Elemental Challenge Day Nine: Traditional RPGs



If our Elemental Challenge thus far were a nine-course meal, then this day would be the meat and potatoes because today we’re going to talk about role-playing games. The term RPG has come to cover a wide range of very different games, especially when you start to meld genres together to create the ARPG, SRPG, TRPG, and so on. For the sake of today’s challenge, and for the sake of simplicity, we’d like to take it back to traditional RPGs. That phrasing is going to mean different things to different people, but we’re not necessarily talking merely along the lines of nostalgia. We’re talking straightforward, long, linear, turn-based, adventurous RPGs in as purest a form as we can get them. Sure, that doesn’t mean “games only before the 00’s” but we’re only human and we’ll get as traditional as we can with our favorites. Games have (rightfully) matured and become more complex as technology has allowed but there’s still a place for some good ol’ role-playing.

Here come the traRPGs…


FF3-NES-Summoner2.png The Green Screen Mage

Well this is a bit of a simulation/RPG game, but Harvest Moon: Another Wonderful Life. It was one of my favorite games growing up. I spent so many hours growing crops and raising animals to make my farm better, wooing different people in town to get a hubby and a baby, and making all of the towns people love me!



blackmage The Black Humor Mage

This game is in my top five favorite video games, and happens to be a traditional RPG, so Chrono Trigger definitely is my favorite in this genre. Fun characters, interesting plot, great gameplay that is somewhat turn-based but also runs on a timer to keep you on your toes. And that music, that absolutely amazing music. It’s my favorite soundtrack of all time, and absolutely takes an already amazing game to a whole new level of artistic value.



mystic_knight1 The Midnight Mystic Mage (Sublime Reviews)

Star Wars KOTOR. The best RPG of all time, if not the best game of all time, there I said it. I played fully through this game on Steam during my honeymoon. It is the most compelling Star Wars story in a game that has ever been made and I really enjoyed the combat and party system. (Honorable Mentions – Dragon Warrior/Quest, Baldur’s Gate, EarthBound)



spoonybardmageright.jpg The Spoony Bard Mage (Nerd Speaker)

Chrono Trigger, hands down. This is not only my favorite RPG, but quite possibly my favorite game of all time. Between the beautiful world, time travel mechanic, cool and memorable characters, tech-based combat system, and mind-bending story, it’s yet to be trumped in my mind in terms of a video game narrative.  Why isn’t it included on the SNES Classic!?



finalfourteenthmage.png The Final Fourteenth Mage (Cilla vs. Games)

If you exclude MMO’s then Pokémon Silver would be my most played game of all time. I absolutely loved it. It’s my favourite Pokémon game and naturally my favourite generation. Pokémon Silver introduced so many key elements to the series – breeding, shinies, night and day, new evolution methods and many more. There was nothing more exciting than beating the Elite Four only to find that you were now able to go to Kanto and do it all over again!



HandheldMage1  The Hopeful Handheld Mage (Retro Redress)

Dungeon Master. I’m a complete RPG novice so this Atari ST classic is an easy pick… as it’s one of two traditional RPG’s I’ve played. It’s a great game though -a dungeon crawler with first-person graphical perspective and lots of monsters and stats. It’s a real shame Dungeon Master hasn’t been re-released (there is a SNES version if you can find it) as I think it would still go down well today.



 The Rage Mage

You know when you grow up to hate your own parents? Yeah so this is kind of like that. The first Final Fantasy is the worst franchise starter I can think of: a tedious, unbalanced, unfair, unfun, grindy, abrasive, plodding, hideous, brutal, time-travelling 12 Monkeys rip off for introverts without enough friends to play D&D. Only self-obsessed idiots would theme a blog around this game and think it’s #onfleek.



rmage2.jpg The Well-Red Mage

It does my well-red heart good to see so much love for my favorite game of all time: Chrono Trigger, which crowned IGN’s list of Top 100 RPGs of all time at the #1 spot. This game represents an entire summer vacation for me, the months I spent finding and achieving every one of the thirteen endings. This game is engraved into my DNA, I’ve played it so much. The characters, the eras, the dream-inspired music, the ATB system, the dramatic scenes, the interwoven complexity, the sense of grandeur and wonder. The Kingdom of Zeal, the Rainbow Shell, the Gurus of Time, the Epoch, Lavos, Guardia, the Millennial Fair, the Karaoke Machine Gato, the Black Omen, the Masamune… there’s so much in this game! Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI were the two best reasons to own a Super Nintendo. I’m glad mages before me have paraded this game’s majesty because it truly is an experience unlike any other, possibly the greatest game on the greatest system of all time. In fact, look for an upcoming marathon essay on Chrono Trigger and why I think it’s the ultimate reigning champion of video games in a future post commissioned by @Nintendo_Legend!

