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A small game played through another game.

Many games simulate a part of reality and one possibility of this is to simulate other games. Another possibility for games is to have the result of other games be the primary input for what happens in the main game. Since in both these cases the inner games are smaller than the game containing them, or at least are subordinate to the outer game for the outcome of the activity, they inner games are referred to as Minigames.


Games that try to enact whole worlds in great detail, like tabletop roleplaying such as Hârnmaster and GURPS as well as lice-action roleplaying games, can easily end up in situations where games are played. Typically these are small gambling game similar or exact instances of existing games, such as Poker or Craps.

Computer games make it quite easy to contain other games in themselves. The graphical adventure game Day of the Tentacle included its prequel, Maniac Mansion, as a playable Minigame on a computer inside the game. In Fallout: New Vegas the Collectible Card Game Caravan and several traditional gambling games (e.g. Roulette and Blackjack are implemented as Minigames. The pinball game Star Trek: The Next Generation included a Breakout-like game as a hidden component.

Party games mainly consist of smaller games. Examples of this includes the Mario Party series and the whimsical WarioWare series. Single-player versions of games simulating matches and including training and other inter-match activities, e.g. Bloodbowl, are borderline cases of having Minigames.

The Tekken series have Minigames to entertain players while the main games are loading.

Using the pattern

The design of Minigames quite obviously required the creation of small games that are supposed to be able to function in a large game. This may be just one game as in the case of Day of the Tentacle, or many ranging from a few in Fallout: New Vegas to the very many in the WarioWare series. In addition, one has consider how the outcome of these Minigames translate into Trans-Game Information for use in the outer games, if the inner games should have some effect at all. Typical effect are direct Rewards or Punishments or the completion of specific goals in a Goal Hierarchies. While the unspecified nature of the gameplay required of Minigames make few other patterns create Minigames; exceptions to this are Quick Time Events and Quizzes.

Minigames can be used to create both Polyathlons and single-game Tournaments but unless there are gameplay components outside the inner games, the outer game will fail to be perceived as a separate entity. Playing Single-Player campaigns in the computer game version of Bloodbowl is an example of how this can function since the training and recruiting of individual players and other team related activities provide additional gameplay opportunities. In contrast, the WarioWare series mainly have High Score Lists and Unlocking new Levels as gameplay components outside the Minigames and may therefore be seen more as a collection of separate games. A less common use of Minigames is to let players be able to do something while a "main" game is loading; this is done in the Tekken series but is not so common generally, possibly because there is a patent based around this concept[1] (the site GiantBomb[2] has a page describing such games and other interactive possibilities during loading screens).

Their nature as Minigames may make some specific design goals more easy to achieve. One of these is to enforce Limited Gameplay Time to ensure that the main game doesn't take too long time or that the Minigames don't take too much proportionally of the time spend on complete game sessions.

Diegetic Aspects

The inclusion of Minigames allows other types of gameplay and themes without breaking Thematic Consistency. That is, as long as the themes of the Minigames match the main game or explicitly having Minigames fits Thematic Consistent.

Interface Aspects

Mimetic Interfaces may be more appropriate for collection of Minigames that many other types of games since this can both provide Varied Gameplay and avoid being too repetitious.


Depending on if the Minigames transmit any Trans-Game Information they either make them have Extra-Game Consequences and the main game be a Coupled Game or a Meta Game of sorts, or simply be Optional Goals motivating Extra-Game Actions. Since the gameplay in the Minigames can differ from the main game, and from each other when many exist, they can offer Varied Gameplay. While nothing forces Minigames to be short (as the example of Day of the Tentacle included its prequel shows), they do tend to be Quick Games to not distract too much from the main game. When used repeatedly, they create Repetitive Gameplay and may do so also by players electing to play the same Minigames over and over again if players can choose to do so.

Games consisting primarily of Minigames help create Minimalized Social Weight in that gameplay is chunked into small units that provide many possibilities to interrupt gameplay for social interaction. When Minigames have not been clearly advertised as part of the gameplay, e.g. when they are contained with Installations or require Game World Exploration to find, they are examples of Easter Eggs. The end of Minigames can make natural points for players switching place in games with Hotseating.

Save Scumming is encouraged by games that provide Mini Games in which players can perform Save-Load Cycles, e.g. Fallout 3 or Oblivion.


Can Instantiate

Coupled Games, Extra-Game Actions, Goal Hierarchies, Minimalized Social Weight, Optional Goals, Polyathlons, Punishments, Quick Games, Repetitive Gameplay, Rewards, Tournaments, Varied Gameplay

with Game World Exploration or Installations

Easter Eggs

with Trans-Game Information

Extra-Game Consequences, Meta Games

with Save-Load Cycles

Save Scumming

Can Modulate

Hotseating, Thematic Consistency

Can Be Instantiated By

Quizzes, Quick Time Events

Can Be Modulated By

Mimetic Interfaces, Trans-Game Information

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Thematic Consistency


An updated version of the pattern Games within Games that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design[3].


  1. Information about US patent 5,718,632.
  2. Page on the GiantBomb web site describing the Interactive Loading Screen concept.
  3. Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.