All the RPG Games You Should Be Playing From 1990

Collage of 3 of the best 1990s RPG screenshots

All the RPG Games You Should Be Playing From 1990

The 1990s were a pivotal part of gaming history. It was the golden age of turn-based JRPGS and games released in this decade tended to become some of the most inspirational games of all time. My favorite game genre is the RPG or role-playing game. These games are known for their massive worlds, intricate systems, player freedom, and gripping narratives. The 1990s were important for RPGs and some of the best RPGs of all time were released right at the cusp of the decade. Here are all the RPG games you still be playing from 1990.

Final Fantasy III

Final Fantasy III concept art

©Yoshitaka Amano’s drawing of one of the Warriors of Light from Final Fantasy III

  • Release Date: April 27, 1990
  • Platform(s): Famicom
  • Metascore: N/A

Originally this title was only available in Japan until it was rereleased as part of the Final Fantasy Pixel Remaster collection. A remake was released worldwide for the Nintendo DS but this was the first time the original game was rereleased. This game was the first Final Fantasy game to have a job-change system. A very popular RPG mechanic of today. Upon release, this game was critically acclaimed with it being one of Famitsu’s three highest-rated games of 1990.

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen

Dragon Warrior IV – Screenshot

©Dragon Warrior IV – Screenshot – License

  • Release Date: February 11, 1990
  • Platform(s): Famicom
  • Metascore: N/A

Dragon Quest IV was the only game to be able to compete with Final Fantasy III in 1990. This game is very different from the rest of the series since it breaks up the game into different chapters each with its own protagonist. This title won many awards in its release year from Japanese and Western publications. The game was so popular it was the first game in the series to spawn spin-offs.

Phantasy Star II

Phantasy Star II – Screenshot

©Phantasy Star II – Screenshot – License

  • Release Date: March 21, 1990 (March 21, 1989 (JP))
  • Platform(s): Sega Genesis
  • Metascore: N/A

Phantasy Star II was the first video game to ever use a 6MB cartridge. This game was the biggest video game on a console at the time. This game abandoned the first-person view from the first game for a top-down perspective while exploring and a third-person view in battles. The game was one of the first JRPGs to make it to the east and can be considered key to the popularization of RPGs in North America.

Ys III: Wanderers from Ys

Ys III: Wanderers from Ys – Box Scan

© Ys III: Wanderers from Ys – Box Scan – License

  • Release Date: March 24, 1990
  • Platform(s): X68000
  • Metascore: N/A

The Ys franchise is criminally underrated and should not be overlooked. Ys III uses a side-scrolling presentation in its gameplay and removes the auto-attack feature of previous games. Other than these big changes fans of the original two titles will be right at home with this one. The game’s reception was mixed amongst critics and players but mixed reviews only mean that you should try it for yourself.


Crystalis – Screenshot

©Crystalis – Screenshot – License

  • Release Date: April 13, 1990
  • Platform(s): NES
  • Metascore: N/A

Crystalis is an action RPG produced by SNK. The game was praised for its advanced graphics at the time and high-quality soundtrack. Crystalis is a bit repetitive but it still might be worth a try if you’re interested in playing the titles of a company that isn’t around anymore. It’s an important piece of gaming history. The game even got a rerelease for the Game Boy Color but that version is significantly different. Gamers should play them both for the full experience.

Pool Of Radiance

Pool of Radiance – Screenshot

©Pool of Radiance – Screenshot – License

  • Release Date: 1990
  • Platform(s): Amiga
  • Metascore: N/A

Pool Of Radiance was the first adaptation of TSR’s Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) fantasy role-playing game for home computers, becoming the first episode in a four-part series of D&D computer adventure games. As popular as DnD is today this is a game from the roots of the tabletop RPG and is worth checking out for fans of its modern iteration. Even though DnD has changed a lot its core feel and mechanics haven’t changed that much.

Sword Of Vermilion

Sword of Vermilion – Screenshot

©Sword of Vermilion – Screenshot – License

  • Release Date: October 1990
  • Platform(s): Sega Genesis
  • Metascore: N/A

This title was different from other RPGs of the year because it has different perspectives depending on what the player is doing. The “Town View” uses the typical overhead angle found in most RPGs. The “Battle View” is a tilted overhead view where the player takes full control of the character in real-time combat. While in combat the player can use weapons and magic. The “Dungeon View” is in the first person perspective, similar to Phantasy Star. The “Boss View” puts the player up against a boss from a sideways viewpoint. An interesting title that was praised for shaking up the genre.

Destiny of an Emperor

Destiny of an Emperor – Screenshot

©Destiny of an Emperor – Screenshot – License

  • Release Date: September 1990
  • Platform(s): NES
  • Metascore: N/A

Destiny of an Emperor is very different from the other RPGs in 1990. Honestly, this title might be one of the most interesting and unique RPGs of all time. In Destiny of an Emperor, the non-boss battles don’t consist solely of encounters with generic monsters or units. Instead, most of the game’s random encounters are fought against one or more generals randomly selected from the lands the player is traveling through at the time. After being defeated in battle, there is a random chance that the general will offer to join the party, it’s very similar to Shin Megami Tensei in that regard.

Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday

Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday – Screenshot

©Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday – Screenshot – License

  • Release Date: 1990
  • Platform(s): Amiga, C64, MS-DOS
  • Metascore: N/A

For those who want a break from the fantasy setting of most RPGs of this time, Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday. The game centers around a longstanding war between the Earth-based New Earth Organization, and the Mars-based Russo-American Mercantile. The gameplay is similar to other RPGs of time with a space adventuring twist. The game was received middling reviews but still seemed to sell well so sure it must’ve done something right.

Ultima VI: The False Prophet

Ultima VI: The False Prophet – Screenshot

© Ultima VI: The False Prophet – Screenshot – License

  • Release Date: April 1990
  • Platform(s): MS-DOS
  • Metascore: N/A

Ultima VI: The False Prophet was a controversial release for fans of the series. This game changed the graphics, the user interface, and gameplay of the games that came before it which led to mixed feelings from fans. In Ultima VI, the whole game uses a single scale, with towns and other places seamlessly integrated into the main map; dungeons are now also viewed from the same perspective as the rest of the game, rather than the first-person perspective used by Ultima I-V

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