Traditional RPGs are my bread and butter. I grew up on them so here are some of my other favorites (some less traditional than others): Final Fantasy IVVI, VII, XI, X, and Tactics, EarthBoundSuper Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven StarsI Am SetsunaBreath of Fire II and III, Illusion of GaiaNi no Kuni: Wrath of the White WitchSecret of ManaPokémon Red/Blueand Chrono Cross (to an extent).



A game about time saves Day Nine, but tomorrow we’ll hit the double digits! Come back for more of the Elemental Challenge in about 24 hours. Now what are your favorite traditional RPGs?

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49 replies »

  1. Obvs WellRed & Lord C are eye to eye with our mutual love of Chrono Trigger (Lord C swoons less obvs 😀 ) & I’mma let you finish…
    But FF7 is The. Best. Game. Of. All. Time. Ever!!! (Also still majorly loving the adorably attritional continual battle/war between Shameless Narcissist’s FF7 love & WellRed’s FF6 obsession! Now that’s a TV show that NEEDS to happen!!! I’d buy that for a dollar! Hell maybe even 7 ;P ) WooHoo!!! XD XD

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Honestly, it’s Pokemon. I love the series way too much for it not to be my favorite. Final Fantasy is also high up there, and would be number one if Pokemon didn’t exist. Please always exist, Pokemon!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. *taps mic* Is this thing on? Ah excellent. I’m glad you’re all here. I’ve been waiting to address this issue…wait, don’t pull out the cane! I was getting to the-hey! Ack! FINAL FANTASY VII *is dragged off the stage while threatening world domination and chanting in Latin*

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think if you really want an accessible, and historically important CRPG do yourself a favor, and get Ultima. It gives you the vast exploration you’ll crave, as well as the depth a traditional RPG should provide you. The storyline may be simplistic compared to the other games, but it built a solid foundation the franchise would build upon for 9 games. Just don’t bother with the console ports. Navigating menus with a D-pad is a nightmare. Fortunately you can get the originals dirt cheap on GoG.com and they’re placed in a DosBox wrapper, so you don’t have to know how to run the emulator, or how to use DOS commands or configure settings to play it on a modern system.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I nominate Pokémon Blue/Red. I did not realise the Pokémon games counted as traditional RPGs, or I would have chosen Lord of the Rings: The Third Age by default. I like the freedom allowed by the Pokémon games as the fighters used in battle are ones chosen by the player, not characters imposed by the game. I also enjoy finding ways and attacks to beat opponents. The range of Pokémon also created a interesting sidequest where the player can collect the different Pokémon or search for useful Pokémon to fight in battles. I also found the designs for the different Pokémon interesting. I also like the story as well, it starts as a trainer wanting to become a Pokémon champion, but they encounter many side stories, such as Saffron City under siege, defeating Team Rocket’s various plots and finding the Poke Flute in the ghostly Pokémon Tower. It was also enjoyable to travel around the world and I found the locations interesting. I would probably have agreed with Pokémon Silver (as it seems to be a more complex game), but I have not played that game.
    I have read about Chrono Trigger and was surprised that it was older then I expected and in 2D (considering it seems to be such an in-depth game). What are the other games you mentioned? The names seem Japanese.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh the Third Age… it’s a good thing Pokémon Red/Blue was there to stop you from mentioning that game! 😀 Those original Pokémon games were great RPGs, especially since they let you create your own unique party from 150 different characters.

