A Question for the Readers #11: “Well, YOU have a gambling problem!”

What’s better than playing a fun video game? The answer is playing a fun game within a video game. If an arcade or casino exists in a game, you can bet that the programmers took the time to implement several minigames for the player to check out. Sometimes, the staff may be taken aback when players begin dedicating more time to these minigames than the larger one they paid actual money for.

Now, despite blatantly referencing The Simpsons in the name of this post, I tend to hate it whenever slot machines show up in video games. I know that whenever they do, the developers are going make players gamble special tokens in an attempt to win prizes that can only be purchased with said tokens. The prizes in question tend to be absurdly powerful equipment or other useful items that can’t be found anywhere else. So in lieu of completing a sidequest or some other test of skill, the developers decide to leave your ability to procure these helpful resources to luck (or amassing a lot of money to buy the tokens outright).

This is why when I tried out the SoulSilver Version of Pokémon, I was delighted to learn that the slot machines had been replaced with an actual minigame: Voltorb Flip. It was described in a pre-release review as a cross between Picross and Minesweeper, and I’d say that’s an accurate description. Sure, there is some luck involved – especially when you manage to win several games in a row, but the game is surprisingly addicting. While I normally would ignore the slot machines in the original games, I found myself playing several rounds of Voltorb Flip; like Minesweeper, it can get surprisingly harrowing when you’re forced to guess.

Interestingly, we have PEGI rating system to thank for this game’s existence. They had stricter guidelines on gambling, and games that encouraged the practice were typically given an 18 or adult rating. Normally censorship isn’t a good thing, but considering that this particular instance forced Game Freak to come up with this fun alternative, I can safely consider it a rare exception. The only downside is that the payout isn’t that great, but at the end of the day, playing the slot machines was purely a means to an end. Voltorb Flip, on the other hand, at least succeeded in making the means themselves enjoyable.

Dragon Quest fans know that series creator Yuji Horii is quite the gambler, hence why so many of his games feature casinos. While my stance on their presence is the same as the above franchise, the remake of Dragon Quest III saw fit to introduce a minigame I quite liked. It’s essentially what would happen if you made Pachisi into a JRPG. Every turn, you roll a die, allowing your character to move the number of spaces rolled. The tiles you land on have different effects, and may even force your character to fight a random encounter. Again, though there is some luck involved, it is a fun diversion from the main game, and the prizes are almost always worth the trip. Better yet, this game would show up in later installments as well – in fact, I played it for the first time in the excellent DS remake of Dragon Quest V.

I have always enjoyed it whenever developers hide their older efforts in a game as an Easter egg. If it’s an especially good game, you can find yourself rediscovering a beloved classic and appreciate how much the developers have evolved since then.

Though it can backfire if they outshine the game in which they’re embedded.

In other cases, you can use the opportunity to discover a game you may not have experienced back when it was released.

Though there are technically two different developers at work in this case, I had such an experience with Rare’s Donkey Kong 64. In the game’s third stage, you can find a Donkey Kong arcade cabinet. It’s not just there as a prop either; by spawning a lever in front of it, you can play the game for yourself. This was the first time I ever got to play Shigeru Miyamoto’s debut title, and I was taken aback by how difficult it was compared to the main game. Then again, it also only gives you one life with which to complete the first four stages. If you’re successful, you obtain a Golden Banana – the Donkey Kong 64 equivalent of a Puzzle Piece, Power Star, or Shine Sprite.

Strangely, unlike most examples of this trend, playing the precursor is actually required to complete the main game. Completing a second round with only one life nets the player a coin that is required to reach the final boss. Either way, I found myself attempting to clear the game several times before I was successful to the point where I forgot I was playing Donkey Kong 64.

Now it’s your turn.

Have you ever immersed yourself in a minigame to the point where you forgot about the game surrounding it entirely?

26 thoughts on “A Question for the Readers #11: “Well, YOU have a gambling problem!”

  1. The one minigame that I probably put more into than the actual game over time is the Triple Triad card game from Final Fantasy VIII. On the one hand, you can get some great items from it, but on the other hand, I just wanted to collect all of the cards so that I could have the full set. The mechanics were fun 90% of the time and it felt like there was an actual strategy involved with playing.

    On the same note as the Donkey Kong 64 vein, finding the early NES games on the original Animal Crossing on the Gamecube helped me sink some extra hours into that. In no way did I put in more hours on those than the actual game, but I did put my fair share of efforts into finding and collecting those so I could play some classics.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yeah, I’ve heard Triple Triad is pretty addicting. It probably kickstarted the trend of those card-based minigames in RPGs. Apparently, characters can ask to partake in a game in rather strange situations.

      I also heard that Animal Crossing did indeed have a few classic NES games imbedded in it, including Balloon Fight. It reminds me that the first time I played the original Metroid was as a bonus in Metroid Prime.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, things get a little weird when you are trying to save the Garden and you stop to play a few rounds of Triple Triad with the another S.E.E.D….

        I love when new game put entire old games into them. It’s such a resource-lite (usually) way of exposing people to games of the past which I’m very much about, haha

        Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, Triple Triad all the way. I loved that game. I’ve heard there was a side game within it, called something along the lines of ‘Final Fantasy VIII’, but I only played that game to get more cards for the main game.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The mini games and challenges at the Gold Saucer in Final Fantasy XIV are great 🙂 It’s a tribute to the one in FFVII but much bigger and in full 3D. I’ve lost hours in that place. The chocobo races are also great ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, I pretty much ignored the main game and focused on the adorable little Chao minigame. I had so much fun raising and racing those little guys! 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yeah, I remember doing that too. It helps that raising them eventually nets you emblems. I was a little disappointed when they didn’t make a return in Sonic Heroes, but that was the least of its problems.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. When I was a kid, I remember thinking it was the funniest thing when there were games inside of games. Now, I find it really interested and creative! One of my current favorite examples comes from a game that I don’t own or play. My nephew showed it to me. He is a huge fan of Call of Duty and related games (he’s like… 12? Not particularly age appropriate, but he’s having a grand time). I don’t remember if it was Black Ops or another game in the series (it might have been a different series, I didn’t bother to look it up), but one of the games has a game hidden in its title screen. If the player is motivated enough, they can maneuver around the game’s title screen as the on-screen character and access one of the computers in the room that the title screen features. Accessing this computer pulls up a game. The game in question is a unique type of video game that I wish was around more: the text adventure. I think that what delights me most about this particular example is not only its creative location, but also the fact that the game doesn’t even slightly resemble the genre of the shooter it is found in.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I hate slot machines because they require no skill or strategy. As someone who works for an online casino it amazes me to see how many people throw away cash on those things.

    The mini game I spent the most hours on was Blitzball in Final Fantasy 10. Sport management mixed with RPG mechanics is a cool mix. I’m surprised that Square never made a standalone Blitzball game. That would be more fun than some of the other FF spin-offs they have produced over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same here. I think we have Pokémon to blame/thank for me hating slot machines. Just the fact that there were so many good, exclusive prizes to be found by gambling for coins was the worst thing ever. If I were to gamble, I would prefer it to be in a game of skill.

      Yeah, I like how Blitzball mixes sports with RPG elements; that’s an idea that really hasn’t been explored enough. That’s why I really enjoyed the Game Boy Color editions of Mario Golf and Mario Tennis back in the day.

      Liked by 1 person

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