Essential RPGs on Android & iOS16 Jul 2019 11
The best RPGs are ones that offer unique environments, well-rounded/written characters, and unusual, original plots. Some of these games are more action-oriented while others are strictly turn-based, but they all have distinct, immersive visions in which the player might find their own ego subsumed, for a time, as deeply as is desired.
Bored of RPGs? How about some board games instead?
Below is not only a collection of great games, but they're also paragons of the genre and represent ‘role-play’ at its finest whether you're playing on Android or iOS.
Our readers have their own wishlists of top RPGs they'd want to celebrate. We can't we'll be able to rotate them into the main list, but that doesn't mean their voices can't be heard. If you're looking to widen your RPG net, these recommendations from other PTers might fit the bill:
- 7 Mages
- Monster Hunter Stories
- Avernum series
- The Quest HD
- Aurum Blade
- Dungeon Chronicle
- Partia 3: Knights of Partia
One recent release of note is Nomads of the Fallen Star (pictured), a sci-fi sandbox RPG with a tactical turn-based strategy layer. It's been ported from PC and would be a shoe-in for this list, if it weren't for some lack-lustre implementation. The mobile interface especially is well below what you'd expect for a game of this nature. Still, we highlight it because it's the kind of game we like seeing on mobile, and there's always the chance the interface will be fixed in the future.
Star Traders: Frontiers (Review)
One of 2019's best releases so far and an excellent addition to the RPG roster, STF is the culmination of nearly a decade's worth of effort making quality premium games on mobile. You customise your captains and your crew and sail amongst stars trying to eek out a living in a hostile universe. Trade, go on missions, fight pirates and aliens... this is a very diverse sandbox RPG in space, and an excellent port of the original PC version.
The only thing to keep in mind when jumping into Frontiers is that there's a lot to consider all at once, and the openness is almost intimidating. There are some tool tips and an initial main quest that will teach you some ropes, but beyond that one criticism is that its not very good at explaining itself. Still, trial and error is not the worst thing and the more you learn, the more fun you'll have as you explore all the different play-styles and gameplay options. On top of that, the developers are constantly updating the game with free content, so you'll be well served in the future.
Developer: Kimmo Lahtinen
Platform: iOS Universal
Nick sums up our thoughts perfectly on Barbearian in his review:
Barbearian is a real-time action/RPG that features frenetic combat full of huge hits against vast hordes of enemies. The constant motion, explosive hits, and overwhelming odds of it reminds us of running around Diablo III maps looking for more things to kill. It looks great, is loaded with smashy goodness and visceral feel, and is a ton of fun to play. It offers plenty of challenge without nearing the rage-quit-and-never-look-at-the-game-again reaction some similar games seem to elicit. The ability to micromanage the difficulty and completely control the UI layout is just icing on the cake.
An easy one to recommend to RPG fans and definitely GOTY material.
This dark fantasy, turn-based RPG is a favourite amongst PT staffers, and the sequel reviewed very well when it came out. Even three years later, it still manages to draw new players with its deep approach to tactical combat, and it's D&D-style treatment of the game world. While there's an argument to be made that Demon's Rise 2 should also be on this list (either in addition to, or instead of), which one you end up picking up you're not going to regret your choice.
Fans of tactical RPGs, Dungeons & Dragons, and MMO-style combat will really take to the campaign and won't regret adding this game to their collection.
Also look out for: Wave Light have recently released another fantasy-themed tactical RPG called Shieldwall Chronicles. We quite liked it, although whether it's better than Demon's Rise is a matter for debate (we think probably not). Still, if you've already checked out DR and are looking for a new challenge, Shieldwall would be a good place to start.
Planescape Torment: Enhanced Edition (Review)
Planescape is strange and idiosyncratic, its characters ranging from a chaotic fire-lord whose passion is simple, total consumption and destruction of the world around him to a cherub from the Brothel for Slaking Intellectual Lusts. Its take on a D&D system isn’t particularly balanced, for the stats and character builds favor wisdom above all, both in terms of raw bonus experience and the extra interactions and dialogue options. But the story is to die for.
The multiplanar quest of an immortal, tormented, amnesiac main character to know thyself is at once alien and deeply human. Enjoying this pre-millennium classic before its enhanced edition debut last year meant overlooking a multitude of practical shortcomings; the non-scalable and at times grainy graphics, to say nothing of bugs and lost content. Now one can meet the protagonist and experience his joys and sorrows with ease, if not comfort. The game’s peccadillos are entirely the point, its strange, singular vision undimmed by age.
Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic
In a galaxy far, far away, in a distant time immemorial, the Sith and Jedi wore very different masks. To make something as nostalgic and cherished as Star Wars new again, BioWare and LucasArts flung their players millennia into the past and pitted them against Darth Malak in a struggle for the fate of the galaxy.
