RPGamer’s Memorable Side Quests
Virtually every RPG offers some form of side content, whether it’s item collection, mini-games, or side quests. While many side quests tend to ask the player to go to a specific location or find an item, it’s how the game presents the quest that can make doing the townsfolk’s chores all the more fun. A memorable side quest should have a great storyline and charming characters, or even take you to awe-inspiring locations. While some side quests can be glorified busywork, there’s hope is that the rewards are worth the optional journey.
In this feature, we share eleven very different side quests, from cooking mafias, to murder, and even overdue library books! Join us as the RPGamer staff share their most memorable side quests, and please share your favourites in the comments.
Metal Max 4
The better parts of the Metal Max series are notable for being more side quest than main, and in a good way. Simple as the main story may be, there is always something to the side that, while 100% optional, is still worth doing just to see what’s up.
In Metal Max 4, one such thing is the Kanawa Resort. A stately pleasure dome set upon the alpine slopes north of Absolution Gulf, it presents an idyllic tropical paradise for the rich to enjoy at their leisure. Or at least once upon a time it did, but fifty years post-Armageddon, the dome’s busted, the lagoon is frozen over, and the front door’s been locked for decades. The outer section of the resort has been taken over by the masseuse androids, for better or for worse, but the inner dome remains a mystery until the player’s party arrives. There is a rumor of treasure within, and three golden discs are needed to open the door. Two interested parties have the discs, but they need a third team to play by the dome’s rules. So the heroes are talked into joining the resort’s fun-themed treasure hunt.
Despite the chill at one end of the dome, the beachfront is still warm, the palm trees still plastic, and the ambiance amazing. The members of the other two teams run around having the time of their lives, taking in this view of a world fifty years gone and loving every moment of it.
And then the murders begin.
First, it’s a body found bound, gagged, and stuffed in a closet. Then the bloody leftovers of his teammate falling from a tree. Crimson smears show where someone was dragged through the faux forest, while their friend slides across the frozen lake. Two lovers are stabbed to bits in bed, and the pieces of the last guy are never found at all.
And wherever the heroes run, there’s always the Man in Black, ready to give chase. He is implacable, he is unstoppable, and he is able to tank any damage sent his way, only to respond with punishing lethality. Welcome to Camp Crystal Lake, 2081. The only option is to run, run, run, until the moment comes when, trapped out in the middle of the frozen lagoon, the heroes face the Man in Black with flamethrowers and flare guns, breaking the ice and consigning the villain to a watery tomb. They return to the entrance, battered, beaten, and bloodied, but at least safe in the knowledge that the homicidal terror is vanquished.
But wait! As they reach the exit, he leaps out for one last battle! Though at this point he looks like the T-1000 after a mad party at the pyromaniac’s, the Man in Black is not willing to let anyone leave the dome alive. With all the fire and water damage sustained, however, he proves to be more vulnerable to blades, bullets, anti-mech weaponry, and whatever Pochi (Man’s Best Kick-Ass Good Boy) has attached to his doggy-tank. After much toil and terror, the Man in Black is put to rest, forever.
Or is he…? — Michael Baker
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Many of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword‘s side quests reward Link with gratitude crystals, which the kind demon Batreaux needs in order to become human. As the name implies, they are a person’s feelings of gratitude in crystalline form. Although most of these side quests are straightforward, there is one that goes in one of two very different ways. In either situation, someone other than the quest-giver rewards Link with gratitude crystals, and the quest-giver is left unhappy.
This side quest begins when Link hears rumors about strange noises coming from the bathroom at the Knight Academy at night. When Link investigates, the restroom door is locked and a spooky voice asks for paper. The next morning, if Link talks to fellow student Cawlin, Cawlin will ask Link to deliver a love letter to his crush, another student named Karane. He also sternly tells Link that he cannot allow the letter to be used as toilet paper. Link can do what he was originally asked to and give the letter to Karane. She’s not too enthusiastic to learn that the letter is from Cawlin as she’s crushing on another student named Pipit. Link can then tell Pipit about the letter and this encourages him to confess his love for Karane. Karane returns Pipit’s feelings and Cawlin is shot down and runs away in embarrassment. Pipit is so grateful that Link helped him to realize his own feelings that Link receives five gratitude crystals from Pipit.
