An introduction to SaGa

What is the SaGa franchise? What makes this long-running RPG series so beloved? Which games are available on modern platforms? Here’s everything you need to know.
Por Duncan Heaney

The SaGa franchise is one of the most respected RPG series in gaming. For more than 30 years, fans have been delighted by the invention and imagination it offers, particularly in its native Japan.

Now, more and more players are discovering its wonders thanks to the SaGa Project, which seeks to bring more of these classic games to modern platforms - typically with additional enhancements to make them even more enjoyable to play!

Considering that a new generation of fans is now able to enjoy this venerated series, we thought it could be useful to provide a short introduction to SaGa, what makes SaGa games unique, and the titles that are playable on modern platforms - in some cases for the very first time outside of Japan!

So, let’s start with the obvious questions from new fans:

What is the SaGa Franchise?

The SaGa games do things a little differently to other RPGs.

While series creator, Akitoshi Kawazu, played a key development role on FINAL FANTASY and FINAL FANTASY II, when he came to make the SaGa franchise, he took a lot of inspiration from the West - particularly computer RPGs like Ultima and Wizardry.

This comes through in the games’ focus on player freedom. Each SaGa game is different, with its own settings, characters and mechanics, but there are some common gameplay elements that have come to define the franchise:

  • Nonlinear storytelling: Unlike RPG series such as FINAL FANTASY or DRAGON QUEST, which typically take the player through a pre-determined narrative, SaGa games often employ a hallmark “Free-form Scenario System”. This lets players tackle different aspects of the story in the order of their choosing, typically with far-reaching consequences that affect the overall narrative and enables each player to have a completely unique experience.”

  • Nonlinear exploration: The SaGa games often let you explore their worlds and regions in the order you want, choosing which quests to tackle and forging your own path through the adventure.

  • Nonlinear character progression: Many games in the SaGa franchise eschew traditional leveling in favor of ‘Glimmering’ in which your characters will learn skills based on your actions during the heat of battle. At any point in a fight, a character may have a burst of inspiration and unleash a new skill - from that point it can be added to their repertoire and used whenever you want.

Every game is different - some titles will have all these elements, others just a few. But the focus on giving the player control over their own experience gives the SaGa franchise its unique identity.

Which SaGa game should you play first?

One of the common questions with any long-running series is where to start? In the case of SaGa, the answer is: anywhere you want.

Much like other Square Enix RPG series, like FINAL FANTASY or DRAGON QUEST, each SaGa game is a complete, standalone adventure. There’s no narrative connection between them, so you’re free to choose the adventure that most appeals to you.

To help you make that decision, here’s a rundown of the games currently available on modern platforms:


These three games, which you can get together in the COLLECTION OF SaGa, are where it all began…although you wouldn’t necessarily know it from their names.

While the first game released in Japan as Makai Toushi SaGa, the portable adventure was titled THE FINAL FANTASY LEGEND for the North American release, and its subsequent sequels.

Let’s take a look at each:


  • Originally released: 1989 (JP), 1990 (NA)
  • Original platform: Game Boy
  • Current platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam, iOS, Android (via Collection of SaGa)

Despite its small-scale platform, this game is a fully featured RPG with a surprising amount of depth. In fact, it was the very first RPG made for a handheld system! You can choose between three different classes - humans, mutants and monsters - each with their own distinct strengths and weaknesses. Yes, this is a rare RPG that lets you be the monster!

Many of the elements that would come to define the SaGa franchise started right here. The turn-based battle system is richly strategic, and characters can gain new skills through their actions in combat, rather than a standard levelling system. Monsters are a particular fan favorite - they’re able to transform into other monsters, turning the enemies’ own skill and attributes against them!

And let’s be honest - who wouldn’t want to wield a chainsaw in battle?

Its inclusion in Collection of SaGa means it’s still playable today, and you may be surprised by how well it holds up. It’s a genuinely great adventure that provided rock solid foundations for what was yet to come…


  • Originally released: 1990 (JP), 1991 (NA)
  • Original platform: Game Boy,
  • Current platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam, iOS, Android (via Collection of SaGa)

The second game in the franchise built on the success of its predecessor with a more expansive science-fiction themed adventure that tasked players with collecting MAGI - fragments of an ancient goddess.

Once again, rather than traditional levelling, characters gain stats based on their actions in battle. With lots of different classes, there’s an enormous amount of depth in the battle system.

