Console: Gameboy Advance
Though big in Japan for over a decade, the Fire Emblem series had never made it to the US, possibly because it was seen as too hardcore for Americans when the first game’s came to Famicom and Super Famicom. That all changed when FE star Marth appeared in million-seller Super Smash Bros. Melee, after which tons of English-speakers heard of the series and wanted a taste. So Nintendo made sure that the next installment for the GBA would finally give the series some international exposure.
Made by Intelligent Systems, Fire Emblem shares a similar top-down map and turn-based gameplay with IS’s Advance Wars. The narrative focused on warring countries in a classic fantasy setting, and you had to learn the seemingly simple rock-paper-scissors-style advantages and disadvantages of every class to stand a chance. Some no doubt disliked the fact that if a character died in a fight, they were gone forever, so every mistake either meant accepting that loss or completely restarting an hour-long battle. Ultimately, though, that loss made every decision hugely important. And isn’t that the whole point of a strategy game?