Video games are many things. They’re engrossing, sure. They’re also known for transporting us to completely new worlds, far from our own nine-to-five reality. But above all, they are a means to lose ourselves for hours, and sometimes days at a time. Through compelling tales and fascinating characters, we’re able to follow the yellow brick road right through to Oz and never look back. And sometimes, although not always, we find ourselves distracted and off-track, waltzing through a spiral road filled with even more engaging activities. And those roads, right there, are the kind of detours we love taking.
Narrative aside, video games have usually been pretty consistent with filling their worlds with quality side quests and activities. It’s a way for the developer to squeeze more blood from the same vein and ultimately tap into a player’s head to keep them slaving over the pad for weeks on end. And nine times out of ten, it works like a charm. But out of all the detours we’ve taken over the years, these five were definitely the ones that stole the light from the actual tale and kept us locked to the beaten path.
5. Tombs (Tomb Raider)
Take any recent Tomb Raider game you like. Chances are, there’ll be at least a dozen ancient crypts to unearth and explore. Of course, it only makes sense, you know — being Tomb Raider and that. But with that said, many earlier games that launched under the critically-acclaimed series barely had so much as a spare room to discover. Unless, of course, you’d class locking your butler in the cold room as a hidden location. But other than that, Lara’s earliest expeditions lacked a great deal of mystery, which Square Enix luckily patched up in later years.
While the new Tomb Raider reboots all share some pretty fascinating stories and environments, there are still plenty of additional places merely a stone throw away, providing you dig deep enough, of course. And that’s where most of the fun tends to idle, deep in the tombs that dot around the chain of islands you traverse. Filled with secrets, lore and treasure, each one opens up an exciting new challenge, and should you choose to accept them, then the rewards that follow suit are often well worth the few spare minutes.
4. Kingdom Building (Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom)
Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom was possibly one of the best JRPGs to come out of 2018. And while you could quite easily go on a rant about how other RPGs surpassed the Ghibli-inspired gem, you still can’t hop around the fact that it was a genuinely remarkable game through and through. And the thing that made it, perhaps more so than the Ghibli infusion, was the kingdom-building itself.
Revenant Kingdom sends you all over the picturesque world as Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, a young king forced from his home after being dethroned. Although escaping with nothing but the clothes on his back, an opportunity arises, which Evan must take in order to rebuild his legacy and reclaim his kingdom. Along the way, of course, you’re able to navigate the newly erected settlement and construct it under your own design. And strangely, that ends up being the reason you return to the enchanting world most of the time.
3. Evolving Pokemon (Pokemon)
Okay, so technically the aim that loops around most Pokemon games is to collect them, train them — and battle them against other gym leaders’ trusty collectives. And while that may be the case for your box-standard Pokemon entry, we still often find ourselves sidetracked and touring the outer wilds, far away from the goal and in the hands of spontaneity. And let’s be honest, we get lost there for more time than we’d probably like to admit. We collect more Pokemon than we know what to do with, we evolve every single one of them unconditionally, and we spend more time rifling through meadows of grass than a naturist on a Sunday afternoon. But do we feel guilty about it? No, no we don’t.
Pokemon aside, we have been guilty of spending way too much time over-leveling our characters over the years. Despite being able to obliterate an opponent at level 40, we still choose to throw down at a ridiculous level 75 or above, just to be able to humiliate that pile of pixels that spreads out before us. And sometimes, grinding towards that all-powerful status can actually prove more rewarding than playing through the story itself. Not always, of course — but sometimes.
2. Getting Lost (Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim)
Like most RPGs, Skyrim held out the master keys for us to do with as we pleased, with a billion locks idling far and wide and one shiny trinket to unlock them all. And, while many newcomers to the Elder Scrolls series would usually look to stay the course and live the Dragonborn fantasy from start to finish — other, more accustomed Bethesda players, would pretty much throw themselves off the wagon the second the prologue transpired. And that’s perfectly acceptable, amazingly enough.
As with most Elder Scrolls entries, Skyrim unravels an entire anthology for your disposal, with hundreds of chapters to pick up and read at your own leisure. Whether it’s joining a cult or hurling yourself into a dark art of some sort — every chapter has oceans of twisted branches that tailor to your choices and overall playstyle. And the best thing is — you can get lost touring Skyrim and mopping up all these activities for months — and still not get around to completing the first chapter of the actual game.
1. 9-5 (Persona 5)
When it comes to prominent JRPGs with a near-perfect track record regarding popularity and sales, Persona pretty much packs the heftiest punch — as it has done for the best part of twenty years. In that time, of course, we’ve seen slew after slew of mind-bending dungeons and enemies, as well as a whole heap of real-life activities, both mundane and enticing. And while we can’t exactly put the bulk of the Persona narrative on the same pedestal as the side quests and activities — we can give credit to the latter, mainly due to the sheer wealth of things one can do in such a compelling world.
Okay, so watering your plant and tidying your room aren’t exactly the finest things one can do in a game like Persona. Maintaining a job and upholding your social status, on the other hand? Well, that’s definitely more to our liking. And that really is just the iceberg to the whole world you weave with, with far more to uncover as you explore the nooks and crannies of the jam-packed Persona metropolis. It’s all rather entertaining in a weird yet wonderful way, and, it serves as a breath of fresh air after a long night of hammering buttons back into their casings.