Robots (called “mechs” in later iterations of the SaGa franchise) make their first appearance here as a playable class, and won the hearts of players with the way their attributes vary depending on the type of equipment they are wearing. It’s the first of many instances where SaGa is virtually unmatched in letting player agency take center stage.

In short, it was another successful SaGa, one that many consider even better than the first game. Plus thanks to the legendary composers Nobuo Uematsu and Kenji Ito, the soundtrack absolutely rules.


  • Originally released: 1991 (JP), 1993 (NA)
  • Original platform: Game Boy
  • Current platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam, iOS, Android (via Collection of SaGa)

In the third entry in the SaGa franchise, you take control of a group of brave kids sent back in time to prevent the world from being destroyed by a mysterious Water Entity. What follows is an impressively ambitious RPG that hops between different time periods and dimensions.

In some ways, the game was a little unconventional in the grand scheme of SaGa, incorporating standard levelling mechanics for human characters, for example. Even so, the spirit of the series shines through in the satisfying turn-based combat, excellent music and sheer imagination on display.

But don’t let the fact that the four main character start as humanoids trick you into thinking the battle system is one-dimensional - they can become monsters, robots, and more through consuming items that drop at the end of successful battles, which leads to an endless variety of spur-of-the-moment customization that the player can adjust at virtually any point in the narrative.

As with the prior two games, you can play it today on Nintendo Switch, Steam, iOS and Android through the Collection of SaGa.

Romancing SaGa 2

  • Originally released: 1993 (JP)
  • Original platform: Super Famicom
  • Current platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam, iOS, Android

The first ‘Romancing SaGa’ game originally released in Japan only, and never made its way to the West. It was, however, remade as the excellent Romancing SaGa -Minstrel Song-, which we’ll talk about later in the article.

Instead, let’s talk Romancing SaGa 2, because on release it set new highs for the series. It’s an RPG with staggering ambition - for example, the free-form scenario system means the story you experience plays out differently depending on the choices you make within that overall narrative.

The story focuses on the return of Seven Heroes - fabled warriors who saved the world many centuries ago but have now come back seeking revenge on a world that they felt did them wrong. With no one central villain, the player is free to tackle the Seven Heroes is any order they see fit.

But the villains aren’t the only ones who have numbers on their side. Rather than a single central protagonist, the game focuses on the line of the rulers of the Kingdom of Varennes. As the game progresses, the Emperor eventually falls in battle and the player is prompted to choose a new leader to ascend the throne and inherit skills and attributes from their predecessors. With each new emperor, the player inches ever closer to their ultimate goal of foiling the Seven Heroes’ wicked schemes.

It makes for an RPG of unparalleled scope - a epoch-spanning tale that balances player freedom to shape a nation, an enjoyable narrative and wonderfully strategic turn-based battles.

You can play the game on modern platforms, with some fantastic enhancements, including updated visuals, new dungeons, and more. It’s the best version of this classic adventure, and well worth checking out for anyone who enjoys RPGs.

Romancing SaGa 3

  • Originally released: 1995 (JP)
  • Original platform: Super Famicom
  • Current platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam, iOS, Android

When it released in Japan, Romancing SaGa 3 was one of the most acclaimed and best-selling games in the series. There are plenty of reasons why, but we suspect the biggest is the simplest: it’s very good indeed.

As with other SaGa titles, it features the free-form scenario system, meaning that the story can play out in many different ways. In this game, you pick from eight protagonists, each with their own distinct motivations, backgrounds and skillsets. As you play, you’ll be able to recruit many additional characters and guide the story down different paths depending on your decisions.

The story centers on the Rise of Morastrum, an event that occurs every 300 years and kills every living thing born that year except one - the Child of Destiny. Will the Child of Destiny be found in time to prevent the next rise of Morastrum, or will the world be doomed to stay trapped in the cycle of death?

The playable characters are more defined than ever before, and their stories interconnect in interesting ways, which makes the adventure one of the strongest narratively in the series.

Combat builds on previous SaGa systems, where characters gain strength and new skills in the heart of battle. At any time, one of your heroes can be hit by inspiration and learn (or ‘glimmer’ as it’s called) an awesome new ability. It keeps combat interesting and unpredictable throughout the lengthy adventure.

You can play a lovingly remastered version of the game now on PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC (via Steam and Windows) and also mobile devices (via iOS and Android). This new version optimizes the visuals to look great on HD displays, features brand new pixel art for elements like backgrounds, adds a new dungeon, boasts updated controls, and more.

