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The 10 Highest-Rated Old-School Pixel RPGs

If you love the fantasy and escape of role-playing video games and long for the retro 16-bit aesthetic of early titles – you’re in luck. There are both old and new games you can still play today. Here are 10 of the best.

10. Breath of Fire

Breath of Fire

Metacritic Score: 79

Originating on SNES in 1993, Breath of Fire is filled with dueling dragons, gorgeous goddesses, and an abundance of spells. Each game in the five-part series had its own self-contained story, and this one is absorbing and engaging. The characters are unique and the visuals were impressive for its time.

9. Phantasy Star

Phantasy Star

Metacritic Score: 82

Developed by Sega in 1987, Phantasy Star spawned a beloved series. The plot is an original space opera. It’s unique compared to other RPGs of the era in that all the characters had predefined personalities and abilities. Luckily, you can still experience this game via its excellent port to Switch.

8. Collection of Mana

Collection of Mana for Nintendo Switch

Metacritic Score: 83

Collection of Mana is a 2019 compilation of the Mana series containing the complete trilogy, available for the first time outside of Japan. It includes Final Fantasy Adventure/Mystic Quest, Secret of Mana, and Trials of Mana. This side story to the Final Fantasy franchise brings all the magical beauty you’d expect.

7. Hyper Light Drifter

Hyper Light Drifter
Heart Machine

Metacritic Score: 84

The very Zelda-like cyberpunk dungeon-crawler Hyper Light Drifter was released in 2016. It’s a unique experience. There is zero text or spoken dialogue. The plot is cryptic. Nonetheless, the game delivers lots of action as you explore the world, collect things, and battle plenty of monsters and bosses along the way.

6. Octopath Traveler II

Octopath Traveler II
Square Enix

Metacritic Score: 85

Paying another homage to SNES classics of the 90s is the 2023 sequel to 2018’s Octopath Traveler. Once again, the visuals are absolutely stunning, using an aesthetic called HD-2D. Drawing influence from titles like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, and even a little Dragon Quest, this game is a must-play for any fan of the genre.

We didn’t want to include both games in this list, but the original Octopath Traveler qualifies with a Metacritic score of 83.

5. Wargroove


Metacritic Score: 85

Wargroove from 2019 draws lots of inspiration from the Advance Wars series. It combines action-strategy and turn-based tactics and what can be called a Nintendo Wars-style. Despite the obvious influences, it’s a fun experience as you control your own army of fantasy forces. It supports player vs. player, cooperative play, and local and online multiplayer.

4. Stardew Valley 

Screenshot from Stardew Valley

Metacritic Score: 89

Released in 2016, Stardew Valley delivers a cozy retro aesthetic that feels like a much earlier game. Despite comparisons to the Harvest Moon franchise, there is more to do. The game has its own originality and charm. You can manage a farm, explore a dungeon full of monsters, find true love, and more.

3. Dragon Quest XI S

Dragon Quest XI
Square Enix

Metacritic Score: 91

Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition is an enhanced version of the 2017 RPG, released for Switch in 2019. The main game is in 3D, but players can play in 16-bit style with “2D mode.” It even reintroduces the original combat system from the early games in the series.

2. Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger
Square Enix

Metacritic Score: 92

1995’s Chrono Trigger is considered one of the best RPGs ever made. Some view it as the greatest game of all time. Many have lauded the game as revolutionary with its multiple endings, plot-related side quests, unique battle system, and detailed graphics. This is a must-play for all RPG fans.

Read More: The Best 8-Bit RPGs for the NES

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

Metacritic Score: 95

Released for SNES in 1991, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past is the third game in the Zelda series. The story is set years before the events of the first two games. There is so much fantasy world here, including dragons, potions, a wizard, and saving a princess – it’s RPG territory all the way.

Read More: The Best SNES Games of All Time