Now that the Netflix series is out and has become a big hit, many gamers decided to get back to the roots. For better or worse, The Witcher season 2 was delayed by you-know-what and it’s the perfect opportunity to return to the world where steel is for humans and silver for monsters. We’ll never get a chance like this again, so stock up on potions and food and get ready to put your hands on the whole trilogy. But, to complete the picture, don’t forget the books please, now when you get all the time in the world.
Back in 1998, when Andrzej Sapkowski strongly hinted that Geralt’s story had reached the end, nobody really hoped for his comeback. But nearly ten years later, CD Projekt Red surprised us with a deserved continuation, which goes far beyond regular fanfiction – they imbued the Witcher universe with dozens of new adventures and had shaped its signature slavic style.
The Witcher games are a gold mine of truly fascinating stories, and this applies both to the main storyline and the side one. Many underestimate the power of the secondary stories, but as you know, the devil is in the details. So, I decided to share with you my favourite and concurrently the top 10 of the best and most unusual side quests in The Witcher Trilogy.
10. A Pilgrimage (The Witcher, 2007) – Still waters run deep
A Pilgrimage ranks 10th in my top 10 of the best side quests in The Witcher Trilogy. Once, in the middle of Vizimian swamps, Geralt meets a harmless-looking old hermit. He asks the White Wolf to escort him to the altar of Melitele and have a little fun with the drowners, echinops and archespores at the same time. In gratitude, the old man invites Geralt to tea at his place.
All else would be okay, but Geralt finds out that the master of the house is a cannibal. However, it’s fair to say that he adheres to strict principles: for instance, he won’t eat the children. That, by the way, is a redesigned character from The Lady of the Lake, the final novel in The Witcher Saga. Except that the storybook character tried to rape Ciri and then сook her for the dinner. I guess the moral is to never underestimate the old men.
It’s up to you to decide the fate of the cannibal. You can kill him or keep him alive, and in the latter case he would be happy to share his knowledge about the swamps.
9. The Beauty and the Beast (The Witcher, 2007) – In every tale, there’s a grain of truth
The Beauty and The Beast rank 9th in my top 10 of the best side quests in The Witcher Trilogy. There’s a reason why I mentioned the books above, since The Witcher is very closely related to them. The Beauty and the Beast is not an exception because in essence it’s an interpretation of the novel A Grain of Truth from The Last Wish.
The story begins with Carmen, one of the Vizimian prostitutes, who asked Geralt to cure her beloved from lycanthropy. But it’s easier said than done: you’re practically going to walk up to local druids and beg them for all three recipes. The fun’s only just beginning because your next big move is to acquire ingredients, which is tough enough, too. So for instance, such a rare alchimic component like virgin’s tears you can just get from the Order of the Flaming Rose. However, if Geralt would not slice up the werewolf in anger, you can count on a happy ending – a true luxury in this wretched world.
This quest refers at once to several popular tales. First, obviously, is The Beauty and the Beast and that’s that. Second tale in line is The Wild Swans by Hans Christian Andersen. In order to cure her beloved, Carmen had to weave him a shirt with her own hands – not a nettle one like in the original story, but made from fool’s parsley leaves. And finally, the icing on the cake is the allusion to superheroes, since the guard Vincent earns super powers and uses them to punish the bad guys in the dead of night.
8. Troll Trouble (The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, 2011) – Alcoholics Anonymous
Troll Trouble ranks 8th in my top 10 of the best side quests in The Witcher Trilogy. As we all know, Geralt’s own code of conduct prohibits killing intelligent beings. While en route, the White Wolf encountered quite a few of them: playful godlings, talented trolls, dodgy “allgods” and even talking ghouls. And, personally, I would give the lead to trolls, since it always has been a great pleasure doing business with them. More than that, they probably work better than antidepressants.
One of the most memorable encounters took place just off Flotsam, where Geralt got a contract for a troll. He learned from the locals that this troll is a relatively benign creature and even helps them to rеstore the destroyed bridge. Perfect, except that for some reason he went out to roam.
After a brief skirmish, the drunkard confessed that he is busted up about his friend’s death: some villagers killed her the other day. To remedy the situation, Geralt had not only to carry out an investigation and catch actual monsters, but even throw dice for the she-troll head.
