Roleplaying in turns – 25 best tactical RPGs

FeatureApr 21, 2017 at 9:05a PSTby Danteveli

Roleplaying in turns – 25 best tactical RPGs

As hack’n’slash constitutes one extremity of the RPG genre, its other side are the tactical RPGs, emphasizing complex, strategic battles played in turns. Here's a ranking of the 25 best tactical RPGs, according to our staff.

Tactical RPG, also known as SRPG, is a genre that’s been present on the market for over 30 years. They’re most commonly associated with Japan and gaming consoles. It’s a natural consequence, as the genre was popularized by the Fire Emblem series, which didn’t come to Europe until 2004. That’s why SRPG, while highly popular in Japan, remains on the sidelines of western gaming. In recent years, however, it seems like the situation is slowly changing.

Thanks to indie titles such as The Banner Saga or Invisible, Inc. and the latest installments of the Fire Emblem series on Nintendo 3DS, more and more people are picking up interest in tactical RPGs. That’s why we’ve decided to prepare for you a list of the best representatives of the genre, according to our staff.

Between Divinity: Original Sin and Jagged Alliance there’s Fallout Tactics – and many other similar games. - 2017-04-24
Between Divinity: Original Sin and Jagged Alliance there’s Fallout Tactics – and many other similar games.

How our ranking was made

The base for our ranking was a poll taken among the editors of our associate website, GRYOnline.pl. We’ve focused mostly on games available in Europe, since most of our readers are able to play them. We’ve also decided to omit titles that tend to focus more on strategic than roleplaying aspects. That’s why our list doesn’t feature such series as X-COM/UFO or Jagged Alliance, which fall somewhere in between turn-based tactical games and SRPGs.

To promote diversity we took care to feature only one title per franchise. This allowed us to compile a list of 25 titles, which aldo includes less recognizable titles.

If you think that some other game should be added to our list, let us know in the comments. Which is your favourite title among our propositions? We’re eager to hear your opinions!

25. Chroma Squad

Everybody wanted to be the Green Ranger. - 2017-04-24
Everybody wanted to be the Green Ranger.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Behold
  2. Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, iOS (planned)
  3. Release date: 30.04.2015

Let’s begin with a game from Brazil. Chroma Squad is a rather interesting combination of Power Rangers-like party with tactical roleplay.

The title enables us to take part in a production of a sentai show (that’s the proper term for the genre, in case you ever wondered). Our task is to engage in battles with monsters, making the encounters as attractive and compelling as possible to gather a large fanbase. The work from developer Behold is a striking shout-out to the iconic TV show, Power Rangers. The creators, however, also did their share of work, focusing on the production process rather than simply copying the premise.

Chroma Squad combines turn-based combat with TV channel management mechanics. We need to take care of assembling and maintaining the right recording equipment and conquer enough hearts and minds to keep our show on the broadcast schedule.

One element that sets the game apart from other games on our list are the special battles. During the climax of each episode, we have a chance to play a minigame in which our robot battles a giant monster. Thanks to this little trick, we can almost feel like years ago, when watching Power Rangers used to be cool.

  1. More on Chroma Squad

24. Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel

Fallout Tactics has an impressive body count. - 2017-04-24
Fallout Tactics has an impressive body count.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Micro Forte
  2. Platform: PC
  3. Release date: 15.03.2001

Fallout Tactics is a spin-off to the legendary RPG series, focusing on action and tactics as we command a party of characters. Not all fans welcomed the changes, though. The final result, however, was a great tactical RPG that deserves a place among the best in the genre.

Bortherhood of Steel drops the usual American west coast setting in favor of the Chicago area. This allows us to learn yet another piece of the puzzle that is the situation in USA after the nuclear war. We play as a new recruit in the ranks of the eponymous Brotherhood of Steel, who, along with his team, tries to secure what is left of the pre-war civilization.

Fallout Tactics enables us to battle enemies in an RTS-like combat mode. This results in a much more dynamic gameplay than in the two previous installments of the Fallout series. Long dialogues were replaced with battles against superior enemy forces. The changes set the game apart from the original titles – it became a terrific SRPG.

