While the original Sony PlayStation may have stolen the show when it came to role-playing games in the 32-bit era, the Sega Saturn was definitely no slouch in the RPG department. The system featured quite a number of original, unique, and very enjoyable titles in the genre. And somewhat shockingly, almost all of the Saturn RPG games we'll cover here have remained exclusive to the platform. So, without further ado, let's take a look at some of the best RPGs the Sega Saturn had to offer in this complete list of every Saturn role-playing game currently playable in English.
Albert Odyssey: Legend of Eldean
Albert Odyssey: Legend of Eldean is your typical run-of-the-mill Japanese RPG that does a lot of things really well - its 2D graphics look great, the turn-based battles are intuitive and well-executed, and the adventure is engaging throughout. The game doesn't attempt to reinvent the genre or try to be the next big thing in J-RPG gaming - it's just a simple, well-made RPG with an enjoyable quest. And that's a good thing! This is actually one of the more polished and well-rounded RPGs on the Sega Saturn. If you're looking for a traditional turn-based Japanese RPG for your Saturn collection, Albert Odyssey is a great option to check out.
Dragon Force is a very deep strategy RPG that features epic battles with hundreds of soldiers on screen at once. The game is hardcore and pretty intimidating for first time players - reading the manual here is going to be a must. You'll spend a lot of time managing your troops and castles outside of battles, and you need to strategize which castles you'll attempt to take over based on a lot of different factors. Dragon Force offers 8 different storylines depending on which character you choose to play as, so there's plenty of replay value here. If you want a very in-depth strategy RPG for your Sega Saturn, look no further than Dragon Force
The Legend of Oasis
The Legend of Oasis (known as The Story of Thor 2 in Europe) is a sequel to the underrated action-RPG Beyond Oasis for the Sega Genesis. The game offers an overhead 2D Zelda-like experience filled with puzzles and exploration. Combat here is quick and responsive with a lot of different moves and attacks you can perform - there's even a combo system in place, making the combat feel sort of like a beat-'em-up game. The game also has a unique buddy system allowing you to summon elemental spirits that you unlock as you progress to help you solve puzzles and fight enemies. All in all it's a fantastic action-adventure RPG and a great addition to the Sega Saturn's library.
Dark Savior is a game in Climax Entertainment's LandStalker series, combining platforming and RPG elements in a unique adventure. If you're familiar with LandStalker you'll have a good idea on how this one plays. There's a lot of very tricky platforming thanks to the game's isometric viewpoint, but it definitely becomes easier once you get used to it. Battles in the game are pretty interesting, taking inspiration from one-on-one fighting games. Dark Savior also has plenty of replay value with branching storylines where the choices you make impact the rest of the game. It's a great platforming-heavy action-RPG that is still exclusive to the Sega Saturn.
Shining Wisdom is an overhead Zelda style action-RPG spinoff game in the Shining Force series. It's nowhere near as polished as your average Legend of Zelda game, but it offers a cute and engaging action-RPG adventure with some small quirks and flaws. The game features real-time combat, exploration and puzzle-solving that requires the use of the new abilities you learn as you progress throughout the game, similar to Zelda, along with a compelling story and charming characters. There weren't many Zelda-like games released on the Sega Saturn, and despite some of Shining Wisdom's minor peculiarities, it's still a good action-RPG that's exclusive to the Saturn and worth checking out.
Virtual Hydlide is a remake of the classic action RPG Hydlide. This is the only western-style RPG released for the Sega Saturn in North America, playing kind of like an early Elder Scrolls game. While the game has a poor reputation due to its poor framerate and somewhat janky gameplay, if you can get used to its quirks there's actually a good adventure to be had here. You'll embark on a quest to save the princess, battling monsters while exploring a vast 3D world. If you're looking for an RPG for the Saturn that's very different from the standard fare, Virtual Hydlide is a unique and underrated exclusive RPG for the system that might be up your alley.
Shining Force III
Shining Force III is the Sega Saturn exclusive third game in Sega's classic strategy-RPG series Shining Force. The game offers a tactical RPG experience with an epic adventure set in a richly detailed medieval world. Fans of the Shining Force series will feel right at home here as Shining Force III features the same classic gameplay formula as the earlier games, but this time with a 3D presentation. The game's branching storyline and tactical depth make it a standout entry in the Shining series. Sadly, Shining Force III as we know it in the west was only the first of three separate releases in Japan, with each game offering a different scenario with its own plotline. Even though we never got the full game outside of Japan, Shining Force III is a great (and extremely expensive) tactical role-playing game that is a must-play for every Saturn RPG fan.
Herc's Adventures takes a comedic twist on the RPG genre, offering a lighthearted adventure inspired by Greek mythology. It's very similar to Zombies Ate My Neighbors from the same development team, appearing to run on an updated version of that game's engine, but Herc's Adventures takes place in a large open world with action-RPG elements. You can control one of three heroes - Herc, Atlanta, or Jason - in a quest to save the goddess Persephone from Hades and restore balance to the world. The game features action-oriented overhead gameplay with plenty of puzzles to solve, a humorous story, and even a cooperative multiplayer mode. Herc's Adventure's is definitely a hidden gem for the Saturn, offering a fantastic 2D action-RPG that's brimming with personality.
