Ten Fourth Generation RPG’s Still Worth Playing

The fourth generation, made famous by the SNES and Sega Genesis left countless memories of blazing blue hedgehogs and colored yoshi's for a ton of gamers, but the generation was also the first to prominently offer deep RPG's with great stories and deep mechanics. While twenty years have gone by, many of these games are timeless gems still playable by today's standards.

Ten Fourth Generation RPGs Still Worth Playing
The fourth generation of gaming, especially the SNES brought an abundance of RPG's. The games had far more polish and depth than most of their 8 bit counterparts, and some of these RPG's, like Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI, remain some of the best games of all time. Though SNES was the king of RPG's in the 16 bit battle, the Genesis and Game Boy had a few great RPG's and the nearly forgotten Sega CD had a couple classics itself.  

Of course, not every RPG is created equally, and some of them were only playable in Japan until later, have never been released in the west, or have not aged all that well. Each game on this list, while subjective, is a game that is still playable by today's standards and still has something to offer returning players or players looking to dig into the retro-universe of RPG's.

Most of these games can be found on modern virtual consoles or remade on later generation devices. This list is here to help you decide what classic RPG's may be worth your time and money and which may be better to pass on. 

10. Ogre Battle March of the Black Queen

Ten Fourth Generation RPG's Still Worth Playing Ogre Battle map
Picking the 10th slot was extremely hard, but Ogre Battle, developed by Quest Corporation for the SNES, was a fantastic game that played like nothing prior to it. It is one of the early real-time strategy games and blends a lot of genre's together. You usually see an overhead map filled with towns, temples, and a castle to explore and liberate. You deploy troops from your castle, give them a destination, and they automatically walk there. Liberating towns and villages give you more income and tarot cards which you can use in battle. There are secrets to find such as new recruits, items and, the different terrains dictate how well your characters can traverse the map. 

Day and night happen and you gain money each new day, but it also cost money to have units deployed. When units engage, it turns into a turn-based combat system, but you can only give basic orders for your unit to follow, which makes battles quick and allows the focus to remain on land control and overall victory strategy. The game is divided into chapters and there is stuff you can do between chapters such as change units, pick up new recruits, and save your game. Though obscure, this is a must play for almost all RPG fans.

Ten Fourth Generation RPG's Still Worth Playing Ogre Battle fight

Reasons to play

  • Unique and diverse game mechanics
  • Really fun and challenging to create winning strategies
  • No other game quite like it (outside its sequel)

Reasons to pass

  • A lot of challenge in the mid-late game
  • One battle can be very time consuming
  • Graphics are quite blurry by modern standards

9. Lufia 2 Rise of the Sinestrals

Developed by Natsume for the SNES and released in 1995, this turn-based RPG is one of the most popular cult classics of all time. The game scored well upon release but was passed over by many, yet those lucky enough to have played this game found a truly captivating, unique adventure waiting.

This game is actually a prequel to Lufia Fortress of Doom and explains the Sinestrals (evil gods) arrival. Max is the hero of the game who is "destined' to fight against the Sinestrals. The plot is not bad, but it is admittedly one that borderlines on cliche, but it does have some interesting characters developments and humorous dialogue.

Ten Fourth Generation RPG's Still Worth Playing Lufia 2 cover

What I find truly amazing about this game are the dungeons and the combat. It feels like a Final Fantasy/Zelda hybrid. Your characters have skills they can use outside of combat, which can be called upon to stun enemies on screen and solve puzzles to advance in the dungeon. The enemies move while you move, so you need to consider how many monsters there are and what patterns they use. The puzzles are really fun, starting simple, and getting quite difficult later in the game, and you need to do stuff such as hit levers, kill specific enemies in a room, and step on switches.

Also worth noting is that outside your heroes, you can get capsule monsters, which are monsters found at certain points of the game which help you in battle and can even evolve by being fed. The game has a really nice symphonic soundtrack, and while not graphically astounding, the cities and details look pretty good and are certainly nothing to scoff at.

