RPGamer’s Magic Circle
Given its high propensity for fantasy settings, magic has long been a major part of RPGs. How magic affects the world and story can vary greatly; some games deal with the fallout of magic potentially disappearing from the world, others feature a traditional story of a powerful sorcerer electing to use that power for evil, and some will just have it as a fact of life. Either way, RPGs are packed full of fascinating wielders of their world’s magical powers.
RPG magic comes in many forms. There is the regular elemental magic, where its users unleash fireballs or chilling blasts, or the ever-welcome healing magic, while others have the ability to manipulate life and nature in a variety of ways, such as revealing or creating paths that others would have no hope in making. And then there are the different means of creating it. Some use wands or staffs, while others are able to create it through thought or by using their own bodies. The possibilities are endless.
The regular world has a different definition of magic, although its forms of magic are no less wondrous and impressive to behold, with its secrets both advanced and closely guarded by organisations such as the Magic Circle. We have chosen to create a rather different version of the Magic Circle, made up of some of our favourite magic-using characters from across the wide universe of RPGs. The RPGamer staff have given free range to pick any character they wished, whether their appeal comes from their combat capabilities or their personalities and impact of the story, with the only provision that they primary use magic in battle or as their main abilities. We hope you enjoy reading about out selections — please note there will be some spoilers — and invite you to let use know who you’d pick in the comments and on Discord.
(Luminous Arc 2)
Althea is a fire witch trainee with a lot of potential and a big dream. She is strong-willed, determined, and passionate about becoming the Mage Queen, a title bestowed upon a distinguished witch who has done many great deeds. Some of her companions find her boisterous proclamations that she will become the Mage Queen to be annoying, but she is a good person and a great friend. While Althea can be brusque at times, she is kind, compassionate, and selfless. When the main character Roland’s startling connection to one of the antagonists is revealed, he becomes worried that the others will think badly of him. Althea tells him that his friends would not think less of him, especially her, which makes Roland feel better. Later in the game, Roland gives her the same assurance when a similar connection is revealed about her to a different villain. Althea’s fear that she might harm her friends due to this connection lingers for a long time, although she hides it as well as she can. While she is brought rather close to a terrible fate, she comes back more determined than ever with help from Roland, or him and Fatima, depending on the ending. Althea is an engaging and quite likable character.
There are good reasons that Althea is a strong candidate to become one of the Magic Association’s Elemental Witches. Her magic is incredibly powerful, particularly after her class changes from Witch Trainee to White Flame Witch. Her fire spells hit hard and are great at attacking multiple foes at once. She is also the only unit able to learn Resurrect, a spell that revives a defeated ally with full HP. She joins Roland’s group early but stays a strong party member throughout the entirety of Luminous Arc 2. — Cassandra Ramos
(Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena)
Magical strength often becomes a symbol of strength in the games it is featured in. One of the surest ways to make one magician stand out over another is to give them the ability to double their casts. This is what makes the Silent Wise King of Caerleon stand out on the battlefield. Caerleon is generally marked as the “weakest” country, needing an alliance with its northern allies to build up strength. However, Cai is a major reason why the country is never a pushover, as his ability to double cast can be key to a large number of strategies. As a master of elemental magic and having the ability to heal, Cai is a difference maker in combat.
Beyond his on field capabilities, Cai is shown to be everything that a wise king should embody through listening to his friends, family, and subjects, helping them through their issues while promoting growth and bringing in a wide array of characters from various backgrounds to help pursue peace for the land. This is a king that doesn’t want to fight, but will fight to win if he has to, showing the strength of character and compassion along the way to embody a leader worth following. — Ryan Costa
(Star Ocean: The Second Story / Second Evolution)
Celine is the total package when it comes to magic users. She is smart, snarky, and supremely powerful. Players first encounter her by chance in Star Ocean: The Second Story in the opening hours. Although she is not a mandatory character, I’ve never been able to resist recruiting her as a full-time party member each time I play the game. As the first of many optional characters the game offers, her charm proves undeniable.
