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Top 5 “Side Modes” Just as Compelling as the Main Game

That title might be a little confusing, so let me elaborate.

A lot of games have side activities to distract from the grind of their main objective, and some of these activities are time consuming. Collect all the cards, win as much money as you can—you get the idea. The best side activities offer the ability to put progress back into your main game. You might have spent 10 hours in Triple Triad, but you got a fair few items out of the exchange.

We’re going to go over five of the best extra objectives—side activities so good that it might be worth buying the game just to play them.

#5—Precinct Assault, Future Cop L.A.P.D.

While not a side activity in and of itself, you might pass up Precinct Assault entirely on the main menu of Future Cop. A mode that’s comparable to older strategy games like Herzog Zwei, you control your mech around a series of preset arenas, taking control of turrets, bases, and weapon pickups in order to guide your tank minions into the enemy base.

The mode doesn’t sound great on paper, but when you’re fighting the computer opponent, which gets progressively harder every time you beat it, or you take on a friend in head-to-head, the game mode can absolutely swallow away time faster than the main campaign. While it doesn’t give you any benefits for the main campaign, you won’t feel worse off for it–you’ll definitely be more used to the control scheme by the time you’re done.

Also, the tutorial video is hilarious in that 90s way that’s impossible to not appreciate.

#4—Hacking the Nebuchadnezzar, Enter The Matrix

Enter the Matrix is a game with very mixed opinions, but the one thing everyone can agree on is that the hacking minigame is awesome. Accessed on the main menu, it puts you with an onscreen keyboard that you type into like a terminal, and you work your way through a linear series of hacking puzzles, leading up to short but cool conversations with Neo, Trinity, Morpheus, and Sparks.

Outside of just general fanservice though, the hacking actually helps you out in game. You put cheats in here, certain levels can have weaponry dropped into them, there’s an unlockable training level and multiplayer mode. You can even get more moves for the sword, and plenty of out-of-game extras, like concept art. It’s surprisingly fleshed out, with some stuff only unlocked if you beat the main game.

It’s a fun impression of ‘hacking the Matrix’ in its own minor way.

#3—Pick a Profession, Yakuza 5

Honestly, putting any Yakuza game on this list is almost cheating. The amount of side activities the series has are beyond comparison in most games.

Yakuza 5, however, takes it to a whole different level. Four characters get thoroughly different side modes that take hours to accomplish on their own, with massive rewards for their parts of the story.

Whether you want to drive a taxi properly or Initial D style, go hunting in the mountains, regain your lost skill as a batter in baseball, or become Japan’s best idol, Yakuza 5 has a thoroughly in depth side game for you that’ll take hours of your time to properly finish. Thankfully, the rewards you get from these are usually great for story progress, so it definitely isn’t a waste of time.

#2—Triple Triad, Final Fantasy VIII / Gwent, The Witcher 3

It would be madness if either of these two card games missed a slot on this list, so they get to share one.

While they don’t play the same way, both Triple Triad and Gwent are both numbers games, both games let you earn cards via things like side quests and finding them in the world, and both are 100% happy to suck away hours of your time.

Final Fantasy lets you turn cards you earn into items, and Gwent definitely helps to fatten the wallet a bit. Both games have proven themselves as more than just side quests as well, with Triple Triad being recreated in FFXIV, and Gwent getting its own standalone game.

It makes you wish more developers tried including more card games in their RPGs from time to time…

#1—Chao Garden, Sonic Adventure 2/Sonic Adventure 2: Battle

Chao Garden is a pet raising simulator and literally the only reason I bought Sonic Adventure 2 more than once.

You recover energy cores from enemies in the main game and you also find boxes of animals, the first of which unlocks your garden. You get two eggs to start, they hatch as you spend time in the garden, and you’re welcome to come back whenever you want. But time only passes when you’re around.

It might sound simple on the surface, but the amount of depth is bonkers.

Chao are adorable—they take a while to learn to walk, then they can swim or fly. They can evolve. They can earn toys to play with in the races and karate fights, and learn lessons in Chao Kindergarten. You can buy plenty of things like cool fruit to improve their abilities, and things like masks for them to wear. They can interact, and even mate, all the Chao. The sheer amount of content is enough to keep most players around well after the main game has lost its luster, and the Steam reviews prove it—over half of them are there for the Chao Garden. If that’s not the #1 candidate, I don’t know what is.

So that was a look at five side modes that are so good they could outrank the games they’re in, but surely there’s more out there that are worth the time. Leave examples of your favorite bonus modes, side distractions and extra fun little games in the comments.

Thanks for reading, we hope you enjoyed the article! If you’d like to see some related content, and support Exclusively Games in the process, click on our Amazon Affiliate links listed below to find related products. – EG Staff

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  1. I haven’t really played Witcher 3, but a friend of mine let me play Gwent for hours to earn him money. It’s a really great card game.

  2. There was this Fairy Village system in Breath of Fire 4. Basically you help the fairies rebuild their village, help them hunt when you randomly encounter them in your travels. In turn the give you access to a convenient shop on their village which you can access trough your camp if I remember correctly. And they even give you access to a few combat skills. Its not time consuming or a hassle. I genuinely think that its a good system rather than just a filler side activity.

  3. Would like to add;

    Kingdom Hearts 2
    -Gummi Ship mini game

    Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
    -The puzzle minigame (featuring Geno from Mario RPG)

    MegaTraveller: The Zhodani Conspiracy
    -The character generator

    Pheonix Wright: Ace Attourney
    -The forensic investigation

    Final Fantasy 7
    -The Submarine Minigame

  4. Also…

    Act Raiser
    -The town creation portion

    Wizball
    -The Bonus Stage

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