Ten Fourth Generation RPG's Still Worth Playing Lufia 2 boss

Reasons to play

  • Unique dungeon mechanics and skills
  • Combat and loading is fast paced
  • Great soundtrack

Reasons to pass

  • Plot borders cliche
  • Puzzle solving won't be for everyone

8. Secret of Mana

Vintage Secret of Mana Trailer

Secret of Mana stands out as one of the few paragon action RPGs that could stand up to the Zelda series in both quality and timelessness. Released by Squaresoft in 1993, this game was truly unique and inspiring to later games of the genre. While the plot of Mana games has never been their strong suit, SOM features three characters brought together to bring down an empire who wishes to use the power of Mana to create a "better" world. 

The real charm of SOM comes from the environments and the combat. This game has some of the most vibrant colors used in video game history, and the attention to details in this game is eye-popping. Each environment is filled with environmental ingredients to look at such as bones littering cavern floors or colorful flowers and plant-life lining the trails that you walk upon. The water and clouds move, breathing life into the environments, and this game is one of THE most beautiful SNES games which is saying A LOT as it came out mid-generation. 

The combat system is unlike any other. You hack and slash as you would in Zelda or other action RPG's, but SOM  also has a percentage meter that tells you how powerful your attack will be. You cannot just go berserk and slice away or your attacks will be weak. Instead, this combat system focuses on timed hits and dodging enemies attacks between strikes; It all works well, and it gives SOM a unique challenge never quite emulated since.

Reason to play

  • Lush Environments 
  • Cool combat system
  • Attention to detail is incredible

Reason to pass

  •  A challenging game which will definitely hit you with some game overs. 
  • The story is a bit cryptic. 

7. Super Mario RPG

If you have never played any Mario RPG title THIS is the place to start. Not enough can be said about awesome this epic 16 bit Mario swan song is. Though the game starts like a typical Mario game, the antagonist ends up being "The Smithy Gang" who invade and endanger the Mushroom Kingdom and boot Bowser from his own castle. Mario ends up getting familiar allies such as Peach (and even Bowser) as well as a couple new friends specific to this title. While the plot is simple, the dialogue is absolutely hilarious and campy, and anybody with a sense of humor will find this game endearing.

Ten Fourth Generation RPG's Still Worth Playing Bowser's Castle

Though an RPG, almost every element from your typical Mario game is present. You can still jump on enemies to initiate combat, timing your jumps and attacks adds damage, and your spells incorporate items such as stars and shells. There are coin boxes to hit, and the game is filled with familiar mushroom kingdom characters who you will meet on your quest.

Don't let the Mario title fool you. This is a legitimate RPG with obstacles to clamber over in dungeons, bosses to fight, and cities full of magic to explore (I remember you can work as a bellhop at one point). Squaresoft helped publish this game with Nintendo, which really added to its polish.  It's an RPG that won't suck too many hours out of your free time; Stuff, like grinding and getting lost are shrunk to manageable levels making this game extremely accessible to even non-RPG players.

Ten Fourth Generation RPG's Still Worth Playing Meet Geno

Reasons to play

  • Has ALL the Mario charm you could ask for
  •  extremely accessible, 
  •  the combat is timing based and tons of fun

Reasons to pass

  • Overall a very easy RPG
  •  Very lighthearted for those who want a more serious title.

6. Lunar Silver Star and Eternal Blue

Ten Fourth Generation RPG's Still Worth Playing Luna kidnap
Of all the RPG's on the list, the Lunar games, originally released for the ill-fated Sega CD by Game Arts, are definitely some of the most obscure and hardest to find. I personally highly recommend the PSX remakes by Working Designs and there are PSP ports also available, but that being said, some enthusiasts say that the Sega CD versions are the best.

Ten Fourth Generation RPG's Still Worth Playing  Lunar 2 battle

I lump these games together because they have alike gameplay, returning characters, and are both cut from the same cloth of quality craftsmanship. Which is better is completely subjective and based on personal opinion, so I found it hard to pick one or the other for this list. The first game follows Alex and his quest to become the dragon master and save his teenage love, Luna--from one of the greatest villains of all time--Ghalleon. The second game takes place a little later and features Hiro, an avid treasure hunter, who meets a mysterious girl named Lucia, who catalyzes a quest to save their world from impending doom from Zophar. 

