My top 10 JRPGs from a non-RPG lover

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.

21 Comments
22 Comments
Posted by iGaboru

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.

Posted by Video_Game_King

You haven't touched Fire Emblem? Go out and touch it. Touch it all you want, because it's awesome. I'd say that Tactics Ogre isn't as good as Final Fantasy Tactics, but I haven't played the PSP version (I played the original SNES version, which isn't nearly as good as FFT).

Posted by lead_farmer

Loved Tactics Ogre so damn much. Haven't finished Odin Sphere but will hopefully get back to it.

@iGaboru: Did you play Valkyria Chronicles 2 for PSP? Gameplay is still quite good. Story could turn people off though.

Posted by xaLieNxGrEyx

I see a spelling error, it's not Harvest Moon it's - Final Fantasy IX.  
 
 
Hopefully that cleared some things up! Good day to you/

Posted by iGaboru
@Video_Game_King: A lot of people have recommended me that series, I might give it a try when I got my hands on any of the games. 
 
@lead_farmer
: No, I haven't got VC2 yet but I plan to in the near future. The whole high school vibe does turn me off though... 
 
@xaLieNxGrEyx said: I really wanted to switch IX for XII but I wanted to be true to myself :P IX is my fave of the PSOne entries though.
Posted by Sanity

Chrono Trigger is such a great game, i was so pissed a few years back when square sent the cease and desist letter to the Chrono Resurrection team. Supposedly they finished it for themselves and a part of me always hopes it gets leaked onto the net.

Posted by TerraMantis

I've been playing games for 20+ years now and i have only two games that i have given a 10 / 10 and those are Baldur's Gate II and Suikoden II out of possibly 1000+ games i've played over the years. It is only coincidence that one is a Wrpg and one is a Jrpg, but i do think they are the best that the east and west have to offer. Not only did those games have great gameplay which is intelligent and thought provoking, but the stories were the best i've seen in gaming. I played Suikoden something like 14 years ago and i was trying to make a statement in a forum about how good/bad modern villains are and i could not for the life of me remember what the story or ending was of Fallout 3 and i had only beaten it a few weeks beforehand yet i could remember Suikoden II's story more intimately and i hadn't played it for nearly 12-14 years (don't remember exactly). That has to be some great story telling to impact my memory so much.
 
That being said the closest thing in contemporary times, story-wise, is Mass Effect. Mass Effect's story is probably my favorite one told in gaming so far and if part 3 is great then it will take the title of best single story told in gaming. Mass Effect's gameplay is the only thing that holds it back from being truly astonishing, i am not saying it isn't great, but it is not revolutionary or innovative in many senses. A lot in Mass Effect's gamplay has been seen and done before and beforehand. 
Also, as far as gameplay goes the best contemporary game would have to be Demon's Souls. It felt like a re-imagined version of the first Diablo (not the second) made for the modern generation. It has a wonderful dungeon crawling feeling with some of the most immaculate level design ever rendered, no skill trees, and is not a loot-hunt yet is extremely diverse and deep. Demon's Souls also has a similar format of laying the game out with having your main "hub" with the Nexus like how Diablo had Tristram. From Software really reinvented the stone wheel and turned it into a nice formula-one racing tire which took the modern dungeon crawl RPG and made a huge leap in the right direction. I cannot wait for Oct.  4th for Dark Souls.
 
Another recent game that was pretty great was Witcher 2. You can really tell the developers were greatly influenced by games like Batman:Arkham Asylum and Demon's Souls. Though Witcher 2 did not master the combat to the degree those games did and it has some bad interfacing/game options the story and other game mechanics make-up for almost all of its shortcomings. 
 
And yes...Squaresoft has been on a slippery slope ever since they became Square Enix. They went from making some of the best games of all time to...i don't even really follow them anymore...what do they do now?
 
My honorable mentions: Dragon Age: Origins (NOT DA2), Planescape: Torment, Temple of Elemental Evil, Drakensang: The River of Time, Deus Ex, System Shock 2, Thief II: Metal Age, X-COM: UFO Defense, Fallout 2, Legend of Legia, Summoner, Sacred, Torchlight, Wizardry 8, Legacy of Kain: Blood Omen (Then basically everything you've already mentioned)
 
Guilty pleasure:  Fable, Megaman Legends...i know, i know. They just do for me what is the most simple aspect games are supposed to induce on the player...fun, i think they're fun to play.

Posted by iGaboru
@TerraMantis: Thanks for sharing your personal experiences, I love knowing why a game is special to someone and what aspects of such game make it so. However you jumped way ahead as this list dealt with my top JRPGs :P I'm preparing a WRPG list too and there you'll find most of the games you talk about ^_^
Posted by TerraMantis

@iGaboru
 
Oh yeah...derp. I guess i did get carried away and i totally forgot it was solely supposed to be about jrps and not just rpgs period. So then, i guess the only games i thought of you didn't mention were...Legend of Legia and Megaman Legends haha. That shortened my list quite a bit. The remaining two are probably on the "lower end of the spectrum" of mentionable games too.

