Games in the Fire Emblem series were not available outside of Japan until some of the characters were introduced in Super Smash Bros. Melee in 2001. The popularity of these characters was overwhelming enough to encourage the developers to re-release Fire Emblem: Blazing Blade as just Fire Emblem in the West.
Some gamers may be tempted to believe that Blazing Blade was the first game in the series. It’s not. The game series goes as far back as 1990. Which means it took over a decade before Western audiences were introduced to it.
All of the games in the series have been Nintendo exclusives. But what if you want to play the latest version of Fire Emblem but don’t own a Switch? Well, luckily there are a lot of Fire Emblem-like games out there on various consoles. In this guide, we’ll be introducing you to six of the best.
What is Fire Emblem
Fire Emblem is a series of tactical, strategy-based sim role play games. Initially, the game wasn’t available for Western audiences because the developers and publishers felt that it wouldn’t appeal to their tastes.
There are currently sixteen games in the franchise, including a few remasters and remakes of earlier games. Thirteen of the titles are original games.
Fire Emblem mixes some life sim RPG elements with tactical turn-based combat. It’s very Persona-like. What happens off the battlefield actually influences what happens to it. For instance, you can motivate characters in the life-sim portion of the game and they’ll perform better during battles.
Battles consist of turn-based combat where characters move in a grid-like fashion. It’s a bit like Chess meets Final Fantasy. How far a character can move across the map is determined by their class and abilities.
In this guide, we’ll be going over the best games like Fire Emblem that resemble it’s playstyle as closely as possible. Not an easy task to accomplish as Shouzou Kaga (the creator) wanted to make the game as unique as possible. Yet, we still feel that you can walk away from this list with some good picks. Without further ado…
#1 Best Overall – The Banner Saga (Trilogy)
- Platforms: Windows, OS X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Android, iOS, Linux,
- Initial Release Date: 14 January 2014 (Banner Saga 1)
- Developer: Stoic Studio
- Publisher: Versus Evil
- Game Modes: Single-Player, Multiplayer (Factions)
What do you get when you combine the experience of ex-Bioware studio veterans and the world-building of Alex Thomas? You get a pretty kickass western tactical RPG series. The Banner Saga proves that not only do tactical RPGs like Fire Emblem appeal to Western gamers, but they appeal to Western developers too.
But why is the Banner saga a worthy alternative to Fire Emblem? Dare we ask, is it better? Find out in the following review.
The Banner Saga Story
The Banner Saga is set in a Norse-inspired world where the planet has stopped rotating around the sun, leaving the entire planet in continuous twilight. It isn’t exactly scientifically accurate but a bit of suspension of disbelief is important here, lest we get distracted.
The world is primarily populated by three races; humans, the Varis and the Dredge. For a long time, the Dredge was thought to be extinct. It seems they were just biding their time before they could resurface and take over the world.
The player controls a roving convoy of humans and giants on their journey to seek safety from the Dredge as well as a giant serpent, big enough to split mountains into two.
The Banner Saga Gameplay
The game plays out like an interactive Disney tale or storybook. Often, when we talk about strategy games, the discussion focuses on the gameplay on the battlefield. However, tactical-RPGs force us to focus on our interactions off the battlefield as well as on, in almost equal measure.
As you lead your caravan, you need to ensure that they’re healthy. This means picking the right people to join it when you’re tempted. This also means keeping an eye on your supplies.
As you travel from town to town, your caravan uses up supplies. If you run out, you lose members of your caravan to thirst and/or starvation. When you’re dealing with humans (or humanoids), you can expect some drama. Since Stoic Studio is made up of ex-Bioware devs, the guys behind Mass Effect – one of the best RPGs of all time, the decisions you make regarding each of your character’s social interactions will influence where the story goes and how it ends.
You may see the results of your decisions almost immediately or later on the game. Just like real life, this gives the gameplay some level of unpredictability.
The same currency you use to purchase supplies at each town you pass is the same resource you use to level up your heroes for battle. What this means is you’ll often have to choose between upgrading your heroes to make them better fighters or ensuring that the members of your convoy are healthy.
