Sometimes it's hard being an Android user. Google's mobile operating system may be one of the big dogs, but Android users still get some of the best games dead last, if we even get them at all. (Infinity Blade, anyone?) Android is forever playing catch-up to iOS even though it punches just as hard as Apple's ecosystem. Sure, part of the problem is iOS is on relatively few devices, while Android is on hundreds, but that's not too far away from PC development, right?
While everyone else on the USgamer team owns iOS mobile devices, I stand before you as the sole Android user. I've scoured the internet with my trusty HTC One and 2013 Nexus 7 in hand to bring you the best Android games around.
Let's start with just a few of the best RPGs and action RPGs available on our lovely platform.
Final Fantasy IV
I've seen a number of sites offer up Chrono Trigger as the Square Enix RPG to beat on Android, but that port of the SNES classic has severe issues on the latest version of the OS. Instead, I'm going with Final Fantasy IV, which is a direct port of the Nintendo DS version of the game.
Final Fantasy IV is a new look for an old FF that many have played, but it still stands as one of the best Final Fantasy games ever. Same great story with new 3D character models, made better by an improved visual presentation over the old DS. It's far more pricey than other games on this list - it's almost too expensive for me - but it's still a great title.
Chaos Rings II
If you're not just looking for nostalgia-bait, Square Enix does have one more franchise on the Google Play Store that steps up and provides some great RPG experiences. The Chaos Rings series, comprised of the first game, Chaos Rings Omega, and Chaos Rings II, is notable because of their high-quality presentation. Despite some jaggies and low-quality textures here and there, none of them would be out of place on the PlayStation Vita.
Of the three games, Chaos Rings II is the best. The game puts you in the elaborate JRPG armor of Darwin, chosen to save Earth from apocalyptic doom. Strike that, he wasn't chosen, he just killed the person who was chosen and now has to take up their position to murder some other poor souls. It's a damn good story joined by decent combat and some absolutely amazing graphics. Seriously, this game is a looker and it actually feels like it deserves Square Enix's exorbitant price tag.
Symphony of the Origin
This title comes from Kemco Games, a publisher who has released a whole host of 16-bit style JRPGs on Android. Previously, one of Kemco's best games was Symphony of Eternity; this game is its prequel, built from the ground-up for mobile platforms. The game does okay in the graphics department, with average RPG combat and the ability to see the enemies in the overworld. Character customization is the Symphony's strong point, with a modular three-part weapon system and Merit Points to further strengthen your characters.
The story is pretty cliche (naive protagonist, quirky sidekick, and female love interest, ahoy!) but where it falls behind Square Enix's offerings in that area, it makes up for it in another. Instead of being priced above $10 like Square Enix' games, Kecmo's titles slide under that mark. In fact, if you buy Symphony of the Origin right now, it's only $3.99!
The Bard's Tale
The Bard's Tale is another port of a title that came out on an older system. This time, it's InXile Entertainment's 2004 release for Xbox and PlayStation 2 that's making the transition over. While most RPG games take themselves way too seriously, The Bard's Tale has a more humorous feeling to it. The nameless Bard just wants to have fun, make money, and love women, but he gets roped into a grand quest. The writing in The Bard's Tale is top-notch and the game features Cary Elwes as the voice of the Bard himself.
Coming from home consoles, the game features a pretty hefty file size (3.5 GB) and native support for a ton of GamePads. If you have the space available on your Android device, The Bard's Tale is still an instant classic and well-worth the asking price. As a bonus, the game also includes the classic Bard's Tale trilogy!
If you're not into JRPGs, then Ravensword offers another viable option for RPG action on-the-go at a price that won't break the bank. This game is as close as you're getting to Skyrim in the palm of your hand. It's got a big open-world full of dungeons and towns to explore, real-time combat, a ton of factions to gain reputations with, and upgrades galore for your character.
I will warn you that while the game offers up a larger number of quests, there are no quest markers or anything to guide you. This is old-school Elder Scrolls style, where you figure out where the quest needs you to go and then figure out how to get there. Also, combat is real-time and relies on touch-screen buttons, so you can expect the occasional missed button press leading to an ignoble death.
Way back in 2012, during the eve of the first age of Kickstarter, developer Harebrained Schemes started a funding drive for Shadowrun Returns. The game was planned as a simple 2D turn-based revival of the old Shadowrun pen-and-paper game, but they ended up making enough money to make a pretty robust experience.
The final product is a detailed 12-hour campaign put together by some of the minds behind the original Shadowrun, including creator Jordan Weisman. Shadowrun Returns is a deep game dealing in the morally-grey side of the tracks, something that's expected by fans of the property. Engage in tactical turn-based combat within cyberpunk cities presented in isometric format. The story is also written by the folks who have kept the series alive in novels for twenty years and is joined by a skill-based character system roughly based on the old pen-and-paper game.
Once again, my brothers and sisters, the game is reasonably priced! You get all this hardcore storytelling and action for under $10.
Knights of Pen & Paper +1
Speaking of pen-and-paper gaming, this RPG is callback to all those times your friends gathered around a table to play Dungeons & Dragons. Choose your role-players and the dungeon master and set off on a quest, full of humorous references to old RPGs.
Challenge your role-players with new quests, add furniture to the room to give them passive bonuses, and improve them with new items and equipment. There's really nothing else like Knights of Pen & Paper on the Google Play Store and it costs as much as a cup of coffee. You can't go wrong with this game.
Last but not least is 9th Dawn, an RPG in the style of the old Ultima PC games. Don't expect much in the way of presentation here, because developer Valorware skipped the graphic bells-and-whistles to bring players a large open-world RPG on their phones. I mean it; this is a one big game, not unlike Bethesda's older Elder Scrolls titles. Pick one of three classes - knight, archer, and mage - and wander the land of Montelorne searching for... anything really. Do good, find hidden treasure, have a grand adventure. There's even multiplayer available! Like the previous game, 9th Dawn is mad cheap, coming in below $5.