Chrono Trigger Short RPGs

20 short RPGs that won’t consume your life

Any RPG player will be aware of the occupational hazard that comes with being part of the fandom. Namely, the fact that so many of these epic adventures demand an enormous amount of time, often upwards of 80 hours. We certainly don’t always wish for short RPGs – I’m sure we all love diving head-first into a rich world of wonderful characters, lore and compelling stories. Sometimes leaving it behind is pretty painful.

Then again, on other occasions it’s nice to enjoy a title without needing to find umpteen hours that you haven’t got, if only to prevent the worst possible tragedy of an RPG playthrough – being too busy for a matter of weeks, only to come back and realise you’ve forgotten how the battle system works and what the hell was happening in the plot.

Therefore I thought I’d put together a list of short RPGs that can be completed in the more generous timeframe of around 20-22 hours or under. With a mixed bag of different platforms, gameplay styles and eras, here we go.

Trials of Mana Battle

Trials of Mana

Time to beat: 20 hours

Metascore: 74 (Switch), 76 (PS4) / Our Score: 7.5

Trials of Mana is a fun action RPG that can be completed in under 20 hours of gameplay. As a remake of a 1995 title that was not released in the West for over two decades, its plot does display some signs of age. However, the numerous cliched RPG tropes involving an enchanted sword, sealed away evil and magic crystals don’t detract from the excellent combat.

There are actually six characters to choose from (a party of three is selected), and depending on your choice there are three overlapping but different narratives that can play out. With this in mind, if you fall in love with Trials of Mana there is more to it than a single playthrough, but you aren’t missing a huge amount by only completing it once. Check out our full review for a more comprehensive analysis.

Trials of Mana is available for PS4 here and Nintendo Switch here.

Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger

Time to beat: 20 hours

Metascore: 92 (DS)

A legendary SNES RPG regarded by many as the best ever. Again, there are multiple pathways for the story to take, and many possible endings, but the core game can be completed in a reasonable timeframe. Crono’s journey through time to halt the destruction of Lavos combines wonderful characters, superb music and a plot of twists, turns and emotional bombshells.

Despite now being 25 years old, the sprites and battle system hold up remarkably well today. There’s a reason this classic continues to inspire other games, and if you haven’t played Chrono Trigger, you owe it to yourself to experience it at least once. Even if you have, it’s never a bad choice to jump back into one of the most charming games the genre has to offer. Much like the plot, its appeal defies time itself.

Child of Light short rpgs

Child of Light

Time to beat: 11 hours

Metascore:  82 (average)

Float around the gorgeous world of Lemuria, as heroine Aurora seeks to return home whilst saving the sun, moon and stars. A striking art style and an excellent tactical battle system make Child of Light a fantastic title to enjoy within a cool timeframe of under 12 hours.

Available on virtually every platform, Aurora’s story whisks you into a fairytale setting, with its flamboyant, rhyming dialogue and beautiful musical score adding enchantment at every turn. The combat and character growth are deftly balanced to allow an accessibility whilst not being a pushover. There’s still plenty of clamour for an unlikely sequel, and we can only hope Ubisoft oblige.

Suikoden gameplay

Suikoden

Time to beat: 20 hours

Metascore: N/A (GameRankings: 82)

The opening title to one of the most popular JRPG series is a fairly streamlined one, clocking in at an achievable 20 hours despite involving a worldwide hunt for over 100 recruits to overthrow the empire. Not all of these characters are playable, but it’s genuinely exciting to find new rebels and see what skills they can bring to your growing army.

The gameplay is traditional turn-based random battle fare, commonplace for its mid-90s release, but this is broken up by duels and war battles that add a healthy splash of variety to things.

Suikoden was finally released on PSN in 2015, featuring a story of war, corruption, rebellion and betrayal. It holds a huge fanbase and is followed by numerous sequels which were a bit too long to make the cut here. Therefore, if Suikoden floats yours boat there is plenty more to be enjoyed within the series.

Undertale short rpgs

Undertale

Time to beat: 6 hours

Metascore: 92 (PS4, PC), 93 (Switch)

Undertale is the indie game that took the gaming world by storm. Its decidedly old-school graphics, quirky humour and unique take on a battle system have helped spawn an incredibly passionate cult fanbase, proving that talented developers don’t need AAA budgets to succeed.

