Someone discovers that a game they like was made using RPG Maker, they head over to Steam or to the official RPG Maker website and they bump into at least 6 different products named “RPG Maker.”
It’s a common story.
To date, the available offerings are: RPG Maker 2003, RPG Maker XP, RPG Maker VX, RPG Maker VX Ace, RPG Maker MV and RPG Maker MZ.
So what is the best version? Which one should beginners spend their money on?
I’m going to be frank here: the only version of RPG Maker you should ever spend your money on is always going to be the latest version. There are some exceptions to this. If you already own any edition of the program, you may want to buy another one to take advantage of the fact that the license allows the resources from any version that you own to be used in the games developed with other versions that you own.
But for beginners wanting to get into RPG Maker, it only makes sense to invest in the latest version.
These programs age fast.
You’re not really missing out on anything by ignoring all versions but the last. The programs are all essentially the same.
RPG Maker 2003:
RPG Maker XP:
RPG Maker VX:
RPG Maker VX Ace:
RPG Maker MV:
RPG Maker MZ:
The most significant differences are found in the graphical and musical assets that they include out of the box to help get you started making your game, and in the software they include as the platform that the games made with the editor run on.
Games made with RPG Maker XP, RPG Maker VX and RPG Maker VX Ace all run on what is, in essence, the same platform. This platform that runs games made with RPG Maker is known as the game “player” in the RPG Maker community. These versions of the program allow the use of the Ruby programming language to modify or create gameplay features.
Older versions such as 2003, XP, VX and VX Ace don’t allow the screen resolution of the games to be easily changed, so, by today’s standards, your games would be limited to a very small screen resolution.
On the other hand, it is much easier to change the screen resolution of games made with MV and MZ.
This difference of technology between the “player” engine that runs games made with MV and MZ and previous editions of the programs is key. The software powering games made with MV and MZ will age much slower and in a more graceful manner than previous versions did.
But what is the best RPG Maker version to date though?
Every RPG Maker version is the best, because in practice they’re all the same. If you ask which one has the better technology powering its games, then the answer is MZ.
Differences such as the default battle system and other minor features should be ignored. No one uses the default stuff anyways.
But what about the scripts and resources made for use in previous versions of RPG Maker?
Just ignore those. Some version of the best ones is going to appear in the newer version of the program, one way or another. Sticking with MV after MZ is out isn’t as bad as sticking with previous versions, because MV and MZ are very similar and there is some degree of interchangeability between their resources, but it still means that you will be missing out on the bulk of new plugin releases.
If you don’t own any RPG Maker, just get the latest.