The iPhone's Best Role Playing Games: Action, Strategy, and Adventure
It's important to note that this is not a list ranked in order of quality; this list is in alphabetical order. We have taken an extra step in helping to get these games to you painlessly, so we've linked each game to their respective pages in the iTunes store. All you have to do is click the name and your browser will (probably) ask you for permission to launch iTunes, and once you agree you'll be right at the game's page on iTunes. Be sure to also read GamePro's other lists of the best games available on the iPhone, including the top shooters, strategy titles, and games for console gamers.
(To view a slideshow of all games included here check out: In Pictures: 10 Best iPhone Role Playing Games)
1. Across Age
Action RPGs are surprisingly common commodities in the App Store, but few come close to Across Age in terms of overall quality. Across Age differentiates itself from similar games by exploring elements of time travel and integrating a wide variety of puzzles into dungeons to compliment its deceptively basic "bump-to-attack" combat. The game combines retro Link to the Past-esque graphics and level design with modern RPG elements, resulting in a top-down adventure that's pretty hard to put down once you pick it up.
The game's biggest hook is its implementation of a multiple character management system, which, in layman's terms, simply means that you'll be spending a lot of time splitting up two characters (a mage named Ceska and a knight named Ales, in this case) to solve puzzles and take a creative approach to certain combat situations. Dashing around environments, completing quests, taking down enemies, and gaining levels is a lot of fun, and the game does a fantastic job of introducing new puzzle elements to keep things fresh throughout the course of the adventure. If you can conquer this game's sometimes-finicky control scheme, you'll emerge from the tail end of the story a very satisfied customer.
Like most other games from Gameloft, Dungeon Hunter is an unashamed take on another popular franchise, Blizzard's Diablo series in this instance. Players can make use of either an on-screen virtual stick or a touch-to-move control scheme, and attacks and magic spells are relegated to buttons on the right side of the screen. As in Diablo, there is loot aplenty to be found in Dungeon Hunter, and this loot can be equipped on the spot or sold for gold at various towns throughout the world.
There isn't much mission variety in Dungeon Hunter, since most quests never get more involved than "go here, kill this thing, and come back." We'll admit that the hack-and-slash gameplay is fun, so those who don't have a problem with mindlessly bashing on an attack button to grind up levels and hunt down better loot are quite likely to find something to enjoy here.
The first Inotia was one of the original action RPGs on the App Store. That game was received with somewhat lukewarm reactions, but its sequel, Inotia 2, was praised as a major improvement upon its release last December. This RPG has much in common with Across Age, even with the ability to bring more than one character into battle -- although in this game, characters can't split up and uncontrolled party members attack on their own with the help of A.I.
Inotia 2 is most notable for its fantastic art, beautiful 32-bit graphical style, and online multiplayer features that allow for competitive party-vs-party combat. The game's main single-player campaign is absurdly long, so even those who don't plan on checking out the vs. mode will get their money's worth in content. We did notice a somewhat bothersome number of translation errors in our playthrough of the game (including the fact that you will always be referred to as a male regardless of the gender of your selected character), and the touch-screen controls can be a little janky, but the game is well-worth its price and is certainly worth a look for those who've already beaten Across Age.
Plenty of games claim to bring "console-quality" action to the iPhone, but Necromancer Rising does a fairly fantastic job of living up to that description. The game could best be described as feeling very similar to the Elder Scrolls games, but with a much more intensive focus on randomly generated dungeon crawling. The developers somehow managed to design this game so that it runs at an incredibly smooth framerate at all times despite the impressive use of 3D effects, even on first generation devices.
The sheer depth that Necromancer Rising offers is pretty astounding. There are 16 different equipment types (we're talking an individual slot for your right elbow, here) and each piece of equipment shows on your character when viewed in menus -- actual gameplay is in first person. There's a fully featured item-creation system, and enormous updates have regularly extended the length of the game since its launch, adding and altering everything from a method to reset your character to increasing the player's walk speed. If you love real time, first person RPGs and want a game of that type that you can take with you on your daily commute, Necromancer Rising is a great choice.
5. The Quest
The Quest is a retro first person RPG, much like Necromancer Rising, but with a definitively early '90s PC game feel. You might need to be a bit retro yourself to fully appreciate The Quest's hand-drawn graphics, but anyone can fall in love with the game's epic soundtrack, BioWare-style conversation system, and quirky add-ons like a playable card game at inns and readable books scattered across the world.
The Quest boasts over 50 hours of gameplay, with dozens of side missions contributing to the potential game time after one beats the main quest line. If you don't feel like replaying the game as one of the five unique races, complete expansion packs like the recently released "Island of Ice and Fire" have been added to the App Store with surprising frequency. If you really get into this game, you'll be busy for a long time to come.
