The Nintendo Entertainment System (and its Japanese twin, the Famicom), gave rise to a staggering variety of RPGs. During the platform's lifetime (1983-1995), legendary dynasties were born (the Final Fantasy, Fire Emblem, Dragon Quest and Zelda series), ports of famous PC (Ultima, Might and Magic, Wizardry, Bard's Tale, King's Quest) and arcade (Rygar, Gauntlet) titles made cameo apperances, and franchises rushed to cash in (AD&D, Robin Hood) on the action. Games of startling originality and craftsmanship were produced (look at Crystalis or Solstice), as well games so bad as to be mind-boggling (take Heroes of the Lance, for example). In short, it was a period of wild experimentation and the trial and error formulation of genre conventions.

The study of the RPGs from that period is interesting on several levels. Nintendo Entertainment System RPGs hold high nostalgic value for those who discovered console RPGs during that time, and a thorough listing and exploration of those games allows closure, in a certain sense. From a scholarly, game designer's perspective, that period is interesting in that the lessons learned from those experiments influenced the design of many of the later console roleplaying games, for more advanced systems.


Due to a number of unfortunate reasons, a large portion of Nintendo RPGs were released only in Japan. However, by the heroic efforts of the emulation community, and we're talking insane amounts of time, effort, money and bandwidth, many of those games lost to us English speakers can now be experienced, in the form of translated and patched ROMs. In a way, the emulators and translated ROMs serve as a way to unify the two platforms (NES and Famicom); Japanese RPGs have been included in this list in that spirit of unification. While the list below contains all of the RPGs officially released in the US (to my knowledge, anyhow), the listing of translated games is necessarily incomplete. As more translations become available, or if you find a translated ROM and message me, those titles will be added to the list.

On Classification

Any attempt at listing all the RPGs for a particular platform must necessarily deal with the question of "What exactly is an RPG?" Where does one draw the line between RPGs, and the various intersecting action, adventure, puzzle, and strategy genres? This particular list draws from the discussion at classifying CRPGs, and uses the categories from CRPG types.

NES RPG List, Alphabetical by Category

Classic (Traditional) RPGs

Game Title * -- Japan release only, but translated/patched by the emulation community
Traditional RPG Totals: 17 US releases, which includes 8 ports of PC titles.

Action RPGs

Type I Action RPGs
(RPGs with an action element, explicit stats, and advancement through experience points)

Game Title * -- Japan release only, but translated/patched by the emulation community

Type II Action RPGs
(RPGs with an action element, explicit stats, and character advancement through power up items or in-game actions other than killing enemies)

Type III Action RPGs
(RPG-flavored games, with a strong action element, no explicit stats (save the life meter), and advancement through better weapons, armor and equipment). Their status as RPGs is highly debatable, and most people consider these to be simply action games with strong RPG elements.

Tactical RPGs

Game Title * -- Japan release only, but translated/patched by the emulation community

Strategy RPGs

Also widely known as historical strategy- or war-games.

Related Game Genres with RPG elements

Puzzle Games

Graphic Adventure Games

Miscelaneous games with RPG elements


I haven't been able to figure out which RPG category these games fall into. Some of these might not be RPGs at all. Msg me with suggestions or information.

Japanese RPGs

(Untranslated at the time of writing. If you find a translated version, drop me a line.)

Primary Sources:

  • Playing each game long enough to classify
  • GameFAQs (
  • Internet NES Database (
  • NES Shrine at RPGClassics (

Thanks and credits go to:

  • amib for suggestions on restructuring the categories.
  • Many others for tips and heads-up.

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