With mini-game-rich franchises such as Final Fantasy 16 and Like a Dragon Gaiden: The Man Who Erased His Name coming out this year, I wanted to take a look at five of my favorite side activities in gaming. A few of the games listed could have lists of their own, so I decided to keep it to one per franchise. Here are my top five favorite mini-games in video games.

5. Fruitball – Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep

The Kingdom Hearts series is known for having several mini-games in nearly every installment of the RPG series. Birth By Sleep has a world dedicated to side activities: Disney Town. While a few of the side things are hit and miss (It’s A Small World After All is still stuck in my head thanks to Ice Cream Beat.)   

There are five types of fruit: watermelons, pineapples, bananas, apples, and grapes. Each has different effects; the first three can stun you if you hit them. Whereas the grapes will break into smaller balls, giving you more chances to score. There are also three types of shots: fast, smash, and curve. The best strategy is to hit the triangle button to bump the fruit into the air, then press the triangle again when the prompt shows up, almost guaranteeing a goal. Things get more chaotic as the match progresses as more fruits and nets (that block you) fill up the playing field.

The tournament of sorts is a total of three matches that increase in difficulty and give out rewards such as items that replenish your “D-Link” ability (Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep’s version of summoning), as well as Magnera and a Chaos Snake Shotlock.

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4. Hacking – Bioshock

The hacking minigame in the first Bioshock by Irrational Games is a series of puzzles where the objective is to create a connection between two pipes by uncovering tiles and swapping them to connect the two points before the rushing water catches up; think of it like the board game Perfection. As you get further into the game, the puzzles will start incorporating “overload” tiles which, if hit, force you to start all over. The hacking minigame can be done throughout the game to help you hack into vending machines to lower the prices, unlock safes, and turn off security cameras and bots, among other things. 

Unlike the sequel, which changes the pipe minigame for a timing mini-game, the action stops, so if you are being swarmed, you can at least divert your attention to something else for a second.

3. Karaoke – Yakuza Franchise

The Yakuza games have a plethora of mini-games, so many that it warrants its own list. However, Karaoke is bar none (I’m sorry for the joke, or you’re welcome) my favorite in the franchise. Who doesn’t want to sing bangers such as Bakamitai, Iji Sakura 2000, and Kamurocho Lullaby with Kiryu and Haruka, Majima, or Ichiban? Karaoke is largely optional unless you are trying to 100% the completion list, which includes tasks such as being nearly perfect on every song.   

2. Fishing – Final Fantasy XV

Both the Yakuza franchise and Final Fantasy XV feature fishing. In FF XV, there are two types of fishing spots: blue dots, which represent regular fish, and yellow dots, which represent “prize fish,” which are rarer species that can be sold for a decent amount of gil (Final Fantasy’s currency). The mini-game offers a variety of strategies in the sense that you will need to equip specific rods, lures, and bait to catch a specific species. While earning money in Final Fantasy XV is easy, considering the plethora of quests and hunts you can undertake, nothing beats the relaxation of fishing with your bros.

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1. Gwent – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The Witcher 3 debuted in 2015 and is often considered one of the best RPGs of the last ten years. Although Witcher 3: Wild Heart features three minigames, easily the best is the card game called Gwent. Gwent became so popular that the studio, CD Projekt Red, created a standalone Gwent game in 2017.

On paper, Gwent is simple. The objective is to win the best of three wars, and by war, I mean the card game by reaching a higher point value than your opponent by playing either close combat, Ranged combat, or Siege units.  

While you can technically have as many cards in your deck as you want, it is best to stick to around 30 cards (twenty-two unit cards and eight special cards) because you can only have ten cards in your hand for the entire 3-round match. While there are many strategies to win in Gwent, one common way is to throw the first round by playing spy cards, which add to your opponent’s total but allow you to draw two cards per spy. This can, in many cases, secure a victory in the latter two rounds.

There are over 100 NPCs that you can challenge to a game of Gwent (DLC included). While Gwent isn’t necessarily the best way to get Crowns (The currency in The Witcher 3), as you can only bet 5-10 Crowns, you can obtain more Gwent cards by winning matches. Conversely, you can buy cards from vendors throughout the game.

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Many other aspects of Gwent make it arguably one of the best and most fleshed-out mini-games, such as the fact that there are four different “factions” that have their own “hero” card, which has special abilities that can only be used once per match. There are also weather cards, like “Impenetrable Fog”, which decreases the point value of all ranged cards to one.

There is the list of my five favorite Mini games. Do you agree, or disagree with any of my picks? Feel free to let me know in the comments.

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