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A "minigame" (sometimes mini-game) is a rather common term used in game design and the general game industry. Therefore it has a definable scope, that is not opinion based, but rather established and tangible. However, I'm at a loss to define its scope. The wikipedia page says:

"A minigame (also spelled mini-game or mini game and sometimes called a subgame) is a short video game often contained within another video game and sometimes in application software or on a display of any form of hardware. A minigame is always smaller or more simplistic than the game in which it is contained. Minigames are sometimes also offered separately for free to promote the main game. For instance, the Pokémon Stadium minigames involve merely pressing a few buttons at specific intervals, with little complexity."

When asked to define it, I guess loosely I'd consider a minigame any game that:

  1. could easily be a self-contained game within another one
  2. that usually shows all the information on the screen
  3. could have been produced in the "dawning of gaming" (At least its mechanics)
  4. that the average (perhaps even non-gamer) can sit down and instantly understand nearly all the game rules without having to "learn" them via play.

Some things to think about:

  1. Is Game_B that has been included in another game, Game_A, still a minigame if it is later played or released independently from Game_A?
  2. What if Game_B was originally independent, but Game_B (or clones) are now almost exclusively found as minigames within other games? Will Game_B always be a minigame after that?
  3. Is pong a minigame - it most certainly has been a minigame?
  4. Likewise, is chess a minigame (it matches my personal definition despite being incredibly complex logically)?

(I don't know if I can link pictures here, otherwise I would add some examples.)

Answers should please be constructive and professional. Good answers should also give reasoning and cite sources when possible.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Anko, Sean Middleditch, Josh Petrie Feb 14 at 17:23

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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The Wikipedia definition and you "loose" definition seem to fit the minigame concept quit well. Are you looking for a shorter definition? Or an authoritative source? Or just an answer to your last 4 questions? –  Laurent Couvidou Feb 11 at 9:19
    
@LaurentCouvidou Ok good, I wasn't quite sure if my criteria matched well enough - I don't want to over-classify (false-positive). Any of those three would be very helpful. The shorter definition would lead to the evaluation of the last 4 questions/example-cases. Also, the more I think about it, the more ambivalent I am about chess (example case #4), which seems to straddle the minigame threshold. –  ConfusedStack Feb 11 at 9:29
    
I disagree that just because something is easily recognisable, that it's also easily definable. "I know it when I see it" seems to apply well here. –  congusbongus Feb 11 at 23:56
    
If you edit your question to include links to the images, I can edit them in. –  Josh Petrie Feb 12 at 21:35

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Here is how I would define a minigame:

A minigame is a part of a bigger game that could be independent from it, but is not. Its gameplay mechanics are simple, mastering them doesn't require extended practice. The term is also sometimes used to present a regular game of limited scope.

It's true that some entire games are called minigames (for instance here), but the most common usage I've encountered in the context of game development is for games that are contained within another game. Calling an entire game a minigame is only a way of advertising it to potential players that are looking for a short session of gameplay (e.g. people googling "free flash mini game" are directed to freeflashminigames.com). This is why I'm putting this usage of the term in second position: here, we're talking about game development.

So according to my definition, and using only the strict game-developer-oriented part of it, the answers to your questions 1, 2, 3 and 4 are respectively no, no, no, and no.

The original Pong is a game (it was released standalone), a pong clone contained in MarioMare 2014 is a minigame (it's part of a collection sold as a whole, with some meta game mechanics gluing everything together).

Chess is not a minigame. It took centuries to develop, and takes a lifetime to master, so that clearly disqualifies it for the mini prefix, even if it comes included in another game.

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-infinity for "maturate" >:( –  jhocking Feb 12 at 20:49
    
@jhocking No matter how many times I re-read myself, English isn't my mother tongue. FTFY. –  Laurent Couvidou Feb 12 at 22:20
    
While I've never seen that particular expression before, "maturate" appears to have come from the same place as abominations like "orientate", and I reeeeeeeeeally hate "orientate." –  jhocking Feb 12 at 22:37
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@jhocking I hereby promise to stop usitating such a word :) –  Laurent Couvidou Feb 13 at 8:38

IMO this is a really opinion based question and there is no exact definition of the term. To me, it's a bit similar to how different companies or individuals define "Alpha", "Beta", etc. You can't really nail down "what is an alpha version?". Same is true here...

Personally, I consider a mini game (as in: small game within another game) fulfilling the following conditions:

  • The game isn't a significant part of the product it is contained within, no matter whether it's another game, a TV, a mobile phone, etc. For example, it's not the reason you bought the product itself. A standalone Pong clone you've bought wouldn't be a mini game. A Pong clone you can play as part of a loading screen would be considered a mini game.
  • The mini game significantly differs from the main product's gameplay (if both are games). For example, in Mass Effect 3 there are a few missions where you've got to steer a battle mech. While these sections differ from the more common third person shooter gameplay, it's still integral part of the game and very closely related (different abilities/perspect). A similar example would be classic "rail shooter passages" in first person shooters, such as the Battlefield series. Final Fantasy VIII included an optional card game called Triple Triad. While you could spend a significant amount of time with it, it offered completely different gameplay (trading card game over turn based rpg).

Some might disagree, but I consider the following points optional, although being pro mini game:

  • The game may be played at almost any time, but not necessarily standalone. The mini game doesn't have to be available from the get-go. It also doesn't have to be repeatable indefinitely, although it's quite characteristic for some games, for example bonus games found in several Nintendo games.
  • The game can be disconnected from the main game, but doesn't have to (i.e. they may interact in some way or anothers).

As for your questions:

  • Question 1: No, I don't consider future iterations of Game_B to be mini games if they're standalone (even if their complexity is rather low).
  • Question 2: No. To me it always depends on whether the game is the actual product or just some part of it. You can call it a "mini game" if it's rather simple or minimalistic, but it's not a typical "mini game" for me.
  • Question 3: No. It's been used as a mini game in some other games, but it's still a standalone concept (although minimalistic).
  • Question 4: No, not at all. Especially considering chess to be more complicated and time consuming than like 90%+ of all mobile games that aren't considered "mini games" in any case. ;)

So what makes a mini game a mini game? Personal opinion. IMO even the term itself isn't fixed. A mini game can be some sub game being embedded in some other product, but it can as well be just a very simple and minimalistic game.

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"This is a really opinion based question and there is no exact definition of the term." If so, you should vote to close the question as such, and comment as to how it can be improved rather than answering. –  Josh Petrie Feb 12 at 21:43

The term mini in minigame implies that there is something tightly coupled to the minigame itself that makes it mini (i.e. you have to compare it to something directly). Therefore, a minigame can only exist while coupled to another, bigger game. Normally, this coupling is present in the form of the minigame being part of the bigger game (the bigger game depends on the minigame, not the other way around).

The term game in minigame implies that the minigame has its own standalone rules that do not depend on the bigger game's rules. Therefore, you could always take it out of its context, and still have a playable game. Note, that at this point, the minigame becomes a game, since it loses its coupling with the original, bigger game.

In short, a minigame is a game with well defined rules, that is part of a bigger game, but does not depend on the rules of the bigger game to allow itself to be played.

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mini (ˈmɪnɪ)
Something that is distinctively smaller than other members of its type or class.

A mini game is a game that is very small.


It doesn't matter whether it is part of another game or not, but due to the small size it is usually not worth to release it stand-alone and very well suited to be used as such.

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