It’s been six- no, seven years since Inception came out and gave us all a convenient term for things within things. Well, to be fair, there was already the term “recursion” but xyz-ception just rolls off the tongue easier. In gaming, the concept has been around for quite a while, even given the relatively short history of videogames. Games within games within games, there’s just something delightful about videogames that know they’re videogames. I’m sure we could all name classic minigames, like Chocobo Racing in Final Fantasy VII, or Bombchu Bowling in Ocarina of Time. What about some more recent examples however?
Here are 10 examples of games within games within games from the past 5 years. In the spirit of specificity, we’ve tried to limit it to games that weren’t just minigames. Most of the ones listed are entirely self-contained games that just happen to only be playable within another video game!
Mass Effect 3 (2012)
This one just barely counts, given its 2012 release date and the fact that it only comes in the DLC, but since it’s an entire arcade in the Citadel, it had to be on the list. Located in the Silversun Strip, the Castle Arcade lets Shepard take a break from saving the world to hang out with teammates and win prizes. While Shepard is limited only to the Shattered Eezo, Claw Game, and Relay Defense consoles, it’s still pretty impressive.
Grand Theft Auto V (2013)
Okay, another one that just barely makes the 5 year cutoff mark, but we couldn’t really leave it out. The GTA series is pretty known for its minigames, like golf or basketball or bowling. Grand Theft Auto V carries on that grand tradition by letting you do most of these things and more. A notable addition is that of yoga. Yep, yoga. Kind of at odds with the rest of the drug-dealing and racing and robbery you can do. Perhaps it’s meant to help you relax after a long hard day of committing crime?
Watch Dogs (2014)
Why the first Watch Dogs and not its sequel? Four letters, my friend. NVZN. Also, Watch Dogs 2 was pretty limited in the minigames area, with only racing games making the cut. Not that that’s a bad thing, because it did lead to a more streamlined experience. Still, if you didn’t find blasting aliens in Chicago fun, I’m not sure we can be friends.
Fallout 4 (2015)
Other than being a map, flashlight, radio, and more, your Pip-Boy 3000 Mark IV can also be used for videogames. One of these things is not like the others, perhaps, but let’s be honest. Videogames are totally crucial for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Absolutely. Maybe more important than food, even. The games are appropriately retro to match the setting, and can be found as tapes across the game. That is, Fallout 4. It kinda gets confusing when you start talking about games within games, eh?
Stardew Valley (2016)
When you’re not busy making the farm of your dreams, or woooing the villager of your dreams, or killing the monsters of your….nightmares, you can head over to the Stardrop Saloon to kill some time. There are two arcade games there which let you do the whole game within a game experience. Defeating Journey of the Prairie King even lets you put an arcade machine in your house! If only that worked in real life….
Final Fantasy XV (2016)
When you’re not doing important world-saving stuff like fishing, driving, cooking and so on, you can head on over to your local Crow’s Nest to relax. It looks kind of like pinball, and plays kind of like pinball, but it’s not pinball. It’s Justice Monsters Five!!!!! Where you, once again, have to save the world. I’m sensing a theme here, possibly.
Day of the Tentacle Remastered (2016)
Okay, it’s a remaster of a game that was released in 1993, but since it was re-released in 2016, it makes the list. The remaster is a faithful restoration of the original game to modern graphics, down to the game within game of Maniac Mansion found within the original. The cool thing about Maniac Mansion is that it is itself a video game that was the prequel to the original Day of the Tentacle. So when you play Maniac Mansion in the 2016 version, you’re essentially playing a game within a game that’s a remastered edition of a game, which featured its prequel game within that game.
….Yeah, okay, that’s confusing.
Yakuza 0 (2017)
Technically, the game was released in 2015 in Japan, but only found its worldwide release this year. As with Mass Effect 3 from earlier, there’s a whole arcade within the game. And you can play the machines there as well! I’m not going to make a yakuza joke because I have a pretty decent sense of self-preservation, but the picture should speak for itself.
Night in the Woods (2017)
There are many things about Night in the Woods’ main character, Mae, that are very relatable. She’s a college dropout, doesn’t want to grow up, and can’t handle her liquor. Quality relatable content. Another thing that makes her relatable? The number of hours you can make her spend in Demon Tower, the game on her laptop. Sure, it’s not like it actually takes up the (very little) time that Mae has in a day, and you’re the one playing it, not her, but still.
Pokemon Sun & Moon (2016)
Last, and possibly not even technically allowed to be on the list, we’ve got Pokemon Sun & Moon. There’s a reason why it’s last and out of chronological order. The game itself does feature some minigames, like raising the affection level of your pokemon or tossing pokemon back into the sea. The real minigame, however, is the Pokemon Sun & Moon minigame….on the official website. Sure, it doesn’t really count as a game within a game anymore, because it’s on the website, but it’s in the same spirit. That counts, right?
Source for images: respective game wikis, in-game screenshots
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