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.
- Photo: Bethesda Softworks
Bethesda did their best to make the collectibles in Fallout 3 as fun to find as possible. When the game world is huge, it's important to encourage players to go out and explore in a way that doesn’t feel too forced. The bobbleheads are an excellent solution to this conundrum.
These little figures are hidden away in interesting locations you might not necessarily visit otherwise. Once found, they can be displayed at your in-game home and each provides a permanent skill boost that's extremely difficult to gain any other way, making them both valuable and rewarding.
- Photo: Bethesda Softworks
The world of Skyrim is massive; there's so much to explore and uncover collectibles in the traditional sense aren't really necessary. What the RPG does have is a collection of Daedric artifacts that can only be acquired in very particular ways. Hidden throughout the game world are a series of Daedric altars where demonic creatures offer the player short quests in exchange for powerful items.
These items range from weapons to armor, and all have unique abilities that make them stand out from the game's normal loot. Collecting them all means traveling into a literal world of nightmares, piecing together a very drunk night, and filling a role in a bizarre Alice In Wonderland style adventure.
This last endeavor nabs you the Wabbajack, which is arguably the most powerful weapon in the game; it can transform any enemy into a non-threatening animal like a rabbit or chicken, make your opponent explode in a burst of flames, or morph them into a sinister and deadly Dremora Lord. The only catch is the specific effect is totally random.
- Photo: Rocksteady
The Arkham games feature a slew of Riddler Challenges to collect and complete, and designers were smart enough to give the player a variety of reasons to search them out. Each one unlocks a piece of Batman lore, allowing players to learn more about the villains and locations they encounter in-game.
Even if you don't care about the franchise's story, you'll still probably have a good time hunting for Riddler Challenges, as many of them can only be located by solving actual riddles. These range from uncovering secret passages to finding seemingly mundane objects hidden in the world that are instrumental to the Batman canon (such as a picture of security guard Aaron Cash's family or an advertisement for Bludhaven).
To top it all off, every single challenge nets the player experience points, so focusing on the riddles makes it easy to level up and unlock new gadgets.
- Photo: Microsoft Studios
Generally speaking, first-person shooters are focused on fast-paced action, so taking time to slow down and search for collectibles goes against the grain. When shooters do include them, they often feel tacked on, like the hidden bags in Mirror's Edge that don't actually give the player anything new.
The Halo series is a bit different. The vast majority of Halo games include a set of hidden skulls stashed away in tricky to reach places. They often require the player to do specific actions before they show up on the map, such as jumping through a set of rings in a particular order.
Even though each game only features about a dozen, all are very rewarding to find. By getting players to experiment with the gameplay mechanics and exploit "broken" parts of the world, Bungie made collecting the skulls incredibly fun. On top of that, each skull unlocks a new gameplay variant ranging from difficulty boosters like the Iron Skull, which eliminates mid-mission checkpoints, to goofy Easter eggs like the Grunt Birthday Party Skull, which makes weaker enemies explode in bursts of confetti when you shoot them in the head.