  1. More on Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel

23. Project X Zone

You won’t find a bigger cross-over than Project X Zone.
You won’t find a bigger cross-over than Project X Zone.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developers: Banpresto, Monolith Soft
  2. Platform: Nintendo 3DS
  3. Release date: 05.07.2013

Every kid knows what a perfect game is. It’s a title that combines everthing that’s awesome from several other more or less awesome games, often mixing settings and characters unable to meet otherwise. It also doesn’t exist. What used to be impossible is slowly becoming a common occurence, though. We’ve had a bunch of titles such as Marvel vs. Capcom, Mario and Sonic or PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale that enabled characters from separate franchises to fight it out. None of them, however, can compare to Project X Zone. It’s the only title featuring characters created by Sega, Bandai Namco, and Capcom on one screen.

Project X Zone is, in fact, a kind of sequel to a Japan-only game Namco X Capcom. The plot of the game is nothing more than an excuse to gather as many characters from various franchises as possible. We are treated to an infodump about various dimentions and some kind of multiverse-wide conspiracy. No wonder the plot quickly takes the back seat, focusing on character interactions instead. Rather than follow the story, we simply wonder which characters, and from which franchise, we’re going to see next.

The game that may at first seem like a fanservice heaven surprises us with truly interesting gameplay. After the attack command, we are taken on a Street Fighter-like arena, where we can duke it out like in yet another installment of Marvel vs. Capcom.

Project X Zone is a good choice when dipping one’s toes in the SRPG genre. The fact that the game employs a combat system straight from a 2D brawler makes it easier to introduce unaccustomed players to the classic battle flow of a tactical RPG.

  1. More on Project X Zone

22. Resonance of Fate

Run ‘n gun along with mid-air acrobatics are a commonplace activity in Resonance of Fate. - 2017-04-24
Run ‘n gun along with mid-air acrobatics are a commonplace activity in Resonance of Fate.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: tri-Ace
  2. Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3
  3. Release date: 26.03.2010

Resonance of Fate is certainly on of the more unusual tactical RPGs to find its way to our list. A combination of action RPG elements with SRPG mechanics resulted in a most unique title, held in high esteem by the fans up to this day.

The game takes place in the future, in a world where pollution has reached critical levels and threatens to wipe out humanity. To prevent it, the Tower was built – a barrier protecting people from the polluted air and at the same time a home to the survivors. A three-man team of hunters undertakes many quests to preserve order and keep the last stronghold of civilization safe.

Resonance of Fate is distinguished by an unusual combat system. Developer tri-Ace has invested in a mix of turn-based system with action points and spectacular attack sequences, pulled straight from the movie Matrix. Character placement in relation to their teammates on the battlefield is crucial. The tactical aspects are provided by a system featuring two types of projectiles. One of them is harmless to enemies, but increases the power and damage output of the other one. Additionally, the audiovisuals are easily the best among the games on our list, engaging the player much better than the competition.

  1. More on Resonance of Fate

21. Odium (Gorky 17)

Odium (or Gorky 17), same as Parasite Eve, successfully combines survival horror and RPG. - 2017-04-24
Odium (or Gorky 17), same as Parasite Eve, successfully combines survival horror and RPG.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Metropolis Software
  2. Platform: PC
  3. Release date: 29.09.1999

This Polish spot on the otherwise exclusively Japanese field may at first seem out of place. Well, it isn’t, as this combination of survival horror and SRPG certainly meets the requirements to be included on our list.

Odium presents a political-fiction scenario – mysterious experiments are taking place in a military base somewhere in Poland. Three NATO soldiers are dispatched to examine the situation and discover the source of the strange creatures that have been seen roaming the area of Lubin city.

Mixing survival horror, turn-based combat, and all the other good stuff we usually see in tactical RPG turned out to be a superb idea. The dark atmosphere of a city overrun by monsters is also a good match for the classic SRPG combat system.

Odium has seen two sequels, which, sadly, have little in common with the original. Both games have dropped tactical RPG and survival horror elements, becoming pureblood stealth games in the process, more like Metal Gear Solid than anything else. It’s a shame, because the original premise was very promising.

  1. More on Odium

20. Gladius

Choosing a fictional version of the Roman Empire for the game’s setting was a brilliant idea.
Choosing a fictional version of the Roman Empire for the game’s setting was a brilliant idea.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: LucasArts
  2. Platform: Xbox, PlayStation 2, GameCube
  3. Release date: 28.11.2003

When hearing the name LucasArts, most players will recall the legendary adventure games or the great productions set in the Star Wars universe. Additionally, however, the studio founded by George Lucas can also boast a truly interesting SRPG title.

