The release of Day of the Tentacle Remastered this week finally gives gamers the chance to play one of the greatest adventure games of all time on newer platforms, complete with some nice graphical upgrades. For those in the know, it is actually a chance to play two of the greatest games of all time, as Day of the Tentacle Remastered retains the original’s biggest surprise: a fully playable version of its prequel, Maniac Mansion. To find this game within a game, play as Bernard and go to Weird Ed’s room. “Use” the computer resembling an old Commodore 64, and you will instantly be transported back to 1987 and the glory days of SCUMM.
Here are some other examples of games that contain other stand-alone games. This doesn’t include mini-games — no matter how robust — such as Gwent from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, or Triple Triad from Final Fantasy VIII. Nor does this list include parody games such as Armies of the Night, the Double Dragon clone featured in The Warriors. That will have to wait for another article. For now, here are our top five games within games.
NES Games – Animal Crossing
The number of games in the original Animal Crossing could be its own list. These were all games that appeared on the original Nintendo Entertainment System, and could be collected in a variety of ways, such as through Tom Nook’s lottery or from Redd. Some were even offered as promotional items from Nintendo. Unfortunately, Nintendo chose to exclude NES games in all of the Animal Crossing sequels that have come to the States. I guess when you are selling the games for the Virtual Console, it doesn’t make sense to give them away for free in another game, no matter how rare they may have been.
Hang On and Space Harrier – Shenmue
Shenmue is an epic tale of a man’s quest for revenge for the death of his father. Its sprawling open world and attention to detail gave you the freedom to explore at your own pace, and truly roleplay as the young hero Ryo Hazuki. This mostly ended up meaning you wandered around a lot, talking to people, collecting capsule toys, and of course hanging out in an arcade. That arcade contained playable versions of two other games from Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki: Hang-On and Space Harrier. I can only hope that the long-awaited Shenmue III will contain playable versions of other games from Suzuki, such as Virtua Fighter and After Burner.
Bejeweled and Peggle – World of Warcraft
This almost feels like it never actually happened, simply because it is hard to imagine competing publishers working together like this. In fact, now that Blizzard has established its presence on the mobile scene with Hearthstone, and EA has acquired PopCap, something like this probably could never happen again. But at the time it was a pretty cool feature, and felt like both companies had gamers’ best interests in mind.
Early World of Warcraft players will tell you that there used to be a lot of waiting around in the game, either during hippogryph rides between cities, or while you were waiting on a fellow guildie to log in so you could go raid. Enter PopCap and their ridiculously addicting games Bejeweled and Peggle. You could look these up as an add-on, and get in a few quick games during idle WoW time.
Zork – Call of Duty: Black Ops
Quick, what does a text-based adventure game from the ’70s have in common with a 2010 action-packed first-person shooter set in the Cold War? Apparently more than you would think. By typing in the command “zork” in the Call of Duty: Black Ops computer terminal, you can recapture the magic of a game with no graphics that requires you to remember and manually type in commands such as “read,” “roll up,” and “taunt.” Riveting stuff, people.
In case you were wondering how this was possible (although the better question may be why), Activision bought the licensing rights to Zork when they purchased the game’s developer, Infocom, in 1986.
Jetpac – Donkey Kong 64
Jetpac was a 1983 ZX Spectrum game created by Ultimate Play the Game, the company that evolved into Rare, makers of Donkey Kong 64. Jetpac is a bit different from the other games on this list, as you are required to play it in order to unlock the final boss in Donkey Kong 64. Jetpac was a huge hit in its day, and was recently included as part of the Rare Replay compilation released last year for Xbox One.
Geometry Wars – Project Gotham Racing 2
Unlike the rest of the game on this list, Geometry Wars wasn’t actually a full game before making its appearance in Project Gotham Racing 2. It started out as an application the developers at Bizarre Creations used to test the Xbox analog controls. Bizarre chose to include it in Project Gotham Racing 2 as an Easter Egg. Geometry Wars became so popular that it eventually spun off into its own series of games.
To find the original Geometry Wars in PGR2, go to the Kudos World Challenge, then the car select screen, then your garage, where you can walk around to find the arcade machine.