Top 10 Trading Card Video Games for Newcomers
The trading card game genre is experiencing a boom currently both in the physical markets and online in digital form. Video games like Hearthstone have brought the trading scene to new audiences while other games like Magic: The Gathering are still consistently releasing new content.
It’s clear to me that if you’ve never jumped in and seen what a TCG is all about, now is the best time to do so. But where do you start? It can be totally overwhelming when looking at giants like MTG and the Pokemon Trading Card Game that have been around for decades.
The Top 10 Trading Card Video Games
Thankfully, that’s where I come in. I believe I have the top 10 trading card video games that are best for introducing you to the TCG genre. This list is based on quality of the game, learning curve, and, most importantly, accessibility for newcomers. However, I think this list is great for veterans as well, so feel free to take a look if you’re searching for a new game to check out.
10. Magic: The Gathering Arena
Ah, Magic: The Gathering. It’s one of the steady games that comes to mind when people think of a trading card game. However, I know from experience that it can be daunting to head into a brick and mortar store looking for cards and not knowing where to begin.
Fortunately, Wizards of the Coast created a solution for that in Magic: The Gathering Arena, a live service digital version of the physical card game. It is meant to keep up to date with the main card game, so whenever a new expansion comes out, you’ll see it digitally, too.
Since you are online, you can earn digital currency in the game just by playing like most of the other games on this list. This allows you to buy booster packs without spending any hard-earned cash if you so choose.
That said, Magic is still Magic at the end of the day. It’s not the most accessible game on the list by a long shot due to its storied history. You have well over a dozen expansions and several decades worth of cards going in. This creates a learning curve that isn’t the easiest to overcome, hence its placement at number 10.
9. Pokemon TCG Online
The official Pokemon Trading Card Game Online has the same issues as Magic: The Gathering. It has an insanely long history that is just as strong and detailed as its monster-collecting video game counterpart. This can be a knock against accessibility.
However, the Pokemon TCG Online is a little bit more accessible than MTG due to its relatively consistent rules that haven’t deviated too much since its beginning. It’s also worth noting that its presentation is pretty nice to boot on the PC version.
Even better, it has a decent mobile version that you can play on the go. If you’re a fan of collecting Pokemon, this is a no brainer to check out. It’s a relatively welcome game that is not too hard to grasp. You have various energy that each Pokemon requires as well as evolutions just like in the main series.
It’s a unique gameplay feel that is very different compared to Magic and the other games that are inspired by it. Collecting cards is fun and captivating, but there is really nothing like collecting these awesome monsters that have such weight beyond the cards.
8. The Elder Scrolls: Legends
As you’ll see for the majority of the following games on this list, games like The Elder Scrolls: Legends benefit from being built from the ground up for the video game platform. Legends comes from the beloved RPG series that brought us games like Skyrim and Morrowind.
It brings creatures and characters from across the franchise together into a Hearthstone-like gameplay system (more on that game later). There are two main things that make Legends stand out from the rest. The first is its unique twist.
There are two lanes that you can play cards in. This unique twist adds a ton of depth. It’s basically like playing two matches at once since you have to manage two different lanes. It’s a simple but complex addition, but that can also create a slightly steeper curve than the rest of the games here.
The other thing that makes it stand out is its main story mode. Like with the series’ main games, the story matters here, so if you like a nice singleplayer experience with a decent set of card challenge, this might be for you.
Like the last entry in my top 10 trading card video games, Gwent is based on The Witcher franchise. It’s, specifically, an amped-up standalone version of the card minigame from The Witcher III. It has a unique experience in which you start out the game with all of the cards you’ll use.
It’s weird but surprisingly deep, too, as the game really feels like you are commanding an army of sorts. This makes it one of the more accessible entries in the series — well, at least at first. You’ll find really quickly that it’s much deeper than it lets on, and then the curve really kicks in.