The second path has Link give the paper to the mysterious voice in the restroom, which turns out to be a ghostly hand. The disembodied limb sees that it’s a letter and not toilet paper but takes it anyway. The next morning Cawlin is understandably upset at Link and runs away after telling Link he hates him. The following evening, Link sees the ghostly hand stroking Cawlin’s hair while he sleeps. The ghost read the letter and was so moved by it that she fell in love with Cawlin. Link receives the gratitude crystals from the ghost and poor Cawlin is given nightmares. The former path is heartwarming in its own way, even if Cawlin is left with a broken heart. That is arguably a better outcome than giving the ghost the letter, as he at least won’t be inflicted with nightmares by a spooky admirer. Either outcome leaves Cawlin miserable, but since he was mean to Link at the beginning of the game, it’s hard to feel too bad for the guy. — Cassandra Ramos
The Frying Pan Quest
Final Fantasy IV
Side quests are a staple of RPGs these days, and almost every single one of them has at least a few. However, that wasn’t the case back in the early days of console RPGs where side quests were scarce or non-existent. Therefore, imagine my surprise back in 1991 upon discovering the ‘Frying Pan’ when playing Final Fantasy IV on the SNES.
The Frying Pan quest starts when Yang goes missing in the Underworld, and the party informs his wife. She responds by handing over a frying pan to bash him over the head! There are no quest descriptions, informative checklists, or map markers to guide the player along, and this quest can only be completed within a certain time frame and can be easily overlooked. After trekking back and forth between the Overworld and Underworld, a humorous cutscene ensues that involves Yang getting walloped. The rewards for the party’s troubles are a very useful Sylph summon, which functions as a healing spell for Rydia, and a spoon (knife in the recent versions), which dishes out 9,999 damage when thrown in battle.
Although this side quest wasn’t the first in the history of console RPGs, it was quite ground-breaking and even well-written for 1991, as it provided good rewards and a few cutscenes that fleshed out the dynamics between Yang and his wife. — Elmon Dean Todd
Rebuilding Luin / Colony 6
Tales of Symphonia / Xenoblade Chronicles
There are many RPG towns out there that have been destroyed in the course of, or just prior to, their stories. However, players occasionally get the opportunity to rebuild after the destruction and Tales of Symphonia and Xenoblade Chronicles offer two strong examples.
Tales of Symphonia’s town of Luin is built upon Lake Sinoa. Although players can visit it prior to its destruction by going out of their way, the party comes across the town’s ruins after it is ransacked by the Desians for harbouring escapees from the nearby human ranch. The town’s events play a crucial role in bringing Sheena into the party after a successful rescue mission, but the most pleasing part is being able to restore it over the course of the game. The mechanics are straightforward, with players simply needing to donate sufficient batches of cash. But with each milestone reached, repairs are made, buildings are constructed, and new citizens move in until, eventually, the town reaches greater heights than before.
Xenoblade Chronicles sees Shulk and Reyn discovering that Colony 6 was attacked and destroyed by the Mechon upon encountering the small group of survivors hiding in the Gaur Plain. After defeating the attacking force in the mines beneath the colony, players get the opportunity to rebuild. It’s a slightly more involved process than Symphonia’s example, as players need to collect a variety of items to upgrade different elements (Housing, Commerce, Nature, and Special) rather than it being a linear progression. Players are also more involved in bringing new inhabitants to Colony 6, inviting potential immigrants to add to the increasing bustle, and as they do they unlock further side quests. Either way, it’s an absolute delight seeing both of these towns steadily turn from smouldering ruins back to being full of life. — Alex Fuller
Final Fantasy IX
Mognet is Final Fantasy IX’s in-game Moogle-run mail delivery service and forms a side quest that runs across the game’s entire length. With the Moogles acting in a dual role as save points, they also rope players into acting as internal mail deliverers right from their first encounter, asking them for a favour in delivering letters between them as they go about their duties across the world.
