Trading card games (TCGs) have been around and popular for quite some time. These games are deeply strategic, turn-based games that test the player’s ability to adapt and react. Many of them suffer from issues of power creep or an oppressive meta game, but casual players still find them enjoyable. So, of course, it makes sense that these titles would find their way into the digital format.
Digital TCGs aren’t anything new, but with the advent of online gaming have been more and more popular. It’s easier to build and maintain a deck, along with challenging players at any time. Many new TCGs have tried breaking into the market in the past decade or so, and some have even succeeded. However, only the best of the best are able to maintain a good reputation and, hopefully, a strong playerbase. The question is: how does Metacritic rank them?
10 Gwent: The Witcher Card Game – 80
It’s always exciting to see full RPGs that include their own collectable card games among the rest of its content. In terms of minigames, a card game is a fantastic distraction from the main story. Sometimes, the built-in CCG is even worth playing extensively, like Final Fantasy’s Triple Triad.
Another RPG card game is Gwent from The Witcher 3. It was popular enough within the fanbase that a standalone title was crafted for players to engage in PvP matches, called also called Gwent. Gwent is a fast-paced card game featuring spell-slinging and summoning cool monsters, all to achieve victory with a variety of decks. Reviewers found the game just as satisfying to play as a standalone as it was in the original, if not moreso.
9 Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links – 80
Yu-Gi-Oh! is, aside from Magic: The Gathering, one of the biggest TCG still on the market. Digital versions of the card game, whether they be full RPGs or simply battle simulators, have been in circulation for some time. Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links is exactly one of those battle simulators, built for iOS and playable on a number of platforms.
Reviewer praise Duel Links for not only being a great addition to the series, but also as a great starting point for new players. For a game that’s gotten as complicated as Yu-Gi-Oh! has over the past few years, both new and returning players likely appreciate the refresher. It, is, however, somewhat simplified from the tabletop counterpart, so some may find it lacking. Regardless, it’s a great mobile Yu-Gi-Oh experience.
8 The Elder Scrolls: Legends – 80
The Elder Scrolls: Legends is the competitive card game using the iconic characters and locales from Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series. The game shares a lot of traits with similar games in the genre, and its defining features are taken from the source material. The game is available on both PC and mobile devices.
Reviews for the game are mostly positive. They directly compare the game to its biggest competitor, Hearthstone, and mention that the game is lacking in a lot of the polish that title has. However, despite that, it manages to be a fun, if flawed, card game. The fact it made an impact in a saturated market shows that it’s, at the very least, a solid title.
7 Faeria – 81
A lot of TCGs try to make their own twist on the genre. Some work directly with the card game itself, while others try to work around the cards to differentiate themselves. Faeria, a strategy card game released in 2017, reinvents the wheel by creating a board that is a constant, everchanging factor that must be managed by all parties involved.
Reviews praised this change to the normal gameplay style, calling it a great mix of tabletop games like Catan and Hearthstone. It may be a little to close to Blizzard’s title in its aesthetic, but its gameplay is radically different in a great way. It stands out in the sea of other digital card games and makes itself worth playing, despite it potentially being hard to get into at first.
6 Magic: The Gathering Arena – 84
Magic: The Gathering, the king of TCGs, has had dozens of digital versions of the game in the past. The latest version of their classic title is Magic: The Gathering Arena, released in 2018. It’s a free-to-play title that brilliantly recreates the original card game, along with allowing players to develop their own virtual collection.
Critics had a lot of praise to give to the title for its presentation and gameplay. Nothing beats the classic tabletop, but this digital version comes close. Some critics did take issue with the monetization system, which is about as bad as other similar CCGs. Despite that, it’s the most accessible version of the game, and one that those interested in Magic may get a lot of mileage out of.
5 Plants vs. Zombies Heroes – 86
Plants vs. Zombies has been a beloved series for quite some time, although many entries outside of the first are hit-or-miss at best. Fans will blame the direction of the series on the acquisition of PopCap by EA, leading to mobile games that are more greedy than good. Despite that, they still find critical success, including Plants vs. Zombies Heroes.
Plants vs. Zombies Heroes is a digital CCG released for iOS in 2016. The game took heavy inspiration from titles like Hearthstone, but added a PvZ twist in an attempt to reinvent the wheel. Critics enjoyed the title for what it was, praising the free-to-play system and calling it the best PvZ game in years.
4 Legends of Runeterra – 87
The goal for any modern CCG is simple: attack and dethrone Hearthstone. Blizzard’s gigantic game is hard to challenge, but Riot Games may have found the winning formula with their own CCG. This game is Legends of Runeterra, released in 2019 on PC and mobile devices.
Legends of Runeterra is a great mix of both style and substance. The game has a very free-to-play friendly model, and critics praised its gorgeous presentation that utilizes the LoL champions to great effect. It encourages experimentation and serious strategy to win matches consistently. It’s a great competitor to Hearthstone and a huge success for Riot Games.
3 Hearthstone – 88
Hearthstone is such a significant title in the world of digital TCGs that it has already been mentioned multiple times when discussing critic reviews. It defined how free-to-play card games could work digitally, and for better or for worse became the market leader. Any later TCG followed the lead set by Hearthstone.
Of course, it’s successful for a reason. Critics loved the title both on release and in its latest expansions. The game has an excellent presentation, and manages to balance simplicity and interesting gameplay. It, of course, took cues from games like Magic: The Gathering, but created something easily accessible. It’s arguably the definitive card game of the new age.
2 Shadow Era TCG – 89
Weirdly enough, there are two titles that are considered better than Hearthstone on Metacritic. The first is Shadow Era TCG, a game released on iOS in 2011. It’s the work of a small development team, and may or may not still be operational today.
Critics at the time found the game incredibly addictive and hard to put down. However, it also barely cleared the threshold to get counted as a Metacritic score with five critic reviews. The one user review from 2018 mentioned the title is a dead game, with the developers trying to milk the small playerbase for everything their worth. These sorts of conflicting messages, along with the games age, means it’s probably worth checking out other titles instead.
1 Magic: The Gathering – Duels of The Planeswalkers 2013 – 90
Before Magic: The Gathering Arena was the Duels of the Planeswalkers series, which had a few yearly entries across multiple platforms. The games vary wildly in scores across platforms, but most highly rated version is the iOS title released in 2012. The other platforms have solid scores as well, so its average stays in the top ten.
Critics, at the time, praised how effortless the tabletop was transitioned onto a mobile device. In fact, many said that the iOS versions touch controls worked so well it surpassed the console and PC versions of the game. It created a visceral M:TG experience that was unmatched at the time, and may even by unmatched today.
NEXT: The Most Expensive Magic: The Gathering Cards Ever Sold
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