Like an epic fantasy quest filled with wrong turns and fateful decisions, choosing the ten best RPGs on Android is a journey fraught with hidden peril.
Okay, we're being slightly dramatic, but it's trickier than you might think. After all, what constitutes an RPG in 2013?
It's become quite the promiscuous gaming category, you see, flaunting its wares to every other genre under the sun. From match-three puzzlers to brainless action games, every game these days seems to adopt some kind of experience or character development system.
Our chief criterion for selection, then, is whether a game evokes the spirit of the pure RPGs of yore. You know, before everything got so gloriously mixed up. As you'll see, that still makes for an incredibly varied list.The Lords of Midnight
By Chilli Hugger Software - buy on Android
Despite being a remake of a 1984 classic, The Lords of Midnight isn't a straight-up RPG. In its day, the game's mixture of adventure and strategy elements marked it out as unique, and its quirky appeal remains undimmed here on Android.
Choose from two distinct paths through the game and gawp at the beautifully enhanced visuals in this deeply original RPG.Chaos Rings II
By Media.Vision - buy on Android
With this second slice of custom-made JRPG action, Media.Vision and Square Enix refine the formula of the first Chaos Rings admirably. In case you're unaware what that formula is, think epic cutscenes, turn-based battles, and improbable hair.
It might sound like business as usual, then, but the two companies deserve considerable credit for paying attention to the bite-sized needs of mobile gamers.Fighting Fantasy: The Forest of Doom
By Tin Man Games - buy on Android
You might argue that Fighting Fantasy: The Forest of Doom isn't really a true RPG. That it's just a glorified Choose Your Own Adventure book.
We look at it as being another expression of the role-playing genre. After all, you're still inhabiting the role of a fantasy hero, making decisions and rolling dice to progress. It's just that the narrative is far more prominent (and well written) than the stories in the other hacky-slashy games on this list.Knights of Pen & Paper
By Behold Studios - buy on Android
Knights of Pen & Paper is a role-playing game in which you play the role of a role-playing gamer. Got that?
With this loving and humorous tribute to all things RPG, Behold Studios tips its hat to the tabletop role-playing games that preceded the digital versions, as well as the 30 years or so of video game RPGs we've enjoyed since.Heart Breaker
By Ash Corporation - buy on Android
Heart Breaker harks back to the kind of hack 'n' slash RPGs that PC gamers continue to lap up. Yes, where conversation trees are out and bludgeoning orcs is the only way forward.
This is a spiritual successor to the likes of Diablo and Neverwinter Nights, then, and it serves as a fitting tribute. It's got an intuitive but deceptively deep combat system; sufficient character customisation to keep things interesting; and lots and lots of head-cracking action.Chrono Trigger
By Square Enix - buy on Android
Chrono Trigger isn't just a brilliant RPG; many would argue that it's the best thing Square Enix has ever produced. Considering this is the developer behind the Final Fantasy series, that's high praise indeed.
While the conversion to touchscreen control inputs hasn't been handled particularly well, there's no denying the continued excellence of the game beneath. That intricate plot and fluid semi-real-time battle system are something else.Symphony of the Origin
By Kemco Games - buy on Android
Kemco arguably isn't quite in the same league as Square Enix when it comes to creating memorable JRPGs, but its commitment to porting its work to Android can't be faulted. Symphony of the Origin is one of several Symphony games to appear on Android.
The key difference here is that it's an original work developed specifically for smartphones, complete with vastly improved graphics and an involving battle system.Ravensword: Shadowlands
By Crescent Moon Games - buy on Android
Ravensword: Shadowlands is about as close as it's possible to get to one of those epic 3D console RPGs, like Skyrim or The Witcher, on Android.
That's not to say it's anywhere near as rich or accomplished as those two titans. It does, however, bear a certain resemblance to Bethesda's and CD Projekt Red's games, mainly in its wide open 3D fantasy world filled with quests, diversions, mixed-ranged battles, and melee combat.9th Dawn
By Valorware - buy on Android
At the opposite end of the RPG technical spectrum to Ravensword: Shadowlands, we have 9th Dawn. Here, Valorware eschews a fancy 3D engine in favour of a decidedly old school approach.
The core components are surprisingly similar, though. You pick a class and venture out into a vast fantasy world, slaying monsters and uncovering secrets. It's just that these secrets are rendered in true 8-bit style.Final Fantasy IV
By Square Enix - buy on Android
The third Square Enix game to make it onto this list is arguably a much better conversion than Chrono Trigger, even if it probably isn't quite such a good game.
In this fourth entry in the FF series, we saw a shift to more mature themes, as well as the introduction of the Active Time Battle system (which made those random battles more fluid).
This is a conversion of the Nintendo DS remake, so there's a chunky 3D engine in place of the original's basic 2D sprites. Whether that's a good thing or not is open to debate. The enduring quality of this JRPG is not.
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