As a fan of more traditional RPGs (especially turn based) and strategy games, I often have to turn to retro gaming for my kicks. Out of the dozens (if not hundreds) of games I saw on display during this year’s E3 conference, I only spotted three turn based RPGs, and one sad, mobile strategy game. Back 10-20 years ago, one could not walk down the shelves without hitting a dozen titles that fit these genres.
You could point to any console from the ‘sixth generation‘ and find plenty of turn based RPGs on them, and even some strategy games. I maintain that the Playstation 2 has the most robust list of JRPGs. It plays games from the first Playstation, making it a great retro machine. Later, the Nintendo DS would release, capable of playing GBA games, turning it a JRPG juggernaut in its own right. Later generations of consoles, with the exception of the 3ds, would ditch the idea of backwards compatibility. Along with that, they stepped away from more traditional RPGs and strategy games. While some could be found, the quantity and quality overall would taper away from their predecessors.
So, if someone shared my tastes in games, which console would I recommend to them to pick up? The answer may surprise you. I would tell them to get a PC.
The PC allows gamers to easily access and play games from the way back when, right up through yesteryear, largely due to the efforts of Valve via Steam and GoG. These companies sell some of the best, classic games for pennies on the dollar compared to what you may pay for an NES or SNES cart these days. Furthermore, they have already done the work to ensure they run smoothly on modern operating systems. GoG’s library, for example, goes clear back to 1980 with Akalabeth: World of Doom. That means you have nearly four decades of games at your fingertips, all for under $10 each (and often half of that during a sale).
Want portability? Grab a laptop. Chances are, you have one lying around somewhere. Most of these older games will run on nearly any type of laptop, even your seven year old netbook. If you have the cash, the Microsoft Surface weighs just a tad more than your everyday tablet, will allow you to get all kinds of productive work done during the day, and easily handle any retro gaming you want to enjoy at night.
I have collected games for over three decades, and have quite the collection. On the PC, I have over 230 RPGs. On the Playstation 2, I have 43. On my DS, I have 38, including my Gameboy games. I do not claim my collections are exhaustive. Far from it! I collected for my tastes and have nearly every RPG I could want (I do stray from those that cost over $40). The PC is simply more affordable and easier to collect the best RPG and Strategy games from over the largest time period, especially given the rising prices for console games over the last few years.
But wait, there’s more! Companies, like Sega, continue to create collections of their older games across multiple platforms, including the PC. For $30, you can grab nearly 60 of the best Sega Genesis games made, including some excellent turn based RPGs. SquareEnix has nearly every Final Fantasy game available on Steam. So, the PC cheats a bit here by hosting some of the gems from its console competition.
I do not deny that one can find awesome, unique experiences on the consoles. Drawing your own dungeon maps in Etrian Odyssey on the DS/3DS cannot be done on a computer. Arguably, one will enjoy Final Fantasy VI on the SNES with a controller in hand on a TV. However, the PC not only has quality with some of the best RPGs and strategy games out there, but wins with quantity thanks to Valve and GoG.
And that’s without getting into emulation. 🙂
Over the next few years, I will work to prove my point above by sharing my modern day experiences playing classic PC RPGs and Strategy games. I will share my journies right here on my blog, and over at RPGamer.com with a new, regular special feature called the “RPGBacktrack Sidetrack.” I invite you to follow me on this journey and contribute your own thoughts and experiences in the comments section on either site. Happy adventures!