The 8 Best JRPG Minigames
Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite genre of video games are Japanese RPGs, and what is a great JRPG without some great side quests?
Sometimes, these side quests come in the form of minigames–something completely different from the rest of the game, to give you a break from the action and help you dump even more hours into an already obscenely long video game. In this list, I’d like to cover some of my favorite JRPG Minigames of all time. However, there are a few rules involved with this list.
The first rule is that I must have actually played the game before. I won’t be basing any of my decisions off of somebody else’s claims, so it’s very possible that if you know of a great minigame that isn’t on this list, I simply may have never played that game.
The second rule is that I’m only going to include one minigame per game, even if some of these games have multiple fantastic minigames.
The last rule is that I won’t be including minigames that you can find in just about every other RPG, like battle arenas or generic casinos with poker and the like.
With all of that in mind, here is my personal list of the 8 best JRPG minigames!
#8—Tales of the Abyss – Tales of Dragon Buster
Very late in Tales of the Abyss, the player can undertake a fun little minigame called Tales of Dragon Buster. This is actually a remake of a classic Namco arcade game called… you guessed it… Dragon Buster, using the characters from Tales of the Abyss. In this action-platformer minigame, the objective is to navigate the maze-like stages, defeating monsters and collecting power-ups along the way, until you reach the boss dragon at the end, hopefully with decent power-ups and enough health remaining to defeat it. The game is very simple in concept, but it’s actually somewhat difficult to beat, partially due to the somewhat wonky collision detection and physics.
There are a couple different endings to this minigame, depending on how you performed, and achieving the best of them is necessary to unlock all of the rewards, which are costumes for the main character, Luke. Despite its little flaws with physics and whatnot, I still thoroughly enjoyed this little minigame.
#7—Tales of Berseria – Character Cards
Quite possibly the most simple game on this list, but also one of the most addictive. It’s basically a simple card matching game, where the objective is to create hands based on certain card attributes. You take character cards that are in your hand and match them with characters from the same game in the Tales series that are on the playing field in order to claim them. As you claim cards, you can then match them together with cards from a different game, based on certain attributes, such as main characters, or characters that betray you, in order to score points.
There’s actually some strategy involved though, not just aiming for high scoring sets. If you can figure out which cards your opponent has, you can effectively block them from forming hands by not laying down cards that they may need. Still, it is an extremely simple game, but one that is both fun and addicting.
#6—Xenosaga Episode III – HaKox!?
What does “HaKox!?” mean? I have no idea. But what I do know is that it is an awesome puzzle minigame present in the third Xenosaga game. It’s kinda-sorta almost like Lemmings, in a way. The objective of the game is to guide your characters from the entrance of the stage to an exit portal using cubes that shift their position based on what buttons you press. For example, if a character needs to cross a gap, and there’s a cube with an “O” symbol on it off to the side of the gap, pressing the O button will move the cube into the gap, allowing that character to cross over and continue on.
Things start simple, but quickly ramp up in difficulty as the game adds more buttons, more types of gimmicks, and of course, places where your characters can fall off the stage and make you fail the level. Eventually, it reaches a point where you’re having to worry about multiple characters walking around at once, more complex gimmick puzzles and way more opportunities to screw up and have to restart. There’s quite a few levels too, so it’s almost feels like its own little game instead of just a side quest in a larger game.
#5—Final Fantasy VII – G-Bike
The epic finale of the Midgar story arc of Final Fantasy VII takes the fifth spot on this list. The party is forced to flee the city of Midgar as quickly as possible, and so our hero Cloud hops on a motorcycle, while his allies get in a pickup truck and take off down the highway out of the city. Unfortunately for them, motorcycle-riding goons are in pursuit, and Cloud has to take care of them in the only way he knows how, by slicing them in half with his six foot long sword. While riding a motorcycle and somehow managing to not crash.
The goons will usually attempt to attack the truck, and if anyone in the truck dies, it’s game over. So you have to get up alongside them and whack them with your sword, which you can swing either to the left or right. Some of the goons will head straight for the truck, but others will try and bait you away from the truck so the others can attack it, so you have to keep on your toes for the entire ride to make sure that they don’t get the best of you.
The whole scene is intense and extremely fun, and even better, later on in the game, you can replay this scene as much as you want in the Gold Saucer’s arcade! While Final Fantasy VII does have quite a few fun little minigames, this one is definitely the best of them all, in my opinion.
#4—Final Fantasy X – Blitzball
I know this is kind of an unpopular opinion, but… I love me some Blitzball. In fact, I would go so far as to say most of the people that hate Blitzball either just don’t know how to play it properly, or they stuck with the default team and wondered why it seemed like they couldn’t get any goals (hint: It’s because the Besaid Aurochs suck).
Our hero, Star Player for the Zanarkand Abes, has been tasked with taking the worst Blitzball team in the history of Blitzball to the championships, and if you want to make that dream happen, you’re gonna need to git gud at the extreme sport of underwater football. Blitzball isn’t your typical video game sport. It isn’t about quick reflexes and quick thinking, it is almost entirely about numbers. It’s about recruiting the most overpowered players on the planet, and pitting your numbers against the opponent’s numbers. Sure, there’s lots of strategy involved too, but really, having bigger numbers than the opponent is what is really gonna win you the game.