Blazing Heroes/Mystaria: The Realms of Lore
Blazing Heroes, also released as Mystaria: The Realms of Lore, is a turn-based strategy RPG in the same vein as the Shining Force games. The majority of the game is spent in grid-based tactical battles, although there are some towns and other areas to explore outside of battles as well. It's your typical strategy RPG, and it's actually really well done. Definitely a hidden gem on the Sega Saturn for strategy RPG enthusiasts.
Guardian Heroes is a beat-em-up with some light RPG elements made by legendary developer Treasure. While the game is really all about the action, your character levels up as you gain experience through fighting enemies, allowing you to upgrade your stats at the end of each level, and you're presented with decisions at times which lead to many branching paths. It's also a lot heavier on story than most games in the genre as well, and features plenty of cutscenes and dialogue. This brawler also features a 2-player co-op mode so you and a friend can play through the story together, as well as a chaotic 6-payer melee mode that's very reminiscent of the Super Smash Bros games. The aesthetics are also on-point, with some great 2D graphics and a fantastic soundtrack. All in all, Guardian Heroes is a fairly deep and extremely fun beat-em-up/RPG mash-up that offers hours of entertainment with a cool story and plenty of replay value. This unique game is definitely one of the best ever made for the Saturn and should be experienced by every fan of the system.
Shining the Holy Ark
Shining the Holy Ark is the sequel to the Sega Genesis game Shining in the Darkness, and is yet another game in Sega's Shining series to make an appearance on this list, joining Shining Wisdom and Shining Force III. Unlike the previously mentioned games, Shining the Holy Ark offers a traditional dungeon-crawling RPG experience, played from the first-person perspective. You'll assemble a party of adventurers to explore labyrinthine dungeons, battle monsters, and unravel the mysteries of the Holy Ark. The game features an engaging story, challenging battles, and a richly detailed world portrayed with a unique art style and some great graphics for the console. If you like these old-school dungeon crawlers, Shining the Holy Ark is another Sega Saturn exclusive RPG that shouldn't be missed.
Magic Knight Rayearth
Magic Knight Rayearth is a bit of a bittersweet game for the Sega Saturn, as it was the last Saturn game released in North America. It's based on the popular manga and anime series Magic Knight Rayearth, and the Saturn-exclusive game is an action RPG where you play as three schoolgirls transported to the magical land of Cephiro. The game plays similarly to titles like The Legend of Zelda and especially The Secret of Mana, as you'll explore the world in a top-down 2D perspective and engage in real-time battles with enemies, switching between the three characters on the fly to take advantage of each girl's unique abilities. It's a fantastic action RPG with great graphics, nice anime cutscenes, and an endearing story. As a highly sought-after and rare release, it'll cost you a small fortune for an authentic copy of the game, but serious Saturn collectors and RPG players are going to want to have this awesome game in their collection.
Panzer Dragoon Saga
Here it is, the holy grail of the Sega Saturn. Panzer Dragoon Saga is a legendary RPG that was only released on the Sega Saturn, and seeing as the source code for the game was lost long ago, it will most likely remain an exclusive to the console. The game takes the lore and aesthetics of the first two Panzer Dragoon and transforms the series from the arcade-style rail shooters of Panzer Dragoon 1 & 2 into an epic RPG adventure. The battles are a lot more action-oriented than your standard RPG fare, as you'll constantly have to change positions on the fly to gain the advantage. The game's story, cutscenes, and atmosphere will have you hooked into its intricately designed world of fantasy, with some of the nicest art direction of the 32-bit era. From the graphics to the gameplay, Panzer Dragoon Saga is a role-playing adventure that simply should not be missed - be prepared to shell out a large sum of money if you want a North American copy of the game, but it's well worth it for its collectability and the fantastic journey it takes you on. Sega and Team Andromeda really outdid themselves with this title. A true classic in every sense of the word, and one of the best RPGs ever made!
That's all of the RPGs for the Sega Saturn that were released in North America and Europe. However, there are a handful of Japan-only role-playing releases that have been translated into English by fans. We'll take a look at these titles below:
Grandia, a much-beloved RPG from developer Game Arts, takes players on a coming-of-age adventure following the young hero Justin and his unlikely companions. Saturn fans back in the day considered it to be the console's answer to Final Fantasy VII, and it's easy to see why. The game offers an epic RPG quest with a deep and frenetic battle system, with very nice colorful graphics and a charming personality expressed through its characters and light-hearted story and dialogue. While we never got the chance to play Grandia in English on the Sega Saturn back in the day, fans have since released an official English language patch. It was also officially released worldwide for the Sony PlayStation if you'd rather play it that way.