The plot heavily revolves around themes of responsibility, friendship, and maturity and features some of the greatest characters and dialogue in video game history. Your characters interactions will leave you laughing hysterically in your room by yourself just as often as they will induce tears of accord. The world and soundtrack are charming, and you will absolutely fall in love with this world and it's protagonists if you decide to pick these up. The combat is relatively simple, but I can't praise these games enough as they are some of my personal favorite RPGs of all time. 

Reasons to play

  • Awesome characters and dialogue with realistic, tear jerking relationships
  • The graphics and soundtrack are unique to the series and amazing. 
  • Really cool animated cut scenes help tell an epic tale 
Reasons to pass
  • May be hard to find and expensive
  • Combat system is pretty basic and some grinding required

5. Pokemon Red/Blue

Pokemon Red , Blue & Yellow Trailer for Nintendo 3DS

This is where the Pokemon craze really began. These colored cartridges thrust upon the player the mission to become a Pokemon Master by capturing all 150 Pokemon and defeating the Elite Four. Both cartridges feature some different Pokemon that are only attainable via trading with a friend. This is easily the Game Boy's most famous title, and the game still holds up rather well despite many other Pokemon entries since. 

While the original copies may be hard to come by, the games were re-released on the 3DS VC, and with the cloud system, it should be easier to transfer your Pokemon to other games than ever. What makes these games special, outside of nostalgia and being the origin of the series, is that the games only had the original 150 Pokemon. Even today, many of them are still some of the best known Pokemon, and you don't have the burden of having to capture as many Pokemon as in newer titles (though that does appeal to some).

Ten Fourth Generation RPG's Still Worth Playing Pikachu missed

Reasons to play

  • Less Pokemon to manage
  • A ton of nostalgia or good starting place in the series
  • Now supports the online Pokemon Bank

Reasons to pass

  • Gameboy only had black and white so graphics are cruder
  • Red and Blue do have later remakes
  • Very time consuming and a process to catch all 150 Pokemon

4. Zelda A Link to the Past

Now, I know some people will dispute whether Zelda is an RPG or not, but while there is an entire category of RPG's dubbed "action RPG's" made most famous BY Zelda, I felt this game was too amazing to leave off this list. To this day, some fans of the series consider this game to be the pinnacle of the franchise, and for good reason. This game, released on the SNES, followed up Zelda II Link's Adventure, and it brought the series back to the overhead view of the original game. ALTTP is quite a bit darker than it's predecessors and features a more prominent plot, revolving around Ganon escaping his prison in the dark realm and Link having to travel between the dark and light realm to save Hyrule and Zelda.

Ten Fourth Generation RPG's Still Worth Playing  Death Mountain

This game is massive and fun to explore. It has tons of scattered secrets, bigger, more involved dungeons than the previous games (especially the focus on puzzles over combat), and the world is more geographically interesting featuring places like Death Mountain, Hyrule Castle, and Skull Woods.Link is more fun to control: you gain the spin attack as well as new items such as the hookshot.This game is still awesome to this day. The graphics and gameplay hold up to modern Zelda games, and this is part of the reason A Link Between World's was created (both 2D and its sequel), and just another reason to play this gem if you haven't already.

Ten Fourth Generation RPG's Still Worth Playing Zelda map

Reasons to play

  • One of the best Zelda games
  • Cool dungeon design with fun puzzles to solve
  • A bigger world to explore with a darker atmosphere

Reasons to pass

  • You want a game where you level up and cultivate skills

3. Final Fantasy 6

Released as Final Fantasy III by Squaresoft in the west on the SNES, I am going to call it Final Fantasy VI because that is the official entry in the series as a whole since some Japanese titles didn't make it west until later. To many, this the best Final Fantasy game to date, and this game arguably added more depth to both the gameplay and narrative than any FF game to its predecessors.

Ten Fourth Generation RPG's Still Worth Playing Kefka battle

This game takes place in a technological world being dominated by an evil Empire via the use of Magitek and treachery. You follow a band of heroes formed by characters who have been a part of the empire, brainwashed by the empire's experiments, or who are rebelling against the empire (plus a few others). This game has a large cast of characters, and the story revolves around their personal struggles, and how they grow and develop alongside one another in their collective rebellion. Frankly, I have rarely played an RPG with so many characters that could be considered "main protagonists" yet still have the plot function in such a poignant, well-written fashion. 