As with a lot of games in this genre, combat can be tricky. The battlefield is divided into a semi-visible grid. Your characters’ movements are limited by their class and abilities – very much like chess. Before engaging in battle, you’ll have a chance to choose which of your heroes is featured.
This is a significant part of the game’s tactical elements. It’s important to swap out characters who were involved with the last battle to let them rest and heal.
The Banner Saga Graphics
A large portion of your time will be spent watching your convoy track across the game’s two-dimensional Scandinavian inspired landscape. Cutscenes are far and few between, but they’re well animated when they do appear.
The art style is very similar to Dragon’s Lair. It’s bound to spark some feelings of nostalgia. All the character cards and vistas are well illustrated. There’s something awe-inspiring about the snow falling in front of a background that features a town on fire.
The Banner Saga Sound
The soundtrack was composed by Austin Wintory, who’s known for his work on other indie titles such as Journey and Erica. He received a nomination from the NAVGTR for his work on The Banner Saga. This should be enough to let you know how good the music in The Banner Saga is.
How about the voice acting? Any form of voice acting is rare. Most of the character interactions are conducted through text. However, you might hear a bit of dialogue or monologue describing how dire the situation is here and there.
The Banner Saga Overall Review
The Banner Saga doesn’t apply life simulation in its gameplay as deeply as The Fire Emblem series does. However, once again, your actions away from the battlefield are as important as your actions on it. A similarity that both The Banner Saga and the Fire Emblem series share.
The game also feels a lot more story-oriented. Not to say that plot isn’t an important part of Fire Emblem but the gameplay in The Banner Saga feels like it’s there to advance your progress in the story. This makes it feel like an interactive choose your own adventure game.
Nevertheless, the entire Banner Saga series is intriguing, captivating, and engaging. Each game in the series is made up of short campaigns. So even if you own a Nintendo Switch but dislike how long the Fire Emblem games are, The Banner Saga series is a more than worthy alternative.
#2 Best Mobile Game – Final Fantasy Tactics
- Platforms: PlayStation 1, Gameboy Advance (Advance), PSP (War of Lions)
- Initial Release Date: 20 June 1997 (PS1)
- Developer: Squaresoft
- Publisher: Square, Sony Computer Entertainment
- Game Modes: Single-Player
Final Fantasy Tactic’s similarity to the early Fire Emblem games borders on imitation. From the gameplay to the medieval setting, it looks and feels like a Fire Emblem game. We recently featured the PlayStation Portable version (War of Lions) on our list of the best PSP titles of all time.
This review is another opportunity to expand on some of the points we made on that list and discuss the similarities and differences between Fire Emblem and FF Tactics.
Final Fantasy Tactics Story
Final Fantasy is based on the time-tested trope where two people of different backgrounds and/or class status befriend each other (or fall in love), only to be thrust into conflict because of their social class.
As the player, you control Ramza Beoulve, a noble who was childhood friends with Delita Heiral, a commoner. Due to some civil unrest and a series of unfortunate events, they find that they must revise their beliefs and part ways.
The story plays out through Ramza’s perspective. It involves a civil war, a conspiracy by the Church to take over Ivalice (the kingdom the game is set in) and an evil plot by an entity thought to be long dead.
It’s hard to condense the entire plot into a few paragraphs without revealing major spoilers. It takes so many turns. You’ll have to play it to understand it.
Final Fantasy Tactics Gameplay
As with Fire Emblem, the game’s combat consists of turn-based lateral, diagonal and vertical movements. The battlefield is divided into grids, mostly invisible until it’s time to move. Speaking of movement, your unit can only move once the Charge Time reaches 100. This is a gameplay element taken from other Final Fantasy games and repurposed to suit Final Fantasy Tactics gameplay.
Members of your unit gain experience as well as job points with every successful move they make. These experience points can be used to improve your unit’s speed which will decrease the time it takes for your Charge Time to reach 100.
