Turn based games are in the middle of a renaissance of sorts in the past few years. Not only are long established turn-based games like Persona 5 and the upcoming Shin Megami Tensei V at the peak of their popularity, but other franchises have begun to dip their toes into the turn-based RPG scene, such as Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Metal Slug Tactics, and Monster Hunter Stories. The reason is very simple: Turn-based RPGs are a good way to diversify a franchise, generally cost less to produce, and allow IPs from genres with higher barriers of entry to be more accessible to new potential fans.
As gaming has become more generally accepted, the potential audience has gone up, and the average level of player skill has gone down. This is why once great genre’s like (non-Smash) fighting games are struggling to find new players and break into the mainstream: The skill level needed to feel competent is too high for the vast majority of modern gamers, who then go on to play more casual fare. Games with lower barriers to entry, games where small victories are more tangible than “I got curb stomped slightly less brutally,” games like battle royales and MOBAs.
So what franchises could benefit from a foray into turn-based RPG systems? Let’s talk about it.
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Devil May Cry (Character Action)
Why? The Devil May Cry franchise was recently restored to its former glory by undoing the DmC: Devil may Cry reboot and bringing us the continued adventures of classic Dante, Nero, and V. Devil May Cry V was a true return to form, with the highest sales in the franchise, and the most satisfying, smooth, and complex combo system the franchise has ever seen. Seriously, DMCV Dante alone has more combat options than the whole cast of any of the other game in the entire franchise. It’s glorious for long time fans, but such daunting move lists could be somewhat off putting to newcomers.
How? Yakuza: Like a Dragon gives us a great example of how to turn action games into turn-based RPGs and since DMC is full of over the top antics already, Dante and crew’s moves could easily by turned into an entire skill tree, with Devil Trigger and Style acting as MP-like systems to use higher level skills. To break up the monotony and add some small element of skill, well timed button presses could activate Royal Guard on the defensive or “True” strikes on the offensive. Think of pressing B in Paper Mario to defend against enemy attacks, or hitting R1 to critical when a gunblade user attacks in Final Fantasy 8.
Tekken/ Street Fighter (Fighting)
Why? Fighting games are a classic genre, but they’re the example of how a genre can be impenetrable to modern gamers. Fighting games were at their peak* back when gamers would would pick up a fighting game, beat some CPU fighters to revel in the short story bits, celebrate unlocking goofy side modes, and play against their friends in couch co-op. That was the focus, and it was enough. Online gaming and ever expanding development costs and value of premium games have forced fighting games to expand beyond that role. Now the primary focus is online play, and for gamers just coming into the scene, it can be a traumatic experience. Their entry to the scene is almost exclusively marked by their online opponent conducting a curb stomp symphony with their face. Most people don’t respond to that brutality by dusting themselves off, going back to the lab, and coming back stronger, which is why fighting games are not growing in popularity at the same rate as gaming as a whole.
Tekken and Street Fighter are fighting game royalty. Street Fighter is the original, and gave rise to the genre as a whole, while Tekken is the greatest 3D fighter. Both franchises held the title of best selling fighting game series at one point, before Super Smash Bros. ran away with the crown due to its unique nature as a hybrid party game/fighter. Both series also have decades of interesting lore waiting to be tapped into in far more detail, for a far bigger audience, desiring a more comprehensive “canon.” Especially after some of the plot revelations in Tekken 7.
How? Think of Xenogears and Legend of Legaia. Both games required button inputs to initiate attack commands instead of routine menus. This is the perfect way to incorporate fighting game techniques into turn-based combat. Bring in elements of Monster Hunter Stories 2‘s simultaneous Rock Paper Scissor system based on high, mid, and low attacks to make the turns feel more action packed and strategic. Meter can be spent like MP to use more powerful skills. All of this has the added bonus of allowing long time fans to get the excitement of knowing their skills somehow translate, while new players can learn command inputs and traditional mechanics in a slower environment. It also doesn’t preclude online competition, where less dexterous players can actually compete.
*Peak of console popularity, arcades are a whole different affair.
Resident Evil (Survival Horror)
Why? Resident Evil has been rehabbing its image, and mostly succeeding, especially with the well received and viral hit Resident Evil Village. Which is great, because Resident Evil is a truly classic franchise that has managed to age well, and is the direct source of two other franchises fans adore: Devil May Cry and Onimusha. Still, the games have moved more towards fast paced action since the success of Resident Evil 4, mostly for the best. However, a slower approach would tie back to its roots of maneuvering past shuffling zombies in tight corridors. There’s no longer the same sense of encroaching dread, as it has been mostly replaced with adrenaline and jump scares.
How? The major element that makes a good survival horror game stand out from a pure horror game are fairly simple: Resource management. Gathering healing items, conserving ammo, and picking your battles wisely are the keys to success, and that lines up perfectly with your classic turn-based RPGs. Think Valkyria Chronicles and Parasite Eve. Have players wander a mansion/compound freely like the original games, but upon getting too close to an enemy, the game goes into encounter mode. These encounters play out in the current room the player is in, mostly narrow spaces that make planning moves important. Each turn consists of a free movement phase and an action phase. If the player runs into a bio-weapon during their movement phase, they may take damage , unless they have a defense item equipped or perform a timed dodge.
Actually, screw it, just copy Parasite Eve. Let’s forget The 3rd Birthday ever existed, just go back to the original formula and start over.
Those are just a few franchises that could make the jump to turn-based and excel at it, but this is all opinion, and we all know how opinions work on the internet, so if you think you have a better franchise that could make the jump and do well, tell us all about it down below.
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