Gladius is a game set in a fictional version of the Roman Empire, where mythical creatures roam the woods, and the most popular form of entertainment are gladiator fights. The game’s two campaigns allow us to see the setting from different perspectives. One of the protagonists is a young man who inherits a gladiator school from his father. The second hero of the game is the daughter of a barbarian tribal chief. The girl tries to escape her fate by competing in fights on giant battle arenas. Both campaigns are very interesting and will provide many hours of top-notch fun for the fans of the genre.

A big asset of the game comes in the form of local multiplayer. Gladius offers both cooperation and pvp modes. That’s not a common thing to be seen in a SRPG, and LucasArts needs to be given credit for making sure both modes are sufficiently polished. The co-op mode is a solid element, and the pvp is a great occasion to test our gladiator.

  1. More on Gladius

19. Jeanne d’Arc

The history of Europe according to Japanese game developers. - 2017-04-24
The history of Europe according to Japanese game developers.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Level-5
  2. Platform: PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita
  3. Release date: 22.11.2006

Jeanne d’Arc is one of the games that really took their time before they became available in Europe. The RPG from the masters at Level-5 was well worth the wait, however.

Jeanne d’Arc is a tactical role-playing game telling the story of the Virgin of Orleans. Level-5 decided to drop the historical facts in favor of a fantastical world full of monsters and magical creatures. The game does feature historical characters and actual events, such as the Hundred Years' War, but also adds such curious things as Henry VI of England being possessed by demons. In fact, the title has little in common with well-established historical facts. What we do get, however, is the unique chance of seeing the history of Europe from the perspective of Japanese game developers.

Jeanne d’Arc is a great game, and a perfect choice as an introduction before some more complex representatives of the genre, such as Final Fantasy Tactics, are served. The game features enough interesting elements to get the player’s attention. At the same time, we are never buried under a ton of systems and complicated mechanics.

  1. More on Jeanne d’Arc

18. SteamWorld Heist

Ricochets are the answer. - 2017-04-24
Ricochets are the answer.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Image & Form
  2. Platform: PC, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox One, iOS
  3. Release date: 10.12.2015

The third installment of the brilliant SteamWorld series allows us to taste the life as a space robo-pirate, and it’s so good that it deserves to take number 18 on our list.

This Swedish game offers a hodgepodge of western, robots, pirates, and insterstellar travel. We play as a female robot captain of a smuggler ship, and our task is to rob enemy vessels along with our ragtag crew.

SteamWorld’s main strength lies in its uniqueness. The game features a 2D side view, like in one of the older installments of Super Mario. This unusual perspective was combined with manual aim mechanics. Our precision is what decides whether we kill an enemy or shoot one of our own men by accident. This makes it perfectly viable to call the game from Image & Form an SRPG variation on the cult classic Worms series.

SteamWorld Heist is much more approachable than most other representatives of the genre. Its wonderful visuals, wacky atmosphere and gameplay enable virtually anyone to enjoy this title. That said, the devs haven’t forgotten about the seasoned veterans as well, providing a lot of difficult levels that can be dealt with only by them.

  1. More on SteamWorld Heist

17. Vanguard Bandits

Almost Tekken. - 2017-04-24
Almost Tekken.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Human Entertainment
  2. Platform: PlayStation
  3. Release date: 30.07.1998

The creators of the legendary Clock Tower and the brilliant Twilight Syndrome may specialize in horrors, but Human Entertainment also gave us a great SRPG title; a title overshadowed by Final Fantasy Tactics and Fire Emblem, but still.

Vanguard Bandits is a game clearly inspired by the Front Mission franchise. Similarly to the series from Square, the game focuses on giant mech battles – except the game from Human Entertainment takes place not in the future but in the past, sometime around the Middle Ages.

Vanguard Bandits is a rather difficult game, which stems from the lack of so-called grinding. This means that there are few occasions to gather experience points and upgrade our units. Additionally, the game features a unique gameplay system that favors defensive tactics – that’s because we are unable to heal our warriors on the battlefield. Those elements make Vanguard Bandits a truly unique title for hardcore fans of the genre.

