From Weird to Slaptastic: Rating the Minigames in Final Fantasy VII

Part of the undeniable charm of the JRPG genre is the inherent weirdness that it bestows upon our boring, AAA-loving Western selves. By adding a dash of the unexpected and sometimes nonsensical to the mix, these games inspired a wealth of creativity in game design for all genres, and their success convinced other markets to take bigger, bolder chances that have paid off in spades with recent triumphs like Untitled Goose Game. This endearing ball of oddity shines the brightest in the frequent use of random-ass minigames or mechanics that break up the repetitive grind of neverending enemy encounters. Perhaps the brightest beacon of the delightfully strange minigame can be found in the 1997 masterpiece Final Fantasy VII where you can revel in over 20 amusing diversions from the impending end of the world and the pain of lost beloved characters. Hell, they even constructed a theme park, the Gold Saucer, devoted to these mesmerizingly short but sweet gameplay changeups.

While completing my latest playthrough of one of my favorite games of all-time, I decided it was my duty to both science and journalism to definitively decide what the best minigame is in Final Fantasy VII. In order to do so, I subjected each to a rigorous grading system by scoring them from 0-5 in 4 key categories:

Weirdness: How odd and out of place does this seem from the rest of the game? If you explained it to a random non-gamer would they look at you like you were crazy?

Fun-itude: How much did I actually enjoy playing the minigame?

Complexity: What degree of difficulty was involved in succeeding at the minigame, and how much time must the developers have spent working on this?

Replayability: Given the chance, would I play it again?

Now, without further ado, here’s the definitive list in reverse order of total score.

21) Performing CPR

cpr

Even before I did the science and tallied up scores, I knew this would appear dead last. Sure you save the life of an adorable child, but at what cost? You’re forced to spend what feels like an eternity waiting for the bar to reach the top of the lungs for what, to the best of my recollection, was like infinity attempts. Your reward for doing so – you get to unlock #17 on this list and ride a dolphin.

Weirdness: 4
Fun-itude: 0
Complexity: 1
Replayability: 0
Total Score: 5

20) Mog Dating

mog

Mogs are like the slightly less popular version of the ubiquitous chocobo in Final Fantasy lore. Here, you get to help a poor mog get laid (I’m not kidding. If you succeed you see all his kids he has) by feeding him the appropriate amount of nuts, so he has the energy to fly and impress his lady love. Of all the entries this low on the list, it’s by far the one I’m the most glad actually exists because wow.

Weirdness: 5
Fun-itude: 2
Complexity: 1
Replayability: 0
Total Score: 8

19) Warding Off Hypothermia

cold

About halfway through the game, you have to climb a mountain. If you don’t repeatedly smash a button while on the mountain’s exterior, you will freeze to death. It’s among the simpler and least memorable minigames you come across in your adventure, but at least it looks kind of cool as you start to freeze and helps add a little frantic pacing to the lengthy climb.

Weirdness: 3.5
Fun-itude: 2
Complexity: 2
Replayability: 1
Total Score: 8.5

18) Fighting in Wonder Square

fight

In this seemingly unnecessary game (considering there’s much better battling at the Gold Saucer much further down the list), you have to decide if you’re going to punch high, mid, or low, and hope you find the correct combination to make contact with whatever your opponent leaves vulnerable. Mostly, though, it just seems kind of random and not worth taking the time to try to master since there are way better ways to earn GP (the Gold Saucer’s currency).

Weirdness: 2.5
Fun-itude: 2.5
Complexity: 3.5
Replayability: 2
Total Score: 8.5

17) Calling a Dolphin

You whistle and the dolphin shoots you up to a platform above if you’re super lucky. Unfortunately, the depth perception of this sequence is pretty difficult to judge and just leads to randomly pressing the whistle button a million times before you luck into the right spot.

Weirdness: 4
Fun-itude: 1
Complexity: 3
Replayability: 1
Total Score: 9

16) Speeding Up/Slowing Down a Train

train

While searching for the huge materia in Corel, you’re required to first speed up a train to catch another by alternating lever pulls and then must bring it to a halt by pulling both back at the same time. The results don’t actually control all that well, but at least they do add suspense and a sense of grandness to the chase.

