Final Fantasy VIII might be about saving the world from evil magic, but let's face it, it's also about cards. It's about Triple Triad. It's about Shuffle or Boogie, that amazing theme music. It is an absolutely key, major part of the FF8 experience - and collecting the rare cards and completing the Card Queen side quest is something of a rite of passage as much as passing your SeeD exam.
There is a little bit of a problem with triple triad and rare cards in particular in FF8, however - the system is rather obtuse, just like things like the FF8 weapon upgrade system. The final three ranks of card in the game - level 8, level 9 and level 10 - represent GFs and major players in FF8's story - and all of these cards are one-of-a-kind. There's only one place to get them, and sometimes some strange steps are involved.
It gets stranger still when you involve the Queen of Cards, a NPC who causes new cards to appear in the world only when you lose existing rare cards to her - which completionists will want to do, but then win back the other rare card you lost along the way.
Anyway, on this page we break all that down nice and easy - we list every rare and unique triple triad card in FF8 out, explain how to get it, and best of all list the rare cards in order. That means if you follow this guide from the start of the game, it'll guide you to 100% completion on all the rarest, one-off cards, avoiding any missables.
Final Fantasy VIII Rare Card Locations: rare cards in order, plus the card queen quest
These instructions run from the very start of the game, though we've tried to keep them as spoiler-free as possible for later events, but it does reference characters and locations from right throughout the game. It's in order, so if you're further in the game and are missing a card, do try to backtrack.
Among this, we've listed the card queen quest steps - and we suggest you undertake them when they're placed in our list. Regardless, they must be undertaken in order - step 3 won't do anything until 1 and 2 are complete, and so on.
- Ifrit (Level 8 GF Card) - a reward and drop from the Ifrit boss that is part of obtaining the Ifrit GF and completing your SeeD field exam.
- MiniMog (Level 8 GF Card) - Available in Balamb Garden - win it from the kid running laps around the 1F Hallway.
Queen of Cards Quest Step 1
Before leaving Balamb for your SeeD Missions, be sure to obtain MiniMog as described above and then lose it to the Queen of Cards in Balamb, outside the train station. Save your game before you challenge her - because you may need to save scum this one!
Anyway, to progress, play a match with a bunch of low-level cards and MiniMog, and deliberately lose the match. This will make a rare card (Kiros) appear later on, and you will have an opportunity to regain MiniMog. It's best to do this before leaving Balamb for Timber, but you can backtrack to Balamb later if need be.
Once you lose Mini Mog to her, the Queen of Cards will leave Balamb. You want her to say she's going to Dollet. There's a roughly 33% chance this will happen - if it doesn't say she's going to Dollet, quit, reload, and try again until she moves to Dollet.
If this appears to not be working based off soft reset alone, try using a draw point to reset the game's hidden random counter, then challenging her again. Exactly how difficult she is to manipulate depends on the version - the PS1 and older PC versions are easier to manipulate in this way with soft resets than the newer versions. The Card Queen can actually move all the way around FF8's map to basically every major location - but we want to save scum to manipulate her so she only moves between Balamb and Dollet all game. This will make your life a lot easier, and allow you to complete the card queen quest earlier and more efficiently.
- Qustis (Level 10 Character Card) - Available in Balamb Garden; win from any of the NPCs that identify themselves as 'Trepe Groupies'.
- Zell (Level 10 Character Card) - Available in Balamb. Win it from Ma Dincht when you have Zell in the party.
- Diabolos (Level 9 GF Card)) - Given as a reward when you beat Diabolos by summoning it using the Magical Lamp, which also unlocks Diablos as a GF.
- Seifer (Level 10 Character Card) - Win Seifer's card from Cid in Balamb Garden. Available from early on, but also from Cid later, such as at the Orphanage.