A powerful magic wielder and exceptional treasure hunter, Celine can hold her own in tough encounters with her dazzling array of offensive magical abilities. She derives her power from her inner thigh tattoo and displays a penchant for expensive clothes, jewelry, and other designer items. She is well versed in magic, fashion, and romance, as it is eventually revealed she was previously engaged to another party member and involved in a long courtship with a nearby king. With her sharp one-lines and even sharper combat skills, Celine has the firepower and chutzpah that allows her to sit comfortably on this list of impressive magic users. — Paul Shkreli
(Ogre Battle / Tactics Ogre)
Deneb is something of a mascot, or at the very least a recurring character, in the Ogre Battle and Tactics Ogre games. She starts off in Ogre Battle as an antagonist the player character must vanquish in order to advance, but players are given a choice of forgiving her or punishing her for her pumpkin experiment crimes. While there is a slight reputation hit for forgiving her, Deneb is a very valuable party member when attempting a low Alignment run of the game. The Witch class is situationally useful, but if you turn her into a Valkyrie or Princess, she becomes one of the strongest units in the game.
Beyond her initial appearance in the series, Deneb shows up in the other games as a support character who is sometimes recruitable, usually through bizarre methods. She has a bubbly personality that betrays her deep pool of knowledge and her curiosity of the arcane practices is what causes her to explore new locations. You may find her in a tutorial, or selling items in random locations, but know that in this series, Deneb will be around either flirting or causing mischief sooner rather than later. — Ryan Radcliff
(Fire Emblem: Three Houses)
Dorothea Arnault is the only student of common birth in the Black Eagles, one of the titular houses in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Even so, she meets everyone as equals regardless of their background. She does not fear being frank with people, including nobles. Dorothea holds some resentment toward the nobility, as she grew up being treated poorly by them when she lived on the streets and they only cared for her when she became an opera star. Dorothea does recognize that not all nobles are elitists, but her past experiences still come out in her supports with Ferdinand and Sylvain. Nonetheless, she is a caring and loyal friend. After the five-year time skip, Dorothea becomes very concerned with the plight of the commoners, particularly orphans, caught up in the war. She is also quite the flirt, with apparently only the stoic swordsman Felix being immune to her charm.
Dorothea may lack the raw magic growth of other units in Three Houses like Lysithea and Constance, but she makes up for it with great utility and is a bit more durable than most mages. She learns some powerful ranged spells such as Thoron and Meteor, and while she doesn’t learn many white magic spells, she does get access to Physic to allow her to heal a unit from a distance. Her personal skill Songstress heals allies around her, which can be quite a boon early game. Dorothea may not be the most powerful mage in Three Houses, but her versatility makes her a very useful unit even late in the game. — Cassandra Ramos
(The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel)
The level of depth with which the characters are fleshed out in Nihon Falcom’s Trails of Cold Steel series is unparalleled. Out of this amazing set of characters, Elliot Craig leaps to mind when thinking about memorable magic users. He appears in all four Cold Steel games and is always a welcome part of the party. He can use his Orbal staff as an offensive weapon as well as for buffing, debuffing, and healing abilities. Since long battles require players to restore health almost constantly, Elliot is one of those characters who players always want to have as an active fighter. With his special ability fully curing the whole party as well as reviving fallen members, he is the most reliable healer for tough battles, and his useful offensive abilities can also readily turn the tide of combat.
Besides his prowess in battle, Elliot is the first member of Class VII to become friends with protagonist Rean and has an appealing personality that motivates players to spend bonding moments with him. He follows his father’s wishes to study at Thors Academy, but his true passion is music. Unlike his father, one of the toughest and bravest generals of the Imperial Army, Elliot isn’t imposing, rather skinny, and tries to avoid conflict when it’s possible, but when called into action he won’t let anyone down. Elliot is talented, skillful, and supports everyone around him with the magic of both his violin and his staff. — Luis Mauricio
Disgaea’s Flonne is just so naive and adorable it’s hard not to be caught up in her charms. She espouses the power of love and justice while thinking that the side of righteousness is the only side. Flonne shows growth in a personal sense, while solidifying herself as a key member of the franchise’s well-written comedy. She is a great foil to everyone else’s wacky antics while bringing in her own perky personality to stand out in a game full of memorable characters.