SaGa Frontier Remastered

  • Originally released: 1997 (JP) 1998 (NA)
  • Original platform: Super Famicom
  • Current platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam, iOS, Android

Originally released for the PlayStation, SaGa Frontier Remastered took the series’ nonlinear structure to the next level. The game is set in ‘The Regions’ - a group of planets that all have their own distinct environments, technology, and culture.

You can choose between seven different protagonists (eight in the new Remastered edition) and explore the Regions freely almost from the start. As you travel between planets, you can meet new characters, gain new party members and even uncover a few side quests too. As you’d expect from the previous games, the story changes depending on what you do in your adventure, so it’s incredibly likely that two different players will have two distinctly different experiences.

It's also one of the most replayable RPGs ever made - each time you finish the story, you can start with a new character, with better stats and better armor than before.

It’s a beautiful adventure too, with detailed pre-rendered backgrounds and detailed sprites while exploring and dynamic 3D backgrounds during combat. In short, it’s a visual feast whether you’re chaining together attacks with your allies or exploring this vivid science fantasy universe.

If you want to see what we mean, we recommend SaGa Frontier Remastered. This new version of the game features crisp new HD sprites, an additional playable character, an updated UI, restored cutscenes that were previously cut, quality of life features like double speed, and more.

SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions

  • Originally released (as SaGa Scarlet Grace): 2016 (JP)
  • Original platform: PlayStation Vita
  • Current platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam, iOS, Android

This is a very different entry in the series that pares the traditional turn-based RPG down to its foundations, polishes the core elements to a sheen. It’s an approach that works brilliantly.

SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions forgoes traditional town and dungeon exploration in favor of a world-map centric approach that features narratives scenes playing out directly from there. This means it has less of a focus on exploration than other RPGs, and instead puts everything into its battle system. It’s a good decision because combat in SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions is incredible.

As with other SaGa games, you learn new skills in the heat of battle rather than through leveling up, and there’s an incredible level of tactical depth in the many action-packed scenarios you’ll go through.

One particularly awesome mechanic are United Attacks - if you can pincer an enemy between two or more of your characters in the turn order, you’ll perform powerful joint strikes. Finding the ways to manipulate the turn order to achieve this is a big part of the strategy, and are just about the most satisfying thing to pull off in any RPG.

It's a game that constantly throws new challenges at you and forces you to constantly re-examine your battle tactics. Combined with the free-form scenario system, which lets you pick between four main characters and approach the story in almost any order you wish, it’s a game that delights in constantly throwing surprises your way.

Speaking of the story, each of the four protagonists have their own path through the major narrative beats, with all signs pointing toward the return of the Firebringer, a celestial who caused scarlet shards to rain down from the sky upon his ill-fated return. Yet the Firebringer is not the only source of consternation for the commonfolk, as each unique region faces its own turmoil and strife completely separate from the machinations of enigmatic deities.

The game was brought to PS4, Switch, Steam and mobile as SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions. This expanded version of the adventure adds voice acting, additional story, and new music. If you’re in the mood for a challenging, combat-focused RPG you won’t find much better.

Romancing SaGa -Minstrel Song- Remastered

  • Originally released: 2005 (JP and NA)
  • Original platform: PlayStation 2
  • Current platforms: PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam, iOS, Android

The original Romancing SaGa received a full remake in 2005 for PlayStation 2 as Romancing SaGa -Minstrel Song-, released and known in the US as “Romancing SaGa”. Then, last year, that remake was remastered and further enhanced for modern platforms.

The game captures everything that was so memorable about the original Romancing SaGa on Super Famicom - multiple selectable protagonists, nonlinear exploration, and exciting turn-based battles, for example - but makes the game much friendlier for new players, with easier to understand mechanics and better tutorials. It also added more visual pizazz, with detailed 3D character models and environments.

Although the overarching plot is about collecting twelve fatestones to prevent the resurrection of the evil god Saruin, after a brief introductory scenario, each of the eight protagonists are given the freedom to traverse the world right from the start. You are able to create a unique adventure where your actions affect the world around you. With nonlinear exploration and the series’ typically excellent turn-based combat, it’s everything that’s wonderful about the SaGa franchise in one generous package.

That’s particularly true of the newly released Romancing SaGa -Minstrel Song- Remastered, which adds remastered graphics, quality of life features to improve playability and even new gameplay features, including additional recruitable characters.

It’s available now on PS5, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam, iOS and Android:

That was just a quick rundown of the SaGa franchise, and the games you can play right now. Which one will you play first?