I love fishing games. I remember that, as kids, my friends and I would huddle around a Mattel Bass Fishin’ handheld on summer road trips to the Lake of the Ozarks, a famous Missouri hot spot for
money laundering fishing. We had the time of our lives with that low-tech masterpiece. That’s because fishing is our beloved pastime: a perfect mixture of zen and fun. We can’t get enough in real life or in games.
For regular folk who get quite enough of fishing, the fishing minigame offers a perfect nibble-sized portion of the pastime, often leaning more on the “fun” side of the zen/fun spectrum. And thankfully, fishing minigames have proven popular enough to flourish in all genres: turn-based RPGs, action RPGs, MMORPGs, Strategy RPGs, and what we here at RPGFan refer to as the “Other” genre. Today, I’m here to give you a few examples of great fishing minigames. I am not ranking full fishing games, fishing or fish-raising simulators, or other games whose main gameplay involves fishing. I’m also omitting games like Breath of the Wild, where you don’t catch fish so much as collect them like a consumable item pickup (I suppose that may be similar to gigging, but that isn’t the game’s intention).
While my friends and I may be the only people on Earth who like all fishing games and minigames, there are enough bites in gaming for everyone to hook at least one keeper. So check out this list of the top fishing minigames to find a keeper of your own, starting with a few honorable mentions:
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker
I know I disqualified Breath of the Wild for not having actual fishing, but I find it so funny that in The Wind Waker, a game with a setting that is 99% ocean, the only thing you can fish for is treasure. Whether it is rupees or maps leading to shards of the Triforce, Wind Waker‘s sea is bountiful, just not with fish (at least non-talking fish).
The Pokémon Series
Pokémon’s fishing minigame is charming and straightforward. You register your trusty rod, whether it is “old,” “good,” or “super,” to the Select button, then cast it repeatedly in hopes of snagging one of the series’ abundant water Pokémon. I love the ease of use here, and it is especially beneficial for finding an early surfing Pokémon.
However, it is not without its wiles. In Gen 3 (the one with too much water), GameFreak introduced the most crooked Pokémon fishing element of all time: catching a Feebas. To catch this useless and slippery flopper, you must find one of six spots in the game’s largest and most fishable zone, route 119. That means you have a 6/528 chance of finding its spot. Then, you must encounter it (meaning you must check every spot 5+ times), battle it, and catch it. What a chore!
10. Paper Mario: The Origami King
The Paper Mario/Mario RPG series is full of lovable minigames and tightly controlled quicktime mechanics, from extra-damage battle maneuvers to overworld button-press puzzles and more. The latest entry, The Origami King, is no exception, even making the game’s battle system a sort of minigame on its own.
It may come as no surprise, then, that my favorite minigame in this entry is the fishing one. In it, you can capture small and large Cheeps and Bloopers (and a few surprises) using Toad’s trusty rod and well-timed ‘A’ button presses. While it is relatively simple here, I like the innovative inclusion of motion controls for casting — it feels great to throw your bobber right in front of a giant Cheep and catch a bite instantly. It feels even better when you pull in a Toad and get to whack him with a hammer.
9. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Twilight Princess‘ fishing minigame is my favorite in the 3D games — while Ocarina of Time‘s fishing minigame is memorable, it is a more frustrating detour than the one on offer here. It is only available in one location, and controls and visibility are lacking. In Twilight Princess, however, you can equip your rod to any button, fish almost anywhere with it, and it works with a single button press. Best of all, you can use your caught fish to lure the real prize: kittens.
I also love Twilight Princess‘ main fishing hole. In it, you can swim with the fish, catch a handy bottle, get a heart piece, and hang out in a gorgeous fishing garden. And, with its fishing minigame, you can easily catch a whopper sans the clunky controls in OoT. In my opinion, this spot is the most zen on the list, with simple fishin’ and peaceful scenery to immerse yourself in.
8. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
If you’ve read our recent Fire Emblem: Engage review, you’ll know it is a tighter, more battle-focused game than 2018’s Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Some of us at RPGFan love this return to fundamentals. Others, myself included, miss the interactions and distractions Three Houses offers. One such distraction is fishing, which can be challenging for newcomers but offers insane rewards for dedicated anglers. To fish, you pick your bait from the bait shop, post up at the nearby watering hole, and play a timed button-press minigame (almost like a rhythm game) to catch the biggest fish you can. One such fish is the Goddess Messenger, which will give a companion increased dexterity, defense, and stamina for a month of game time! While I find this exceedingly worthwhile, some might find this fishing minigame a bit tough. I’d make this one higher on the list if it were more approachable.
7. Persona 4
Persona 4‘s fishing minigame certainly takes some getting used to. It is finicky and tough to learn. It uses a somewhat confusing double button-press minigame that fans of Madden NFL Football will recognize as similar to the kickoff/field goal mechanic. However, once you get the hang of the Persona 4 fishing minigame’s timing, it becomes a regularly rewarding way to pass your valuable “real world” time in Inaba. Try catching the Sea Guardian to finish your social link with the hermit Fox — one of my favorite quests in the game.