Flonne is a lot of fun to use in combat, with skill growth that make her a perfect magic-user. Her learned abilities complement this with the healing Power of Love, as well as devastating magic attacks Holy Arrows and Divine Ray. In later games she even gains the strongest of magical powers, the ability to summon herself as a giant kaiju named Flonnezilla. This fallen angel has a bit of everything to make enemies quiver in their boots, while providing support for her allies. — Ryan Costa
There will be many out there who were pleasantly surprised by the story of Triangle Strategy this year; it’s been a long time since Square Enix last made a big push in the strategy RPG space. Yet regardless of its curious title, Triangle Strategy was a great addition to the likes of Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics, genre-pushing games that were made decades ago. All of these have featured powerful magic users in many senses of the word, and Frederica Aesfrost is one of Triangle Strategy’s most important ones. With her fire magic, she is a powerhouse, able to burn her way through multiple enemies at once, making her a key piece that one can build strategies around.
In addition, Frederica Aesfrost’s involvement in the story is vital. Not only is she betrothed to main protagonist Serenoa Wolfort, but she is also of Rosellan descent, a race of people who are treated wholesale as “sinners” by the Holy State of Hyzante. These circumstances put Frederica in a difficult position, as she wants to support any decision her husband-to-be makes, but she will not stand by if her people’s pleas are ignored. The dialogue between her and Serenoa is one of the highlights of the game; they act how you would expect a betrothed couple who have only just recently met to be: polite, rather than passionate. Understanding that their lives are now linked, and how they must learn how to live together whilst their world falls into turmoil around them in a time of war, their partnership is a vital part of the game. — John Woodhouse
BioWare has a history of making great RPGs with relatable characters, and none has been more important to me than Liara T’Soni. Her biotic powers obviously come with a sci-fi background and explanation, but its effects are similar enough to warrant acceptance in our Magic Circle. Though trained in using her biotic abilities, she very much isn’t a fighter when first encountered. However, that quickly changes and she soon learns to make use of her powers to their fullest, lifting and throwing enemies across the battlefield.
As someone who has struggled with social anxiety and connecting with people, having characters in games who are themselves vulnerable and hesitant when talking to the player character is wonderful to see. What is even greater in my opinion, is when those characters are shown to have growth and gain the confidence to overcome these issues and become upstanding, fully fledged, aspirational members of the party. Throughout the Mass Effect series, we get to see the shy, awkward architect you save from a biotic bubble turn into a key member of the galaxy’s underground, and depending on your choices, be with you until your final moments in the last game. Mass Effect is my favourite series, and Liara T’Soni’s journey is a major part of that. — John Woodhouse
(Final Fantasy X)
When it comes to Black Mages in the Final Fantasy series, few wear the hat as well as Lulu, from Final Fantasy X. She is battle-hardened and distrustful at first. We learn she has been through multiple ordeals, one being losing her love to the wrath of Sin, the rampant monster decimating the world of Spira. Not only that, but she has served as guardian to two other summoners whose pilgrimage ended early. Her prior traumas inform her icy demeanor and make her a reserved ally at first. As the game continues, she begins to show glimmers of a sense of humor and warms up to the often-goofy Wakka.
Story aside, few characters look as cool as Lulu. She is probably the only Testuya Nomura creation that puts all those belts to good use. She has some of the funniest quips in battle when going nuclear on bad guys with her magic. Utilizing puppets in battle, these tiny Mogs and other creatures tumble ahead of her, imitating her actions. She possesses style, wit, and a whole lot of attitude, what’s not to love? — Paul Shkreli
“The black wind howls. One among you will shortly perish.”
Magus’s story is a tragic one. Losing his sister to Lavos and being shot through time, Magus uses his knowledge of what is to come to act as a prophet. Magus believed that he could destroy the evil that shattered his life, but this did not stop Lavos from destroying the world again.
