Hiding incredible story or gameplay content on optional paths has been a long-honoured tradition in video games, and we’ve only been getting an increasing amount of it as time has gone on. As games get larger and denser, often, some of their best content ends up being entirely optional- which, many might argue, makes it that much more special. Here, we’re going to talk about a few such cases of optional scenes and sequences in games that many players may not have experienced at all.

NOTE: There are spoilers ahead for every game in this feature.

MEETING ARCEUS (POKEMON LEGENDS: ARCEUS)

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Yes, it’s a bit strange that meeting and battling Arceus is an optional sequence in a game that’s named after it, but if you do invest all the time you need to in order to do so, it turns out to be worth the wait. Appropriately enough given Arceus’ stature and importance in Pokemon lore, it’s a suitably dramatic and monumental moment, as is, of course, the battle that follows. The fight against Arceus is easily the most difficult fight in the entire game- but at the end, you get to catch the Pokemon without whom the Pokemon universe wouldn’t exist. And then you get to put it in the ranch with a dozen Bidoofs.

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PAZ (METAL GEAR SOLID 5: THE PHANTOM PAIN)

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Paz is an integral character in the Metal Gear saga, but she doesn’t quite get her due in Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain (to say the very least). She is almost entirely missing from the main story- but if you dive deeper into the weeds and engage with the bevy of optional content on offer, you’ll find that there’s a ton of Paz-related story content to dive into. Learning more about her personal arc and how it bridges Ground Zeroes and The Phantom Pain not only with each other, but also with what preceded them, is an incredibly gratifying experience if you’re a series fan.

GRUNT’S LOYALTY MISSION (MASS EFFECT 2)

Mass Effect 2 is full of incredible optional scenes that you can miss entirely- that’s the heart and soul of the game, in fact. For the purposes of this feature, we’ve gone with the culmination of Grunt’s loyalty mission, because boy is it an incredible mission. Going to Tuchanka and helping Grunt get in touch with his Krogan side is an absolute blast, from the way you watch his character develop and interact with others of his species, to the incredible fight against a Thresher Maw that serves as the mission’s final act. Oh, and meeting Wrex is, of course, an added bonus- provided you didn’t kill him on Virmire in Mass Effect 1.

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BLOODY BARON (THE WITCHER 3)

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Like Mass Effect 2, The Witcher 3 is yet another timeless classic that hinges primarily on the strengths of its incredible optional content- and the prime flag-bearer of that is, of course, the Bloody Baron questline. You do meet him as part of the main story, yes, but the meat and potatoes of his tragic character arc is reserved for side quests. Its culmination is a heart-breaking one in more ways than one, and learning the fate of his family is intensely depressing- but it’s incredibly written and incredibly performed, and every moment feels well-earned.

TARRY TOWN (THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD)

zelda breath of the wild

Again, this is a game where the optional content is what defines the entire experience, and frankly, we could have populated this entire list with entries about Breath of the Wild and nothing else. If we have to pick one though, we can’t help but go with Tarry Town, which is probably one of the most charming quests in the entire game. Traveling around Hyrule and meeting with different races is an experience worth remembering in and of itself, but actually being able to bring them all together in a town that you create yourself and help expand into a small but thriving community is easily one of the highlights in a game that’s full of highlights.

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THOR (GOD OF WAR 2018)

After Kratos and Atreus’ scatter Faye’s ashes from the highest peaks in all the realms, they talk about going back home and getting some well-earned rest as the credits roll on the screen. That, of course, us the game telling you to do just that- if you do it, you get rewarded with one of the best post-credits scenes you’ll ever see in a game. Throughout God of War (2018), you hear a great deal about Thor, and the anticipation builds for the inevitable fight against him. In the post-credits scene, you get a glimpse of that, as the Asgardian lands at Kratos and Atreus’ hut with Mjolnir in tow. It’s an incredible setup for the sequel- speaking of which.

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TYR (GOD OF WAR RAGNAROK)

Like its predecessor, God of War Ragnarok is brimming with excellent optional scenes, and the one we’re going with here doesn’t become accessible until the post-game. Towards the end of the game’s main story, you learn that the Tyr that had been in your company was actually Odin in disguise the entire time- so what happened to the real Tyr? Well, in the post-game, you can find him locked in an Asgardian prison that’s crash-landed in Niflheim. It’s quite a rewarding scene, not only because it properly resolves a burning question from the game’s main story, but also because you can meet Tyr several more times throughout the Nine Realms.

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CHICKEN NUGGET (YAKUZA 0)

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Yakuza 0 (and the Yakuza franchise as a whole) is famous for its wealth of side content, much of which rivals even the game’s main offerings, but there isn’t a lot of it that exemplifies that better than this moment. The long bowling-focused substory that precedes it is an absolute blast in and of itself (it’s bowling, how could it not be?), but what follows is even better. Though he’s promised a juicy, tender turkey for his bowling accomplishments, Kiryu instead receives as a prize a chicken that’s a tad undercooked- in that it’s well and truly alive and healthy. And of course, he names the chicken Nugget. And of course, Nugget can then be a crucial asset in your business ventures as a cabaret club mogul.

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HUSH (BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT)

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Some of Batman’s best and most memorable encounters with villains and rogues in the Arkham games are reserved for side content, and that’s very much the case in Arkham Knight as well. As diehard Batman fans will gladly tell you, Hush is one of the property’s most compelling villains- and the Caped Crusader’s encounter with him in the 2015 game is suitably tense, arriving at the conclusion of a mission that sees Batman investigating Lucius Fox’s disappearance. From the tense standoff between Batman and Hush to Bruce revealing his true identity to his former friend to how it all wraps up, it’s an incredible moment that may even rank as one of the best bits in the entire game.

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