Game Informer’s Top 100 RPGs

June 19th, 2017 7:51 AM
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In the 1980s, role-playing games, or RPGs, were my favorite genres of computer and video games. The hours of character development and narrative created a much richer fictional world than the era’s action games. Perhaps due to their inability to translate to arcades, RPGs were a niche genre, and so I hungrily played any I could get my hands on.

The decades since have seen an explosion in the popularity of RPGs, or at least the willingness to serve that niche — so much, that the cover story of issue #290 of Game Informer is the staff’s picks for the top hundred RPGs of all time. To have had that many to choose from in the 1980s would’ve been staggering, though Game Informer admits that the definition of RPG has become nebulous, now encompassing such modern titles as Mass Effect 3, Destiny, Horizon Zero Dawn, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Fortunately, Game Informer acknowledges the genre’s roots by including several Apple II games on their list:

The criteria for the staff’s selection were not disclosed, so it’s hard to say whether these games were acknowledged because they were fun to play then, are still fun to play, or are important to the evolution of gaming. Wasteland, for example, is noted as being the pre-cursor to Fallout; Wizardry is "often cited as the first party-based RPG"; and for The Bard’s Tale, "Some players may still have their hand-drawn graph paper maps tucked away in an old box."

Regardless, with so many franchises, platforms, publishers, and developers at play, it’s impressive that the Apple II got so many mentions. But any listicle is bound to be contentious, and no one will fully agree with the choices or order of games. For example, Game Informer has probably never played one of my favorite Apple II games: The Magic Candle. With a jobs system in which player characters could learn crafts and trades, earn money from town jobs, and even split the party, it was an innovative and ahead of its time, being released three years before Final Fantasy V, which is often hailed for its job system.

What Apple II RPGs would you have included on this list, and why?

The Magic Candle

February 24th, 2011 10:16 AM
Filed under Game trail, Software showcase;

I grew up with both an Apple II and a Nintendo, and both captivated me with their games. Although over time, I grew to become primarily a console gamer, there are some genres that computers are inherently superior for, such as role-playing games.

Perhaps that’s why, two decades later, after having played a dozen Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games on Super Nintendo, Game Boy, and PlayStation, one of my favorite RPGs of all time is The Magic Candle, for the Apple II.

When I first played The Magic Candle sometime after its 1989 release, I was overwhelmed by its scope and complexity. Dragon Warrior on the NES, which I once rented for three weeks straight, had only two buttons and simplistic menus by which to guide a lone hero through a series of one-on-one battles in his linear exploration of the land of Alefgard. By contrast, The Magic Candle used the full keyboard and a large party of adventurers, and the manual suggested five directions from which to strike out from the first town. I was utterly dismayed, but I stuck with it — I’d spent my birthday money on this game, and I was not going to let that investment go to waste!

I’m glad I persisted, as the adventure that followed was one of the most diverse and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had. The balance between freedom and necessity was unparalleled: Parties could be divided, with some members taking jobs to earn money or apprenticing themselves to earn valuable skills. Citizens would not talk to you unless you had sufficient charisma or were of a particular race. Time passed realistically, with towns having day and night sequences, during which certain taverns or people would present themselves. Weapons wore down, and warriors got hungry.

I could continue to wax whimsical about this grand journey, but my musings would be based on decades-old memories. A fresher and more accurate perspective is provided by JJ Sonick, who has thus far blogged a twopart tour as he rediscovers this game for himself.

Alas, the story of The Magic Candle on the Apple II ends with its first chapter. The end of the game let players save their characters to be imported into the sequel, The Magic Candle II: The Four and Forty, which came out three years later, though seemingly not for the Apple II.

More disappointing is the current lack of availability of the original game: a search on eBay for a used copy produces no hits. Around 15 years ago, I called Interplay, the then-employer of the game’s creator, Ali N. Atabek, to ask about reclassifying his work as a Lost Classic, but I never got through. I’m hopeful that someday, someone will be able to legally publish this classic game for all to enjoy.