The thrill of opening a pack and seeing what cards you get, the feeling of building that perfect deck and watching your master plan play out and defeat your foe. Trading card games simply have a unique experience that is nearly impossible to replicate. These manage to delight players in different ways all while capturing what makes them so much fun.
Final Fantasy Trading Card Game
The Final Fantasy TCG is a master craft in play design. It has a wide range of Final Fantasy titles to pull from and manages to give cards proper thematic design while keeping it fun. This doesn’t have any stunning new art, but instead opts to use the already created work in Square Enix’s huge library. That said, a lot of that art is fabulous and stunning and if you’re a fan of the series it might even be a highlight. The TCG takes a lot of good things from a lot of sources and jams them together to make a very engaging and entertaining system.
It’s hard to find a good Sci-Fi card game but Star Realms is amazing. It’s so easy to pick up and it even has a great app if you want to play it digitally – which is becoming increasingly important. There is a very simple flow here that feels very intuitive. You can start playing with people and have a totally satisfying experience for really cheap. Unlike a lot of other TCGs, this takes a lot more from deck building tabletop card games than other trading card games. It makes this really stand out and there really doesn’t seem to be anything that hits like this out there.
Digimon Card Game
People weren’t expecting a new Digimon CG to be good but they finally made a card game that kicks ass. The card art is amazing, the design is really solid, it’s full of fan service and solid design choices. The biggest flaw with the is its inaccessibility to colorblind people and it’s the biggest thing holding this back. If you can differentiate between these colours, building a deck makes a lot of sense, it’s complicated, but not so complicated that it would alienate players from mastering its systems. It has a wide range of popular Digimon and always throws some obscure ones in for fans of the weirder creatures in the series. This is perfect for any fan of no matter which part of the franchise is their favorite.
Duel Masters started as Magic The Gathering for a Japanese audience but quickly evolved to one of the longest running and well-loved card games of all time. While it has lots of similarities to its sister product, Duel Masters stands out in both art direction and in some pretty big mechanical twists. The shield system replaces the normal way of tracking life, giving you 5 shields before you lose, which can make for some tense and fast matches. Also, cards have mana numbers which allows them to be played in the mana zone as mana, which very much changes deck building. Duel Masters is much more than meets the eyes.
This entry is a bit like a fight on a subreddit over which character would kick what character’s ass. It licenses tons of IPs and gives them cards and support and then players fight with their favorite themes against each other. There are some big standouts on its list like Mob Psycho 101, Persona, Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Fate, Hololive, RWYB, Sword Art Online, Adventure Time, Card Captor and even freaking Batman Ninja. It’s likely that something you love has a deck here and even on that level it’s fun to collect. No other TCG can give you this feeling where you just grab a thing you love and play against something your friend loves then see what happens.
Shadowverse is digital-only but maybe the biggest stand out in its whole subgenre. Split between 8 classes of decks, each class has a very unique feel that interacts together very well. Each class has a unique mechanic that defines it and allows for a wide array of card designs working on the concepts of each deck. It can feel like you’re playing a whole different thing when you switch decks in a really exciting way. Going from a strategy to let your life go low then ravage your opponents, to a plan where your goal is to make a ton of cute fairies to spam out – there is just a lot of fun to be had with this. Plus if you’re a fan of any of Cygames’s other work then you sometimes get really cool characters from there showing up here to enjoy your favorites in a new medium.
Pokémon Trading Card Game
This is probably something you tried to play as a kid without really knowing the rules. However, once a player learns the rules they’ll find an amazingly designed gem of a game. Pokémon also has the advantage of having one of the biggest IPs behind it, so it’s more likely that even if you pull bad cards in packs you’ll at least be happy to see some of your favorites lovingly drawn. The prize card system makes defeating a pokémon feel actualized in a way a lot of others simply can’t match. When you do a great move you not only get rid of a potential threat but get a new card added to your hand which could help you win further. It’s so interesting and gives Pokemon a very unique feel compared to its contemporaries.
Magic: The Gathering
Magic: the Gathering is an enduring tradition in the space for a reason. It is a testament to card design and artistic accomplishment. The art in Magic: The Gathering is often taken from real works of art that many would love to put up on their walls and most simply can’t match that. Then it is built with such a balance that the majority of card games have been influenced by it. Magic truly created the standards but has never been content to rest on that, always evolving and getting exciting new features. Magic is fun to start playing, hard to master, but very rewarding if you manage it. It feels intense and chess-like as opposed to a spin of the wheel.
Yugioh is probably the wildest card game ever designed. You have the most amount of stuff that can just happen on a turn that makes for ludicrous plays. It is extremely fast-paced and anyone who enjoys fun and slightly unbalanced play will adore Yu-Gi-Oh. It throws so many things at the wall and it’s really about how much every card can break the system and what cards you have to stop your opponent from breaking it.
Cardfight Vanguard has the most intuitive design of basically anything you can find in the genre. So much about the rules is easy to figure out just from reading the cards. There is a great pace and just enough randomness that you want to hold out to the very end of a match because you might pull the right trigger cards and still have a chance to win. The card art is amazing, deck building is fairly cheap compared to its competitors, and they just started a new format not too long ago. This makes you feel cool when you’re winning and losing and rarely ever feels like it’s the slow grind to a loss.