Ask any game critic to name the most important or influential games of the past decade, and odds are they’ll bring up Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. First released for Xbox and PC in 2003 (and again for Mac the following year), KOTOR instantly became one of the most revered games of its generation, delivering a sprawling, original role-playing epic set thousands of years before the events of the Star Wars films. It helped raise the bar for player choice in RPGs and bolstered fans’ flagging faith in Star Wars — and now, 10 years later, it’s fully playable on iPad.
Combining a match-three puzzler with a role-playing game isn't an entirely new idea. After all, the popular Puzzle Quest series managed to accomplish as much over five years ago. But Dungeon Hearts adds a character party dynamic, tasking you with aligning jewels on a scrolling play field to launch attacks from four unique avatars. The concept itself is great, but the entire affair falls apart only minutes after the quest begins.
NimbleBit made its name on slower-paced simulations like Tiny Tower and Pocket Planes, which charmed with their retro-leaning pixel aesthetics and impressed with surprisingly friendly free-to-play models. Nimble Quest, the studio's perfectly-titled latest release, maintains those latter qualities but embodies a different and very active kind of spirit. The result is a mash-up of Snake and retro role-playing games that's uniquely enjoyable and ideal for one-handed amusement.
Back when it was first released on the Nintendo DS in 2009, Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes' highly engrossing mix of match-three puzzle gameplay and RPG combat made it the surprise sleeper hit climbing its way onto year-end best games lists. While the low-resolution original was spectacular on its own, the fact that Clash of Heroes on iOS is a port of the updated HD console version is even better news for puzzle nerds.
Bit Dungeon brings together The Legend of Zelda’s top-down dungeon stomping, Diablo’s loot lust, and the unforgiving difficulty of roguelikes within a slick retro-style quest. Fresh from developer Kinto Games, this hack-and-slash action RPG distills the allure of classic gaming into an addicting mobile adventure. Between the simple mechanics and incredible challenge, you may find Bit Dungeon's stat-building pull difficult to resist, even if a couple of issues rear their head at times.
Chances are, if you grew up playing Final Fantasy in the ‘90s, you’ve probably got a soft spot for at least one of the old-school entries in the venerable RPG series. Assuming that’s true, Square Enix’s latest iOS spin-off is aimed squarely at you. Don't believe the hype — on paper, the premise behind Final Fantasy All the Bravest sounds interesting, but banal design and a complete reliance on in-app purchases make for an insidious attempt to prey on nostalgia.
The world would be so much more entertaining if a trip to the local cafe could be interrupted by goblins, and if chests of loot were stored around every corner. Life is Magic seeks to augment the real world by introducing location-based RPG elements, but in the process replaces our everyday grind with another kind of grind entirely. The game's location features are visually impressive, overlaying a fantasy filter over real-world maps wherein local stores become equipment warehouses and restaurants turn to taverns.
Despite sharing the name and much of the content from one of the year's most prominent Nintendo 3DS games, the iOS version of Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is not quite the same experience. Rather than serve up a smattering of classic songs from the entire core Final Fantasy role-playing series, complete with story elements and familiar cinematic clips, the App Store release pairs the tap-and-swipe rhythm formula with a free-to-play shell that lets you pick and pay for exactly the tracks and characters your want. But trying to compare the two directly proves a losing proposition both for players and creator Square Enix.
If you’re the type of fantasy role-playing gamer more accustomed to orcs and fearless paladins, sliding into the role of an anthropomorphic panda bear is admittedly difficult. But Blizzard has done a fantastic job of creating an engaging story around World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria's Pandaren race. And its new, Asian-inspired continent, with its detailed shrines and stoic monks, may be some of Blizzard’s best work.
Depending on whom you ask, there's a sentiment in some circles that the Japanese games industry is struggling to maintain relevance. While traditional Japanese role-playing games don't clinch the Western market quite as tightly as they once did, The World Ends With You stands as a prime example of the genre's staying power. Actually, it's one of the best role-playing games – regardless of region – we've played in years.