Guerilla Games’ Horizon Zero Dawn introduced players to a massive post-apocalyptic open world, overrun by machines. The masterful world-building that went into the game gave players the chance to navigate through the stunning real-life-inspired locations that have been turned into jungles, frozen forests, and treacherous mountains. The aesthetically pleasing setting and compelling storyline were only made better by Zero Dawn’s exciting side quests that added something to its rich lore.
Fans of the 2017 RPG expect to see more interesting characters, locations, and mechanics in the upcoming sequel, Horizon Forbidden West. The highly-anticipated potential PlayStation 5 exclusive is likely going to be delayed to next year instead of releasing by the end of 2021 (according to the PlayStation Blog). In the meantime, Horizon fans can rediscover Aloy’s world by taking the time to check out some of the best side quests in Zero Dawn. These quests often come with well-written stories, challenging fights, and satisfying rewards that make them worth completing.
10 A Moment’s Peace
After an uncomfortable conversation with the sleazy gambler Vilgund in Meridian, Aloy travels north to investigate a mysterious camp. Here, she finds that somehow, the Banuk people are able to live peacefully among docile machines. Aloy sees this for herself and uncovers the real reason for the uncharacteristic calm among the machines in that specific area.
The quest is an interesting look into how the game’s characters can interpret mysterious events through their own religious views. It also provides more context for the main quest, ‘The Mountain That Fell,’ where it’s revealed that the suspiciously calm machines were being controlled by one of GAIA’s modules.
9 Queen’s Gambit
Following the events of the equally exciting side quest, ‘Traitor’s Bounty,’ Aloy must help Queen Nasadi and her son escape the Shadow Carja. It’s a tense situation, as the group has to move during the night and avoid both machines and guards.
The most thrilling part of the side quest is the waves of enemies that the Carja sends after the group after they’re spotted. Aloy has to use all of her strength to hold off this onslaught of corrupted machines long enough for the royals to make their escape. There’s a satisfying ending that perfectly caps off this series of dramatic political side quests.
8 Robbing The Rich
In Meridian, Aloy meets Ravan, a nobleman who has the ability to use his Focus to investigate crimes. He asks for the player’s help in solving a fishy theft in a nearby villa. This is only the beginning of a mystery with many twists that only Aloy can solve.
The whodunnit is an interesting change of pace in the game. Although it can be a bit tedious to run around following blood tracks while also speaking with a lot of witnesses, the narrative behind the quest makes it worth completing.
7 Ikrie’s Challenge
After completing the side quest, ‘The Survivor,’ Aloy meets the headstrong Ikrie in the Snowchants Hunting Grounds. Ikrie has been camping out here and invites the player to take on a challenge she designed for her and Aloy.
Even when playing on the easiest mode, this challenge is a tough one to complete. The pair must work together to defeat Scrappers, Grazers, Tramplers, and a terrifying Fire Bellowback. The real test is that players are only given exactly sixty arrows, so timing and precision are crucial to complete this side quest.
6 To Old Acquaintance
Horizon’s story-driven approach is especially obvious in this side quest, where Aloy must help Gera find her missing husband, Kendert. Gera left the patriarchal ways of the Claim, but her husband decided to stay behind. He obviously regrets this decision, as he makes the treacherous trip to Hunter’s Gathering, bearing expensive gifts for Gera so she can use them for her makeshift bar.
The well-written characters make this side quest an entertaining one – players will want to help the adorable couple reunite. Their dialogue in the cutscenes also hints at how twisted the patriarchal views of the Claim are. After completing this side quest, players will be pleasantly surprised to spot Gera and Kendert playfully arm wrestling in their new settlement.
5 Acquired Taste
The side quest involving Banuk shaman, Brin, is quite a unique and interesting storyline. Aloy finds him injured in a wooden shack, where he explains he was attacked while trying to drink Sawtooth blood. Since the blood provides him visions of the future, Brin asks Aloy if they can get him some more; if Aloy succeeds, Brin will tell her what they are about. The player then has to take down machines like the Sawtooth, Corruptor, Stalker, and even a Thunderjaw to bring their blood one at a time to the shaman.
‘Acquired Taste’ is an essential side quest for players who want to know more about Zero Dawn’s lore. The shaman’s visions reveal important details about the machines’ history. He will even allude to Forbidden West towards the end, before getting agitated and terrified by what he sees in his last vision.
After completing the ‘Deadliest Game,’ Aloy returns to the Hunter’s Lodge only to learn that an overpowered Thunderjaw is wreaking havoc and killing hunters around the area. The player must track down this dangerous machine called the Redmaw, who injures her friends and other hunters along the way.
The Redmaw is a formidable opponent, but thanks to Aloy’s series of tasks from the Hunter’s Lodge, she’s had lots of practice. This thrilling fight is the best opportunity for players to show their mastery of combat, as it will really put their skills to the test.
3 Heap of Trouble
Over at Free Heap, Aloy meets with Petra Forgewoman, who informs her that there are bandits and machines threatening the safety of their camp. Players are given tasks that increase in difficulty as Free Heap slowly becomes overwhelmed by evil forces.
There’s a slow buildup to the epic battle that unfolds where Petra reveals her badass invention, the Oseram Canon. The way the two work together is a testament to just how badass female characters in video games can be. This quest has a little bit of everything – from simple fetch errands and interesting characters to exciting fights against men and machines.
2 Fatal Inheritance
While walking around Meridian, Aloy hears the distressed Ranaman complaining about the aggressive machines that are attacking his father’s estate. However, things are not as they seem as Aloy later uncovers that Ranaman is a criminal who planted a machine-attracting device to murder his family. He proudly admits this right before his device attracts a Glinthawk that rightfully kills him.
What makes this quest special is that it actually has a secret ending. If Aloy destroys the machines around the estate and doesn’t investigate further to find and rescue Ranaman’s sister, she can return to the criminal in Meridian who will presumably murder his father and sister to claim his ‘Fatal Inheritance.’ This is a super depressing ending for a game that shows how dark Aloy’s universe can be.
1 Sun and Shadow
This side quest starts in Brightmarket, where Aloy finds herself at the start of a post-apocalyptic version of Romeo and Juliet. A nobleman’s daughter is missing, and players will soon discover that the missing victim has actually gone to meet up with her lover from the opposing side of the civil war.
This secret meeting goes terribly wrong, and Aloy has to infiltrate a camp, prevent several deaths and reunite a family all in one night. Thankfully, the ending of this particular story isn’t as tragic as Romeo and Juliet’s tale. The emotional twists and turns to get to the ending make this a side quest that’s worth completing.