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Embarrassing Mini-Games You Don't Want To Be Caught Playing

Video games just might provide the most immersive kind of escapism. What other form of media lets you leap into the boots of a super soldier mowing down undead hordes or save the world from extraterrestrial terrors? And while these larger-than-life scenarios can provide hours of entertainment, it's often the quieter, more casual aspects of AAA titles that keep players coming back for more. That's where mini-games (literally) come into play.

Many games, especially those of the open-world variety, provide gamers with a respite from all the hacking, slashing, shooting, and car-jacking in the form of mini-games. Take GTA 4, for instance: Sure, players couldn't go five minutes without cousin Roman calling for an impromptu bowling sesh, to the point that it became a meme

Still, GTA 4's mini-games — which also included darts, pool, and a Tetris rip-off called QUB3D — were a lot of clean, innocent fun. The keyword there is, of course, "innocent," a term that would not be used to describe the "sexy" mini-games that Kratos engages in during the first few God of War games.

That said, extremely graphic content isn't the be-all and end-all of what constitutes an awkward, uncomfortable, or otherwise embarrassing mini-game — and here's all the proof you need.

Dial M for M-barrassing in Yakuza 0

Though commonly — and inaccurately — labeled a "Japanese Grand Theft Auto," the Yakuza franchise shares far more of its DNA with games like Shenmue and Persona 5 than Rockstar's infamous crime sim. Taking place in relatively small open environments, many of the Yakuza games chronicle the trials and tribulations of former Tojo clan chairman Kazuma Kiryu as he navigates the seedy underworld of Tokyo's red light district. 

Known as Ryu ga Gotoku — or Like a Dragon — in Japan, the Yakuza series blends absurdist comedy with gritty gangster pulp, and the result is the type of experience that answers the question, "How can we take awkward, naughty adult phone time and make it 50% cringier and 100% more virtual?"

The objective of Yakuza 0's "Telephone Club" mini-game is to visualize scantily-clad women in suggestive poses, which is accomplished by selecting the "correct" voice lines from an assortment of floating phrases within a time limit. Couple the gameplay with the women's sultry voices and music straight out of a '90s Cinemax flick, and you've got a recipe for an awkward conversation with your partner. Or your roommate. Or your parents. 

Basically, being interrupted by any loved one halfway through Telephone Club guarantees an uncomfortable conversation.

Pole dancing in Dead to Rights

If Max Payne is an Xbox Series X, then Dead to Rights is the Soulja Game Console. If Max Payne is Nonna's al dente linguine with homemade red sauce, Dead to Rights is a dusty can of Spaghetti-Os. If Max Payne is — well, you get the idea.

Although the edgy-as-fudge Dead to Rights series never quite rose to the ranks of its acclaimed peers, it was still a lot of fun to play, what with all that runnin' and gunnin'. Plus, you could play a pole dance rhythm game, because nothing compliments a tale of murder, mayhem, and revenge like an uncomfortable and molasses-slow "press this button when it passes over the square" mini-game. 

For some context, this mini-game represents exotic dancer Hildy's attempt at distracting guards so that protagonist Jack can sneak into the club — but that lazy justification only makes it feel more shoehorned in.

Thinking back on Dead to Rights these days, it's hard not to remember how rad it felt to embody your favorite late-80s nihilistic, trigger-happy antihero — but ultimately, the pole dancing sequence feels unnecessary and awkward.

Final Fantasy X-2 gets steamy

Final Fantasy X-2, the lazily named sequel to the ever-popular Final Fantasy X, takes place two years after its predecessor. Summoner Yuna and Rikku have teamed up with their new companion (and Hot Topic employee most likely to ignore you) Paine to form the Gullwings, a team of Sphere hunters. The game has a decent enough plot, but its the engaging gameplay — particularly a slew of mini-games — that arguably steals the show. 

One mini-game, however, was not on par with the rest, and that's the back massage scene. Okay, sure: Rival Sphere hunter and Leblanc Syndicate namesake Leblanc obviously feels tired and achy after a long day of being a thorn in the Gullwings' side. That, however, does not give her the right to a back massage courtesy of a High Summoner — and yet, thanks to some shenanigans involving airships, disguises, and Leblanc's chateau, that's exactly what Yuna ends up doing. 

While lasting only a few minutes, the mini-game — which prompts you to "jack Leblanc's satisfaction meter up" and is full of cringe-inducing moaning — overstays its welcome almost immediately.

Back to back weirdness in Incredible Crisis

What is it with awkward back massage mini-games? While FFX-2's take on the act is uncomfortable in its own right, it doesn't hold a candle to a similar section in an obscure little 2000 PlayStation game called Incredible Crisis.

