Mon
Nov 8 2010 9:06am

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.

12 comments
David Barr Kirtley
1. davidbarrkirtley
People should also check out 100 Rogues, a beautifully
animated, user-friendly, maddeningly addictive Rogue-like game for the iPhone. It's gotten tons of stellar reviews and high praise from leading game designers.
John Massey
2. subwoofer
Sorry folks but I am not the biggest fan of tech especially that one. Am more old school- I like the concept of using a cell phone to umm...phone people and talk. At some point when I am bored of working and family life and hobbies I might get a toy like an Iphone or an Ipad, but not yet.

Speaking of old school, and RPGing, and 8bit and 16bit gaming, I am wondering if Gauntlet is floating around out there for the taking?

Woof™.
Ben Cox
3. Benny08302
I have no idea how many hours I lost to Shining Force and Shining Force II. Fantastic games (SF III for Saturn was great too)
DontDriveAngry
4. DontDriveAngry
The iPhone App Store had FF1 & FF2 on sale for $3.99 each not too long ago- I can't believe I didn't buy them then.

Now, if Chrono Trigger were to come out for the iPhone, even though I still have my not-really-rare-but-still-valuable SNES version that I play from time to time, I'd probably pick it up.
Sean Arthur
5. wsean
Ohmygod, Mana!

That is so awesome. Nostalgia waves crashing over me. One of my absolute favorite games of the SNES era. Maybe even moreso than Chrono.

I wonder if they fixed the bugs. Or is it just a straight port?
Aidan Moher
6. aidan
@David — Looks like a great update to the classic Rogue formula. I'll definitely have to give it a closer look!

@DontDriveAngry — You're a man after my own heart: Chrono Trigger's my favourite game of all time. The Nintendo DS version is wonderful, though I cherish my SNES cart just as much as you do!

@wsean — I expect it's just a straight port. Though the FF-remakes do indicate that Square Enix is willing to put in some work to make their iPhone games more user friendly. Should be interesting to see how it turns out. It would be pretty wild to play multiplayer over the iPhone network.
DontDriveAngry
7. Qurytslyn
Needs more Android love.

Course, really, the last thing I need is epic RPGs on my phone. I already am distracted enough...
j p
8. sps49
If they ported Temple of Elemental Evil to the iPhone, then I might get one. Otherwise, I'm with subwoofer.
DontDriveAngry
9. Beth C.
Wow, that port of Secret of Mana looks great. Nothing like rabite slaughtering to brighten my day!

I'd love to see some Dragon Quest games make it over here, especially ones that have been available for years in Japan such as slime racing.
Jennifer McBride
10. vegetathalas
Grin, you listed all of my favorites from back in the days of yore. Thanks for the good memories.
DontDriveAngry
11. Christopher Byler
Secret of Mana was good, but the sequel not released in the US was even better (and has replay value -- lots of it, thanks to the party selection and class-change systems). There are fan-translated ROMs available somewhere.

As for Chrono Trigger, it's been ported to/remade for the Nintendo DS, if anyone is interested and doesn't already know (along with FF III and IV, and possibly others that I can't think of at the moment). If you have a reasonably large pocket, the DS will fit in it...
DontDriveAngry
12. Teka Lynn
Oh god, Nethack. I never played it myself, but it was the recreational drug of choice for many a computer geek when I was in college.

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