Weirdness: 2.5
Fun-itude: 2.5
Complexity: 2.5
Replayability: 1.5
Total Score: 9

15) Opening a Safe

wheelchair
Note: this picture has nothing to do with this minigame, but I love it and I had to use it.

After locating the clues to the safe’s combination throughout a creepy old mansion, you then must unlock it while fighting off a 20 second timer (which is especially troublesome if you forget to turn off the 3x fast forward feature like I did for my first 10 or so attempts). The timer makes it a far more fun and memorable affair than it would be on its own, but it does lose points for how sensitive the dial is and how easy it is to blow past the number you’re looking for, forcing a restart. At least the reward, a key to the optional character Vincent Valentine, is well worth the treasure hunt.

Weirdness: 2.5
Fun-itude: 3
Complexity: 3.5
Replayability: 2
Total Score: 9

14) Arm Wrestling

armwrestle

You can test your might against a sumo wrestler or just plain wrestler for the chance to earn some precious GP. Since I do love me a good button-mashing adventure, this manages to rise above some of the other simpler Gold Saucer games.

Weirdness: 2
Fun-itude: 3
Complexity: 1
Replayability: 4
Total Score: 10

13) Playing a Piano

piano

It looks easy enough from the picture right? With just a few simple button presses after extensive decoding of a tune played in a flashback earlier in the game, you can unlock Tifa’s final Limit Break and learn more about how she’s always loved Cloud, which are pretty solid rewards.

Weirdness: 1.5
Fun-itude: 2
Complexity: 4
Replayability: 3
Total Score: 10.5

12) Participating in a Squat Battle

 

As part of the cross-dressing quest early in the game (which has aged the worst of anything in this 23 year old title and better be adjusted quite a bit in the remake), you get to compete in a squat battle at the gym with a bodybuilder for a wig. It’s mainly a maintain the rhythm challenge as you alternate your position by pressing buttons in a set order repeatedly, but I wouldn’t have minded seeing this reappear at the Gold Saucer.

Weirdness: 3.5
Fun-itude: 3
Complexity: 2
Replayability: 2.5
Total Score: 11

11) Strategy War Games at Fort Condor

fort

Fort Condor’s war games sound much better than they actually play out. There’s a ton of depth to the types of fighters available, but the key to success is really just spending a bunch of money to outnumber the enemy or to let things fail completely so you can beat the boss in a standard battle. It also gets very annoying every time it stops what you’re trying to do to let you know a unit reached its destination, which is about every 5 seconds.

Weirdness: 3.5
Fun-itude: 2.5
Complexity: 4.5
Replayability: 2
Total Score: 12.5

10) Marching in a Fascist Parade

march

Here we have another 2-parter as the first portion requires you to march in line with other troops and impress the cameras (apparently by just repeatedly brandishing your weapon) and the second is more of a quick-time event where you must hit the button your commander calls out to impress the despot of the day. This challenge gets bonus points for enabling you to find Shinra soldiers practicing your victory pose in a locker room afterwards.

Weirdness: 3
Fun-itude: 3.5
Complexity: 3
Replayability: 3
Total Score: 12.5

9) Speed Coaster Shoot-out

speed

Suddenly shifting the perspective to first person is among the more shocking things in this game, and the minigame more than lives up to its name with quick reflexes required to zap the rapidly departing targets. The only real downside is that the entire ride takes far too long to complete, causing serious damage to the game’s replayability score.

Weirdness: 3.5
Fun-itude: 3.5
Complexity: 3
Replayability: 3
Total Score: 13

8) Super Dunk

superdunk

This game appears to be a bit of a misnomer since as far as I can tell there is no way to actually dunk the basketball, which would have catapulted it up even higher in the list. Still, it’s pretty fun trying to hit the very small window required to score, and once you get going, it’s one of the faster ways to earn GP. Plus, I thoroughly enjoyed that you can score by shooting the ball so poorly that it hits the rim from below instead of actually passing through.

