The Best RPGS on Android & iOS20 Jun 2018 2
RPGs swallow a player’s preconceptions about how things work and re-forge them into something new. The best ones take this opportunity and seal the deal with unique environments, well-rounded and 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.
Not wanting RPGS? How about some awesome sports management games instead?
Below is a collection of great games, sure, but they also are paragons of the genre and represent ‘role-play’ at its finest on Android and iOS.
Developer: Harebrained Scheme
I was gobsmacked to find that one of the chief members of this list is no longer with us iOS gamers thanks to the Appocalypse. Harebrained Scheme’s initial offering, Shadowrun Returns, didn’t quite find its footing, but their next standalone adventure saw a vastly improved set of characters, a more intriguing anarchic setting in the flux-state of Berlin, and a more robust and tense battle- and character-progression system. Unfortunately, this better sequel died with the advent of iOS 11, so hold your cherished apps closed, everybody, for the digital is more ephemeral than one would think. Unless you’re an Android user and then everything is fine.
The Shadowrun saga’s unique blend of modern technomancy with high-fantasy magic and races (goblins, elves and dragons, oh my!) could have easily lapsed into farce, but the writing and plotting of Shadowrun made every moment and every meta-human the player meets count. They are all great fun, but it’s a right shame the most focused and shining example is lost to the mists of ages. Cybernetic augmentation, spellcasting, astral projection, drone warfare, synthetic brain chips: the future is here, and it all came true. To say nothing of the grid- and turn-based battles and the character backstories.
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.
Avadon: the Black Fortress
Developer: Spiderweb Software
The best introduction to Spiderweb Software’s all-around excellent series. Its interface is functional and natty in its own way, despite the overall retro impressions it might give. Ditto for the game’s deliberative, even stately pacing. The simmering political intrigue is carried throughout the game’s sense of detailed yet colorful writing and excellent rich cast of characters.
The best-laid plots and gameplay are given full space to develop and be grasped piece-wise, increasing the ultimate payoff of each. Its presentation is staid, but its functionality and ease are top-notch. Point in fact: there was a minor controversy upon the game’s release that it was too accessible and intelligently streamlined to offer a meaty experience on a natty platter.
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.
The World Ends With You: Solo Remix
Fashionable youths spirit themselves away to the Tokyo underground to do battle against the reapers. This is a vibrant panegyric to the intense and at times bizarre whirlwind of city culture and the influence of fresh music and tech on subcultures. It’s not for nothing the game uses pins as equipment, nay, as full-fledged partners in battle. The touch-based battles get frantic at times, and the countdown clock trudges slowly on to the final crisis. Zany and inspired yet ultimately cohesive, The World Ends With You is still a fresh thrill, even this many versions later.
Developer: Supergiant Games
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.
What would your list of the best mobile RPGs look like? Let us know in the comments!