The Evolution of Tactical Roleplaying Games: From Tabletop to Digital

Tactical roleplaying games have come a long way since their earliest incarnations on tabletops. From the early tactical RPGs of the 80s and 90s to the modern digital versions, the evolution of this genre has been nothing short of astounding. In this article, we'll be exploring the history of tactical RPGs and how they've evolved over time.

The Beginnings of Tactical Roleplaying Games

It all began with the tabletops. Tactical roleplaying games have their roots in tabletop games, specifically in the tabletop wargames of the 1900s, such as Avalon Hill's 'Gettysburg' (1958) and 'Diplomacy' (1959). These games gave rise to similar tactical games that featured elements of storytelling, character creation, and roleplaying.

It wasn't until the 1980s that the term 'tactical roleplaying game' was first coined. This was when the Japanese game company, Nihon Falcom, released the game 'Dragon Slayer' which is considered one of the earliest tactical RPGs. This game featured a top-down perspective and emphasized turn-based combat, which later became staples of the genre.

Early Tactical RPGs of the 80s and 90s

The 80s and 90s saw the rise of many tactical RPGs, both in Japan and the west. Games like 'Final Fantasy Tactics' (1997), 'Shining Force' (1992), and 'Fire Emblem' (1990) were some of the most popular games of that era.

These games featured traditional turn-based combat and character development based on classes or jobs. They also featured storylines filled with quests, choices and characters that the players could recruit to their party.

As tabletop RPGs slowly moved to digital platforms, these games transitioned well into consoles and computers. However, due to limitations of the hardware, the gameplay was often slower, the graphics were not too impressive and the game could easily crash.

Rise of Tactical RPGs on Modern Consoles

It wasn't until the release of the PlayStation 2 that games began to allow for more complex gameplay. The advancement in processing power opened up a variety of new gameplay mechanics, such as open battlefields, combo attacks, and fully 3D environments. This allowed for a more engaging tactical RPG experience, filling the gap between traditional roleplaying games and competitive strategy.

The explosion of tactical RPGs during the early 2000s resulted in cinematic-like graphics, game mechanics such as grid-based combat, and a focus on character customization that contributed to the success of the genre.

The Emergence of Tactical RPGs on Mobile

The rise of mobile gaming has been one of the biggest game-changers of the past decade. It has allowed for players to carry their favorite games on-the-go, resulting in an increase in the popularity of tactical RPGs. Not only did mobile games introduce newer generations to tactical RPGs, but they also offered older gamers reconnect with their favorite childhood franchises.

One of the most popular mobile tactical RPG games is 'Fire Emblem Heroes'. This game features similar gameplay and character development to previous Fire Emblem games, but it's optimized for mobile devices with simplified controls and shorter, bite-sized gameplay sessions.


From the humble origins on tabletops to the modern mobile platforms, tactical RPGs have come a long way. The advancements of technology and game engines have allowed for more vast game worlds, faster gameplay and more complex mechanics. The genre has become a staple of the gaming industry, with enough variety to ensure there is always one that will fit every gamer's preference.

As we look forward to what the future holds, it's exciting to imagine what new technology will bring to the table for the future of tactical role-playing games.

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