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Role-Playing Games are unlike any other kind of video game. There are no attempts to feed the user into a perpetual adrenaline loop, no focus on demonstrating ideally calibrated hand-eye coordination, and attempts to reach into your wallet for extra cash in the middle of the game are few and far between. It's a genre of game that places a premium on the story, leaving developers open to be as graphically intense or as calm and straightforward as they feel necessary to complete the experience they are trying to draw you into.
Many of these games have existed on PCs and consoles for years, and with the meteoric rise in the popularity of mobile gaming it didn't take long for RPGs to find their way into the Google Play Store. Here's a good look at the best of the best in RPGs available for Android.
At this point in gaming, it's fair to say that every RPG borrows an idea or three from the classics to create their concept. It's not a bad thing, especially if the story is compelling and the characters are fun, but RPGs have been around for so long that you expect developers to use ideas from their favorite games to make something of their own. Evoland is a perfect example of this sort of thing happening, only instead of borrowing from one or two of the classics, the creators seem to have borrowed from all of them simultaneously.
Is it a Zelda-esque scroll-and-slash? A Final Fantasy-ish turn-based RPG? A Chrono Trigger-style world traveler? The answer is yes. It is unabashedly all of these things, at the same, and it works incredibly well. If anything, this $4.99 adventure is a gateway game that will have you scrambling for your copies of the classics as soon as you can figure out how to put your phone or tablet down again.
2. Lone Wolf
Lone Wolf is based on the world of fantasy author Joe Dever, and shows equal amounts of literary and graphical polish. Players make decisions through an ongoing narrative based on character traits they pick at the onset, and engage in exciting turn-based combat with a variety of enemies. Combat mechanics require timing, finesse, and smart resource management to get through alive.
Lone Wolf provides both richly-textured story as well as intense action, and looks amazing on phone and tablet alike.
3. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
As the last hope of the Jedi Order, you select one of several different character types and work your way through the Star Wars universe to defend civilization as you know it from the Sith. Alternatively, if you decide you're not a fan of being a Jedi, players can embrace the darkness and obliterate the Jedi before the Galactic Empire is ever formed. Star Wars: KOTOR is an impressively detailed story in a massive world that gives the player no shortage of incredible experiences to participate in, as well as a thoroughly enjoyable story no matter what path you take.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic is not a new game, and that's part of what makes its existence on Android so impressive. The folks at Aspyr Media have managed to take the entire PC game and port it to mobile devices, complete with a screen-friendly control system that in many ways makes the game feel less clumsy than the original version. The game is impressive on its technical merits alone, but since it's also a ton of fun to play there's no way we'd leave it off the list.
4. Battleheart Legacy
It's not written anywhere that RPGs have to have either a pair of virtual joysticks or a tappy menu system in order to exist, and Battleheart Legacy is proof that alternative interfaces can be done well. The active combat system has an almost Diablo look and feel to it, and because the game was built from the ground up for mobile devices it's incredibly easy to lose a few hours to furiously tapping around the screen as you crawl your way through the story.
More than just the gameplay being a little unconventional, Battleheart Legacy introduces a character system that isn't limited to single channels of skillsets. Your character can learn devastating attacks from the warrior, soul-sucking attacks from the sorceress, coin-pinching techniques from the thief, and you can organize these skills to suit your gameplay style as you fling your character into combat.
5. A Silent Wood
Long before RPGs were visually compelling journeys of fantasy and adventure, we had text-only computer adventures. Some of these games we played alone, while others existed as Multi-User Dungeons (also known as MUDs), but the one thing they all had in common was the need to use your imagination as text scrolled across the screen. A Silent Wood is a mobile version of this experience, and in a world where graphics are everything to some folks this game is strangely compelling.
Your character must built a thriving village from nothing, and use the resources earned from working the land to venture out into the world in search of truth. It's a wild departure from what we have come to know as the traditional RPG, unless of course your remember playing this kind of game in your youth. Either way, this is an experience worth having.
6. The Bard's Tale
The Bard's Tale is a polished port of a popular tongue-in-cheek action-RPG. Players control an irreverent bard who shirks classic heroic responsibilities for the joys of ale and women. He still, somehow, gets roped into saving the world, but uses his abilities to get others to do his bidding along the way. The Bard's Tale has a full complement of Bluetooth controller support, if you're looking to play the old-school way.
For those that have fun being bad, The Bard's Tale is a top-notch RPG.
7. Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery
Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery is an odd mix of old and new in a number of ways. In terms of mechanics, it's a classic point-and-click adventure game with the occasional reflex-driven mini-game thrown in. This is a fairly old genre that hasn't seen a lot of traction on consoles, nevermind the latest mobile devices. The graphics consist of chunky, stylized pixel art in an age when 3D reigns supreme. The classic fantasy setting is contrasted by modern character language and an overarching pseudo-scientific meta-narrative.
If you're looking for something new and different, Sword & Sworcery is definitely a good place to start.
8. Final Fantasy VI
While RPG geeks can argue day and night about which Final Fantasy game in the entire history of the franchise is the best, on Android there is only one iteration of the game that holds this title. Final Fantasy VI did a masterful job distilling the experiences that made the previous games in the franchise fun and creating its own unique and enjoyable world to journey and adventure in. It's a classic RPG ported to Android so we could all take these characters with us everywhere.
There are many great RPGs out there, but the Final Fantasy series is one of the few that doesn't have to work particularly hard to suck you in and leave you wondering what happened to the weekend you just lost. If you only play one game in the franchise on your mobile device, this should be the one. Unless, of course, Final Fantasy VII ever comes to Android. That's a story for another day.
Twitchy gameplay mechanics and side-scrolling combat aren't typically things you find in an RPG, but Reaper pulls both off effortlessly. The story sends you from combat zone to combat zone, offering the player some difficult choices that affect how the game plays as you progress. Reaper starts off fairly basic and predictable, but rapidly moves into impressively difficult slasher sessions that require precision and focus. The swiping mechanics on your smartphone and tablet are a great deal of fun, but playing this game on your television through Android TV is an equally compelling experience.
It's unconventional and wildly fast-paced at times, but Reaper is well worth a play through no matter what device you enjoy it on.
10. What about you?
Our list represents a tiny fraction of the vast library of RPGs that are available in the Google Play Store, and that's amazing for those of us who genuinely enjoy the genre. What are some of your favorites? Perhaps more importantly, what would you like to see hit the Google Play Store in the future that hasn't made it there yet? Sound off in the comments!