Console RPGs, minus random encounters?

I’ve been late to the console world and am keen to look into console RPGs, but I’m not quite sure where to start since my tolerance for random encounters and level grind is much lower than most RPG fans seem able to tolerate.

For example, I just couldn’t get past all the random encounters in Dragon Quest 8, couldn’t stand Final Fantasy. Something more along the lines of Fable, Jade Empire, Fire Emblem, Gothic, or Fallout is what I’m after.

So, what are some great console RPGs that break the XP and loot mold?

Chrono Trigger has set encounters. Walk into a specified area and ta da - combat. Might be more your cup of tea, maybe? Earthbound, you can see the little shits, but they move faster than you. Fortunately they run away and are insta-pwned when you are a high enough level.

Console RPGs (or JRPGs) are basically linear adventure games with a combat system and very primitive puzzles. Not like Computer RPGs.

I can’t recommend anything current because the last JRPG I played was ah, Skies or Arcadia, and I can’t recommend that one. (random battles up the ass and silly anime children)

Breath of Fire Dragon Quarter for PS2. Mario and Luigi for GBA is good too.

Grandia 2 is one of the best in the genre of recent years, and shows all enemies onscreen. You generally have the choice to avoid or engage. Grandia 3 is the same way, but isn’t nearly as good a game.

My favourite RPGs are ChronoTrigger and Anachronox. I really didn’t like Final Fantasy X or X-2, and although I liked a lot about Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, it totally kicked my ass.

I’m really digging Grandia 3 which was released recently. You can see enemies walking around, and you can attack them in real time to “surprise” them, which give you an edge in combat. Combat is turn-based. There is a dial displaying which character/enemy’s turn it is, and how close they are to doing something like performing a spell. You can cancel an enemy’s spell/special by using a “critical,” which does less damage, but cancels their attack, and sends them to the back of the line on the dial. You can also use a critical to knock an enemy up into the air, then use another character’s “combo” (regular) attack to perform aerial attacks, which do more damage and give you bonuses and stuff. X-Play review.

If he doesn’t want level grind, I get the impression that Grandia III would be a mistake, since most people say the only good thing about that game is the combat system. In short: It’s great for grinding.

The last JRPGs I really enjoyed was Digital Devil Saga and Shadow Hearts: Covenant. I don’t think they would be your cup of tea, seeing as at least DDS focuses on combat rather than puzzles or storytelling, while Shadow Hearts is an extremely linear story intervowen with random encounters. Very little exploration or anything in either of them.

But it actually sounds like you might like Final Fantasy XII, a good preview of which you can read in the latest Edge, since that disposes with much of the linearity and random battles that usually define (or plague) JRPGs. Of course, that probably won’t hit the west till late autumn, at the earliest.

Paper Mario 2 on the GC has visible ennemies. And the combats use twitch reaction, so they feel quite different. The game is really original, as the setting changes from chapter to chapter, with elements of platforming-light, and fun puzzles. Of course you have to like the Mario Universe.

Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga on the GBA is very good too, but you should avoid Partners in Time on the DS.

Dark Cloud 2 doesn’t have any random encounters and you don’t level up your character: you just invent cooler weapons and upgrade his existing ones with new powers.

Super Mario RPG, great game

Besides the games others have mentioned, I’d recommend Baten Kaitos. It has a considerable amount of battles, but rewards you constantly with new cards for you to use. I was often motivated to fight more, even though I usually hate grinding.

A list of console RPGs released in the US (or soon to be) without random encounters:

Lufia 2
Lufia: Ruins of Lore
Grandia 2
Grandia 3
Lunar 2
Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
Mario RPG
Paper Mario
Paper Mario and the Thousand Year Door
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time
Monster Hunter (ARPG)
Crimson Tears (ARPG)
Valkyrie Profile
Chrono Trigger
Chrono Cross
Lost Magic
Dark Cloud (ARPG)
Dark Cloud 2 (ARPG)
.hack series (ARPG)
Final Fantasy XII
Vagrant Story
Radiata Stories
Star Ocean 3: Till the End of Time
Tales of Symphonia
Baten Kaitos
Baten Kaitos 2
Summoner 2: Goddess Reborn
Secret of Mana (ARPG)
Legend of Mana (ARPG)
Sword of Mana (ARPG)
Children of Mana (ARPG)
Kingdom of Paradise (ARPG)
Ys VI: The Ark of Napisthm (ARPG)
Parasite Eve (APRG)
Torneko: The Last Hope
Nightmare of Druaga
Yakuza (ARPG)
King’s Field (ARPG)
King’s Field 2 (ARPG)
King’s Field: The Ancient City (ARPG)
Forever Kingdom (ARPG)

All the action RPGs, are actual action RPGs and not adventure games (roguefrog is, of course, spewing bullshit) like Zelda or Beyond Oasis or Landstalker.

