How well does the RPG genre translate to mobile devices?
The world of role playing games is just as vast as the worlds that they depict. Over the years, the RPG genre has become one of the most popular genres of games around, if only because they’re so versatile. Role playing elements can be put into a game that takes place in a sci-fi, fantasy, or modern universe. This means that RPGs are able to appeal to a very broad audience. Similarly, RPGs can be puzzle-based, text-based, strategy-based, action-based, and so on. Since role playing games are typically defined only by narrative and mechanics, that means that RPGs are able to take on all kinds of different forms and formats.
But how well does this genre translate to mobile devices? Honestly, I think it has translated pretty well. Role playing games on mobile seem like a good match, although I think that there are a couple of issues. First of all, RPGs are often progression-oriented, which makes them prime targets for exploitative micro-transactions. A lot of free role playing games involve this kind of “freemium” gameplay, which is why you’ll find that the majority of the games on this upcoming list are paid games. That’s the primary inherent issue that I think you’ll find in mobile role playing games. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at this list of some of the best RPGs for Android devices.
1. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – $9.99
Knights of the Old Republic is known as one of the most definitive and iconic science-fiction RPG experiences, and its Android port is just as great as its source material. To begin with, the games are pretty much identical. When I first downloaded this, I expected something that was more simplified or “streamlined” than the standard KOTOR game. However, I turned out to be wrong. The gameplay is well-suited for touch controls, although they aren’t super easy to get the hang of. You may have a little difficulty at first, especially on smaller screens.
Since the port is so good, you’re basically just playing one of the greatest ever RPGs on your Android device. I’m not sure what there is to say about the game itself that hasn’t already been said. KOTOR has a great cast of characters, an excellent story (complete with one of the best video game twists of all time), and a very believable universe. Even if you aren’t a fan of the Star Wars series, I think it’s safe to say that you could probably get something out of this game.
2. Out There: Ω Edition – $4.99
Speaking of ports, I think it’s a huge injustice that the rogue-like Faster Than Light isn’t on Android. Faster Than Light is basically a space management strategy game, and it’s probably the best in that very niche genre. Out There manages to combine the core gameplay of FTL with some tightly designed RPG elements, making it the better game in some ways. Out There’s gameplay is very similar to FTL’s , where you assign different crew members to carry out different jobs on a spaceship, which is exploring a vast and dangerous galaxy.
Although it’s a suitable clone for Faster Than Light, with difficult-to-master strategic mechanics, Out There also brings some other unique elements to the table. All of the game is styled like a comic book, which adds a certain charm that you can’t find in Faster Than Light. This game is also significantly more story-based than Faster Than Light, making it feel much more like an RPG than a strategy game. The player makes choices in a choose-your-own-adventure style narrative, which really adds to the role playing experience. If you like more tactical RPGs, and if you’re looking for a challenge, I can’t recommend this one enough.
3. Attack the Light – $2.99
When I was growing up, one of my favorite RPGs was Paper Mario on the Nintendo 64. In Paper Mario, the story was fun, the visuals were cute, and the combat was simple while still retaining a certain degree of strategy. Some games, like South Park: The Stick of Truth, are heavily inspired by Paper Mario’s original mechanics, but I don’t think that they have the same level of sweetness that you’ll find in the original game. Cartoon Network’s Attack the Light fills that hole very nicely. Attack the Light is a game that takes place in Steven Universe, which is one of the most popular American cartoons on the air right now. (A well-deserved honor, I should add.)
You play as Steven, a half-human, half-alien boy who goes on magical adventures with his late mother’s team of alien warriors. The story in Attack the Light is simple and silly, a lot like Paper Mario’s. Combat and gameplay is also very similar to Paper Mario’s, never feeling too complicated or serious. There’s still a lot more strategy than meets the eye, however. When one of your characters levels up, you gain the ability to upgrade one of their stats. Each character has a unique skillset, which means they’re better suited for different stat upgrades depending on how you intend to use them. It’s a great game for all ages, and I think you would probably enjoy it even if you’ve never watched the show.
