Classic RPG Gaming In Your Pocket

Oh, the warm embrace of nostalgia.

Like many geeks my age, I cut my teeth on Videogame RPGs back in the 8-bit and 16-bit era and games like Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger and Ogre Battle still hold a spot high atop my list of favourite games ever.

Another of those games is a gem called Secret of Mana, originally released for the SNES back in 1993; so when I saw this video of its upcoming iPhone/iPod/iPad release, I got a case of goosebumps and marveled at the fact that these classic games, once the domain of the living room television, could now fit in my pocket.

Unfortunately, Secret of Mana isn’t available on the iTunes store yet, and doesn’t have a firm release date; but, I was so inspired by seeing one of my favourite games running on a phone, I went and gathered together a list of several other classic RPGs available from the iTunes store.

Final Fantasy I & II

Final Fantasy I for the iPhone, iPod and iPad

Anyone familiar with 8-bit RPGs should know Final Fantasy I, which, despite its name, has spawned an endless array of sequels; Final Fantasy II, on the other hand, might not be so familiar (it didn’t make it to North American shores until 2002, 14 years after its original Japanese release). Final Fantasy I is still as simple and charming as it’s always been, and Final Fantasy II, while it has its share of problems (attacking your party members to make them stronger? No EXP? Weird), it’s worth a look for its curious place in Final Fantasy lore.

Phantasy Star II

Phantasy Star II on the iPhone, iPod and iPadFor those who grew up with a Nintendo console, there was Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, for those with a Sega console, it was all about Phantasy Star. Eschewing typical fantasy trappings of its NES compatriots, Phantasy Star II is a science fiction RPG featuring interplanetary travel, a great cast of characters, and a surprisingly deep and twisting story. (Well, for the time, don’t go in expecting Planescape: Torment or anything….) Be warned, however, it’s not for the faint of heart! It’s tough as balls.

Shining Force

Shining Force for the iPhone, iPod and iPadYou a fan of Final Fantasy Tactics? How about Ogre Battle Tactics, Disgaea, Arc the Lad or Valkyria Chronicles? If so, you’ll find a lot to love about Shining Force, one of the early gems of the SRPG genre (taking many of its cues from the early Famicom Wars and Fire Emblem games on the NES). It’s strategic, smart and has a loveable cast of characters.

Rogue & Nethack

Nethack for the iPhone, iPod and iPadFor the most hardcore fan there’s Rogue and Nethack. I mean, just look at them. They’ve been huge inspirations for so many of today’s games—looking forward to Diablo III? Well, you’ve got Rogue to thank for that. Rogue and Nethack popularized Dungeon Crawling gaming back in the ’80’s and they still hold that delightfully obtuse difficulty and those eye-gougingly charmless (but still lovable) graphics today. For those not tough enough to deal with ASCII graphics, there’s an optional graphical update available for both games (though it’s still crude, even compared to the other RPGs listed earlier).

Who said classic gaming was dead? With so many great old games available on our phones(!), and for a tiny fraction of the price we would have paid back in the eighties and nineties, there’s never been a better time to be a fan of old-school RPGs. And, hey, I don’t blame you if Angry Birds and Traffic Control aren’t exactly bastions of narrative. But, if that’s what you’re looking for, the games above might scratch that itch. (Well, except Rogue and Nethack… there you’ve gotta make up the story yourself.) It’ll be just like you’re back at your mom’s house, sitting too close to the TV, ass cushioned by the shag carpet, bag of chips in your lap, and an adventure playing out in your hands.


Aidan Moher is the editor of A Dribble of Ink, a humble little blog that exists in some dusty corner of the web. He hasn’t won any awards, or published any novels. But he’s, uhh… working on that.

He is also a contributor at SF Signal and the lackey for io9’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

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