This was actually a tough year for me to choose through games. There were a lot of PC RPGs, naturally, but the problem is a lot of them, yet again, are not very easy to simply pick up and play. Most of them require thorough understanding of the manual or perhaps prior knowledge of the series in general to truly appreciate the experience.
Equally annoying is the fact that most RPGs around this time are either painfully unforgiving dungeon crawler titles with no map function, games that don’t explain shit, or games that require so much time to start up and are trying innovations that don’t really work well or at all in some cases. It should be noted that Wikipedia also has a very loose definition of what an RPG is in some cases.
Before we continue, Zelda and Zelda-like titles are NOT RPGs. They. Fucking. AREN’T. Deal with it. As a result, a few RPGs were cut from the list as we’re focusing on games that are definitively and unabashedly RPG. There are 19 titles and let me tell you, choosing 4 for the top 5 was easy, but the last one was a bit tricky to say the least. Let’s get into it.
#5 – Sword of Hope
I never owned the original SoH, but I did own the sequel. SoH2 was a fan-fucking-tastic title that combined your typical first person adventuring element a la Kemco (Shadowgate, Deja Vu, etc.) with your standard turn-based RPG. Now I know what you’re thinking. “But Sage, didn’t you just rip on various other titles doing this like Eye of the Beholder 2, Might and Magic 3, Obitus, and so on?”
This is a good point, but again, those titles are NOT easy to pick up and play and since this was turn-based with an adventuring element rather than just mindless, labyrinth-like dungeon crawling, they weren’t as user friendly or accessible and this one is kept just simple enough that it can be enjoyed by anyone. The plot’s okay, there really isn’t a whole lot of character development or anything, and the encounter rate is rather high, but overall the game is very fun and since it’s a portable title, it can be played to great extent on the go!
#4 – Warsong
When it comes to me and SRPGs, you typically can’t go wrong. Warsong is one of the earliest SRPGs I know about and it’s for the Genesis. What makes this one especially awesome is the graphics, fast-pacedness, simplicity, and goddamn awesome music. Think of it in a way that Crystalis is to action/RPGs what Warsong is to SRPGs: liquid awesome.
#3 – Ys 3
If I really had to say anything at all above what I’ve already said regarding this title, then you haven’t been paying attention. It’s basically Zelda 2 done right. Awesome music, good plot and characters, tough ass difficulty, very simple, and in general an unforgettable experience. Nevermind that the Ys series has been made, remade, and ported to just about everything, this is truly one of my favorites of the series and well worthy of acclaim.
#2 – Final Fantasy Adventure
When I played Zelda way back when, I always thought of it as an adventure game. Of course, since that term was usually reserved for games like King’s Quest, Monkey Island, and whatever else, I then went along calling it an action adventure. Some FUCKING MORONS decided to start calling it an RPG. These people are what I like to call WRONG.
But hey…wouldn’t it be nice if, I don’t know…there really WAS a Zelda-like RPG? Well, we found out from 1990 that there was one: Crystalis. But this wasn’t the first action/RPG I played. No, the first was FFA and goddamn is it a good game. I think I kinda like the remake, Sword of Mana, a little better, but it truly braves the test of time and is still a classic in my mind.
#1 – Final Fantasy 4
Yeah, you knew this was coming. Look, for everyone pissed this got #1, think about it like this.
– The main character goes through a symbolic conversion that actually changes how he works. I’ve literally never played a game, RPG or otherwise, that really does that well.
– It was the first FF completely plot based with several characters, not just 4 or 5, that were all relevant and good.
– Golbez is one of the most popular FF villains, so much so that some crazy people thought he was more awesome than Sephiroth.
– As it was the first FF on the SNES, Square went all out with the crazy options like mode 7 and such.
FF4 was revolutionary and while it’s not my favorite FF ever, it’s pretty goddamn close. If you’ve never played this one in any format, seriously, kill yourself.
If you’re an oldschool PC RPGer, you probably think this is just plain blasphemy. Further, there are some great console/handheld titles on this list that narrowly lost to Sword of Hope. There are certain titles I HATE on this list, but literally only a couple of them. This was actually a pretty good year for RPGs, despite having less than last year.
Death Knights of Krynn
Eye of the Beholder 2
Gateway to the Savage Frontier
Magic Candle 2
Master of Monsters
Might and Magic 3
Pools of Darkness
Shining in the Darkness
Spirit of Adventure