It also helps that Gwent is one of the few on this list that is available on PS4 and Xbox One in addition to PC, so it’s a great place to start if you have those consoles. Additionally, the Thronebreaker singleplayer version has a fantastic story and gameplay that is worth checking out.
Artifact is based on the Dota 2 PC game, but in card form. It’s also the only game on this list that costs real money to play right off the bat. However, if you are willing to shell out the cash, you’ll find an extremely complex but rewarding TCG.
In Artifact, you have three lanes as opposed to the one play space in most card games or the two in The Elder Scrolls: Legends. In this way, it’s most similar to Dota 2 with three lanes you need to worry about. At the same time, it’s great for fans of Dota as it appreciates the series.
Last but not least, Artifact allows you to basically make your money back if you want. It’s one of the few TCGs out there that lets you not just trade cards but buy and sell them online as well. This opens up a world of possibilities since you can be rewarded for what you love.
5. Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links
Unlike my first two entries on this list, Duel Links is built from the ground up as a video game version of the TCG. This means that you will find a much more streamlined gameplay that fits the mobile and PC platforms better as a whole.
You get to collect the same iconic cards like Blue Eyes White Dragon from the Yu-Gi-Oh! anime series and battle them against opponents. Being that this is primarily a mobile game, there are extensive ways to collect cards and battle against the computer and real opponents.
There is a lot to do in Duel Links, but it does suffer from being very mobile game-like, so that is worth noting.
Shadowverse is, personally, my favorite video game on this list. It’s a Hearthstone clone that mostly sets itself apart because of its tone and factions. It has a distinctly dark anime feel both in its cards and presentation.
Its unique gameplay aspect is its crafts or factions. Each one has a different set of bonuses that the deck revolves around. The different crafts cater to fairly different playstyles, so it’s easy to find one that fits your specific tastes.
There is also a lot less RNG involved with Shadowverse than other card games, too. This technical aspect makes it so that if you lose, you won’t have to worry too much about it being because of an unfair card.
Eternal is one of the best blends between Hearthstone and Magic: The Gathering. If you’re looking for a little more depth than Hearthstone but not quite so much as MTG, this is the card game for you. You have several factions that you can choose between.
If you want, you can even make hybrid decks that are a mix of two factions. This allows for a great amount of depth as you can create combos between cards that other players might not have thought of. But at the same time, it’s a streamlined experience that is welcoming to new players.
Lastly, I think it’s one of the most rewarding free-to-play card games around. If you don’t want to spend money on booster packs, that’s totally fine. It’s rather easy to purchase and get new cards without using real money.
Oh, what can I say about Hearthstone that hasn’t already been said? It is, in my opinion, the trading card game that nearly solely brought the genre into the renaissance that it’s currently in. It took what MTG laid the foundation of and created a much more simplified version.
Hearthstone is so simple and addictive that so many other games (including some on this list) have taken its formula and copied it for themselves. Matches can be short and sweet or long and drawn out, so it lends itself well to mobile and PC.
Blizzard is consistently building upon Hearthstone with balances, new cards, expansions, and much more. With a thriving community and esports scene, it’s easily one of the best places to check out card games for the first time.
Leading my top 10 trading card video games list is Lightseekers. This is a more underrated card game that you might not have heard of. Like others on this list, it has a physical version while also containing a digital version of the game.
It’s the simplest game on this list but with some decent depth as well. At the same time, it’s the most accessible on this list, being available on mobile, PC, and Nintendo Switch.
How simple is it? Well, there are basically no monsters that you summon.
You do have creatures you put on the field, but every single thing you do in this game is for damaging your opponent. You aren’t fighting against monsters with health or anything like that, which makes it the easiest to understand right off the bat.
All you need to do is focus on your health and your enemy’s health. While that sounds super easy, it’s really not. There are ways to block damage, heal yourself, set traps, and otherwise make your opponent’s life a living hell. It’s as simple or deep as you want it to be, plus it’s rewarding and addictive, making it the best trading card game for newcomers.