The Ten Best Android Indie RPGs
Indie games in Android land wax rather indie. I am going to tell you now that somewhere below the Android indie cellar is a sub-cellar wherein dwell solo devs and two-man teams—sub-basement Android indies. The freakish step-child of the gaming industry. But, as is true with any cadre of social misfits, some rather compelling stuff occasionally pokes its woolly head out of this outsider morass. If you’re looking to play rich, compelling RPGs on your phone, there is within said midden heap a small cache of absolute gems, which is, of course, what our list is all about. Beyond shining a spotlight on said hidden treasure, however, the criteria for the “You Never Heard Of” lists is the absolute best Android indie RPGs with less than 10K downloads. To be sure, the following indie RPGs did not receive the love they deserve, though, of course, our latest edition of the Ten Best Android RPGs You Never Heard of is, at the end of the day, for you.
Quest Lord is rendered in big fat old school Minecraft-sized pixels, sans three dimensions. We figure if you are reading this, you likely don’t mind. In fact, if you enjoy throwbacks to the 8-bit graphics of yore, you’ll no doubt find the title’s old school visuals charming. Developed by sole developer Eric Kincaid, Quest Lord offers up a vast and detailed game world, with a nuanced overworld and underworlds, tons of loot, a huge bestiary and a cool storyline to boot. Even if you are not of an old-school inclination, you’ll find Quest Lord a superb RPG.
9. Crystal Story Series
Beginning life as a lowly browser game, Emmanuel Salva Cruz’s Crystal Story proved successful enough to warrant a port and two sequels. Thoroughly fun JRPGs, the Crystal Story games are full of cool RPG stuff. Each title is overflowing with quests, places to explore and vast armies of fabulous monsters to destroy. To top it off, the JRPG-style combat does its job well. There are also some wonderful bosses and mini-bosses to battle as well as a trove of loot to uncover. There are plenty of games on Android developed by one-man developers. Very few, however, approach the excellence of the Crystal Story series.
A turn-based RPG with a world simulator feel, Halfgeek’s Nomads of the Fallen Star offers up some rather cool and unique gameplay. The premise of its story is equally badass. You find yourself leading a party of heroes across a hostile world in the throes of being subjugated by the survivors of a crashed colony ship. As you move about its environs, merchant caravans and parties of heroes and mercenaries traverse the map around you. What’s more, Nomads provides an open world in which you can pursue a variety of paths. You can take on mercenary work, go hunting or strike it rich by trading between colonies. You can also just saddle up and pursue the game’s main quest. There’s also loot, leveling, combat and all the other RPG mainstays. While visuals are what one might expect from a small developer, the game as a whole offers enthralling open-world RPG gameplay that’s not to be missed.
7. The Quest
Back in 2006, Redshift Games’ The Quest was the finest RPG ever made for Palm devices and Pocket PCs. It’s evolved and expanded a great deal since then—there are like 800 expansions. Though it’s been ported to every platform conceivable by man, it sits at about 10K downloads on Google Play. A criminal situation, considering The Quest’s depth and breadth. It is, to be fair, a 2D open-world RPG that functions via a grid-based movement system. That said, it is also a huge, deep, multi-faceted RPG. The Quest’s gameplay and world are chock full of the sort of open world RPG details one expects from an Elder Scrolls title. Offering up a gargantuan open gameworld, a multi-tiered leveling system, an alchemy system, challenging combat and a ton of storied quests, open-world RPG fans will find themselves in their bliss.
Ossian Studios’ The Shadow Sun is about what you would expect from a game studio comprised of developers who worked on the seminal Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights series. While small in scope, The Shadow Sun is a genuine 3D open-world RPG. Featuring plausible real-time combat, an engaging fantasy story and rich character customization, it is certain to bring joy to RPG gamers looking for a hidden gem. What’s more, for an indie mobile RPG, it’s rather pretty as well. If you are looking for a real 3D open-world RPG, The Shadow Sun is one of a few titles on mobile that is at once playable and engaging.
The Trese Brothers have done more for core gaming on Android than any other developer. In the past we slapped their wonderful Heroes of Steel in this spot. However, since that excellent RPG has justifiably hit over 100K downloads we had to continue our search. We were happy to find that the Bros’ superb Templar Battleforce RPG makes the cut. Last check, The Trese Brothers were the brains and sweat behind all of their excellent games. Every Trese Brother game we’ve played thus far is laden with smartly-detailed, compelling gameplay. Templar Battleforce RPG is no different.
A tactical RPG that in many respects hearkens back to a bygone era, specifically games like Space Hulk, Chaos Gate and other Warhmmer 40K titles. While certain facets like the menu system could be more intuitive, the game is otherwise a deep tactical RPG. Battleforce sees you taking on missions as Templars (*whispers* Space Marines), mostly thwarting the designs of the evil insectoid Xenos. The game offers a worthy variety of Templar classes, each with its own righteous skill tree. Also of note is the solid variety of flexibly-implemented tech with which to outfit your Templars. What’s more, it offers up a host of epic-sized, smartly-designed missions. Like all Trese Brothers’ games, Battleforce is regularly refined and updated. If you are into turn-based tactical RPGs, get it.
