Android JRPGs belong to a storied pedigree. The JRPG is a very specific genre suited to a very specific type of gamer. Most certainly hardcore, these are the players willing to—as one must with any RPG—invest a substantial amount of their time into an epic journey across a vast world, taking on multitudes of quests and sidequests as they gather party members, learn spells, and gain levels. But JRPGs specifically are largely linear affairs often about young (typically spiky-haired) people fighting not only the forces of darkness, but also their own inner turmoil. The best JRPGs accomplish that formula of presenting uniquely Japanese characters involved in an engaging world-threatening conflict while still having the right amount of customization and freedom that one expects from an RPG.
The Android platform is well-suited to the genre. Gone are the days of having to be seated in front of your television for hours on end in order to make any real progress, as it is now possible to build characters and take in narrative in small chunks while on the go, ultimately providing numerous hours of handheld gaming. Of course, the genre fits so well with mobile gaming that there’s no shortage of JRPGs out there for download, many of which are middling to awful, some featuring paywalls and other lame freemium tactics.So make sure you sink your time and cash into JRPGs that don’t suck with this list of The Best Android JRPGs Ever Made.
Chrono Trigger ($9.99 in Google Play Store)
HD Score – 4.2
While putting together this list, a port of literally the best Android JRPGs (if not the best RPGs, period) of all time suddenly showed up in the Google Play store. With its playful approach to time-travel, Chrono Trigger has probably one of the best storylines in video game history. Its charming 16-bit graphics still look great and it’s got one of the best soundtracks ever to boot.
Unfortunately, for some newer phone models and tablets, the port is currently extremely buggy with many players finding it unplayable. The message on the Play store claims these kinks are being worked out. This will hopefully prove to be true because, aside from a handful of new, highly obnoxious design decisions (like the game needing to periodically connect to the web to authenticate), this is a solid port of one of the best games of all time.
Symphony of the Origin ($3.99 in Google Play Store)
HD Score – 3.5
Kemco is a company who has made a career out of churning out decent JRPGs. Admittedly, they hew quite closely to old-school design. Generally content to do little more than satisfy your old-school role-playing cravings, they’re at least consistently solid.
Symphony of the Origin is one of their better offerings. It’s got a pretty run-of-the-mill quest about evils threatening to destroy the world and all that. Though it suffers from some translation flubs, it has some welcome features such as an Auto option that lets you sit back and let your characters occasionally duke it out on their own. Additionally, there’s a fortune teller who will remind you of your objectives. Useful if, like me, you find yourself abandoning RPGs in the middle and returning to them months later.
HD Score – N/A
If you like your JRPGs old-school, these ports of the NES originals are about as classic as it gets. The first is obviously a seminal release that played a huge role in making JRPGs what they are today. The second didn’t even get released outside of Japan until the 2000s. Now you can bring these classics with you anywhere on your phone and with updated visuals to boot, which is quite nice as the battle screens in the original versions made it look like all your fights took place in depressing voids.
Again, these have basically just been released and bugs abound, but we have high hopes for improvement on that front.
HD Score – N/A
The Zenonia series goes for hack-and-slash, grind-centric gameplay. If the story is what you really care about, look elsewhere, but if you like your endless battling with smooth controls and adorable visuals, this should do fine.
Do avoid Zenonia 5, however. It’s actually an exorbitantly expensive premium game hiding behind a free façade.
Final Fantasy III ($15.99 in Google Play Store)
HD Score – 4
Yes, there are going to be a lot of Square Enix games on this list and, yes, a lot of them will be Final Fantasy. It’s sort of unavoidable.
Final Fantasy III—the final in the series originally of the NES era—is its own interesting entity as the visuals haven’t just been giving a coat of polish. Instead, the game’s been catapulted into the 3D realm. This was the other game in the series that didn’t make it out of Japan until 2006 and took six more years to find its way to Android.
It’s still hugely old-school (this was the entry originally notable for the introduction of the Job System) and arguably the asking price is somewhat outlandish, but this remake beefs up the story and gussies the presentation up nicely.
End of Aspiration ($3.99 in Google Play Store)
HD Score – 3.5
Another Kemco RPG with another title that sounds like it came from “Magnetic Poetry – Epic Edition.” The storyline isn’t terribly original, but, as expected from Kemco, this is another solid, old-school-style game. End of Aspiration is hardly groundbreaking, but the graphics are decent and the dungeon-crawler gameplay is pleasantly rewarding.
Final Fantasy IV ($15.99 in Google Play Store)
HD Score – 4
Of course this one had to make it on here. Aside from VII, Final Fantasy IV is in effect “the other Final Fantasy” that always gets mentioned by players.
It’s another all-out 3D remake (hence the, again, hefty price tag), but this one would have been worth it even without the graphical overhaul. Its slightly darker storyline is a welcome change, following the dark knight Cecil’s reformation and featuring characters getting bumped off semi-regularly. It’s also less daunting for players used to the modern entries in the series as this is the game where the Active Time Battle system was introduced.
DrakeRider ($14.73 in Google Play Store)
HD Score – 3.5
Not a port for once, DrakeRider is an honest-to-goodness new IP from Square Enix. And, yes, it’s pricey as all get-out (at least by mobile standards), but being an iOS and Android exclusive, it’s one of a very small number of straight-up AAA modern RPG titles developed specifically for mobile devices. The gameplay eventually gets repetitious, but a meaty quest, some innovative battle mechanics, and some of the best graphics you’ll see on a phone make DrakeRider—stupid name and all—worth a look.
Chaos Rings II ($15.99 in Google Play Store)
HD Score – 4
Another original modern Square Enix mobile title, Chaos Rings II also looks sincerely quite gorgeous. It’s got a cool, dark storyline about the lead character having to murder his brother. Furthermore, though the world is (unsurprisingly) on course for destruction, the whys and hows behind this are revealed uniquely in the style of a murder mystery.
Once again, pricey, but this is a console-quality JRPG that actually earns the label “epic.”
Final Fantasy Dimensions ($19.99 in Google Play Store)
HD Score – 4.5
We’re going out with one last Square Enix game, so it might as well be the most expensive one. However, it’s also the most interesting. Final Fantasy Dimensions is a completely new entry in the series, dressed up in an old-school presentation. It borrows a lot from Final Fantasy V and its more complex version of the Job System.
Most unique is that Dimensions (originally released episodically) puts the player in control of two different parties. You switch back and forth between them thereby getting to witness story events from two different perspectives. It’s an interesting twist on the established Final Fantasy formula, making the title that much more intriguing.