Posted: Nov 24 2014
by: Neal Haworth

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Ultimate Guide To Nintendo and SNES Role-Playing Games (RPGs)

Role-playing games (RPGs) have come a long ways over the years. Some of the modern-day leaders of this genre including the engrossing dragon-slaying epic Skyrim, and the hell-bound dungeon crawler Diablo III. However, most of the RPGs we play today didn't just originate out of thin air, they were inspired from early Nintendo and Super Nintendo games. Here, we'll take a look at some of the early games that helped shape the video game industry into what it is today.

Final Fantasy

If you're someone who enjoys role playing games, then you've probably played at least one the games in the long line of Final Fantasy titles. These games have spanned across 18 different gaming platforms (yes there are that many) in almost three decades. The very first Final Fantasy was originally launched for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) on December 18, 1987.

If you didn't have the opportunity to play this groundbreaking game, you missed out on one of the greatest games of all time. When you first start a new game in Final Fantasy, you must select a party of 4 characters from 6 different classes – fighter, thief, black mage, white mage, red mage and black belt. The gameplay is a traditional turn-based RPG system where the player commands the actions for his party, such as attack, magic, use potion, or run away.

The story of Final Fantasy isn't groundbreaking when compared to today's RPGs; you control a party of four who must restore balance to the decaying world by relighting elemental crystals. Nonetheless, Final Fantasy is an engrossing game that will have you battling Ogres for hours in hopes of saving up enough gold to purchase a Silver Sword.

Final Fantasy III

IGN ranked Final Fantasy III as the number one RPG of all time, which is pretty impressive to say the least. The SNES and PlayStation versions have sold nearly three and a half million copies worldwide, plus an additional 750,000 copies via the Japanese Final Fantasy Collection and the North American Final Fantasy Anthology.

Final Fantasy III features a jaw-dropping fourteen playable characters, each of whom has a special ability. Locke, one of the game's main characters, can attempt to steal from enemies. When this special ability is used on certain enemies, it can be yield highly rewarding weapons, armor, relics and other valuables.

Originally launched in 1994 for SNES, Final Fantasy III is arguably the greatest game of the series. It's set in a steampunk-esque world, where a group of rebels must band together to fight the imperial dictatorship. As the story progresses, a new villain emerges: General Kefka, who aims to release powerful magic-wielding Espers and destroy the world.

Dragon Quest

While most people were introduced to turn-based RPGs with Final Fantasy, a game called Dragon Warrior was actually released earlier. In Dragon Warrior, you embark on a journey to save the princess, defeat the evil dragon, and of course save the world. Like most RPG's, Dragon Warrior features loads of dungeons, monsters, items and a rich world for the player to explore. The Dragon Warrior franchise was extremely successful and sever sequels and spin-offs followed the release of the original.

Chrono Trigger

In 1995, Square released a legendary RPG called Chrono Trigger for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) platform. This game featured the traditional turn-based enemy battles, but with a twist – there was no cut-screen action that transitioned the player from the world into a battle. Various monsters and enemies would appear on screen and then the game would automatically force the battle. This was a fresh new concept which no other RPG had done up until now.

The plot in Chrono Trigger takes the player and his party through various time periods, including the prehistoric era with dinosaurs, medieval era, present day, and the future by using a time machine. The ultimate goal is to stop the evil villain Lavos from destroying the world.

While all of these features are innovative and attractive to gamers, perhaps the most notable is the multiple game ending. Depending on how the game is played, there could be one of a dozen or more different endings displayed at the end of the game.

Secret of Mana

Another famous RPG for the SNES is Secret of Mana. This game, released in 1993, featured real-time battles instead of the traditional turn-based play. However, it also introduced an innovative Ring Command system, which allowed players to pause during battle to heal, cast spells, change weapons, or use items.

Upon starting a game, the player takes control of the hero who pulls a mystical sword out of a stone. After pulling the sword, the hero inadvertently released monsters throughout the world and must find a way to stop them. The plot takes the player through various continents, picking up two other members along the way.

One of the greatest features in Secret of Mana is the multiplayer option, which allowed other players to take control of one of the two other members in the party. Unfortunately, if you’re just starting the game, you wont have this option, as the players haven’t been discovered yet. Once the other two members have jointed your party, however, you can give your friends a controller to join in on the action.

Secret of Mana was re-released on the Nintendo Wii, Android, and iOS platforms.

Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past

We really can't talk about classic RPGs without mentioning Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past. Originally released in 1992 on SNES (North American and Europe), it centers around a young boy named Link as he embarks on an epic journey to save the land of Hyrule by defeating the evil pig-looking Ganon and his seven descendants of the Sages. If you're familiar with Legend of Zelda I and II, you're probably well aware of the gameplay changes made to this third installment of the series. When Link swings his sword in A Link To The Past, it travels in an arc pattern to cover a greater area. This in stark contrast to the Legend of Zelda I and II, in which Link's sword creates a forward stabbing motion when the “attack” button is pressed.

Another unique element added to A Link To The Past is its light world/dark world concept. This was the first installment in the Zelda series to feature two parallel worlds. The light world is the “normal” world, where Link was raised by uncle in Hyrule. The dark world is a corrupted version of Hyrule that's characterized by dark water, dead grass, rocks are replaced by skulls, and the trees have faces. Non-playable characters change forms when Link enters the dark world.

Entertainment Weekly even named it the best video game of all time, saying “Link to the Past, as imagined by legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto, gave players a quest in which mindless scoring took a backseat to heroic acts. It was clear that gaming would never be the same -- and continued refinements ensured that subsequent Zelda titles (there are 10) all became best-sellers. Each button-thumping and symbol-filled world elevates the simple journey to save a princess into a successful franchise that continues to advance the notion of interactive entertainment.”

To put the popularity of A Link To The Past into perspective, it's estimated to have sold over 4 million copies worldwide, and it's even been ported over to the Game Boy Advance, Wii, and Wii U. A sequel was released in November 2013, titled The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

Breath of Fire

One of the lesser-known Nintendo RPGs is Breath of Fire. Developed by Capcom and released on the SNES in 1993, it was the first RPG game which allowed players to take control of a dragon. Breath of Fire centers around a blue-haired adventurer named Ryu who can shapeshift into different dragons, each of which has its own special powers. Up until its release, most role-playing games depicted dragons as being the villains, so this was a major change for the genre.

Breath of Fire has sold over three million copies worldwide.

So, what are your favorite Nintendo and SNES role-playing games? We'd love to hear what you think! Let us know in the comments section below.

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