Magus is one of the most powerful casters in all eras and he knows how to cast a bit of every element. The way he floats instead of walking, using a scythe as his weapon, and the colouring of his sprite, all add to the coolness of his character. He acts cold and indifferent to the player, but behind the mask is a man full of heartbreak. His love for his sister carries him on. I could never turn down having him in my party. — Robert Sinclair
(Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World)
Marta Lualdi is perhaps best known, for better or worse, for her massive crush on Emil Castagnier. Her initial enthusiasm for Emil and her clingy jealous tendencies rubs some people the wrong way. Yet Marta is a very nuanced and dynamic character. The way Marta grows out of her infatuation for Emil, leading the two of them to genuinely fall in love with each other, is wonderful to watch. It’s astonishing that she not only recognizes her flaws but also works to improve her shortcomings. Throughout the game, Marta learns more about Emil, helping him to grow as a person, and his development helps her as well. Even before this character development starts, Marta is already determined and tenacious with a strong sense of right and wrong. While Marta does have a selfish streak, she is more often willing to help and save people. Marta even endeavors to bring peace to the world once the journey ends. She may initially come off as a loved-crazed perky teenager, but she has an amazing amount of depth.
While Marta uses a fighting style that resembles dancing, she also makes heavy use of magic, though it’s even revealed where this magic comes from. Tales of Symphonia explains that only those with enough elven blood or who ingest a mystical mineral can use magic, but if either of these applies to Marta, it’s never revealed. It’s somewhat frustrating that the game doesn’t so much as lampshade this enigma, but it is interesting to ponder how it could be possible. Perhaps the core of Ratatosk, the Summon Spirit of the Giant Kharlan tree that was once the source of all mana, grants her the ability to cast magic. Whatever the case, Marta uses this unexplained boon very well. She can learn many powerful healing spells and while they all only affect one target, Marta can heal the party very quickly. This same speed-casting can also keep foes stun locked as she repeatedly uses the offensive light arte Photon. Her Mystic Arte Radiant Roar, which uses her magic to damage all opponents and heal the party, is also quite impressive. — Cassandra Ramos
(Dragon Age: Origins)
Morrigan is readily Dragon Age: Origins’ most memorable character, with both her magical prowess and snarky attitude. Encountered where the game’s main quest truly begins, she helps sets up the adventure when players encounter her and her Flemeth in the Korcari Wilds as part of the player character’s ritual to joining the Grey Wardens, eventually joining them on the quest to stop the newest blight and save Thedas. She can use damaging and debilitating magic, as well as shapeshift into the versatile spider and later the powerful bear forms, making her a strong party member, useful in nearly all situations.
Claudia Black and Kate Mulgrew voicing her and Flemeth respectively ensures that Morrigan’s interactions are excellently performed. The growing relationship between her and the Warden is one of the highlights of the game — whether it turns romantic or not — as she softens up and finds a comrade-in-arms after her lonely upbringing and the distrust of humanity instilled in her by Flemeth. Underlining her importance and impact on Dragon Age: Origins is a DLC devoted entirely to uncovering her actions following the ending of the game, while her appearance in a subsequent title is a welcome treat that helps tie the series back together. — Alex Fuller
(Lunar: Silver Star Story)
Top of his class at the Magic Guild of Vane, Nash has an ego that cannot be matched. He has a horrible superiority complex, and often needs to be knocked down a peg. He’s also in love with Mia Ausa, daughter of the head of the Magic Guild. Although he is egotistical, Nash gets a lot of good development through Lunar that forces him to see the party as equals, especially after the events where he betrays the party in support his idol Ghaleon.
Despite Nash’s overconfidence, he can actually put his spells where his mouth is. A powerful mage, Nash controls thunder and lightning. A lot of his spells are offensive, and his strength comes from being able to attack large groups of enemies. He’s also surprisingly quick, which is something many mages are often not known for. What he lacks in physical strength, he more than makes up for with raw magic skill and tons of attitude. Nash is just one of those characters where he’ll not only make you laugh (with or at him), and despite his ego, ends up as a loveable member of Alex’s team. — Sam Wachter
(Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch)
Oliver’s story is a tragic one. He and a friend build a small car and on its first run Oliver loses control and ends up in a river. His mother saves him but dies due to a lifetime of ill health. Just as he reaches the depths of sadness, literal magic happens and sets him on a journey to a strange new world. It’s here that he looks for a way to save his mother.