Best of all, it can be beaten in just a handful of hours. But be warned, after completing it once you may feel compelled to do it all over again in search of another conclusion. Undertale is best enjoyed with as little prior knowledge as possible, so avoid spoilers and quickly blast through Toby Fox’s virtually single-handed masterpiece.

The World Ends With You Battle

The World Ends With You

Time to beat: 16 hours

Metascore: 88 (DS), 95 (iOS), 77 (Switch)

The World Ends With You (TWEWY) is a stylish, eccentric RPG set in a fictionalised version of Tokyo’s Shibuya district. It heavily leans into the realm of fashion and trends, with cosmetic items affecting gameplay and a soundtrack containing huge doses of energy and groove.

Protagonist Neku finds himself in the heart of ‘the Game’ a trippy competition that leads to all sorts of surprises in an excellent, unusual plot. TWEWY was regarded as one of the best RPGs on the DS, and its definitive version was an exciting (albeit somewhat overpriced) release on the Switch.

However, there’s a reason it was far better received on the DS and iOS, which is the unique way battles are controlled with the touchscreen. Neku can equip pins that appear on the battle screen and are literally touched by the player to be activated and controlled. The docked mode gameplay of the Switch attracted a lot of criticism, as it loses the very mechanic that makes combat so fun, but playing in handheld mode still holds up and makes the title well worth playing.

The World Ends With You Final Remix is available on Nintendo Switch here.

I Am Setsuna short rpgs

I Am Setsuna

Time to beat: 20 hours

Metascore: 70 (PC), 74 (PS4), 75 (Switch)

I Am Setsuna is a title that certainly doesn’t try to reinvent the RPG wheel. In fact, it is clearly aiming to provide a familiar, comfortable gameplay experience and is one of the many games inspired by the likes of Chrono Trigger.

Its sleepy piano pieces and the perpetual fall of gentle snow evoke a tragic feel in-keeping with the game’s often morbid, sorrowful themes. A traditional turn-based battle system isn’t particularly difficult to get your head around, and with a relatively nice playthrough time of around 20 hours, I Am Setsuna can be enjoyed for its story and characters without the need to overly tax yourself or waste heaps of time.

The Last Story

The Last Story

Time to beat: 20 hours

Metascore: 80 (Wii)

The Last Story is a well-received action RPG on the Nintendo Wii, one of the last main titles release on the system. It may be a fairly linear title, but the narrative has its moments and some of the characters have interesting development, with some British voice acting that couldn’t help reminding me of Xenoblade.

The action battle system is perhaps The Last Story’s highlight, with real-time encounters that are often turned on the use of the environment, like jumping off walls and hiding behind cover in a way that’s pretty unusual in the genre.

There’s also an online multiplayer, but I would suggest it is likely no-one is playing it anymore!

South Park Stick of Truth short rpgs

South Park: The Stick of Truth

Time to beat: 11 hours

Metascore: 85 (PC), 85 (PS3), 82 (X360)

Combining South Park with RPG mechanics may not have sounded like something that should have worked, but it did.

Stick of Truth doubles down on the absurd, crude humour of the TV show, making it an absolute must-play for any South Park fan. Featuring such things as a pooing mini game, a Jew class (to perform jew-jitsu), anal probes, Khloe Kardashian’s foetus, and of course making fun of Canada, it’s perhaps inevitable some censorship took place.

References and Easter eggs are found around every corner, enriching the experience for hardcore fans whilst supplying accessible, simple RPG gameplay that makes it worth playing for others – provided you’re not easily offended. As another perk, Stick of Truth can be completed in a paltry 11 or 12 hours.

Mass Effect

Mass Effect

Time to beat: 17 hours

Metascore: 89 (PC), 85 (PS3), 91 (X360)

One of the most popular series of its generation, Mass Effect barely needs an introduction. Although some of the later titles have proved popular, the initial title can be clocked in a pretty short time of about 17 hours.

In the year 2183, with interstellar travel now possible, Commander Shephard leads this action-RPG with deep lore and a huge array of characters. Though its storytelling has now been surpassed by more recent titles, it was one of the games that helped propel the industry towards new heights. It’s different to the other games on the list in that combat features both first-person and third-person shooter gameplay, but the levelling and character customisation help it land on the RPG side of the fence.