Lunar: Silver Star Story
Before Grandia, Game Arts had already made a name for itself in the role-playing genre with the Lunar games on the Sega CD. Lunar: Silver Star Story is an upgraded port of the first game in the series, Lunar: The Silver Star. It's a traditional J-RPG that tells the story of a young hero named Alex on a quest to become a Dragonmaster. It was a groundbreaking title for its time when it was released for the Sega CD, featuring voice acting and FMV anime cutscenes, which have been completely redone for the 32-bit remasters. It's a fantastic RPG with charming characters and an enchanting game world - it's truly a classic title regardless of the platform you play it on. The Sega Saturn version was never released outside of Japan, sadly, but a fan translation patch now exists. It was also released officially in North America on the Sony PlayStation.
Dragon Force II:
Dragon Force II is obviously a sequel to the first Dragon Force game on the Saturn. This Japan-only strategic RPG builds upon the foundation of its predecessor with more options when building your troops and a more polished presentation, while offering the same basic tactical gameplay. It's an extremely similar game to the original, so if you want you've played the first game and want even more Dragon Force, Dragon Force II offers it in spades. And now thanks to the hard work of fans, there's a translation patch available that allows you to play it in English.
Sakura Wars (known as Sakura Taisen in Japan) combines strategic tactical RPG gameplay with a dating sim. This one is definitely more of a digital novel than a game, but it does feature some mech-based tactical battles in between plenty of romancing of cute anime girls. If you're into that sort of thing, the game has been fully translated into English by fans via a patch.
Vandal Hearts was ported to the Sega Saturn from the Sony PlayStation, but sadly the Saturn version never left Japan. It's a tactical RPG similar to the Shining Force games, that follows the story of Ash, a young warrior seeking revenge against an evil empire. There are tons of strategic battles to engage in on grid-based maps, and the game features copious amounts of blood during attacks, which was rare to see in RPGs at the time. Seriously, the amount of blood here makes Mortal Kombat seem tame. If you're looking for more strategy RPG goodness on the Sega Saturn, Vandal Hearts has received a full English translation patch, and it was also released worldwide for the Sony PlayStation.
Linkle Liver Story
Linkle Liver Story is an action RPG published only in Japan by Sega and developed by Nextech. It's the unofficial spiritual sequel to the Sega Genesis game Crusader of Centy, which was made by the same developer, and shares a lot of similarities to that game in terms of gameplay and story. It's a very cute 2D top-down Zelda-style RPG with some interesting mechanics, most notably its Venn diagram-based weapon upgrade system which uses seeds and water droplets you collect throughout the game to grow flowers which give you new weapons. That sounds really weird and confusing on paper but it's an interesting and cool little system. It's another great RPG for the Saturn that never left Japan, but luckily fans have come through with an English translation patch so it can now be enjoyed by a much larger audience.
Zanma Chouougi Valhollian
Zanma Chouougi Valhollian (also known simply as Valhollian) is a hardcore strategy RPG with grid-based combat. When we say hardcore, we mean it - this is definitely not a game for casual players. The battles are long and difficult, and there's plenty of strategy required as the game heavily relies on combos and team attacks which are based on your positioning. If you dig these turn-based tactical RPGs like the Shining Force games and can handle the difficulty here, Valhollian is well worth checking out. The 2D sprite-based graphics look nice, and the game features some 3D polygon-based scenes which look great for the Saturn. It was never released outside of Japan, but fans have released a full English translation patch for the game that you can download if the game sounds interesting to you.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was a revolution for the Castlevania series, combining the classic 2D action-platforming gameplay and gothic horror aesthetics the series was known for with RPG elements and Metroid-inspired level design and progression. The game has a much stronger emphasis on story than the earlier titles, with some very memorable lines of awkward dialogue to go along with some nice FMV cutscenes and a more cinematic approach to gameplay. As for the RPG gameplay elements here, you'll level up your character by gaining experience points through combat and can unlock new abilities as you progress through the game that allow you to explore previously inaccessible areas. It's a tremendous game, and although the Saturn port suffered from some performance issues compared to the original PS1 release, it's still a great playthrough on the console. The Saturn port of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was never officially released outside of Japan, but it's now more accessible to English-speaking Saturn fans thanks to the hard work of fans to create a translation patch.
Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen
Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen is a port of a tactical RPG developed by Quest, originally released for the Super Nintendo. You'll participate in a grand-scale conflict as you lead a rebel army against an oppressive empire through plenty of menu screens. The game combines strategic troop management with strategic real-time battles and a ton of confusing gameplay mechanics. It shares some similarities with the Dragon Force games as you'll recruit new troops and strategically manage and expand your territories. If you're into hardcore strategy RPGs, Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen offers a very deep experience if you can manage to wrap your head around it. This Japan-only Saturn release was translated into English by fans.
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is yet another tactical Ogre Battle RPG game ported from the Super Nintendo and developed by Quest. It's much more straightforward than The March of the Black Queen was, playing more like the Shining Force games or Final Fantasy Tactics. The game still features plenty of depth, however, as you'll still be recruiting troops to help you in battles, which are still difficult and can take quite a long time to finish. If you're looking for some more tactical strategy RPG games for the Sega Saturn, this previously Japan-only title has been patched by fans to be fully playable in English.