RPGs have been a haven for strange creatures and complex storylines since the inception of the genre. Even going as far back as Dungeons & Dragons, it seems that each new RPG challenges itself to be more warped and fantastical than the last.
While this does certainly birth some very esoteric locations, characters, and monsters, there can be no denying it: many RPGs are just flat-out weird. We here at TheGamer embrace this weirdness, though, and have curated for you a list of some of the strangest RPGs released in the 1990s.
Look, if you have played Earthbound, you need no further evidence. If you haven't though, please do yourself a favor and find a way to get your hands on this classic title. It heavily inspired the creator of the sometimes very wholesome Undertale, and many modern RPGs have taken pieces and parts of Earthbound into their being.
Earthbound follows the story of a young boy named Ness. He has psychic abilities that allow him to heal his compatriots, and generally manipulate the fabric of the universe. Along the way, he meets a group of other psychically gifted kids, and together they journey through the land to essentially kill a god. Yeah, it gets wild in Earthbound.
9 Planescape: Torment
We mentioned Dungeons & Dragons earlier and, as fate would have it, this game actually takes place in a D&D campaign world. It follows the story of the Nameless One, who is cursed to forget everything when he dies. His goal is to reclaim the memories he has lost over an indeterminate number of deaths.
If this premise sounds familiar to you, that is because it is very similar to the idea of the Dark Souls saga. Planescape: Torment is filled with the strangeness you would expect of any D&D IP. It also features some quirks of its own like using tattoos instead of armor and meeting up with past incarnations of yourselves with different personalities, Dr. Who style.
8 Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger may not be all that strange of a title to us today, but for the time, there really was nothing like it. The scope of the game had never been seen up to that point. It really set the tone for other RPGs that were to follow it.
The most unique mechanic of this game is the ability to combine the skills of allied heroes. For instance, a flame-based attack can be combined with a wind attack to make a firestorm attack. Basically, attacks that are greater than the sum of their parts. Additionally, the game features seven "eras" that the player can visit, and past actions will change the landscapes of future eras.
7 Illusion of Gaia
Illusion of Gaia is a must-play for any serious fans of the RPG format. Typically, games like these involve a party system. This one opts for the main character to be the only player, and he can swap into a Healer, a Warrior, and a Shadow form.
This mechanic is unique enough, but the setting of the game is very weird too. It takes place on Earth in the 16th century. You are an explorer, and the game will take you to real historical sites like the Incan Ruins, Angkor Wat, and the Great Wall of China. All the while these places are beset by demons and otherworldly threats.
6 Harvest Moon
This entry makes it onto the list, not because of the oddness of its storyline, but the oddness of its format. Most RPGs involve walking around an overworld, randomly encountering enemies, and then fighting those enemies in turn-based combat.
Harvest Moon took an entirely innovative look at the genre during its time and rejected all this. Instead, Harvest Moon is one of the first farming simulators! Rather than crawling through dungeons, you will be crawling through dirt to harvest corn, and removing weeds is just as rewarding as removing a goblin's head.
Many fans of the Fallout series, don't know that the titanic first-person-shooters of today were once a 2D RPG with tile-based movement. In fact, the VATS system of today's Fallout was implemented to try and keep some level of turn-based combat from the original series.
Though Fallout has been integrated into our lives, it was a completely alien concept for the time. I mean, just look at that thing in the picture. Do you think the gamers of the '90s were ready for something like that? No chance.
4 Super Mario RPG: Legend Of The Seven Stars
The concept of taking the 2D platformer, Mario, and turning it into a turn-based RPG is a very strange concept. For those who haven't played it, this may just sound like an ill-thought-out attempt at a money grab so that Nintendo could branch into the huge market that Final Fantasy had made at the time.
The strangest thing about this game though is that it's actually good. That's right, the RPG based on the Mario brothers is fun to play, and it actually works. It was certainly a radical idea for the time, but we can thank this title for later incarnations such as Bowser's Inside Story, and the Paper Mario franchise.
Crystalis starts where any good RPG does: In an apocalypse. It occurs after the Earth has been destroyed by thermonuclear warfare. As a result, the people have forsaken science and turned to magic instead. Now, this is not a super uncommon trope in RPGs.
What makes this title stand out, is that the weapons of the old world still exist, and an evil emperor has access to a giant tower of weapons. This means that, as the hero, you have to take down the tower. The juxtaposition of magic being used against the weapons of today's world was unique for the time, and couldn't really be found elsewhere.
Xenogears really has everything a gamer can want. Turn-based combat, giant robot mechs, and a planet-wide civil war. Xenogears is unlike other RPGs in that it has two different combat systems. The first is traditional turn-based combat when the player is outside their mech suit.
When inside the suits though, the game changes. The suits use fuel for their attacks, and thus this stat must be accounted for when making movements. Additionally, Deathblow attacks can be changed in this mode, and there are a number of supercharged abilities available as well.
1 Panzer Dragoon Saga
The decision to make this game into an RPG was already a controversial one on its own. Before this title, Panzer Dragoon was a series of rail-shooters. That's a large jump for the company, but this is not the strangest thing about this game.
The battles in this game are extremely dynamic. You have a number of gauges that will charge constantly in combat. You can essentially skip turns to charge more powerful attacks. At the same time, you can move quadrants on the battlefield to access enemies' weak points.
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