NeoGAF's Essential RPGs: 2017-2018 edition - Vote open until Oct 13th - Win Free RPGs



Welcome to the 2017-2018 edition of NeoGAF's essential RPG list.

The purpose of the essential RPG thread is to help people find great games that they might not have heard of previously, and to remind people of the classics they never got around to playing. It's not a secret that review aggregates like Metacritic or Gamerankings do a poor job at assessing roleplaying games, as mainstream review scores (and overall coverage) correlate heavily with marketing budgets that RPGs often lack. Word of mouth consensus from GAF can be better, but you have to do more digging and (again) most discussion tends to be about the big franchises. These voting threads are a great place to collect a diverse array of opinions from a large number of GAFers.

This thread began with a voting stage that took place over roughly a month, from September 17th to October 13th, 2017. During that time over 240 NeoGAF members contributed lists of RPGs that they considered to be essential to the genre. In some cases these lists were games that the writer felt best illustrated the diversity of the RPG genre. In some cases, these lists were just a poster's top 10 favourite titles. If you have the time, you should read through the nomination lists. There are some really great recommendations in there!

The second stage of the Essential RPG thread was the creation of the Top 50 aggregate list that you see below. This lists the 50 most recommended games games by points earned during the nomination stage. The rankings are largely for fun, and out of tradition. Due to the aggregate nature of the list, the #1 game shouldn't necessarily be taken to be the best RPG of all time. Again, read the individual user lists below!

Aside from the artwork for each game, there are four major sections of the game banner:

  1. The Information Box (including the 4 game mechanic icons): New for this version of the list. This box gives you extended information for each title at a glance.
  2. The Title Bar: Some version of this has been present in my past three Essential RPG thread. you get some basic information about each title here.
  3. The Rank Box: This section has been updated from past thread versions. You now get best and worst ranks for the title across all 7 essential RPG threads, along with the current rank and change from the last thread.
  4. The System Icons: Back from the 2015 version of the thread, these icons list every platform that the title has been available for. No distinction is made between ports and remakes, so you will have to do some research. Some additional notes: Systems supporting an officially emulated version of a classic game (PS Classics, Virtual Console, etc) are included in the platform list. Unofficial emulation is not. Ditto for backwards compatibility for physical games. For PC, I have Steam and GOG icons for titles that can be purchased on those systems. Icons are generally listed in the order of release.


The sample information box below contains an explanation of the various pieces of info contained in this section of the banner, including a description of each of the game mechanic icons. The icons are meant to give you a rough idea of how each game plays. By referring to the icon legends below, you will be about to tell if a game is real-time or turn-based and how party control works. You will also get a rough idea of how much choice is present in each title.


Most of the information on the title bar is pretty straight-forward. However, since I am lumping together late ports, remasters, remakes, and expansion packs with the original version of a title, I thought that it would be useful to give some notes on how the title bar information was gathered/determined.

Developer/Publisher: The original developer and publisher are listed for each title. The current publisher may differ (as is the case for the Interplay titles). Ports, remakes, and remasters are also often handled by different companies than the original developer.

Release Date: The year that the game was first published in. Japanese titles with delayed western localizations are listed with their original Japanese release year. So Trails in the Sky FC is listed as a 2004 release (the year that the original PC version debuted), even though it first arrived in the west on PSP in 2011.

Cost: This gives you a rough idea of how much the cheapest (US when available) version of the game can be purchased for currently. In many cases, the cheapest version is a legacy digital release on Virtual Console, PSN, or GOG/Steam. However, I went with the typical Ebay price in the US for games that have never been released digitally. Newer games are listed under their digital/retail price or their used game price. Whichever was cheapest. Used prices were gathered from Gamestop and Amazon. In all cases, regular, non-sale prices are listed.

The 5 cost ratings are as follows:

1 Square	$19.99 USD or less
2 Squares	$20.00 - $39.99 USD
3 Squares	$40.00 - $59.99 USD
4 Squares	$60.00 - $79.99 USD
5 Squares	$80.00 USD or more
Please note that original physical versions of many of the older titles are quite expensive. While you can play Earthbound on Wii U for about $10, a cart version on SNES is closer to $200.

Completion Time: This is meant to give you a rough idea of the time investment each title requires. Times are based on typical completion times as listed on The upper end is NOT indicative of the time to 100% or Platinum a title. The lower end is NOT indicative of speed runs or a rushed playthrough. It is possible for you to take more or less time on a title than advertized!

Difficulty: Some people requested a measure of how hard each title is. Difficulty is a bit subjective, so I'm basing these values on reviews from enthusiast sites like Generally, titles are classified as Easy, Moderate (or medium if I run out of room!), or Hard. Games that let the user pick a difficulty are listed as User Defined. At least one title will give you the option of making boss fights less difficult if you die a few times. I listed those titles as Adaptable.

This year, participants cast over 3800 nomination votes for 537 individual titles. Below are the 50 titles that received the most points. With one exception, all of these titles had at least 20 recommendations, with the top game getting just shy of 100 nominations.

NOTE 1: Votes for all versions of a game (including remasters, remakes, and enhanced editions) were lumped together with the original title. If you are looking to start a new game, and have several of the platforms listed on the banner in question, do a quick google search to read the pros and cons of each version!

NOTE 2: This year, we are going to count down from #50 to #1. This top 50 list is a work in progress! It will take me several days to finish it up and flesh out the features that I have planned for the final version of the OP. Space-permitting, I would like to include quotes from the individual voting lists, a list of the top titles by underrated vote, a list of the top series/franchises by vote, and more. Keep checking back for updates.

"I simply love its lore and setting - the mere inclusion of a highly detailed (and completely optional) Codex with so much information about the world simply blew my mind. It also has a lovable character cast along with a great synth soundtrack. Its aesthetic is unparalleled and it was clearly influenced by some of the best science fiction literature and cinema." - Theodoricos

"When it's firing on all cylinders, it's one of the greatest, most engaging stories in an RPG. Its setpiece moments are legendary, and at least one of them is arguably the best turn-based boss in all of JRPGs. Its a game that knows when its got good stuff up its sleeve, and when the time comes it sells those moments completely." - FiveSide

"Vampire RPG in a modern day setting! I'm always reminded of the Blade club scene whenever I play this game. It has some of my favorite character interactions in the genre and I like dynamic between the different clans and factions. The voice acting is also great which only helps bring out the great dialogue even more." - DrD

"There's something magical about TWEWY with it's incredibly complex mechanics which marry with the difficult to play dual screen mechanic....there's nothing quite like it at all! The plot gives us characters who change over the course of the story, the gameplay includes no random encounters, variable difficulty on the fly and incredible variety in terms of stat management." - xist

"But what makes Skyrim stand out? Its classic sword & sorcery & dragons theme combined with the northern locale with viking-like population is certainly part of the appeal, but what Skyrim (and Bethesda RPGs) really nail is the immersion. Countless times did I lose track of time while playing this game, staying up late..."one more dungeon..." - Mcdohl

"The father of a brand new genre. Much of what makes this game so special became apparent years after it's release. What seemed like at first an overly complicated gameplay system later became an object of study and inspiration." - Arion

"Original Sin was the game for me that took ideas from the Ultima games' high level of interactivity and the classic Black Isle CRPG style choice making freedom and modernized both in Larian's magical pot. The combat is some of the strongest I've played in a while, boasting both highly enjoyable mechanics and environment interaction, and generally great encounter design to take advantage of them." - Neoleo2143

"Oh man, I just love this game. The action combat is so good, and the pawn (AI) system is very neat and surprisingly deep, letting you experiment with lots of different party setups and making it feel like a single-player MMORPG. With 9 vocations and plenty of skills for each, there are many different ways you can approach combat, keeping it exciting and fresh for a long time." - Luap

"Aged like fine wine. Engaging quests, crazy potion brewing, weird creatures, charming NPCs and interesting dungeons. Huge distinctive world with things to do and see at every corner. The combat is not the best, but everything else more than makes up for it's shortcomings." - Mike Bison

"Two things made this game great, the variety of ways you can approach any quest, there were so many moments where I discovered a way to resolve a quest and couldn't believe the developer put it in. The second thing was it's blend of apocalypse and it's sense of humor." - solo220

"The best aspects from VIII come from it's gorgeous world and character design and of course it's massive and fantastic soundtrack. Each town is memorable with it's own unique structure and mood. The music for each location creates a perfect setting. " - Wazzy

"What makes Deus Ex great however, is the way you can complete missions and solve problems. Want to be a mass murdering psychopath who butchers enemy soldiers? Go ahead. Prefer stealth? Be stealthy. The game seems to react to almost every choice you make, even the tiniest ones." - Uriah

"Mother 3 is the most perfect closure to a series, with wonderful writing, music, and very fun and ingenious combat. Fantastic art direction and scenario writing that makes the most out of a relatively simple art style." - Opa-Pa

"The game's poor critical reception is absolutely baffling, consdering how many other games fail when they try to mix things up like this one. Other than that, what stands out are the memorable characters, the smart use of its medium for the narrative it tells and the best soundtrack of its generation. There is just so much that's going to stick with you, even with some of its rough edges." - Spieler Eins

"Dragonfall has a gripping overall narrative, but it's main strength lies in it's character interactions. A noir mystery at heart, SR: DF really gives you the sense that you're living in some sort of retro Neo Berlin -- one where the 80's never ended... but then it did, and it's 2025." - Miletius

"I absolutely love the fact that Nintendo let Squaresoft run wild and turn the Mario universe into this completely nuts, hilarious, constantly inventive RPG." - StrangeRoboMemory

"It's just a joy to play. The movement is amazing for an RPG. You run so fast and jump so high. The mechs are incredibly well designed and the transformation aspect is also incredible. This allows for unbridled exploration of the massive and varied environment." - SatoAilDarko