      As for Chrono Trigger, it sounds like you might be pleasantly surprised to give a lot of 2D Super Nintendo games a try. Many of them are surprisingly complex. Gameplay was more important than graphics, in a lot of cases, in those days, especially in retrospect. I mean, a ton of people cite FFVI as their favorite Final Fantasy. I do and that’s a 2D game from the SNES. Don’t let old graphics bother you, if you can, and you’ll find some really complex JRPGs with the SNES. The majority of the other games I mentioned are SNES games, but I Am Setsuna is a current gen game based on past SNES games like Chrono Trigger. Ni no Kuni I played on PS4. All stellar RPGs I highly recommend.


  6. This one is a -definite- lock-in for Final Fantasy VI. It was the first one I really got into as a kid (though I had seen IV previously), and man that would set the tone of what I looked forward to in an RPG ever since. I liked that every party member went beyond just a ‘class’, but still had their own roles in the party. Locke was by far my favorite character. I loved his ‘just help everybody’ attitude and the fact that his thieving abilities actually come into play with the story. And he had the most heroic theme out of the entire cast. (Apparently Square loved it so much, it’s even the party menu theme for Theatrhythm Curtain Call!)

    It’s probably because of this game that I always play rogues and thieves whenever possible in RPGs, now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sir, I cannot express how monomolecularly close FFVI was to overcoming my choice of Chrono Trigger. I love both those games so much. VI is my favorite Final Fantasy, so that doesn’t help. In the end, I went with CT since I’d played through it more and it was more delightful than the other, which was more depressing at times, though no less beautiful. I liked Locke too but my favorite playable character was Shadow. My favorite character of any kind was Kefka, the best FF villain and one of the best video game villains I can think of. He’s the Joker of video games and I used his iconic laugh as my mobile text notifier at one point. Anyway, I love FFVI, so I don’t blame your nomination one iota.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Chrono Trigger is one of those games that absolutely lives up to the endless amounts of praise people have given it over the years, but even with that said, when it comes to RPGs, I’d say Planescape: Torment and Persona 4 manage to edge it out by the slimmest of margins.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t played either of those, so maybe that’s why nothing has eclipsed my love for Chrono Trigger. It’s been #1 for over 15 years of my life and it’s likely to stay that way at this point, I guess. Old habits die hard, but it is nice to see that other people loved it as much as I did.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah that’s interesting. Final Fantasy got a lot of imitators but Chrono Trigger seems to stand in a class of its own. Even its pseudo-sequel didn’t stand up to Chrono Trigger’s magnificence. When I think about it, its structure and narrative are things which very few other games have tried to emulate to a tee.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on Sublime Reviews and commented:

    Day 9 of the Elemental Challenege is Traditional RPG’s. For me it doesn’t get better than Star Wars Knight’s of the Old Republic in this category but there was a lot of love for the old classic Chrono Trigger. I haven’t had the pleasure of playing it yet but I always hear great things. Stop on by The Well-Red Mage and let us know your opinions on the topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This one is an especially tough category because I love RPGs. Thanks for narrowing it down to the traditional turn-based ones. I wouldn’t even know where to start if it was just every type of RPG ever! I was originally going to say Pokemon Yellow because of its nostalgia for me. It was one of the first games that I ever played at length, during the time when I sucked at gaming and reading, which made finishing games really hard. But then I remembered (thanks to the shoutout there) that Ni no Kuni is a thing, and it stole the nomination! I absolutely love Ni no Kuni. It’s a fun ride full of silly and serious happenings, heavy themes, colorful graphics, and fun characters. I also enjoyed that, like Chrono Trigger, it has an active turn-based battle system that keeps you on your toes. If you’re not paying attention, the enemy will take you out by more or less skipping your “turn”!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Narrowing things down, that’s what we’re here for! Happy to oblige. Ni no Kuni is a great game and it felt very “classic” despite being released later in history. I’ve loved the Ghibli films for so long and the game really felt like an interactive Ghibli movie. I spent a lot of time grinding Tokos!

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s not for everyone. The HUD alone is more complicated than most console games and the Realm Reborn is a deliberate slow burn, but I quite like that 🙂 It’s something that’s slowly become a part of my life over time. Adore it! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t often read reviews about games I plan to soon review myself, but when I do apparently I read yours. I have no nostalgia for the original Final Fantasy and I’m struggling to get through it and its grindy nature, but man does it have some good ideas in it. That class system, I love, I love.

      Liked by 1 person

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