A Video Game
trope where the game's setting (e.g. combat system) doesn't involve actual cards, but the mechanics the game uses to implement its system use cards anyway.
In other words, these cards exist outside the universe's Fourth Wall
, and are invisible to the in-universe characters; who are still clashing swords and summoning spells, not slapping cards down on some table.
Expect to see one character with full Medium Awareness
of the subject, solely to teach the player how the battle system works
. After that, the card system is (almost) never explicitly mentioned again.
Now this doesn't always work just like a Collectible Card Game
; as sometimes you have access to the entire deck at once and merely have to pick the best card for a given situation. Running out can cost you precious time (i.e. reloading your deck leaves you open to attack) or even cause a Game Over
A Sister Trope
to Card Battle Game
. Not to be confused with Death Dealer
, when a fighter uses the cards themselves as a weapon.
- Inverted in the SNES game Arcana. Cards figure heavily into the backstory and plot of the game, but when it comes to gameplay has almost nothing to do with cards other than a visual motif.
- Averted in one the strangest ways possible in The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang. The main character fights using a variety of cards and said use of cards affects the progression of plot and puzzles. However, the actual gameplay is a top-down action game, the game has little to do with the traditional aspects of a collectible card game, functioning more like a glorified inventory.
- Metal Gear Ac!d
- Lost Kingdoms
- Baten Kaitos. Note that cards actually are important in both story and gameplay, as magical storage devices (including where the characters pull their weapons from)...but not in actual combat.
- Sonic Battle used a card system to edit stats while playing like a typical fighter.
- Battles of Prince of Persia
- Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D Revolution (since the rest of the Phantasy Star series doesn't use cards like this)
- Mega Man Battle Network
- And the sequel series, Mega Man Star Force, even more so, since the "Battle Chip" cards of Battle Network are swapped out for actual cards.
- In both, the explanation is that all the battles are virtual and the "cards" have attack data for you to use. Though that doesn't really explain why you need to select your attacks from a randomly selected hand, or why you discard attack data after using them once.
- The boss battles in Kamen Ninja Hanamaru (Yo! Noid in the United States) were fought this way. The cards depicted either attacks or pizzas, depending on the version.
- The Patience Pack has a game called Armor of God, in which the player tries to build his castle before the enemy can finish tunneling under the foundation. Your cards represent parts of the armor of God mentioned in Ephesians 6, and your opponent's cards represent Deception, Accusation, Hatred, Temptation and Death.
- The Etherlords series. It's made a little weird when one of the playable characters in Etherlords II has glowing red eyes and holds a very large sword, yet battles are handled entirely through cards.
- The SNES port of Princess Maker.
- Yggdra Union
- Dragon Ball Z has a series of games that play like this.
- Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories sort of qualifies; even though the tutorial character explicitly says that the castle you enter is governed by cards, characters are seen to fight normally in cutscenes.
- The fact that Sora's abilities are locked into cards leads to a very dangerous move from the Final Boss, where he blows the cards out of your deck and scatters them, so you have to pick them up while dodging attacks before you can fight again.
- Sigma Harmonics, in a way similar to the above.
- Dead Rising 2 (and the related Case Zero prequel game) allows you to combine ordinary items to form super weapons (bat plus box of nails equals spiky bat; shotgun plus pitchfork equals boomstick). But your ability to use these to their fullest is goverened by whether you've collected the associated "combo card." If not, you gain less experience from using the weapon, and you are unable to use the weapon's "strong attack" variant. Combo cards are non-diegetic rewards — you earn them when you level up, defeat bosses, and do other plot-related things.
- Not involving cards, but Puzzle Quest has the same idea; you and your enemies do damage and collect mana by matching stones on a puzzle board, even though you're just fighting monsters according to the storyline.
- Delivery Missions, in Billy Vs SNAKEMAN.
- And there are hints that the card games (in-universe) Mahongg, and even more so Flower Wars, are covers for something affecting reality on a deeper level. Although in this game it seems like everything is secretly affecting reality on a deeper level...
- Real-life card game example: David Sirlin's card game Yomi.
- The entire Wrestle Angels series has you controlling female wrestlers with cards.
- In Second Life, there is a popular card game called En Garde, which emulates a swordfight (complete with animations): only the players see the cards, spectators see a (slow-motion) duel.
- Castlevania: Circle of the Moon counts, in that you combine the various action and attribute cards to do special attacks.
- Wizard 101 has spells as cards, but there is no real 'collectible' element to making a spell deck. You unlock spells for your school as you advance in level, and the only limit to the number of copies of a particular spell is determined by your deck-box, a piece of equipment that you trade for better versions as usual. You do however get a limited number of 'training points' you can use to get spells from outside your school, but since you need to acquire them linearly you're usually just better off focusing on one extra school.
- Mawlock from the Shining Force remake, Resurrection of the Dark Dragon, whose specialty lies in using character cards to change the tide of battle. Cards are obtained through various arbitrary methods, such as talking to a certain character a number of times at your home base, or using a certain character to deliver a killing blow on a boss.
- Princess Waltz
- The two Dodge Danpei games that were made by Sunsoft play this way, the first more so than the second.
- Th VS system video game had this in spades. The plot involved rather uninspired hero vs. villain comic book conflicts, just an excuse for an extended sequence of fight scenes. Every time there was a fight, you played cards. At least the computer's deck usually meshed well with the events of the plot, but, especially in the early phases of the game, it was impossible for you to construct a deck that meshed with what "you" were doing in the plot.
- Bleach: Blade of Fate had a fairly tight card system, although the cards in question only gave a status buff.
- Magic: The Gathering: Battlemage. Between battles you select cards to your deck, including individuals who have agreed to join your side. Combats are fought in RTS style. Lands create a mana pool, that acts like traditional resource pool and units either attack towards the enemy or stand in front of you and defend. Your choice of actions is limited by your "hand", a selection of seven cards from your deck.
- Inverted in Shandalar (part of the original Magic: The Gathering PC game). Instead of an RPG that used cards for the combat mechanics, it was a port of the card game with an RPG as the Framing Device.
- This even applies in the proper Magic: The Gathering game, as the cards just represent wizards dueling with spells, summoning and attacking with monsters, and drawing power from the land.
- Paper Mario: Sticker Star's stickers function like action cards: Any action Mario takes in a battle must be done using a sticker, including staples like jumping. Mario can also turn objects (or even living things) into stickers, which can then be summoned mid-battle when played.
- Endless Space uses cards to represent battle tactics.
- A non-video game example: the tabletop RPG Deadlands uses ordinary playing cards for a lot of mechanics including initiative, spellcasting and weird science gadgetry.