Final Fantasy VI succeeds in every facet of gameplay: The world is expansive and full of wonder, and the combat is a refined version of the ATB with each character having their own personalized skill sets. Examples are characters like Sabin who uses "Blitz" requiring button combinations the player must remember to execute an attack or Celes who uses "Runic" to absorb the next magic spell cast against your party. This makes utilizing different characters necessary and rewarding as well as adding layers to the combat that didn't exist prior to this entry. Every character can learn magic spells by battling with certain espers (summons) equipped and gaining AP

"What's the most important thing in life? To be free of obligations! Otherwise you lose the ability to gamble." Setzer

FF6 has an airship, optional characters to recruit, and secret dungeons not required to beat the game. The game's second half is quite different than the first half (thanks to a spoiler which I will not reveal). It's a lengthy RPG, but if you have the time for it, is not only one of the best Final Fantasy games, but also one of the best RPG's of all time, and it has been re-released multiple times since the original came out in 1994.

Reasons to play

  • Gripping tale with strong characters and stark and comical hooks
  • Arguably best combat system in FF history
  • A big game giving you a lot of bang for your buck
  • Soundtrack is one of the best in the series

Reasons to pass

  • A lengthy adventure
  • Does require some grinding
  • It has cryptic moments and some hard boss battles that may deter RPG rookies

2. Shining Force 2

The Genesis seriously lacked against the tour de force that was the SNES in the RPG department, but Shining Force 2 is the one RPG that is better than almost any RPG in the SNES's arsenal. Published by Sega back in 1993, this game improved upon the first game in the series drastically. The A.I is smarter, the characters more developed, the world bigger, and the game has more overall polish. 

The plot to this game is basic (not to say bad) and fairly generic. The game really shines in its combat system and its vast array of characters to select from. This game is a tactical RPG, requiring you to move your characters in a grid system, and strategize on best how to defeat the opposing army. The battles are fast paced and addicting, and the game has neat animations used for attacks and spells. To make things more interesting, you can change out party members, promote your characters to different classes, and personalize your party to fit your play style.

Ten Fourth Generation RPG's Still Worth Playing SF2 battle

Rare for a tactical RPG, SF2 allows you to explore its overworld. There are some optional battles as well as secret characters and items to discover. Overall this game has all the intricacies of a great tactical RPG while keeping the combat fun, fast-paced, and simple to learn. Not a lot of grinding is needed, and it has a perfect difficulty ratio that forces you to think without difficulty spikes that shred your sanity, unlike some other tactics RPGs.

Reasons to play

  • Some of the best combat in RPG history
  • Fast paced with little tedium and not overly long
  • So much fun to build your army and tinker with different characters

Reasons to pass

  • The Plot is pretty basic
  • Graphically bland next to many SNES RPGs

1. Chrono Trigger

What else would it be? The magnum opus of 16 bit (maybe all) RPG's was Chrono Trigger, released by Squaresoft on the SNES in 1996. This game has it all: a lovable cast, time traveling, worlds from different eons to explore, some of the best graphics on the SNES, and one of the greatest video game soundtracks of all time.

 Ten Fourth Generation RPG's Still Worth Playing Chrono camp

Seriously, if you played then you understand, and if you haven't played, you haven't reached RPG puberty yet. The game focuses on Chrono, who gets sucked into a different time period, via a princess's pendant, and he  meets allies from the prehistoric dino-land to a fetid future, all in order to save the world from Lavos, a creature that will destroy the world unless certain aspects of history can be altered.

The game pretty much has the standard FF battle system, but there are combo attacks that change depending on which characters you have in your party, and each of your characters has a specific element of magic they can use. The game has awesome dialogue, the characters all have important backstories, and the game is captivating from the opening scene to the hard earned ending (speaking of which, the new game plus offers you a dozen plus endings you can get by playing again). Nothing bad can really be said about CT, and it has been re-released countless times over the last twenty years.

Ten Fourth Generation RPG's Still Worth Playing Lavos battle

Reasons to play

-Lifelike characters and touching stories
-Beautiful and innovative concept of time travel
-Heart grabbing soundtrack
-Aesthetic gold

Reasons to pass


1 Comment

  1. Nice article! I will take your comments about Chrono Trigger being the indication of going through RPG puberty seriously. To the emulator batman!


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