Written in 2018
This era is difficult to find recommendations, at least in 2018, when I first wrote this little report. The consoles in those days were beginning to be powerful enough to host text-heavy and complex games such as RPGs, and many famous game series such as Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest emerged in those years.
However, some can still be played. If you have any suggestions, please contact and inform me. I will gladly add more games here. Contact options can be found here.
Phantasy Star (Master System, 1987 - 1988)
This old gem from 1988 plays incredibly good, even for today's standard. The 3D dungeons manage to really transfer some feeling of depth. And even if they lack any decoration, they're still nice to look at.
Enemies are colorful and nice, and since your journey takes you around three planets, you encoutner lots of different baddies. Battles are hard and you have to grind a lot, though. It's no easy game, but thanks to the good color palette of the Master System, the game doesn't look bland.
Sound compositions are nice, but they suffer from the Master System's weak soundchip. Japanese games do support the FM sound unit and sound a bit better.
Phantasy Star is a classic that stopped to age some time ago and can be played by anyone.
Phantasy Star II (Sega Mega Drive / Genesis, 1989)
This game came out just a few years later than its predecessor, and it was the first attempt of a real console RPG on the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis.
PS II looks better in almost every aspect, has an intense story that is sometimes told using those neat cutscene images. However, the game lacks individual backgrounds in the battles, which is a shame since the blue grid is quite eighties-ey, but lacks some atmosphere.
The sound is nice as well as the story. Given the age of the game, you have to do a lot of grinding, though. And you have to memorize names of spells because they're really hard to guess.
It's not as ageless as Phantasy Star, but still a good game nowadays that can be played anytime.
Wonder Boy in Monster World (Mega Drive / Genesis, 1991)
One of the first Mega Drive / Genesis titles and the third installment of the Monster World series.
This game takes up lots of the ideas that have been established by Dragon's Trap before on the Master System, but on a much bigger scale. Interesting enough, that what's today called a "Metroidvania" game with big, open areas and a side-view was first established here.
The game itself is nice to play, has a good story for the time, good graphics, a nice soundtrack and many secrets to discover. You can upgrade your attack and jump abilities with new items and there are extra hearts shattered around everywhere.
It's a pity that the last boss is so darn hard. It has been made more difficult for western players, the japanese version is easier. I myself just finished it one time.