The characters remain iconic and memorable to this day (HK-47 as a murderous, seemingly punctilious droid, for example), and the now-standard paragon-neutral-renegade trifecta of alignment-based decision rubric for RPGs was a natural fit for the Star Wars mythos. Choose light or dark, good or evil: these archetypes resonate because they work, as does the class- and skill-systems which were tweaked from the paper RPG baseline.
Legend of Grimrock (Review)
Developer: Almost Human
What is Grimrock? Four prisoners marked for death are flung into the heart of an ancient mountain to see trial by the elements. By delving deeper as a party, defeating the enemies and unravelling the riddles, you will overturn your sentence and start afresh. The mysteries of the game’s titular dungeon, whose design indicates was intended a prison for a multitude of strange beings, mount with each level until the mother-horror is finally met on the deepest level. An old-school game with grid-based real-time combat, riddles, puzzles, traps and hand-crafted (read: non-procedural, non-roguelike) levels. Good looking and thoughtfully made, its battle pace and minimal input requirements make it a natural fit for mobile.
Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition (Review)
D&D spent a long time banished to the corners of a select few lives, shining for hours at a time in small gatherings held regularly among the elect. There have been many implementations of the various settings and rule systems of the original grand-daddy of pen-and-paper RPGs, but Baldur’s Gate is perhaps the most significant and enduring of them all. (Sorry, Temple of Elemental Evil and friends, close but no cigar).
A journey for the ages, with a motley crew visiting each era to repair the mistakes of the past and break other timelines, zig-zagging across character arcs and plot holes with aplomb. The RPG elements are just as great as the story, both of them equally...timeless. And the soundtrack is nuanced and varied, with mysterious, mournful threnodies as well as rousing boss-battle hymns. The game keeps popping up everywhere, and for good reason, for its characters, music and story both exemplify the JRPG genre and somehow transcend it. Chrono Trigger is Chrono Trigger; to play it involves learning about RPG conventions and mechanics but to experience it is so much more, a different creature altogether.
Titan Quest (Review)
A diabolic, pan-Hellenic action-RPG whose loot system and mythic references have earned its place in the pantheon. See the world, from the Aegean to Bosphorus, to the Nile, slay its beasts of prominence. At the time of its release in 2006, the game seemed redundant and derivative; now it shines in a mobile market where a premium game with fascinating, nay, compelling, rich pool of random loot, none of it locked behind premium currency or lootboxes, is something of a rara avis. Serviceable combat, shiny loot, excellent pacing and nice controls: this is good simple fun.
Developer: Supergiant Games
Platforms: iOS Universal
The world is falling apart, being destroyed from without while society crumbles and the citizens of Cloudbank panic and retreat from their formerly comfortable lives. Transistor’s pace has only one setting, relentlessly pushing the player to new areas while a narrator overdubs the scenery and battles with evocative, if florid, prose. Transistor’s techno-utopia has clearly gone wrong at some point, and the whole city is flooded with swarms of the Process, a monochrome enemy whose various forms eerily mimic lifeforms.
The modular battle system with its flexible customization options is fun and satisfying, for any program you acquire can be equipped either as a primary (active) ability, a modifier boosting another active, or as a passive. The relative small number of programs means that this mix-and-match is always interesting, never burdensome. The combat itself is real time with the special ability to ‘pause’ the game and plan out actions.
Final Fantasy IX
Nick once considered this the best of all of Square's Final Fantasy ports, so now that we're officially adding JRPGs to the list (for the moment, might spin them off to their own list-ED), we thought we'd pay homage to the grand-daddy of all JRPGs with their finest mobile offering. FF9 was released at the turn of the millennium, and moved the series forward with new mechanics whilst also paying homage to the classical games.
As far as the mobile version is concerned, you couldn't ask for more. Officially it's a remaster of the original game with features such as HD movies and in-game graphics, and they added in an auto-save feature which is essential for the drop-in/drop-out nature of mobile gaming. The only downside of this and any of Square's FF ports is the pricing - at £20 full price, which is far more than what most mobile gamers are willing to pay.
Final Fantasy-like Alternatives
Once upon a time, we posted a feature of Final Fantasy alternatives. We're trying to consolidate a bit, so we're migrating that information here for your convenience. We'll expand on this section during a future update, but for the moment, here's a shortlist of Nick's recommendations if you're looking for a FF like game, but don't want to pay the price of admission:
- Doom & Destiny
- Doom & Destiny Advanced
- Symphony of the Origin
- Revenant Dogma
- Dragon Quest
- Dragon Fantasy
- Phantasy Star II Classic
Hall of Fame
These games graced the list in a previous life, but have since past on into legend. Here's a reminder, in case we forget:
- The World Ends with You
- Avadon: The Black Fortress
- Shadowrun Returns
What would your list of the best mobile RPGs look like? Let us know in the comments!