Big, meaningful game narratives are all well and good, but sometimes you just want to slay 20 rats for a sad old crone or collect 179 relics when you should be dealing with international terrorists. Side quests are the delicious garnish on the biggest and best games, and our team has gone mad over plenty of them.
This is the latest in a series of big questions we'll be interrogating our writers with, so share your answers and suggestions for topics with us on Twitter.
Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and Left 4 Dead 2's Gnome Chompski
Let me introduce you to Gnome Chompski. Not technically a side quest but more a duo of epic missions to help a little garden gnome achieve his dreams. And to earn yourself two of the most memorable achievements of all time. Gnome Chompski is not your average garden gnome. He is a survivor of a science experiment gone wrong and a zombie apocalypse. But, understandably, he wants out. He wants out of this goddamn place and he needs your help.
First, in Half-Life 2: Episode 2 he wants you to carry him throughout the length of the game, from the first area all the way to the little rocket right at the end. All the way through the game. Yes, all of it, carrying him with your hands or the grav gun, and making sure his little chipped hat-wearing noggin makes it despite the aliens and the head crabs.
And if you manage to survive that journey, then you find his silly grinning face again in Left 4 Dead 2's Dark Carnival campaign. You pick him up by scoring over 750 points in the shooting gallery minigame at The Fairgrounds, and then physically carrying him all the way through the level to the rescue vehicle in the Concert. You can use him as a weapon, and drop him from time to time, but as long as you end up carrying him over the line he'll make it to the chopper.
This little guy has serious ambitions and needs you to travel. Sam Loveridge
Face McShooty - Borderlands 2
While this "side quest" can be completed in the time it takes to simply pull the trigger on your weapon, it's still etched into my memories purely for the random, ridiculousness of its barmy conceit. In Borderlands 2, you'll come across a Psycho called Face McShooty. He pleads with you, endlessly, to shoot him in the face ("KNOCK KNOCK WHO'S THERE SHOOT ME IN THE FACE! END OF JOKE!", "BULLETS! FACE! NOT ASKING MUCH!"). You do so. End of quest. Achievement, appropriately entitled "Well That Was Easy", unlocked. Yes, I'm juvenile, and yes, it probably appealed to my teenage sense of humor at the time, but sometimes the lowest hanging fruit really is there to be picked at. Alex Avard
Be My Baby – Yakuza Kiwami 2
The Yakuza series has always prided itself on effortlessly combining the melodramatic main story with an absurd array of side quests and minigames. That’s never been more apparent than in Kiwami 2’s Be My Baby, a mission that involves Kiryu laying the smackdown on a group of Yakuza thugs causing trouble. Just a normal day in Kamurocho for the Dragon of Dojima, right? Wrong. It gets weird. Very, very weird.
The head of the Yakuza clan thanks you for sending his lackeys on a one-way trip to the dentist by inviting you on a night out. But there’s no karaoke or throwing shapes here, no sir. Instead, everyone’s dressed in nappies and being treated like babies. Then you have to fight them. Whatever image your mind is conjuring up, it’s 1000x weirder in-game – but fits Yakuza to a tee. Just don’t let anyone walk in on you while you’re playing it. No explanation will save you. Bradley Russell
The collection of side objectives throughout Dishonored
I'll cheat a little bit here. I love all the side quests from the likes of The Witcher III, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Oblivion and Skyrim, and Mass Effect et al, but there's something about the smaller side content in Dunwall and Karnaca that absolutely draws me in. Some of these are as small as finding something like a stash or safe off the beaten track, but some are chunky, mission-changing objectives like Granny Rag's Gentlemen Callers or gear-revealing tasks like retrieving the Roseburrow Prototype. What they all have in common, however, is the provision of extra lore and world-revealing details. Because of that, I always feel compelled to do them, whatever their size or importance. Give me any excuse to infiltrate another house, retrieve some more information about the world, soak up some more exposition, character background, or stumble across a tome of garden design instructions or tales from days of yore, and I'm there for it. It is, of course, a testament to the brilliant worldbuilding that Arkane do, and I found a similar thing with Prey; with so much to discover and learn about the environments and people, why would you ever pass up on these detours? Rob Dwiar
The damn feathers in Assassin's Creed 2
