A role-playing video game is a type of video game genre that draws its origins from tabletop role-playing games of the past. For many gamers, role-playing games have always been the ‘cream of the crop’ when it comes to immersive games. This is because they require the player to control the actions of a single character, or group of characters, during the events of a particular story or event. During gameplay, the player is required to make decisions that will affect their future gameplay. Because of the focus on the story, great graphics haven’t been needed for RPGs to survive the test of time. In fact, some of the best RPGs today still use pixel graphics. Any fan of retro role-playing games will be sure to check out our list of the top ten role-playing games with pixel graphics to make sure they haven’t missed out on any of them.
Top Ten Retro Role-Playing Games
#10 – Shining Force
Shining Force is a tactical role-playing game released for the Genesis console in 1992. The game mainly consists of fantasy themes but also has a few science-fiction elements mixed in. Shining Force was released onto several other platforms, because of its cult popularity. Unlike most other games on this list, Shining Force contains elements of both role-playing and strategy games. Shining Force has an overworld comparable to most RPG’s of the time but radically reimagines combat. Instead of the traditional combat system, Shining Force uses a new system based on tactical games like Super Conflict.
#9 – The 7th Saga
The 7th Saga is a turn-based game published for the Super Nintendo in 1993. The game has an extremely interesting plot involving, time-travel, magic, and reincarnation. The player could choose from seven premade characters at the beginning and would run into the other six throughout the game. The most unique feature of the game is the crystal ball radar system located in the game’s HUD. It allowed the player to see when enemies are approaching in the overworld. The 7th Saga is also known for being one of the most notoriously difficult RPG ever made.
#8 – Breath of Fire
Breath of Fire is a role-playing game developed by Capcom for the Super Nintendo and released in 1994. The game is the first in the Breath of Fire series that went on to release 6 games over 20 years. It is a traditional RPG of the time with top-down two-dimensional pixel artwork and turn-based combat. Breath of Fire follows the story of a man named Ryu on his quest to free his kidnapped sister. Along his way, the player will collect warriors to help in his quest and unlock hidden abilities.
#7 – Phantasy Star IV
Phantasy Star: The End of the Millennium is a role-playing game published by Sega in 1995. It was released for the Sega Genesis and is the final game in the original Phantasy Star series. Phantasy Star IV is a typical RPG with elements of exploration, NPC interaction, and classic turn-based combat. The game takes place on the fictional planet Motavia which is dying and being overrun by vicious ‘biomonsters’. While the game is not directly related to the other games, you learn that the events of Phantasy Star II lead to the devastation of Motavia.
#6 – Shining Force II
Shining Force II is a turn-based role-playing game released for the Genesis console in 1994. Like the first game, it mainly consists of a mix of fantasy and science-fiction themes. And Shining Force II also contains elements of both role-playing and strategy games. Because of the original gameplay, the game quickly became a favorite to fans of the genre. Aside from the combat system, Shining Force sets itself apart with a deep background and personality for each warrior you recruit.
#5 – Dragon Warrior
Dragon Warrior is the first game of the extremely popular Dragon Quest media franchise. The game was published for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1989. In the game, the player is charged with saving the rescuing the princess of Alefgard from the evil Dragonlord. Dragon Warrior was the first game to introduce main elements that became core features of the genre. Retro gaming would not be what it is today without Dragon Warrior. Despite the game being about saving a princess, you can beat the game without even encountering her.
#4 – Sweet Home
Sweet Home is a horror role-playing video game published for the Family Computer in 1989. It is the only horror game on our list and is based on a Japanese film of the same name. The game tells the story of a team of filmmakers trapped in an abandoned mansion by a disturbed ghost. The player must search the maze-like mansion for a way out. Along the way, they must solve puzzles and battle any hostile ghosts they encounter. Additionally, the game also has a permadeath system increasing its difficulty. Sweet Home inspired all sorts of future gaming franchises. For example, the Resident Evil series.
#3 – EarthBound
EarthBound is a wholesome role-playing game released for the Super Nintendo in 1994. The game follows Ness and his three friends(Paula, Jeff and Poo) as they travel the world on a mission to defeat the cosmic destroyer Giygas. To do this, they must travel the globe collecting sacred melodies from eight sanctuaries. Initially, the game received poor reviews of gained a strong cult following over the years. One of the most interesting aspects of this game is that it takes place in the real world as opposed to a fantasy one.
#2 – Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger is a role-playing game developed by Square in 1995 for the Super Nintendo. The game’s storyline follows a group of adventurers who must travel through time to prevent a global disaster. Chrono Trigger is widely considered to be one of the greatest retro role-playing games with pixel graphics ever released. Additionally, Chrono Trigger is considered to have revolutionized the genre because of its unique gameplay features. The game’s artwork was created by Akira Toriyama, an artist famed for his work with the Dragon Ball manga series.
#1 – Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy VI is a traditional role-playing game published for the Super Nintendo in 1994. The game had conventional RPG gameplay with an overworld, random encounters, and menu-based combat. As with the rest of the games in the series, Final Fantasy VI had an enthralling story and beautiful sprites. The game also allows the player to customize their characters with weapon and armor. Final Fantasy VI is often said to be one of the best retro role-playing games of all time due to the critical acclaim it received upon release. But honesty, If you haven’t played this game yet you have really been missing out.
Was your favorite game on the list? Do you think a game off the list that we should have included? If you say YES to either of these questions please let us know in the comments.