Games within Games

Having sub-games within a video game is not a new concept. Some developers, not being content with just putting Easter eggs and references in their games, will include opportunities to play entire sections of older titles within a new release. Some mini-games will be included to give the player something else to do, whilst others were created from the genius of a game’s player base making use of its modding tools. How good these games are can vary, but these are some of the best. Warning – Spoilers ahead.


5 –  The Game Corner – Various Pokemon titles

The Game Corner is something many gamers born in the early nineties will remember fondly. The Game Corner varied somewhat based on which title you were playing, giving a variety of game options and prizes. Whilst using the slot machines was fun, my fondest memories were of playing Voltorb flip (a minesweeper-like game that was good for logically minded players) to get together enough coins to grab an early game Dratini.

4 – Trouble in Terrorist Town – Garry’s Mod

For those of you who still don’t know, Garry’s mod is a sandbox that uses Half Life 2’s Source engine to allow players to create numerous game modes and personal projects. One of the most popular game modes available is Trouble in Terrorist Town, which is popular among a number of Youtubers. At the start of each round, a small number of the players are assigned as traitors, whilst the rest are innocents. The traitors must eliminate all of the innocent players before they themselves are discovered and wiped out. Trust, betrayal, paranoia and gaudy player models are the key aspects of this game. Whilst rounds can sometimes be ruined by players who won’t follow the rules, or having to wait a number of rounds before being chosen as a traitor, the skill-based nature of this game really makes it fun, and slowly eliminating each of the innocent players without breaking your cover is immensely satisfying.


3 – Gwent – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Gwent is impressive for a number of reasons. Firstly, the developers included a fully fledged card game into a new title. Secondly, they managed to do this in a game already brimming with content and side missions. Thirdly, they also managed to include a number of quests that involved getting rare Gwent cards from in-game characters. Players spent many an hour having Geralt playing this card game within the Witcher universe, and Gwent was popular enough to become it’s own spin-off game.

2 – Crash Bandicoot: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

Another one that appealed to the nostalgia of the slightly older generation of gamers. In contrast to the high octane action of the majority of the Uncharted finale, there is a scene in which you can explore Nate and Elena’s house, looking through old pictures and journals of Nate’s previous adventures. In a long cut-scene where Nate talks to Elena over dinner, he makes a bet to see who should do the dishes, claiming he can beat her high score on her “TV game thing”. The camera cuts to a close up shot of a PS1, and the shot slowly pans out to reveal the TV displaying the original Crash Bandicoot game. Naughty Dog including a section to play one of their old titles would have been a good Easter egg, but weaving it into the dialogue of two main characters is what made this moment so special. It was also nice to see the normally cocky Nathan Drake have a slightly ‘old man’ moment, requiring Elena to show him the controls, and his disparaging remarks about the game’s logic, not understanding what a bandicoot is, why it was wearing shoes, and why it wanted to smash crates.


1 – DOTA – Warcraft 3

It could hardly be anything else. Whilst DOTA drew its inspiration from Starcraft’s Eon of Strife map, DOTA itself was spawned from Warcraft 3’s custom editor. Most games within games are merely a fun distraction or a reference to an older title, a few become games in their own right, such as the aforementioned Gwent, but nothing on the scale of DOTA. What started as a humble mod for Blizzard’s strategy game inspired MOBA titles such as League of Legends, and its standalone sequel DOTA 2 is still one of the most played games on Steam. The format is so popular that both DOTA 2 and League of Legends remain some of the most watched eSports titles on the market, with both games packing out stadiums across the world, and its teams competing for prize pools in the millions.