This guest article, on the Best Turn-Based RPGs for Nintendo Switch, was submitted by Marcello Cacace of Turn Based Lovers.
Turn-based games have been a staple of Nintendo consoles since the beginning. Fire Emblem got its start on the NES and has been going strong ever since. The SNES and Game Boy Advance ushered in golden ages for JRPGs and tactical games, respectively. Pokemon remains the biggest gaming franchise in the world. It’s no surprise, then, that developers of turn-based games flock to Nintendo.
The Switch is an ideal console for turn-based games, combining power and portability under a trusted brand. 2021 had several true gems within the genre, so Switch owners are spoiled for choices for their next turn-based obsession. Over at Turn-Based Lovers, we spent a lot of time with these games over the past year – here are our picks for the best of the best for the Switch in 2021.
Artisan Studios brought together a stellar team for Astria Ascending, with a combined resume including Final Fantasy, Nier: Automata, and Bravely Default. As you can expect from a list like that, the result is a JRPG with a deep storyline, unique characters to level up, and jaw-dropping visuals. Astria Ascending has a more mature narrative than many other games, trading out the usual cast of optimistic teenagers for a group of complex adult heroes who know they have to sacrifice everything to save the world.
Everything about Astria Ascending is gorgeous, from its vibrant backgrounds to lovingly-designed characters and monsters – all of which are hand-drawn. If you can dock your Switch and play this game in 4K, do so without hesitation.
Cris Tales is an indie title filled to the brim with charm. Mix Chrono Trigger with Valkyrie Profile and throw in a dash of Persona 5, and you’ll end up with this delicious, original delight. The protagonist Crisbell can alter the flow of time, something that has applications both in and out of combat. By helping Crisbell to master her powers as a Time Mage, you’ll be able to see the potential consequences of your actions.
Cris Tales has beautiful, stylized characters and environments that blend the best parts of anime and Western cartoons. This combined with the veteran voice cast brings the player back to their favorite Saturday-morning adventures. Cris Tales is a game JRPG fans won’t want to miss.
Combats will remember you to the classics of the genre
If you’re looking for a game that throws back to the GBA era of Fire Emblem, then Rise Eterna has what you’re looking for. While it’s a bit darker than the escapades of Lyn and Roy, Rise Eterna nails the gameplay, look, and feel of those games with a style all its own. The addition of a crafting system and secrets scattered liberally throughout the campaign add the kind of depth that modern gamers expect.
The music is top-notch, and the game’s unique skill-based progression system makes it more than just a level grind. Characters can even learn skills that allow them to synergize with their comrades, setting the stage for big combos in the late game.
With its extensive roster of popular characters, it always seemed kind of odd that League of Legends didn’t branch out too far from its MOBA roots. In 2021 that all changed with the release of the hit animated series Arcane and the RPG Ruined King. What could easily have been a cash-grab is instead a fully-developed, visually-stunning game.
Ruined King does an excellent job of planting its flag, building on the League of Legends setting and providing turn-based combat that is inspired by, yet wholly separate from, its parent game. Even if you’ve never touched League of Legends or Teamfight Tactics before, Ruined King is a great way to explore the setting Riot has been working on all these years.
CURIOUS EXPEDITION 2
Curious Expedition 2 lets you set off in search of parts unknown. After the appearance of mysterious islands as if from nowhere, the race is on to recover dazzling artifacts for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris! Each expedition is a roguelike journey, ensuring that no two runs are the same.
Curious Expedition 2 has numerous features that make it a great pick-up-and-play game, from alternate game modes to weekly team competitions. It also looks fantastic, evoking classic comics like Tintin – the spirit of which the game captures wonderfully. The dice-based mechanics are easy to understand but still provide plenty of challenge – and really, how many games let you battle a T-rex in a forest of giant mushrooms after negotiating with a village of sentient moles?
MONSTER HUNTER STORIES 2
The Monster Hunter series has something of a reputation for being hardcore – players who don’t “git gud” often find themselves torn to shreds by the gargantuan beasts they’re supposed to be hunting. The spinoff series, Monster Hunter Stories, allows players to visit the world Capcom has created in the form of an RPG, obviating the need to master dodge rolls.
This second entry in Monster Hunter Stories, subtitled Wings of Ruin, puts you in the role of a Rider on a quest to tame (and, of course, hunt) monsters across the land. The combat is still challenging, with some beasts able to one-shot an incautious player, but those who prefer RPGs to action games should have little trouble adapting.
VOICE OF CARDS
Voice of Cards: The Isle Dragon Roars is a new game from Nier creator Yoko Taro that tells an intricate fantasy story entirely via a deck of cards. From story decisions to combat, everything is done by selecting a card presented by the game or playing strategically from your hand. It’s such a simple idea that works so well that it can easily be adapted for other stories… which is why the sequel, Voice of Cards: The Forsaken Maiden is scheduled to be released this month.
While you won’t need to play The Isle Dragon Roars to enjoy The Forsaken Maiden as the two have separate storylines, this is an innovative title that belongs in any RPG fan’s collection. That goes double if you’re into tabletop games, a genre from which Voice of Cards takes heavy inspiration.
REVERIE KNIGHTS TACTICS
The debut title from Brazilian studio 40 Giants Entertainment, Reverie Knights Tactics puts players in command of a small squad on a rescue mission in a high-magic fantasy world. With snappy visual-novel dialogue and an alignment system that affects your available skills, the game is a real treat to play. The hand-drawn visuals are all animated frame-by-frame, giving the game the so-called “illusion of life” that only this old-school animation technique can provide.
Character and resource management is a sub-game of its own in Reverie Knights Tactics; nobody recovers HP or MP between battles except in rare story-based circumstances, so a pyrrhic victory might be cause to try a mission over and hope for a better result. Most pickups that can be found during battle provide only minor healing but can be combined to create better restoratives at camp. Reverie Knights Tactics is a gorgeous game with just the right amount of challenge.
SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI V
For JRPG fans, the words Shin Megami Tensei are synonymous with challenging, hardcore gameplay. Shin Megami Tensei V is no different, crawling with brutal bosses and side-quests aplenty. As the foretold Nabohino, the player will capture, fuse, and slay demons to end the eternal struggle between Law and Chaos.
Despite its unforgiving nature, Shin Megami Tensei V is a quality game. There is a vast swathe of ruined Tokyo and the immortal realms beyond to explore, and the challenges never seem unfair – even after your third party wipe. If you’re looking for a Pokemon-style game for mature audiences only, SMT5 is the way to go.
Chances are, you’ve heard your PC gamer friends extolling the virtues of Disco Elysium at length for a few years now. If you still haven’t picked up this mystery-solving RPG masterpiece, the Final Cut edition of the game is available for the Switch at last. With its open-world gameplay and unparalleled player choice, the best way to describe Disco Elysium is simply to say, “play it and see.”
With dozens of perfect or near-perfect reviews, Disco Elysium is the kind of game that will inspire future developers. While it’s not technically a new game in 2021, its long-awaited Switch release is as good a reason as any to finally pull the trigger and see what all the fuss is about.