The RPG genre has always been among my favourite, but in a more of a love/hate situation. I like developing interesting characters and advancing well-developed stories by the means of constant fighting, careful tactics planning, resource management, etc.However, the time it takes to beat most RPGs have really hindered my interest in venturing into the latest entries of the genre. The almost complete dominance of WRPGs in the last decade has also made me grow fond of this style of RPG.
The following list includes JRPGs I've had the most fun with over the years, and this is extremely difficult as I'm limiting my list to one game per franchise.
1. Demon's Souls (FROM Software, 2009 - PS3)
The game that made me love gaming again in this sequel-maniac low-risk generation. The most refined and intense combat system of any game I've ever played, combined with one of the darkest, grimmest and more carefully detailed atmospheres of any dark fantasy game, Demon's Souls is the aRPG I'd been waiting for my whole life.
2. Odin Sphere (Vanillaware, 2008 - PS2)
It's a Vanillaware game, that says it all. What started with my devotion towards the Japan-only Saturn masterpiece Princess Crown culminates in this lushly detailed and carefully animated RPG. Sporting a very refreshing alchemy and combat system, various characters and story arcs, and one if not the most beautiful art-style of any PS2 RPG, Odin Sphere is a game that stands out from the myriad of powerful PS2 RPGs.
3. Chrono Trigger (Square, 1995 - SNES)
My first RPG experience ever. I never thought I would play a game for so long, so many times and enjoy every last second of it. Critically acclaimed as one of Squaresoft best and finest, this game has it all. Amazing story with multiple endings, complex characters with their own agendas and intentions, an outstanding soundtrack and a fairly simple yet addictive combat system that encourages different parties for their combined combos.
4. Lost Odyssey (Mistwalker, 2008 - Xbox 360)
What can I say about this game other than it's in my humble opinion what the next gen Final Fantasy should've been. Incredible story, amazing graphics, stellar characters and, although turn-based, a solid and entertaining combat system. One of the few games that make me wish I hadn't sold my 360.
5. Parasite Eve (Square, 1998 - PSOne)
If Square was known for one thing in its golden years it's for the incredible creativity behind some of its non-FF games and Parasite Eve might be one of the best in this regard. Loosely based on the novel and movie of the same name, this survival horror/RPG mixture presents one of the best stories I've ever experienced, combined with an original combat system and an eccentric cast, it was a nice departure from the medieval theme so predominant in the JRPG world.
6. Final Fantasy XII (Square Enix, 2006 - PS2)
I know I'm in the minority here but XII is my favourite of all the Final Fantasies, maybe tied with VI for nostalgic reasons. I loved the fast paced improved combat system, the political background of the whole game and the characters (except Vaan :D). FF XII is the closest thing to an early single player MMORPG I ever experienced.
7. Valkyria Chronicles (SEGA WOW, 2008 - PS3)
I love tactics RPGs, this list doesn't reflect it very much but I do. And as much as the next title in this list is my most favourite tRPG of all time, this game just was the PS3 needed when it came out. An amazingly beautiful faux cell-shading style with a great story and one of the most addicting tactical strategy combat I've ever played.
8. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (Quest/Square Enix, 2011 - PSP)
Here's the crown jewel of all TRPGs in my humble opinion. As much as I love Final Fantasy Tactics, this game is superior in every possible way: graphics, more mature story, deeper more rewarding combat system, improved camera, you name it. The PSP remake is everything fans could have expected and more. I urge you all to go and get this game if you live tactics RGPs at all.
9. Seiken Densetsu 3 [Legend of Mana 2] (Square, 1995 - Super Famicom)
This was the first fan-translated game I ever played. I learned English for and with this game! The incredible graphics, extreme re-playability, charismatic characters and great real-time combat system had me in front of my PC more hours than any other game had ever accomplished so far. It's a shame it never saw a release outside Japan but hey, that's what us translators are for :)
10. Harvest Moon (Natsume, 1997 - SNES)
Most people think of this series as a boring farming simulator game and they can't be wronger. Harvest Moon is in part a farm simulator yes, but it's also a date sim, construction sim, etc. It was my first contact with this very different way of making RPGs and I played it for months and months. The joy of unlocking new crops, taking care of your livestock, expanding your house and marrying the girl you like, having a child and helping out the harvest sprites is what keeps me loyal to the Harvest Moon series.
Honourable mentions: Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy VI & IX, Alundra, Valkyrie Profile Lenneth and Silemeria, Legend of Mana, Final Fantasy Tactics, Chrono Cross, Earthbound, Parasite Eve 2, Harvest Moon: Back To Nature & Friends of Mineral Town, etc.
I know there are loads of amazing games and series I have never touched: Grandia, Lunar, Phantasy Star, Shining Force, Tales of, Suikoden, Disgaea, Front Mission, Xenogears and Xenosaga, The Legend of Dragoon, Shin Megami Tensei series (Persona, Nocturne, Digital Devil Saga, etc), Star Ocean, Breath of Fire, Dragon Quest, Atelier & Mana Khemia (just started with Rorona), Ys, Ar Tonelico, Dark Cloud, Fire Emblem, Wild Arms, etc.
In conclusion, I now see that I'm more of a RPG lover than I though I was, also that I was a Square fanboy until they started losing the magic. So now I'd love to know about your favourite RPGs and the very reasons why they hold such honour.