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Remember when video games first started coming out? A round of Super Mario Brothers meant playing a platformer where you’re jumping on enemies and avoiding pitfalls, but that was it. Then there were games like Capcom’s Street Fighter, where there would be a small minigame to gain bonus points if you performed well in the match before.

Fast forward to now in 2022, developers are now adding minigames to their bigger games to enhance the player experience. Some minigames spawn real-life versions, like Gwent from the Witcher 3, which spawned its own video game and a card game. Others are based on games we can play in real life, such as Grand Theft Auto V, which has blackjack and poker. The classic card game is perfect as a minigame because everyone recognizes it, and is easy to learn. All you need is to understand poker hand rankings, and you’re on your way – it’s why developers tend to use games we already know. It makes them accessible, whether three-card poker as in GTA or Texas Hold’em in other titles. Multiple marquee releases have included poker, like Red Dead Redemption, where one can play in a few locations across the map or Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs, where hacking can help turn the tables in your favor.

Some games have had to stray from the tried and tested formula, whether due to the timing of the game or the setting. In those instances, like in Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, poker didn’t exist in Viking England, for example, so developers made their own minigames, some of which are as good if not better than the games based on real life.

Let’s talk about some of the best.

Fallout: New Vegas – Caravan

Bethesda’s Fallout series has seen many different iterations since it first debuted on the PC some 25 years ago. While the controversial online multiplayer Fallout 76 may not be in the best graces of gamers, if we rewind back to when they released Fallout: New Vegas to the masses, fans couldn’t have been more excited. Obsidian Entertainment held reigns in terms of development, and some consider what they’ve done with New Vegas to be the best version of Fallout yet. Part of what made New Vegas so special was the number of immersion users felt as they were going through the game. While poker easily could’ve been a game they put in New Vegas, Obsidian created their own game in Caravan. What’s cool about Caravan is that it is still played with a deck of cards you build and collect, and there’s in-game currency and profit to be had if the user wins.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – Home Run Contest

Nintendo’s Super Smash Brothers Ultimate is considered one of the biggest multiplayer games, if not one of the best fighting games (yup, I said it) of all time. Combining a roster of over 80 iconic characters, including Sonic, Mario, Ryu from Street Fighter, Sora from Kingdom Hearts and more, with beautiful stages reimagined from classic games, with remixed music from all those games, we have a once-in-a-lifetime game on our hands. However, when you’re not bluffing your opponents on the battlefield, there is a slew of minigames to take part in, one being the Home Run Contest. Here you’re able to use the combos learned on the battlefield to smack around a cute little sandbag. Then before the timer runs out, pull out your strongest move and send the sandbag; whoever sends it the furthest distance wins.

Stardew Valley – Journey of the Prarie King

Concerned Ape’s ‘Stardew Valley’ may not be the $60 big-budget title of a Grand Theft Auto, but the game carved its own little niche in our hearts when it came out in 2016. Since then, the indie darling has sold over 20 million copies worldwide and somehow created a competitive scene at the same time. The game has the user taking care of a large plot of land inherited by their grandfather. Customizable to your heart’s desire, your goal is to raise money to bring your plot of land to life through gardening, fishing, mining, and engaging with the town next door to you. When you’re not on the grind for cash, the bar has a couple of minigames you can play, one is based on a twin-stick shooter. Journey of the Prarie King sees you play a cowboy as waves of other cowboys try to take you down, each wave getting more difficult than the last. How long can you survive?

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