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In the modern era of gaming, a simple story and narrative are not enough to ensure longevity.

Instead, developers are looking for minigames, side quests and collectibles to pack out their titles. Who can forget the brilliant Insurance Fraud side quest in Saints Row 2 or the Diamond Resort and Casino in Grand Theft Auto? Neither affected the overall story, but both offered hours of fun outside of the main game.

In both cases, those games have gone on to further success; Saints Row is due to get a reboot in the early part of 2021, and Grand Theft Auto V is the first and only game to span three generations of home consoles since its release. That surely means the developers have done something right? They’ve thrown a couple of hidden aces into the game and ensured their titles are winners.

There have been so many fun minigames it is hard to list them all, but these four were certainly standout. The game developers didn’t just go all-in on their storylines, but they gambled on a few unknowns, too. These games had a full house, great side quests, minigames and a killer story.

Gwent – Witcher 3


The Gwent game within The Witcher 3 was so popular it got a standalone release from Polish developers CD Projekt. It was a strategic war game that made players collect cards from around the environment and improve their deck for better opponents. You could lose hours plotting the best strategy, planning an offence or defence only to see everything wiped out by a weather card from your opponent. It was a great minigame in a title packed with plenty to do – it’s one not to be missed.


Poker – Red Dead Redemption



Red Dead Redemption was a groundbreaking release, putting you in control of John Marston as he made his way through the changing Wild West. By the time the second game dropped, it was as close to a Wild West simulator as anything could be, and it put you firmly in control of your own character in the online version. Poker was a Wild West game of choice, and in this title, the side game of choice. Instead of downloading an app, you could play poker with friends online through the game’s interface. In-game, you could cheat to win, bringing an even richer flavor of the era to life. Red Dead Online hasn’t quite got over in the same manner as GTA Online, which is a shame because it is a richer gaming experience and much better because of the poker.


Caravan – Fallout New Vegas



It seems odd that a game with Vegas in the title didn’t use poker as its core minigame, but then nothing was conventional about Fallout New Vegas. Instead of a full house or straight flush, players had to compete in a caravan, where players build piles of cards that must not be under 21 and over 26. It had shades of blackjack, perhaps referring to the Vegas roots of the game, and was utterly engrossing once you built a competitive deck. As for Fallout, it is still going strong, although the recent release, Fallout 76, was a flop in many player’s eyes. Time to roll out a caravan update!


Orlog – Assassin’s Creed Valhalla



The most recent engrossing minigame comes from the latest in the Assassin’s Creed series. Set in England around the time of the Viking invasion, it could never use cards like the other games on the list have, so instead, it turns to special dice. Like Gwent, the game is based on a battle, with players retaining dice in either defence or attack as they look to break down their opponent. It takes a little getting used to, but once you’re in your stride, it makes the rather generic main quest seem like a by-product of the game.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy our rundown of the top ten hidden object games.