The 10 best tactical RPGs
Tactical RPGs are the meat and potatoes of the video game diet. Not always flashy and exciting at first glance for those who may not be familiar with the genre, but they’re often one of the most satisfying meals to sink your teeth into. From controlling Viking armies to repelling alien invasions to fighting in a fake World War II, there’s a wide world of experiences to be had in this genre and we’ve selected the 10 best. Here is our list of the top 10 tactical RPGs of all time.
The 10 best tactical RPGs
10. Decide differently
Stunningly stylish, atmospheric and challenging, with a dark and complex story that only gradually comes into focus, Othercides noir Lovecraftian world and battles are inimitable. Roguelike elements and a bittersweet sacrifice mechanic mean you form strong bonds with your “daughters,” even as you know many of them might not make it. And in some cases, you may have to decide who lives and who dies.
Enemy behavior is deterministic, but the variety of enemies and the situations in which you face them make each map a satisfying tangle to unfold. The scary bosses show this best. Othercide is the kind of tactical RPG that neatly weaves strong mechanical and aesthetic ideas into something hauntingly beautiful. It’s an excellent example of what this genre has become in recent years.
9. Triangle strategy
The newest game on our list, Triangle Strategy has quickly made a name for itself with its challenging gameplay, beautiful 2.5D pixel art, and story of political intrigue. Not content with just tackling classic turn-based RPGs with Octopath Traveler, Square Enix has created this spiritual successor to classic tactical games, focusing on making sure your decisions matter both on and off the battlefield.
Launched into a new age of war after a long period of fragile peace, Triangle Strategy begins like many others in the genre, but quickly differentiates itself with a branching path and a strong focus on the narrative. While the gameplay can seem a little unforgiving at first, accrued XP carries over even after failed missions in a move somewhat novel for the genre, so you don’t have to bang your head against a difficulty wall for too long. Just bring some popcorn. You will be in these cutscenes for a while!
8. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
Path of Radiance will always hold a special place in our hearts for bringing Fire Emblem back to consoles and releasing the first FE for consoles in the West since the series began in 1990. But its impact is more important than that. Path of Radiance stayed true to the core game systems of its predecessors like the weapon triangle, but improved on everything from the skill system to combat flow.
Its innovations and tweaks have influenced every Fire Emblem game ever since. The battle preparation and base screens added important story details and character interactions, while expanded boost and rescue functions made for more strategic combat, and a bonus intelligent reward system kept the battles going by setting turn limits and specifying specific sub-goals.
If you only know Path of Radiance because it introduced the world to Ike (later Smash Bros. fame), you’ll find a criminally underplayed strategy RPG that’s just as rewarding today as it was when GameCube owners made it surprised in 2005.
7. The Banner Saga
The Banner Saga represents its entire series on this list in a way few other games do. The entire trilogy works as a beautiful whole, giving weight and meaning to every difficult decision and branching path you choose along the frosty road. The Banner Saga offers a cold and hard journey filled with challenging tactical battles and mind-bending decisions that often feel more like mitigating disaster than trying to win outright.
The Banner Saga also stands out for its Nordic setting and incredible aesthetic – both in its visual artistry and its fantastic music. Its world is as punishing as it is breathtaking, and the tactical choices you’re given matter not only in the moment you ensure you make it into the next fight, but also in the great tapestry that defines the overarching story of the series in the games depicts the consequences.
While all three entries in The Banner Saga are fantastic tactical RPGs, we ultimately chose the first game that deserved a spot on this list. The three games are so interconnected – and this interconnectivity is why the franchise needs to be recognized as a whole – that it would be a disservice to developer Stoic Studio’s work to start anywhere but at the beginning.
6. Valkyria Chronicles
The concept of Valkyria Chronicles is strange to describe. It’s a turn-based tactics game full of thoughtful decision-making, but you’ll also have to dodge enemy fire in real-time while positioning your troops and actually aiming the sights before firing. It has a heavy story that isn’t afraid to touch on the darkest parts of WWII, but this story is told in an alternate reality full of magic and JRPG melodramas.
