This is a guest post by Mark McCann, a longtime video game fanatic and newcomer to the writing scene. And in finding a common link between those two passions, he's probably spent way too much time analyzing mini-games. But maybe not.
Way back in 2009, SuperPhillip Central wrote about how mini-games are, essentially, "a little bit of awesome," because let's be real: they are. I mean, who doesn't love firing up a new title only to find that it's deeper than you could have imagined because of the inclusion of a slew (or at least a couple) mini-games.
Whether they're geared toward making your character stronger or developing a new skill/talent, these games-within-a-game can often make the title better by virtue of offering a broader experience. And every so often, these mini-games intersect with the gambling world to add even more excitement and variety. With that in mind, I decided to pick this specific part of my brain again to come up with five instances wherein gambling plays a significant role in my favorite titles.
Pokemon: Red Blue & Yellow
Role-playing games like Pokemon (and another you'll read about below) almost inherently feel tied to gambling. Sure there's a level of skill involved (much like poker), but chance plays a sizable role, too. What if your enemy strikes first? What if your Pokemon misses an attack? You can't really plan for all that. The same goes for throwing down at the Celadon slots in the Red, Blue and Yellow editions of the game. Basically, you can take the coins you earn from the machines and use them to teach your Pokemon new tricks—or even buy new Pokemon altogether. How more kids didn't get hooked on gambling from this game alone leaves me puzzled.
Final Fantasy Series
As was noted in the Pokemon portion, gambling and RPGs just make sense together. And in two of the Final Fantasy installments (VIII and IX), you had the chance to play card games (Triple Triad and Tetra Master, respectively) that closely resembled gambling counterparts. As mentioned on Pixelitis, Triple Triad felt like the more complete and "real" mini-game of the two. Why? Because it allowed you to actually use the cards beyond merely collecting them for display purposes. In this case, you could mod the cards for use in a battle—pretty rad.
I know what you may be thinking: a gambling mini-game inside of a game that already revolves around gambling? Yes indeed. Just like all the other titles on this list, Betfair's poker site provides the chance to go beyond what you're already there for. In other words, they have mini-games available, most of which occur as part of the winner boost weekends. If you take part in those, you essentially get to play your favorite mini-game in between matches—the Incredible Hulk, perhaps?—as an extra way to bring in some dough.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
While the world waits patiently for Grand Theft Auto V to feature actual gambling, we can all look back to San Andreas to get our fix in the mini-game world. As fans of the title know full well, you have the ability to increase the gambling skills of Carl Johnson simply by going to the local casino and spending as much money as humanly possible. The skills increase on a specific $100/added skill point scale. So if you want to hit the level of the white whale, just dish out $1 million and you're there. Or you could just save your funds and get into a slew of the other mini-games available, as noted by GTA.cz.
Several Sonic The Hedgehog Games
As noted by Wikia—and any SEGA fan—the Sonic franchise was brimming with casino-style mini-games. Where they differed from the above examples, though, was how they were presented. It's not as if you were in a free-roaming world or something and presented with the option to gamble. Instead, you could press your luck by taking the secret jumps in Sonic Drift 2 or taking advantage of the pinball-meets-slot machine aspects of the Casino Zone in Sonic The Hedgehog 2. I was particularly fond of the latter, if only because the music was so fantastic and it was an easy way to get extra rings.