Weirdness: 1.5
Fun-itude: 3.5
Complexity: 3
Replayability: 5
Total Score: 13

7) Battle Arena

battle

It’s a shame that you can all but expect some sort of coliseum or battle arena in a video game like this because that knock to the weirdness quotient really drags this minigame down from its rightful place in the top 5. Still, the execution is great with a random slot machine determining what handicaps you gain each round which morphs this into battle of attrition that is well worth the effort thanks to unlocking some of the game’s best rewards including Cloud’s final Limit Break, “Omnislash”, the W-Summon materia, and the Final-Attack materia, all of which are practically requirements to take on the game’s more powerful optional bosses.

Weirdness: 1.5
Fun-itude: 4
Complexity: 3
Replayability: 5
Total Score: 13.5

6) Escaping Execution by Gassing

escape

One part Houdini, one part The Green Mile, all wonderfully weird and well done.

Weirdness: 4
Fun-itude: 3.5
Complexity: 3.5
Replayability: 3
Total Score: 14

5) The Great Motorcycle Escape

motorcycle

As soon as I played this minigame just 4 or so hours into my 50 hour adventure, I knew I was going to write this post. So much must have gone into building this motorcycle smashing interlude that was only needed for 5 minutes of gameplay that I couldn’t help but smile thinking about it. Aside from the bonus points earned by the truck you’re protecting looking kind of like a lo-fi version of the Mystery Machine, the actual gameplay is super solid and requires some strategizing when choosing which of the assorted attackers to neutralize first.  Thankfully it shows up again at The Gold Saucer, so you can perfect your skills and enjoy the endlessly rewarding thrill of seeing a motorcycle you’ve taken down slide into and take out others behind it.

Weirdness: 3.5
Fun-itude: 4
Complexity: 3.5
Replayability: 4
Total Score: 15

4) Submarine Warfare

sub

When it first shows up, the submarine minigame seems fairly unremarkable. It’s entirely too simple to take down the lone sub you’re after and is over before you can blink. Fortunately, The Gold Saucer completely redeems it by adding a lot more enemies and a lot more mines. That HUD alone is worthy of a spot in the top 5.

Weirdness: 3.5
Fun-itude: 4
Complexity: 3.5
Replayability: 4
Total Score: 15

3) Snowboarding

snowboard

Far and away, this is the most 90’s thing found in the entire game. The only alteration that would have made this 3D snowboarding adventure more awesome would have been someone yelling “Extreme” every time you jumped.  Just try not to feel too uncomfortable when this fun romp appears far too soon after Aeris’s death while you’re definitely still in mourning.

Weirdness: 4
Fun-itude: 4.5
Complexity: 3
Replayability: 4.5
Total Score: 16

2) Chocobo Racing

chocobo

To be honest, this is probably empirically the best minigame there is. There’s a ton of complexity involved in capturing, breeding, and racing chocobos to build them up, and it’s absolutely necessary to do lots of chocobo racing to find the most important item in the game – the Knights of the Round materia. But due to the sheer fact that I had to endure like 3 hours of chocobo racing to get that reward, it loses just enough to come in second.

Weirdness: 4
Fun-itude: 3.5
Complexity: 5 
Replayability: 4.5 
Total Score: 17

knights
Worth all the time and effort to get a Gold Chocobo

1) Slap Fight!!!

slap

Did I goose the numbers and break my own arbitrary scale to ensure my favorite and the most absurd of all the minigames won? Yes. Yes, I did. While the world is seemingly crumbling down around you with the attack of the Godzilla-like “Weapon”, you take the time to engage in a slap battle worthy of an episode of Dynasty. It’s the least you can do to repay the woman who tried to gas you in #5. Enjoy the full video showcasing just how glorious it is below.

Weirdness: 6
Fun-itude: 5
Complexity: 2
Replayability: 5
Total Score: 18

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