For me, trading card games have always been an obsession. First it was, Yu-Gi-Oh, then Magic: The Gathering, then the Pokémon TCG and the list goes on and on. But while I loved trading card games, this passion wasn’t necessary translated to my most beloved medium (read: video games.) Whenever a new TCG video game came out I tried it, but most of them weren’t worth playing. Below, you’ll find a list with what a consider are some of the best trading card video games ever made. Naturally, this is a personal list, so most of you will probably disagree with it. As usual, feel free to share ideas in the comments down below or share your own list. In the meantime, this is what I came up with:
10. Lost Kingdoms (Nintendo GameCube)
As most of the titles in this list, Lost Kingdoms is a card-based role-playing game, but one of the main aspects that makes this title stand out is that battles take place in real time and not in turns. The combat system is extremely fast-paced and you should constantly move to avoid attacks while you plan an strategy. If you’re looking for an unconventional title that incorporates some TCG elements, Lost Kingdoms is definitely for you.
9. Monster Rancher: Battle Card Game (Game Boy Color)
As its name suggests, Monster Rancher Battle Card Game is a TCG that features characters and elements from the now extinct Monster Rancher series. One of the most inviting characteristics of the Monster Rancher games has always been using CDs to create random critters, but this spin-off eschewed that in favor of deck building and card battling. The result was a solid TCG that fans of the genre should definitely check out.
8. Digimon Digital Card Battle (PlayStation)
Digimon Digital Card Battle is an amazing collectible card game. Players have 30-card decks with Digimon, support and digivolution cards. The idea is to begin with a rookie Digimon and digivolve it to its most powerful version to crush the opponent. While the idea is great, Digimon Digital Card Battle has two fundamental flaws: some of the final bosses are extremely hard and the game doesn’t have many cards. If you can overlook those issues though, you’ll find an absorbing TCG that’s hard to put down.
7. Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Oceans (Nintendo GameCube)
Baten Kaitos’ mechanics rely on RPG, puzzle and TCG elements. Although this is a rare combination, Baten Kaitos delivers that with assurance. So what about the card-battling elements? Cards are known as Magnus in the game and each type of card is used to interact with different characters or to complete puzzles. Overall, there are four types of Magnus: Quest, Camp, Equipment and Battle. Each type of card can be used to interact with different aspects of the game (Quest Magnus are used to solve puzzles and sidequests, Battle Magnus are used to fight enemies and so on and so forth.) The result of such a unique approach resulted in a beautiful and engrossing game that received rave reviews.
6. Culdcept Saga (Xbox 360)
Culdcept Saga has often been compared to both Magic: The Gathering and Monopoly, which may be why so many people who don’t like collectible card games enjoy this game so much. The gameplay is simple to understand, but hard to master. In the game, you roll a dice and move around a board, claiming squares. The way in which you claim squares is by summoning creatures that guard them. If an opposing creature lands in that same square, a battle takes place. Each creature represents a card and decks can be customized before each game. Cards also assume the form of spells and items, which means that creating a balanced 50-card deck is an extremely entertaining experience.
5. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories (Game Boy Advance)
Chain of Memories serves as a bridge between the original Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2. Instead of playing it safe by making yet another Kingdom Hearts title, Square Enix created an action role-playing game with collectible card mechanics that’s quite strategic. Combat uses card-based mechanics in real time, so while you can jump and move around the field map, attacking, summoning creatures and using spells requires you to make use of your deck. Granted, the card-based combat has its issues, but it’s also one of the features that makes Chain of Memories such a unique title.
4. Metal Gear Acid (PlayStation Portable)
Metal Gear Acid mixes turn-based tactics with a card game system. All the cards are based on characters and elements taken from the Metal Gear Solid series and you can use those cards to build decks and then face different enemies. A multiplayer mode is also included in the game, so if you can find a friend that owns a PSP and copy of the game, you should definitely give Metal Gear Acid a chance.
3. Pokémon: Trading Card Game (Game Boy Color)
Despite being based on the series of role-playing games, the Pokémon TCG is one of the most challenging collectible card games around. The Game Boy Color game captures that essence of both the Pokémon franchise and the TCG and the result is an engrossing adaptation that no fan of those properties should miss. The game features the first three sets of the trading card game (which were originally released by Wizards of the Coast) and it’s a shame that its follow up never came out in America. Collecting the 226 digital cards may not be as gratifying as catching them all, but you owe it to yourself to play the digital version of the Pokémon: Trading Card Game.
2. Yu-Gi-Oh! The Eternal Duelist Soul (Game Boy Advance)
I’ve played pretty much every single Yu-Gi-Oh portable game ever released and without a doubt, The Eternal Duelist Souls is one of the best titles based on the extremely popular trading card game. The ability of playing against tiers of opponents in order to unlock more cards and duelists was its most compelling feature. Furthermore, the in-game calendar added a real-time aspect to the game that few titles of that era could match. Collecting the 819 cards, editing your deck and beating AI opponents make The Eternal Duelist Soul one of the best Yu-Gi-Oh games you can play on the go.
1. Magic 2014: Duels of the Planeswalkers (PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS, Android)
Stainless Games has developed the digital version of Magic: The Gathering for some time now and each iteration has been significantly better than the previous one. Duels of the Planeswalkers follows the standard rules of the TCG, but presents those through different modes. Additionally, new cards, puzzles, computer opponents, modes and decks are released in the form of downloadable content. If you like Magic: The Gathering it doesn’t get better than this.
These are other games that didn’t make the cut: SNK vs. Capcom: Cardhering Fighters’ Clash, Baten Kaitos Origins and Monster Rancher: Battle Card Game II.