When it comes to the tactical role-playing genre, the Fire Emblem series has enjoyed a long history spanning across more than 20 long years and over 16 games since its first release in 1990. It is well-known for its turn-based combat, in which you move various characters around on a map to engage in battle against an enemy faction.
Tactical elements such as stats, weapon affinities, and a grid-based movement system are crucial in each game. Permanent deaths is also an infamous constant, emulating the stakes and tragedy that come with sending people out to war. All of this takes place in a fantasy setting of swords and magic, where the focus on characters can be just as important as the political intrigue.
Are you all done with the Fire Emblem series but can’t get enough turn-based action? Maybe you don’t have the money for both a Nintendo Switch and Fire Emblem: Three Houses just yet. Or maybe the hyper-anime aesthetic just isn’t working out. If you’re looking for alternatives, we have a guide to some similar and great games can try, both new and old.
Platforms: Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS
If you don’t plan to stray too far off the beaten path, look no further than Advance Wars. Developed by Intelligent Systems, the same developer behind Fire Emblem, you’ll find plenty of shared elements between both series.
For one, Advance Wars features a similar grid-based approach where you must arrange specific units carefully to gain an edge in battle, albeit on a larger scale. Terrain also plays an important role, giving your units advantages and disadvantages depending on whether they’re on land, roads, rivers, or mountains.
Though Fire Emblem boasts a colourful cast of characters that you take into battle, Advance Wars’ units are nameless. Characters instead act as commanders and send out an army consisting of infantry, tanks, helicopters, and more. These units can’t level up, but you can dispose of them more freely if it means achieving your objective.
If the idea of permanent deaths in Fire Emblem scares you, Advance Wars is definitely a good alternative that doesn’t necessarily sacrifice the value of a good strategic move.
Super Robot Wars
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch, Steam
A tactical role-playing series that’s all about bringing together Japan’s popular mechas from across anime, manga, and video games. Imagine Gundam robots fighting alongside Evangelion cyborgs with Lelouch from Code Geass leading the charge.
The battles for Super Robot Wars are turn-based and traditionally take place on a grid-style of map. The fun part about the series is how it has various playable characters speak and interact with one other, not unlike Fire Emblem’s support conversations.
Attack animations are often bombastic, with clever references designed to catch the attention of only the most avid of mecha fans. Permadeaths can also happen, though these possibilities are more tied to characters and whether the same thing has happened in their original story arcs.
Regardless, there’s plenty of fun to be had in bringing memorable and unique characters together to fight against a common enemy, which big Fire Emblem fans can surely relate to.
The series has traditionally been marketed to a Japanese audience, but recent titles starting with 2017’s Super Robot Wars V have received English localisations for even international fans to enjoy.
Platforms: Steam, Sega Genesis, Game Boy Advance, iOS, Android
Like Fire Emblem, the Shining Force series also started out way back in the 90s. In a similar fashion, it featured unique and non-generic characters that all held their own personalities and backgrounds.
Players intrigued by Fire Emblem’s levelling system can rest easy with Shining Force. Besides gaining experience points and levelling up from performing actions like attacking and healing, you’ll also find a comparable class promotion system that becomes available after units reach certain levels.
On top of also having Fire Emblem’s knack for portraying more detailed cutaway animations whenever a unit attacks another, Shining Force is definite series to consider when looking for alternatives, even if it hasn’t seen an equal level of fanfare.
Some of the games are quite old, but SEGA has offered several ways for you to enjoy them on modern platforms, such as through its free Shining Force Classics mobile app, or as purchasable titles on Steam.
The Banner Saga
Platforms: Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, iOS, Android
First starting out as a humble Kickstarter project in 2012, The Banner Saga eventually grew into a respectful tactical role-playing game in its own right. Taking place in a world inspired by Norse mythology, you’re tasked with fending off an enemy race called the Dredge while leading your caravan of people.
This comes from two different perspectives, in which the stories of two caravans eventually converge. In case you’re unaware, 1992’s Fire Emblem Gaiden and its 2017 remake Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia also featured two separate paths within a single story.
To add to the similarities, The Banner Saga offers turn-based grid maps, as well as units that level up as you progress. Though characters don’t permanently die in the battles themselves, you’ll find that certain choices throughout the story can lead to consequences for your caravan, which can impact the stakes in your gameplay all the same.
Into the Breach
Platforms: Steam, Nintendo Switch
A more recent but otherwise exceptional entry into the genre, Into the Breach pits humanity against giant monsters called Vek in a futuristic setting. If Fire Emblem is a complex game of rock-paper-scissors, Into the Breach’s tight mechanics and design may very well be chess.
Into the Breach often tasks the player with completing certain objectives within a limited amount of turns. Given how small and concise the maps are, you determine victory by understanding how to position your units and the environment in such a way that maintains your advantage at any given time.
There’s much less leeway here as opposed to a Fire Emblem game, as every action made will tie into whether you’re properly protecting your civilian structures, or whether enemies are being properly routed. In a way, it can represent Fire Emblem at its toughest, cutting through the fluff and championing tough situations where one small mistake can lead to a unit’s untimely demise.
Platforms: Steam, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch
As far as popular strategy role-playing games go, you can’t go wrong with Disgaea. The series is, in truth, chock full of systems and content to engage in. Helped by quirky stories set in the Netherworld that never take themselves too seriously, it’s a nice change of pace from Fire Emblem’s typical intimacy with death and political factions.
Disgaea is defined by how much freedom you have in crafting your own style of play. It has fresh concepts such as the ability to pick up and throw allies across the field, as well as destructible Geo Symbols that grant units special advantages or disadvantages. There’s an Item World where you can strengthen equipment to sometimes ridiculous effects, and the list goes on.
Part of the series’ staple is how you can raise your characters stats up to Level 9999 to rack up huge damage numbers and combos. Paired with cute 2D art over an isometric grid, Disgaea is a romp for strategy role-playing fans that simply want to dive into complex systems that even Fire Emblem struggles to keep up with.
Platforms: Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Wargroove came out in 2019 and was a delightful surprise to many fans of the genre. Taking inspirations from both Fire Emblem and Advance Wars, it’s a challenging turn-based strategy game that carries both a charming art style and fun characters.
Set in the fictional fantasy land of Aurania, you command an army of troops against the invading undead Legion of Felheim. Battles ensue on sprawling grid-based maps, where you send out different types of units that host unique abilities and movement options.
Just like in Fire Emblem, you’ll want to position your units based on weaknesses and strategic advantage. But that’s no surprise really. What is cool about Wargroove is its online multiplayer.
Not only can you play cooperatively with and compete against others, but the game also boasts a map creator that basically lets you style your own battlefields for others to try out. Considering the game’s pretty strongly built around community, you’ll find plenty of friends, custom campaigns, and replay value to go around. Plus, you can’t go wrong with a strategy game that showcases battle pups.
Buy Wargroove for PC here.
If you know of any strategy game alternatives to Fire Emblem, do share your suggestions on this feature or on our Facebook page. If you know of any strategy games with cuter units than Wargroove’s shiba inus, you’re probably lying.