The game from Human Entartainment can now be easily bought in PlayStation Store and tested on PSP, S Vita, or PS3. Vanguard Bandits holds up rather good, and, despite rather dated visuals, provides as much fun as it did back in 1998. The game’s three story campaigns will have the fans spend dozens of entertaining hours.

16. Incubation: Time is Running Out

In its time Incubation was among the most beautiful games available on the market. - 2017-04-24
In its time Incubation was among the most beautiful games available on the market.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Blue Byte Software
  2. Platform: PC
  3. Release date: 30.09.1997

Incubation: Time is Running Out is a part of the somewhat forgotten series from Blue Byte Software. This 1997 title won the hearts of many a gamer and remains one of the best SRPG titles available on PC.

Time is Running Out is the fourth installment in the Battle Isle franchise, presenting the fate of the residents of planet Chroma. The story focuses on a mission of a team of space commandos sent to investigate an abandoned colony. As it turns out, a mysterious virus was responsible for the vanishing of the colonists. Our task is to survive and solve the problem, thus protecting our own homeworld from destruction.

Incubation is characterized by its mission design – the tasks are planned like puzzles. Jumping right in the thick of battle will only result in our commandos permanently dying. Thinking several steps ahead is what gets us results in this game, allowing us to take down even the strongest of enemies.

As we gather experience points, our soldiers gain new abilities and specializations. This makes us care about them as if they were our own family. In this aspect, Incubation resembles the X-COM series; its focus on direct combat and the lack of an additional management layer, however, places Time is Running Out right in the middle of SRPG canon.

  1. More about Incubation: Time is Running Out

15. Ring of Red

Giant robots in the wild.
Giant robots in the wild.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Konami
  2. Platform: PlayStation 2
  3. Release date: 12.03.2001

Fans of giant robots combined with turn-based action tend to remember only one series – Front Mission. There are, however, more similar productions available on the market. Ring of Red is one of such gems, definitely deserving to be mentioned in any discussion about the best SRPGs.

The game presents an alternative history of the world, in which Japan, having lost World War II, is occupied not only by the US, but also by Soviet Russia. Due to ideological differences, a new conflict erupts. From that point, the game more or less follows the historical events of the Korean War and the long-lasting conflict between South and North Korea; only reenacted in Japan. This political-fiction scenario turns out to be highly interesting and gives Ring of Red a truly unique character.

The story is not the only strong point of the game. Ring of Red focuses on gameplay that combines turn-based strategy with real time battles of giant mechs. We can assume direct control of their armaments and manually aim at enemy units. This makes the battles much more thrilling, giving the player direct influence over the course of battle.

Unfortunately, mediocre translation, which succesfully prevented most of the players from understanding the plot, and the below-average visuals resulted in low sales numbers. Konami scrapped any ideas they may have had for a sequel and the game itself was quickly forgotten.

  1. More on Ring of Red

14. Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity

Character design resembles earlier installments in the Persona franchise. - 2017-04-24
Character design resembles earlier installments in the Persona franchise.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Atlus
  2. Platform: PlayStation 2
  3. Release date: 17.03.2006

Stella Deus is one of the games that nobody’s ever heard of, being a Japansese game released just after the reveal of Xbox 360. A shame, because the work from the creators of the legendary Megami Tensei series certainly deserves more attention.

The Gate of Eternity tells the story of the attempts to open the eponymous gate. The world of Stella Deus stands on the brink of destruction after humanity has angered God. Or at least that’s how they explain the emergence of the mysterious fog that kills everything it touches. A group of people, however, inspired by a female shaman of a long-forgotten religion, embarks on a quest to find another explanation for the mysterious phenomenon. Their actions put them at odds with the rest of the world, making them heretics and blasphemers in the eyes of other people. The plot of the game focuses on the conflict between faith and science. This adds an intersting twist to the usual story about saving the world.

Gameplay-wise, Stella Deus is exactly what we could expect from yet another SRPG. Turn-based battles employing rock-paper-scissors mechanics and a throng of options when it comes to character development are what makes the game a pleasure to play.

Let’s not forget about the great visuals. After all, The Gate of Eternity was created by the people responsible for the earlier installments in the Persona series. This gives us a beautiful-looking game with an equally good combat system and intriguing plot.

