The ease of communication in the world we live in today is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, information has never been so accessible before, but on the other it can be easy to just “go with the flow” – making involuntary decisions to play/avoid games based on the general consensus rather than gauging it for yourself. That’s not to say that your favorite gaming outlets aren’t reliable – in fact, I hope that WE are among your favorites! – but you should also go against the grain, at times. My reasoning for this is simple: some of my favorite games (and franchises) have been discovered by simply taking that leap of faith and investing in the “unknown.” In this article, I’d like to share some RPGs on Switch that have really surprised me, and also some I think could easily be overlooked/skipped just because of their associated mainstream opinion. None of these games are remotely bad, mind you, but most still have a quirk or oddity that could easily be seen negatively by some.
Some KEMCO RPGs
Go ahead — laugh it up! KEMCO RPGs have long been an easy target for criticism, but applying this to their entire catalog blindly would be a terrible idea. While it’s true that a portion of their games are more or less low-effort cash grabs, others are actually solid, budget-friendly experiences. Between myself, Jeremy, and Elias, we have played just about every KEMCO RPG on Switch (and there are currently 29 on the platform). I’d wager that we all could agree that describing their catalog with a blanket of “bad” would be neither fair nor accurate.
Yes, not all KEMCO RPGs are created equal, and yes, many may give off some RPG Maker vibes…even though they technically aren’t RPG Maker games. And if they were, that wouldn’t mean they are instantly bad either – but we can discuss the RPG Maker stigma in a separate article. Anyway, many of these retro JRPGs are decent – some are even “great.” If you’re curious about which ones we here at SwitchRPG have approved of, take a look at this list.
Speaking of RPG Maker vibes, Ara Fell is another title that shouldn’t be written off by looks alone. Unlike the KEMCO RPGs, however, this RPG actually originated from the “dreaded” engine almost two decades ago, though the most recent version (including the one on Switch) has been ported to Unity. Regardless, Ara Fell is full of heart and is a clear labor of love project in spite of its shortcomings.
The Alliance Alive
I’m a huge SaGa fan, and I’m aware that it’s a niche series that isn’t easily approachable. This is exactly why I was hyped about The Alliance Alive coming to Switch, as it reportedly had many of the same mechanics found in the SaGa series. Once I finally had a chance to play it, I wasn’t disappointed and could also see how well it could serve as “training wheels” for many of the more obscure titles found in the SaGa library.
While I feel that the impending release of the Collection of SaGa – Final Fantasy Legend III, to be specific – may be the most straightforward (albeit antiquated) SaGa / SaGa-like game, Alliance Alive remains an amazing way to expose yourself to SaGa mechanics through a modern package. SaGa similarities aside, The Alliance Alive is very much its own thing, and can ultimately be enjoyed without caring anything about that part of it.
Back in “my day,” DOOM clones were a dime a dozen – easily on par with the amount of “WoW,” “MOBA,” and “battle royale clones” that have come out over the past decade or so. Because of that, I know that some may have slept on Project Warlock for being “just another DOOM game.” And if you did, you are seriously missing out on one of my favorite Switch RPGs from this year. Project Warlock perfectly blends the constant run-and-gun thrills of DOOM with great retro visuals and meaningful RPG progression systems, and it should absolutely be on your radar if you want some RPG mechanics thrown into your first-person shooter.
At first glance, one might think the Atelier series as nothing more than “alchemists frolocking in tutus” at best, or perhaps some form of “fan service” at worst — neither is (entirely) accurate. In fact, out of everything that has genuinely surprised me on Switch, this franchise has easily jumped to the top of the list. The Atelier series has some of the most engaging, robust crafting mechanics in any RPG, supplementing it with solid combat, a sound presentation, and interesting characters. Atelier Ryza is the latest release in this series and is arguably the best way to get started with it. If you’re looking for something different than what the standard Final Fantasy / Dragon Quest game can provide, then look no further than the Atelier series.
Dragon Quest Builders 2
On the note of “something different,” let’s consider this Dragon Quest spinoff for a moment. The main campaigns of both Dragon Quest Builders games are neither completely free-form, sandbox building, nor traditional Dragon Quest experiences (though there are certain modes to achieve the former). They are actually more of a happy medium between the two, often being described as narrative-driven building RPGs that feature all the charm that a single-player Dragon Quest game would have. And they are a TON of fun.
Although both games are great, Builders 2 is likely to provide more bang for your buck, and is viewed as an improvement over the first game by most consumers. Best of all, the Builders titles can be played and enjoyed with little to no prior knowledge of the franchise (DQ fans will certainly appreciate some things more, of course). If you have been turned off by building games before, like Minecraft, then maybe the more structured approach provided here might be what you need to get hooked yourself!
Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
This game, no doubt, caused some eyes to roll when it was first announced. While Mario is generally associated with something good, the Rabbids are, well, typically viewed in a different light. Little did we know, however, that this oddball mashup would turn out to be one of the better tactical / strategy RPGs on the Switch, and easily the best one available early on. This XCOM-lite experience is both charming and fun, even if you are a bit iffy on Rabbids or strategy games in general. Mario + Rabbids goes on sale quite a bit, so keep it in mind if you’re looking for a tactical / strategy RPG with a unique twist.
My Time At Portia
The 2016 release of Stardew Valley took the world by storm, and for good reason. In many ways it was a spiritual successor / return to form for those unhappy with the modern trajectory of the Harvest Moon / Story of Seasons franchise. As a result, it quickly became a favorite for both hardcore gamers and casual players alike. Others were less impressed, however, or simply wanted something different than what Stardew could provide. Although I personally feel that Stardew is the superior game overall, My Time At Portia does offer a few things that it does not, notably its third-person perspective and 3D visuals.
Portia’s biggest problem – at launch, at least – was performance. The Switch version was littered with issues, most heinous being the ridiculously long loading times. While many things, including the loading times, have been improved, it still isn’t perfect, and initial reports of poor performance certainly didn’t help push this game in a positive light on Switch at launch. At the end of the day, though, My Time At Portia is incredibly fun to play, and can easily reel you in with its satisfying character progression system. Portia and Rune Factory 4 – another solid game on the Switch – share similarities here, but I feel that the former may be a better fit for those that either want full-on 3D, and/or those that loathe anime-heavy aesthetics.
That’s it for this list! How do you feel about my picks, and what Switch RPGs would you recommend that others might easily overlook or dismiss?