I once thought I was too impatient and rash to be completionist. Then I found a feather in Assassin's Creed 2 my obsession with clearing a map of objectives, collectibles, and side quests began. I sail to every question mark north of Skellige in The Witcher 3 because of the damn feathers in AC2, which were no easy feat. There's no map to help you find all 100 feathers spread out across the game, and back in 2009 there weren't really any fan made guides at my disposal, so it was literally just hours of scrambling over rooftops and tip-toeing to the edge of beams in my quest to find all of them. You don't even get that great of a prize for collecting all 100, it was mainly about bragging rights and the hard-to-pinpoint sense of calm that settles in once you realize you've completed something major. AC2 was the first game to tap into my OCD (usually relegated for disinfecting surfaces in real life) when it comes to completionism, and I haven't looked back since - except to try and find a collectible I just walked past. Alyssa Mercante
Tenpenny Tower - Fallout 3
Whenever someone mentions sidequests, I always think back to Tenpenny Tower in Fallout 3. Damn, what a bastard. After stumbling upon it in the wasteland, you'll discover stuck-up one-percenters lording it over ghouls from within their (almost literal) ivory tower. All the ghouls want is shelter, but those inside can't see past their own xenophobia. Naturally, you'll get involved and convince the inhabitants to let their neighbors in - or else. And you'll pat yourself on the back for a job well done. But then when you return, you'll discover that the original owners of Tenpenny Tower are gone… with a trail of blood leading to the basement and their stacked, looted corpses. The ghouls staged a coup the moment you wandered off, and those murders are on your hands as a result. Oh, the guilt. Benjamin Abbott
The Broken Sewing Machine - Resonance of Fate
Side quests often ask players to do absurdly dangerous things in exchange for comparatively minor rewards, especially in JRPGs, and The Broken Sewing Machine is the ultimate example of that. It's not the most original or well-written side quest I've ever completed, but it's been about eight years since I played Resonance of Fate and yet I still remember this side quest perfectly, so it's easily my pick for most memorable. It's just that absurd.
As you may have deduced, the quest giver has a broken sewing machine. She needs a specific part to fix it and asks you to secure one. How do you get this part, you ask? By destroying a specific tank - a fully-loaded, cannon-toting, belt-driving-ass piece of heavy artillery - found in the middle of absolutely bloody nowhere. That's the only way to get this apparently critical sewing machine component. How the hell do these people build their sewing machines in the first place? Austin Wood
Photo ops - Spider-Man PS4
While they might not be a traditional side-quest, I spent an ungodly amount of time hunting down the secret photo ops in Spider-Man PS4. Not only was it a fantastic way to hint at the game's many (many) Easter eggs, it also gave me an excuse to spend even more time swinging around Insomniac's vibrant version of NYC. Whether it was taking a snap of Lockjaw or heading to the Sanctum Sanctorum on Bleecker Street, these little moments added character to Spidey's world, rather than making it feel like another virtual Manhattan. Obviously, my second favorite side-quest ever was chasing pigeons in this game... Ben Tyrer
Oblivion - the one that got a bit Wicker Man
I loved Oblivion because you could never tell where a conversation would lead or what a mission might turn into. One chat I had with a shopkeeper about her daughter being late turned into an incredible evening of adventuring and hitting angry people with swords. While checking out the village she was last seen at, I was told by everyone I asked that no one had seen her. Which wouldn’t have been an issue if I hadn’t found her horse parked in a bush. More shifty denials later I decided to break into the house of the most suspicious person once everyone had gone to bed, where I found a trap door. Expecting some sort of kidnap dungeon I ventured down only to find a massive underground temple for the town’s secret cult where the missing girl was being held ready for a sacrifice. It was an afternoon of investigating I wasn’t expecting when I chatted to the lady selling me health potions. Anyway, long story short, I killed everyone and set the girl free. Leon Hurley
Disciple of the New Order - Yakuza Zero
Bradley already pointed out a great Yakuza moment, but let me wind the clock even further back to December 1988. Goro Majima is killing time on the streets of Osaka when a desperate mother stops him in the street: her college-aged daughter has gone missing, and she has nowhere else to turn. Commence an extended sequence of young Majima - who hasn't fully unlocked his wild streak yet, but is still the furthest thing from a follower - infiltrating a cult. You can even figure out how good of a cult initiate you'd make, based on how well you remember all the chants and gestures as you try to choose the right responses. It's 50 percent hilarious and 50 percent creepy, and 100 percent satisfying when you finally get to punch the skeevy cult leader's lights out. Connor Sheridan
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