Final Fantasy VII Remake is an incredible achievement, but the journey isn’t over yet. Square Enix’s ambitious remake ends on a cliffhanger that leaves the doors wide open for a sequel. While the game’s polished action role-playing game (RPG) combat feels set in stone, there’s still room for improvement when it comes to an important part of the experience in the PS1 original: mini-games.
While mini-games aren’t exactly what old Final Fantasy games are remembered for, they play a central role in Final Fantasy VII. Protagonist Cloud Strife can ride a motorcycle, snowboard, race chocobos, dig up items, pilot a submarine, and play around in a literal amusement park. That last piece is especially important because there’s a good chance the Gold Saucer will show up in the sequel. Considering how far Square Enix stretched Midgar, players will likely spend a fair amount of time doing activities in the Gold Saucer.
In order to properly do justice to the original game’s bevy of side games justice, FF7 Remake Part 2 (or perhaps, Final Fantasy VII-2 Remake?) should take cues from a modern RPG instant-classic, namely 2020’s standout Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
When it comes to mini-games, Like a Dragon is unmatched. The RPG features many different side activities that range in scale. There’s an entire underground casino full of card games, a Mario Kart parody, a golf driving range, and much more. The most standout addition among the bunch is the game’s business simulator, which has players managing properties and conducting elaborate board meetings to impress investors. You can hire a literal chicken to work on your team. It’s truly groundbreaking.
Like a Dragon’s mini-games work so well because they never feel like an afterthought. Each one is thoroughly built out to provide its own self-contained fun. The business game alone contains hours and hours of entertainment and it’s easy to imagine it working as its own separate mobile game. Having the ability to play games like Shogi within the RPG almost makes it like a bigger, weirder version of Clubhouse Games: 51 Worldwide Classics. During my playthrough, I often found myself logging back in just to play a few rounds of Dragon Kart or goof around with an arcade crane game.
That attention to side content isn’t always common in modern games. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla features a ridiculous amount of activities, but many of those can often feel like filler meant to pad out the game. For every complex system like the surprisingly fun dice game Orlog, there’s a half-baked idea like Viking rap battles. Yakuza: Like a Dragon exists on the opposite end of that spectrum where even a can-collecting mini-game can feel like something that’s actually worth replaying.
Square Enix would be wise to adopt a similar philosophy going forward because any Final Fantasy sequel is going to need it. The Gold Saucer features seven different areas, each with its own little gimmick. Speed Square features a shooting mini-game while Wonder Square has a full-on arm-wrestling mini-game. If those aren’t given proper attention, they could quickly turn into the kind of obnoxious busywork that feels like it's padding out the story’s runtime.
Fortunately, Square Enix already showed fans that it has what it takes to make engaging mini-games in Final Fantasy VII Remake. Squat competitions, Whack-A-Box, and darts were all memorable little pieces of the first game, despite being entirely optional. Then there’s the now-infamous Honeybee Inn dance sequence, which makes a strong case for Final Fantasy VII to get its own dancing spin-off a la Persona. And there are of course multiple motorcycle combat sequences in the remake distinct from regular combat.
Going all-in on various mini-games component for a sequel could add an extra layer of replay value to the game. The Gold Saucer should feel like a fun amusement park that players want to spend more time in as opposed to a pit stop on the road to the next story beat. In the original game, it’s a lavish spectacle that feels like a rewarding break from all the action and there’s so much potential to blow it up into its own glitzy wonderland.
That may sound like a lot of hype for what’s ultimately going to be largely optional content, but good mini-games give players a strong reason to spend more time in a game’s universe. Yakuza: Like a Dragon particularly excels at this because each game helps paint a bigger picture of Kamurocho that shows off all its little eccentricities. Each mini-game gives a sense of how characters live, bringing more depth to the bustling streets that make the city worth exploring.
Midgar itself is ultimately Final Fantasy VII Remake’s best character. Spaces like the Gold Saucer could match the heights of Wall Market with the right care. If nothing else, I’d just love to see a full-on SSX clone in the sequel that gives Dragon Kart a run for its money.
FF7 Remake Part 2 is currently in development.