The Mognet chain provides some fun commentary on the events of the game, as the Moogles will provide their own opinions on what’s going on, as well as update each other on the progress of adventuring Moogle Stiltzkin, and occasionally give the party their own letters from NPCs. In the later stages of the game, players can learn that Mognet Central’s main machine for allowing the delivery of letters has broken down and is causing havoc among the Moogles. This leads the party on a brand new letter chain to gain the information needed to suss out how to get to Mognet Central and what is needed to repair it. However, here most of the charm comes from the journey and meeting all the different Moogles along the way; it offers a great side note to the main quest and is just another area the game manages to balance liveliness into its story and world. — Alex Fuller
The Sorrow of Werlyt
Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers
I’m not quite sure why, but when I first learned that Final Fantasy XIV would be getting a side quest and Trial series based on the iconic gemstone-themed “Weapon” enemies, the idea didn’t sit right with me. “How are they gonna pull this off?” I wondered. The prospect of a whirlwind tour facing these storied bosses left me worried that the experience would be trite. But I was wrong — so very wrong. You’d think I would’ve learned to trust the development team by now.
I feared being put through a gauntlet of battles strung together with flimsy premises, but what I got instead was a thought-provoking, bittersweet storyline that wouldn’t feel out of place in a season of Gundam. Without spoiling too much, the plot centers on Gaius, one of the game’s most oft-quoted characters, coming face-to-face with the fallout of his past deeds and closely held ideologies. Unlike some other stories containing similar themes, The Sorrow of Werlyt doesn’t ask the victims of Gaius’s sins to forgive him so that he may move forward. I appreciate how the subject matter is handled with such deft maturity and ambivalence.
Although the story definitely comprised the meat and potatoes of my experience, this side quest has other merits too. The fights are all memorable, and progressing through the scenario grants access to a special zone with some beautifully haunting background music. My only complaint is that we players certainly didn’t get to spend enough time with the G-Warrior! — Casey Pritt
Taking Down Ozzie
Chrono Trigger is a game known for its many and varied side quests; many can be completed in less time than it takes to do a write-up on it. My favourite is taking down Ozzie after he names himself king of the monsters, the title left vacant after your defeat of Magus. The party can’t just let that be, so they raid Magus’s old castle and take Ozzie down. First, he summons a pair of monsters who fall down a hole because they are standing on a conveyor belt. Next, he tempts you with treasure that has an axe blade above it. Finally, he fights you with his two best pals, Flea and Slash.
Upon their defeat, Ozzie retreats into a room with a few switches on the wall. When the party tries to fight him, he surrounds himself with a crystal barrier and becomes invincible. In order to defeat him, you must hit a switch that opens a trap door and drops the team down. After running back, you engage again only for a cat to walk in and hit a switch which drops Ozzie to his death. Everything about this side quest is ridiculous and it’s the perfect way to end the tale of Ozzie. — Robert Sinclair
The Legend of Heroes: Trails Series
Part of what makes the Trails series unique is the way it builds its world through its NPCs. While lots of RPGs are filled with bland shopkeepers who will spout the same line over and over while purveying armor, Trails games are filled with hundreds of characters that have their own story arcs that can stretch across the whole series. One of my favorite NPCs is Anton, who has a whole series of side quests stretching across multiple games. Estelle and Joshua meet him at the end of the first Trails in the Sky game. Anton has become infatuated with a local girl and has taken to pretending to read a book to look “intellectual” while he steals glances at her. Unfortunately for Anton, his admiring looks have not had the desired effect and the object of his desire has become creeped out and turns him down in such a forceful fashion that poor Anton is befuddled and depressed. However, this works out for Estelle and Joshua because Anton doesn’t need the book anymore, giving the player the last collectible needed to trade for the ultimate weapon.
While this might be a one-off aside in many games, Anton becomes a recurring figure looking for love in all the wrong places across Zemuria. I’m always looking forward to seeing what new woman Anton has fallen for and what hijinks will ensue. I’m not sure anything tops Trails in the Sky SC where Anton fell for Aina, a branch manager for the Bracer Guild and a woman who’s famous for being impervious to the effects of alcohol.