  1. More on Stella Deus

13. Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume

A Japanese take on the Norse mythology turned out pretty gloomy.
A Japanese take on the Norse mythology turned out pretty gloomy.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: tri-Ace
  2. Platform: Nintendo DS
  3. Release date: 16.03.2009

There was a ton of great jRPGs and SRPGs for Nintendo DS. Finishing all of them would suffice for a couple of years of incessant gameplay, so not many people decide to go off the beaten track, marked by series such as Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest. We shouldn’t, however, forget gems like Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume.

Covenant of the Plume is the third installment in the series inspired by the Norse mythology, dishing up a world, in which everyone wants to be a warrior, and the only natural policy is war. The protagonist is a young, albeit experienced soldier. The kid is fed up with the glorification of conflict, but at the same time yearns for revenge on gods, whose machinations led to the death of his father and sister. The main theme of Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, is rebellion against rusty traditions and “default” culture, to which one is born.

The game combines classic mechanics of tactical role-playing games with a strong focus on action-packed combat that became the trademark of the Valkyrie Profile games. The player can call other members of the party to perform a certain attack during fights, hence building up a combo that can be ended with a special finisher. This solution works great and gives Covenant of the Plume its unique flavor, which can’t be found in other games.

  1. More on Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume

12. Vandal Hearts II

Growing up isn’t easy.
Growing up isn’t easy.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Konami
  2. Platform: PlayStation
  3. Release date: 30.06.2000

Vandal Hearts II is another little gem from the fifth-gen consoles. The game stood out mainly because of the combat system, which rendered battles much more exciting. It’s also a rare specimen from Konami’s golden era – let’s remember that the discussed title was released at roughly the same time as Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill.

The story of Vandal Hearts II focuses on a hero living in a land ravaged by a civil war. The bloody conflict is a background for the boy’s jurney towards adulthood and his development. The protagonist wishes to build a great army that could maintain peace in the kingdom. The plot is full of intrigues and choices that allow to reach the ultimate goal with different methods. Vandal Hearts II has as many as nine endings, determined by decisions made both on the battlefield and elsewhere.

Konami’s inventive combat system was called Dual-Turn. Its premise was simple: enemy units move at exactly the same time as ours, which forces the player to take more possibilities into consideration. It totally changes the feel as compared to other turn-based games. The unique mechanic is what makes Vandal Hearts II a mandatory game for every SRPG aficionado out there.

11. Grand Kingdom

The UI in Grand Kingdom is hardly minimalistic! - 2017-04-24
The UI in Grand Kingdom is hardly minimalistic!
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Monochrome Corporation
  2. Platform: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita
  3. Release date: 17.06.2016

Grand Kingdom is the most recent game on our list. Released in 2016, it remains one of the most original tactical role-plays to ever hit the European market. For this reason alone, Monochrome Corporation’s game had to be included in our summary.

We play the part of a leader of a mercenary group, which is a part of a larger structure, unifying numerous soldiers of fortune. Four kingdoms wage ceaseless wars, and it’s entirely up to the player which side they’ll choose to support.

Grand Kingdom is a game for new generation consoles, so it allows us to take advantage of all the blessings brought to us by the Internet. In the game, we take part in battles fought against other players. We sign contracts with either side of the conflict and fight in battles, the outcome of which is determined by the decisions made by all of the participants, which in turn shapes the game world. This fascinating system actually makes Grand Kingdom a game without an end, especially if you get the chance to fight against other players.

In terms of the battle model, Grand Kingdom may evoke some Darkest Dungeon associations. We watch the battles from the side, and positioning of units is the key to fully utilizing the combat abilities of our avatars. Every attack has to be performed at a certain distance from the target; being in the right place is the most important factor.

  1. More on Grand Kingdom

10. Shadowrun: Dragonfall – Director’s Cut

This particular blend of fantasy and sci-fi yielded surprisingly good results. - 2017-04-24
This particular blend of fantasy and sci-fi yielded surprisingly good results.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Harebrained Schemes
  2. Platform: PC, iOD, Android
  3. Release date: 27.02.2014

Shadowrun is a cult table-top RPG system that prompted a couple of great games over the last quarter of century. Arguably the best of them was Shadowrun: Dragonfall. The game perfectly blended an unusual, futuristic setting with rock-solid gameplay.

