the European version of roulette. In contrast, American roulette uses 00 too, which increases the house edge by a significant margin. San Andreas’ casino mini-games were a great way to take a break from the hard work of building a state-wide criminal empire that comprised of gangster rappers, military-secret-stealing hippies, and members of the Mafia.

Shenmue – Forklift Truck Racing

Shenmue is an action-adventure game that was released in 1999 on the Sega Dreamcast that, in many ways, was ahead of its time. The game’s world featured buses that ran on a set timetable, shops that would open and close at set hours, and NPCs that went about their lives as though they were real people. Sega packed in many mini-games into Shenmue, including fishing, betting, and even full arcade games that the company had released in the past.

One of the standout mini-games was the ability to drive and race forklift trucks. When the character Ryo gets a job in a warehouse, each day’s shift begins with a “warm-up race”, something that many real-life forklift operators would love to have a go at. The rear-wheel steering, protruding forks, and dock-side racetrack made it a unique challenge, but one that’s surprisingly fun.

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