Sometimes, between fighting monsters or zombies with swords or guns or whatever, you want to kick back and enjoy a different type of challenge in a video game. Fishing mini-games bring bite-sized blasts of outdoorsmanship to our adventures, and while some players hate them, I’ve found there’s fun to be had when fishing’s done right. Here’s a list of some of the best.
The true joy of a fishing mini-game comes from mixing challenge with relaxation. You can relax and watch the rippling waters, but when the time comes and you get a bite, you’ve got to put in some work and battle with a scaley foe. These fights range from being complex simulations of actual fishing to bubbly arcade romps. Using completely arbitrary but totally scientific methods, I have collected the top five recent fishing mini-games and present them to you, dear reader, in no particular order.
Stardew Valley has plenty going on, from farm management to dungeon-crawling and romances. It also has a simple but enjoyable fishing game. If you’re dedicated enough, you can ditch the farm life for a salty sea-faring lifestyle. Whenever you cast your rod and get a bite, a small meter moves up and down. The goal is to keep your icon within a small section of that meter. It’s not too complicated, but the tougher fish are incredibly erratic and require quick thinking and even some anticipation to keep on the hook. This mini-game is a good split between light-hearted fun and a more serious enterprise. Just try not to be mad when you occasionally reel in seaweed or a stick.
The Yakuza series is known for its vibrant characters and melodramatic storylines. It’s gaming’s best soap opera. Beyond all the crime and drama, there are tons of side quests and activities to while away your time. Yakuza’s had fishing games before, but Yakuza 6 offers a twist: speargun fishing. Scowling ex-Yakuza and all-around good dude Kazuma Kiryu can don a wetsuit and blast through an arcade shoot-fest befitting the Sega pedigree. There’s even boss battles against sharks and octopi. It’s silly, but it’s a great balance to all the plotting and bloody martial arts battles.
If there’s one thing that Professor Byleth loves more than her students, it’s fishin’ and more fishin’. Raising teenagers to become dangerous mercenaries and world leaders is exhausting, and it gets even harder when plots conspire to make them battle each other. Fishing is a great way to earn experience in your professor rank, which gives you more activity points, allowing you to do more with your limited free time. (It also helps that fishing doesn’t use up an of those points.) The mini-game itself is pretty standard: press the buttons at the right time to snag a fish. But, much like its distant inspiration, Suikoden 2, the context is hilarious. Teacher, warrior, general, bass fisher. Byleth is all these things and more.
While Final Fantasy XIV offers an entire fishing profession as a viable way to play, it’s Final Fantasy XV that really nails it. Pick your bait and cast a line, then wait a while, until Prince Noctis ends up in an intense fishing battle with his quarry. It’s a mixture of managing your fishing line’s strain, reeling in the fish, and tiny quick-time events to press the right button. It’s a fun mini-game made even better by a collection of side quests that allow you to catch truly gargantuan fish. I’m talking 100-pound swamp bloobers and alligator-length legendary trout. Final Fantasy XV is often a serious game, but these little side adventures add a lot of charm.
I’m cheating my “recent” rule here but how could I not include this? For a lot of older gamers, Ocarina of Time’s fishing pond was their first experience with digital fishing. In our young, foolish youths, many of us battled to catch the Hylian Loach. Sure, you could cheat using the sinking lure, or you could stand on the log in the middle of the pond, but True Gamers™ did it the hard way. This isn’t just a fun fishing mini-game. It’s the fishing mini-game.