4. ZENONIA 5 – Free
Holding the honor as the only free game on this list, Zenonia deserves a little bit of credit for that alone. This game was developed by Gamevil, which is a Korean video game company that has built a reputation for creating quality free apps that are fun, interesting, and free. Zenonia is no exception. In this game, you play as a protagonist who follows a main quest line, but is also able to pick up side quests from NPCs.
You’re able to choose from different classes, and your choice of class impacts how real-time combat carries out. As you can imagine, a berserker and a mechanic fight a little differently. The world that you explore feels rich, and although they can become repetitive, the grinding and fetch quests that you’ll find in this game make it feel like a true RPG. Players can also go through PvP combat, which is surprisingly difficult and competitive compared to the main game. Like most free games, Zenonia 5 has quite a few in-app purchases that players are able to make to speed along the main game. These purchases aren’t really essential, though, and I don’t think they’re rubbed in your face often enough to be a major detriment to gameplay. This game isn’t really anything flashy, but considering that it’s free, it’s pretty astonishing.
5. Final Fantasy VI – $15.99
Like Knights of the Old Republic, the Final Fantasy series is probably one of the most iconic RPG series of all time. It set the standard for nearly all JRPGs that came after it. Originally released in 1994, this installment of the series has aged pretty well. The port is pretty good, but the controls definitely need work. Moving around can feel a little clunky, and the on-screen D pad isn’t ideal. Not to mention, you need an Internet connection to open the game for some reason.
If you’ve been gaming for any length of time I’m sure you’re aware of Final Fantasy at least by reputation, you have probably already heard plenty of praise sung for VI. It’s probably one of the best entry points for someone unfamiliar with the series, offering a relatively low difficulty level, a great story, and a likable cast of characters. If you’re looking to get into this epic series, this game really eases you into it. Final Fantasy VI takes place in a steampunk-like setting, which is somewhat refreshing in a genre where most games take place in a kingdom or on a spaceship. The soundtrack is amazing, too. The only drawback to this choice, in my mind, is the price. Square Enix’s ports to mobile are really expensive for some reason, and I can see why someone would be hesitant to spend that kind of money on an app. (It’s well worth it, though.)
6. Choice of Robots – $4.99
Most of the games on this list have been pretty standard RPGs. I wanted to talk about something a little different. Choice of Robots is a text-based game, which means that there are no graphics, very little gameplay to speak of, and no controls. You read parts of a story, and you make choices. Choice of Games has been making text-based games for quite some time, and I really enjoy their work. Choice of Robots, in my opinion, is their best game by far.
In Choice of Robots, you play as an engineering student who is creating a robot. The choices that you make determine how this invention changes the world. Do you want to create an evil robot and take over the world? You can do that. Do you want to sell your robot into industry and become a billionaire? You can do that. Do you want to create a robot wife? You can do that, too. I’m not exaggerating when I say that every choice that you make in this game can impact the story. From who you decide to take on as a love interest to what you name your robot, it can all change the course of the story entirely. This game has A LOT of content, too. I have put well over eight hours into dozens of playthroughs, and I still don’t think that I’ve seen anything. There are no quests and there isn’t any turn-based combat, but Choice of Robots is still one of the most compelling and fun games I’ve played.
7. The World Ends With You – $17.99
Yet another expensive Square Enix port. The World Ends With You is a little more expensive than Final Fantasy VI, but I think I’m going to say that it’s still worth it. TWEWY was originally a Nintendo DS game, and it really surprised people when it released in 2007. What looked like your generic JRPG actually turned out to be a game that had a unique concept, a great look, and a high quality soundtrack. As far as porting goes, The World Ends With You is pretty good. I think that mobile devices are a good place to jump from Nintendo DS, since both platforms have a touch screen. It’s a big download, and it makes some older devices run hot, but it’s not bad.
