Don’t let its reputation fool you: Members of the RPG Maker community have produced some amazing games that any RPG fan should play. Come along and discover some hidden gems among the games made with RPG Maker!
In case you’re completely new to this topic, RPG Maker is a game development engine that has been around since the 90s. It allows users to create role-playing games without the need for programming knowledge (at least not of a specific language).
The engine, of which many versions have been released throughout the years, provides a powerful set of tools for creating your own RPG-style games, such as a character creator, a map editor and an event editor.
In general, RPG Maker has a pretty bad reputation among gamers and developers, though. It’s often associated with amateurish games. Since it’s so easy to use (but, you guessed it, hard to master), it’s also easy to publish an RPG Maker game that is of questionable quality.
However, this is not always the case. There are many talented developers who have used RPG Maker to create well-crafted and engaging games. These games may not have the budget or resources of major AAA releases, but they can still offer unique stories, interesting characters and engaging gameplay.
Many of these games have been released for free or at a low cost, so there is not much risk in trying them out.
And so, without further ado, here are …
15 RPG Maker Gems
Let’s do it in alphabetical order. Game number one would be …
And thus, I have to start with a disclosure: I’ve never played Aveyond! However, it has been recommended to me several times now.
As it turns out, Aveyond is actually a series of games which has four parts. They were all made with RPG Maker XP — a pretty old engine, but still, the games look beautiful! Someone knew what they were doing in terms of visuals.
I’m sure the gameplay holds up as well.
You know, there’s even a Wikipedia article about the saga, which is telling as to how successful the games were. One day, I shall give it a try!
Born under the Rain
I have played this one, but it’s been a while.
I remember strange characters and a very inspiring skills-and-equipment system which lets you create more-or-less synergetic character builds. I also remember venturing through a well-mapped dungeon with puzzles which rewarded you with new equipment (called Relics).
Even though my memory is fading, I know I can still recommend this game to anyone who likes it a bit unconventional (or even weird). It was a short and fun experience.
More information and a download link can be found on rpgmaker.net.
Homework Salesman is an RPG Maker game that blends life sim and dungeon exploration.
Reniat, the protagonist, returns to her home village to find it deserted and the nearby mine overrun by monsters. Players must befriend villagers by talking to them and giving them items. There are crafting systems, side quests and random events that add replayability.
I’ve played this game quite a bit, but never actually finished it. Which doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun — it’s just very slow (in a good way) and time-consuming (in a good way).
You can download it for free here.
OneShot is a game made by Nick Palmer, a guy whose name might sound familiar to people who consider themselves part of the RPG Maker community. He wrote a number of articles for the RPG Maker Web blog.
In OneShot, you play as a character called Niko who must, of course, save the world. But the game only lets you play it once – hence the title. To progress, you have to explore the world, solve puzzles and talk to NPCs. The game has been praised for how it subverts traditional RPG ideas and tropes. It also breaks the fourth wall, that is, the game kinda knows it’s a game.
Here’s the Steam page.
I have seen Skyborn several times on Steam. As far as I can tell, the game is set in a Steampunk world, and the story follows a mechanic named Claret who’s working in a repair shop of sorts. One day, a special customer visits the shop, and from there, things start to get exciting.
The game features ‘lovable, addicting’ characters, the description states, and I do like the artworks of said characters a lot. There are also multiple character classes and a ‘breathtaking orchestral soundtrack’. Here it is. Beautiful, isn’t it?
The game comes at a pretty high price on Steam, but it might be worth it!
Star Stealing Prince
This one is easily my favourite game on this list. I have finished it, like, three times? Including a 100% run (as far as I could tell).
It has actually been created by the same person who made Homework Salesman! A woman called Ronove. She also made two more games which I had never heard of for some reason. Huh.
If you want to have a look at Star Stealing Prince, there is a well-designed WordPress website with all the information you need. Please just check it out! Trust me, you will not regret giving this game a try! It’s stunningly beautiful, visually as well as emotionally.
Another game I haven’t played myself, but seen it mentioned over and over again. There must be something to it. The title is Star’s Favour, and it gets an extra star from me for the British spelling.
The game has been created by Indra, a Spanish woman with quite a track record. Born under the Rain has been made by her, too, and so has The Grumpy Knight, which will be coming up in a bit.
So, yeah, this game can only be good, I guess.
A nice little (‘kawaii-style’) dungeon crawler made by Rhyme and Archeia, both very active members of the RPG Maker community. Apparently, Caz has been involved as a spriter, too. She has made some of the beautiful icons used in Wildsilver.
I remember Subterranean Starfield being a little slow at the start, but once you get through that phase, it’s very fun! (I guess this is normal for dungeon crawlers / roguelites, since you have to accumulate some power before things can get interesting, and at the same time, the first area shouldn’t get too easy too quickly? Not an expert on the genre.)
