I was asked this exact question by a viewer on stream and the answer has been haunting me ever since. What makes a turn-based game beginner-friendly? What sets them apart from the craze of fast-paced action games like Valorant or Elden Ring? People who dislike turn-based games often complain about the ‘lack of thrills’ or that the combat is ‘slow’, and that’s fine; not all genres appeal to everyone. Personally, I love the chance to take a game at my own pace and enjoy a hard-earned victory won with my own wits, rather than the speed of my thumbs. If you’re not familiar with turn-based games and are eager to try your hand at them, here’s a list of beginner-friendly titles and franchises just for you!
You’re probably already familiar with the adorable and powerful creatures from one of Japan’s most popular franchises. A team of up to six, four skills per Pokémon and an endless combination of builds and strategies, Pokémon caters to casual and competitive players alike. But with games dating back as far as 1996 and more spin-offs than there are Star Wars shows, it can be hard to figure out where to start! Don’t worry, I got you.
Often remembered as the ‘golden era’ of the franchise, the Gen IV remakes of Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl are, in my opinion, the best introduction to Pokémon at present. They’re mechanically faithful to the core of the series without the clunky gimmicks of the more recent titles. However, if you crave that added flavour of open world exploration, then I’d recommend Pokémon Legends: Arceus. Don’t listen to the haters; this game is boatloads of fun! With less of a focus on the combat and more on discovery, it’s got loads to offer while staying compact and easy to progress.
Final Fantasy (Pixel Remasters vs VIII, X & XII)
You cannot have a discussion on turn-based RPGs without bringing up the absolute giant in the genre. Before the days of FFXV and it’s thrilling, real-time combat, the first 6 instalments Final Fantasy were turn-based pixel games that remain pivotal to the genre.
For those who would like to learn the true history of the turn-based RPG, then pick up any of the Pixel Remasters, which are unrelated from each other story-wise. Individually or in the bundle, these are affordable and available on Switch, PS4, Steam and even mobile (iOS & Android) for your convenience!
If pixel games aren’t your thing, then try the more challenging FFVIII and FFX. The combat becomes a bit more nuanced and later game fights require more brainpower but are well worth the effort. FFX was actually my first ever video game back in the day and still one of my favourites. I also cannot tell you how much you should AVOID all of the FFXIII games. If you’re not a die-hard veteran of the franchise, this game will ruin you forever. Just, don’t. Please.
Octopath Traveler I & II
The art and atmosphere of the Octopath games are truly astounding. But remember, this is not a ‘best turn-based games of all time list’; this is for the newbies. Octopath games are mechanically simple, but there is great depth to the combat in this game, which may make it a little more daunting for newcomers, but if you’re up for a challenge, then this game is perfect for you! The great thing is that I and II are standalone games; you don’t have to play the first one to enjoy the latest release, so pick whichever trailer catches your fancy and dive right in!
Fire Emblem Franchise
Do you want to enjoy a tactical combat game without the unnecessary headaches of overly complicated type matchups? Fire Emblem has your back. Pay attention to a tooltip once as it appears and you’re set to effectively exploit your enemies’ weaknesses and march across the battlefield to victory. But again, such a large franchise! Where to start?
Fire Emblem does not get the cross-platform love it deserves, which makes trying older games without older consoles difficult. If you’ve got a 3DS, grab yourself a second-hand copy of Awakening right now (if not, check the next paragraph). This was my introduction to the franchise and by far one of the best. You’re able to progress the story without getting sidetracked by build optimisation and the story even had me in tears!
If you’ve only got a Switch then don’t turn your nose up at Three Houses. The game has more routes to play through than it lets on and the base-building/character investment of the Monastery is an unconventional yet welcome addition to the franchise.
Have you ever mentioned the words ‘Persona’ and then seen a true fan’s eyes light up with a dark, unbridled joy? There’s a reason for that and it’s because Persona 5 is a masterpiece in the truest sense of the word. From dazzling comic book art to a funky, jazz noir soundtrack that could score platinum on its own merits, Persona 5 is one of the most gripping turn-based games out there. This is a staple game that any fan needs to have played. The variety of difficulty settings also make it extremely beginner-friendly so that you can take the dive in full protective gear or just with your stylish Joker mask!
Now here’s a whacked-out but cult classic of an indie game. Omori is a heavy hitter in terms of themes around mental health, so you’d best make sure you check those trigger warnings on Steam before you buy. That being said, the game is utterly fantastic. Turning emotions into type matchups with a sketched art style, Omori is deserving of all the love it gets, from casual players to turn-based veterans.
And so many more…
- Ni no Kuni (challenging but beautiful)
- Edge of Eternity (a step up for difficulty but has amazing open world exploration)
- Monster Hunter Stories 2 (classic Monster Hunter exploration and lots of side content when you need a change of pace)
- The DioField Chronicle (medieval and artistic AAA strategy game)
These games are the tip of the turn-based games iceberg, but I hope they’ll be your beloved starters to the genre.
Don’t forget to follow along for more recommendations and let us know in the comments which ones are your favourite!