The Ten Best Android Indie RPGs
For many, the premise behind a list of the best Android RPGs amounts to a contradiction in terms. Most of us who work and play in the mobile gaming sphere do in fact understand that our platform of choice is the red-haired stepchild of the gaming industry. Believe it or not, if you dig down a level deeper into the sub-cellar of small one, two-man indie dev teams, you have a subgenre that is the village idiot of the gaming industry.
Thing is, as with the best social misfits, some genuinely compelling stuff has reared its woolly head out of the depths of gaming’s social underbelly. And for those of us who like to tap away at a game that has some breadth and depth, there are a small handful of smartly nuanced mobile indie RPGs. We should add here that not all of the games on our seminal list are the product of basement developers. They are, nonetheless, indie RPGs that have not gotten the love they deserve. More importantly, however, while we do aim to laud the efforts of indie developers, our latest edition of the Ten Best Android RPGs You Never Heard of is for you. Enjoy.
If you are reading this, you likely don’t mind something less than bleeding edge graphics. Some of you might even enjoy a throwback to the good ole’ days of 8 bit graphics. If so, you’ll find Quest Lord’s beautiful old school visuals charming. Quest Lord offers up a large detailed open world RPG. One developed in its entirety by the one man team of Eric Kincaid. Quest Lord provides a huge over and underworld, a compendium of monsters and piles of loot. And it tells a fun story to boot. Even if you are not an old school fanboy, you’ll find a lot to love in this old school title.
Also built by a one man team, Emmanuel Salva Cruz’s Crystal Story, started life as browser game. One successful enough to warrant a mobile port and a sequel. Aside from some generic dialogue, the games are a blast. The Crystal Story games are Brimming with places to explore, quests, side quests and combat opportunities. The games also features huge assemblages of baddies, bosses, mini-bosses and loot. To top it off, the JRPG-style combat is nuanced and engrossing. There are ton of games on the Play Store developed by one man teams. There are however only a handful of gems that are genuinely well-made games. Crystal story sits firmly in the latter category.
In the misty dawn of video games when people played games at home on IBM 5150s and Commodore 64s, Lord British (AKA Richard Garriot) created what was arguably the first CRPG. Many of the trappings of modern day RPGs began with the Ultima series. Besides being homages to Ultima, 9th Dawn I and II are superb indie RPGs in their own right. While turn-based, 9th Dawn combat still manages to feel fast-paced. You get to choose from three standard fantasy classes: archer, mage and knight. The titles leveling is balanced and moves at a brisk pace. And of course, the game contains all the bells and whistles one expects from a well-made RPG.
There are few AAA games that create the impression that you have immersed yourself in a living world in the way that Half Geek’s Nomads of the Fallen Star does. Nomads features a dynamic economy in which you can trade and grow rich. What’s more, its beasties and rival factions evolve in number and power and can be seen in constant movement about the surface of its gameworld. The game also features some excellent turn-based tactical combat, even if its parameters are somewhat limited. If that weren’t enough, the game features a crafting system, lots of loot and a singularly original premise. You lead a party across a world in the throes of being subjugated by survivors of a crashed colony ship. Which is as cool as it sounds.
Dungeon Crawlers’ goofy second generation 3D graphics may turn some away. Its utter lack of innovation may turn off others. Said naysayers, however, will be losing out. Ayopa Games’ Dungeon Crawlers is a thoroughly fun turn-based RPG. The title’s fantasy characters and storyline are a thinly-veiled homage to Ghost Busters. Honestly, the game’s vibe is overall pretty loopy with a lot of eye-rolling dad humor. However, like the best Dad humor, it’s kind of enjoyable. What’s more, its leveling and turn-based combat are smart, challenging and well-balanced. If you are looking for something to scratch a turn-based RPG itch, it’s definitely a good place to start.
Redshift Games’ The Quest started life way back in 2006 as a game made exclusively for palm devices and Pocket PCs. Since that time it’s been revamped in high definition and ported to Mac, PC, iOS and Android. Despite its port-crossed longevity, the game sits at around 10K downloads on Google Play. Something we consider rather sinful. While it’s 2D, turn-based and features old-school grid-based movement, the game is brimming with the kind of open-world RPG trappings one expects from a Bethesda title. It features a vast open gameworld, a multi-faceted leveling system, an alchemy system, challenging combat and a ton of storied quests. While its sprite-based visuals may feel dated for some, we found The Quest’s faux 3D, like the game itself, to be a beautiful remnant of a bygone age.
Ossian Studios’ The Shadow Sun is the kind of game you would expect from a group of developers who worked on the Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights series. While small in scope, it’s a bona fide 3D open-world RPG that features a cool story and rich character customization. For an indie mobile RPG, it’s awfully pretty as well, featuring a bevy of baddies to slay and locales to explore. If you are into open world RPGs, it is one of a few options on mobile that is both playable and engaging.
A list like this would hardly be complete without a game from the Trese Brothers. The bros have been a godsend to those looking to play core games on mobile. Last I checked the three brothers Trese were the entirety of the brains and hard work behind all of their titles, each of which are chock-full of great ideas and rich, compelling gameplay. Heroes of Steel is no different.
A turn-based RPG, Heroes is built on an awesome premise. After a cataclysmic war of the Gods, the last remnants of humanity have taken refuge in a vast underground labyrinth known as the Underdeep. Somehow, something evil has found its way in. Which means it’s up to you and your party of badasses to toss said evil a whuppin. Each of the game’s eight characters comes replete with generous and dynamic skill sets that play out finely in the game’s challenging combat. Like all Trese Brother’s games, Heroes is regularly refined and updated. If you’re reading this with interest, pick this one up.
As a port from the Switch, placing Brain Seal’s Dark Quest 2 on this list was bit of a question mark at first. However, it’s genuinely indie and has not gotten the love it deserves on mobile. With its bare bones mechanics, small maps and turn-based gameplay, Dark Quest 2 is not the most visceral RPG. However, what it lacks in thumb-mashing intensity, it more than makes up for with its excellent gameplay.
One layer of the game takes place in a small town where you can hire new characters (there are six to choose from), upgrade your arms and skills, buy potions and enter the dungeon. Successfully mastering levels in that game’s dungeon layer is often predicated on carefully choosing the right party members, potions and skills. Often enough, winning a battle or clearing a dungeon room feels like engaging with a puzzle. Some RPG fans may blench at Dark Quest 2’s puzzle-like element, which is a shame because there is real joy to be found in this simple, elegant RPG.
In terms of gameplay, the Little Killerz’ Illyria games are the lovechild of Disciples and Oregon Trail. I know… I had no idea either but apparently it happened. At once a survival sim and an old school Western RPG, with JRPG-style combat, the Illyria series provides some of the most original and engaging gameplay available on Android. There are three Illyria titles, all of them well worth your time: Tales of Illyria: Fallen Knight, Tales of Illyria: Beyond the Iron Wall and Tales of Illyria: Destinies. With Destinies, which is our favorite of the lot, Little Killerz managed to transform the game into an open world title.
Little Killerz, headed up by developer Chad Mannicia, have developed an indie RPG series for the ages with the Illyria series. While they play in part like immersive survival titles, they also hit all of the RPG sweet spots. Each of the Illyria games feature engaging combat, skill and loot systems, rich world-building, interesting stories, with all of it playing out within the framework of managing randomized encounters as your party travels the open roads of Illyria. It’s a great indie title by any measure and far and away one of the most innovative and compelling RPGS you can play on mobile.