- Angelo (Level 8 GF Card) - Be sure to challenge Watts to a game of cards on the Forest Owls' train during your mission briefing - he has the Angelo card. If you miss it here, Watts will also have it on the White SeeD Ship much later in the game.
Queen of Cards Quest Step 2
Once you've completed the train mission with Rinoa, you'll eventually get some world map freedom. One entirely optional place you can now visit is a much more peaceful Dollet, and this is where the Queen of Cards now resides. So long as you lost the MiniMog card, the Queen is now inside the Dollet Pub. Speak to her, and ask her about her father.
Once you've spoken to the Queen of Cards about her father, you'll be able to win back the MiniMog card from the Queen of Cards' son, the kid who paints bones on his grandpa's paintings, also in Dollet. It's inside a house opposite the pub.
- Siren (Level 8 GF Card) - Win the Siren rare card from the Dollet pub owner who has a secret cards high roller room.
- Kiros (Level 10 Character Card) - Once you reach Deling City, you can win your rare Kiros card from a man wearing black in the shopping street area - but only if you have completed the two Queen of Cards quest points so far. Otherwise, he won't have the card.
- Rinoa (Level 10 Character Card) - You can't actually obtain Rinoa yet, but in order to get her you'll need to make a temporary sacrifice. When you meet Caraway in the Deling City mansion, lose the Ifrit card to him. This can be done as Squall, or when Selphie is temporarily party leader. Just lose Ifrit.
- Sacred & Minotaur (Level 8 GF Cards) - The Sacred and Minotaur cards are two separate cards, but you'll get both of them while traversing the optional Tomb of the Unknown King dungeon in order to unlock the Brothers GF. Once that quest is complete, you'll have both cards.
Queen of Cards Quest Step 3
Now that you have the Sacred card, head back to Dollet before advancing the story further in Deling. Lose the Sacred card to the Queen of Cards in Dollet; she will now move again. The same scummy rule applies as before - save your game, and quit and reload if she says she's going anywhere ut back to Balamb.
Pretty much right away you can once again win back Sacred, once again from the Queen of Cards' son.
- Rinoa (Level 10 Character Card) - Once you're back out of prison and have some freedom again, play Caraway at cards. He won't have the Ifrit you lost to him any more, but he will now have a Rinoa card to win.
- Leviathan (Level 9 GF Card) - Available in Balamb Garden upon your return - win it from the CC Joker. Note you'll have to win ~15 quality games to start the CC quest, we suggest Dr. Kadowaki if you need wins, then talk to Jack by the lobby directory. Then play Club on the north side of the Garden (near the Dorm or Cafeteria), then Diamond is the two girls back near the directory. Joker is found in the Training area.
- Ifrit (win back) - When you reach Fisherman's Horizon, you'll be able to win your Ifrit rare card back from Martine. This only works if you lost the card to Caraway, obviously.
- Quetzalcoatl (Level 8 GF Card) - Available in FH - win it off Mayor Dobe, the boss man at Fisherman's Horizon.
- Irvine (Level 10 Character Card) - Also available in FH, but only if you've completed the previous step in the Queen of Cards Quest, giving the Queen your rare Sacred card. Win Irvine from Flo.
- Carbuncle (Level 9 GF Card) - Win from the CC Heart in Balamb Garden. You can only do this once you have control of Balamb and Xu is at the cockpit.
- Gilgamesh (Level 9 GF Card) - Win from the CC King in Balamb Garden. After beating Heart/Xu, attempt to play Dr. Kadowaki, then rest in the Dorm.
- Odin (Level 9 GF Card) - Rewarded to you in the Centra Ruins as part of the drops for completing the Odin sidequest that unlocks him as a GF.
- Chicobo (Level 8 GF Card) - Complete the Chocobo Forest Side Quest at the Chocobo Holy Forest, then talk to the Baby Chicobo afterwards - you'll be given the card.
- Pandemonium (Level 9 GF Card) - Head back to Balamb Town at this point in the game - the hotel owner has this card for you to win.
