Turn-based combat is a tough sell to many players. Add to that the loss of graphical fidelity that comes with 2D gameplay, and you might think that a turn-based 2D game lacks strategic depth or fun gameplay – but you’d be dead wrong!
Games with turn-based combat systems and 2D graphics formed the basis of some of the most iconic and inventive games ever made, titles that defined new genres and expanded the possibilities of familiar games. Here are some of the best.
ten Advanced Wars
Advance Wars was the first game in Nintendo’s Famicom Wars series to hit western shores, and it served as a great introduction to the series’ 2D tactical gameplay. Developed by Intelligent Systems – the team behind the equally deep Fire Emblem series – Advance Wars is set in a fictional world where two armies have been battling each other for years.
When Andy, one of the commanders of the Orange Star army, is accused of attacking another nation, the whole world threatens to descend into war. The game’s battles quickly escalate, requiring you to strategize between rounds and use all your resources to snatch victory.
9 Lunar: Story of the Silver Star
While Game Arts’ Grandia series received an excellent HD remaster, their other RPG mainstay, Lunar, was not so lucky. And that’s a shame, because the first two games are underrated classics. Nowhere is this more evident than in the enhanced version of the original game, Lunar: Silver Star Story.
This is the version that’s been ported to 32-bit systems with improved graphics and new animated cutscenes, and the whole package oozes charm. The turn-based combat system is also inventive, emphasizing character positioning and strategy. It brings a new twist to the traditional RPG loop.
8 The Banner Saga
And speaking of great animated cutscenes, The Banner Saga has some of the best animation in any game, with a visual style closer to hand-drawn Disney movies than other tactical RPGs. The game follows a motley caravan as it journeys through the wilderness of a Scandinavian-inspired landscape.
When you need to fight, you’ll be transported to a grid-based tactical battlefield inspired by classics like Shining Force and Final Fantasy Tactics. But The Banner Saga is presented as an interactive story, where your choices on and off the battlefield will affect the direction of the plot, so you’ll need to plan your moves carefully.
7 Pokemon Gold/Silver
The little-played and little-known classic that is Pokem…ah, let’s face it. If you’re a living, breathing person on planet Earth, you probably know what Pokémon is: you venture out of your hometown, capture the monsters you encounter along the way, train, battle, and level up. level up on your journey to being the best anyone has ever been.
Pokemon Gold and Silver aren’t the last installments in the franchise, but they still represent the pinnacle of the series. By adding new features like a day and night cycle, item holding, and breeding, this generation fully defined what Pokemon could be. Additionally, you unlock the entire Kanto region after beating the game for the first time. You basically get two games in one!
6 kill the arrow
Roguelikes are to today’s indie sphere what Metroidvanias was to the 2010s indie sphere: a common trope and flexible platform for endless experimental riffing. Slay The Spire, a turn-based card battle game that incorporates roguelike elements like procedural generation, is a great example of how inventive developers can be with the concept.
You start each run with a relatively weak set of cards and slowly grow your deck as you scale the spire and take on tougher enemies. You can combine cards for different effects, exploit enemy weaknesses, and discover new combinations as you go. The game creates an addictive feedback loop where you’ll learn something new with every run.
Despite its initial commercial failure in the West, Earthbound garnered one of the most cult followings of any game, spawning a whole legion of independent imitators in the process. It is not difficult to understand why. The game’s combination of colorful 2D graphics, a punchy soundtrack and an unsettling sense of humor creates a very unique experience.
This quirky charm extends to its combat system as well; its big feature is its rolling health meter, which allows you to return from lethal damage if you select a move before your health reaches zero. It adds a frenetic layer of strategy that sets the game apart and leads to a number of memorable battles.
4 Shiren the Wanderer
Modern roguelikes will take some of the core ideas of the genre – procedural generation, high difficulty, permadeath – in new and wild directions. But if you’ve played Hades and want something a little more classic, Shiren The Wanderer is a great example of old-school roguelike.
It’s an example of the genre as simple as it gets, with a turn-based dungeon crawling through the randomly generated floors of a huge tower; every time you die you will lose all your items and have to start over. It’s a hardcore experience for sure, but if you’re on its wavelength, there’s nothing else quite as addictive.
3 Dragon Quest 11… Kind of
The latest installment in the iconic JRPG series is technically a 3D game, following in the footsteps of previous entries like Dragon Quest 8: Journey Of The Cursed King. But Dragon Quest 11 Definitive Edition adds an all-new experience for die-hard fans: a top-down 2D mode, reminiscent of old-school Dragon Quest games for NES and SNES.
This new mode emphasizes the traditional charm that makes Dragon Quest 11 so special, with the classic first-person combat perspective intact. There’s nothing quite like destroying a 2D slime.
2 Tactical Ogre
Before Yasumi Matsuno created the iconic Final Fantasy Tactics, he orchestrated the Ogre Battle series of tactical RPGs. The games include all of its trademarks: a faded medieval fantasy aesthetic, a dark and morally complex story, and an intricate turn-based combat system.
Tactics Ogre adds a deep class system and forces you to consider terrain when planning your moves; you’ll need to think about your party’s skills and the surrounding arena before each move. Tactics Ogre is now considered a strategy classic, and if you have even a passing interest in the genre, it’s a must-watch.
1 Final Fantasy 6
You don’t need us to introduce you to the Final Fantasy franchise. It’s one of the most iconic RPG series of all time, and its success paved the way for sword and magic combat throughout gaming history. , Final Fantasy 6, might also be the best of the entire series and is generally considered one of the best RPGs ever made.
The game features an incredible soundtrack, a deep and moving story, and some of the finest sprite work ever committed to cartridge. It also represents the apotheosis of the series’ traditional Active Time Battle system, which forces you to take turns quickly in order to stay one step ahead of your enemies. This is a game that has truly stood the test of time.
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