“One of the last games I played on my PS2, at the time Final Fantasy XII felt to me like it ought to be what future games in the series strive toward. The narrative with its political undertones and brilliant voice acting. The vast world full of optional gameplay and beautiful scenery. And the distinctive combat system which removed much of the tedium from rpg random battles.” - PensivePen

“I truly think this game has some of the most gorgeous visuals in a roleplaying game despite it being a Playstation title. The team that made this game really pushed the tech to it's limits considering how great it still looks to this day (not even mentioning the all time excellence that is the soundtrack).” - Meowster

“I didn’t expect to throw 50 hours into a game I’d played through twice before in a packed 2017, but playing VIII again on the 3DS this summer hooked me right back into its world with ease… It’s a world driven by visual charm and warm characterization, allowing the story to unfurl through its environments as much as its events.” - 6:10:50

“The worldbuilding in this game is exceptionally well done, this is probably the first game where i was sometimes looking forward to talking to NPC characters more than to advancing the story and seeing what it has to offer.” - PaulSane

"Still probably the finest loot driven game out there, Diablo 2 offers extremely satisfying gameplay, a variety of classes that play very differently from each other, and built in support for multiplayer options." - ThoseDeafMutes

“My first experience with this game was the mobile port in 2012 and its fair to say it blew me away. I could wax hyperbolic about everything i love about this game, the atmosphere, music, tweaks on Star Wars lore, that Twist.” - jdstorm

“My personal favorite WRPG, just due to the fact that you hardly ever get to play as a spy in an RPG setting. Yes, it's not perfect - it has bugs and the gameplay takes getting used to. But it more than makes up for it with a choice/dialogue system that is still unmatched in terms of how it affects your game as you progress.” - Incendiary

“The closest we've ever gotten to a true Phantasy Star 5... Massive world with lots to explore, a great upbeat cast, giant airships to pilot, it was one of the first truly 3D RPGs I've ever played and the sense of scale was awesome.” - djtiesto

I originally started the Essential RPG threads on NeoGAF in 2010 as a way to share my love of the genre. The thread was well received, and I have since run 4 revision threads in the years that followed.

My last Essential RPG thread was the 2015 version, close to 3 years ago. That thread saw close to 200 NeoGAF members submit their lists of essential RPGs, from which I created an aggregate list with short summaries of the top 50 games by vote.

You can view that thread here:

You can view the previous 2013 thread here:

Earlier threads are now severely impacted by the photobucket hotlinking apocalypse, and are therefore messy looking. You can find links for them, but will avoid linking them here. I was able to fix the 2013 and 2015 threads, but would have to track down my materials for older threads.

KuwabaraTheMan ran his version of the Essential RPG thread in Late 2015. He took some of the traditions of my thread, and added his own spin. You can view that thread here:

Q: Why do another one of these threads?
A: I have four main reasons:
1) Plenty of new RPGs have been released since the last thread at the end of 2015, including sequels to some of GAF's all-time favourites (Dark Souls 3, Persona 5, Divinity Original Sin 2, etc). Plenty of classics have also been made available again for the first time in years thanks to digital distribution.
2) NeoGAF has been growing rapidly, and has always had fairly high turnover. New members aren't necessarily new gamers. I like to give them a voice in these threads. Every thread we get people voting for hidden gems that most of us haven't heard of previously. New blood leads to new perspective.
3) The old threads are old, and many newer members aren't even aware of their existence. New threads get new eyeballs, which is sort of the point.
4) It can be fun to track how NeoGAF perception of specific titles changes over time. Dark Souls has continued to be a favourite since its release, while other titles have faded over time. Titles like Dragons Dogma were ignored at release, but have gained a following over the years.

Q: I don't think that JRPGs and WRPGs should be combined on the final list. Can you change this?
A: No. This argument has been made dozens of times in past threads, and my position is the same. JRPGs and WRPGs both share similar roots, and there is enough diversity on both sides of the Pacific to make splitting them arbitrary in many ways. Yes, many WRPGs focus on player choice, while many JRPGs choose to go with a more focused narrative, but that isn't always the case, especially when we add indie titles to the mix. As always, both JRPGs and WRPGs will be counted the same way.

Q: Why are these lists are always dominated by JRPGs?
A: This forum is also skewed towards people who traditionally played console, maybe discovering Steam in the past decade. As such, there are more people who grew up with classic JRPGs during the 80s to 00s. All the more reason to highlight the great titles coming out of North America and Europe during that period! I don't choose what titles make the final list. If worthy CRPGs are left off, it's because too few people voted for them. If you love WRPGs, vote for more WRPGs!

GAF Credits:

Game Mechanics Icon Development and Banner input: Plenty of people offered ideas and input on the icons that appear in each banner. Thanks to JeffZero, FiveSide, MoonFrog, Robert at Zeboyd Games, Bumrush, thesaucetastic, Thores, Eridani, Flying Fish, Amzin, and Lynx_7.

Banner Information Gathering: Much of the information presented in the banners was collected by kayos90, FiveSide, and Thores. They are a large part of the reason that this year's results are coming at a swift pace.

The Cosmic Star Heroine Giveaway: Robert from Zeboyd games donated 200 Cosmic Star Heroine keys to those who participated in the thread by voting and explaining their choices. This donation was no doubt instrumental in driving participation levels to their highest point since the initial version of these threads. Those of you who received the game can thank him by telling a friend or writing a user review if you enjoy it.

The Free Game Raffle: Prizes for the raffle were donated by myself, Bumrush, MoonGred, RunWhiteBoyRun, NoblesseOblige, and Wazzy.

Moderation Assistance: Thanks to Kagari for a title change. Big thanks to Stumpopakow for writing the script that sent out the Cosmic Star Heroine keys to the close to 200 qualifying participants.

"Reserved Post" Reminders: ASilentProtagonist sent out PM reminders to everyone who had reserved a post and then neglected to fill it in. I wasn't as on the ball with that as I should have been, but we did get a few late participants thanks to ASilentProtagonist's efforts!

Other GAF Acknowledgements: SatelliteOfLove, Rad Shadow, Luminaire offered their assistance. KuwabaraTheMan ran an Essential RPG thread about two years ago, and provided me with his list of game ranks from the last thread. Feep gave me some tips on organizing large giveaways. Over 240 people participated in the voting stage. Without their votes, there wouldn't be a thread. In my mind they're also the only ones with the right to complain about the ranks!

Other Credits

Icon Sprites: The console/platform icons use official logos. The game mechanics icons were created by myself, but the little figure was based on a pre-existing sprite. I can't find the source for said sprite, but credit to the original artist.

Trivia: Trivia was taken from various sources, including TV Tropes and Some of it was rewritten. Some of it was not. Credit goes to the original sources on those sites.
One of the first threads I participated in on GAF in 2015. Glad to see it back; thanks for the work!


Still have some of the same core deficiencies in experience as I had last time around. I have but have not played a whole slew of classic CRPG. The same collection I had last time I voted. I also am still sitting on Thracia 776 and Mystery of the Emblem. I have, however, played Dragon Quest VII and begun to explore Atlus and Falcom games since then, particularly the former. There are still obvious avenues of JRPG I have not explored or have simply under-explored. I have never played Suikoden or Phantasy Star, for example, and my track record with Final Fantasy is markedly spottier than my track record with Dragon Quest (my attempt to run through the Final Fantasies is older and Dragon Quest turned out to be more to my taste). But here's my twenty; I'm obviously leaving a lot of games I love off of it.

1-Chrono Trigger- I love the cast synergy with the multi-tech system. It makes party building and party play rewarding and interesting. Moreover, the cast is likable and iconic, feeding into this effect. The time-traveling presents an intriguing structure, within which to fit the vignettes and it is competitive with the scenario building of Dragon Quest IV and Dragon Quest V in this regard for me, and this is their core area of strength. The core story is simple but also compelling, as the seeds and fruit of ruin and their connection to humankind and its travails and transgressions are traced throughout the ages. The game is also quite lean and gets through this material at a pleasant pace. Couple this all with a soundtrack for the ages from Mitsuda and Uematsu and you have a simply unforgettable game.

2-Fire Emblem Path of Radiance- I've played this game countless times. I love the dedication with which it approaches a very simple, cliche Fire Emblem story about reclaiming and liberating your home from an evil king who is in communion with demonic forces. The attention given to the world, the war effort, and the central cast is a series high for Fire Emblem, which is particularly relevant today as Fire Emblem has moved away from valuing those things (The Jugdral games, given more and heavier writing to match their ambitions, would perhaps surpass the Tellius games in this regard. They definitely would with respect to gameplay ambitions). Ike, Soren, and to a lesser extent the rest of the Greil Mercenaries were a great, well characterized cast while also stepping out of core Fire Emblem archetypes for their roles. As for the scenario: I felt fleeing Crimea, courting Begnion, and then the campaign to reconquer Crimea were all competently told with respect to the movement of armies and political maneuvering. It isn't fiendishly complicated or anything, it is just plain competent, well thought out, and well executed. Beyond this the sub-themes in the game were strong such as the narrative on racial hatred and violence and Ashnard's and Daein's relationship to eachother. As for the gameplay: The maps are solid and generally good. They aren't the best in the series but safely better than most. Ike is crazy overpowered and laguz aren't executed well but the game is incredibly solid on the whole. There are also standouts, like the fight against the Black Knight, which is epic service to Ike and his personal story that is one of the most successfully dramatic moments in the whole series.

