They are problematic in scope, I won't argue that. It took me about a decade to finally beat FF6, I did actually manage Chrono Trigger around when it came out in high school, they can take serious time to grind through. But the rewards can be great when you find a great secret or figure out a new combination group that works well.
If you want something from that era that has a solid bit of RPG with a little more action try out a) Secret of Mana, 2) Secret of Evermore, and 3) Seiken Densetsu 3 (another game in the secret of Mana series that never made it stateside, at least during the SNES life cycle).
They have active controls for fighting. Not any kind of turn based, but still have underlying RPG elements of leveling and equipment purchasing.
SoM is probably the best for most people. It tries to be the most serious and has the most straightforward systems, and generally plays excellently.
Seiken Densetsu 3 seemed like the most complex as there were a number of characters to choose from and a series of choices about light and dark side character development that would affect how each characters skills developed (dark side seemed more offense based, light more defense and healing, but there was a first and second choice so you could wind up light-light, light-dark, dark-light, and dark-dark with unique skills sets for each). Crazy complex, but seemed near. But I confess I never got through it, so I can't say it is the greatest experience ever or anything.
My favorite is Secret of Evermore. It was actually made for American audiences so it started in English, meaning the puns and jokes work better than the translated versions. The system is less crazy in some respects, with two characters only one of whom needs weapons or uses their magic stand in, in this case alchemy, and there aren't any moral choices. But instead of magic they have alchemy. There are recipes for each spell and there are ingredients that overlap as you go, so new spells can be subbed our for old ones, but each spell needs to be leveled to get stronger instead of each group of magic like in Elder Scrolls games or Secret of Mana, so there is a balance to strike between leveling your original spells and replacing them with newer ones that might not be as powerful yet. But on the whole, it's a really fun one.
What are your favorites, I can see if I know anything with vaguely RPG shaped elements that might work as gateway drugs for this lovely genre.