In the world of literature, nested stories are a popular device to make a tale stand out and give it additional context. These are essentially “stories within stories.” Popular examples include The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, and more recently, top US writer Stephen King’s The Wind Through the Keyhole even features a story within a story within a story. 

The same technique can be seen in TV, such as Bart and Lisa Simpson watching Itchy and Scratchy, and in movies like The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Tropic Thunder. It should come as no surprise that game developers have jumped onto this same theme by nesting or embedding games within games. Here are some where the nested game is just as enjoyable as the game that hosts it. 

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Grand Theft Auto – a whole world of gaming

Perhaps the best example of the nested gaming principle in action, Grand Theft Auto has a whole suite of games you can play within its virtual universe. The attention to detail in each one is phenomenal. For example, the golf game is GTA 5 would perform well against the competition as a stand alone golf game. 

Likewise, when you need some down time from roaming the mean streets of San Andreas, there are several locations where you can pick up a pool cue, not as a weapon, but to take on all comers for a couple of racks. 

These are just a couple of examples. There are also dart boards and, of course, there’s an entire virtual casino full of games to try!

Red Dead Redemption helps you brush up your poker skills

If you have dreams of taking on the top US poker players in the WSOP tournament, you’re not alone. About 60 million Americans play poker, and playing online is the perfect way to get started. Card games are popular features of nested game scenarios, and poker is the obvious choice for a Western themed game. 

Incredibly, the first wild west game to feature poker as an in-game feature was The Wild Bunch, released by Telecomsoft for the ZX Spectrum in 1984. Fast forward almost 40 years, and Red Dead Redemption uses an identical model whereby you can play poker against assorted characters to earn in-game currency. 

The Witcher introduced us to an all-new card game

A little like Quidditch in the Harry Potter universe, Gwent is a card game that was created as part of the storyline in The Witcher series. Essentially a collectible card came, Gwent soon took on a life of its own and in 2019 CD Projekt hit upon the masterstroke of releasing it as a stand alone game for download on iOS and Android. 

The game has received numerous awards, including being named among the best competitive games in the Google Play Awards for 2020. There are numerous Gwent tournaments held around the globe every year, and as well as playing online, it is even possible to buy physical decks of Gwent cards. 

Resident Evil 7 includes a terrifying bedroom game

Every iteration of Resident Evil has faced a tougher challenge to come up with something more unsettling than the last. If you have played Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, one word should be sufficient to make you keep the light on when you go to bed. Margueritte.

Think Mrs Massie from The Shining’s Room 237 meets Annie Wilkes and you are somewhere close. Margueritte is guardian of The Bedroom in an embedded puzzle game that follows the overall survival theme of the main game. The objective is to use whatever time you have to find clues that might lead you out of the room. The catch is you need to make sure everything is left as it was when your hostess returns. You won’t like her when she’s angry. 

Fallout 4 is rescued by Red Menace

When it was first released in 2015, Fallout 4’s reception could best have been described as a mixed bag. While the overall narrative and the game universe were mostly praised, there were more glitches than would normally be expected, and the developers even faced a lawsuit

One aspect of the game that everyone seemed to love, however, was its embedded mini game. Red Menace can be unlocked about 30 minutes into gameplay. You’ll find it on a tape in a terminal, and will have the opportunity to eject it and play it. Players of a certain age will recognize that Red Menace is a parody of the original Nintendo classic Donkey Kong. There are only three levels, but it’s great fun, so seek it out.