So I don’t normally talk about video games in this blog (in fact, I don’t think I ever have), but I had a request to talk about minigames, and requests are always appreciated and honored, so here we go!
Minigames are just what they sound like: miniature games that are (usually) contained within another video game. They can appear in any type of video game but are particularly common in role-playing games (RPGs), which just happen to be my favorite genre. RPGs have a long history of including minigames; even the original Final Fantasy had an unlockable sliding puzzle game. Still, minigames were relatively few and far between until the seminal Final Fantasy VII came along in 1997. Like many other aspects of the genre and video games in general, FFVII changed the way minigames were seen and how prevalent they were. With its 30 or more minigames and its status as one of the most popular video games of all-time, FFVII really put minigames onto gamers’ maps.
Minigames are usually very short, easy to learn, and quick to play. Card games, dice games, puzzles, and strangely enough fishing games are all common themes. Sometimes a game will be based off a real-life sport such as golf or football. They’re almost always optional, although sometimes the player may have to play the game once as part of the main game (such as Blitzball in Final Fantasy X).
Unfortunately, most minigames are not that much fun. I would say 95% of them (or more) are too simplistic or boring to be any fun at all. Once in a while you find a really fun one though. There are even a couple that were good enough to be released as their own game. And there is a series of games called WarioWare that consists of nothing but “microgames”: games that last only a few seconds. Part of the fun in those microgames is to figure out what you actually have to do, usually with a small one word clue such as “Cut!” or “Shoot!”. I have played a few of the WarioWare games and while they’re not for everybody, I really enjoyed them. They typically contain a couple hundred minigames, and trying to figure out how to play them all (and remembering once you’ve figured it out) and reacting in time to finish them is a fun and unique challenge.
Other than the Warioware games there are really only two minigames I’ve ever played that I thought were really good and worth playing on their own:
- Arcomage (from Might and Magic VII and VIII) Arcomage is a card-based one-on-one game where you try to build up a castle while also trying to keep your opponent from building his up. You have three different resources that accumulate and are needed to play the cards, and you also have a wall you can build up to protect your castle. You can win by building your castle up to a certain height, destroying your opponent’s castle, or building up a certain amount of resources. In Might and Magic you can play the game at various taverns, each one with different opponents and different winning conditions (taller or shorter castle, more or fewer resources) and game conditions. It’s a very fun game and definitely made it that much more fun to arrive at a new town and find a new tavern to play at. Might and Magic is one of my all-time favorite series and M&M VII is one of my Top 15 or so games ever even without Arcomage, but having this minigame takes it over the top.
Interestingly, Arcomage is one of the few minigames that was good/popular enough to be released as its own game. I managed to snag a copy of it off eBay years ago and I’m glad I did. There’s also a flash version of the game called Castle Wars that is a lot of fun and lets you play against human opponents.
- Spheda (from Dark Cloud 2) Spheda is a golf-like game that you can unlock after completing an area. It’s really fun because it has some stylized physics that make it different that standard golf. Unfortunately it never got released as a stand-alone game (boy that would be a GREAT thing to release for download on PS3), and you can’t just run around and play it whenever you want in Dark Cloud 2. I don’t even have my copy of Dark Cloud 2 anymore, so I can’t play it at all. DC2 was a decent game (I actually liked the original better, but hardly anyone else did), so it’s worth a pickup on its own, along with Spheda.
Some other notables include:
Blitzball (Final Fantasy X) – A combo of water polo, football, and soccer. You can play whole games, matches, and even seasons. A lot of people love it but I couldn’t stand it. I played it the one mandatory time and never touched it again.
Triple Triad (Final Fantasy VIII) – FFVIII is the only mainline FF I never played, but I am really curious about Triple Triad. Everyone says it’s fantastic, but I don’t think I would be able to put up with FFVIII long enough to find out ; )
Mario Party – This is an entire series based around “party” minigames. It’s more of a social game meant for casual gamers. And it’s awful. I played the Wii version (Mario Party 9) for 10 minutes and then sold it the next day.
Suikoden – Another of my favorite RPG series, the Suikoden games feature a lot of minigames. None of them are as good as Spheda or Arcomage, but some of them are pretty fun. And in Suikoden part of the gameplay is finding and recruiting the people to play the games with in the first place.
How about you? Played any good minigames? Do any of these sound interesting?