Great piece and interesting how FF VII does intergrade (no pun intended) all those mini-games into the main story rather than leaving them as part of something for players to do after they've completed the main scenario. I think it's something a lot of games suffer from these days: a lack of variety. After getting into it and learning how the game plays, it feels as if you're going down a straight path. Even FF VII Remake is guilty of this.
But as you've pointed out, the original was able to shake things up and keep you on the edge of your seat for every step of the way. I think that's one of the things that made it so memorable.