In addition to taking part in battles that push the story forward, you’ll also be able to partake in random battles, where you can practice and grind for points. Later on, in the game, you’ll be able to hunt monsters as well as recruit them into your party.
Final Fantasy Tactics Graphics
By today’s standards, the game’s graphics may come off as a little outdated or crude. But its 32/64-bit animation style mixed in with 3-D elements really works. It even looks better on handheld devices. The game is played from an isometric view. During battles, the screen can be rotated to help see members of your unit better.
The art direction, level designs, backdrops, character designs all deserve high praise. Menus are easy to use and follow.
Final Fantasy Tactics Sound
The music in Final Fantasy Tactics was produced by Masaharu Iwata and Hitoshi Sakimoto. Previously, among their extensive work on video game scores and soundtracks, they had worked on Ogre Battle as well as Tactical Ogre, which are both tactical RPGs.
However, this is no surprise because the same development team that made Ogre Battle applied their expertise to Final Fantasy Tactics. We can say that these two crafted an impressive soundtrack with over seventy tracks.
The game is perfectly scored; it fits the game’s theme and tone like a knight’s gauntlet. If you’re playing the old-school Japanese version of the game, you’ll notice that there’s no voice acting whatsoever. In addition to new cinematics, the North American PSP version does. The voice acting is decent, to say the least, but it’s not a significant addition to the game.
Final Fantasy Overall Review
Final Fantasy Tactics is a landmark game in the tactical-RPG genre. It’s transcended cult classic status and still has a decently sized player-base, two decades later. There’s a reason why it’s on our list of the best PSP games of all time. While it’s received quite a few remakes, it’s still strange to us that Square Enix, with all their Final Fantasy remakes, have not considered releasing a sequel to tactics. Either way, it’s a great game that will leave you with bad posture if you choose to play it on a handheld system.
#3 Best Indie Game – Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, Linux and macOS
- Initial Release Date: 16 August 2018
- Developer: 6 Eyes Studio
- Publisher: 1C Entertainment
- Game Modes: Single-Player
At first glance, Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark would seem like a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy: Tactics; from the level design and shuffling characters.
While it draws heavy inspiration from games like FF: Tactics and Fire Emblem, it still manages to maintain its own identity while doing justice to the SRPG genre.
Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark Story
The game follows Kyrie, a young woman chosen by a demigod-like council of protectors known as the immortals to replace a fallen arbiter. An arbiter serves as an agent of the immortals. Since there are only six immortals, it’s not within their capacity to protect the entire world.
That’s why they started selecting mortals to parole the lands and protect the various realms from minor threats or danger that would otherwise waste the immortal’s time. You play as Kyrie and you follow her journey as she adjusts to her role as an arbitrator while meeting some very interesting characters along the way.
The story is the chink in Fell Seal’s armor. While it’s serviceable but you won’t find yourself playing the game to find out what happens next. However, it still has great lore but I wish the game utilized it to a greater degree.
Fell Seal: Ariber’s Mark Gameplay
Fell Seal is played from an isometric view. Just like the game it draws heavy inspiration from, the battlefield is divided into a grid. Since it’s a turn-based strategy game, each unit gets a turn. The order of a unit’s turn is based on the speed stat.
During a turn, a unit can perform a move action and one regular attack action. Attacks can be performed from the front, side or back (not diagonally). It’s your standard tactical RPG affair. But Arbiter’s Mark adds a little extra to a tried and true formula.
One of the most notable additions is the ability to take advantage of battleground surroundings. For instance, if an enemy unit can’t swim, you can drown them by pushing them into water. You can push enemy units into walls as well as over cliffs to inflict additional damage.
As with most games in this genre, combat and gameplay can be extremely challenging. The difficulty level seems to increase, the more you progress. It can reach Dark Souls-like difficulty levels. That’s why grinding and revisiting previous levels is so important.
One of the best things about Fell Seal is it stops grinding from becoming a tedious task. When you revisit a level, you’ll find new enemies who are slightly more difficult to defeat than the last batch.
Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark Graphics
Something that we wish Fell Sell adapted from Final Fantasy: Tactics is the ability to rotate the map. However, levels and battlefields are designed in such a way that it’s unnecessary. You can easily and always see members of your party.
The majority of the game is hand-drawn. The environment and levels are beautifully crafted. There is a lot of attention to detail paid to the character cards and sprites. Fell Seal has a very old-school feel to it but never really feels dated. It feels like a modern-day indie game which makes it perfect for budget gaming computers.
Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark Sound
The music was produced by the multi-award-winning German composer, Jan Morgenstern. Some of his most notable works include Big Buck Bunny, The Girl, and The Fox, and The Secret Number.
The score matches the theme of the game perfectly. It’s very grand and orchestral. Your typical ‘we’re going on an adventure’ music. Sound effects suit the game well too. They’re never out of character or delayed. Each hit and spell is well emphasized with what feels like the right sound effect. So when you get hit, you can’t help but cringe or feel it too.
Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark Overall Review
What I love most about strategic role-playing games is the multitude of problems you’re presented with. They’re like puzzles, except you’re given many ways to solve them. And it’s up to you to make the right decision. It forces you to be mindful.
Fell Seal is a great western interpretation of a tactical JRPG. It’s a well-executed and worthy indie alternative to Fire Emblem. If you like Fell Seal, check out our list of the best indie games.
#4 Best for PlayStation 4 – Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC
- Initial Release Date: 25 March 2015 (PS4)
- Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
- Publisher: Nippon Ichi Software
- Game Modes: Single-Player
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is another game that is more Final Fantasy: Tactics than it is modern-day Fire Emblem. Originally, it was a PS4 exclusive until it was released on the Nintendo Switch two years later. It was then subsequently followed by a 2018 release for Microsoft Windows.
The game never hit the Xbox One and it seems like it never will. So what are X-boners missing out on exactly?
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance Story
In the universe of Disgaea, there exist multiple Netherworlds. Each Netherworld is controlled by a demon overlord. The balance of the universe is determined by these overlords meeting each other in battle. Each overlord has a unique ability.
One power-hungry overlord with the ability to steal the special abilities of other overlords has upset the balance by conquering and controlling multiple Netherworlds. You play as Killia, a young demon on a quest for revenge and retribution.
The story feels uniquely Japanese. It carries some very heavy anime elements. It’s a JRPG through and through. The writing is witty, smart and engaging. It’s hard not to care about some of these characters.
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance Gameplay
Games like these can be deceiving. Sure, they’re not graphical masterpieces but they have gameplay and customizability that is very deep. Disgaea is layered. It has a higher learning curve than it may seem at first glance.
You’ll need to learn about character classes and their various abilities, mostly for strategic reasons. In the game, you’ll travel to various Netherworld’s to recruit an army to help Killia fight Void Dark’s (the power-hungry overlord we mentioned earlier) Lost Army.
There are a lot of interesting character classes to explore and incorporate into battles. You will also have access to heaps of customizable loot and items. As with other games in the series, you get your Disgaea-style grid-based time sync combat.
In addition to everything you’d expect from a Disgaea game, you also get a map-editing tool, you can assign new subclasses and Disgaea 5 introduces a new squad system where complementary party members can coordinate to unleash special attacks and bonuses.
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance Graphics
To be frank, Disgaea 5 probably has some of the worst visuals on this list. In some aspects, it barely takes advantage of the PS4’s hardware. This is not to say that the graphics are terrible. Something that Disgaea does better than most games on this list is its animated grandeur of special attacks. The battlefield warps, shifts and changes to focus on special attacks to emphasize how devastating they may be.
Disgaea 5 uses a mixture of hand-drawn animated sprites and 3D backgrounds – a visual theme that is common with most games in this genre. The characters are well-drawn and charming. They’re drawn in a manga/anime style. This caps off the entire JRPG experience.
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance Sound
Just like with most anime soundtracks, Disgaea 5’s soundtrack consists of a slew of emotional piano ballads and Japanese techno. The opening cinematic mimics the opening of an anime series to a T, from the Japanese orchestral rock music to the imagery.