3-Persona 5- Obviously, I played this game incredibly recently. I also played it at a particularly dark moment in my life and it helped me both avoid that moment and work through it. Its basic strengths are the same as its immediate predecessors: balance a fantasy Japanese teen life simulation and a dungeon crawler with an engaging party battle system and Shin Megami Tensei demon collection, training, and fusion. At the same time, it is hands down a better dungeon crawler than Persona 3 and 4. It has better, more engaging dungeons; the return of demon conversations; social link abilities; a more user friendly fusion system. It also has a very even cast and very even social links. It lacks the lows of Persona 4 in this regard, even if I also think its highs aren't as high. It probably does hew too close to Persona 4 with regards to time management and story layout on the calendar and is a very close sequel in that regard and it does have more noticeable loss of control than that game (i.e. it seems to have balanced its time drains worse or just hid lost days worse), but the story is less frustrating on a player involvement level with the veil of positive story-telling being much stronger. Moreover, in the time of Trump the fight against the furiously corrupt that society seems unwilling to deal with is incredibly cathartic. Persona 5 also has a more innately appealing tone and cast of characters to me, even if I feel in actuality Persona 4's cast and setting are better realized. In general, I feel Persona 5 is the way better polished and tangibly improved dream sequel to Persona 4, but also a fitting end for the current line of Persona.

4-Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne- I've just finished this recently, so perhaps this is also recency bias, but it was quite the engaging experience. The first things that stood out to me about Nocturne were its 'transgressions' of the norms of JRPG in vein of Dragon Quest. Things like monsters prowling even the towns or its focus on immediate and direct control of the main character's build. The next thing was the clear weight given to strategic action in combat through the 'Press Turn' system and the unabashed use of great disparity between strength and weakness. Finding the "answers" to the enemy and using your moves (or giving them up) strategically was greatly rewarding and presented, particularly early on when it was harder to create a 'right' team, thrilling boss battles. I also found the post-apocalyptic Tokyo, demon-infested setting and the peculiar and sinister turns the people around you took simultaneously amusing and engaging. Nocturne has a strong and disturbing narrative and world logic that makes the extreme and strange paths its stories take make sense.

5-Dragon Quest IV- Dragon Quest is a series with a long history of innovation with respect to the overall structure within which are placed its disparate scenarios and with respect to the shape and perspective of those scenarios. Dragon Quest IV is a very simple and very compelling case of both those things with its chapter approach where you play through the stories of your various group members before turning to the story of the hero who brings them all together and fights the great threat facing the whole world. The game casts you in interesting roles throughout the chapters, from the aspiring merchant trying to set up his shop, to the spoiled Princess sneaking out of her castle, to the castle guard trying to solve a horrible mystery plaguing his kingdom, to a pair of traveling entertainers seeking vengeance.

6-Dragon Quest V- Like Dragon Quest IV, Dragon Quest V stands out for its interesting narrative structure. It is the story of a man's life and the generations of his family, encompassing his youth traveling with his dad, his ensuing enslavement and eventual escape, his marriage and the tragedy of the separation of his family, and his reunion with his wife and children and final quest with them all to end the evil plaguing the land and his family. It is an epic story in scope told at an engaging clip. It is quite good.

7-Persona 4- Pop soundtrack; 'anime' high school simulation; small town murder mystery; dungeon-crawling JRPG. Only the latter two things were obviously appealing to me, yet I had managed to find myself quite happy with Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE (yes that is where morbid curiosity started my exploration of Atlus :p) despite being in a similar place on the surface, and, in truth, beneath the surface as well. With Persona 4, the pop soundtrack completely stole my heart and I'm surprisingly (for me) not at all ashamed to admit it. So did the high school simulation despite all the horrible moments replete with unaddressed homophobia, conveniently out-sourced-to-the-real-victim fat-hatred, and over-the-top perversion. Inaba was immensely appealing to me, having grown up in a small town, and the cast felt 'real'--rather mundane and relate-able, to be honest--underneath the 'anime' exterior. The Dojimas and the friend group sucked me in. I romanced a teenage idol. I defeated an evil fog machine and its creator. And I had a really good time: it was a game that looked like it'd be just style over substance--it is incredibly stylish--but it had a heart.

8-Final Fantasy VII- After Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, this was the first RPG that I played to completion. It was also one of the first games across all genres that I played to completion. I played it over the course of three or four years and it had captured my imagination long before I beat it and that is the foundation of my continued obsession with JRPGs. Final Fantasy Tactics, which I was playing at the same time, would be its junior partner in this. I've played the game again since my original play-through and, while I still obviously love it a lot, its luster has somewhat faded for me. In many ways, its charm is in its vision, not so much what it actually accomplishes of that vision. The world of Midgar, the focus on slums and those downtrodden by overrunning capitalism, the concern for the environment--these things are very appealing to me as is the "punk" aesthetic of the game. I do, however, feel that these things are not completely realized throughout the game. The soundtrack, however, has lost none of its luster for me.

9-Fire Emblem Genealogy of the Holy War- This game has strong narrative ambitions and fully executes a generational story complete with the tragedy of the first generation and the triumph of the second generation. This is the sort of thing I wish Fire Emblem still had the guts to attempt and to stick with. The game is also ambitious with its maps, attempting to illustrate full military campaigns through having a series of objectives on each map as well as a series of narrative events. It works to tie what would normally be disparate events on disparate maps in a Fire Emblem together and show, not tell, the flow of the war. It does have its drawbacks--such as when you lose countless turns to crossing a mountain range--but it is a bold and exciting idea that is mostly well executed.

10-Dragon Quest VII- I feel that this game and Dragon Quest VIII would somehow complete each other if they could somehow join together their disparate streams of 'Dragon Quest' in a future game. Dragon Quest VII's time travel and map creation mechanics are a great narrative skeleton for the vignettes that comprise this game's scenario. Moreover, Dragon Quest VII is chock-full of great vignettes which utilize the distance that Dragon Quest is willing to have between its core cast and the movements of the stories as well as the ability to have stories reverberate through time to great effect. It has countless tragedies and romances of various shapes. The thing is, outside a certain core story strain, there is little investment in fleshing out the central cast. That is, I think Dragon Quest VII pushes the oblique angle Dragon Quest can have too hard, even if that is also what produces much of its greatness. This is where Dragon Quest VIII comes in. It pushes its central cast at the expense of the vignettes that do not forward those characters' arcs. Dragon Quest IV and V, in comparison, both merge the focus on the central cast with an intriguing narrative structure that allows for exciting and atypical story-telling for a JRPG.

11-Final Fantasy X- This game was not the next generation JRPG I wanted--that would be Dragon Quest VIII--but it was incredibly good at doing what it did. Final Fantasy had been on the arc towards greater world-building throughout the life of the original PlayStation, starting with the fully realized Midgar and going through the attempts to build cohesive worlds with various distinct polities in Final Fantasy VIII and IX. Final Fantasy X was the epitome of that trend. Spira, its customs and cultures, and, in particular, the summoner's pilgrimage were well-thought out, situated, and developed. It was a game that had a concise story with a very purposeful journey in a small world and it achieved its vision wonderfully. It wasn't the translation of the wide-open maps and far-ranging adventures of SNES and PSX JRPGs into PS2 production values that I wanted, but it convinced me of the viability of its alternate vision.

12-Dragon Quest VIII- As noted above, Dragon Quest VIII was that translation and it started my love of Dragon Quest. It has been supplanted by earlier Dragon Quests in my estimations as I've worked my way through the rest of the series, but between the PS2 and 3DS releases, it has been both the start and the end of that initial journey through the series. And it is great. The production values it managed to achieve while still retaining a classic JRPG structure captured my imagination and my heart. The strong central vignettes surrounding the main cast and the great presentation of those characters kept me greatly invested in my party and our adventures. I also just loved the 'classic' feel of it all, from the fairy tale love story between the guardsman and the princess and the curse that turned her into a horse and the king into a goblin, to the cute and goofy monsters and the quaint menu-driven nature of the game. I loved the largely unquestioned position of religiosity in the game (even if the church was excoriated), the castles and castle-towns, and the wide green feels. It just all spoke to me as a warm, comfortable, 'classic' tale.

13-The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind- This was my first open-world game and my most magical uniquely open-world experience. Perhaps it is because I didn't play the game well but my character was an itinerant Argonian struggling to survive (by repeatedly stealing glass weapons from one particular barrel :p) and make his way through the richly detailed and deadly island of Vvardenfell. Moreover, I was an Argonian reincarnation of a Dark Elf hero :p. Oblivion improved quality of life seemingly at the expense of a beating heart. I like that game (a lot) but its world-building and story were of much weaker stuff than Morrowind had.

14-Paper Mario The Thousand-Year Door- Amusing and engaging storytelling, characters, and settings alongside a simple but engaging battle system. I loved Super Mario RPG a lot as a child, but this is my favorite Mario RPG.

15-Fire Emblem Binding Blade- My first import and clearly the best Fire Emblem on the GameBoy Advance in terms of levels and combat.

16-Final Fantasy Tactics- The game that made me fall in love with the SRPG genre. I am more of a Fire Emblem fan--I prefer the simplicity and elegance of its systems--but I still love this game a lot. I also really love its story-telling and world-building ambitions. If you gave me a Fire Emblem with that sort of approach to story, I'd be a very very happy man. As it is, I'm just a very happy man.

17-Etrian Odyssey IV- Another game I only found recently, this game stands out for its superb party play and tightly tuned battles. It has incredibly good combat.

18-Xenogears- This game is mauled by its unfinished state but the scope and the ambition of the title as well as the mecha-fantasy setting are superb and what it does manage to fully achieve is as well.

19-Final Fantasy VI- Great ensemble cast; a charming, amusing and dastardly villain; an excellent soundtrack. The unique abilities system mostly failed me and I didn't like the Esper approach to magic, but a very strong entry in the franchise.

20-Ys- I played this a couple of weeks ago and was blown away by what they could do with the combat despite boiling it down to the bare fundamentals of isometric combat: movement on the isometric plane. I will never look at goofy NPCs moving in chaotic fashion and bumping into things in the same way again.