Mass Effect still holds up today, and in fact the further titles in the trilogy aren’t much longer than the original title, still making the series a great option if you missed it the first time around.

Ys Memories of Celceta

Ys: Memories of Celceta

Time to beat: 22 hours

Metascore: 82 (Vita), 74 (PC)

It’s a great time to give Ys: Memories of Celceta a whirl, as it’s now available on the PS4. The Ys series has reached a new standard of excellence with its most recent title, Lacrimosa of Dana (which is reviewed here) and has the exciting title Monstrum Nox on the horizon.

Memories of Celceta features the popular action combat and metroidvania exploration elements as usual series hero Adol Christin ventures into the forest of Celceta, suffering from amnesia and in keen search of answers. As a far shorter game than Lacrimosa of Dana, this may be the perfect introduction to the series, with a host of switchable characters and plot revelations packed into its modest runtime.

The forest may get a little repetitive at times, but the incredibly fun battle system and the host of new gameplay mechanics that are gradually introduced easily carry Memories of Celceta through its 22-hour playthrough.

Ys Memories of Celceta is available on PS4 here.

Ys Origin short rpgs

Ys Origin

Time to beat: 11 hours

Metascore: 76 (PC), 77 (PS4), 81 (XONE)

Before Adol Christin was Ys Origin, a prequel set 700 years before the escapades of the series’ typical red-headed hero. This time, a choice is made between three available characters, one of whom must scale the enormous Devil’s Tower to save the twin Goddesses at the summit. Although the main impact of your choice is in their fighting style, replaying the game with the other characters offers a few additional story elements as well.

Though this was originally a 2006 PC title, a Switch version is shortly being released to accompany its PS4, PS Vita and Xbox one ports. The age of the title should not put you off. The fast-paced, frenetic action loses none of its appeal without Adol, as some tremendous bosses break up the battles against easier, normal enemies.

Golden Sun

Golden Sun

Time to beat: 22 hours

Metascore: 91 (GBA)

The only disappointment about Golden Sun is that it’s currently a pain to play, still only available on the Gameboy Advance or via an emulator. It’s high time there was a Nintendo Switch port for this fantastic RPG. Led by silent protagonist Isaac, the young cast utilise their magic abilities (known as synergy) and set off to save the world in an admittedly familiar plot.

During the quest, Isaac and his friends also collect powerful creatures called Djinn to boost their abilities and unlock devastating attacks. The visual effects were superb for their time and their platform, with the turn-based battles including some neat spell effects and summons. On the field, puzzles that require the use of synergy are novel and fun, like freezing water to create ice pillars and reading minds of NPCs.

It may be tricky to play Golden Sun, but its modestly-timed adventure is worth playing, as is the brilliant sequel The Lost Age, which is too long to feature on the list in itself.

Oninaki

Oninaki

Time to beat: 16 hours

Metascore: 68 (Switch), 72 (PC), 69 (PS4)

If you liked I Am Setsuna, or prefer a different take on the same style, Oninaki may be a better fit. Here, Tokyo RPG Factory turn to action elements rather than old-school mechanics to provide a short role-playing fix.

Oninaki contains some intriguing dark themes, as main character Kagachi attempts to assist monsters caught between the living world and the afterlife by slaying them and enabling them to be reincarnated. Daemons are recruited throughout the game, adding different weapon types to add further variety to the real-time combat without making it overwhelming.

It may not have garnished as much critical acclaim as some on the list, but with only around 16 hours on the clock, Oninaki is a good choice for anyone looking for an edgy tale that doesn’t consume heaps of time.

Super Mario RPG

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Time to beat: 17 hours

Metascore: N/A (GameRankings: 89)

Mario may be best known for jumping around and collecting stars and coins, (as well as playing sports, racing karts, being a doctor, and just about everything else), but one of his best-received titles was Super Mario RPG on the SNES, a game that features a far more traditional RPG feel than the recent Paper Mario titles.

There are a few gameplay touches that make Super Mario RPG feel fresher than some of its contemporaries, such as attack bonuses for timing a hit just right, and shared magical points that add a different dimension to the tactics. In another nice twist, we get to see arch enemies Mario and Bowser team up which is always good.

