Despite The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's debut, a whopping seven years ago, on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, it remains one of Bethesda Game Studios' most enduring games -- so much somore
Despite The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's debut, a whopping seven years ago, on Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360, it remains one of Bethesda Game Studios' most enduring games -- so much so that it landed, in late 2017, on the wildly popular Nintendo Switch handheld console. Sadly, that remains the only mobile platform where you'll find Skyrim (so far), which puts us on a quest to find good alternatives to tide us over in the meantime. Here are some of the best games like Skyrim that we can find, with a minimum of ads and microtransactions.
Since we're dealing with phones and tablets, games have to be scaled down to avoid draining your battery. It's the perfect home for a game like Dragon Quest IV, an epic and influential Japanese RPG that originally came out in 1990 (as "Dragon Warrior IV") for the NES but got an updated release on iOS in 2014. You may say, "Why start with #4?" Well, all of the Dragon Quest games have separate stories and characters, and DQ4 is arguably the one most suited to mobile devices, because it plays like a series of independent narratives chained together, rather than one long adventure where it can be difficult to remember where to pick things up if you haven't played in a couple weeks.
Many 2D games from the late '80s and early '90s retain a lot of retro charm. The artwork and sound in DQ4 are simple but full of personality, the story is detailed (it should take you about 30 hours to finish the game), and the characters have dimensions and quirks that will endear you to them.
Dragon Quest IV is $15 on the App Store, which is not cheap, but it contains no ads or in-app purchases, and has all the content of the original release in a visually updated package.
If $15 is too rich for your blood, Exiled Kingdoms can be had for $3.99 and offers a generous demo. But although it's nearly 75 percent cheaper, it's still 100 percent great. This popular action RPG evokes Diablo or Grim Dawn -- it's gritty, atmospheric, and sprawling. The developer says that the demo alone could take you 30 hours to get through, and that your $3.99 will buy 90 more. You can have hundreds of different conversations with characters throughout the game, spanning over 130,000 lines of dialog across several dozen quests, some of which can be randomly generated to extend your play time even further. But despite this seven-layer dip of content, playing the game is pretty straightforward and doable in small chunks.
If we're gonna put Dragon Quest on this list, we can't leave out Final Fantasy. They're like Pepsi and Coke. As with Dragon Quest, you don't have to start from the beginning of the series and work your way through. With each game, you get a different crew, a different location, and a different bad guy who needs sorting out. Kefka Palazzo, the villain of our tale, is actually surprisingly layered and may remind you of Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight.
Final Fantasy VI is $15.99 on the Apple App Store. It's a technically solid port, though the remastered art style (with contributions from Kazuko Shibuya, one of the original artists) has its critics. It's also free of ads and in-app purchases.
It would be silly to talk about RPGs from the late '90s and early '00s without mentioning Planescape: Torment, a celebrated 2D game set in an exotic and moody version of Dungeons & Dragons. Sure, your character starts out with amnesia, a trope you've seen before. But the way in which you recover your memories, and what you find out about yourself, elevate the story and the game far above what we expected from the medium at the time. And now you can play it on your iPhone or iPad.
iOS gets the "Enhanced" version of Planescape: Torment, which is basically a remaster with updated visuals and sound, and a host of bug fixes that were never addressed in the original desktop version; all of this was done in collaboration with its lead designer Chris Avellone.
Planescape: Torment is $9.99 on the Apple App Store and has all of the content of the desktop version, optimized for touch screens. There are no ads or microtransactions.
Not only is KOTOR one of the best RPGs of its era, it may be one of the best Star Wars games, period. Set thousands of years before the events of the films, the game's writers were not pinned down by pre-existing storylines, characters, or locations -- but they made it all feel like vintage "Star Wars," right down to the sound of your lightsaber when deflecting incoming blaster fire. And in this world, the Sith aren't just a handful of mustache twirlers. They're an entire civilization, like a Galactic Empire with an appetite for backstabbing, sometimes literally. In KOTOR we see the seeds of the Sith Empire's eventual destruction.
Knight of the Old Republic is $9.99 on the Apple App Store, and it gets discounted regularly; it was $4.99 during our playtesting. The Android version has all the game content of the desktop version.