The developers of Ravensword clearly had one thing and one thing only in mind while crafting their game: put Elder Scrolls on the iPhone. The game is ambitious, with full 3D environments, hours of gameplay, and even an optional first-person camera perspective for those who enjoy their RPGs that way. Set in a high-fantasy world, Ravensword's main quest takes players across a good variety of environments on the path to the finish, and a number of combat options keep things fresh as players level up their customized character.
There are plenty of secret areas to explore after beating the main storyline, and fun distractions like horseback riding, hunting in the forest, and target practice with the bow and arrow should keep people distracted for a while. It should be noted that Ravensword does suffer from the iPhone's limited screen real estate, and the on-screen controls sometimes make it hard to see what one is doing. Those who actually own games like Elder Scrolls: Oblivion on consoles may want to stick with that, as Ravensword is held back by the limitations of its platform. Those who want 3D RPG gaming on the go, however, should give Ravensword a shot, as it is being consistently updated to improve its overall quality and provide an experience more in line with what's available on consoles.
7. Rogue Touch
Rogue Touch is a recreation of the classic dungeon crawler Rogue (which spurred the RPG subgenre roguelike), and it has undergone massive adaptation for its new touch control scheme. Despite being released in early 2009, Rogue Touch has easily held onto the title of "deepest roguelike game in the App Store." For those who are unfamiliar with the roguelike genre, the game plays out like a real time RPG wherein your goal is to reach the 26th floor of a dungeon to collect a magical amulet. You attack enemies by running straight into them with a tap in their direction, but make sure to watch your health bar. In roguelikes, a single death means a permanent end to your adventure.
Rogue Touch isn't the most modern example of its genre (there is no movement animation, for instance), but it does have a number of nice features that longtime fans of roguelikes will appreciate: on-screen buttons for resting and searching for traps come in handy often, and new items in this version of the game are quite the treat. Worthy of special note is the ambient background dungeon sounds that have been introduced in Rogue Touch. You'll want to play this one with your headphones on.
Sword & Poker sticks out like a sore thumb on this list of action RPGs and Roguelikes, but its classification as an RPG is undeniable despite its card game-heavy battle mechanics. Combat seems complicated at first, but is actually pretty intuitive and can be picked up relatively quickly if a few minutes are spent playing with things. Each enemy encounter takes place on a 5x5 grid, with nine cards filling the center of the grid from the start. You and an opponent take turns laying down two of the four cards in your hand with the goal of creating poker hands on the game board.
For instance, in the picture to the right, the player just scored big because he put down a queen and a joker, the latter of which acted as a "9" card to create a straight, which in turn dealt 22 points of damage to the enemy player. Money earned from battles can be used to purchase new and better weapons, and better weapons allow players to inflict more damage or even status effects on opponents. There's far too much depth and strategy in Sword & Poker to be discussed here, but take our word for it that this is the definition of a hidden gem in the App Store, and absolutely should not be missed.
Much like Rogue Touch, Sword of Fargoal is an update to an early roguelike game, this one originally created for the Commodore PET in 1980. Jeff McCord was only 17 when he wrote the game (entirely in BASIC, by the way), but he achieved real notoriety when the game was later brought to the Commodore 64. What makes Sword of Fargoal particularly interesting is how different the iPhone version is from the original release. Unlike Rogue Touch, Sword of Fargoal embraces modern graphical flourishes like walls with 3D depth and high-resolution sprites.
Much of Fargoal's gameplay involves hopping around a dark dungeon filling out your map, taking down enemies to level up, and finding spell scrolls to increase the power of your sword and get access to temporary abilities. After diving to the depths of the dungeon and grabbing the Sword of Fargoal, you'll have 2,000 seconds to make your way to the first floor and escape with your life, not an easy task given the fact that enemies will try to steal your sword and run off with it while their comrades attempt to murder you as you make your way to the top. Sword of Fargoal is the most noob-friendly "roguelike" game on the App Store, and we found it to be a lot of fun.
Zenonia is different from the other action RPGs on the App Store because of its ridiculously fast-paced nature. The game automatically turns the main character to face enemies if one is near when the player taps the attack button, so much of the game involves blasting through environments attacking every enemy that draws near to quickly level up and amass loot. There are three unique characters to choose from when starting a new game in Zenonia, and each one plays quite differently, so there's a good bit of incentive to play through with different characters multiple times.
Zenonia feels like a combination of Zelda and Diablo with its 16-bit art style and complex skill tree that can be filled out as enemies are defeated and levels are gained. There's a pretty annoying hunger system in the game that forces players to stop and feed their character at regular intervals, but for the most part Zenonia skips the trimmings and focuses directly on what's important: lots and lots of action. A good sense of humor in dialogue helps set the game further apart from other releases, so we can confidently recommend this game for those who love fast-paced action RPGs and don't mind a bit of grinding.