All video games follow a basic timeless concept – they have a world, they have a huge map or several maps depending on whether they are open-world or consisting of separate levels or missions, and a set of objectives, violent or otherwise, that the player has to eventually achieve.
Unless it was Borderlands 2. In Borderlands 2, despite being open world, the whole world is basically a set of fast-travel locations which act as completely disconnected map-areas, the only connection between them being the storyline.
Side missions show the various different gameplay scenarios that the game can handle, and make the player use the unused skills that the game features. And of course, they provide the player with the much-needed resources and better weapons, upgrades, etc. And, they make the games much more appealing and entertaining.
Their design varies greatly, though. Some of them are really well designed, some are not. And, some of them become legends by themselves, sometimes even becoming better known than the actual game.
5 Best Side Missions in PC Video Games
Here’s a list of some of the greatest side missions and quests from a number of different games. To maintain a certain amount of familiarity, the games will be chosen from the timeline 2008-2018 and since the list is sure to leave out many possible candidates, the readers can let us know their favourites and I might make a separate article with the fan favs if there are enough agreements that are!
1. You are cordially invited Borderlands 2
Tiny Tina, a teenage girl with the unmatched love for explosives, has invited you to her tea party after you’ve spent at least half an hour gathering her guests, and strange guests they are.
A Psycho of the name Flesh-Stick has to be lured to the face of Tiny Tina’s cave where he is sucked into the overhead system of vent pipes. That was the first part of the mission – slightly bonkers, but that is Borderlands for you.
The second part, though, goes beyond all definition of crazy; it takes sanity and sends it to last century in a hand-basket. The first part is called RSVP; the second part of the quest/mission is called Tea Party. In Tea Party, the player is first asked to start a generator, successfully doing which brings Flesh-Stick back into view as he is seen sitting at the tea table, restrained. And then the player is ordered to slap “Flesh-Stick in his bitch face”. The melee attack will trigger three waves of Psychos, Nomads, Midgets and even Goliaths to destroy the generator; Tina refers to them as dinner guests and that it was up to the player to prevent them from getting too rowdy! Another way of saying – “Kill them all!”
What follows is total madness. Tina turns away from her pyromaniac ways and uses electric shocks on Flesh-Stick, the dinner guest with his table card reading “Evil bastard who killed my parents”; while, you are busy shooting, or blowing up, hordes of Flesh-Sticks’ friends.
The morbid nature of the backstory and the fact that it was Tina getting her revenge on the Psycho who killed her parents truly makes this quest one of a kind. There are a lot of strange, funny and gruelling quests in Borderlands series – but this somehow takes the crown. The sheer instability in the situation where Tiny Tina is speaking about everything from weather to deserts while torturing Flesh-Stick makes the action quite jarring and the whole incident has a tragic tinge to it.
The Rewards upon completing the quest is very impressive, though. A very powerful Launcher, a good pistol and lots of experience are the consolations when it comes down to justifying even accepting the chilling, quite disturbing quest.
Absolutely everything outside of the Great Plateau and the final boss
Here is a game that seems like one big side mission, or at least a huge collection of side quests. Everything that is present in Breath of the Wild, and almost everything that makes it the awesome experience that it is not absolutely necessary to be done.
Actually, the whole game can technically be won without ever shopping, riding a horse, going rounds against a dragon or, even meeting a Divine Beast! It is just in the fun of the exploration, and the increasingly strange and powerful rewards, that the whole game is played – riding a horse across those lush grassy meadows gives the players a satisfaction that simply going ahead charging like a bull on a mission and completing the game doesn’t. Completing a game is fun, but experiencing all the different things that its vast open-world has to offer has a charm of its own, a notion that I am sure a lot of readers will agree with.
3. Young Hearts, Fallout: New Vegas
Truth be told, as buggy and full of glitches the game was, Fallout: New Vegas was a big step forward from the very monotonous lighting and environment setting of Fallout 3. Fallout 3 was a great game; but, New Vegas is in a different league of its own. The story-telling, the plot twists, the fleshed out characters and the extremely well-designed world. All the side missions somehow connected back to the main storyline – and sometimes, they even made more sense existing than some of the main quests.
Fallout NV’s side quests are almost always extremely playable and the experience worth remembering. Had it not been for the countless bugs, the glitches that made the game quite frustrating to play at times, it could have been the best Fallout title ever! And the diversity in the game is very beautifully portrayed in this quest.