Oliver is a quick study, compassionate, and hard working. He’s driven for his cause but will stop and help pretty much everyone along the way. I could relate to Oliver’s story, as my father died years ago. Trying to save a parent, even if it means fighting the strongest of evils in a strange new world is a noble cause. It broke my heart when Oliver learns the true fate of his mother. I won’t spoil it here, but it was very emotional for me. Oliver does what’s right and sticks to his beliefs, even in tragedy. — Robert Sinclair
(Tales of Arise)
Rinwell is a recent applicant to our Magic Circle, but she certainly deserves her time in the spotlight. Tragic life circumstances have left her alone in the world with only her owl companion Hootle to keep her company. However, she strives to attempt to make her world a better place. She wears her feelings on her sleeve and isn’t shy to fight for what she believes in. Tragedy has not completely ruined her desire to see the good in others, and her friends mean the most to her.
Rinwell may be young, but she makes up for it with utility. Not only is she well versed in multiple forms of elemental magic, she is also able to store spells to be cast at a later time. She also has ability to steal spells being cast by her enemies, interrupting them in the process, which helps seperate her as a top-tier magician. It’s said that most mages on a battlefield have one of two purposes: casting spells or reacting to spells cast by others. Rinwell throws that dynamic out the window by potentially preventing the cast from happening in the first place. — Robert Albright
(Phantasy Star IV)
Arrogant, sarcastic, and cocky with no remorse, Rune is a powerful wizard with a sleek look and smart mouth that left an impression on young Ryan. Joining Alis and Chaz early on in Phantasy Star IV, Rune’s power is immediately felt as his magic obliterates the foes that stand in the party’s way. Sadly, he leaves shortly after, leaving a huge gap that isn’t filled until he rejoins the group much later in the game.
Rune has been a favorite character of mine since the second he showed up in Phantasy Star IV, and while he scrutinizes the main character to no end, Rune becomes a valuable and reliable party member. His rejoining during a quest to recover an item called the Psycho Wand, feels rather appropriate. Just remember to always equip him with double shields so he isn’t a liability! — Ryan Radcliff
(Dragon Age XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age)
Serena is a fantastic magic user in Dragon Quest XI. She and her slightly older twin sister, Veronica, set off to find and join the legendary Luminary early on in the game. As opposed to her fiery twin, Serena is a voice of reason on the team and the de facto priest class companion, mainly focusing on healing and support magic both in battle and during story beats. After near disastrous events in one first act city, while the town is celebrating a huge victory with the others party members, Serena is seen tending to the wounded instead of partying. Her kindness shines through often, complemented by her healing magic making her nearly indispensable during the first act of the game, being a character that players switch out of the active party at their own risk.
Being the party priest is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s during the second act of Dragon Quest XI where Serena truly shines. Events see, Serena blossom into a powerful sage, able to cast both the most powerful healing magic as well as end battles in a single turn with her offensive capabilities. Her skill tree doubles in size and her magical prowess makes her second to no one else in the party. Still kindhearted, second-act Serena can hold her own in any magical situation as she fights to save the world that those closest to her have given up so much to protect. — Matt Masem
(Final Fantasy XI)
Shantotto is a witty Black Mage from Final Fantasy XI, one of the great minds from the Federation of Windurst. She doesn’t care what enemies say in battle, she’ll just laugh at them and cast the biggest, most destructive spells and wipe enemies off the face of Vana’diel. She has no interest in bowing down to anyone, and her primary goal is the always the advancement of her magical knowledge and power.