The Grumpy Knight
The Grumpy Knight was originally made for the RPG Maker VX Ace Lite Cook Off!! contest on a 2-week deadline. It was later revamped to remove the Lite limitations and add a few more features.
The game is about a Death Knight named Elsa (great name!) who returns home to a kingdom called Helena to ‘save’ it from monsters. However, the monsters in the game do not attack people, but just make themselves a nuisance.
The game consists of a boss rush gameplay of sorts (similar to LV99: Final Fortress), and players must defeat all the monsters on the island to discover what the monsters are actually planning. Players can choose from 10 supporting party members, each with a unique skill set.
The game takes around two hours to complete, but has 3 different endings and various unlockables.
Oh, right, here’s the link.
The Witch’s House
This game is a horror-adventure RPG created by a developer named Fummy. It was first released in 2012 and re-released in 2016 as The Witch’s House MV.
The game is about a young girl named Viola who got lost in a forest and finds a mysterious house. After venturing inside, she discovers that the house is cursed and home to a witch — who has been experimenting on humans. The player must guide Viola through the house, solving puzzles and avoiding deadly traps set by the witch.
The game features a unique game mechanic where the player can save and load at any point, but if they die, they will be sent back to the beginning of the game. The game also features multiple endings based on the player’s choices.
To the Moon
To the Moon was developed by an indie dev studio called Freebird Games. It was first released in 2011.
The game tells the story of two doctors, Eva Rosalene and Neil Watts, who use special technology to travel through the memories of a dying man named Johnny Wyles. They do this in order to fulfill his final wish, which is to go to the moon. The player controls the doctors as they navigate through Johnny’s memories, solving puzzles and uncovering the story of his life.
The game is known for its emotional story, which explores themes of love, loss and regret.
To the Moon was later released for multiple platforms such as iOS, Android and Nintendo Switch, which goes to show that you can, in fact, create RPG Maker games that are good enough to be published like any other title.
Unterwegs in Düsterburg
Given that the readership is, presumably, largely not German-speaking, most of you won’t know this game. And to be honest, most of you won’t care, since this game is in German.
It’s extremely good, though.
If you do, in fact, speak German, you must give it a try. It’s very dark at times and very humorous at times, with many references to literature, most prominently gothic novels.
There’s a remake in the works, as far as I know, but still, the original RPG Maker 2000 game is a very polished one, so just go ahead and give it a try!
For Vampire’s Dawn, the same applies, minus the ‘very humorous’ part. I mean, I think it was kinda witty at certain points, but this game is dark most of the time, a little gory even.
There’s a Vampire’s Dawn II and a Vampire’s Dawn III, but I have to admit I only played the demo of Vampire’s Dawn II back in the days and had no idea there was a third part until very recently.
You can find more information and download links here.
Wine & Roses
So, here’s the description:
Three exorcists are led by the skeletal Lord Francisco into his usurped home, the magnificent Fort Adder. Only by seeking out ancient spirits that offer unique gifts to the heroines can they hope to purge Francisco’s fortress of the evil within.
- A sprawling fortress to explore and unearth the secrets of
- Powerful demons that will destroy you unless you outsmart them
- Over thirty unique battles
- Flexible, deep and non-permanent customization of your exorcist trio
- A dark and intense soundtrack
Wait, this sounds a lot like LV99: Final Fortress!
I have, in fact, played this game briefly at some point, and who knows, maybe it did inspire me on a subconscious level?
Zu takes players on a journey through a mysterious and surreal world that is formed by memories and seems to be a merging of dreams and nightmares. Players take on the role of Allan, a young man who has submitted himself to explore this world after encountering a mysterious entity called Zu. Players must find their way by exploring the hostile lands and interacting with bizarre beings. A bit like Alice in Wonderland, but even weirder.
A skill tree is accessible by the player which is divided into two categories: Astral and Energetic. Players can learn 12 different abilities. Players can also engage in alchemy. Ingredients are obtained through chests or by defeating enemies.
The game was originally developed in 30 days for the ‘Make a Game, Win a Game’ contest in 2013. The contest was inspired by the RPG Maker VX Ace Lite Cook Off!! mentioned earlier, meaning the game was originally made on RPG Maker VX Ace Lite with the correspondent limitations.
So, there you go: 15 games that were made with RPG Maker and are still not only perfectly playable, but very engaging experiences.
There are certainly a lot more of these gems which were not covered (but might be in the future).
Sure, there’s varying quality in regards to RPG Maker games — just like with any other form of self-published art, to be honest. You need to spend some time finding the quality releases, but there are resources like this one which help you discover them. You just need to give the recommended games (or whatever medium it is) a try.
It’s up to you, too, whether or not any given indie scene is thriving.
What are your favourite RPG Maker games on this list? Which ones should have been mentioned but were not?
Oh, and by the way: If you’re the creator of one of these games and would like to have a different screenshot featured or some other aspect of the game highlighted, let me know!