With the release of Final Fantasy 8 Remastered, a brand new generation of players will get to experience the story of Squall firsthand. While these players may find themselves captivated by the action and adventure that await them in FF8 Remastered, there is another component of this PlayStation classic that is nothing short of exceptional. Indeed, the Final Fantasy 8 card game, Triple Triad, is a true gem, and twenty years later it remains the best in-game card game of all time.
The Final Fantasy 8 Remastered card game is exceedingly simple to learn, and it is focused around a 3x3 square and two players. At the beginning of a game of Triple Triad in FF8 Remastered, each player either chooses or is assigned five cards from their inventory. Then, players take turns placing these cards on the aforementioned 3x3 square, attempting to position them in a way that will capture their opponent's cards. Determining if a card is captured in TT is a matter of comparing numerical values.
Undoubtedly, only minimal instruction is needed to start playing Triple Triad, and matches go by extremely quickly, often lasting only around one minute. It is this combination of immediate access and speed that makes Triple Triad so pleasantly addictive, and it is part of what puts it at the head of the pack when it comes to video game card games. Additionally, the FF8 card game's gameplay is further improved by the absence of the RNG elements that compromise some other in-game card games.
For instance, Final Fantasy 9's Tetra Master features a heavy RNG element, which makes it feel frequently unfair. By contrast, Triple Triad is wonderfully solvable, rewarding players for learning its intricacies and focusing on solid play. It is also worth noting that while Tetra Master plays quickly like the Final Fantasy 8 card game, it is unnecessarily complex, which alone would put it below TT in terms of quality.
This is not to say that an in-game card game needs to be exceedingly simple to succeed. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt's Gwent, for example, is another phenomenal video game card game, and it certainly takes more effort to learn than Triple Triad. While some might argue that the added depth of play offered by Gwent gives it the edge over the Final Fantasy 8 Remastered card game, it is Triple Triad's implementation that makes it the overall winner.
Part of this implementation is connected to the aforementioned speed of Triple Triad, as its fast rounds continue the momentum that the game's action looks to establish. With Gwent, a match will often take more than five minutes to complete, which makes playing the game feel like a break from The Witcher 3's story rather than a continuation of it. While certainly many players will be happy to sit down for quite some time and find respite through Gwent, this setup does not quite match the symbiosis that Triple Triad finds within FF8.
Additionally, the rewards system that is connected to Triple Triad gives it an even further edge, as players can earn powerful items that will assist them in a myriad of circumstances through playing the Final Fantasy 8 card game. With Tetra Master and Gwent in The Witcher 3, the rewards players receive are, for the most part, only in place to facilitate further play of these in-game card games. This leaves them feeling less integrated into the experience, which does not sound their death knell but is certainly notable.
The full integration of the Final Fantasy 8 card game is demonstrated even further by the fact that there are variations on the rules of Triple Triad across FF8's environments. These variations serve to keep the card game interesting as players progress, but they never go so far as to overly complicate the beautiful simplicity at Triple Triad's core. Furthermore, the idea that there are regional variations of Triple Triad gives the FF8 card game additional life, once again making it feel part of, rather than separate from, the rest of the game.
There are certainly other video game card games that could enter this conversation, such as Xenoblade's Xenocard and RAGE's Rage Frenzy. However, these games simply are not at the level of the likes of Gwent and Triple Triad, and they have not been fully elaborated here as a result. While there will certainly be some fans that prefer these alternatives to the Final Fantasy 8 card game, its accessibility, speed, and in-game integration are enough to land Triple Triad as king of the video game card game.
Final Fantasy 8 Remastered is out now on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.