Mobile gaming is known for puzzle games and casual games, but what about the other genres? Games like Angry Birds and World of Goo took the world by storm when they first came out, and they pretty much set the stage for mobile games, but a new genre has been burgeoning: RPGs. They’ve been popular for the past few decades and it’s about time that good Android RPGs had their share of the limelight.
I have to admit that I was never a big mobile Android RPG fan. Part of it was due to the poor stories, primitive game mechanics, and clunky controls of the past, but also because RPGs tend to require more power than most mobile games and my phone didn’t produce enough juice. Well, with the following best Android games, my opinion on mobile RPGs has changed for the better. And best of all, they’re playable for free!
9th Dawn is a throwback to old-style RPGs that injects the open-world nature that’s so common in modern Android RPGs. You can think of it as “oldschool Skyrim” and you’d have a rather accurate idea of what 9th Dawn is all about. The island continent of Montelorne is so vast that 9th Dawn can boast that they have the largest open-world experience in any mobile RPG to date.
You start off by creating a character, which is one of three available classes: the knight (the master of heavy combat), the archer (whose strength is dispatching enemies before they dispatch you), and the mage (who relies on spells and summons to survive). The developers are planning on expanding the content, which may include another class or two in the future.
9th Dawn is one of those “create your own fun” sorts of games. It may not be as openly sandbox as, say, Minecraft, but there’s a degree of freedom that lets you venture through the world at your own pace, discovering various NPCs, locations, monsters, and hidden secrets. Not everyone will love it, but those who do will sink many hours into the game and enjoy every second.
One important note: the free version of 9th Dawn is technically a tech demo to show you what the gameplay feels like. If you enjoy it and decide to purchase the full version ($2.99 USD), you won’t be able to transfer your save files except by a convoluted process that require rooting. If you plan on buying the full version, I recommend doing it as soon as possible.
If you’re looking for the mobile version of traditional Japanese RPGs, you’ll fall in love with the Zenonia series. The gameplay reminds me of Secret of Mana and other RPGs from the SNES era – eight-directional movement, action-based combat, and a great story that drives progression. Even though it’s available to be played for free, Zenonia’s quality is so high that it could stand its ground against top-shelf Android RPGs like Golden Sun and the Tales series.
Yes, Zenonia has a compelling storyline that keeps you hooked, but the combat is why most players love it. It’s extremely fluid and responsive with lots of beautiful eye candy. It teeters dangerously close to being overly repetitive, which is an issue that most hack-and-slash combat systems suffer from, but the commercial-quality graphics more than make up for it. The combat also differs depending on which of the four classes you pick.
What I like best about Zenonia are the modern touches that really streamline the gameplay. For example, the quest system is wonderful. Whenever you reach a new plot point – or a side character needs something – you receive an addition to your quest log, which helps you keep track of all the tasks you need to do. It’s great if you play in short bursts since you’re more likely to forget what you were doing when you resume.
There are a few downsides, though. When you first run Zenonia 4, it’ll ask you for superuser access (root) and it’ll require you to have a network connection to play, which means no offline mode. And, yes, there are in-app purchases in the form of a shop where you can buy small boosts, but none of it is necessary to play or beat the game.
Dungelot [No Longer Available]
Those of you that prefer more casual Android RPGs – not as much action but just as much fun – will love Dungelot. The gameplay revolves around a grid of squares that comprise a dungeon. One of those squares is an exit square, but it’s locked with a door and you need to find the key. One by one, you tap on the squares to uncover what lies beneath them – barrels, chests, items, monsters, secrets, or even nothing.
Though it’s a puzzle game at its core, which is addicting on its own merits, Dungelot is even more addicting due to the RPG elements. You start off by selecting a class. As you search each dungeon, you run into monsters which block you from uncovering adjacent squares, so you need to kill them. One monster on each level holds the key to unlocking the exit square, plus killing every monster will grant a bonus.
As you find items, you fill up a finite inventory, which introduces the element of space control and planning. Which items do you keep and which do you toss? You’ll also find coins, which you can use to unlock dungeon secrets and upgrade abilities. And then there are optional quests that reward you upon completion. With each level that you complete, you’ll find yourself fighting harder monsters, finding cooler items, and edging closer towards death – and that’s the real goal in this game: surviving as many dungeon levels as you can.
All players start with the Paladin class and the Vampire can be unlocked by reaching level 10.
There are a good number of Android RPGs available on Google Play and a lot of them are pretty good, but the RPGs in this list are the ones that specifically stuck out to me in some way. They cover a variety of genres and offer a good mixture of gameplay, aesthetics, and polish without burning up your wallet.
So what do you say about these games? What other RPGs do you enjoy playing that deserve a mention and why? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments!