In-game collectibles have become a mainstay of modern gaming. Almost every title that comes out features a variety of optional hidden items littering the world players have to seek out. While they are rarely an essential part of the story, they can add extra enjoyment to the overall experience if done right.
The very best collectibles are expertly hidden to encourage exploration and come along with a system designed to help the player keep track of what they still need to find. They also tend to provide some tangible benefit, whether it be extra powers, additional lore, or ridiculous cheat codes. It's no coincidence many of the most addictive video games ever contain a slew of fun goodies to search out.
BioShock made in-game collectibles feel worthwhile by tying them to an integral part of the story. Each audio log adds valuable background to the world of Rapture, the characters you encounter, and the events leading up to your arrival at the underwater city. They are hugely satisfying to find as each adds a new perspective to your experience.
Super Mario Odyssey is well aware of how enjoyable it is to collect things. For the first real Mario game on the Switch, Nintendo packed the world full of more treasure than ever before. On top of a slew of unique costumes, regional purple coins, and regular gold coins, there's 999 Power Moons (roughly 10 times as many as past Mario games) to hunt down.
The player only needs a fraction of these moons to reach the end of the story, meaning there are plenty of optional moons to collect, and they are everywhere. Early in the game, it's pretty normal to be unlocking a new moon every few minutes, leading to a near-endless cycle of satisfaction. For dedicated players, there are tons of cool unlockables tied to collecting extra moons, including brand new levels.
While more recent Assassin's Creed games arguably go a little overboard in terms of collectibles, Ubisoft certainly got the balance right with Assassin’s Creed II, particularly with The Truth side quest. As the player travels around Renaissance Italy, they soon discover a series of hidden glyphs located on accurate representations of real-world landmarks. The glyphs can only be spotted using Eagle Vision, and uncovering them unlocks a series of puzzles that, when completed, reveal pieces of a video hinting at distant future events in the AC franchise.
Who doesn't want to believe there's actually a secret code hidden on the outside of the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence?
What's better than driving your car through a billboard at 100 miles per hour?
Paradise City is loaded with 120 destructible billboards to hunt down and rip to shreds. While taking out every last one requires some dedication, most of them are displayed in plain sight, so it's hard not to get distracted by them as you're cruising through the world. Since billboards tend to be displayed high off the ground, part of the challenge is figuring out how to get up to them. This often boils down to boosting off a ramp at top speed, but it can also involve traversing a difficult series of gaps or uncovering one of the game's many secret areas.
At first, it might seem impossible to hit the billboard that's smack-dab in the middle of a six-way intersection, but after you've grown comfortable with the game's mechanics, jumping off the top of a parking garage and flying 50 feet to dart through it feels like second nature.