With all the usual Mario charm packed into its characters and music, Legend of the Seven Stars is a classic that clocks in well under 20 hours.

Cosmic Star Heroine short rpgs

Cosmic Star Heroine

Time to beat: 12 hours

Metascore: 76 (PS4), 77 (PC), 78 (Switch)

Cosmic Star Heroine is another game that most certainly borrows from the likes of Chrono Trigger, but in a Phantasy Star-style sci-fi setting. It was released in 2017 on the back of a Kickstarter campaign, and whilst it relies on the nostalgia of upscaled SNES-era graphics, it’s a strong title in its own right that’ll only set you back a dozen hours or so.

The old-school battle system has a few quirks that keep it interesting, and a cool mixture of music compliments the setting nicely. Now on numerous platforms, Alyssa’s attempt to unravel a conspiracy and save the galaxy is a great title for anyone longing for a modern take on the wonderful 16-bit age.

Breath of Fire Dragon Quarter

Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter

Time to beat: 22 hours

Metascore: 78 (PS2)

The controversial fifth entry to the previously traditional JRPG series Breath of Fire certainly split opinion. Much harder and more stressful than its predecessors, Dragon Quarter effectively featured a continuous timer known as the D-Counter, which never stopped ticking upwards. When this reached 100%, it was game over and back to the start (albeit with some EXP carried over).

Ryu’s quest to reach the surface of a dystopian, underground civilisation was made all the more difficult by the fact that even certain moves in battle accelerated the ticking D-Counter and meant a huge emphasis on careful tactics was required. For the record, I thought Dragon Quarter was a bit underrated and its criticism was perhaps a result of subverted expectations.

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles

Time to beat: 20 hours

Metascore: 80 (GC)

Having just been remastered, it may be just the time to take a chance on one of the more divisive titles that holds the Final Fantasy name. Crystal Chronicles is not a mothership entry, and is a somewhat more experimental release. Rather than the typical set protagonist and a rich plot, players effectively create their own from a handful of choices and engage in a fairly clichéd narrative that involves crystals (obviously) whose powers are waning, allowing deadly miasma to spread.

The typical turn-based mechanics of older Final Fantasy games were abandoned in favour of an action approach, with the slightly annoying requirement to fight battles within range of a magical chalice to protect from the miasma. There is a large emphasis on co-op play, but the remastered version has some frankly baffling design choices which are hard to defend, such as offering no local multiplayer option.

The cutesy graphics and simplistic gameplay that doesn’t even include any traditional levelling up probably makes Crystal Chronicles a better choice for younger players, or those not looking for a very complex or thought-provoking experience.

Crisis Core Zack Sephiroth

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

Time to beat: 18 hours

Metascore: 83 (PSP)

Following Final Fantasy VII Remake and some of its plot revelations, it may be the opportune moment to play through the original title’s prequel. Crisis Core follows the story of likeable hero Zack Fair, the SOLIDER who hugely shapes the story of Final Fantasy VII without being present for it.

The beloved materia system from Final Fantasy VII makes a return, coupled with action battles where Zack alone is controlled. As usual in the world of Final Fantasy, the soundtrack contains some wonderful music, and the finale packs an emotional punch.

Those of us hoping for a more recent PSN release may yet have a wait on our hands. Apparently a licensing issue has prevented any port or remaster, as Genesis, one of Crisis Core’s characters, has a model based on musician Gackt (who voiced his character).

I’ll never say never, but for now it may be another case of dusting off the old PSP, or using an emulator at your own risk.

Bastion gameplay

Bastion

Time to beat: 6 hours

Metascore: 88 (average)

Granted, describing Bastion as an RPG is using the term loosely. Having said that, this is another terrific indie release involving a dystopian setting. “The Kid” hits and shoots his way through hordes of baddies in search of an answer to the Calamity, an event that decimated the world prior to the game’s opening and reducing it to a series of floating chunks.

There’s one thing that really makes Bastion stand out – the narration. Rucks, an old man met early in the game, takes up the mantle of talking us through the Kid’s trials and tribulations even whilst off-screen. It’s an interesting, unusual feature that somehow elevates the drama with Rucks’ gravelly, southern voice.

Available on a glut of platforms for a relative pittance, there is no reason to miss out on Bastion.

Are there any other short RPGs we’ve missed? Comment below.

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