<FULL POINT GAMES &#8211; 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT &#8211; 3 points} Dragon Quest IV
{UNDERRATED &#8211; 4 points} Fire Emblem Genealogy of the Holy War
Chrono Trigger
Fire Emblem Path of Radiance
Persona 5
Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne
Dragon Quest V
Persona 4
Final Fantasy VII
Dragon Quest VII

<HONORABLE MENTIONS &#8211; 1 point>
Final Fantasy X
Dragon Quest VIII
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Fire Emblem Binding Blade
Final Fantasy Tactics
Etrian Odyssey IV
Final Fantasy VI


Xenogears - My favorite JRPG of all time. Admittedly, the game is flawed (disc 2 in particular), but it was also unlike any other game I've played before at that time. I love the combination of sci-fi setting, religious themes, and mech battles. Fei and Elly are fantastic characters with a lot of depth. The soundtrack by Yasunori Mitsuda is great and one that I still listen to today. The lore is also really interesting in that Xenogears' story is designed to be episode 5 of a 6-episode story. Sadly, we never got those other 5 episodes as games.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel - A really good JRPG series that deserves more mainstream recognition. Engaging story, likeable cast of characters, effective world-building, and classic turn-based battle system are what make this series great. It also has social link elements similar to the Persona series. The Trails of Cold Steel series is a 3-game arc. The first two games are already out. The final game in the trilogy is coming out in Japan this month and hopefully in the West not too long from now.

{HIGHLIGHT &#8211; 3 points} Xenogears
{UNDERRATED &#8211; 4 points} The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
Final Fantasy VI
Chrono Trigger
Persona 5
Secret of Mana
Dragon Quest VIII
Final Fantasy Tactics
Final Fantasy IV
Ni no Kuni
Ok here we go

1. Final Fantasy IX. The warmth of the game is really what gets to me every time I boot it up. The color is bright, the characters are funny, the tone is light. Yet beneath all that, the story has so much power. I will never forget Blackmage Village. The combat system is awesome. Yes it's slow, but that's not the fault of the system itself. I just love that every boss you have a way to "trick through" at low level by equipping proper armor and skills.

2. Dragon Quest V. This game is Shakespeare! Stumbling into fairy land in the middle of summer? Vengeance for your father? Discovering your true identity as a king? Old loyal servant? Reunited with your long lost wife and kids? The DS remake even brought The Taming of the Shrew into the game. Also, monster capturing, before Pokemon.

3. Final Fantasy VI. copy pasta: The characters are depicted in broad stroke yet every line is poetic. The gameplay strikes the perfect balance between making each character unique and large room for customization. The soundtrack is Nobuo Uematsu at his peak and the graphic ages like fine wine with the expressive sprite-based animation.

4. Valkyrie Profile. I love the atmosphere. It's dark and full of schemes, hatred, and despair. But it's also so, so beautiful, just like the poisonous Lily of the Valley. It's one of the better written love stories in videogames too. The way they implement 2D platforming in the gameplay is genius. And there are some fantastic dungeon design.

5. Bloodborne. One thing I dislike about Dark Souls is how generic everything looks. This game is the opposite. Victorian England with a taste of Lovecraft? In my vain please. The combat rewards aggressive gameplay, and the weapons are all fun to use. That sound effect when you do Blade of Mercy transformation. So satisfying.

6. Vagrant Story. The absolutely top-notch directing and script make the game for me. A huge, complex, inter-connected dungeon with varied environment helps too. Also, do you know you can get your enemies fight for you if you give them items?

7. Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War. After all these years, the most successful new system of Fire Emblem series: the child system, is actually a system introduced 20 years ago. This game features the best story of the franchise, some very memorable characters, and huge maps. It really makes war feel like war: a natural flow between preparing for battle, engaging in combat, maneuvering your troops, and of course, a bit of romance.

8. Tactic Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. If I have to pick one flaw of this game, that would be the archer is a bit OP. That's it. I wouldn't want it changed one bit, at least the PSP version. The gameplay, the story, the music, the graphic, all of them are outstanding on their own, and together they make a perfect game.

9. Final Fantasy XII. I'm biased towards Matsuno's works in case you haven't noticed. Political story, great writings, mature tone, Matsuno's signatures are all here. Albeit the story loses some steam in the second half, the opened up battle system and the plethora of side content make up for it. Automating repetitive input should be the direction for every single menu-based RPG, yet after all these years, FFXII still stands on top. It's ahead of its time.

10. Final Fantasy VII. This is the game that will most likely disappear from my top ten list next time. It has loads of problems in today's standard: graphic, writing, and that empty final dungeon. One thing I have to give it to it though, is the ambition. I played FF7 for the first time almost 15 years after its release, and I was still blown away by just how expensive this game feels. It's an epic journey that shifts its tone from the saddest to the goofiest in a whim and mixes up big real world problems with personal experience, spiced up with optional content, hidden bosses, and minigames. This game is the opposite of playing it safe, and it represents an age, an attitude that has long gone and will forever be missed in this focus-tested industry.

Honorable Mentions:
Rune Factory 4: It feels like home. After all the world saving and god slaying, I come back to this, grow some vegetables, and go hunting with my kids.
Persona 5: Yes the game has its own share of questionable sequences, but it's also the first game I played that tackles real world issues so directly. Isn't it pathetic, that the so called "most important game of the year" is a game set in far future when all of us go extinct? Unlike most people, I also enjoyed the dungeons.
Valkyria Chronicles: There's nothing plays like it, and that's a shame.
Final Fantasy Tactics: This is Tactic Ogre, but you can only deploy fewer units each battle. The ending is one of my favorites in any medium though.
Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir: Even if everything else is trash, I'd love the game just for the art and music. Luckily the Vanillaware art is accompanied by a decent combat system and a well-told story.
Chrono Trigger: Not much to say, just that it's slightly worse than FF6 and DQ5, but better than pretty much anything else.
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn: I just love when game lets you fight between your own parties. (Ok Shinning Force III did this first, but I haven't finished it yet, sorry).
Legend of Heroes VII: Trails of Ao: The end soured me a bit, but the experience is amazing. Also best gameplay in the series.
Pokemon Emerald Version: My childhood. I hope this game is separated from Ruby and Sapphire in the ballot because it added so much more.
The World Ends With You: Very unique game. We need a sequel.

<FULL POINT GAMES &#8211; 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT &#8211; 3 points} Final Fantasy 6
{UNDERRATED &#8211; 4 points} Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War
Final Fantasy 9
Final Fantasy 7
Final Fantasy 12
Dragon Quest 5
Valkyrie Profile
Vagrant Story
Tactic Ogre: Let Us Cling Together

<HONORABLE MENTIONS &#8211; 1 point>
Valkyria Chronicles
Persona 5
Final Fantasy Tactics
Rune Factory 4
Pokemon Emerald Version
Legend of Heroes 7: Trails of Ao
The World Ends With You
Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
Chrono Trigger


Changed Rune Factory 3 to Rune Factory 4 because it seems to be the one others are voting for.
1. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door - Paper Mario 2 is a game that strikes a perfect balance at pretty much everything it does. Good story? Check. Witty humor? Check. Great characters? Check. Good battle system? Check. Engaging side quests? Check. Amazing world? Check. What results is what I consider a near perfect game that is endlessly replayable with systems that allow you to try something different each time you play. There's a reason everyone wants another game like it.

2. Xenoblade Chronicles - This game changed how I view RPGs. It actually made me dislike some RPGs I played after it because of how good it is. Battle system is incredibly deep and engaging. Characters are (almost) all on point. Each major confrontation is built up a good bit and where a lot of games have these ending somewhat abrupt or otherwise choppy, making them fall flat on their face, Xenoblade delivers on every bit of hype it built up for you, thanks in no small part to the amazing soundtrack. The game also does a fantastic job at getting rid of tons of small RPG annoyances that have plagued the genre for decades. It made it hard to go back to older games.

3. Chrono Trigger - The only thing I have to say about this game to get everyone to be on my side on this placing is
Chrono's Sacrifice.
Honestly that moment was unreal, and the rest of the game was great as well.

4. Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne - This game's battle system makes it hard to go back to other Turn based systems. Regardless, a good battle system does not a good game make. Luckily this game's boss design, dungeon design, character customization, atmosphere, world and story do an amazing job supplementing this system.

5. Mother 3 - Now here's a game that made me cry. Multiple times.

6. Persona 5 - Persona 5 was a very widely anticipated RPG. Personally I decided to just ignore any and all news and forget it was coming until it was in my hands on Day 1. Oh boy this game. This game does a good job incorporating more SMT elements into the modern persona series. I recall thinking that if they could fix the issues I had with Persona 4, this would have no trouble shooting up this list. Granted all the issues I had in persona 4 were more pronounced in this game, but the highpoints were so high that it was worth it.

7. Persona 4 Golden - This is a game that took me by surprise. While Persona 3 had a good idea with terrible execution, Persona 4 decided to just wrap itself around the idea and it came out with something that actually works, and works well. The system itself relies a lot on the cast of the game, and boy does the cast of this game deliver. When I first walked away from this game I couldn't really think of anyone I disliked(Now I can recall Teddie).

8. Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn - The 10th entry in the Fire Emblem series is ambitious. It took a good hard look at Path of Radiance and said, "Hey, why not do that, but bigger" and oh boy does it do it bigger. This game does an excellent job at continuing off of the world that Path of Radiance built. It also does an excellent job at continuing off from a gameplay perspective as well. There's truly something special about a game that takes each chapter's story, and finds a way to make the gameplay work around that story. Need to threaten the enemies without killing them? Burn their supplies, reward the player for not killing the people there. Not only is each chapter unique with the gameplay, but they make sense for the story. There is legitimate motivation going in to each chapter. It's truly a shame that the 13th entry steered so far from what this game did.

9. Final Fantasy VI - An instant classic. It's amazing how they managed to take so many characters and flesh them out as well as they did. Throw in a good story and good battle system and bam.