7. A Sackful of Fluff (The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, 2011) – Okay, guilty pleasure
A Sackful of Fluff ranks 7th in my top 10 of the best side quests in The Witcher Trilogy. In the vicinity of Vergen a hermit named Elthon
John asks Geralt to get him twelve harpy feathers. However, this amount turns out to be insufficient and this weirdo wants the witcher to bring him an additional sixty(!) feathers, and for the third trip, eight of them. Only after that Geralt finally gets his cherished orens. And little later, we can see the slumlord wearing a ridiculous yellow bird outfit.
Well, what can I say, everyone is crazy in their own way. Of course, you can stay the hell out of all of this. But then Geralt won’t get an amazing and useful trophy – a pointy nose in the shape of a beak.
6. Hung Over (The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, 2011) – Thug life
Hung Over ranks 6th in my top 10 of the best side quests in The Witcher Trilogy. Everyone knows that Geralt and Co. like to have a good time. And it’s always something different: ranging from stealing some lard with a pickle in it, to playing tricks on strangers disguised in women’s clothing. But the coolest party occurred in Blue Stripes headquarters in Flotsam, where everybody was celebrating the desecration of the altar dedicated to the god Veyopatis. Among the entertainments were knife throwing, arm wrestling and beef with the locals.
And then the events unfold in a spirit of The Hangover: Geralt wakes up by the river with a brand new neck tattoo and the worst hangover in his entire life. He learns from Madame Margot that at night he literally tried to swim across the river riding her girls for hours on end. But suffice to say, he had a good run though and has a memory to tell later in Kaer Morhen.
5. Fool’s Gold (The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, 2015) – Of Human Bondage
Fool’s Gold ranks 5th in my top 10 of the best side quests in The Witcher Trilogy. During his travel through Velen, Geralt has been through a lot of tough stuff and once fate brought him to the small village Lurtch. This time, it seems that people of the village are being bludgeoned by greed and avarice. All inhabitants, except the local dummy lad, overnight turned into pigs, just like in Spirited Away. It happened a bit after they visited a strange cave that turned out to be a sanctuary of a certain pig deity. And it put the curse on all the golden goodies so they know how annoying it is.
In order to change them back, Geralt even had to try on the role of a shepherd and successfully drove his pig “flock” back into the cave. He also managed to lift the curse. But, unfortunately, “you can take the girl out of the village, but you sure can’t take the village out of the girl”, as the saying goes. The witcher hardly kept them away from killing the aforementioned peasant gross, which told them about the treasure.
4. Witcher Wannabe (The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, 2015) – Innocent till proven guilty
Witcher Wannabe ranks 4th in my top 10 of the best side quests in The Witcher Trilogy. Time and again Geralt meets his colleagues on his path: insidious witchers from the School of the Cat, the mysterious Berengar or Letho of Gulet, which was a full-fledged antagonist in the second game.
And then one day, in the middle of the village Lidenvale, Geralt overheard the chief scolding another witcher. Purportedly, he knocked up his daughter. But there’s one little hitch – every single witcher is infertile. Geralt took his time and found this mysterious lothario. Well, of course he was not a real witcher, but just another hustler, who simply bought a Wolf School medallion from a travelling merchant.
And, as always, you can just let him go or put him on trial. If you give him up, then after a day or two you can find him working on the fields.
3. Till Death Do You Part (DLC Blood and Wine, 2016) – A family drama or comedy?
Till Death Do You Part ranks 3rd in my top 10 of the best side quests in The Witcher Trilogy. Many spouses are fighting until the day they die and some keep going at it even in the afterlife. Now, that’s just a kind of ghost couple, which dwell in the same crypt in Beauclair: ex-husband and wife make noise at night just as good as the most dangerous beasts. By listening to their grunting and swearing, Geralt finds out that the husband during his lifetime was a gambler and lost all of his possessions because of his debts. But the wife is no slouch either: she got into some cult and sacrificed her last orens to the Prophet Lebioda “disciples”. Anyway, they don’t get along and their “eternal rest” is out of the question. And, consequently, Geralt decides to resettle the vicious ghost couple. As a reward for saving their afterlife, in return they promise some precious Gwent playing cards.