The unique asset of the Shadowrun universe is the mix of cyberpunk with magic and fantasy. The future world straight from Blade Runner is inhabited by trolls, orcs and elves. This combination provides a captivating setting for the protagonist’s adventures. This is Dragonfall’s punching power. The universe is complex and original, cherry-picking the best features of fantasy and sci-fi genres and serving them in one solid meal.

Shadowrun does a great job of combining traditional RPG with tactical fights. The players are free to roam the world and take all sorts of missions and quests. If an enemy is encountered, the game switches into tactical, turn-mode in which the player controls the protagonist and their companions. The main advantage of this solution is that it allows us to immerse in the game world better – in other SRPGs, if you’re not fighting, you’re probably watching cut-scenes of NPCs interacting with the protagonist. Not here: in Shadowrun: Dragonfall, players explore the bizarre cities themselves.

  1. More on Shadowrun: Dragonfall

9. Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked

Godzilla isn’t the only abnormal problem of Tokio – demons roam here, too.
Godzilla isn’t the only abnormal problem of Tokio – demons roam here, too.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Atlus
  2. Platform: Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS
  3. Release date: 29.03. 2013

Shin Megami Tensei is a series of outstanding jRPG games that most of the time seem to be overshadowed by Persona – a spin-off of the series. Devil Survivor is another side installment of SMT that’s an obligatory part of every jRPG lover’s collection.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor depicts an unforeseen invasion of demons in contemporary Tokyo. The game’s protagonist and his friends are given uncanny machines that allow them to communicate with and conjure the creatures. It’s their only hope in the city overrun by supernatural beasts. The situation becomes even direr when the protagonist finds he can now see clocks above other people’s heads, which are counting down the time they have left. The goal is to persevere and influence the fate of our fiends – otherwise all of them will be dead within a week.

Devil Survivor successfully combines elements typical of an SRPG with the MegaTen trademark. Our character can negotiate with enemies and convince them to join our side. The comprehensive system of our opponents’ character and mood allows us to engage in conversations with demons.

Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor initially wasn’t officially released in Europe, so the owners of Nintendo DS had to do without the game for some time. Fortunately, an enhanced edition titled Overclocked was eventually released – it had a little bit better graphics, audio and dialogues, as well as an additional story chapter.

  1. More on Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor

8. The Banner Saga

The Banner Saga looks just like a Disney movie. - 2017-04-24
The Banner Saga looks just like a Disney movie.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Stoic
  2. Platform: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, Android
  3. Release date: 14.01.2014

SRPG is a purely console genre. Most of the games from this list were released either for Nintendo or PlayStation systems. The Banner Saga, however, is an exception; one of a few PC games that really deserve a spot among the greatest tactical RPGs.

At the same time, this is yet another game on this list that was inspired by Nordic mythology. The player leads a caravan fleeting annihilation from the hands of mythical creatures of stone that invaded their land. The decisions made during dialogues determine the fate of the party and even the outcome of subsequent installments in the series.

Combat-wise, The Banner Saga utilizes a system similar to that used in Resonance of Fate. We have two kinds of attacks –fixed on dealing health damage or armor damage – so the player needs to figure out whether it will be more effective to quickly deplete the enemy’s HP, or perhaps tear their defenses down first, and then employ the full offensive potential.

One of the greatest feathers in the Banner Saga’s cap is the visual design. The game just looks like an early 2000s Disney animation, it’s simply beautiful – you might want to move to Norway all of a sudden.

The Banner Saga is an interesting, multi-thread story complemented by good combat system and great visuals. Also a case in point proving that good SRPGs, such as Fire Emblem or Front Mission, don’t necessarily have to come from the East.

  1. More on The Banner Saga

7. Shining Force III

Just think – these graphics used to make people jealous.
Just think – these graphics used to make people jealous.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Camelot Software
  2. Platform: Sega Saturn
  3. Release date: 10.06.1998

The third installment in the Shining Force series is one of the games that are almost univocally called all-time classics. This game made buying Sega Saturn seem like a reasonable idea.