She speaks in formal rhyme and, if you can handle her quirks, is often amusing. There is something about her that is so inherently awesome that one can only bask in her glory of magical power and uncaring wit. She is yet loyal and helpful, but will not let you see that side of her. Just don’t say no to her; she will readily smite you and laugh about it. Ohohohohohoho! — Sarah McGarr
(Final Fantasy XIV)
Within the Final Fantasy XIV player community, the term “best boy” often gets thrown around and hotly debated. Today, I would throw my hat in the ring to enlighten you as to why Moenbryda was right: Urianger Augurelt is a top-tier nerd, full of heart and mystery in equal measures.
The first thing players notice about Urianger is his Shakespearean dialogue, sometimes referred to as “speaking in cursive”. For some, that may be enough to cement him as a huge dork, but let’s recount a few more of this man’s escapades. Urianger has devoted his life to studying prophecies, as his past propensity for delivering doomsday prophecies didn’t earn him many friends. However, fast forward to the Shadowbringers expansion, and Urianger has risen from an obscure prophecy slinger to one of the Warrior of Light’s most trusted confidantes. It’s funny how trading in that hood and goggles for a robe and deck of divination cards can loosen a guy up. His subsequent learning of the Fae language and attempts to solve riddles given to him by the mischievous pixies in order to earn their trust and ultimately acquire the land’s metaphysical truths as well as his attempts to create a water-walking spell in lieu of learning to swim, demonstrate how Urianger can be too smart for his own good.
There are points in the story where Urianger’s loyalties are uncertain. His nature compels him to maintain secrecy as a means to spare those close to him from potential danger or emotional pain. Though his intentions in doing so may be good, it becomes apparent that Urianger’s habit of concealing the truth not only causes additional troubles but also leaves others feeling alienated and questioning their trust in him. Events in the latest expansion Endwalker allow players to see how he’s finally learned to balance his thirst for knowledge with consideration for the people he cares about. For someone like myself who’s been cheering on this brainy yet zany Elezen for years, his character growth is most satisfying. — Casey Pritt
Viki is one of the few characters players encounter in every major Suikoden title. Always appearing just as suddenly as she disappears, with a sneeze. Although a bit of a ditz when it comes to her personality, she is an indispensable part to any would-be hero’s army. Her role is often delegated to being part of the fast travel system, but she is always there. She also part of one of the stranger series encounters when she comes in two versions as her older, ditzier form comes alongside a younger, more together one.
She is a formidable caster, having access to the Blinking or Blink Rune, which can teleport enemies or objects onto or off the battlefield. However, this comes with the caveat that sometimes, it’ll fail and teleport your allies off the field. Viki, for being as powerful a magician she is, isn’t always able to control how her magic works, and just as random is her appearance to the party is, she is gone just as quickly after. Her scatterbrained personality and magic makes her one of the series’s most memorable mages. — Robert Albright
(Final Fantasy IX)
Coming up multiple times here already, the Black Mage is undoubtedly one of the most striking roles of the job system in the Final Fantasy franchise. Final Fantasy IX managed to triumphantly immortalize this job by incarnating its original distinctive outfit and appearance into Vivi Ornitier. This charming wizard is clumsy and little. He has an enigmatic and adorable look, with a completely black face, big yellow eyes, and the iconic pointy hat and blue robe. While this young mage is extremely innocent and lamentably easy to fool, he sometimes raises interesting questions about existence and hides incredible powers. Vivi’s insecurity has the outstanding ability to captivate everyone around him, and he is rightfully one of the characters that has the spotlight the most throughout the game, as the nature of the Black Mages plays an important role in the game’s story.
Vivi is also an important character in combat. His elemental attacks are considerably stronger than most abilities of the other party members, and he makes a strong duo with the knight Steiner, able to empower Steiner’s sword for devastating elemental strikes. While Vivi has a terrible defense and laughable physical attacks, as well as low HP, which necessitate being accompanied by a healer, his magic power makes him a valuable attacker. Outside and inside combat, Vivi is enchanting, and it is a delight to take control of him and watch him struggle to understand the world that surrounds him. — Luis Mauricio
Again, we hope that you enjoyed reading about our picks, but of course we would be fools to declare that to be the complete membership as there are tons of other magic-users well deserving of acclaim. Be sure to let us know some of your favourite magic-users, be they allies or foes, and help our Magic Circle expand!