If you choose to carry off the husband’s urn, then the wife will tell you that she buried the map in her rose garden. However, it won’t be so easy dealing with the man: the ex-gambler will simply cheat Geralt. Just a professional quirk, it’s nothing personal. Well, then you’ll have to deal with tomb robbers and other Gwent enthusiasts on the path to the cherished map. Just another little reminder that people can be worse than monsters.
2. Big Game Hunter (DLC Blood and Wine, 2016) – A safari in Beauclair
Big Game Hunter ranks 2nd in my top 10 of the best side quests in The Witcher Trilogy. Beauclair, the “white pearl” of Toussaint, has always attracted different artists. But it’s just that many of these creative persons are a little bit weird. Take count Belendal, for example: he is a professional photographer and a nature enthusiast. And so, he hired Geralt to accompany him while hiking in the Beauclair woods. The major sticking point is the local fauna, which doesn’t especially enjoy posing and Geralt has to do something about this. Except count Belendal abhors violence against animals, so the only weapons available are charisma and a little bit of Axii sign.
However, you will have to deal the old-fashioned way with one of the “models”. But you will get a personal little souvenir – a great shot capable of adorning the interior of Corvo Bianco. And when they come back, Geralt finds out the sad truth behind the count’s hobby. The thing is, Belendal’s daughter fell off a horse when she was little and has been confined to her bed ever since. And it just so happens that photography is the only open window to the outer world for her. It’s a very sad story.
1. Equine Phantoms (The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, 2015) – Get a move on, Roach!
Equine Phantoms heads the list of my top 10 of the best side quests in The Witcher Trilogy. It is no exaggeration to call this quest the most unusual one in the whole trilogy. It is devoted to Geralt’s faithful companion: the horse, Roach.
Not far from Beauclair, a bloodthirsty ghost horse has been badgering a local hermit. But what’s interesting is that Geralt couldn’t find any trace of it. At all. Since it’s in his nature to keep busy, he agreed to taste the hermit’s mushroom potion. Geralt never got to see the ghost but instead has experienced some side effects. All of a sudden Roach started talking to him. The witcher was not only impressed by her razor-sharp wit and extensive knowledge, but also by her perfect detective skills. In fact, she’s the one who realized that the so-called ghost horse turned out to be an umbra, the phantom of hermit’s recently deceased beloved.
Once, that knight had beaten his horse to death. And now, in order to break the curse, he needs to obtain the horse’s forgiveness. Correction: from any horse. Since Roach is a kind and merciful creature, the deadbeat knight was finally laid to eternal rest. I just wish that this amazing potion would last forever.
[Bonus] Land of a Thousand Fables (DLC Blood and Wine, 2016) – When magic goes bad
Now as you can see, the DLC Blood And Wine is nothing but a big grotesque quest in the best sense of this word. And it will culminate in a series of tasks in the Fablesphere, the embodiment of Sienna’s and Anna Henrietta’s childhood fantasy. Well, apparently it’s been a very confusing period of time for both of them. The developers turned several famous fairy tales outside-out: Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs and The Little Match Girl.
The world of fables is also filled up by pop culture references. In order to foot on the magic land, you’ll have to cast a spell – analog of Expecto Patronum from Harry Potter. The sweet red pepper under the bridge hints at the song Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers. And in the castle of the Cloud Giant you can find a sword from Dark Souls, stuck in the bonfire. And so forth. It’s a great gift for lovers of easter eggs.
[Bonus] Dead Man’s Party (DLC Hearts of Stone, 2015) – Breaking bad
The beautiful and touching story of Olgierd Von Everec has one especially amusing quest. This time the immortal hero challenged Geralt to remind his dead brother Vlodimir what real fun is.
And, conveniently, there’s a wedding on the horizon, and more specifically Shani’s friend’s wedding. But there is a catch: how to enjoy the feast when you’re a ghost and cannot celebrate it with a beer or eight? Undeterred, Vlodimir possesses the first guy he could – Geralt himself. Not only the witcher every now and then is losing control over his body, but he’s got a pushy and quite intrusive company in his head.