Triple Triad has a 40+ hour RPG minigame attached to it

I think I’m in the minority here, but I’m not big on open worlds that are loaded with minigames. I recently played through my first Yakuza game (Yakuza 0, of course), and while I enjoyed it, there was frankly too much side content you’re expected to indulge in relative to the breakneck, dramatic pace it was keeping. There were a few moments when the game encouraged you to kill time (in a way that I understand Shenmue encourages you to, as well), but it felt inappropriate to spend five hours managing a hostess club when you’re in the middle of a manhunt (I did it anyway and felt kinda gross about it even though it was fun). Worst of all are when the side activities directly, unavoidably impact how you’re doing in the main game. Do I really want to play something where I have to grind out minigames to get resources to craft items? Surely I can just play the actual game I’m enjoying.

Which is to say, I am probably not the target audience for Triple Triad. It’s a collectible card game rolled into a sidequest that spans the entire length of the game, which you need to participate in if you want to accumulate raw materials that allow you to build better weapons or enhance your party. To get the most out of Final Fantasy VIII, you have to keep playing the card game all the way through, and probably save-scumming in case you lose one of your best cards. In a non-emulator setting, that can add minutes to your playtime every time you lose a match, and it adds up quickly.

One horror story: from about 2008–2018, I tried to replay Final Fantasy VIII at least three times but kept giving up in the first couple hours. Usually it was because life stuff got in the way, or I forgot my place, or I got interested in something else to play/watch/do instead. But at least one of those playthroughs ended before I even left Balamb Garden, because I was so focused on getting all the best Triple Triad cards that I spent hours attempting and failing to get the best cards. For my most recent successful playthrough, I skipped Triple Triad altogether because I knew I would not be able to escape its event horizon.

And yet. AND YET. Triple Triad is the best minigame. It’s the perfect combination of luck and strategy. And it is absolutely worth getting lost in for an excessive period of time. If you’re playing FFVIII for the first time, you should 100% get ass-deep in Triple Triad for a while. If only for the absurdity of how nearly every character in the game also plays Triple Triad, including one of your own party members who has secretly been a ringleader for the international card game circuit the entire time! It’s ridiculous!

Yes, you can “refine” your cards and turn them into items you can craft with, but it is rarely necessary unless you’re trying to go for 100% completion. I ignored most of the weapon-crafting in my most recent playthrough until the very end; I think I played maybe an hour of Triple Triad in total and still ended up fine.

You can play as much as you want until you’re tired of it. You can completely skip the Card Club sidequest if you don’t want to get too far into it. And you never have to go out of your way for it: you can play it wherever you are, and if you’ve put it on the backburner you can pick it back up again at any point with no consequences. It’s the best kind of minigame, one that fits comfortably into the game you’re already playing (and how you’re playing it!) instead of sitting next to it.

But screw the Random rule. The Random rule makes it so your cards are randomly pulled from your deck. There are guides about how to avoid the Random rule spreading around the game. Nobody likes the Random rule.