The Best Distractions in RPGs

A lot of RPGs, in particular JRPGs, have a side dish that goes along with your main course of adventure.  They’re unnecessary and don’t always add to the story, but they can incredibly fun and addicting.  Whether it’s a card game, sport, or simple minigame, these distractions offer another chance to get lost in the game’s world.  With the recent release of Bravely Default, I’ve been enjoying the simple smartphone-style rebuilding game built into the main story.  Here’s a list of some of the best ways to put off that ‘saving the world’ thing.


The Rebuild of Norende – Bravely Default

Some may scoff at this one, but I find the town rebuilding a pleasant break from the main story.  It’s simple and really only involves picking what part of town you want to upgrade.  You can clear out new areas to make the town bigger and upgrade stores to allow the purchase of better gear and items.  It’s actually pretty helpful to you in the main storyline, unlike a lot of other distractions.  The best part is friends and Squenix themselves drop random monsters in your town for you to fight.  These are full on boss battles that can be really hard and really fun.

Pazaak – Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Swoop racing was fun, but really it was just some dodging of obstacles and hitting speed pads.  Pazaak had some real meat to it.  It seems to be a popular choice for developers to put card games in their RPGs and Bioware followed along.  In Pazaak, there is a main deck of 40 cards with values from 1-10 and then each player had a tailored deck of 10 cards.  The main goal is get as close to the number 20 without going over or tying your opponent, and it’s harder than it looks.  You could purchase and earn cards throughout the game to create the perfect Pazaak deck and play against all manner of NPCs.  People liked it enough that there is even a website where you can play the game against others.


Triple Triad – Final Fantasy VIII

Many will tell you that this is the best game within a game there is.  Triple Triad is a collectable card game that plays out on a grid of 3×3 blank spaces.  The cards are laid out on the grid with numbers on each side of the card.  Using the different numbers and elements, players craft strategies to claim as many cards on the board as their own.  I ended up enjoying Triple Triad more than FFVIII itself!

Tetra Master – Final Fantasy IX

And that brings us to Tetra Master.  The game is more of an evolution of Triple Triad then something new, but just as addicting.  Players collect cards and lay them out into a 4×4 grid this time and monsters do battle based on corresponding arrows.  Even though you couldn’t get any special items through playing the game like you could in FFVIII, I played more Tetra Master than the whole of VIII.


Blitzball – Final Fantasy X

You either love it or hate it.  Blitzball is by far the most addicting and deep mini-game I’ve played in an RPG.  The game is a weird combination of soccer and basketball played in a fish tank.  It’s all turn based with action points determining what you’re able to do each turn, and there were a ton of players to play against and recruit onto your team.  As soon as I was allowed to play in the Blitzball league I couldn’t stop and eventually ran out of money to pay my players.  Whoops…


Fishing – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Zelda counts as an RPG, right?  Well, I’m putting it in here anyway.  There are a ton of great mini-games in Ocarina of Time, but people never seem to give the fishing game enough credit.  All in all, you could only win some rupees and heart piece, but man was it intense!  If you were the cool kid on the block with a rumble pack it made it even better.  Even after the heart piece was won I still tried to break my record.

Chocobo Racing – Final Fantasy VII

There were all kinds of things you could do with the famous golden bird in Final Fantasy VII.  It’s no wonder really why the game is a fan favorite.  You could catch wild chocobos, build up stables and breed chocobos, and even race chocobos.  You only have to win one chocobo race in the main storyline, but you could breed more speedy birds and race as much as you please.  There was even a spinoff game called Chocobo Racing released for the PlayStation in 1999.



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