The Best Game Ever: ActRaiser

Note: Best Game Ever is a series of posts I’ll be doing dedicated to the best games ever made. Each game I profile will be a game I’d accept as someone’s answer to the question, “what do you think the best game ever is?” So please, do not email me and tell me I’m stupid for posting about game X when game Y is clearly superior. And you never know, game Y might be the next game profiled. For more in the series, check out the “best game ever” category in the side bar.


Released in 1991 in the United States, ActRaiser was one of those games that if you happened to stumble upon it became an instant favorite. Developed by Quintet and published by Enix, ActRaiser is part simulation and part action game. The odd combination of genres really make the game something unique, and it’s a shame that the series was left by the wayside as time has gone on.

About 75% of the game is played out in a Sim City type of experience where you’re building towns and eliminating dangers for your citizens. It’s a very simplified take on the city building mechanics, but there’s something really addictive about it all the same. Your goal is to have your villagers not only build their city, but to also explore the surrounding areas and bring back items that can help you in the more action-oriented segments.

The action portion of the game is fairly intense, even if it was made easier than the Japanese version. The game has huge bosses, some tricky platforming (partly due to sketchy jump controls), and a good variety of enemies. These portions are mostly to bridge the gap between major developments in the city building stages, so not much in the way of narrative happens here. At the end of the game, the final action sequence has you facing off against every boss in the game one after another, making for an intense marathon.

One of the most memorable aspects of the game had to be the music. Before ActRaiser, no other game had brought such intense and rich music to the table. It really was amazing. The game ended up winning the award for best music in a game that year in Electronic Gaming Monthly and many still cite it as one of the best game soundtracks ever made.

This is one of those games that you simply need to experience to understand as it’s still something that would be considered unique, even by today’s standards. The game is available on Nintedo’s Virtual Console service, and it’s still fairly easy to find in used game shops or online.

Here’s hoping that one day Square Enix will decide to give the series a proper continuation.

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