The plot in Shining Force III allowed us to play the part of a young warrior, a son of a venerable general. The young man takes part in a diplomatic mission that’s supposed to end a conflict with a neighbor country. Unfortunately, the noble idea is hindered by cultists who kidnap the emperor, because there’s nothing they wish more than to see our country crumble. The story is full of plot twists and other unexpected occurrences that constitute an addictive storyline.

Camelot Software used a simple but enjoyable turn-based combat system. You can get the hang of the rules in no time, and the battles are rather quick.

Shining Force III has one serious disadvantage, though. Only one-third of the game was released in the West – which doesn’t make loving this game easy. The game looks plain unfinished, which obviously spoils the end result big time and consequently eliminates this game from contesting top positions on the list. It’s too bad, because otherwise, Shining Force III would have no problem competing with the greatest games of the genre.

6. Valkyria Chronicles

There’s nothing quite like dishing out some fresh bullets.
There’s nothing quite like dishing out some fresh bullets.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Sega
  2. Platform: PlayStation 3, PC, PlayStation 4
  3. Release date: 31.10.2008

Our collection includes a couple of games that, to a varying extent, tried to blurr the lines of the genre and add different elements into the mix. No one did this better than Valyria Chronicles, a unique combination of SRPG and TPS by Sega.

The story is set amidst a conflict in an alternative version of Europe from the 1930s. One of the countries is attacked by a vicious neighbor – Emperor Maximilian. The game tells the story of another son of a general, who inherits after his father a tactical aptitude and… a tank. Which instantly makes him the leader of a small squad that is the last line of defense against the enemy. The story may not be overly ambitious, but the way in which it combines fiction with history is really something.

Gameplay-wise, Valkyria Chronicles is one of the most interesting entries on this list. It’s a very unusual strategy with a pinch of RPG, combining turn-based battles with controls straight from a TPP game. There’s a certain number of action points that allow us to choose our unit. Then you go into third person mode and take control over the character.

Valkyria Chronicles showed that crossing the boundaries of the genre can indeed be a great idea. It’s not the easiest game ever, but giving it a chance won’t hurt. Unfortunately, subsequent installments of the series were developed on conspicuously lower budgets and released only for PlayStation Portable.

  1. More on Valkyria Chronicles

5. Front Mission 3

Big machine – big ego. - 2017-04-24
Big machine – big ego.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Square
  2. Platform: PlayStation
  3. Release date: 11.08.2000

Front Mission 3 is the only installment in the splendid SRPG series that made it to Europe, so it’s the only representative of the franchise we could put on our list. The game by Square is an outstanding production, no two ways about it. Regardless of any publishing nuances, it deserves a spot here.

The action of Front Mission 3 takes place in the future (some 100 years from now). The protagonist is a test pilot for a new type of mechs called wanzers. Along with his friends, he becomes involved in a terrorist attack on military facilities. The story can develop along two separate paths, depending on which side of the conflict the player sides with.

Front Mission 3 is famous for its rich setting full of details, which wasn’t a common thing in the realm of SRPGs, provided by in-game internet websites that introduced a lot of context, allowing players to better understand the mechanics of the futuristic world.

Some players disapproved of the combat system, since special attacks and additional hero skills activate automatically, which obviously makes fights that more unpredictable.

Front Mission 3 really was a great game, and it’s such a shame that Square put the franchise aside. Who knows, perhaps the series would generate more interest if the remaining parts of it were released in Europe?

4. Fire Emblem: Awakening

The system of relations with companions in Fire Emblem: Awakening truly takes the game to the next level.
The system of relations with companions in Fire Emblem: Awakening truly takes the game to the next level.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Intelligent Systems
  2. Platform: Nintendo 3DS
  3. Release date: 19.04.2013

Fire Emblem is no doubt the ultimate SRPG developed to date. Unfortunately, as in the previous case, many installments of this franchise never reached Europe – we’ve chosen this game because it ushered the renaissance of this series in the West.

Fire Emblem is an epic tale set in fantasy kingdoms. What distinguishes this game from the crowd of similar productions is a unique system of relations between characters. They develop bonds which then influence battles, as well as allow us to learn what makes others tick. This makes the gameplay much more compelling, especially once you realize the game features permadeath.

