Top 10 Best Unnecessary Minigames
Everybody's heard of minigame compilations, but some especially ambitious developers add minigames to games that don't necessarily need them. This is a list of some of the best superfluous subgames that feature gameplay mechanics totally different from the larger projects that host them. I want to celebrate the designers who put in extra hours coming up with bonus material, even if these games are little more than a delightful distraction. To fit the criteria for this list, the minigames must be complex, addictive, and dissimilar from games that already exists in real life like golf, bowling, poker, or roulette (and trust me, there are a ton of gambling subgames out there.)
10. ROLLGOAL – ZELDA TWILIGHT PRINCESS (Wii)
Here's a game that, while frustrating, is clever, colorful and totally surprising. Looking at screenshots of this cute minigame, you'd never know it lives within a Zelda game—and one of the darker, Grown-Up Link Zelda games, at that. The object is to tilt your Wiimote in order to roll a ball along an elevated track to get it to the goal. The physics are tricky but accurate, and it's so satisfying when you finally roll into victory cup. It might not be a blast, but I was impressed with how polished this subgame looks and how much effort the developers put into a feature that's nothing like Twilight Princess' core gameplay.
9. MONKEY FIGHT – MONKEY BALL 3D (3DS)
While some Monkey Ball games are overloaded with about fifty party games of questionable quality, most games in the franchise only throw in three to six of a much higher calibre. This was just such a case with Monkey Ball 3D's beat-em-up subgame, Monkey Fight. Now, if you're thinking of the Mario Party style Gamecube version of Monkey Fight, that's not what I'm talking about. Monkey Fight on 3DS was structured like a legitimate fighting game along the lines of Super Smash Brothers. You control your choice of monkey, wielding everything from boxing gloves to giant mallets to jet packs and proceed to beat the bananas out of your opponents or else knock them off the course. This game had great mechanics, special moves, and an astonishing depth for strategy and skill. Not to mention the computers don't go as easy on you as you might expect. I enjoyed Monkey Fight way more than the main game.
8. MOTOR KOMBAT – MORTAL KOMBAT ARMAGGEDON (PS2, Wii, XBox)
You wouldn't expect the hyper-violent Mortal Kombat series to be the kind of game with adorable party games thrown in, but that's exactly what happened with Mortal Kombat Armaggedon's go-kart style racer, Motor Kombat. It may be suspiciously similar to Mario Kart, but that's turns out to be a good thing. With an array of race-cars to choose from and detailed courses to tear-up, this is refreshing step away from the bare knuckle blood-fest of the main game and a great way to expand the longevity of the whole experience.
7. TRAMPOLINE TIME - NEW SUPER MARIO BROS. (Nintendo DS)
This is one of the simpler minigames on the list, but it deserves a spot because it fits one of my criteria exceptionally well: it's addictive. Nintendo must have thought the side-scrolling adventure of their New Super Mario Bros. reboot wouldn't be quite enough to feed their fans' appetites, so they added a huge library of subgames to sink your teeth into. Mario 64 DS had virtually the same collection of games. While many of them are simplistic and dull, Trampoline Time is a nifty little game that requires you to draw bouncy nets with your DS stylus to catch and launch falling Marios into glowing doorways. The size of the trampolines and the angle all play a factor in Mario's speed and trajectory. Drop three Marios and the game is over.
6. BIOSHOCK INFINITE'S CARNIVAL GAMES (PC)
It might be a bit of a cheat to put this on the list, because Bioshock Infinite's carnival attractions never technically pull you out of the POV of gun-slinger Booker DeWitt. But the inclusion of an overstimulating amusement park in an already stunning floating city environment was just too amazing not to mention. When your character first arrives in Colombia, the cloud city setting of this highly celebrated FPS, he finds himself in an almost-period-accurate fair of American Exceptionalism and carnie-style shooting galleries. Exploring the carnival is an experience of its own, but you can actually play the games they've got set up in the booths and get accustomed to your firearms before you have to shoot real people instead of cardboard pop-ups. Once you start fooling around in Colombia's carnival, you won't want to move on to the rest of the game.