A compilation of increasingly absurd mini-games, Incredible Crisis follows a Japanese family as a series of bizarre obstacles prevent them from celebrating grandmother Hatsu's birthday. "Bizarre" here, of course, alludes to giant teddy bears, UFOs — oh, and an innocent ferris wheel ride that gets turned into an uncomfortably loud back massage sequence, courtesy of family patriarch Taneo. 

In a move that almost seems like the game itself judging people for extramarital shenanigans, the woman to whom Taneo administers his "services” leaves a nice little surprise for the salacious salaryman in the ferris wheel car: a bomb. Seems like she didn't exactly leave satisfied.

That might sound embarrassing (and it is!), but Incredible Crisis as a whole is chock full of absurd and often cringe-inducing mini-games that somehow just work. That's kind of the game's charm, though — even if it's not the kind of charm you'd want your mom walking in on.

Yakuza 6's chat got your tongue?

Not satisfied with simply ruining analogue phones, the Yakuza series' sixth mainline installment upped the ante and moved the naughtiness to the internet in the form of a "Live Chat" mini-game. Yeah, it's exactly what it sounds like.

Live Chat is basically a naughty webcam simulation complete with pre-recorded videos of real life adult film actresses for, you know, realism's sake. Unlike Yakuza 0's Telephone Club — which requires players to select the appropriate phrases within a certain time limit — "winning" the Live Chat mini-game involves typing suggestive phrases by inputting the correct pattern of button presses before a timer bar runs out.

As the mini-game progresses — featuring tongue-in-cheek AI users with names like "VeteranDrinker" and "rocklobster420" contributing cringey commentary in faux chat — the "performer" removes more and more of her clothing. Yeah — it's basically that p-word that rhymes with "corn," and it's not exactly the kind of mini-game you might feel proud of returning to again. But, hey — you can just tell the mates that you were after that shiny trophy. After all, the Yakuza series is no stranger to embarrassing game achievements.

Quacking all the way to the bank in Shenmue 2

From Chrono Trigger's race against Johnny to Mortal Kombat: Armageddon's shockingly playable "Motor Kombat" mode, plenty of otherwise non-vehicular video games boast racing mini-games. So it makes sense that Shenmue 2, a critically adored game known for its diverse gameplay elements, would feature its own take on the popular trope. 

It's not like a racing mini-game is new territory for the series either, as the first entry in the campy franchise played host to an infamous forklift racing section. What did turn out to be new, however, were the "vehicles” that did the racing. And, by "vehicles," we're obviously talking about bowtie-clad ducks.

While players are initially limited to placing bets on these feathered friends, protagonist Ryo can eventually claim his very own duck, controlling it as it flaps its way past traffic cones and between oil drum obstacles. It's absurd, it's embarrassing, and it's as perfectly Shenmue as the often painfully charming-to-a-fault series gets. After all, nothing takes the edge off after a long day of hunting your father's murderer like taking an old-fashioned D.R.B. (duck race break).

Sleeping Dogs should let sleeping birds lie

Speaking of bird-related action, United Front's 2012 open-world crime thriller Sleeping Dogs boasts its very own take on poultry exploitation: rooster fighting (of course, "rooster" isn't the word the game uses). In between busting Triad gangsters and mastering martial arts, protagonist/undercover SDU agent Wei Shen can immerse himself in a number of activities throughout the game's four districts of Hong Kong. These range from innocent activities like rhythm-based karaoke mini-games to seedier, more morally ambiguous fare, like the aforementioned fowl-o-mania. 

While Sleeping Dogs (unfortunately) doesn't let you leap into the skin of a chicken, pecking away at your opponent like you're preparing tomorrow's dinner, it does encourage gambling on said brawling birds — and while it may represent a pretty fair way to make an in-game buck, it's an awfully brutal sight to behold.

The camera doesn't cut away as your chosen chicken gruesomely attacks its feathered foe. Sleeping Dogs showcases countless acts of brutality between its human characters, but its "rooster fighting" mini-game is arguably harder to watch — if only because it means the bird you've got your money riding on could be tomorrow's lunch. Bon appetit!

Yakuza calls for excellent aim

In an April 2018 interview with PlayStation Access, Yakuza series producer Daisuke Sato was asked to sum up the open-world crime thriller series in one sentence. His response? "I feel that Yakuza is a series where you can do stupid things very seriously"

And it's hard to argue with Sato's assertion, considering some of the Yakuza games' substories and mini-games. After all, no other video game franchise let's you go from intense, blood-splattered beat-em-up action to a bathroom-based arcade-style mini-game that demands you "use your stream to force your opponent out of the ring."