6. Final Fantasy XV
Final Fantasy XV is the game that inspired this list — I was addicted to fishing in this game when I played it for the first time. It is the most involved entry on the list, with six lures, several types of rod and rod parts, lots of fishing locations, and 100 fish to catch. The mechanics also offer depth with several reeling mechanisms like angle and slack. There are also several rewarding questlines involving fishing, allowing you to feed hungry kitties, bond with party members and strangers, and earn plenty of money, AP, and other rewards along the way.
There is plenty here for fishing fans to love: I dumped 60+ hours into fishing in this game and was in hogfish heaven the whole time. Personally, this would top my list of favorites, but I concede that the learning curve here is steep — casual anglers may not find it worthwhile.
5. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Link’s Awakening is the first fishing minigame I ever played, and it’s a banger. You can see all the fish on-screen in this side-scrolling minigame, but that doesn’t make it simple. Your task is catching the biggest whopper you can, but said whopper is usually striding the bottom of the lake or tucked away in a corner (see picture above) with many obstacles between it and the surface. If you touch one of the small fish on your way down, you’re locked in and will have to pay more rupees to start over.
There will be some shenanigans along the way, but if you win this one and catch a whopper or two, you can earn yourself two heart pieces, a bottle, and lots and lots of rupees. Of all the games on this list, I’d say this one might be the most rewarding for the least amount of work!
4. NieR: Automata
Much of NieR: Automata is a nonstop onslaught of stimulation with frenetic shooting and melee fighting sections backdropped by explosive moving scenery. It handles this high-octane action smoothly and gracefully with a rock-solid framerate and incredible visual design. However, when the game slows down, it also shines with melancholic pauses accompanied by ambiance in its music and scenery. One way that players can break up the hectic sections is by fishing. NieR: Automata keeps fishing simple here, with only two buttons to press, but it lets you catch over 50 fish. Hardcore anglers might find it too simple, but collectors and completionists will adore this fishing minigame. And regardless of where you lie, NieR: Automata‘s fishing offers a welcome escape from its fast-paced, chaotic main gameplay.
3. Shenmue III
I admit that, like many, I didn’t love Shenmue III quite as much as the first two. It didn’t quite have the level of charm the first two offered with their wacky, finicky, often unnecessary (but always fun) minigames. However, the game’s saving grace for me is its excellent fishing minigame. In it, you can catch one of 18 types of fish in varying serene watering holes. Once you’ve picked up or rented a rod in the game, you can fish in these spots, and through a combination of rod/tackle choices and skillful control, you can snag a few subaquatic critters. I really like the clever use of the right stick for reeling (via spinning the stick around), and the left stick adjusting the rod’s angle. This dual-stick control feels more realistic than any other fishing minigame on the list.
In addition to solid control, the game’s compelling vistas convince anglers to stop for a moment. In my opinion, Shenmue III‘s fishing holes are tranquil paradises with thick foliage, peaceful sounds, calm waters, and beautiful backgrounds. I could bask in the zen of these gorgeous coves for days — and what is Shenmue if not a series about basking in the zen of immaculately crafted places?
When I was 11, I ran a fishing empire in RuneScape. I was raking in 100K a day in lobsters alone on my fishing alt account. Passers-by would buy them in stacks of 25 for their trips to the Wilderness (the game’s PvP zone), and I would slightly undersell the competition and use bold green text to lure them in. I was notoriously ruthless to my competition — this was my fishing turf, no one else’s. I would run to a waterfront, do some semi-afk fishing (RS fishing works like many MMOs where you simply click a resource node and wait for fish to come out; its complexity mostly lies in choosing fishing gear), and bring back fish for my profit machine.
This was my favorite way to play RuneScape because its combat is admittedly some of the worst in any MMORPG I’ve played. However, when it comes to jobs like fishing, woodcutting, cooking, etc., it is a shining beacon among pretenders like World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV. I cannot recommend it enough for fishing or any other job — just don’t get in the way of my empire.
1. Stardew Valley
Stardew Valley is an immaculately focused experience. ConcernedApe crafted every element of its gameplay precisely, highlighting simplicity, accessibility, and fun over complexity or flair. The game’s fishing is no different — you have one button to press to cast and the same button lines up your cursor as you reel the fish in. It has responsive controls, a minigame style that is easy to learn and rewarding to master, tons of fish to catch, several fishing styles, varying rods and bait, and gorgeous watering holes to fish. The game is also perfectly balanced to reward a committed angler without overshadowing — or being overshadowed by — other rewarding tasks like farming crops, tending animals, or dungeon crawling. It is also one of the only fishing minigames that offers the ability to use fish for relationship-building. For its ease of use, rewarding nature, and interesting implementation, Stardew‘s fishing tops this list. Play the game yourself and discover why it’s topped this list.