Ahh yes, the trippy quest. A chance for game designers to play, use all those wild, genre-bending ideas, and also break up the pacing of a game. Few side or main quests are more memorable than one where the main character, usually so serious and somber, totally trips balls. We’re not talking about games where substance abuse and mind altering items are part of the role-playing narrative in a big way like Disco Elysium. Or where they’re integral to the plot like in Max Payne or Heavy Rain. We’re talking pure, usually silly escapism. Not all of these quests involve nose candy or sky diamonds or what have you, but they’re all mind-bending in a way that elevates the game as a whole. Major spoilers ahead for the games listed.  

Cyberpunk 2077: The Monk

CD Projekt Red

Find this guy, find your zen.

This quest isn’t even marked on the map and it was one of the more delightfully memorable parts of the game, despite not having a fireworks wow pay-off at the end. V comes across a monk who offers them a meditative brain dance. When you awaken, he’s gone and you can scour the map to find him again. When first playing this quest, some folks thought their consoles had frozen. The cutscene you see doesn’t allow you to skip it, but it does give you a real moment of calm and quiet reflection before you go back into the electric murder house which is Cyberpunk 2077.

Yoshi’s Island: Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy

 

Nintendo

Those eyes have SEEN, know what I mean?

‘Get dizzy’ sounds like a way parents explain to their 6 year old why Uncle Scott was passed out at the Thanksgiving table after blasting through a personal magnum of Chablis, but it’s also a delightful side quest in the beloved game, Yoshi’s Island. This level on the classic platformer has Red Yoshi carting around baby Mario and trying to avoid the little white puffballs called Fuzzys. When a player does hit one, the screen goes all wibbly and the map itself undulates. The best detail is the extremely dazed look Yoshi’s eyes take on, which if you’ve ever seen festies writhing at a String Cheese Incident concert, is a look you know well.

Grand Theft Auto V: Alien Invasion

Rockstar

Michael no! Think of your awful children!

In between rampaging around Los Santos in your sweet car/dirt bike/helicopter, it’s important to take some downtime and rampage… through your own psyche. Michael, one of the surly tritagonists of the game, comes across a dubious guy who just wants a moment to talk about marijuana legalization. He even does the friendly, neighborly thing of offering you a joint. It’s fine, he claims, he grows it himself. One toke and the world goes candy colored… and gets invaded. Classic Area 51 looking aliens come out of nowhere and all you have to defend yourself with is an unwieldy blaster. The lesson: accepting a joint from a guy in a suit? Not even once.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla: Fly Agaric

Wikipedia

Alice in Wonderland would be better if she went into a Berserker rage.

Like other historically accurate Assassin’s Creed games, Valhalla’s amazing world building was inspired by real world events. Scholars generally agree that ancient Vikings would use psychedelic mushrooms, sometimes before battle to induce a berserker rage. There’s also a theory that instead of fly agaric mushrooms, they took a flowering plant called henbane. Either way, any time Eivor had to take ‘shrooms to complete a puzzle/commune with the spirit world, it took the game to a whole new dimension.

Grand Theft Auto V: Peyote

 

Wikipedia

An actual peyote plant in case you stumble across one.

It’s no coincidence that arguably the most successful RPG of all time is on here twice. The devs at Rockstar know that people love to freak their minds. And these side quest collectibles do it better than almost anyone. In story mode, players can find the locations of peyote plants scattered around the map; if they eat the peyote, they’ll transform into an animal. The hallucination lasts until the player chooses to exit or dies. Giving the hardened killers of GTA V the chance to spend some time as a bird, freely pooping on pedestrians, or as a majestic dolphin exploring underwater is pure delight.

Red Dead Redemption 2: A Quiet Time

Rockstar

Besties in the West.

You sheen Lenny? Even Arthur Morgan, the hard ridingest, rootin’ tootinist, toughest man in the West needs to take a night off every now and again. Shortly after the gang’s arrival in Valentine, he takes one of the crew’s younger members, Lenny, out for a quiet drink. Obviously, they get absolutely plastered in the local saloon. The player has to weave an increasingly unsteady Arthur up and down the steps of the bar slash brothel slash barber shop to find Lenny… repeatedly. By the end of the quest, you’re so blitzed on whatever bathtub moonshine they’ve been serving up that you’re swimming in a sea of Lennys and headed for a bad hangover. But luckily this is video games, all of the fun, none of the pain. 

Skyrim: Mind of Madness

 

Bethesda

Damn, now I want to play Skyrim again….

One of the lengthier quests on the list, it’s number one for all the same reasons Skyrim is such an enduring classic. Deep world building, memorable characters, and in-game consequences that resonate throughout the rest of your playthrough. This quest is easy to miss for Dragonborn who only walk a straight and narrow path, the quest giver is a raggedy looking man who you might dismiss for RP reasons. But if you hear him out, you gain access to the mind of an ancient emperor and the realm of the Daedric Prince of madness, Sheogorath. You help heal a mind during this quest which is cool if you’re a therapist or whatever, but we’re really here for the Wabbajack staff you get as a reward. It’s a powerful weapon which inflicts a random effect on an enemy or ally when you use it. Explosions, healing, transfiguration, you’ll never know what happens until after you’ve attacked. 

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