10.Tales of Symphonia - This game amazingly manages to throw together a ton of tropes and make them just work. Characters and story are very entertaining, and battle system goes a long way to making the gameplay fun. A shame about the dungeons

Honorable Mentions

Pokemon Gold/Silver - Talk about improving over your predecessor. This is a game that took everything wrong with Pokemon Red and Blue and got rid of it. It took everything right with Red and Blue and expanded on it. It's astonishing how good this game is, it's no surprise that no game after it has quite topped it for me.
Fire Emblem Path of Radiance - It's hard to put either this game or Radiant Dawn above each other, while Radiant Dawn edges this game out for me, this is by no means any slouch.
Fire Emblem Genealogy of the Holy War - You want good worldbuilding in a Fire Emblem game? Look no further than this game or the Tellius games. It's telling that many games after tried to take concepts from this one.
Xenoblade Chronicles X - One of the most amazing overworlds in any game. More amazing is the methods of traversal. I honestly didn't think it would get more fun than this game to travel through an open world. (Until Zelda BOTW)
Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse - After being thoroughly disappointed with SMTIV, Apocalypse did a nice job of taking what SMTIV did wrong and making it right. A fantastic experience and one of the best 3DS games of 2016

<FULL POINT GAMES &#8211; 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT &#8211; 3 points} Xenoblade Chronicles
{UNDERRATED &#8211; 4 points} Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
Paper Mario The Thousand Year Door
Chrono Trigger
Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne
Persona 5
Persona 4
Final Fantasy VI
Tales of Symphonia

<HONORABLE MENTIONS &#8211; 1 point>
Pokemon Gold/Silver
Fire Emblem Path of Radiance
Fire Emblem Genealogy of the Holy War
Xenoblade Chronicles X
Shin Megami Tensei IV Apocalypse

Lets a go.

1. Mass Effect

There is nothing more endeering to my inner Scifi nerd then optimistic blue skies and endless lore to obsess over. Mass Effect is this promise to a T. Mass Effect puts you in charge of a starship with 6 characters who will quickly become as close to friends that fictional characters can, there is endless promise, meaningful decisions and a final action sequence that gives any shooter ever made a run for its money in pure spectacle.

2.Xenoblade Chronicles X

In many ways Xenoblade Chronicles X (XCX) is Mass Effect if it was a JRPG and had learned some of the lessons of Mass Effect's sequels. While XCX can be rushed through that misses the point, at its heart XCX is a 200+ hour magnum opus that seeks to explore the nature of what it means to be human through the idea of contrast. XCX is an optimistic blue sky scifi post apocalyptic tale. Its an open world game that often shines in linnear affinity missions that are indepth character studies. Combine this with a battle system that while initially innaccessible due to overwhelming choice eventually allows the player to optimise their characters into who they would like to be.

This game is a bit rough around the edges but once you get past that its a true classic and deserves to be recognised as such.

3.Star Wars:Knights of the Old Republic

Bioware's brilliant Star Wars RPG and a precursor to the Mass Effect series. My first experience with this game was the mobile port in 2012 and its fair to say it blew me away. I could wax hyperbolic about everything i love about this game, the atmosphere, music, tweaks on Star Wars lore, that Twist. Yet i want to specifically talk about how this game is a significantly better experience when you play as a female player character. This path especially as a light side character adds neuance to the writing that just doesn't exist in a male path or a darkside path despite the female path being non cannon.

4. Valkyria Chronicles

This game contains the best turn based TPS hybrid combat system that i have ever played. The Turn based decision making combined with real time consequences is great for creating real stakes to your actions and helping to feel like your characters are connected to the world in a way that turn based games don't usually realise.

5. Final Fantasy X

A lets play of FFX in 2012/13 was my introduction to Final Fantasy games and as such i have never actually played FFX. Yet i am completely enamored with FFX and its world soely due to the world, characters and music. From At Zanarkand (which i always end up singing Girl by The Beatles) to Yuna's theme and Someday this dream will end. This soundtrack and the fantastic story of Tidus and Yuna will have a special place in my heart.

6. Final Fantasy VI

It was serendipity that Final Fantasy VI (FFVI) wound up at my 6th spot, However this ranking isn't definitive by any means and this could change on a whim. What i love about FFVI is that it is a game that doesn't pull any punches. It has an incredible array of emotional story beats and each of them land with the power of a Saban suplex. It also has the best soundtrack of any Final Fantasy game, which is incredible since it was a game made for the Super Nintendo a system that was severly limited when compared to what later devices are able to achieve.

7. Yakuza 0

The culmination of everything the Yakuza team has learned in their time making this series. Yakuza 0 is likely my personal 2017 game of the year and a series highpoint. It somehow manages to be a JRPG, an accessible fighting game, a minigame collection and so much more. While featuring series protagonist Kazuma Kyriu as close to his prime as the series ever gets. This game is a love letter to Japan, masculinity and fans of this long running series while managing to be somewhat timeless in its appeal.

8. Horizon Zero Dawn

Horizon Zero Dawn is a fantastic game that while new feels like it has always existed because after having played it. In hindsight this game's success is incredibly obvious. Take a developer known for cutting edge technical genius and more then competant action game controls, then team them up with some of the best writers and quest designers in the industry and let the magic happen. Yet Horizon Zero Dawn manages to be so much more then the sum of its impressive parts. Its one of those rare games that has a voice, heart and maybe even a soul. Its oppinionated, yet kind. Its brash yet neuanced and it takes pride in the fact that it breaks the mould without ever being obnoxious about it. I could give more effusive praise, but all you really need to know is that its fantastic and you should play it

Ps. I played it in German as a non native speaker and that is fantastic. Would 100% recomed a non native language playthrough if you are a native English speaker.

9. Pokemon Fire Red/Leaf Green

The best versions of the origional games that inspired us to be the very best like no one ever was and to go catch them all. These games get my vote for the Pokemon series because i think there is a simple elegance with these games that somewhat got lost as the series became increasingly convoluted.

10. Mass Effect 3.

While often considered the black sheep of the Mass Effect Trillogy, Mass Effect 3 contains many of the series best moments and one of the best levelling system in an ARPG shooter.


<FULL POINT GAMES – 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT – 3 points} Mass Effect
{UNDERRATED – 4 points} Xenoblade Chronicles X
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Valkyria Chronicles
Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy VI
Horizon Zero Dawn
Yakuza 0
Mass Effect 3
Pokemon Fire Red/Leaf Green (or Red/Blue)

Assasins Creed 4: Black Flag
Mass Effect 2
The Last Story
Galaxy on Fire 2
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Skies of Arcadia
Tokyo Mirrage Sessions

Ultima VII The Complete Edition
Ultima VII: The Black Gate and Ultima VII Part Two: Serpent Isle are two separate games but I decided to include them together since The Complete Edition would most likely be what someone would buy if they're getting it now and I feel that they compliment each other very well. Now for why I chose Ultima VII as my highlight game. While it's far from a perfect game, I still believe no other game has come close to matching its world. It's the closest a game has come to a real, living, breathing world. Rather than the world revolving around you, you're just another person living in this world. The NPCs in the world all have their own stories and lives, they have their own schedules where they'll eat, sleep, and work. You could go into someone's house at night and they'd be pissed at you like you'd expect. You can also murder everyone you come across but there's consequences for doing so as your companions probably won't approve. What makes it more impressive is that it's not just you interacting with the world and characters, everyone else in the world is capable of doing the same. There are themes such as classism and racism. For example, there can be a rich family discriminating against a single mom and her child. It manages to do a good job of mirroring people in our own world, from all the great, fun stuff we can do as people, to all the shitty things we can do. It's my dream to see a 3D world that has a real simulated world like Ultima VII, closest so far is the Gothic series.

Darklands is one of the most unique RPGs ever created with an insane amount of depth. First off is the setting, it's set in a historically accurate Holy Roman Empire (mostly Germany) during the 15th century but it also has supernatural elements with monsters and magic. The game is completely open-ended with your only real goal being to earn a reputation for yourself and it also has that being part of a larger world feeling that Ultima VII has. A large amount of the game is text-based, almost like a choose your own adventure book, which provides you with an insane amount of choice. I also think it has one of the most interesting character creations where you choose your background, occupation, skills, age/experience, and they'll all have a big impact on the game. Your age is important as you can be older with more experience but die sooner or younger but you have a good chance of just being destroyed. When your characters die they stay dead and are simply replaced with another character.

Deus Ex
Deus Ex is a hybrid FPS/RPG with a huge emphasis on player choice. Missions are designed to be completed however the player chooses with a ton of freedom being provided from dialogue, the different methods of combat, stealth, hacking. It's a game that rewards creativity and you'll still be discovering things you didn't know even well beyond your 5th playthrough. I'm a huge fan of the cyberpunk world with a story that's surrounded in political intrigue with government agencies and conspiracy theories.

Planescape: Torment
Planescape: Torment has one of the most unique and bizarre settings I've come across in a RPG. It sets the standard for videogame writing and has some of the most memorable characters of any game, with a genuinely interesting story. Choices are a huge part of the game and a lot of them are really difficult choices, some of them are even subtle. I like to call it a RPG/visual novel hybrid because of the sheer amount of writing in the game which makes it almost like reading a novel where you dictate the journey through your choices.

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
Vampire RPG in a modern day setting! I'm always reminded of the Blade club scene whenever I play this game. It has some of my favorite character interactions in the genre and I like dynamic between the different clans and factions. The voice acting is also great which only helps bring out the great dialogue even more.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
Some people might not consider it a RPG but I consider it a FPS/RPG hybrid. You have inventory management (with a heavy emphasis on survival elements), quests, and dialogue options. The world also feels alive (for the setting it's in) with the unscripted AI in the world that can make it feel really dynamic. It also has some of the best atmosphere in a game.

Crusader King II
Another one that many people might not consider to be a RPG so it could use some explaining. It's a strategy game but it also has more role-playing than most RPGs I've played. You basically get to play as multiple characters with their own backgrounds, desires, personalities, etc and see what impact they have on the world with some of the best dynamic story telling in video games. The world provides you with the roles and you play along and see what direction the stories take.


