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Top 10 Video Games Within Video Games

VO: Dan Paradis
Script written by Elliot Baker. Some games are great, other games go the extra mile and put a great game in their great game. Whether it's a fictional game, or real, we looked at all the best instances of games where the playable character can play a different game that the player controls. From retro NES games in Animal Crossing to fictional arcade cabinets across the cities of Grand Theft Auto, these are the most fun ways to waste time while playing a game. Special thanks to our user Luke Akposhoro for suggesting this idea on our Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Elliot Baker.

Top 10 Video Games within Video Games

It’s time to get really meta. Welcome to and today we’re counting down our top ten video games within video games.

Not to be mistaken with just mini-games on their own, this list aims to seek out the best arcade adventures that our main characters can play for themselves. These mini-games must be featured within the universe of the game itself and must be playable through a character in the game. Wow this is crazy. We are also excluding card games, such as Gwent from the Witcher 3.

#10: Future Street Racer 2165
“Bully: Scholarship Edition” (2009)

Sometimes beating up kids in a boarding school doesn’t quite fill the sweet spot, when that happens you need something futuristic. Located in the common room of the boys’ dorm, Jimmy Hopkins can unwind with a fast-paced street racing simulator perfectly emulating the future life in the fast lane. As the player progresses through the main game, Future Street Racer can be upgraded to a fully 3D arcade cabinet. Funny how the school can increase its budget like that and still keep sending the kids home with black eyes.

#9: Bizarre Jelly 5
“No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle” (2010)

Striving to be the best beam katana wielding assassin is tough, so why not chill out with a good old fashioned 2D shoot ‘em up. Based on the Pure White Lover Bizarre Jelly anime series within Suda 51’s crazy universe, Travis Touchdown can play a fast paced, bubble gum shooter to his and your own heart’s content. With a slamming J-pop soundtrack and it’s own cheesy, provocative intro sequence, Bizarre Jelly 5 is remarkably authentic.

#8: Zork
“Call of Duty: Black Ops” (2010)

The Cold War era classic is full of twists, turns and secrets right from the opening menu, literally. Looking down at Mason’s restraints, the player can break free and boot up a computer behind his chair. After typing ‘Zork’ Mason and the player are free to go through the entire 1980 text based classic. Using a series of commands the player can adventure their life away looking for the game’s twenty treasures and installing them into a trophy case. Sorry Hudson no interrogations right now, we’re busy.

#7: Maniac Mansion
“Day of the Tentacle” (1993)

Now this is literally having two games in one. If you want to experience the original Maniac Mansion but only have the sequel Day of the Tentacle, no problem, just use Weird Ed’s computer and you can play the entire game right there. A graphic adventure game by LucasArts, you take control of a group of stereotypical teenagers in search of Dave’s girlfriend in Dr. Fred’s mansion. Regarded as a classic adventure game from the 1980’s and it’s all readily available to play in the sequel, isn’t that oddly fourth wall breaking?

#6: Beetle Mania
“Super Mario RPG” (1996)

Have you ever wanted to play as Mario playing a Game Boy in a Super Nintendo game? Probably not, but by talking to the Toad at the Mushroom Kingdom Inn for five hundred coins, Mario can play a 2D shooter right from his very own Gameboy. With changing landscapes depending on which member of the party is playing, you can see backgrounds based on Yoshi’s Island 2 and Super Marion World. It’s a nice little time-killer with it’s own sneaky reference as to the fab four. I wonder if Mario listens to ‘Peach in the Sky of Diamonds’?

#5: NES Games
“Animal Crossing” (2001)

By far the biggest selection of in-universe video games goes to the bouncy and fun-loving GameCube classic. Hidden among the village are a total of fifteen fully available NES games including ExciteBike, Donkey Kong and Warios Woods. But more so, four ‘forbidden’ games can be found with external assistance including The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. With the grandest selection of classic Nintendo games on hand in your own little village, who needs the Wii’s Virtual console? Apparently you do, since it’s BECAUSE of the virtual console that they nixed this feature in future Crossing games.

#4: Chocobo Racing
“Final Fantasy VII” (1997)

Truly one of the most unique entries to this list is an arcade game set in a fictional universe using live stock from another fictional universe, now that’s a real head turner. When not saving the world from the deadly Shinra Corporation, Cloud can take a load off at the Golden Saucer with the chocobo racer where players can pick their oversized chicken of choice and race against other players. It’s actually not exactly clear that your playing this and not participating actively since you see your character riding the Chocobo – but it’s final fantasy, best not to ask too many questions.

#3: QUB3D
“Grand Theft Auto IV”, “Grand Theft Auto V” (2008, 2013)

This Tetris love letter is well known as being one of the most challenging and addicting games to befuddle the GTA universe. Goading would-be players into flipping colour blocks around, the geometric puzzler can be found all across bars in Liberty City and even online in Los Santos. Brightly presented but very tactical, this arcade machine has been known to keep criminal psychopaths at bay, if only for a few minutes whilst they chase an achievement.

#2: Lost Viking
“StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty” (2010)

Even in the intergalactic future, 2D shoot ‘em up’s are still all the rage for video game characters as are clever tie ins to one of Blizzard’s earliest games. Whether you’ve beaten the game or not, players can access this space adventure from the cantina and destroy the villainous Terra-Tron. There are three stages that you can repeat over and over, but as you do the enemies only get tougher and tougher. Not only is this a sweet little nod to one of Blizzard’s lesser known games, The Lost Vikings, but it ties in nicely to Starcraft Lore, since Vikings naturally a playable unit in Starcraft 2.
Before we unveil our top video game within a video game, here are a few honourable mentions.

Angel Attack
“Bayonetta” (2009)

Jeff and Barry Racing
“Jet Force Gemini” (1999)

Virtual Fighter 2
“Yakuza 5” (2012)

Donkey Kong Arcade
“Donkey Kong 64” (1999)

“Legend of the Mystical Ninja” (1991)

#1: Geometry Wars
“Project Gotham Racing” series (2000-09)

How do you know a side-game within another game is immensely popular? When it’s released as its own series in the real world and then manages to outlive its original game series. Designed by Bizarre Creations as a test for the Xbox controller, Geometry was it was included as a little extra in PGR2. But after players chose to devote hour into the fast paced twin stick shooter, development began on a standalone game, which has now evolved into its own series. A fantastic arcade shooter for the Xbox Live Arcade, we only see fit to name this the best video game within a video game.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favourite video game within a video game? For more mind-bending top tens visit and don’t forget to subscribe.

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