5. SPACE STATION SILICON VALLEY'S BONUS ASTEROID LEVEL (Nintendo 64)
Easily the most obscure item on this list, I admit. For those who don't know, Space Station Silicon Valley was an incredibly unique Nintendo 64 title that had you possessing the bodies of cybernetic creatures in order to recover your robotic body parts and escape a cosmic animal habitat gone mad. It's actually more cartoony than it sounds. But the real treat was at the end of the game. If you collect every secret gold item hidden throughout the levels you unlock a arcade style space shooter that lets you steer your escape pod, blast through asteroids, and fly away to freedom. Funny thing is, a massive glitch made it into the final game that prevents you from collecting one of the gold pieces that unlocks this game—meaning you can only play this minigame through cheat codes. Major fail. If you find the code, though, it's worth your time.
4. PYORO – WARIO WARE (Gameboy Advance)
One of the staples of the Wario Ware series has become the hypnotically addictive subgames starring their tiny bird mascot Pyoro. Each Wario Ware title has an original Pyoro game that's totally unique from the split-second microgames you play in the main mode. Play any one of the Pyoro games and tell me you don't have a great time. The two Pyoro games from the original Game Boy Advanced title are probably my favorite, but Touched, Twisted and Smooth Moves all feature fantastic additions to the Pyoro collection. The basis of the game is to launch Pyoro's expandable tongue to catch groups of bugs or seeds to gain points and protect yourself from getting hit on the head—or protect your precious flowers from being devoured. You can get hours of fun from these games; and unlike Wario's infamous over-before-you-know-it microgames, you get to keep playing until you lose.
3. PLANT vs. ZOMBIES QUEST – WORLD OF WARCRAFT (PC)
World of Warcraft has a ton of creative quests and games-inside-a-game, but my personal favorite has to be the intentional Plants vs. Zombies knock-off. This quest series functions like a tower defence game, requiring you to build barriers of plant life to outlast an onslaught of zombies. Each plant unit has its own ability, meaning you'll have to spend Sun Power wisely to find the best defensive strategy for survival. There are five quests in total of increasing difficulty and increasingly bad puns, such as Ghouls Hate My Grains and Lawn of the Dead. This isn't Blizzard's only nod to other popular video games. The duelling pets feature is both a fun homage to Pokemon and an honorary runner-up to this list.
2. KIRBY BRAWL BALL – KIRBY MASS ATTACK (Nintendo DS)
This subgame is a jaw-droppingly fleshed out experience tossed in among a handful of other great extras, stitched onto an already-awesome story mode. Kirby Brawl Ball is not only my favorite thing about Kirby Mass Attack, it's also my favorite pinball game of all time—including both digital and real life pinball tables. The playfield of Brawl Ball is loaded with standard pinball features, from bumpers to targets to orbits and sinkholes—but it's also got a lot of great Kirby baddies sprinkled across the table to bump, grab, slice, and inhale Kirby as he bounces around collecting points, stars and other goodies. And if you make it into King DeDeDe's mouth, you get launched to one of four other tables for a boss battle. Or take the warp star to the slot machine bonus game. There's so much to do and endless fun in Kirby Brawl Ball; and it's only one of Mass Attack's minigames.
1. GNAT ATTACK – MARIO PAINT (Super Nintendo)
For those of you not old enough to remember, Mario Paint was a SNES sandbox/art game that came with a computer mouse so you could make your own illustrations, animations, and musical compositions. It was pretty innovative at the time for its user-friendly interface that allowed kids to draw and color whatever they wanted. But there was a treat mingling among the art supplies that you might not expect to be there. Gnat Attack is a full-on bug squashing minigame that gives the player control of a flyswatter and the task of fighting off hundreds of dangerous insects. It starts out simple with a few tiny gnats, but quickly escalates to laser-spewing flies, bombs with wings, and even a giant mechanical bee boss battle. Gnat Attack is arguably one of the most incredible unnecessary minigames of all time.