With hundreds of games launching a week on Apple’s iDevices, it would be impossible to catch every stray crumb of delicious gaming that falls from the Appstore’s maw. As such, I wanted to present a few choice picks from each console but the list soon grew out of hand. So, aware of the rather large task I’ve just awarded myself, I’ve broken down each platform’s picks into genre top lists to give me more freedom to elaborate on my decisions and a much more generous number of games to choose from. I’ll begin with possibly my favourite genre, the RPG, since the iOS scene has been let down recently by a large quantity of free-to-play cookie cutter disappointments.
It’s a difficult genre to classify, with “RPG features” being one of the most popular taglines to slap on a new release to garner interest. Because of this, there will most likely be some disagreement about whether all the mentioned games fit into the category or are worthy of acclaim – this is absolutely fine and I encourage anyone to post their suggestions or comments, it’ll be great to hear some other views on the topic. Without further ado then and in no particular order, 10 RPGs that were criminally under-appreciated.
1. Alter Ego
A fantastic remake of the 1984 text adventure, it essentially takes The Sims and transforms it into an interactive gamebook. From the very moments of your birth to the final seconds of life, every moment is a decision with meaningful impacts and heartbreaking story-telling. It’s very easy to become attached to your avatar as they love and live, and with each playthrough feeling remarkably unique, it never becomes a chore to begin again. If you can handle the sparse visuals and arguably high entry cost then you’ll find one of the most captivating games I’ve ever played
If there’s ever a sub-genre of RPGs that I feel is under-represented, then it’s first person dungeon crawlers ala Dungeon Master. Undercroft captures the feel perfectly and Rake in Grass do a phenomenal job adding humour and depth to the world inside. The quest is challenging, lengthy and incredibly free with no hidden charges whatsoever. It might not have the epic scale that the better known The Quest series has but even the most cynical would be hard-pushed to turn down a freebie of this quality.
3. Gurk III – the 8-bit RPG
A love letter to Ultima and other classic RPGs, Gurk III makes no apologies for appearing archaic. Underneath the cellphone-game exterior is a brutal tactical adventure with more than enough personality of its own to elevate it above a mere homage. Offering days of gameplay that never gives you an easy pass, it’s both fantastic value for money and a genre classic regardless.
QuestLord bears many similarities to Undercroft, mostly owing to the classics they draw influence from but personally, I find the visuals in this game to be far more appealing. Intelligent, humourous and rewarding adventuring awaits you in a lengthy and charming game. With some great little touches such as starting off in unique locales depending on your racial decision it still manages to surprise despite the age old setup.
DUNGEONy oozes personality. From the sweet and simple pixelised visuals to the unique gameplay, it never feels trite. Bordering more on being a puzzle than the roguelike it would suggest it is from first glance, a lot of the enjoyment is from figuring out how everything works. Whilst it can be a touch too random, there is so much about the game that wants you to love it that it can be hard to come away without becoming besotted.
6. Isle of Bxnes
I make no bones (see what I did there?) about my love for roguelikes, generally they’re the black sheep of the RPG family; a diamond in the rough that initially appears only unwelcoming, traditional and stubborn. Isle of Bxnes is no exception but also brings some stunning visuals, an interesting tribe mechanic and a true sense of fear. Somewhat flawed (the controls can be hit or miss) it’s still one of the more ambitious iOS titles available and I genuinely adore it.
7. Mysterious Castle
A roguelike in a more traditional vein, Mysterious Castle still brings a few interesting features to the table. Whilst it feels rather homebrew, being able to construct a party of up to 9 from a selection of 15 different races is a delight. There’s a greater sense of exploration in the overworld than most other game’s dingy, generic dungeons and the strategy involved in managing multiple party members keeps combat fresh. Some may find the UI a little fiddly but going in with an open-mind can yield some great times.
Irreverent humour, procedurally generated quests and a perfect bite-sized delivery; MicroVentures is arguably one of the finest roguelikes on any platform. It’s entirely free with no ads or IAPs and the randomised content ensures near limitless gameplay. Despite each adventure being only a few minutes long, it’s kept interesting with hilarious dialogue, plenty of loot and some awesome bosses. It might look like rather humble but there’s a lot to shout about.
FireRabbit’s post-apocalyptic adventure does a fantastic job of capturing the tension of dwindling supplies and the weight of harrowing decisions. The combat may be a little basic for some but it’s weighed up by tough choices, trainable statistics and a greater freedom than most gamebooks. With more options available than manageable in a single playthrough and certain options requiring training in different skills, it’s refreshing to see replayability a considered factor.
10. Sword and Glory
Sword and Glory sells itself on visuals alone, pulling off the black and white adventure aesthetic before Betrayer had been conceptualised. Combined together in an incredibly well realised world by winding plots and gore that would fit well in Game of Thrones, you get an impressive title that straddles the line between RPG, gamebook and hack and slash. As a free game it manages to be fair with IAPs, offering advantages but not cheats for your money whilst still providing alternate means at gaining the same power without spending real money.
King Cashing 2, Dungeon Plunder, Tales of the Adventure Company, Xenome Episode 1, Doom II RPG and Coldfire Keep.