Experience what others have loved for years
If you love role-playing games (RPG), especially digital ones, then there has never been a better time to be a fan. Mobile gamers in particular have a huge variety of RPGs to choose from. Who would have thought you could one day boot up Baldur’s Gate or Knights of the Old Republic on a smartphone?
It’s not just classic Western RPGs that are getting strong representation. Classic RPGs from Japan (JRPG) now have a second life on mobile devices. Many Western gamers missed out on some of these gems when released on their original platforms, which is a real shame. Now anyone who owns an iOS or Android device can experience what so many JRPG fans have loved for years.
So, may your battles be turn-based and your hair ever-spiky. Unsheath those giant swords, summon your fantastical creatures and let’s check out eight of the best classic JRPGs anyone can play on their mobile devices.
Chrono Trigger (SNES, 1995)
Is Chrono Trigger the best JRPG of all time? It’s OK if you don’t think so, but you’ll be making plenty of online enemies if you’re too dismissive of this classic SNES game. With characters designed by Akira Toriyama of both Dragon Ball and Dragon Quest fame, the game has a unique and timeless look.
You play as Crono, a plucky protagonist who gets into girl trouble. The trouble being that the girl in question is a princess involved in world-shaking temporal shenanigans. The adventure takes you across multiple time periods, where you’ll pick up an interesting cast of party members.
With multiple endings, lots of content and a fantastic active time battle system, even modern gamers will find plenty to love here. The mobile version has recently received a major overhaul and plays like a dream, even on touch screens. This should come preinstalled on every phone and tablet, it’s that good.
Lunar Silver Star Story Touch (Sega Saturn, PS1,1996 & 1998)
Lunar Silver Star Story is a remake of the 1992 Sega CD game. The original is a worthy title by itself, but Silver Star Story is the definitive version of the game. Silver Star Story Touch is an almost perfect port of the Saturn and PS1 remaster. Although there was a third significant remaster exclusive to the PSP, that version has been divisive among fans.
In this game you take on the role of Alex, a young man who hungers for adventure. Along with his tubby friend Ramus, the enchanting songstress Luna and his flying cat/dragon thing, Alex gets involved in some pretty epic adventures.
The world of Lunar is beautiful and still rather unique in its visual design. It’s mostly set in a cold climate, characters wear interesting costumes and the English localization is both funny and sharply written. There are good arguments that the sequel, Lunar 2 Eternal Blue, is the better game, but you need to play both to get the whole story.
Sadly, the second game isn’t out on mobile devices and there’s no indication that it ever will be. So we should just be happy that this wonderful game is just a few app-store taps away.
Get it on iOS.
Final Fantasy VII (and Others) (PS1, 1997)
Let’s not kid ourselves, the alien lizard people hiding on the moon have heard of the Final Fantasy series. Among this multi-decade collection of games, number seven is arguably the most beloved. As it stands, you can get all the FF games up to number nine as mobile apps, with the sad exception of number eight.
FF7 is getting a modern remake that will be released in episodic format, but that takes nothing away from the historical importance and utter charm of the original. There are barely any platforms you can’t get this game on, but it works perfectly on modern touch devices and looks super-sharp, despite the low-poly character models.
Dragon Quest V (and Others) (SNES, 1992)
Mention Final Fantasy and you have to mention Dragon Quest, the other major forefather of the JRPG genre. The series favorite is probably number eight, which is also available on mobile. However, that port is lackluster and you’d be better off playing the superior 3DS version.
The mobile port of Dragon Quest V however, is excellent. With sharp pixel art graphics, a rotatable world and a fresh multi-generational adventure, there’s nothing quite like it.
Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth (PS1, 1999)
A real hidden JRPG gem, Valkyrie Profile was originally a PS1 game. With excellent voice acting, a haunting story and timeless art style, it’s no wonder fans love this game so much.
You play as Lenneth Valkyrie, tasked with choosing the souls of great warriors to fight alongside the gods at Ragnarok. Still, is that all there is to this story? What truths lurk behind your mission as a Valkyrie? It’s totally worth taking on this journey to find the answers.
Secret of Mana (SNES, 1993)
Secret of Mana is a SNES original that is actually the sequel to a game that was called Final Fantasy Adventure in North America. Confused yet? Well, all you really need to know about Secret of Mana is that it’s absolutely beloved in the JRPG world.
It’s not a turn-based game as most JRPGs of the era were. Instead it’s an action RPG that will satisfy those hack and slash urges. You can take direct control of anyone in your party, with the computer handling the other characters when you’re busy directing yours.
Unfortunately you can’t take advantage of the unique multiplayer feature Secret of Mana has on the mobile versions, but it’s still an important and worthy title to experience on your own.
Ys Chronicles I (TurboGrafx-CD, 1989)
The Ys games from Nihon Falcom are also not your traditional turn-based RPG fare. Nor is it a hack-and-slash button masher. Nope, the Ys games have their own totally-unique “bump” battle mechanic. Basically you and the enemy dance around each other and smash into one another like bumper cars. The first one to lose all HP loses the battle.
The result is a JRPG that is rather fast-paced with excellent boss battles and great dungeons. Ys is still going strong, but the Ys I+II games let’s you experience where it all began. These games are actually ports of the TurboGrafx-CD remakes, but they’ve aged far better than the originals and that rocking soundtrack is just the best.