The 14 best turn-based RPGs

It's your turn. Try not to activate my traps.

Image via Square Enix

Turn-based RPGs are underrated. In addition to giving you the ability to express yourself through customization and role-playing, these types of games offer you the feeling of being a tactical genius. While real-time strategy games are great at this as well, thinking out a plan and executing it in a world of set rules and space feels much better.

Every battle or fight in the best turn-based RPGs leaves you feeling like it was unique and that you could execute different strategies every time. Additionally, they make you feel like you have control over your character or team rather than being forced to follow a path. While there are a lot of bad turn-based RPGs out there, it’s important to keep an eye out for good ones. Below, we have the best turn-based RPGs on the market that you can still try out.

Sequels and multiple entries in the same franchise will not be listed. We could fill the list with a dozen Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games, and it’s obvious some game series have been in the genre long enough to know what gamers enjoy. There are many options on this list when you’re looking for that new game to make you feel like a strategic mastermind.

Best turn-based games

14) Dragon Quest XI

Image via Square Enix

Dragon Quest XI begins with the survivor of the kingdom of Dundrasil. The survivor is an infant adopted by a family in a nearby village while the kingdom was being burned to ashes by evil monsters. This infant became a fearless soldier and now you control them. You resolve to explore your past and get revenge against those responsible for destroying your village and killing your loved ones.

You lead a party of heroes and fight enemies ranging from slimes to dragons, depending on your strength. It’s a JRPG, so expect many tropes other than the hero’s home being burned down. It’s still enjoyable to play, even when doing side missions like horse races.

13) Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions

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We could include all Final Fantasy games here, but we’re sticking with the best. The tactical fighting system introduced in Final Fantasy Tactics is still good today. Playable on mobile devices, the upgraded version is Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions. You play Ramza and decide how he will react to class fighting in the world, which really makes you think. Even though the game is fun, it constantly reminds the player the war is about who should rule and how unfair things have become for the lower classes.

12) Dragon Age: Origins

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On consoles, Dragon Age: Origins might not seem like a turn-based game, but pause and play it, and you’ll see that every attack is timed. Besides letting you lead a tactical battle, the game also has a great story. This game tells a very depressing story and is the darkest of all the Dragon Age games. If you enjoyed Dragon Age: Inquisition, don’t assume that you will enjoy the first game because the series has become much happier and more hopeful. A demonic force is attempting to destroy the world, and you must lead a defense against it. This is a true role-playing game, so be prepared to talk almost as much as you fight.

11) Fallout 2

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Fallout 2 is an older game, but it still holds up today. Players follow the role of The Chosen One, the descendant of the main character from the first game, The Vault Dweller. While Fallout 2 was already excelling as a trailblazer in turn-based combat, the story is what keeps players coming back for more. It’s funny and charming without taking away from the seriousness of the situation. The party members return in later games, so if you haven’t tried this one yet, you’re missing out.

10) Yakuza: Like a Dragon

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There is a new main character to follow in the Yakuza games, as well as a new style of combat. Due to the use of magic and nonsensical weapons, it is far from the realistic brawler combat of the Yakuza games. Even so, players can now form a team and fight together in a turn-based game that allows them to move around the battlefield and hit multiple enemies at once. It’s similar to the first Yakuza game, but if you give it a chance, you’ll enjoy it. Fans of the series may have issues with all of the changes, but the series has evolved.

9) Empire of Sin

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There is no other game that simulates the life of a mobster like Empire of Sin. You control your own mob in the game, and your story can change depending on which gangster you choose. This game does a great job of making you feel like you are fighting in the prohibition era, and you can hire gangsters to fight with you. Gangsters have different feelings for each other, and they all have different stories to tell. You also need to keep track of the large gang wars, police heat, and trading, which is a system that is done very well.

8) South Park: The Stick of Truth

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South Park: The Stick of Truth might not be as flashy as South Park: The Fractured But Whole, but it did a better job of keeping players focused on the story it was trying to tell than The Fractured But Whole. There was a sudden change from the superhero civil war theme to a more serious theme in South Park: The Fractured But Whole, but South Park: The Stick of Truth felt more focused on the story of the main character. South Park: The Stick of Truth gave players a great view of South Park while poking fun at RPG tropes with its innocent, kid-style story.

7) Valkyria Chronicles

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A unique aspect of Valkyria Chronicles is its different approach to war games. It’s a turn-based system with a third-person camera. The game involves taking turns with your opponent, moving your characters, aiming shots, and avoiding bullets. Players assume the role of a recent college graduate returning home at the onset of war. This leads the character to join the army and help fight to defend their nation. While the theme is very light-hearted, the concept of turn-based war shooters is incredibly well done.

6) Wasteland 3

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The Fallout Series was inspired by Wasteland and for a good reason. Wasteland and Fallout are more realistic versions of post-apocalyptic areas than other games because they don’t focus on sadness and drudgery. Those who live in this area don’t discuss how things were before the events every few hours; they just live there and see this as how life is. No game does a better job of making players feel like they’re part of this kind of world than Wasteland 3. There are recruitable allies and conversations to have, and you can do pretty much anything you want, but it won’t always work out.

5) Sid Meier’s Civilization VI

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Game developer Sid Meier is best known for his game Civilization, which is one of the most recognizable in the video game industry. He no longer works on them, but his name remains attached. Every entry in Sid Meier’s Civilization gets more detailed. When you begin the game, you are the leader of a nation who is a recognizable figure in that nation. As your nation grows, you can win in a variety of ways. The sixth game in the series features hexagon tiles, and the armies still face off against each other, with numbers the key to victory. Don’t trust Gandhi because he is just plotting his victory in the late game.

4) Persona 4 Golden

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High school student games may seem like they’re only for anime fans, but Persona 4 Golden is an exception. Although it has many anime tropes you need to get through, it also has a dark and deep mystery. A serial killer is on the loose, and the player must find him. If you’re not paying attention, you might miss the killer altogether and end up with a bad ending. There are many depressing themes in the game, so prepare for a real thriller.

3) Expeditions: Rome

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Expeditions: Rome would be a surprise entry to those who never played it. You play a noble whose family was betrayed in this well-made and historically accurate recreation of Rome during Julius Caesar’s early career. You can fight multiple battles, some of them on a small scale and others involving dozens of units that you must plan out before you take control. You must also train and maintain your armies because they’ll fight in large-scale wars where you give them instructions. The main story is immersive, and the smaller stories of your companions will build a relationship worth cherishing. We recommend this game to anyone who enjoys both history and turn-based strategy.

2) XCOM 2

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XCOM 2 was amazing when it was released in 2016 and is still comparable to RPGs released today. There’s so much death in this game that you’ll see it as a given unless you’re going for a perfect run, but it’s not as fun if you’re trying not to let anyone die all the time. The only downside is the campaign timer which goes down over time. This timer forces you to save scum just to keep great soldiers because losing one as the enemies get tougher would be disastrous. But the game has great combat and a storyline that makes you the rebel fighting against an oppressive force.

1) Divinity: Original Sin 2

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Divinity: Original Sin 2 is an excellent game for those who really want an old-school RPG. Your choices, good or bad, determine how the world perceives you. Dark fantasy is the setting for the story, and combat is very intuitive. Instead of just hitting enemies, you can use your environment to your advantage by throwing barrels at them or setting fire to the oil they’re standing over. The game will take you a few dozen hours to complete and is one of the best turn-based RPGs out there.