Early video games were sold on cassettes, floppy discs, and cartridges. If you used a ZX Spectrum or BBC Micro in the 1980s, you’ll be familiar with the painfully slow process of loading a tape into the reader and waiting for it to play all the way through for the game’s data to be loaded onto your machine before you could begin playing.
These media were pretty small, a standard 3.5-inch floppy disc could store just 1.44 MB, while the original NES game cartridges could hold just 128 KB of data. The SNES, which was released in November 1990, had game cartridges that could hold up to 6 MB.
Faced with these restrictions, game developers had to be very selective about what they included in their releases. That was until Sony released the PlayStation, a console that used CDs for its media, a format that could store 700 MB, 116 times more than a SNES cartridge, 486 times more than a floppy, and 5,600 times more than a NES cartridge.
With so much extra capacity, developers could experiment with extra features that were superfluous to the main story but fun to play, and thus, the minigame was born.
From the PlayStation onwards, minigames have been a common part of many video games, some have better than others, though some were so fun they eventually spawned into games of their own.
Casino Games – Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was a game that pushed the PlayStation 2 to its limits. The map was huge, incorporating three cities, a desert, and a countryside area to give you plenty of variety in your gameplay.
That wasn’t the only way Rockstar managed to keep you playing San Andreas for hours, the company also packed it full of minigames, many of which were so fun they could be played for hours. Notable ones included basketball, the Go Go Space Monkey video game, pool, the lowrider challenge, and horse race betting.
When players made it to Las Venturas (the GTA equivalent of Las Vegas), players could also enter several of the big casinos and enjoy table games, video poker, and Wheel of Fortune. These casino minigames, in particular, were a huge hit with players and fans regularly requested that Rockstar include them in future releases. This finally happened with GTA V after the Diamond Resort and Casino update in 2019.
It perhaps shouldn’t be too surprising that the casino minigames were so popular, after all, casino games are incredibly popular in real life too. You only have to look at the long list of casinos that offer sign up bonuses to UK customers to see how much demand there is for them.
Survival – Driver
Driver was a 3D driving game released for the PlayStation in 1999. It saw you play as an undercover cop called Tanner who posed as a wheelman for hire in cities across the US. The main game, known as “Undercover” involved a series of driving missions that got progressively harder over time. But Driver also included a series of minigames, including a free-roam mode known as “Take a Ride”, a time trial challenge, and one where you had to escape the police.
However, the craziest and most fun was “Survival” where you’d find yourself being chased by a progressively increasing number of police cars who have no sense of self-preservation and just aggressively ram your car.
Your challenge was to see how long you could survive, though that was usually measured in mere seconds as it was insanely difficult to escape the deranged cars on your tail.
Chicken Kicking – Fable: The Lost Chapters
Of course, we’d never condone re-enacting this in real life, but in a video game, no chickens are harmed so it’s ok.
In Fable: The Lost Chapters and Fable Anniversary, chickens are non-hostile NPCs that can be found in many areas all over the game. They’ve become a popular symbol of the series especially since it is possible to kick them as you walk by.
One of the minigames is also chicken-based. In Oakvale, you can enter a “chicken kicking competition” in which you must kick five chickens and try to get them to land on the highest areas of a grid. Depending on your score, you can earn one of three different rewards.
It’s a totally random minigame, but that’s what makes it so fun.
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