Its battles are filled with intriguing puzzles to solve, and it’s a real treat to get closer to your squad on and off the battlefield. And while Valkyria Chronicles 4 may have improved and refined its combat in meaningful ways, the original’s excellent story continues to help it stand out to this day.
5. Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance
The long-running Disgaea series is known for its incredible depth, quirky anti-hero characters, and gorgeous anime art style. For nearly 20 years, the series has remained consistently entertaining, so narrowing down the entry that deserves a spot on this list hasn’t been an easy task. For the most part, each sequel kept the greatness of the previous entry while adding their own new tricks and twists. That’s why we chose Disgaea 5, probably the culmination of the series… and Disgaea 6 is widely viewed as a misstep.
With systems upon systems upon systems to master and an entire random dungeon to battle your way through in EVERY ITEM IN THE GAME, Disgaea 5 is a tactical RPG that you can play for years. It’s the biggest and best looking in the series.
4. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Whether you preferred the older, tactical-heavy Fire Emblem entries or the newer handheld titles with streamlined features, Fire Emblem: Three Houses has become a melting pot of everything great about the series. Three Houses offers an unprecedented level of customization and automation to allow every player to get what they wanted out of a tactical RPG. Players can choose which side to ally with, recruit the allies that perform best, and fully customize their skill and skill growth – or let the game take care of the nitty-gritty details and let you race in strategy battles where it’s not It’s all about sweeping battlefields and dark catacombs alike.
Its greatest achievement was providing an immersive and engaging experience no matter what choices you made – from dramatic story beats to the most detailed lesson planning for your students-turned-soldiers. Three Houses set the bar so high that it’s hard to imagine the series going in any other direction.
3. Tactical Ogre: Let’s stick together
Although Tactics Ogre was the predecessor to the more popular Final Fantasy Tactics, it never got the traction in the West that fans believe it deserves. This second game in the Ogre Battle series originally debuted on Super Famicom in Japan, and the PSP remake makes a few changes to the original, including reducing the difficulty and adding the Chariot tarot system that lets you battle up to a rewind at a certain point to try out a different strategy, which is a godsend as the fights are tough and can last quite a while.
The remastered score adds gravity to the fantasy setting, and character art and dialogue is still top-notch, if very classically flavored. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is ambitious enough that it sometimes threatens to break the confines of the PSP’s small screen and control system, but it’s definitely an adventure worth experiencing.
Knowing that each round could be the last for your favorite soldier if your plans go awry adds incredible excitement and atmosphere to XCOM 2: War of the Chosen’s underdog battle to overthrow an alien occupation of Earth. Building on the streamlined (but still deep) tactical combat and cover systems of its predecessor, it allows you to create custom squads of specialized soldiers whose abilities can work together to destroy even the toughest targets before they can fire a shot .
Of course, the fact that even a 99% hit chance isn’t a sure thing means you’ll always need a backup plan, and its randomized map layouts add an element of unpredictability to it. With its expansion adding three customizable Chosen boss characters and special recruitable soldier classes, XCOM 2 becomes a virtually endless abyss of exciting tactical challenges.
With a new localization, added guest characters, new cutscenes, and new profession classes, Final Fantasy Tactics’ re-release of War of the Lions adds an incredible amount of value to an already classic game. The rich story, fantastic music, and deep gameplay of Final Fantasy Tactics thrive in a portable format, and the setting of Ivalice, created in 1997, is still being used for new Final Fantasy titles today, 25 years later.
While the sequels Final Fantasy Tactics Advance 1 and 2 followed on the Gameboy Advance and Nintendo DS, they never quite matched their big brother’s heights as leaner character development and an annoying judge system diluted what made the original so special. Dark, triumphant and still unique, Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions earns its place as our best tactical RPG of all time.
https://www.ign.com/articles/the-10-best-tactics-rpgs The 10 best tactical RPGs