Queen of Cards Quest Step 4
Now that you have Chicobo, it's time to go lose it as the next step in the Card Queen saga. The Queen is back in Balamb now, as you might remember. Lose Chicobo to her - she'll then be on the move again. Apply the same logic once again - save your game, and quit and reload as many times as needed until she heads back to Dollet.
You get the idea - we want her to ping pong back and forth between Balamb and Dollet, as they're easiest. Follow her to the Dollet Pub and again talk to her about her dad. While there, win back Chicobo from the Card Queen's son.
- Chubby Chocobo (Level 8 GF Card) - By completing the fourth step of the Queen of Cards side quest, you'll now be able to win the Chubby Chocobo from the SeeD Cadet sitting on a bench outside the Balamb Garden Library.
- Selphie (Level 10 Character Card) - As you'd expect, Selphie's rare card can be found in her native Trabia Garden, in posession of one of her friends - the one near the Gargoyle Statue.
- Cerberus (Level 9 GF Card) - Cerberus is an optional boss battle in Galbadia Garden found during the war of the gardens. Beating it can get Cerberus as a GF for you, and like a couple of other GF cards it is a reward for winning that battle.
- Edea (Level 10 Character Card) - Edea holds her own card, but you of course won't be able to play cards with her until she's at the Orphanage. This is also your second chance to gain the Seifer rare card from Cid if you missed it way earlier.
- Shiva (Level 8 GF Card) - To get your hands on Shiva, you'll need to have picked up the Girl Next Door magazine earlier in the game. Give it to Zone while aboard the White SeeD Ship to get the Shiva Card as a reward. For more information on The Girl Next Door, check out our full FF8 Magazine Locations guide.
- Ward (Level 10 Character Card) - The card featuring Ward is in the possession of Odine in Esthar. Simply challenge and win.
- Alexander (Level 9 GF Card) - Alexander's rare card is held by Piet. Piet can be challenged either on the Lunar Base, or at the Lunar Crash Site. As always, we recommend you grab it sooner rather than later.
- Laguna (Level 10 Character Card) - Laguna's card is of course held by Ellone - challenge her on the Lunar Base.
Queen of Cards Quest Step 5
It's time to return to the card queen - she'll still be in Dollet. Play against her and this time, lose Alexander. Again, you can reclaim Alexander from her son by beating him pretty much right away. Once again, do the save and quit trip until the Queen moves herself back to Balamb. Don't accept anywhere else unless you want to make the trek.
- Doomtrain (Level 9 GF Card) - So long as you lost Alexander to the Queen of Cards, Doomtrain's card will now be in possession of a man in the Timber Pub. This guy is easy to find - he's the one who challenges you to Triple Triad even in his normal dialogue.
Queen of Cards Quest Step 6
Now take your newly obtained Doomtrain rare card back to the Card Queen - she's now back in Balamb, if you've followed our instructions. Then head to Dollet to reclaim it from her son.
- Phoenix (Level 9 GF Card) - If you did lost Doomtrain to the Card Queen, Phoenix will now be in Esthar, held by the Presidential Aide that hangs out near the air station.
- Bahamut (Level 9 GF Card) - You'll beat Bahamut in the Deep Sea Research Facility as a boss, and when you do his card is your reward.
- Eden (Level 9 GF Card) - Much further into the Deep Sea Research Facility is a boss battle against Ultima Weapon. Beat it to obtain the Eden rare card.
- Squall (Level 10 Character Card) - Laguna has this card, for reasons that are obvious if you pay attention to the story. He can be battled in the Esthar Presidential Palace or aboard the Ragnarok.
End-Game Card mop-up with the Queen of Cards
Once you reach what is the game's fourth disc and final stretch, the Queen of Cards will be your depository for things you may have missed - she'll have the cards from her own quest line that you didn't get properly, plus any cards you lost to her that you failed to win back from her son.