<FULL POINT GAMES &#8211; 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT &#8211; 3 points} Ultima VII The Complete Edition
{UNDERRATED &#8211; 4 points} Darklands
Deus Ex
Planescape: Torment
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
Suikoden II
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl
Gothic II
Jagged Alliance 2
Crusader Kings II

<HONORABLE MENTIONS &#8211; 1 point>
Mother 3
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
LISA: The Painful RPG
Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden
Fallout: New Vegas


<Highlight> Suikoden II [PS1] - This is the GOAT video game. Everything just hits the right note for me. A staple of the series is castle building, where you find 108 stars of destiny and recruit them to support you on your war against the highland army. They will either fight alongside you in battle, or improve the quality of life in the castle. From building a bath house to cooking. Have I mentioned that I love cooking competition mini game? JRPG usually have multiple layer of systems like crafting, deep skill system, etc, but you won’t find these in Suikoden II. It’s streamlined. There is no abundant of weapons to find as each character has their own unique weapons, which can be upgraded to stronger ones. Magic, or rune, acts like an equipment which you can move around between characters if you want. You can also combine two runes in battle to produce a stronger spell, which is neat. Suikoden II doesn’t have a complex battle system, but it’s snappy and fun to play around with as you have over half of the 108 stars of destiny to choose from. The leveling system also makes every character viable without grinding too much. Regarding story, Suikoden II is telling a story of a war torn land, where you as the hero, will save the day. Simple enough, but the story progresses in interesting ways with twists and turns along the way. The one thing I love the most in Suikoden II is the characters, especially the trio of Riou, Jowy, and Nanami. I don’t want to spoil anything, but they are the best. The game also holds up very well. The sprites are still great to look at, plus the top notch animations, and excellent soundtracks throughout the game make Suikoden II a timeless classic.

Ni No Kuni [PS3] - I can't believe that ti's eligible for underrated vote. Why you should play it? Aside from the stupidly gorgeous Ghibli artstyle,. the game does almost everything right in terms of traditional JRPG. Distinct locations, interesting combat mechanic, great soundtracks, memorable characters, and giving you a sense of adventure. The game is a throwback to the old JRPG, like, seriously, there is nothing more throwback than traversing the overworld using boat and dragon. Presentation wise, it’s excellent across the board. I’d like to praise the VA work in this game, especially of the fairies. They are really well done. Ni No Kuni also make great use of sound effects. Anyway, I pretty much fell in love with the game in the first hour, even before I arrived at the other world. Ni No Kuni is magical.

Final Fantasy IX [PS1/PS4/PC] - It’s the best Final Fantasy game. It has the best soundtracks, the best moggles, the best group dynamic and development. Moreover, I just prefer the high fantasy setting compared to the two previous games. Lindblum is one of the if not the most beautiful town in JRPG history. Coinciding with the release of the PS4 port, people who haven’t played this masterpiece yet should play it, like right now. I might make a RTTP for this game next year.

Valykria Chronicles [PS3/PS4] - It’s one of the finest strategy RPG around. Unlike in many games of the same genre you can almost always stick with the true and tested strategy of sticking together and chipping enemies one by one, in Valkyria Chronicles, you are encouraged to mobilize your units. There is an emphasize in movement. Units will have different strengths and weaknesses, like Scout, who is adept at traversing the map but isn’t very good at killing things, or Mechanic, who specialized in disarming landmines, giving out supplies, and repairing tanks. Yes, there is tank in this game. A good one if I may say so. It’s like Fire Emblem in a way that it’s a strategy RPG game with permanent death. But it’s very lenient in that regard. You have like 5 turns to retrieve your injured comrades before they die. One feature that I like and I think many should take inspiration from, is the leveling system. You get experience points based on how well you do in battles. These points will then be invested to level up units of your choice. Not individually, but as a group. It means, losing a unit isn’t as painful as in other strategy RPG games.

<Underrated> Legend of Mana [PS1] - I think when you first see to check out the game, the first thing on your mind is how beautiful the art style is. But art style is not all that Legend of Mana has. It’s a wonderful game full of things to do, from monster breeding to creating your own golem. Combat is fun and it encourages you to experiment with different play styles. The biggest different I think, why people hate it, is the non-linear progression of the story. Every time you finish a quest, you will get an artifact that will open up new area, and progress the story. The problem is, you don’t know which quest will actually progress the story, or just a plain side quests. I don’t have a problem with this, as I enjoyed most of them anyway. My favourite thing in the game is the home area. It feels very homey. You have a cactus who always writes a journal for you, you have a workshop where you do all your alchemy and smithing stuffs, and you have a giant talking tree on your backyard. Lastly, Yoko Shimomura composed the soundtracks for this game,

Star Ocean: the Second Story [PS1/PSP] - One of the stand out JRPG in a generation full of them. Firstly, you can choose your MC, either Claude or Rena. You will then play the game from the perspective of your chosen MC and it will take you on an adventure of a galactic proportion. Combat is an enjoyable real time combat system. In addition, because most characters play differently, you rarely get bored of the combat. It also has extensive skill and crafting system. The only downside is the unskipable magic animation. I lost count how many times I’ve watched that southern cross animation. Oh, and mini games! There is colosseum, pickpocket, bunny race, and the excellent cooking competition. I love cooking in my JRPGs. If anyone is worried that they have missed the boat, sweat not, the graphic still holds up, and soundtracks are probably Sakuraba's best works.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky [PSP/PC] - It’s an old school JRPG with modern ergonomics. there was no moment in the game where I feel it should have been like this or like that. There is no limited inventory, you can take multiple quests, retry battle if you die,you can save anywhere, and no random encounter. I also find the combat to be one of the better turn based systems around. The game game has been lauded to have superb writing, and I agree. The dialouges flow really well. Not only the core casts, NPCs also have tons of dialouges that change after an event. It made the world feel alive. I can wholeheartedly recommend to Trails in the Sky to anyone looking for an RPG with likeable characters, great world building, and an enjoyable turn based combat.

Persona 5 [PS3/PS4] - This game builds upon the previous games on the franchise. The casts aren’t as strong as Persona 4, but everything else is a step up. The biggest addition is probably the use of demons instead of shadows, and as a SMT fan, I really appreciate it. Another big addition is the change from the corridor dungeon design as now the dungeons are actually fun to go through. For peeps who never played a SMT game before, the game has a great loop of going to dungeons to catch demons, fusing them to create stronger demons, and back to dungeon crawling to catch more demons. Added to that, the skills and relationships you build outside of the dungeons will also help you on your dungeon crawling. It always feels like you are progressing. Borrowing a sentence from EZA, Persona 5 is dopamine in a video game form.

Final Fantasy Tactics [PS1/PSP] - There really isn’t much to say for this game. It’s a classic. This is the game that shaped, in my head, how a strategy RPG should be. It has a powerful story, beautiful sprites, great soundtracks, and tons of customization to play around with. I spent a huge amount of time fiddling my team to perfection.

NieR [PS3/360] - NieR as a series finally got its deserved recognition after the release of Automata, but NieR on PS3 will always have a place in my heart. NieR is very uneven in a sense that the combat is not good, graphic is nothing to write home about and the sidequests are just busy works without tangible rewards. But the story and soundtracks made up for all those….. in a big way. At one point in the game It came to me, that I’ve been playing a JRPG as an old man, travelling with a talking book, a foul mouthed scantily dressed lady, and an Emil. That’s gaming at its finest.


<FULL POINT GAMES – 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT – 3 points} Suikoden II
{UNDERRATED – 4 points} Legend of Mana
Ni No Kuni
Final Fantasy IX
Valkyria Chronicles
Star Ocean: the Second Story
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
Persona 5
Final Fantasy Tactics

Chrono Cross
Xenoblade Chronicles X
Breath of Fire IV
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2
Front Mission 3
Final Fantasy XV
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth
Fire Emblem: the Blazing Blade
Dragon Quest VII

No particular order


<FULL POINT GAMES &#8211; 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT &#8211; 3 points}
1) Alpha Protocol

Very rare is there a rpg which is set in a modern setting, especially one that is based around espionage. This alone was enough for me to give this game a try.
I loved it the moment it started. As much as the choice system and how it affects the story is good, i actually enjoyed the combat more. It was really fun to mess around and find out different paths you can take with different skill sets. Also, as soon as 'Turn up the Radio' started playing during one of the boss fights, my jaw dropped. It was such an epic moment.

{UNDERRATED &#8211; 4 points}
2) Dragon Ball Z: Attack of the Saiyans

Extremely underrated title. If you're a fan of DBZ, you cannot pass on this title. It's ideal for those who prefer the original saga, but longtime fans should enjoy this too.
There's nothing 'special' about the battle system, however it is very competent and the graphics and animations were very well designed.

3) Advance Wars

One of my favourite nintendo franchises, up their with Smash & Pokemon. I adore this series, but the first holds a special place in my heart.
Charming graphics and music, a fun strategy system, and pretty unique at the time.

4) Deus Ex: Human Revolution

My first Deus Ex title. I didn't know what to expect but it blew my mind from start to finish. I LOVE cyberpunk, and the world that Eidos Montréal designed was spectacular. Everything about Jensen is badass, from his dialog to the way he looks. It was a pleasure crawling through vents and punching enemies through walls, and the hub worlds were very fun to explore. I am probably the only person that loved the 'piss filter' however. I think Mankind Divided lost a bit of 'cyberpunkyness' due to its absence.

5) Digimon World 3

Everyone loves Digimon World 1, but I hated it. Maybe I was too young at the time but I thought it was complicated and it was also pretty ugly.
Digimon World 2 i enjoyed, but it got really repetitive.
#3 however, was a colourful and fun adventure. The sprite graphics were very charming and it was fun exploring the world from jungles to underwater caverns.

6) Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

Definitely in my top 3 RPG's of all time. This was my 1st DQ game, not having even know about the previous ones until this hit my radar. I went back to a few of them but only V was good enough to also make my lists. The graphics were great, the combat system although not unique was fun, the characters had personality, the enemies had personality and the world itself was oozing with charm. Even the side characters were a treat to deal with. I enjoyed the fact that near the end of the game I could fly everywhere. But probably my favourite thing about the game is the music.

7) Final Fantasy X

My favourite FF game. People hate Tidus but he isn't a problem for me. The supporting cast is great and the battle system is enjoyable.
The music track is fantastic and Sin is one of my favourite 'villains' in gaming. The story is very unique, which happens to be another thing people don't like...

8) Pokemon Silver

Its better than Red/Blue in every way, it added new pokemon types, let us revisit Kanto, and had memorable moments such as Red Gyarados.

9) Yakuza 3

My first Yakuza game. The combat/music/setting is pretty much the same in each title however I find that the story 3 is the best of the lot i've played (3,4,5,0, soon to kiwami)
Kaz is a badass protagonist and very lovable. Whether its sending thugs to the hospital with a bike to the face or singing to some catchy tunes, Yakuza 3 something for everyone. I also like that you don't change protagonists, I don't really like that with the other games..

10) Kingdom Hearts 2

Totally skipped 1, but still enjoyed this game. Can't really remember much about the story and I guess it doesn't help that I didnt play the first, but visiting different Disney worlds is more enjoyable than I would have thought it'd be. I love the fact that its an action rpg instead of turn-based.

<HONORABLE MENTIONS &#8211; 1 point>

1) World of Final Fantasy

A fun little spin-off. I liked it more than I thought I would. The combat system is pretty unique (as far as games I've played), having to decide which monsters to have in your party and mix and matching them for maximum punishment. It was good to see some old faces (even in chibi form!), and being able to change the battle music was a nice touch.

2) Pokemon Diamond

Having put exactly 555 hours into this game, I would have thought it'd be in my top 10. But, there's nothing really special about the title.
I do think its the best one after Silver/Gold though.

3) Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride

Similar to my points for DQ8, the series just oozes personality. Music, combat, world & characters are all great.

4) Wild Arms Alter Code: F

One of the first rpgs i played. The western theme was refreshing and I loved how you could use your abilities out of combat.
I hope we get to see a new title soon.

5) Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth


So many titles ive played which I haven't finished, that I would have loved to add them to my lists :( (mass effect 2, chrono trigger, persona, etc..)
Please excuse the poor writing, I'm out of time and I'm not exactly fluent in English. Also, I really need to play more RPGs. T_T

Pokémon Blue
I am deeply grateful to my mother for giving birth to me and my twin brother in the nineties. My brother and I succumbed to the Pokémon craze and thus our RPG journey began with the original Pokémon games. I originally had the Red version while my brother got Blue. Somehow, we ended up switching versions--I like to think that he blackmailed me because he preferred Charizard as the mascot cover. Hah!

Anyway, I have many fond memories of playing Pokémon Blue...or was it Red? Whatever, I'll just put down the version I currently have. After booting up the game and mindlessly scrolling through the dialogue, I took control of my character and walked around the house. Poor six year old me did not register the rug as an exit, so I was basically stuck in the damn house for over an hour. Luckily, I had my bratty brother to help me escape at last! Charmander was my original pick, but after switching versions, I got Bulbasaur instead. Finally, my Pokémon journey began. Jolteon, Onix, and Haunter were some of my favorite Pokémon at the time.

Pokémon Silver
Oh no. The nostalgia is strong with this one. I recall getting a magazine that had all the new Pokémon, albeit in terrible low-quality drawings. Nevertheless, my brother and I could not wait to play the newest Pokémon adventure: Pokémon Gold and Silver. Long before the game came out, I decided that Burakkii (now known as Umbreon) would be my new favorite Pokémon. This game had 100 new Pokémon, the addition of the day-night cycle, a brand-new region, not to mention the fact that you could revisit Kanto after defeating the Elite 4. I LOVED it. Chikorita was my starter, by the way.

Pokémon Crystal
My family and I were on a camping trip in Maine when the game came out. Being the bratty kids we were, my brother and I BEGGED our parents to buy the game for us. They were initially hesitant, but they decided they could no longer handle our obnoxiousness. Voila! We got our games. It's funny because they went to a local Walmart and bought it for Maine! Haha. I just have a lot of fond memories playing this on my camping trip. Every time we went camping, I would boot up Pokémon Crystal and walk around the Ilex Forest in-game.

Pokémon Sapphire
Although many of our friends stopped enjoying Pokémon (because it was the cool thing to do at the time T_T), my brother and I were still PokéGeeks. I remember getting up every single day and checking on to see if we got a new Pokémon reveal or silhouette. This continued until we got our hands on the games. My brother got Ruby while I got Sapphire--by this point, we decided that I would always get the secondary version while he would get the primary version. My brother and I agreed that I would always get the Grass starter while he would get the Fire starter for every upcoming Pokémon game. Hoenn is probably my favorite region and Altaria is my absolute favorite Pokémon.

Pokémon Diamond
Oh snap! My brother and I broke the "tradition" since Diamond is considered the primary version. I think the reason we broke it was because the Diamond box art was blue, so I chose it because it was my favorite color. I believe my brother liked Palkia more, but now he regrets it. LOL.

But hey, we at a least stuck with our tradition of him getting the Fire starter while I got the grass starter. The fourth generation games didn't have my favorite batch of new Pokémon, but the region itself more than made up for it. I enjoyed the colder climate and rocky terrain offered by the Sinnoh region.

Pokémon Black
I longed for the days of discovering Pokémon in-game like I did in Pokémon Blue. To solve this, I went on a partial blackout a couple months before release. I was slightly disappointed in the end because they had revealed too many of the new Pokémon even before I went on a blackout. But in the end, the roster itself is pretty great: Whimsicott, Swanna, Mienshao, Darumaka, etc. The Unova region was pretty interesting because it was the first time it was loosely modeled after New York City, an area outside of Japan.

Xenoblade Chronicles
My favorite RPG. I consider this to be my first true RPG. It's a timeless masterpiece. Nothing more I can say without rehashing what I have said in many other discussion threads.

Xenoblade Chronicles X
The spiritual sequel to the original Xenoblade is a masterpiece in its own way. I consider it to be highly underrated because MANY people judged it for what it wasn't. It didn't have the grandiose story that the original had. It didn't spotlight a charming cast that the original did. What people don't realize is that this was not Monolith Soft's goal. Their goal was to create a cohesive open-world in high-definition--in my opinion, they exceeded their goal. Not only did we get a beautiful setting, we also had a lot of intriguing side quests. The developers mentioned that they collectively poured all of their heart into the side quests instead of the main story. After playing through many of them, it definitely shows.


<FULL POINT GAMES – 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT – 3 points} Xenoblade Chronicles
{UNDERRATED – 4 points} Xenoblade Chronicles X
Pokémon Black
Pokémon Blue
Pokémon Crystal
Pokémon Diamond
Pokémon Sapphire
Pokémon Silver

Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean

My favorite turned-based system. It's card based with both a defensive and offensive section and individual decks for each characters. The time limit per hand gives a sense of tension usually missing. They key is to play cards in increasing and decreasing order. With four corners for four numbers and nine cards in a hand with quick thinking you could do a 1 to 9 or 9 to 1 straight which is super satisfying. It makes me prefer it to the more solid battle system on the prequel.

The prerendered backgrounds look marvelous and the characters have a very unique look to them. Though up close they may not look the best. The music is a high point.

The story is somewhat typical with a varied party but very solid with some interesting twists. One of which is very inventive. There are also several neat sidequests including a wonderful one about getting a man's huge family to visit him before he dies.

Baten Kaitos Origins

The vest video game prequel I've played. A 2-way prequel it answers all the questions you may have had and allows for the first game to be given some more depth through it.

The battle system is overhauled and overall better (though I still prefer the first's). Gone is the useless defense section. There is only one deck for all three characters and only one number per card with straights going to 6 and cards replenishing as you use them.

Presentation was it's identical to the first in both graphics and music. You go to mostly the same locations as well. There's some neat side content and secrets. Be sure to look up how to get the extended ending before attempting the final part of the game.

Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon

This is the game I felt was an actual experience as opposed to simply a game. The janky gameplay combined with the atmosphere limited music, stories you discover and abandoned areas you explore gel together to make something amazing.

This is a story of loneliness and needing human relationships. It's message is told beautifully and touches you deeply. The special attraction are the many memory items you can find in the world. Each tells a short story that says something about feelings.

The special flashlight you get to reveal messages written by others is great. Even backtracking after you find it reveals new information. Also the graffiti a lot of which was user-submitted is great. The presentation overall is great.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

A game that I was perhaps the most hyped for and astoundingly exceeded my expectations. My favorite video game.

XBX is a unique JRPG. It had elements you would usually see in Western RPG's. An Open-World Sci-fi exploration game with an insane amount of content much of it up to you to pursue along with an optional co-op component.

It's just a joy to play. The movement is amazing for an RPG. You run so fast and jump so high. The mechs are incredibly well designed and the transformation aspect is also incredible. This allows for unbridled exploration of the massive and varied environment.


Anime mindfuck. A very amazing and large story full of craziness. While I'm not a personal fan of the Active Time Battle System but the battle system in game it's perfectly fine. I enjoyed the switch between on-foot and mech combat.

Not a huge fan of the 2D sprites on 3D backgrounds in the game either. But the anime cutscenes are wonderful. I love the look of 90's Anime which is in spades here.

It's the story that's the star of this game. Really deep and very mysterious as a huge fan of Sci-Fi, mystery, religion and mindfuck I loved it.

Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra

Xenosaga is a flawed series. It was announced as a six-part series. Before the second game it was to be four total parts until finally it was only three installments.

