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In a typical RPG videogame, it's basic practice to stuff a few fetch quests and collectable hunts in to beef up the play time. Some games go the extra mile, and make these sidequests string together to tell the backstories and continuing tales of the NPCs around you. For example, a sidequest could be to fetch a poison sword for someone to help them win an upcoming duel, and a follow-up quest deals with everybody calling that person a cheat for using poison and ostracizing them (real example from Xenoblade Chronicles). Done well, this can lead to the feeling of playing within a living, breathing game world.

See also Chain of Deals. Closely related to Match Maker Quest, which focuses entirely on love and NPC coupling.


Examples:


  • Xenoblade Chronicles can't get enough of this trope. A big achievement in the game is completing the "affinity map" showing every NPC and how they relate to each other, and an even bigger achievement is to make sure the majority of those relationships are happy ones!
    • And some of the more prominent NPCs get moral choice quests where you're basically deciding which of 2 paths someone's life should take, and the game makes it deliberately ambiguous which choice is "bad", almost like real life! It does a great job of making you become attached to certain passers-by...
  • Zelda: Majora's Mask is a pretty good example, with the Anju & Kafei sequence particularly sticking in the mind.
  • Most of the Sands of Destruction Anime is a series of sidequests that, while none of them connect into a separate story, they culminate in Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds Morte coming to the realization that what she had seen as a Crapsack World is really a World Half Full, because of the inherent goodness in the people around her, leading to the decision not to use the Destruct Code to destroy the world.
  • World of Warcraft used to overuse this trope to the point that it was almost impossible to distinguish main quests from sidequests. They generally have an area-wide story arc, along with many many smaller story arcs that you could pick up while you are running about. A lot of leveling guides take advantage of this by making you pick up quests that go in the same area.
  • A lot of them in Dragon Age II: completing a sidequest in one act will make you deal with its consequences in the next or even until the end of the game, such as the Bone Pit quests. Word of God is, this was the whole reasoning behind the three-acts-and-time-skips plot structure.
  • The Elder Scrolls games typically have the main quest, the standalone sidequests, and major story arcs consisting of sidequests for each big faction in the setting (Fighters Guild, Mages Guild, Thieves Guild, etc.). The latter are often almost as expansive as the main quest.
    • Interestingly, up until Skyrim each game had topped the previous one in this regard: Arena lacked the trope, Daggerfall introduced the possibility of joining factions and had small sub-stories for some of them (and had quests that intersect with the main quest and may appear to be part of it when playing), Morrowind made the Faction quests into more of stories, and Oblivion went all-out and had the Faction quests centre around some important thing to the faction in question (Skyrim did the same, but re-added random quests for the first time since Daggerfall).
  • Skies of Arcadia has you trying to reunite a mother and daughter via several fetch quests back and forth between the two.
  • There's a fair amount of this in the Final Fantasy Tactics series, but since each game is pretty much made of sidequests...
  • The Deus Ex series has something similar to that. You can hack computers and read emails on them. A lot of times if you have enough time and patience to do this on every PC you find in the game, you'll notice that a lot of them are tied together in complex stories that don't even have anything to do with the game plot - they're just there because the developers wanted them to be.
  • Batman: Arkham City has several side missions which involve plots by the Riddler, Zsasz, Bane, Deadshot, Hush and Azrael.
  • The Mass Effect games have a few examples where sidequests are chained together- Mass Effect 1 has the Cerberus quest line from Admiral Kahoku, while Mass Effect 2 has you tracking back the source of infected mech VIs in order to prevent further outbreaks or the Blue Suns quest line in which you shut down a piracy operation.
  • Baldurs Gate 2 had a number of different examples of quests that linked to one another separate to the main storyline- each class had their stronghold quests, while any class could do the main quest line for each stronghold.
  • In Wild Arms 3, a series of sidequests involve investigating UFO sightings. Not only these don't have anything to do with the main plot, it eventually results in the discovery of a separate menace to the whole world: an alien invasion!
    • This quest also finally explains what those bizarre orchid-shaped monsters unique to the Wild Arms series are: aliens!
  • Nearly all sidequests in The Last Remnant have their own backstory and characters. The sidequests cover a wide range os stories that really flesh out the world, and are often necessary to unlock extra characters and boost their stats.
  • A few sidequests in The Witcher do this. Most notably, allowing the Scoia'tael to take the shipment of weapons in Act I results in an NPC being murdered in Act II.
  • All the quests labeled with 'Story' in Dragon Quest IX, which are available through DLC. A lot of backstory is only available through these.
  • Golden Sun hits this up a few times, mostly between the first two games. Opting to save an imprisoned merchant or rescue a man trapped in a land slide has it's own immediate rewards, but then in Golden Sun The Lost Age' many of these people track your party down to give you helpful items for helping them out.
    • Golden Sun Dark Dawn does this poorly. The initial quest you were sent out on gets completed, and then the games real quest starts. By the end of the game, the player's original mission has been demoted to an uncompleted side quest, with only the item sitting in their inventory as a reminder of why this even started in the first place.
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