The game’s voice acting is great – both the Japanese and English versions. Some of it is a bit campy and over the top but it works for the general feel of the game.
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance Overall Review
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance doesn’t deviate from what made the previous games so special. It revisits old features while introducing new ones.
New SRPG fans and old can appreciate Disgaea’s story and gameplay. Get it on your PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch or Windows PC.
#5 Best for PC – Expeditions: Vikings
- Platforms: Microsoft Windows
- Initial Release Date: 27 April 2017 (PS4)
- Developer: Logic Artists
- Publisher: THQ Nordic
- Game Modes: Single-Player
You’ll notice that most of the games on this list are either JRPGs or JRPG-inspired. This might fool you into thinking that Western game makers can’t create compelling tactical role-playing games.
Well, Logic Artists and THQ Nordic are here to unhand you of those notions.
Expeditions: Vikings Story
Expeditions: Vikings takes place in 790 AD. You play as a Viking chieftain, who after his father’s passing is placed in charge of his own small village. Of course, as a Viking, you want to expand your village and increase its acclaim. The best way to do this is by exploring new regions and then plundering and conquering them.
There is little left to explore in the surrounding areas. Therefore, the best way to cover new ground and get fresh plunder is by sailing to unexplored regions. That’s only part of the game’s premise. There’s a lot of politicking along the way.
You’ll have to navigate both through Expeditions: Vikings landscape as well as the main character’s interpersonal relationships and his role as Chieftain. It’s surprisingly story-driven and more character-focused than we thought it would be.
Expeditions: Vikings Gameplay
The game allows you to create and customize your own Vikings Chieftain. Since it’s a role-playing game, you’ll be able to increase your character’s stats and abilities. Instead of square-grids, the field is divided into hexagons. This doesn’t add anything substantially different to the SRPG genre but it does make Expeditions: Vikings stand out.
Other than that, it’s your standard tactical RPG. Between battles, you’ll need to make sure that your huscarls and warriors are healthy. You’ll also need to ensure that your tactics are as fluid as possible by employing a variety of classes on the battle-field.
You can’t expect to win battles with anything but axemen, especially as the game gets progressively harder. Each battle requires some forethought and mindfulness.
Expedition: Vikings Graphics
Expedition: Vikings is one of the best-looking games on this list. It’s a purely 3D top-down RPG. Environments look spectacular. From dining halls, forests and markets, there’s a lot of attention to detail.
Menus are easy to navigate through and customization feels intuitive. Character models are well-designed too. We’re not completely sure if all the attire and architecture are historically accurate but it looks good enough.
Expeditions: Vikings Sound
The game’s sound effects are great. However, the dialogue does sound a bit asynchronous. We don’t expect characters to talk in an Old Norse or Scandinavian language (or even an accent) but they use colloquialisms that feel very 21st century-ish.
Other than that, Viking cries, grunts, the clash of swords, the breathing, all the subtle sound effects and nuances all feel within character. There’s a lot of flute-based music, more medieval than Norse. The soundtrack is nothing out of the ordinary and you can mute it just to hear the swoosh of the valley wind or the ambient voices of the dining halls.
Expeditions: Vikings Overall Review
We can’t speak on its historical accuracy, but we can say that Expeditions: Vikings is a great game. So much so, that it’s worth revisiting the previous installment in the Expeditions series, Conquistador.
There’s a lot of interesting content in this game. Some may find it overwhelming. If you decide to purchase and play this game, remember to take your time with it.
In this list, we introduced to you what we felt were the best alternatives to Fire Emblem. We tried to look at games that balanced gameplay that focuses on story with combat. If you’re looking for RPGs with more life-sim elements, then give Persona 5, the Yakuza series or Shenmue a try.
However, if you’re looking for something more tactical and a little less story-driven, you should pay a visit to our list of the best turn-based strategy games. Either way, we hope that you’ve found this guide to be helpful. Thank you for reading.