Well, it was inevitable. After making plenty of lists of the best games of each genre on the Nintendo Switch, I have now turned my eye to mobile. And I am starting with my old stomping grounds, the noble JRPG. Being a sage fellow, I know that the appeal of premium JRPGs and free-to-play JRPGs are quite different, so I’m going to be making two separate lists. I’m also making a rule that a particular franchise can only have one entry on the list, because we all know what would happen otherwise. Do note that these are simply my favorites, so if you have any that you feel should be on this list please comment below and help others find them. Oh, and the list is in no particular order. With all that said, let’s get on with it!
FINAL FANTASY VII, $15.99
Let’s get the big guns out of the way first. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the Final Fantasy games on mobile, but Final Fantasy VII remains one of the most popular in the series for good reason. The graphics may be a little quaint in the current year, but the gameplay and story are still quite enthralling. This mobile version of the game offers many quality of life improvements over the original, too. Whether you’re revisiting the game or discovering it for the first time, this is a huge adventure for your small screen.
DRAGON QUEST V, $14.99
And here’s the other elder statesman of the genre. I’ve chosen Dragon Quest V as its representative because it has my favorite story in the series, but also because it plays great on mobile. As with Final Fantasy, you can’t really go wrong with any of these. Just some good old meat-and-potatoes JRPG fun with a sharp localization, terrific monster designs, and some surprisingly poignant moments. You don’t need to play any of the other games to enjoy this one, either. Hop in and get ready for the ride.
CHRONO TRIGGER (Upgrade Ver.), $9.99
Alright, one more obligatory mention before we get into some other things. Chrono Trigger is widely considered one of the best games in the history of the genre, and if you don’t know why I’ll make the bold assumption that you haven’t played it yet. The mobile version of the game gives you a handy, affordable way to dig into this rollicking time-traveling adventure. Sure, that filter over the lovely pixel art is a bit of a bummer, but your eyes will adjust soon enough. You’ll still be hungry, though.
Allow me one little cheat on the whole premium thing, because when it comes to exclusive and premium JRPGs on mobile, it’s impossible to put Hironobu Sakaguchi’s Apple Arcade extravaganza Fantasian in the corner. It’s unique, striking diorama visuals, outstanding soundtrack, and clever gameplay mechanics help bolster a somewhat subdued story well enough to carry the game through to its dynamite conclusion. While at present you can only play this game by subscribing to Apple Arcade, one can only hope it will see a more conventional release at some point on the platform.
SaGa SCARLET GRACE : AMBITIONS, $8.99
I know, I know. I’m not trying to make this entire list Square Enix or Square Enix-adjacent games. But the publisher’s skill in this genre can’t be denied, and SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions is a great example of why. This isn’t the usual sort of JRPG experience, taking on more of a tabletop feel at times. But the combat system is amazingly designed, with lots of complex bits to learn and make use of. Your investment in mastering this sometimes-brutal affair will be rewarded by absolutely breaking the game over your knee, and if that isn’t a great feeling I don’t know what is.
Lunar Silver Star Story Touch, $6.99
This one is an App Store oldie, but it’s definitely a goodie. Lunar was one of the few shining diamonds in the SEGA-CD’s line-up, but it didn’t seem to get its true due in the West until its release on the PlayStation as Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete. This mobile version is based on that port, with new voices and a fresh localization drawn from the PlayStation Portable remake. However you play it, Lunar offers up a heartwarming story filled with adventure, romance, and tragedy. While the gameplay feels a little basic at times, the story and characters are surprisingly rich.
Monster Hunter Stories, $19.99
Capcom doesn’t wander into the RPG saloon all that often, but when it does, it does some fine work. Monster Hunter Stories, which is also available as part of Apple Arcade, was the publisher’s attempt to make a more conventional RPG spin-off of the extraordinarily popular Monster Hunter series. This is hands-down one of the most beautiful JRPGs on the platform, and it has rewarding gameplay to match those production values. The story is a bit on the lighter side, but if you’re looking for something with vague Pokemon vibes crossed with the cool creatures of Monster Hunter, you’ll find a lot to like here.
CHAOS RINGS â…¢, $19.99
Back to Square Enix again? Well, I figured it was about time for another more-or-less mobile-exclusive release. Chaos Rings III represents Square Enix’s last big premium JRPG designed specifically for mobile, and it sure went out with a bang. With excellent graphics, intriguing gameplay mechanics, and a lot of ways to keep you coming back outside of the main story, Chaos Rings III went in a very different direction from its predecessors but manages to be memorable in its own right.
Phantasy Star Classics, Free
While this one is free to try, you can do a premium unlock. I’m counting it. This app allows you to play Phantasy Star II, Phantasy Star III, and Phantasy Star IV. They all have their merits, though if I had to pick one to lift above the others, it would be Phantasy Star IV. One of the better JRPGs of the 16-bit era, it’s a superb game with great characters, a surprisingly cinematic presentation, and a snappy pace.
Battle Chasers: Nightwar, $9.99
I don’t want to crack open the long-running debate about the J in JRPG, but I can’t leave Battle Chasers: Nightwar off this list. If you enjoy the kind of gameplay found in classic JRPGs, you’ll probably get into this stylish, well-made take on the genre. Although it is based on a comic, you don’t need to have any prior knowledge to slide into this game and start enjoying its vibrant world and characters. An excellent game that plays nicely on mobile.
And there you go! While this list does lean heavy on the classics, that just happens to be one of the areas where mobile gaming has its strongest showing. If you’ve got some suggestions for other awesome premium JRPGs on mobile, make sure to post them in the comments. Don’t worry, we’ll be doing lists for tactical RPGs, action-RPGs, and more in the future. If it’s a big name and you don’t see it here, chances are it will fall into one of those buckets later. Thanks for reading!