In Young Hearts, one of the young Boomers, Jack, tells you that he loves a Crimson Caravan employee, Janet. The player, as the Courier, will have to travel to the office near the Freeside gates and talk to the girl, who in turns tells that she had seen the guy and is interested. The quest then has the Courier go back to Jack, to carry back a Boomer outfit to Janet and convince Alice to let Janet go with her pay, after convincing Pearl to allow Janet in.
The quest concludes when the player talks to Janet and Jack after meeting up with them at Nellis AFB. When everything is said and done, it comes as a realization that it might’ve been a beginning to a nice and sweet relationship in the harsh and unforgiving wasteland – something that might serve as an inspiration the people to step up and actually do something rather than delve into fights over bizarre reasons and stupid old-world ideals that could as easily be thrown away so that they could make a fresh start, build a world that would be better than the one they had left behind before the bombs dropped.
4. Epsilon missions, Grand Theft Auto 5
Okay, if anyone ever had the bright idea of playing the Epsilon missions, they will understand this far better than someone who hasn’t – but Epsilon missions are pure stupid. They are tedious, almost always boring and straight dumb.
And, one of them – Exercising the Truth – is practically infuriating to play. It is designed to test the players’ willingness to play, patience and ability to tolerate anything that the game can throw at them. In the quest, the player has to run five miles on foot in circles in a desert wearing stupid looking robes.
Sounds fun…? Probably not!
And if anyone was wondering – nope, there’s nothing else. Just keep running, hold that “W” and that is it. It takes about 20-25 minutes to complete, provided no wild animal attacks.
The reward only barely keeps us from leaving the game – because the right choice will land you a whopping two million dollars for basically doing nothing.
So… Why did I include this absolutely absurd side quest? The answer is – because it will be the one mission that I remember with such clarity that even burning one from the trio seemed to fade in comparison. The substantial amount of work that goes into making a title that is worthy of being categorized as an AAA title does not allow for this kind of silly ‘mistakes’ that the developers called side quests to creep into the final game. And Rockstar is known for their quality releases – which only leaves one option to explain the existence of these missions. They are there as a major troll that Rockstar packed inside their genre-defining game, and as a gamer I find myself remembering those 19 minutes I spent running and getting mad with myself for playing that quest, rather than all the high-speed car chases, flying around or gun-fights.
5. All of them, Far Cry 3/4/5
Now here’s another title that is simply too good to be chosen from. Check out my other article to fully understand what makes Far Cry so different and such great a series to devote your time. In short, Far Cry simply does all the right things in the right way, with the least number of problems.
In the vast open-worlds of the various Far Cry titles, side quests play an essential role in filling out the gaps between the storyline based gameplay. It populates the otherwise empty world and shows the immense variety that the game engine is able to handle.
Despite all of them being very memorable experiences to play, a couple of them are more iconic than the rest. In Far Cry 3, there is one mission where the player has to go about fetching dog-tags from the dead Japanese soldiers in the area and return them to the owner of the quest who supposedly runs a business which informs the families of the dead people. There is a nice bit of humanity in the war-torn, drug-riddled and insane tropical archipelago – the Rook Islands.
In Far Cry 4, a personal favourite has to be the one of the two – either the Kyrati Films quests, or the Armed Escort quests.
And, when it comes to Far Cry 5, getting the sci-fi gun that looks like pieces of junk and a lot of wires have been somehow put together to create it. Another very nice side quest is the quest-line that eventually leads to catching the Admiral – the story behind the quest is very touching and it is very heart-warming to see a girl trying so hard to save herself and her boyfriend from the grasp of the Peggies; a nice touch of love between all the fighting and inhuman vileness of John Seed.
Aside from those, the players can always go about liberating outposts – outposts are technically side missions with the exception of the first one in every game since the players are not needed to liberate them in order to beat the game by completing the final mission successfully.
More? Or, not…!
We had to conclude the list somewhere. And, sadly, that meant leaving a good chunk of awesome side quests out of the list. It is not top-five listing, so they don’t appear in any particular order. All of them are unique and provide a completely different experience. If there’s a mission you think that should have been in the list, let us know in the comments section below.
If someone noticed the absence of Skyrim in the list, then I request them to hear me out – all the quests in Skyrim are so special, are so mainstream and wonderful & diverse experiences that including it would have actually made the rest of the list pointless. For all the Skyrim fans, here’s an awesome article on Skyrim mods for you to enjoy – Dan Hodges has done a really great job with the nice list he has put together!
An update for all the readers – if you loved Mount and Blade: Warband and/or Arma 3, then there’s good news for you. Freeman Guerrilla Warfare now has a stable build on Steam. Check it out and you won’t be disappointed.