Released in 1987 on the NEC PC-8801 and NEC PC-9801 computers in Japan, Sorcerian was developed by Nihon Falcom and is the fifth numbered game in the Dragon Slayer series. It was later released for MS-DOS in English-speaking countries through publisher Sierra Entertainment in 1990.
The game is a side scrolling action RPG, featuring customizable characters organized into a four person party. The player can create up to 20 male and female characters from among 4 character classes.
The game features an open-ended, persistent world. Time passes in the game world, with characters growing, ageing, and eventually dying of old age.
The content draws from the high fantasy tradition, and features elves, dwarves, and the like. The game is organized into 15 quests, or levels, which the player can approach through any order of their choice (à la Mega Man). In turn, these quests are part of three distinct storylines, which can be played and completed in any order. The modular quest structure allows the player to leave and return to quests at any time, and play through them again at will.
The game's magic system is unique and complex, requiring the combination of spells to create more powerful spells, and combining items to concoct more effective items and potions.
The game features a construction kit, to add user-generated scenarios to the game, a concept influenced by Kaleidoscope. As a result, three expansions were released for Sorcerian by different developers, each expanding the original quest selection.
The game is also remembered for including music composed by Yuzo Koshiro, along with contributions from Mieko Ishikawa and Takahito Abe. Koshiro would later go on to work on the music for the Streets of Rage series.
The soundtrack has been released in a variety of formats, at least five times.
When it released in the North American market, Computer Gaming World magazine praised the unique multi-scenario system, which broke the game down into smaller quests played in any order rather than a single linear epic adventure, giving the game more variety. On the other hand, it criticized the game's unique but complex magic system, for being difficult and time-consuming. It also praised the use of puzzles to add variety to the arcade-style hack & slash combat, but noted that the Japanese-style action-based combat may turn off some fans of more traditional American-style turn-based combat.
In 2008, Platinum Games designer Hideki Kamiya listed Sorcerian as one of his favourite games of all time and an influence on his work. Later in 2014, he mentioned it as an influence on Scalebound. He stated, "It's a standard fantasy title with swords, magic and gigantic monsters," where "You can choose from 15 different scenarios in all, and if you buy the separately sold scenario set, you can play even more new adventures. This game was really full of expansive possibilities." He stated "a hydra boss appears in the first scenario, so that might be why a hydra appeared in the Scalebound promotion video."