In addition, the Wild Arms games (even the original, it was remade) have a system where battles occur randomly, but a question mark appears above the character’s head and they have the option of avoiding the battle if they push a button. Avoiding battles depletes a gauge, but collecting crystals, resting at an inn and fighting battles recovers the gauge, the stronger the enemies relative to you, the more the gauge depletes until it doesn’t deplete at all with very weak enemies, its also possible to find items that increase the gauge. So its not quite random battles as you’ve come to know them.

As well, nearly every SRPG, as in Fire Emblem, of course, lacks random encounters too, so you can add in those as well: Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Ogre Battle, Tactics Ogre, Brigandine, Stella Deus, Hoshigami, Tactics Ogre: Knights of Lodis, Dragon Force, La Pucelle, Disgaea, Phantom Brave, Phantom Kingdom, Disgaea 2, Front Mission 3, Front Mission 4, Yggdra Union and all the Fire Emblems are the notable I know that have been released in the US.

Also, Riviera: The Promised Land for the GBA kinda doesn’t have random encounters, I say kinda, because you can be surprised by enemies, but generally you know when you’re going to fight. However, its a completely different kind of RPG.

If you level grind in any console RPG past the NES-era, its because you want to. If you think its the only way to beat certain challenges, its your own damn fault and you really ought to start using that noggin’ when you play these games. I’m not going to list the RPGs that don’t require it, because that would be pointless, as any decent RPG past the NES age doesn’t and even a lot of those ended up being remade so they don’t anymore.


I’m going to cut right to the heart of Kitsune’s post and say that you should play Dragon Quarter and be done with it.

The Lunars don’t have random encounters, but you’ll be stuck in a heckuva lot of battles. Ditto Vagrant Story, Radiata Stories, Star Ocean, and Tales of Symphonia (though those battles are short and sort of fun).

Kitsune, you frighten me.

Jasper: Paper Mario 2!

If you want to go old school, Secret of Mana and Chrono Trigger.

Also, holy shit, I just realized that there’s a true Secret of Mana sequel coming out on the PS2. I’ve wanted a true Secret of Mana sequel in full-3D without the retarded art style of recent games. I guess I can live with half my wish.

I don’t think the story is as boring or as slow as some make it out to be. And yes, the combat is THAT good.

All the action RPGs, are actual action RPGs and not adventure games (roguefrog is, of course, spewing bullshit) like Zelda or Beyond Oasis or Landstalker.


Anyway all the JRPGs I’ve played had linear stories, little choice, and defined characters not unlike Adventures games such as Sam and Max and Grim Fandango. (Zelda is an action/adventure game) However there’s that pesky little combat system. That’s where the RPG stuff is. Sou desu ka?

I liked Sudeki.

ducks behind cover

You say you want to avoid random encounters, but it sounds like what you’re really trying to avoid is tedious level grinds that chew up way too much time. Given that I have a short attention span and am easily distracted, I thought Sudeki was right up my alley: relatively short, fun combat system, pretty colors. :-) For that matter, Grandia 2 was my favorite Grandia game and one of my favorite RPGs in recent years, for many of the same reasons.

One rpg I played this year without random encounters would be Radiata Stories, it was alright but I didn’t enjoy the combat system that much.

I’m playing Partners in Time now and rather enjoying it, what was your problem with it?

Well it feels shallower than the first one. The controls are overly complicated, the game is very linear so you don’t get the feeling of exploration you had in the first one. The fights are too much on the long side, especially the boss fights, which can be rather taxing for my poor nerves. The story feels quite lame too, although I’ve never been a fan of Baby Mario, so that might be a reason. I guess some puzzles are quite clever and make good use of the dual screen.

Basically, it’s more of the same with less charm.

By no means an horrible game, but I would not advise it.

And I’m a big fan of Marios RPGs.