People have differing opinions on whether or not a deep gaming experience is possible on mobile platforms. Whatever your personal take on the issue might be, there's no denying that phones and tablets are currently home to some epic role-playing games.
Some of these iOS RPGs are ports of old favorites. Some are entirely new experiences. All the games listed here are golden and come highly recommended.
The prices accompanying each entry are base prices. Sales are frequent on the App Store, so keep your +5 thief eyes of epic staring fixed on the market.
Dragon Quest V ($14.99 USD)
Public service announcement: It's impossible to go wrong with any of the Dragon Quest games on the App Store. Dragon Quests I through VI are all available at varying prices, and they're all excellent. Choosing a favorite is like trying to decide if dragons are more bad-ass than griffins.
But if your budget is thinner than a Dragon Zombie on a diet, you should opt for Dragon Quest V above the others. It's essentially a smartphone port of the Dragon Quest V remake released for the Nintendo DS in 2009, and if you haven't experienced the game in any capacity, it's high time you did. Dragon Quest V looks and sounds great, and is story, which spans generations, contains some real heart-rending stuff amongst its humor. "Epic" is the word for this romp.
Final Fantasy VI ($15.99 USD)
The mobile port of the SNES classic Final Fantasy VI is a teensy bit divisive. Square-Enix applied sprite-smoothing filters to the game's graphics, and the end result is, well, kind of ugly. There are probably worse things to look at, like Ultros's slimy backside, but Square-Enix should've left well enough alone.
That said, the core game at hand is still pure Final Fantasy VI, including its roster of unforgettable characters, its rich soundtrack, and a storyline that carries you through the Apocalypse. If you're an RPG fan who hasn't played Final Fantasy VI, you need to get that done. Here's the most convenient way to do so.
King of Dragon Pass ($9.99 USD)
King of Dragon Pass combines RPG elements with Choose Your Own Adventure mechanics -- but this is no adventure that lets you avert disaster by simply turning to page 21.
King of Dragon Pass is incredibly deep, and requires good decision-making as well as careful resource management. You must oversee a tribe, and as might be expected from a leadership position, there are no easy choices. Everything you say and do has consequences. Even doing "the right thing" can land you in a lot of trouble down the road. Definitely a must-have for anyone who likes games that make them think.
Chaos Rings III ($19.99 USD)
Square-Enix's recently-released Chaos Rings III is somewhat changed from its predecessors, but what's here is still a deep and ambitious mobile RPG. The presentation levels are high-tier, and there's a ton of land to explore, as well as a ton of things to do.
Square-Enix has put a lot of effort into making Chaos Rings the go-to series for premium mobile RPGs. Starting with III is just fine, though it's certainly not a bad idea to check out the first Chaos Rings ($6.99 USD) and the second one ($14.99 USD).
Chrono Trigger ($9.99 USD)
If you're a fan of RPGs in any capacity, then you've probably played Chrono Trigger at least once. Here's the beautiful thing about Chrono Trigger, though: It's meant to be played again and again. Even if it didn't invent the idea of "New Game+," it certainly popularized the term by enticing players to track down every one of its secrets and endings.
It's no chore to play Chrono Trigger, either. It looks good, it sounds good, and executing a triple-tech in the presence of a Tyrannosaurus Rex is one of the most beautiful acts a human being can perform. Yes. This game belongs on your phone.
Hunter Island: Monsters and Dragons ($0.99 USD)
Unsurprisingly, the App Store is home to sixty trillion Pokémon clones (at last count). Most of them are competent, but few are deeply memorable.
Hunter Island: Monsters and Dragons is one of those rare stand-outs, and it's because the game's developer, ZigZaGame, undertook specific efforts to make sure this monster-collecting title is no mere Pokémon clone. This budget-priced RPG is purely its own animal, pardon the pun, with monster designs and a battle system that stands apart from Nintendo's phenomenon. It's not the fanciest-looking RPG on the App Store, but what it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in content.
Final Fantasy IV ($7.99 USD)
The only version of Final Fantasy IV currently available for mobile is the 3D remake of the original SNES game, which first appeared on the Nintendo DS in 2008. It's a very decent RPG on its own, but it especially shines as a special challenge for those of us who've beaten the original 2D incarnation of the game forwards, backwards, and inside-out. That's because Final Fantasy IV DS / mobile takes everything you think you know about the original game, shakes it up, and puts all the pieces back in upside-down. Think you can defeat Bahamut by reflecting his magic back at him? Oh boy, does the remake have a surprise for you.
Some Final Fantasy IV fans find the 3D iteration a bit too brutal, but there's a lot of meat here for a pretty reasonable price. Of course, if this is a just world, we'll eventually see the 2D Final Fantasy IV Complete Collection, initially on the PSP, ported to mobile.
Knights of Pen and Paper ($4.99 USD)
It's dark. You're alone with your phone, and you're likely to be eaten by a grue.
Knights of Pen and Paper is greatly inspired by the 16-bit RPGs of old, but it has a bit of an Inception angle going for it as well. You play as some players who are playing their in-game characters from a table. You're also the Dungeon Master. Get it?
Probably not, which is why Knights of Pen and Paper is really something you have to suss out for yourself. Go forth, traveler. The price is right.