In this game, the protagonist awakens in an alternate plane of existence, with no memory of what has happened to them. It turns out, he’s participating in a massive game, fighting to return to his normal existence. In this game, dead players forfeit their most valuable possession (for your character, his memories) to gain the ability to either ascend to a higher spiritual being, or return to life. This interesting story is tied together with a fun (but challenging) combat system, relatable characters, and a really cool art style. This game is the complete package, and it’s one of the most strong all-around action RPGs that I think the Nintendo DS ever saw. Luckily, we get to experience it on our Android devices now, too.
8. Knights of Pen and Paper – $4.99
RPGs have been around for a long time, but do you know what have been around for even longer? Pen and paper RPGs. I’m talking about Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer, Pathfinder, and so on. As “geek culture” becomes more and more mainstream, these board games are becoming more and more popular. Knights of Pen and Paper is a game that sort of lampoons the pen and paper RPG experience, as a “standard” RPG game that is packed full of meta humor and other silliness.
In this game, you’re able to play as either the player or the game master, and proceed through the game as you would in a traditional pen and paper session. It’s a pretty unique concept that I think Knights of Pen and Paper pulls off pretty well. As far as gameplay goes, battle is turn-based as it would be in a pen and paper game. Most strategy relies on the different gear, items, and stats that you have. It’s a very simple game, but it has a lot of elements. This means that Knights of Pen and Paper has an insane amount of replay value, which I think makes it quite the bargain at $4.99. I mostly recommend this game for people who already play a lot of tabletop RPGs. Otherwise, i think some of the humor may be lost on you. Even if that’s the case though, it’s still a really fun one.
9. Evoland – $4.99
If I had to recommend an Android RPG to someone without knowing anything about their interests, I would probably recommend Evoland. This game has pretty much everything that you would ever want out of an RPG. The graphics are fun, without seeming overly childish. The gameplay is easy enough for newbies to get into, but comprehensive enough for veterans of the genre to have fun with. The writing in the game is fun, with some cute little referential humor that can be appreciated by fans of the RPG genre. I think that an eight year old could have just as much fun as an adult could with this game.
Evoland is a game that I think hearkens back to a lot of old-school RPGs that people like me grew up with. You have turn-based combat, action-based combat, Zelda-esque puzzles, and a lot more. It feels like the trademark RPG experience, to me. The idea behind Evoland is that you’re adventuring through time, and the gameplay/graphics change as you progress through the story. It’s like you’re getting a hand-on tour through the history of the genre. It’s a jack-of-all-trades kind of game, and I really enjoy it. My only complaint? The game is way too short. You can probably beat this game within 4-6 hours, which is really short, especially for an RPG. Evoland has a sequel, which is a bit longer, but it hasn’t been released on Android yet. If you’re looking for an approachable quick fix, I think you should look into this game.
10. Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition – $9.99
Speaking of old-school RPGs…I had to include Baldur’s Gate on this list if only because of what it means to so many fans of the role playing genre. Originally released in 1998, this game is an absolute classic, and its writing and general fun still hold up today. Like Knights of Pen and Paper, the majority of Baldur’s Gate gameplay involves Dungeon and Dragons-like mechanics, and can seem a little complicated at first. However, the stellar writing in this game is unmatched by most AAA RPG titles that you’ll see today. This game is immersive, it’s fun, and it helped to usher in one of the most prolific video game genres of all time. It definitely deserves a nod on this list.
The Android port, all things considered, is pretty good. The interface has been updated a little bit to be more appealing to newer gamers. If you’ve ever played the original version, it may be a little hard to figure out at first, but it all makes sense. There are no gamebreaking issues. The price is fair. There are a couple of in-app purchases that expand the base game, but the base game is so huge to begin with that they aren’t really necessary. If you’re an old-school gamer looking for nostalgia, or a new-school gamer interested in seeing where it all started, I think you should definitely look into the Android port of Baldur’s Gate.