While many turn-based RPGs have unfortunately not received the popularity and player reach they more than deserve, the release of Fire Emblem: Three Hopes releasing on June 24th, 2022 for the Nintendo Switch will hopefully bring about a new wave of fans and games to the genre.
While recently-released turn-based RPGs are few and far between, many older games are still highly playable as their art style is simple, yet clean and refined, and have earned the prestige of being some of the best turn-based RPGs ever made.
10 Final Fantasy Tactics Advance – 87
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, released for the Nintendo Gameboy Advance, is a spin-off of the Final Fantasy franchise and incorporated many elements from its predecessor, Final Fantasy Tactics, on the PS1. After Marche, Mewt, Ritz, and Doned are transported to the magical land of Ivalice after accidentally reading a magical textbook known as a Grimoire, Marche embarks on a grand adventure in his attempt to return to his home world.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance‘s greatest contribution to Turn-Based RPGs, besides expanding upon the Job system from Final Fantasy Tactics, was the introduction of the Law System. The Law System incorporated mission-based rules to limit character abilities and make gameplay harder. It revolutionized the strategic skills needed to play Turn-Based RPGs leading to a much better player experience.
9 Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together – 87
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is the first turn-based RPG in the Ogre Saga and is well known as the progenitor for all turn-based RPGs that followed. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together‘s wartime setting allows for multiple play-throughs by utilizing the answers to questions posed at the beginning of the game, which determines the side players will fight for and alters the storyline accordingly.
On top of introducing the Job system present in the Tactics Ogre and FF Tactics series, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together introduced the permanent death mechanic. If a player loses a character and does not revive them in time, they are permanently removed from the party, which added an additional strategy element as the player is expected to alternate between offense and defense, making the game fun and challenging.
8 Disgaea: Afternoon Of Darkness – 87
Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness, is a classic remake of the original Disgaea RPG, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, which was ported to the PSP from the PS2. The story follows Demon Prince Laharl, his attendant Etna, and the Angel Trainee Flonne who set out to reinstate order in Laharl’s kingdom after his father the former King died.
While Disgaea‘s storyline is a fairly simple if comedic one, the character and level designs throughout the franchise are exceptional. Disgaea‘s ability to switch between cute sprites and highly detailed, attractive character designs make the visual elements of Disgaea stand in a league of their own. The blend of art styles leads to incredible replayability as well as new fans being able to properly enjoy older installments.
7 Tactics Ogre: Knight Of Lodis – 88
Tactics Ogre: Knight of Lodis acts as a prequel to the entire Ogre Battle series while incorporating the turn-based system that was developed in Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. Tactics Ogre: Knight of Lodis is also the first of the Ogre Battle games to be released on mobile systems when it was released for the Nintendo Gameboy in 2001, and named one of the best game boy advance RPGs ever made.
The fact that Tactics Ogre: Knight of Lodis became more accessible after it was released for the portable Gameboy Advance made it far easier for those on the go to experience the game. Coupled with its surprisingly strong graphics and excellent gameplay, Knight of Lodis saw high sales as people were highly receptive to a playstyle where they were not forced to make time to play an excellent game.
6 Fire Emblem – 88
After the Shadow Dragon Medeus, who long ago was defeated by the hero Anri with the legendary sword Falchion, is resurrected by the evil Wizard Gharnef, Medeus rises once again to reap havoc on the world. After Marth and his sister Elice are betrayed by their caretaker, Marth embarks on a grand adventure to reclaim the sword Falchion to aid him in defeating Medeus and Gharnef.
Fire Emblem, is one of the first true turn-based RPGs to ever be created. The success of Fire Emblem in the Japanese market led to turn-based fantasy RPGs as a whole becoming a prominent and viable playstyle. It is quite possible that if Fire Emblem had not been well received, turn-based RPGs as a whole might not have become as prominent as they did.
5 Final Fantasy Tactics: War Of The Lions – 88
Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, released for the PSP, is a remake of the original Final Fantasy Tactics. FFT: War of the Lions follows the story of the former noble of the Beoulve House, Ramza Beoulve. Despite no longer being obligated as a Noble to fight in the war between Ivalice and Ordalia, his wish to aid in ending the war and protect his family leads to Ramza’s choice of becoming a mercenary.
Through being released on the PSP, War of the Lions’ incorporation of wireless multiplayer was a first for turn-based RPGs as well as increased its playability. The potential to play with others in a test of tactics whether locally or around the world led to a much more diverse player experience and was highly received.
4 Fire Emblem Three Houses – 89
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is initially set in a school setting where the main character, Byleth, whose name and gender can be changed, is tasked with becoming the new instructor at the Garreg Mach Monastery to teach warfare and tactics. After arriving the player must choose to be the instructor for one of the three main houses; the Black Eagles, Blue Lions, and the Golden Deer.
Stemming from the early game option of choosing the house players wish to join, Fire Emblem: Three Houses allows for essentially three different games that can be explored. Aside from giving the players multiple perspectives of the narrative, it also gave players who played alongside friends a sense of rivalry depending on whether they chose a similar house or not.
3 Chrono Trigger – 92
Chrono Trigger, one of the best Old School RPGs, is a multi-era-based game where the main characters all hail from vastly different time periods and band together to defeat the main antagonist Lavos. The main character, Chrono, and his friends Marle, and Lucca use their ability to travel through time to recruit the most capable allies they can in their struggle against Lavos.
Chrono Trigger‘s main draw is its incorporation of characters from different time periods. The various character designs portrayed how each character would be used in combat and added to the game’s narrative depth, giving its storyline more urgency knowing that all of time would be affected by Lavos.
2 Fire Emblem Awakening – 92
Set 2000 years after the events of Fire Emblem, Fire Emblem Awakening follows Chrom, Robin, a customizable character, and Chrom’s group the Shepards who travel around the Kingdom of Ylisse. As a Prince of Ylisse, it is Chrom’s duty to defend his kingdom against undead forces that have been unleashed by the neighboring antagonistic country Plegia.
Before Fire Emblem: Awakening was introduced, the Fire Emblem series was in decline and almost gone for good. As many players became frustrated with Fire Emblem‘s “permadeath” system, Awakening chose to allow players to remove it, making the series significantly more user-friendly, enjoyable, and accessible to new turn-based RPG players.
1 Chrono Cross – 94
Chrono Cross follows the adventure of Serge, who after learning that he died in a parallel dimension is tasked with learning the differences between those two dimensions and finding the cause of his potential death. On his journey through both dimensions, Serge meets a massive cast of characters to aid him on his mysterious journey.
On top of having a massive cast of diverse characters, each with their own unique abilities and tactics, Chrono Cross allows players to meet parallel versions of most characters while traveling between the two parallel dimensions during the gams narrative. Chrono Cross was one of the first games to explore parallel dimensions, going the extra mile to have events in one universe affect the events in the other.
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