And you’re gonna want to win the game, because the rewards for winning Blitzball tournaments are insanely good in some cases, including Wakka’s ultimate weapon and all of his Overdrive techniques. Sadly, most people don’t seem to enjoy Blitzball, and like I said before, I think it mostly just boils down to playing the game wrong. The game does a poor job of explaining how to play, and then in your very first match, pits you up against a team with MUCH better numbers than your team and… well, getting squashed by the Luca Goers tends to put people off of this great minigame. If you play Final Fantasy X and you hate Blitzball, I say go back and give the game another shot once you’ve recruited some of the better players. You might end up liking it in the end! But not the Final Fantasy X-2 version of Blitzball. That crap is terrible.
#3—Kingdom Hearts II – Gummi Ship
I haven’t had the opportunity to play Kingdom Hearts III yet, but I have fond memories of playing Kingdom Hearts II back in the day, and one of my favorite parts of the game was the Gummi Ship minigame. You could build your own spaceship, deck it out with all the guns you could fit on it, and fly it through space and blast enemy spaceships to smithereens!
There were a bunch of different courses to take your ship on, each with increasingly difficult enemies, and there were a ton of different things to collect, including parts for your custom ships, or blueprints for premade ones. I think I probably spent almost as much time just flying through the Gummi Ship stages as I did playing through the main game, just trying to complete all the objectives and collect everything! It was truly awesome, and I kind of wish they had just made a spinoff game entirely about Gummi Ships.
#2—Final Fantasy VIII – Triple Triad
Triple Triad is the biggest reason to play Final Fantasy VIII. Forget the story, forget the combat, we’re here to play children’s card games. Triple Triad can either be extremely simple, or extremely complex, depending on what rules are in play. Each region of the world has its own house rules on how the game is meant to be played, and you can either follow their rules, or by an annoyingly complex process, abolish the rules of that region and instate your own rules upon the entire land, like some sort of trading card game dictator.
At its core, the main focus of Triple Triad is to capture your opponent’s cards by way of placing your own cards down on the field and having bigger numbers than they do. Things are rarely that simple, however, due to regional rules causing all sorts of different things to happen, including bringing elemental affinities into the mix, causing chain combos under certain conditions, or forcing you to use completely random cards from your inventory instead of your good cards.
Triple Triad is not just about putting down the biggest number, but strategizing to make sure that your opponent is unable to capture your own cards in a counter-placement. For such a simple game, it has a ton of depth, and sometimes you’ll think you’ve got the game in the bag and then with one single placement and your own lack of awareness, your opponent pulls out a chain combo and captures the entire field, ending in your defeat. Each match can come down to the wire, and the opponents will take advantage of your mistakes if you let them. Still, Triple Triad is amazingly fun, even when you’re losing.
Perhaps best of all, is that your Triple Triad cards can be converted into items, which can in turn be converted into spells that the player can equip, boosting their character’s stats far beyond normal levels. Through the process of being good at Triple Triad and knowing where to find strong cards, then refining those cards into strong spells, you can become obscenely overpowered, pretty much from the very start of the game. Who knew that children’s card games could determine the fate of the world?
#1—Xenosaga Episode I – Xenocard
You see all those other card games on this list? They’re just children’s card games. Card games for babies. This is the mature adult’s JRPG trading card game right here. While most JRPG card minigames involve just throwing cards down and whoever has bigger numbers wins, Xenocard has a system so complex and deep that it puts even professional retail trading card games to shame. Wanna know why it took me like, over 100 hours to beat Xenosaga Episode I? Because probably half of that time was spent playing Xenocard.
Xenocard basically works like this: Each turn is split into multiple different phases, where you can set cards down in certain positions on the field, mounting a defensive wall of character cards between your opponent and your precious life points, which manifest in the form of your actual deck. Each character has HP and attack power of their own, and even different attack properties. The core goal of the game is to build up a strong enough offense to break down your opponent’s defensive wall of characters, and then use your characters to attack their deck once their defenses are down, which will discard cards from it based on how much damage you deal. First player to run out of cards to draw loses.
But it isn’t as simple as just loading your deck full of strong characters, because the stronger the character, the more cost there is to play them. Then there’s equipment cards that can modify your character’s attacks, event and situation cards that can change the flow of battle, and so much more! And don’t forget, even if you’ve built up a strong deck, each time you take damage, you lose some of your cards, so if you rely on one single strategy for your entire deck and those vital cards get discarded, your entire strategy is ruined, so you’d better have a backup plan, buddy.
You know what the funniest thing about Xenocard is?
There’s no rewards outside of getting more cards.
That’s right. This minigame is so good that I spent about 50 hours on it and didn’t get a dang thing out of it but more trading cards. And it was worth every single minute of it. If you want an example of a perfect JRPG minigame, look no further than Xenocard.