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Why do game studios insist on mini-games?

A game within a game? Sign me up!

By Giorgi MikhelidzePublished 3 years ago 4 min read

If we compare statistics today and back at the beginning of the 2000's we can notice how rapidly video game development went ahead. Indeed there were games that completely changed the concept of video gaming such as Half-Life, GTA: San Andreas, and Assassin’s creed, but the hype we see today is nothing compared to these ones.

With the creation of various games, developers are also incorporating mini-games inside major games. Mini-games differ from card games to shooters even and they add flavor to the main storyline. Sometimes they are optional, but in some cases, you are “forced” to play one in order to advance into the next round. Notable examples of mini-games include Gwent from The Witcher, poker in Far Cry, etc.

Why are video game studios working a lot to integrate mini-games inside video games? In this article, we will revolve around this topic and explore the possible reasons behind the developers’ decision.

The game feels more diverse

When we mentioned Gwent ahead, it is without a doubt that The Witcher 3 would still be one of the greatest games of all time without it, but we would lack variety and “completeness”. And it does not concern The Witcher only. There are a bunch of missed opportunities to add real-life games as mini-games to several contextual video games. For example, Red Dead Redemption is possibly the best game of the decade. At least in my opinion. Could you imagine how the integration of faro would change it? Mafia 2 - one of the best story-driven games. If you had the possibility to play Gin Rummy for real money inside the game - would you feel the difference? Both of these games are relevant to the timeline that these games take place in so it would only make them better.

Mini-games sometimes save the main game from failure

Mini-games most of the time are created in order to realize some things that the main game can not pull. We, as developers, for example, want to convey the feeling of life in the city, but our core mechanics only gives us the ability to run around the city and beat people up. And here come the mini-games that change or make a completely different mechanic for the duration of the activity of the mini-game.

In other words, in GTA, driving is part of the core mechanic and when we perform a taxi mission we still play GTA and we use the skills we have acquired in this game.

And that's what defines mini-games - they don't care. They do not care what you do in the main game, they exist only for the implementation of some activities that can not exist without them.

Examples of mini-games

Mini-games are also a great opportunity to take advantage of the unique features of the gaming platform. I can provide an example of Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl.

This is a special online/offline lobby where players could go alone or with friends using wi-fi built into the DS. There you could play in the capture of the flag, do excavations with a touch display or relax on your own secret base.

However, if you think about it, it's clear why Dungeon looked so strange. The developers just wanted to try their hand at creating features related to the capabilities of the new Nintendo platform. They created a foundation on which to build other mini-games for 3DS. In later games, these inserts are much more organic in the main game. Overall, the Pokemon series represented many mini-games that benefited from the console's almost every game on each platform after Game Boy. They served as a signal to developers and showed how you can use the unique features of Nintendo consoles.

At the same time, the player will feel more comfortable if given several different ways to enjoy the mini-game.

For instance, a huge open post-apocalyptic world is what the Fallout series revolves around. However, even in a world where we see automatons, AI capable of destroying humanity, and literal power soldiers, you can still find 8-bit mini-games. Fallout developers have recreated classics such as Donkey Kong, Missile Command, Pitfall, and Space Invaders and added the spirit of the Fallout universe to them.

Mini-games not only evoke memories of the good old days, but they also show how successful it is to use pair screen technology in the modern world.

They can be played on the computer terminal in the game itself, in the Pip-boy menu on the character's hand, or even through a special application for Fallout 4 on your phone. This app, called Pip-boy, serves as the second screen for the interface. Through it, the player can watch his/her inventory, map, and control their items. You can quickly get the necessary information, without putting the game on pause. The same app includes games like Red Menace, Atomic Command, and the Ruby Ruins.


There are various reasons why game developers go for mini-games. The first reason as has been mentioned in the article is making a game more unique and diverse. When you have a lot of options to enjoy a game even more playing experience becomes impeccable.


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