Fire Emblem: Awakening is an extraordinary game for one simple reason: players from all over the world know it and played it, and then became interested in SPRGs thanks to this game. The series which had been addressed to hardcore gamers for years, finally opened itself to newcomers and casuals – you were able to turn the permadeath feature off and, consequently, enjoy the plot and the gameplay, even on the highest difficulty, without the fear of losing your favorite characters.

Awakening is the first installment in the series available for Nintendo 3DS, thanks to which the great game finally got the graphics it deserved. The portability of the Nintendo console is another advantage – you can either play a couple of short rounds, or indulge in a couple-hour-long session.

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3. Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance

The pinguin-ish demons called Prinnies simply have to be included in a game by Nippoin Ichi. - 2017-04-24
The pinguin-ish demons called Prinnies simply have to be included in a game by Nippoin Ichi.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
  2. Platform: PlayStation 4, Switch (in the future)
  3. Release date: 16.10 2015

Disgaea 5 is the peak of Nippon Ichi Software’s portfolio. Out of all the games from Disgaea series, it felt like the most appropriate candidate to open the top three of our list.

Alliance of Vengeance revolves around the themes of revenge and cooperation. Demonic lords from other worlds have to tango with an army that’s razing everything that stands in their way. As is usually the case with Disgaea, we have a blend of humor and feels.

Disgaea 5 is probably the most complex SRPG. The ton of available options concerning units and battles can be overwhelming. Disgaea 5 was deliberately designed in such a way as to allow the players to spend hundreds of hours with it and still be able to find some new elements in the game. The enormous freedom adds incredible depth to Alliance of Vengeance. The sheer number of character classes can make your head spin. Then, there are the mechanics of enhancing items, influencing missions via senate voting or converting enemies into citizens of your own country – all adding to this extraordinary and complex game.

Only the greatest fans, those who are ready to spend a hundred hours in the game, will fully appreciate Nippon Ichi Software’s game. The reward for this dedication will be the best experience, gameplay-wise, the genre has to offer.

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2. Final Fantasy Tactics

The profession system makes FFT one of the best SRPGs.
The profession system makes FFT one of the best SRPGs.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Square
  2. Platform: PlayStation, PlayStation Portable, iOS, AND
  3. Release date: 05.10.2007

Final Fantasy Tactics is without a doubt the favorite game of most SRPGs fans. But it’s not just nostalgia that brings this game to the top of lists such as ours.

The game is set in the world of Ivalice. It somewhat evokes medieval Europe and is plagued by an ongoing war. The end of the 50-year conflict does not bring law and order; more quarrels arise and eventually a civil war breaks out. The most fascinating element of this game is the representation of social stratification in a medieval society. The heroes have different social backgrounds and thus different outlooks.

The characters can also learn new crafts and change specializations as the game progresses. This solution is rooted in Final Fantasy III and V, but in case of Tactics, it was mastered to perfection. Experimenting with different professions is half the fun the game offers.

Final Fantasy Tactics isn’t thought to be one of the best tactical role plays ever without a reason. The game, even today, provides hours upon hours of quality entertainment.

1. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

That’s what the best tactical RPG looks like.
That’s what the best tactical RPG looks like.
IN A NUTSHELL:
  1. Developer: Quest
  2. Platform: PlayStation, PlayStation Portable, Wii, Wii U and others
  3. Release date: 25.09.1997 (PSX)

Tactics Ogre was another game that we couldn’t play for a long, long time. I mean it: sixteen years had passed before we could finally play one of the best games in history. Just imagine.

Let Us Cling Together is in a way an ancestor of Final Fantasy Tactics – the key developers of Tactics Ogre were also the ones to develop FFT, so similarities are not hard to spot.

What warrants this game’s top position in the ranking is its story. The game depicts a very complex and epic story, more serious that you’d normally expect from a Japanese title. The main themes are purges in society and racial conflicts. These, rather gloomy, subjects are even more powerful if you’re aware that the premise of the story was inspired by the bloody war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This makes the events in the game much more real, tangible and suggestive.

Tactics Ogre is not only a story of the worst human flaws; it allows you to chose the paths of the characters. Many difficult decisions will have to be made along the way. The fate of the rebellion depends on the player.

The emotion-packed story makes Let Us Cling Together something more than just an SRPG. At the same time, Tactics Ogre doesn’t yield to other games from the genre in the gameplay department. And that pretty much makes Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together the ultimate tactical RPG that has ever hit the market.

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