This time, Anton manages to rope Estelle into collecting the ingredients to formulate a tonic that will allow him to survive the numerous alcoholic refreshments on a date with Aina, but Anton in his excitement missed out on some important instructions and it all goes badly with Aina drinking poor Anton under the table… literally. I love that Falcom goes to the trouble of not only creating these cute little quests but to keep building upon them game after game to make it feel like a living, breathing world. — Joshua Carpenter
Suikoden II is home to many memorable side quests, from the courtship of Tengaar and Hix to the speedrun-exclusive revenge ballad of Elza and Clive. The sheer number of recruitable characters invited the team at Konami to provide a lot of variety: silliness, high drama, and gentleness all measured like delicate spices on a favorite dish. The cooking mini-game that centers on Hai Yo, the Hoarding Star, employs all these spices and more to whip up a memorable treat for the heart, stomach, and mind.
It is well known in the annals of war that an army marches on its stomach. Provisioning isn’t the most heroic element of rebellion, but its essential nature cannot be doubted. Everybody needs to eat, and the goofy, grinning cooking man in the bright yellow smock makes sure everybody does it well. The only problem is his sinister past as one of the Four Lords of the Black Dragon Clan. Visiting Hai Yo’s kitchen throughout the story invites culinary challengers (including a welcome cameo from the previous Suikoden), intent on dragging these secrets to the surface.
Untangling Hai-Yo’s history isn’t confined to one system. The ingredients for his masterful recipes must be sourced from around the world. Finding the recipes requires further exploration while catering to the judges’ tastes requires getting to know your soldiers’ preferences as diners. Learning what they eat goes a long way in learning who they are; hanging out and enjoying a meal adds depth and warm familiarity to the world. Better yet, the resulting meals can be boxed up and taken into battle. All in all, it’s a hearty stew with a little for everyone — and a lot for those of us who grew up with the pageantry of Iron Chef, The God of Cookery, and Cooking Master Boy. — Zach Welhouse
State-Wide Overdue Book Retrieval
The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero
As a librarian by trade, there’s nothing I love more than seeing how video games portray my profession. Often librarians are portrayed as middle-aged shushers or book nerds who can’t control their need to gush about their favourite reads. Sometimes they even have magical abilities! Color me surprised when I was playing Trails from Zero to encounter a quest that actually had a wonderful understanding of what I do for a living. When Lloyd’s Uncle Miles, Crossbell’s city librarian, contacts the SSS, he explains that a bunch of overdue library books need to be collected from various customers outside of town.
The first book’s location is innocent enough. A nurse borrowed “The Best Way To Use Five Minutes.” When the gang meets with her to retrieve the book, she confesses that she accidentally returned it to the hospital research library. The gang then makes its way to the farming town of Armorica to find the book “Arc en Ciel Enthusiasts.” This is when the simple book retrieval turns into a wild goose chase. The book was lent to three different people around the town, committing the crime of “re-re-re-lending”, according to Randy. When the third borrower doesn’t have the book, the gang is convinced it was lent out again, only to find out the person left it in the shed. They are then off to Mainz Mining Village to find the “Paranormal Crossbell Collection.” It turns out that the miner who checked out the book left it in a monster-filled cave. The gang delves into the cave’s depths to retrieve it. When they finally find it, they are attacked by monsters. These monsters are no joke either, as they are resistant to most status ailments and have nasty area-of-effect attacks. The gang is relieved that this is the final book, and returns back to the Crossbell Library. Miles thanks them for the favor, having no idea what they went through to get the books back.
Sometimes library books go on unexpected adventures, and more often than not, if they somehow do get returned, there is often a great story behind them. This quest made me laugh and smile, and it made me think of my own experiences dealing with overdue and lost materials. To quote my beloved Randy, “Why can’t people just return the damn book to the library?” I couldn’t agree more.
Don’t let the SSS come a-knockin’ for YOUR overdue books. — Sam Wachter
We hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Please let us know in the comments some of your most memorable side quests.