by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Ah yes, Mini-Games. There are some fine examples of them done well – Most of the Final Fantasy Card Games, GWENT from Witcher 3 (which became its own game), Fishing in Legend of Zelda games, Lockpicking in various Bethesda games. There are some fantastic ones that give you a bit of a break from the game, sometimes earn enjoyable rewards, and add a little something special to the game they are in. But there are some that are … well, let’s say they are less than good. The first RPG mini-game that I can think of, was actually hidden. Final Fantasy 1’s sliding puzzle, and while it wasn’t “bad”, I hate sliding puzzles, and the reward for doing it did not feel all that special at the time. The GBA/etc versions had much better rewards like Megalixirs, but those didn’t even exist yet in the NES days, so I can’t really be mad about that.
However, there is way, way more than five to list here, so it’s going to be several different lists as I come to them. Some of these honorable mentions might appear again in future lists. A fine example is the entire time in Atlantica in Kingdom Hearts 2. Now, The Little Mermaid was an excellent Disney film. So why was the entire area such garbage in Kingdom Hearts 2? It’s a sub-par, third-rate Dance Dance Revolution event and so much was lost in this. It was a waste of time, instead of something worth doing. I guess they ran out of time? Only explanation I can think of. Jumping Rope in Final Fantasy IX! Final Fantasy IX was a tribute in its own way, to the original Final Fantasy. I didn’t want to populate this list with all FF games (but I quite easily could). Jump. Rope. Can. Go. To. Hell. It is the worst thing I could possibly conceive and the worst mini-game of that entire year I can wager safely. The only redeeming feature it has is that I don’t think you needed to do it for anything in the main game. So for now, it gets a pass. These are in no particular order. Maybe after I’ve done a few lists, I’ll order them. These are all garbage in their own special way:
Blitzball – Final Fantasy X: You know what I want in my epic single-play RPGs? A sportsball experience. That’s what I want. Now, I’m glad it exists, because it fleshes out Jecht and Tidus as being more than just bland nobodies that got thrust into something that did not concern them. The game mostly works on auto-pilot, but “works” is a bit excessive. It won’t give you a game over if you lose, but it is key to unlocking Wakka’s maximum potential. In order to get his ultimate limit break/weapon, you have to play and play and play, and there’s no way to tell that I’m aware of, how many matches it will take to get them. Then there’s the whole “having to recruit good players” because the Besaid Aurochs do in fact, suck. Well, they’re solid when tons of work has been invested into them. To hell with Blitzball.
Speechcraft – The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion: Oblivion tried to add a realistic dialogue system, which would be abandoned in Skyrim (which was probably for the best). This mini-game had a variety of options (Joke, Boast, Admire, et cetera) to cycle through, and the NPCs would give a type of response. The key would be to watch their facial expressions and learn about the NPC, and act accordingly. That would be great, if it worked, and weren’t by its own nature tedious, time-consuming, and dreadful. I can’t think of a more frustrating, confusing part of Oblivion. Required to learn the likes and dislikes of an NPC to make talking to them easier? Yeah, that’s a hard pass, especially when there are ways around it (Persuade, Theft, et cetera).
Hunting – Breath of Fire 2: Oh, hunting. Breath of Fire 2 had a fishing mini-game (which required bait and was honestly not too bad. Plus it hid a powerful merchant underwater) and then there was hunting. Hunting was a solid way to get food, but you only have a few characters that can actually hunt. You have Bow, who shoots the slowest stone in the history of the universe, Kat, who has to be up close to them (and they always run away as soon as you get close), and Bleu/Deis. She … just makes charcoal. She kills everything on the screen and blackens it into charcoal. Charcoal has its uses, but the hunting mini-game feels absolutely useless.
Winnie the Pooh – Kingdom Hearts 1: 100-Acre Wood in Kingdom Hearts doesn’t even have fighting in it. Which I suppose makes sense, it’s Winnie the Pooh! You can’t really do anything here, until you get the damaged book, and find the missing pages for it. They’re in very frustrating places (Monstro, Agrabah, Atlantica, etc), and completing it unlocks … a world full of mini-games. A world just for mini-games. So, this is what Hell is like, huh. Colton mentioned that they were fixed in KH2 to be less insane, but on Proud Mode in KH1, that they were total bullshit. Plucking carrots before Tigger could bounce across them, keep bees away from Pooh so he can get some Hunny, pushing Winnie the Pooh on a swing . . . What’s the point here?! I get having some time away from the main story, but this is just silly. It fits Winnie the Pooh, sure. But I more or less skipped as much of this as possible.
FF7 – FF7: Yes, every single mini-game in Final Fantasy 7. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. They were either 1. Not adequately explained or 2. Marred by terrible, unresponsive controls. Worst case, both at the same time. Snowboarding, the Submarine Chase, Slap-Fighting, Dodging the Slap, Fort Condor, Dolphin Jump, Squats. These are all annoying, but there’s one that stands above the rest. Chocobo Breeding. Even if you have the pre-requisite grade/ranked Chocobos, the right colors, from the right areas, you still aren’t guaranteed a Blue, Black, Green or Gold Chocobo. I’ve never successfully bred a Gold Chocobo, and I’ve been playing since I was in High School, when the game first came out. I’ve acquired one, thanks to beating the WEAPONs, but never, not even in my dreams, did I breed a Gold Chocobo. I can’t think of a single mini-game in FF7 that was worth doing. And there were so many of them.
What about you? What deserves to be on this list? What’s the worst to you?