Posted by Habast

FF12 is definitely my favorite of the Final Fantasies... Good show :) 
 
Really looking forward to trying Lost Odyssey. Everyone says it's awesome.

Posted by QuistisTrepe

Haven't played Demon's Souls and I'm not buying a PS3 for it. Though I'm told I'm missing out on a damn good game. Odin Sphere has been dwelling on my to-do list for awhile. The rest of that list wouldn't make my top 30. Chrono Trigger is criminally overrated, it's a game that I truly wish would fall away onto the ash heap of gaming history. I couldn't wait for Tactics Ogre to end. What a crushing disappointment that game was, the gameplay was totally nerfed IMO. You really should start playing the SMT games, they make nearly all other JRPGs irrelevant.

Posted by iGaboru
@QuistisTrepe: I don't see how both Chrono Trigger and Tactics Ogre are not a game worth worshipping but each to its own :) I really want to get into the SMT games but it's hard hunting them down now.
Posted by ChickenPants

For a non-RPG lover you sure have played a lot of JRPGS.. Is it just western RPGs you don't like? Nevertheless it's always nice to see fellow Demon Soul's fans.

Posted by mosespippy

Jeanne D'arc on PSP is worth a try if you like SRPGs. It's pretty much a tactics clone but it's still good.

Posted by QuistisTrepe
@iGaboru said:
@QuistisTrepe: I don't see how both Chrono Trigger and Tactics Ogre are not a game worth worshipping but each to its own :) I really want to get into the SMT games but it's hard hunting them down now.
In terms of gameplay, CT has the depth of a puddle. It was as solid as they come in the 16-bit era, but it's aging poorly. TO has gaping flaws in its gameplay. It honestly makes FFT look like a deep strategy game. The lack of customization is appalling, the side quests are contrived, shameless means to artificially extend gameplay, and the last portion of the game is just plain embarrassing in the way it was drawn out, one boring battle after another.
Posted by crusader8463

A lot of people don't think of it as an RPG, but the Pokemon games are hands down some of the best RPG's going. I just wish someone would take the Pokemon style of RPG and make a game set in a world for adults.

Posted by mwng

Recently I've finished off both Tales of Vesperia and Eternal Sonata and was wondering what to try next.
 
Just interested to know if you'd tried playing any of the other jrpgs available on the 360 at the time, and if so, that Lost Odyssey was your pick of the Xbox crop?

Posted by iGaboru
@ChickenPants: It's not I don't like RPGs per se but I don't have the time for them, I haven't tried many Western RPGs so I can't say I don't like them.  
 
@mosespippy: I borrowed Jeanne D'Arc from a friend and I really liked it, still I prefer Tactics Ogre if I have to choose only 1 strategy RPG: 
 
@QuistisTrepe: Well, maybe nostalgia plays along but CT the scope of CT was epic for its time, I found the battle system encouraged experimentation with characters and was deep enough for the time, plus I absolutely loved the story. As for TO, I'm still playing it so I don't know about the ending :P 
 
@crusader8463: I've never played the Pokémon games but I'm willing to give them a try, in fact I'm trying to get one of the DS games. 
 
@mwng: I also played Blue Dragon back when I had a 360 and I didn't like it very much. Much preferred Lost Odyssey. As for the games you mentioned, I'm trying to hunt them down on PS3 this time to give them a try.
Edited by Ragdrazi
@dudy80 said:

Chrono Trigger is such a great game, i was so pissed a few years back when square sent the cease and desist letter to the Chrono Resurrection team. Supposedly they finished it for themselves and a part of me always hopes it gets leaked onto the net.

Agreed.
 
Also, good list.
Posted by Adus

@iGaboru said:


@mwng: I also played Blue Dragon back when I had a 360 and I didn't like it very much. Much preferred Lost Odyssey. As for the games you mentioned, I'm trying to hunt them down on PS3 this time to give them a try.

Unfortunately unless you speak Japanese you probably won't be able to play Tales of Vesperia on the PS3. The revision was never localized, though I believe there is a fan translation patch being worked on. Really though, it's not as if the PS3 version is some fix of a broken port or anything. The 360 version is great and easily one of my favorite JRPGs ever. The characters are really what make the game stand out, especially the protagonist. It was nice to have a mature, funny, and generally wise main character who wasn't a brooder or spastic child. The battle system is perhaps the game's key strength. It's really fluid and is complex without being confusing.

It's on Games on Demand now for $30, but seeing that you commented on how you sold your 360 I guess that's not much of a help. I'd say if that patch comes out, you can get the Japanese PS3 version and it would be worth it even if it ends up being a bit pricey.

Also I approve of Lost Odyssey in the list. A very under appreciated game. The 1000 Years of Dreams were a great way to develop Kaim, especially since they were so well written. The soundtrack is also some of Nobuo's best, in my opinion.

Posted by Vager

There's a SRPG indie PC game called Battle for Wesnoth. It has a shit ton of content, works on any OS including the iPhone with cross multiplayer.

Other then the iPhone version, it's completely free.

Posted by iGaboru
@Adus: Oh, yeah, I heard about that move by MS to retain exclusivity. I do speak Japanese so might give it a try someday when it's cheap :)