Oh, that? It can wait
The big bad bossman is in his gothic tower, cackling maniacally. Lightning crashes across the apocalyptic wasteland. Lava seeps in through the cracks of this hellscape, and winged beasts fill the night sky. All would seem lost if it weren't for the fact that our heroes have arrived at this final castle, this last bastion of evil, and they are ready to kick some ass. But wait is that an arcade next door? Sweet! I wonder if they have Battletoads?
Many video games do a great job at making you think the stakes are at their highest, but because they give you the freedom to go wherever you want, that great cataclysm will usually wait while you shirk your quest and play some minigames. These are some of the more extreme examples.
Final Fantasy VII's Gold Saucer will entice you to forget your troubles
You've been through hell to get to this point. You've witnessed the girl of your dreams' (unless you went out with Tifa. Or Barrett.) impalement first hand. You've waded through the Lifestream and come out on the other side with a serious case of Mako sickness. And just when things are looking up, a giant meteor hovers above the horizon, ready to tear the Planet a new one. So who wants to go to a theme park???
By the time you reach the final disc in Final Fantasy VII, you've unlocked the final dungeon, and the ultimate battle against Sephiroth awaits. But you're likely not quite ready yet, so while the end of the world literally hangs in the air, you're able to spend dozens of hours dinking around with Gold Saucer's minigames, or breeding chocobos to get that final summon. Weeks pass, the meteor is no closer than it was a month ago, and you start to wonder if the Planet is actually in any legitimate danger.
Saints Row IV's data clusters and races will keep you from avenging humanity
So Earth has been destroyed, and the last remnants of humanity are chillaxing on Emperor Zinyak's private space cruiser. Well, chillaxing isn't exactly accurate; more like being held prisoner in a virtual version of the city you and your friends spent time in during Saints Row The Third. Fifteen years later and we're still getting Matrix jokes
Anyway, even with the Earth 'asploded and all, time is of the essence. Zinyak's gotta pay for what he's done, especially since he continues to torment you the entire game. Still, that doesn't mean that the ultimate galactic smack-down should be rushed. Oh no, there are races to run and data clusters to find that, while boosting your virtual super powers, will in no way affect your abilities in the real world. So, it's like an actual video game, then.
Batman: Arkham City's Riddler Trophies and side-quests will keep you from saving Gotham
Converting a major section of a large city and turning it into a murder carnival for convicts will end up on the list of worst mayoral decisions ever made. Still, it provides ample opportunity for the more vigilantism-inclined to explore and get into some real trouble, even if there's the threat of mass murder looming over the entire city of Gotham.
As Batman stalks through the night, Doctor Strange pipes in over the intercom, updating the city's inhabitants of the countdown to "Protocol 10." "Five hours left," he chimes, as you're scouring every nook and cranny for balloons to pop or Riddler trophies to nab. Luckily, time seems to stand still in Gotham City, and as long as you don't pursue the main storyline Protocol 10 is no closer to happening than Batman finally taking Robin seriously.
Chrono Trigger's time travel means you know exactly when the bad stuff will happen
A quick visit to the year 2300 reveals a world ruined by the evil Lavos. People huddle in corners, sheltering themselves from the cold. Food is incredibly scarce, but revitalization machines ensure that people are able to stay alive, even if that means going hungry for another day. To prevent this horrible future from coming to pass, you and your crew of intrepid heroes need to find this Lavos character and deal with him ASAP.
The thing is, Lavos ends the world in 1999, and you're from the year 1000, so you've got a lot of time to kill before you hop in your time-jumping ship and blast off into the apocalypse. It certainly gives you a lot of time to beat up on Gato's metal joints. If you win, he'll give you 15 silver points!
Shenmue's capsule toys and arcade games will make you forget about the murder of your father
A mysterious man named Lan Di came to your home, killed your father, and stole your family's precious Dragon Mirror, all right before your eyes! It's enough to make you run out and get a part-time job. Wait, what? Well, in order to find out where Lan Di's run off to, you'll need to wander around your little slice of Japan, interrogate sailors for clues, and save up enough money for a ticket to China. But if you want to ignore your passionate quest for revenge, well, go for it. There are plenty of distractions.
Sure, there's a time limit imposed on you, but you're given nearly half a year of game-time to investigate the whereabouts of your father's murderer before the trail goes cold. So there's plenty of time to nab capsule toys by the truckload and waste hours of your life playing Space Harrier. And since Shenmue 2 came out over ten years ago, it's not like the story will ever be finished. So game on--none of this matters, anyway...
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword's Imprisoned will wait for you
A skyscraper-sized demon known as The Imprisoned has busted out of his, well, prison, and is making a beeline for the Sealed Temple in order to destroy it. Conveniently for him, that temple is a short jaunt up a hill. Link is the only one who can stop him, and he needs to rush on over and stop him before it's too late. Over and over again.
You know, or not. Whether you're carrying way too many pumpkins at once (what could one person possibly do with all these pumpkins!) or slicing bamboo stalks in half, there are plenty of sidequests to keep you busy while the world is falling apart around you. Don't worry, though; The Imprisoned will wait for you. He's an honorable beast.
Mass Effect 3's Reapers are apparently really slow at the whole murder thing
Shortly (OK, immediately) after the opening of Mass Effect 3, the galaxy-ruining Reapers show up on Earth and start doing a little landscaping with their giant lasers. Being the last hope and all, it's up to Commander Shepard to leave Earth and find a weapon capable of taking them out. If he happens to come across a nightclub, well, that's just gravy.
The thing is, the reapers never stop attacking Earth, even while Shepard is off doing sidequests. So while you're gallivanting across the galaxy, surveying moons, shooting the shit with Garrus, or trying to hook Seth Green up with a robot, the Reapers are tearing the human population a new one. No, please, go find that woman in the Citadel's heirloom necklace. I'm sure it's literally killing her to be without it.
Skyrim's world is filled with--ooh, what's that over there?
Dragons are back and they are pissed. There's a particularly nasty one known as Alduin, and you don't get a nickname like "World Eater" by filling your day with sunshine and rainbows. He forms the backbone of your quest, and it's up to you to stop him from causing the prophesied destruction of the world of man.
That is, if you can pull yourself away from crafting your own weapons. Or stealing anything that isn't nailed down. Or cooking delicious meals. Or wandering around the countryside and ducking into any hole you can find. Or assisting Skyrim's residents with millions of inane requests. Once you finish all of that, then maybe, maybe, you can finally give that Alduin what for.
Assassin's Creed 3's Revolutionary War won't start without you
According to Assassin's Creed 3, a single assassin named Connor was conveniently involved in almost every major event of the American Revolution, like the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere's ride, and the Battles of Lexington and Concord. Even more convenient is how incompetent everyone is, as they are incapable of winning a battle without Connor's direct involvement. Maybe this is why nothing happens while Connor is busy making sure his homestead has a decent innkeeper.
So sure, make Connor chase down Benjamin Franklin's invention schematics, stalk wild beasts for a hunting club, or play a rousing game of Fanorona. Lord knows that the revolution will wait for you, considering everyone's appalling ineptitude.