No game before or since has done side quests as well as The Witcher 3. And now, following the release of Netflix’s adaptation starring Henry Cavill, it seems more people than ever are actually playing them.
Wonderfully written, inventive, intriguing and sometimes shocking, the game is chock full of interesting additional missions to undertake. Some are diplomatic excursions, some are monster hunts, some have you investigating wizards who love cheese. There are dozens upon dozens of them, especially once you factor in the game’s major expansions, Hearts of Stone and Blood & Wine.
Here are the best in the game – just a handful of the ones you absolutely have to check out.
Towerful of Mice
An early contender for one of the best side quests in the whole base game, Towerful of Mice takes Geralt to the eerie and isolated tower on Fyke Isle with a magical lamp. It’s on Fyke Isle that you’ll tackle a number of different quests in the early part of the story, but this one is easily the best – a contract-style investigation given to you by your suspicious sorecess friend, Keira Metz. Not going to spoil exactly what happens (even almost five years after the game came out, its quests deserve to be experienced fresh) but it’s suitably gruesome and one of the finest examples of how the seemingly ‘good’ decisions in Witcher 3 rarely end up wholly positive.
A bunch of monsters get a bit overused throughout The Witcher 3. It’s never a massive problem, but it means that the game’s one-off baddies really stand out. That’s where the Possession quest comes into its own. It’s one of two side quests that come once you reach Skellige, assisting Crach an Craite with his two children, Hjalmar and Cerys. Possession sees Geralt helping the latter, heading to one of the archipelago’s isles to investigate a troubled jarl, a cursed sword, and a haunted house in a story of personal guilt and spiritual trickery. Absolutely pursue this quest for one of the game’s best monster set pieces.
Of Dairy and Darkness
Who doesn’t love a mage obsessed with dairy produce? Apparently tyromancy, as it’s called, is a real form of divination involving the observation of cheese, and it also makes one of the Witcher 3’s most amusing little asides. It’s a short quest with little in the way of dramatic endings, but it does have you navigating a puzzle of cheese, and earning a powerful sword that’s called The Emmentaler.
The Last Wish
A true romance story, The Last Wish is a side quest from Yennefer, after Geralt helps her track down Ciri on the Skellige island of Lofoten. Those who’ve read the Witcher books (not me) will be familiar with what the last wish is, but it’s a quest that’s adapted perfectly for the unfamiliar. Geralt and Yen are supposedly tied together by the magical forces of a Djinn, a spirit with untold power – Yen wants to find out if this is true or if Geralt and her actually have genuine feelings for one another. It’s a pivotal moment in the romance story, and can go one of two ways depending on your decisions. Also, it has a galleon ship on the top of a mountain, which is fucking cool.
Ghosts of the Past
This quest can be found one of two ways – either by exploring the woodland areas near Lindenvale in Velen, or by undertaking and investigating the quest called The Fall of the House of Reardon from an old lady called Dolores in the same town. Those who’ve played The Witcher 2 will especially appreciate who shows up in this quest – Letho, the Witcher responsible for killing King Foltest in the previous game. What ensues is a great quest of betrayal and faked deaths, and Letho is sinister and cool enough to carry the whole storyline on his own.
Return to Crookback Bog
Few games would resign the culmination of one of its best main quests to an optional secondary quest, but The Witcher 3 has confidence in its players. After the lengthy Bloody Baron quest, which has been written about to death and I won’t bore you with talking about how brilliant that is (even though it is, really, excellent), the Return to Crookback Bog is completely missable should you choose not to… return to crookback bog. You definitely, absolutely, totally should, however – it’s a dramatic coda to a horrific family tragedy and one that is bad or worse for both the baron and his wife, Anna, depending on the choices you’ve made along the way.
The Phantom of Eldberg
I love a lighthouse. I especially love a haunted lighthouse set on a picturesque peak surrounded by some unpleasant fog full of wraiths. The Phantom of Eldberg features just that. The quest can be acquired in a number of ways, but the quickest is to head to the town of Arinbjorn and look at the notice board there. After that it’s off to one of Ard Skellig’s most impressive landmarks, and you’ll uncover one of the best side stories in the game with an unexpected twist. Also best to make sure you find this quest before you complete the quest King’s Gambit – doing so will lead to another few great quests called Stranger in a Strange Land and The Cave of Dreams.
A proper detective murder mystery, this one kicks off if you complete Dandelion’s Cabaret side mission – which you get access to after you rescue Dandelion as part of the main quest. Carnal Sins has you chasing down a serial killer in the streets of Novigrad, one who utilises some gruesome methods of killing their victims. It’s full of a couple of twists and turns, great investigations, and a few grey areas that continue The Witcher 3’s brilliant lack of any clear cut black and white morality.
There are two types of weapon and armour side quests in the game. The weapons master quest, Of Swords and Dumplings, isn’t as good as this one; found in Crow’s Perch, you end up trekking to the cursed Skellige island of Undvik to investigate a forgotten forge. Best completed in tandem with the Lord of Undvik side quest (a sister quest to Possession) you’ll find a few brilliant set piece moments in this quest, including an excellent boss fight with an ugly giant. Of course, the rewards for having a master armourer at your disposal are worth the price of admission, and the quest’s resolution also has a nice subversion of the male-dwarf-as-expert-blacksmith trope.
The Tower Outta Nowheres
You can play the entire game and miss this one, thanks to the fact the quest is located north of Urialla Harbour, on the island at the top right of the Skellige region. This quest sees a magic tower appearing out of nowhere on the horizon of a small village. Therein you’ll find a barmy mage struggling with the tower’s magical defences (coyly named ‘DRM’ or defensive regulatory magicon) and a really fun little adventure that doesn’t take long, but does stick in the mind.