By: Nick Edwards
There are many aspects that can make or break a game; graphics, controls, writing, audio, characters just to name a few. A game can slide by with a combination of anyone of these, but what can really elevate the game is a great side quest or mission. Call them what you want but a good side quest can take a good game and make it stand above other games in the genre. Great quests should push you out into the games world and offer expanded experiences to the main story as well as keeping things varied. These are the top five Main Story adjacent missions in modern gaming, fetch quests need not apply.
This may seem silly at this point but there will be spoilers so consider yourself warned.
Say what you will about the writing of Borderlands but 2 gave us a great character in Tiny Tina, the bombastic 13-year-old breakout star of the game. Tina wants to throw the greatest tea party this side of Pandora and she needs your help. The quest line is broken up into three parts, first you must get ready for the guest of honor by filling out the seating chart with two of Tinas slightly more imaginary friends. You then need to get the bandit Flesh-Stick to show up by having him chase you all the way from his hideout to Tinas, carefully avoiding failing the mission by killing him. Finally, you must fight off waves of bandits trying to free him, what follows is probably the best party ever. What makes this stand out is how quickly it goes from the innocent musing of a child back to the crazy violent world of Borderlands and perfectly encapsulates the essence of Tina herself.
There is some great writing and quests already in The Outer Worlds but nothing holds a flame to Parvati’s companion quest. It isn’t the most difficult or longest quest in the game, and it isn’t combat heavy, but it is super real and human and hits for anyone that feels a bit awkward and different. During your journeys you will come across someone that Parvati herself admires a great deal which is a huge deal as you come to find out that she is asexual. The whole quest line is very sweet as you take on a fatherly whole giving her dating advice and help her navigate her complex emotions. It also helps that she is incredible acted by Ashely Burch. I didn’t go into Outer Worlds expecting to become so emotionally attached and protective of a companion but that is why it makes the list.
There is no shortage of great side characters in the Mass Effect universe and learning from the original, the game will not hesitate to make you choose between some of them in life or death situations (RIP Kaidan). Mass Effect 2 attempts to squeeze every ounce of emotional pain out of your choices by letting you complete companion specific quests for the crew members, earning their loyalty and learning more about what makes them tick. Legion is the hive mind of over 1,000 Geth in one unit (yes the cannon fodder for most of the first game). In Legions loyalty mission you learn that most Geths simply want to exist and the ones following the reapers are referred to as heretics. You are offered the opportunity to reprogram the hostile Geths and bring them back into the fold. A house divided gives you a new outlook on a race that is often feared and misunderstood.
It feels a bit wrong and cheap to do this but in a game where you can skip almost all of it and go fight Ganon within the first 30 minutes, I’m just going to roll with it. The design of the game is meant to encourage a sense of wonder and experimentation within the game. Once you leave the Plateau area you can literally go anywhere you want. Some areas might be more difficult than others, but nothing is locked behind experience giving the player the bare minimum of quest instructions to go out and just do what you want. Everything from the Divine Beasts, to Shrines, Korok seed hunting, Terry Town and even going and getting the Master Sword is completely optional, sure they will make the end fight a lot more feasible but still, as we’ve seen from speed runners, completely unnecessary.
If you are anything like me, you find yourself stumbling unto plenty of quests in the Witcher by simply obsessing over all the “question marks” located on the world map. A village is complaining about an evil spirit inhabiting a nearby cave and it has cursed them, they want you to get rid of it. Upon an investigation you find an ancient spirit trapped in a tree, it pleads with you to free it. Like most choices in The Witcher the outcomes of your decision are often grey and ambiguous. The impact of either choice has far reaching implications on the main story. It wasn’t until later I learned that this quest, had I just waited would have become a main story beat and may have be given more information. As it stands, I single handedly destroyed a village and made a man hang himself because of my choice, but the other option wasn’t so great either.
What do you think? Did we choose wisely? Have any that you think deserve a spot on the top 5 more than these? Let us know!