Button Mashing... Let's Not
I suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome from many years hunkered over poorly
designed keyboards when I worked as a technical writer and computer programmer.
Now in my mid-sixties, I also have arthritis. In other words, my hands hurt,
often quite a lot, despite attention to ergonomics, use of wrist braces and
daily physical therapy.
I love spending a few hours with a Playstation JRPG in the evenings, and intend
to continue doing so as long as I am able. For me, the hardest part of any game
is battles that require repetitive high-speed button-mashing. But not all games
require this. A surprising number of games have ways to fully or partially
These lists only includes games that I own or have played. Also see my
playability notes for other features that affect
my ability to play particular games.
Latest update: July 2020.
This is my own "how much does it hurt" view of battle systems.
- In the beginning, most games were turn-based. Your column of characters
faced off against a column of baddies. One at a time you chose your
character, its action and its target, said 'go' and the AI responded.
Repeat for as many rounds as necessary to win or loose the battle.
No button-mashing and you could proceed as slowly as you desired.
- Over time, things became more complicated, and harder on the hands.
"Real time" and "action time" systems were introduced
such that the AI controls the baddies while you are still trying to decide
what to do. Some of those systems have ways to set how fast the AI works,
or to pause the AI while you're making choices, but eventually this evolved
into the "mash buttons as fast as possible so the AI doesn't wipe out
your party" system that I simply cannot handle without debilitating pain.
- The only way I can play a game like that is to select
the easiest level of difficulty, do a lot of leveling up and farming to
keep the party ten or so levels ahead of the curve, and hope that the
characters I don't have to control can keep the one I do have to control
alive (preferably as an archer and/or healer who can stay off to the
side). I put myself through this for games in series that I love, but
otherwise it's a deal-breaker for me.
- Early Final Fantasy games (through VIII, and X but not X-2) are
turn-based, though the random encounter rate can be annoying or even
painful if you're not careful. (More than one early game essentially tries
to steer you by killing off your party if you go the wrong way.)
- The Atelier games that I have, Shallie and Sophie,
have turn-based battle systems, and item creation, not battle is not the point
of these games. (I only have these two because in most Atelier
games you're playing against a countdown calendar, which I do not like.)
- Dragon Quest VIII and traditional mode in Dragon Quest XI
are turn-based. In the latter it is possible to completely automate the
- Older games typically had a battle party of four, which I generally
found to be easier to manage than a party of three. (Melee fighter, ranged
fighter, black mage, white mage.)
- In strategy games, the battleground is divided into a map of squares. You
place your characters, set their actions, and then a round of battle
happens automatically. Repeat until you win or loose the battle. This
requires a good deal of use of your hands, but you do it at your own
speed; no X-button mashing or frantic attempts to avoid doom.
Pretty much any game that has 'tactics' as part of its title falls in
- Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions (PSP, Vita TV)
- Jeanne D'Arc (PSP, Vita TV)
- La Pucelle: Tactics (PS2, PS3, Vita TV)
- Each character in the battle party may be set to auto. Once the battle
begins, you just keep an eye on things and intervene if necessary.
- Most if not all Tales games
- Dragon Quest XI with turn-based battles
- Games that don't exactly fall in one of the above categories.
- Final Fantasy XII has a 'gambit system' that allows the AI
for each character to be programmed rather extensively. In the original
Playstation 2 game, the available gambits increased slowly during the
game, so full-auto battles were not practical at first. But in the
PS4 HD version, all gambits are available from the beginning.
- The huge 'atelier' franchise of games places its emphasis on activities
other than fighting (which is turn-based), though most games impose
time limits on completing activities.
- There are many exploration, mystery and puzzle (logic, not physical
feat) games, many of which are relatively inexpensive downloads.
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