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As a publisher and developer, Kemco has been around forever. Depending on who you’re talking to, the name may evoke memories of classic, licensed retro series like Crazy Castle, licensed oddities like Mickey Mouse: Magic Wands, or licensed tragedies like Batman: Dark Tomorrow. Or, you might think of a deluge of seemingly low budget, RPG Maker-developed, bizarrely-titled RPGs featuring spiky-haired prettyboys and generic, cute women. Of course a weirdo like me thinks of all the above.

That deluge of RPGs, though, is very precious to me. I have an in-joke with a colleague that calls each new drop a “delicious Kemco,” because I will happily devour these joints at every opportunity. Despite their low-rent appearance, which isn’t even always the case, the stable of RPG Maker developers fueling Kemco’s output have a tangible passion for the genre. Particularly this specific part of the genre, that is unapologetically old school and more than happy to lean on tropes and cliches with a full heart.

For me, part of the appeal could very well be the dopamine factor. Living for around 30 years with undiagnosed ADHD does some things to your brain that don’t go away when you do finally get it looked at. One of those things is being unable to resist quick, simple loops involving multiple sets of growing numbers. But something like Destiny doesn’t do it for me, because live service models bore the bejeezus out of me. But a revolving door of new stories, characters and systems repackaging the numbers? I go beast mode. It’s why I like Dragon Quest and SaGa so much.



Kemco’s RPGs are a concentrated dose of everything I just laid out in that last graf. They come out fast, they’re cheap and go on sale often, and there’s a surprising amount of experimentation. Especially in recent years, Kemco’s teams have tried things like tactical RPGs, job systems, juggling multiple parties, tanks and mecha, shop and sports simulations, and even horror! Even if I don’t fully gel with one, I can drop it without feeling too bad and know something that does click is right around the corner. 

On that note, I wanna spend a minute to shout out five Kemco RPGs in particular I’ve really loved. These games all do something interesting, weird, or are simply perfectly designed to make my lizard brain light up like a room full of tech investors when they hear the word “fungible.” There’s a bonus sixth game that just came out and seems to check more boxes than I even knew I had.


Monster Viator

I mentioned I like Dragon Quest, and that absolutely includes Dragon Quest Monsters. I love monster-collecting games, even though I’ve kinda fallen out of favor with Pokemon in recent years. Monster Viator is Kemco’s take on the genre, and it pushes the low budget RPG Maker perception to the limit. This game has gorgeous sprites and environmental art, and a soundtrack composed of actual fire. The main character is a weird, little guy, and even though there isn’t a ton of depth to the monster systems, it’s still fun to add new critters to the crew.



Dragon Sinker

Dragon Sinker is another one that has a much more distinct visual style, going for a saturated, cartoony look instead of the more generic, miniaturized anime vibe. With its Dragon Quest-like aesthetic and a job system that gets weird as all get out, there’s a real toybox appeal to the grinding you can do. My favorite example was winning a gorilla from the in-game gacha system, which came with its own job and unique attacks. I loved that gorilla.



Miden Tower 


Here’s the game that informed RPG fans that there are some serious sickos lurking in the shadows at Kemco. Miden Tower’s whole thing is the main character encounters a goddess who… accidentally embeds herself in a section of castle wall. So you have this literal hunk of wall in your actual party, with little arms and legs, over-the-top, cutesy anime eyes and a little hair bow that is somehow attached to brick and concrete. And you can put new bricks in open slots to give this character new abilities, some of which include summoning more anthropomorphic wall creatures to fight. It’s completely unhinged and played way more straight than you’d expect, which makes it even funnier.



Armed Emeth

Ever played a Metal Max game? Armed Emeth is kind of like those. In this post-apocalyptic, sci-fi setting, you don’t just have a group of scrappy characters saving the world. You can put them all in tanks, which have their own stats, equipment, abilities, so on and so forth. Going in and out of the tanks changes how you approach combat, and the story itself is more dense than what you’d expect. I’d probably recommend this one as a starting point if you’re new to the uh, Kemcoverse?



Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom

If Torneko Taloon’s chapter in Dragon Quest IV was a whole game, you’d have something like Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom. This game is simply a giant grinding loop, but one in which everything you do revolves around running a shop. You collect ingredients from monsters, build up all kinds of items and equipment, then sell them at prices you set yourself based on ever-shifting market conditions. I couldn’t put this one down; the loop was simply too powerful.



Metro Quester

Metro Quester came out on PC as just “Quester,” but just showed up on consoles published by Kemco with the extra “Metro” on top. This is a hardcore dungeon-crawler, in which you have to make the most of depleting resources while searching for food and scrap in a monster-infested wasteland. It has a look similar to games like Wizardry, with a vibe reminiscent of PC games from the 1980s. The screen combines a super old school map of the action, with higher-res art for the enemies and characters. The whole scenario had manga legend Kazushi Hagiwara (creator of Bastard!!) at the helm, and game designer Hironori Kato who previously worked on an Elden Ring TRPG. That’s some serious street cred for a game like this. I can’t wait to make some time for it!



If you take anything away from this piece, it’s that the old cliche of not judging a book by its cover is a cliche for a reason. These games might look like shovelware to the average gamer, even one who totally loves RPGs with old school trappings like Shin Megami Tensei or Etrian Odyssey. But give ‘em a shot and I promise there’s a good chance you’ll discover some hidden treasure. At least do yourself a favor and look up some footage of the Wall Lady game. It’s some wild stuff.


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Written by Lucas White

Lucas plays a lot of video games. Sometimes he enjoys one. His faves include Dragon Quest, SaGa and Mystery Dungeon.