Gameplay in Ellinia Games’ Grim Wanderings 2 can, at first, seem a bit obtuse. It is in many respects unique for a mobile RPG, and there are a lot of menus to navigate. However, once you crest that hill, you will find a surprisingly deep turn-based RPG. For one, the game offers up a whopping 37 character classes to choose from, each with their own in-depth assets, including detailed attributes, abilities and spells. As you traverse Grim’s hexagonal landscape, you’ll engage in numerous types of encounters, from a variety of NPC encounters to hosts of battles, the latter of which also play out on hexagonal grids and more often than not provide rather compelling turn-based tactical challenges.
NPC encounters are also nuanced and entertaining. Most of these unfold by way of a card mechanic, with results often influenced by character attributes and skills. If that weren’t enough, Ellinia Games has also weaved in a resource and crafting mechanic. Some resources your avatar needs for sustenance, while others can be used to craft arms and other loot. Mostly, you acquire resource hubs by defeating a territory’s garrison and thus unlocking mines and the like. In less deft hands, a game comprised of so many elements might end up unbalanced. Instead what you have with Grim Wanderings 2 is a wonderfully complex RPG that will enthrall most mobile RPG fans.
3. Dark Quest 2
Placing Brain Seal’s Dark Quest 2, a switch port, on this list was a bit of a question mark. But. It’s undoubtedly indie and at about 1K downloads, it has clearly not gotten the love it deserves. Not the most visceral of RPGs, Dark Quest 2 features rather bare bones mechanics, smallish maps and turn-based gameplay. What it lacks in thumb-bruising intensity, however, it more than makes up for with its gameplay. One layer unfolds within the confines of small medieval town where you can hire up to six characters, upgrade skills and gear, buy potions and hop into the dungeon. Successfully mastering dungeon levels is more often than not predicated on carefully choosing the right party, potions and skills. With its limited parameters, winning battles and clearing a dungeon room often feels like engaging with a puzzle. No doubt said puzzle element will turn off some RPG fans, which is a shame because there is a real joy to be found in this simple, elegant RPG.
2. 9th Dawn Series
Somewhere in the deepest recesses of our collective memories, there are, for some of us, vague recollections of a distant time when people played video games at home on sharply angular rectangular boxes. Names like Atari and Commodore come unbidden to the fore. In this time before, Lord British, AKA game designer/astronaut Richard Garriot, created what is arguably the first digital RPG, and definitely the first open-world RPG with his awesome Ultima series. Valorware’s 9th Dawn games draw inspiration from these great progenitors of the modern digital RPG. Aside from being homages to Lord British’s seminal series, the 9th Dawn games are deep, engrossing RPGs in their own right.
Both 9th Dawn I and II offer a far more streamlined experience than the Ultima titles. And though the first two are turn-based, they still manage to move at a brisk pace, and offer all of the role-playing stuff we expect from an RPG. A word must be said here, however, about the largely phenomenal 9th Dawn III, released just last month. It is in every way deeper—a host of new systems (notably crafting and deeper RPG mechanics) have been adroitly stitched into the 9th Dawn RPG schema. What’s more, it’s an overall richer and more action-oriented experience (delivered in real-time and featuring more quests and a throng of new baddies). Unfortunately, however, our reviewer ran into a save game deleting bug, unarguably the worst RPG bug ever, which is the only reason we did not place 9th Dawn III at the top of our list. That said, no doubt a patch is in the works and the title remains one the richest and most enjoyable Android indie RPGs we’ve ever played.
1. Atom RPG
Atent Games‘ Atom RPG arrived on PC sometime back in 2017 after a successful Kickstarter campaign. It dropped onto Google Play this summer with little fanfare. We were pleasantly surprised both to find it and delve into its wonderfully dark world.
Drawing clear influence from the seminal early Fallout games, it is a decidedly old school post-apocalyptic RPG. How old school you ask? The title offers rich storytelling via quests and NPCs that will talk your ears off forever if you let them. Gameplay is fair but at times awesomely unforgiving, and its superb turn-based combat can be punishingly difficult, either that or I put too many points into personality and speechcraft. To be fair it is, at the end of the day, a survival RPG. So if you are looking for something quick and light to play on your phone, this isn’t it. If, however, you are looking to enmesh yourself in a deep interactive world, uniquely set in post-apocalyptic USSR—the nukes dropped in 1986 in the world of Atom RPG—with more engaging RPG features than you could shake a stick at (And trust me here: We tried shaking a stick at the game. Nothing.), then this is your RPG. It is flat-out one of the most compelling RPGs Android has to offer.