The premise of the ToyLets mini-game is simple: Protagonist Kiryu must control his stream in order to force his opponent out of the ring while ensuring that he doesn't run out of, ahem, "ammunition." One of ToyLets' levels, for instance — "Milky Nose Splash Battle" — sees Kiryu's avatar facing off against a nerd type as the foes blast one another with streams of milk from their noses (rather than... well, you know).

Every ToyLet mini-game is a literal exercise in potty humor — one that's best enjoyed away from the judgmental eyes of the more mature members of gamers' households.

Feel the burn in Final Fantasy 7

"Burning Thighs" might sound more like the name of that extra spicy chicken dish from your favorite local BBQ joint, but it's actually an awkward mini-game with something of a legacy. While Square Enix's critically-lauded Final Fantasy 7 Remake features its own incarnation of the mini-game — complete with masterfully rendered muscle-bound gym rats — it actually featured prominently in an early section of the original FF7.

Of course, given the technical limitations of the PlayStation in 1997, Cloud and his co-squat-doers look more like LEGO men than the meatheads they're meant to resemble. The FF7 remake, however, doesn't hold back on portraying this band of butt-kicking beefy boys in their full, flamboyant awesomeness. 

Like many a mini-game, Burning Thighs involves timing specific button presses in order to out-squat your opponent. And while completing the entire section nabs players some nifty rewards, this one should probably get filed in the "if you can spend a whole chunk of real-life time doing a fake-life workout, maybe consider using that time to actually work on those glutes" section.

Get the fork outta here, Shenmue

Plenty of video games push players into otherwise mundane activities that, when "gamefied," are actually tons of fun. Yakuza 5's ramen delivery substory — which sees co-protagonist Saejima balancing a bowl of ramen down an icy sidewalk — springs immediately to mind. Heck, games like Overcooked have taken the high-stress setting of a busy restaurant and built an entire four-player party game around it.

To put it bluntly, the reason that Shenmue's infamous forklift-driving section is so hated — whereas similar "job sections” in other games are so beloved — is because it makes work feel like, well... work. Sure, one can argue that, in a game like Shenmue that reveled in the mundane, picking up and putting down crates with a forklift for literal hours represents the pinnacle of the immersive and realistic shtick to which the title aspired. But "immersive and realistic" doesn't always equal "fun" — especially considering that protagonist Ryo's forklift job was actually mandatory to advance the game's plot.

All in all, driving Shenmue's forklift feels like an actual job — so, to all players who actually enjoyed it: maybe just get a job driving forklifts? It's even more immersive than the video game version.

Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 challenged players to actual butt battles

Let's face it: The Dead or Alive games have always revolved around virtual bikini-clad vixens whose bodies abide by a form of "jiggle physics" otherwise exclusive to the daydreams of pubescent boys. Though the Dead or Alive franchise has its roots in the fighting game genre, it's arguably better known these days for turning fan service into a science by dragging its female characters onto a tropical island and swapping out the violence for volleyballs. 

Yes, it's as exploitative as it's genuinely fun to play — but DOAX's volleyball modes comprise a mere fraction of the sub-series' steamy gameplay. Though Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 — the long-running franchise's 2016 entry — features a number of mini-games, each more risque than the last, it's the title's "Butt Battle" mode dials the naughtiness up to 11.

There's no need for an in-depth description for this butt-based blockbuster of bombastic rump wrestling. Butt Battles are exactly as absurd as their name implies, and gamers everywhere would be wise to put DOAX 3's most cheeky mode in their rear-view mirror as quickly as possible.

Becoming the Queen of Beetles in Yakuza Kiwami

Originating in iconography of ancient Egypt, the image of a snake eating its own tail — or "ouroboros" — has come to represent the cyclical nature of all of existence. And so, it seems only fitting that what began with the perpetual perversion of Yakuza 0's Telephone Club mini-game ends — for now — with Yakuza Kiwami's MesuKing, an arcade game where you pit barely clothed, insect-themed women wrestlers against one another. 

All of this, by the way — and this is key to understanding why MesuKing sits upon a throne of cringe — represents an attempt to out-play your rival. And in this case, your rival is a very, very young preteen MesuKing prodigy, the aptly-named "Professor MesuKing."

Listen, boys and girls: There's nothing inherently wrong with the concept of MesuKing and its virtual fighters. But between the suggestive maneuvers that constitute the MesuKing combatants' move lists to all the R-rated grunts and groans, playing this mini-game out in the open is a one-way ticket to "the talk."

The Yakuza games are full of creepy things, but this might be the weirdest bit of all.