The first feels like the ending third was cut out. Which is the beginning of the second game which the remaining plot also felt slight introducing a villain out of nowhere. Now with only one game to wrap this up they somehow do it successfully but essentially have to put two games worth of plot in. I often consider the series as a trilogy with the first two episodes have the plot of one game and the third episode having the plot of two games.

Still this is the game where they hit it. They combine the more anime look of the first with the realistic look of the second. The gameplay is solid. The mech and on-foot sections are solid. The story is the best and most fullfilling.


<FULL POINT GAMES – 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT – 3 points} Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon
{UNDERRATED – 4 points} Xenoblade Chronicles X
Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean
Baten Kaitos Origins
Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra

UNDERRATED ON GAF: Similar to the list highlight, but this is specifically for titles that have NEVER made the TOP 50 list in an essential RPG thread. If you are sick of seeing a worthy game forgotten on these lists, you can use this special vote to give the title 4 points instead of 2.
NOTE: You CANNOT use this vote for any of titles on THIS LIST, or any title released after 2015
Is "THIS LIST" meant to be a link? I'm assuming it's the last compiled list of votes?

If that's the case,
reserved. Suikoden 2 will be my highlight for sure. Rest will be edited in later.
I don't think Suikoden 2 is eligible for highlight, then.

Mine will totally be Dark Souls 2 :p
Completely forgot about this, thanks for the reminder!


<FULL POINT GAMES – 2 points>
Mother 3 {HIGHLIGHT – 3 points}
Nier {UNDERRATED – 4 points}
Chrono Trigger
Pokemon GSC
Final Fantasy VI
Persona 3
Fire Emblem (2003)
Mass Effect 2
Final Fantasy X

Diablo 2
Fallout: A Post Nuclear Role Playing Game
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
The Legend of Heroes - Trails in the Sky
Shin Megami Tensei Apocalypse
Final Fantasy IV
Fire Emblem Awakening

Two questions.

Can my detailed list have less than 10 and still have each title fully counted? Is there a minimum number for such a list?

For the UNDERRATED ON GAF highlight, is it for the entirety of 2015? For example XBX was released in the West in December 2015. Would that count for UNDERRATED ON GAF?
This post consists of my choices for the 5 Most Essential JRPGs. My choices for the 5 Most Essential WRPGs are here, and my Honorable Mentions
are here.

Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne {Highlight}

The end-all, be-all. The most essential RPG, and one of the greatest games of all time. In my opinion, the greatest work of art this medium has yet seen.

Nocturne's biggest strength is its thematic coherence. There are no extraneous systems in its gameplay, no unnecessary tropes in its narrative. It is a barren wasteland of competing philosophies, a post-apocalyptic fever dream exploring and implicating the most challenging questions of reality, morality, and self-determination. It is the perfection of the video-game narrative; restrained, suggestive, and concise, its curt dialogue offering only a tantalizing glimpse of the vast subtextual quandaries lurking beneath its surface. The familiar JRPG conventions of Japanese teenagers, world-ending monstrosities, chosen protagonists, and god-slaying warfare are effortlessly woven into an altogether unfamiliar tapestry, a role-playing game that eschews the good/evil dichotomy and instead challenges the player to think about the world not as the product of a antipodal moral system, but as the product of competing beliefs about the fundamental nature of existence.

What elevates Nocturne above many of its peers is the way it conveys these themes not only through its narrative proper, but through its gameplay systems and scenario design. The narrative itself explores the power (and danger) of determination, of the singular focus necessary to change the world. But Nocturne's brilliance lies in the way that its gameplay systems elegantly convey the same themes. The Press Turn system has no "balance" mechanics, but rather strengthens the strong, and weakens the weak; it rewards focus, punishes mistakes, and turns battles into merciless, strategic, and dangerous encounters. In this world of existential terror and spiritual warfare, there is no room for hesitation or half-heartedness; only pure, unadulterated determination will emerge victorious, and this insight is conveyed through a combat system that takes these abstract concepts and develops them into actual gameplay.

An entire book could be written about Nocturne. From beginning to end, it is an awe-inspiring, towering accomplishment; 60+ hours of sustained excellence, a dark, meditative allegory of the existential uncertainty that gnaws at the heart of the human condition. It is challenging both intellectually and mechanically, its fierce combat and twisted dungeons a meticulously designed accompaniment to a powerful story of death and rebirth.

I'll end this write-up with one of my favorite examples of Nocturne's thematic brilliance. Nocturne, as series veterans know, is the first SMT game to be in a 3rd-person perspective. The player controls the Demi-Fiend as an avatar; he is always present on the screen, an object to be manipulated in this long quest towards a new world.

However, after completing Nocturne, NG+ has a strange new feature - the camera can now be shifted to 1st-person, and the entire game can be played in the 1st-person style of the earlier SMT games. While this might seem like merely a nice bonus for beating the game, there are always two sides to Nocturne's mechanics. After finishing the game, after wading through this brutal world and ultimately choosing a philosophy to grasp onto and fight for, you are no longer an impartial spectator controlling somebody else. You have made your decisions, and you have owned up to them. They are your decisions, your self-determination; and, after successfully waging bitter war against angels and demons for them, you, the player, have shown Nocturne what kind of person you've chosen for the Demi-Fiend to be. The two of you have become one; and, naturally, you now have the option to play in 1st-person.

Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is the most essential RPG ever made, and it is a monumental work of artistry that has never been surpassed in this medium. My favorite game of all time.


What exactly is experience? In life, it's a vague collection of memories, skills, and knowledge. In RPGs, it's abstracted into a number that goes up after every battle.

Earthbound's great central theme, even more so than Mother 1 and Mother 3, is how we go about accumulating experience. Earthbound retains the RPG mechanism of gaining XP and leveling up, but ties those mechanics to a narrative about the power of experience - of seeing the world, trying new things, and even looking inward and getting in touch with one's own soul. Ness only shakes his head "No!" when you move backwards, away from the camera, and away from everything that awaits you in Eagleland; the game is a celebration of pushing forward, of reveling in life and all the smiles and tears that come from it.

The game is brilliantly structured, and as with all truly exceptional video-game narratives, it paints in broad, suggestive strokes. Its general plot points and bizarre incidents bring to mind similar occurrences in our own lives. Its quirky characters are only a few degrees removed from our own friends, enemies, and neighbors. I honestly can't say what Dungeon Man is a metaphor for, but, in some peculiar way, I feel as though I've known people who were just like him. That feeling of bemused familiarity is the key to Earthbound's potency and insight.

Working alongside this world-building and narrative is the gameplay. Though outdated in some ways, there are some real design gems here, such as the rolling HP meters during combat. Some of my most intense turn-based encounters were in Earthbound; flipping through menus is substantially more engaging when every second leads to more and more damage. Other novelty mechanics, like auto-defeating weak enemies, are well-documented, but unfortunately rarely-copied.

And of course, there's the final boss. It is, simply put, the most powerful, emotional boss fight in gaming. It's not at all hyperbolic to call it a full-blown spiritual experience.

Quirky but surprisingly dark, bizarre but surprisingly incisive, and set to one of the most rocking soundtracks I've ever heard - Earthbound is an absolute triumph, and edges out the stiff competition as the most essential RPG of the 16-bit era. My third-favorite game of all time, and my second-favorite RPG behind Nocturne.

Suikoden II

Video-games have issues with conventional "writing." Games are often at their best when their dialogue is restrained in favor of environmental or gameplay-oriented storytelling. The two games listed above took advantage of these game-specific methods of conveyance to tell incredibly affecting stories - stories that are arguably reliant the least on their dialogue, and the most on their scenarios, gameplay systems, and the themes that those elements explore.

Suikoden II does barely any of that. Its story is dialogue-focused and communicated in one of the most horrendous localizations on the PS1. It spends large amounts of time being a fairly formulaic JRPG. Extremely well-executed, admittedly, but not a thought-provoking, mechanically fascinating work that plays to the specific strengths of its medium.

Why, then, is Suikoden II one of the most essential RPGs of all time? Because it's not always necessary to do things differently. Another perfectly viable option is to do things the same way as everybody else - only do it a lot better.

Suikoden II is the perfection of the conventional JRPG. It doesn't rely on fourth-wall hijinks or meta-commentary. There are no modernist, arthouse design elements; no enormous articles written about the way it brilliantly conveys its plot point and themes "in a way only a video game can." It doesn't involve heady philosophical concepts and psychobabble words so long that they have to be hyphenated to fit in a text box. Instead, it tells the tale of two young men pulled apart by the politics and unrest of the society in which they live. It tells the tale of a young revolutionary gathering a band of misfits and changing the world. And, seemingly against all odds, it succeeds in telling this story with devastating, incredible effectiveness.

The experience of playing Suikoden II is like playing an anime structured like a Shakespearean history. It's the kind of game you play when you're nine years old, and throw on an essentials list because of the nostalgia. Then you play it again as an adult, and throw it on an essentials list not because of the nostalgia, but because it's good. When it's firing on all cylinders, it's one of the greatest, most engaging stories in an RPG. Its setpiece moments are legendary, and at least one of them is arguably the best turn-based boss in all of JRPGs (not counting Earthbound's bizarro final boss, of course). Its a game that knows when its got good stuff up its sleeve, and when the time comes it sells those moments completely.

The battle system doesn't do anything particularly revolutionary or remarkable, but is instead a rock-solid turn-based system that is simply a blast to play around with. The presentation, especially the beautiful sprite work, is also a joy to behold. And the music is absolutely stunning. By time you've seen Suikoden II through to the end, you will not be able to listen to "Reminiscence" without getting misty-eyed. I guarantee it.

When I think about many of my favorite RPGs, I often think about how they challenged me intellectually or mechanically. How they really pushed the envelope for what a video-game can do. But when I think of Suikoden II, I think of feelings. Not how this certain scene made me think about the medium of video-games, but instead how it made me connect with the characters.

I have never played an RPG with more heart than this game. It is undoubtedly one of the most essential RPGs ever made, and amongst conventional JRPGs it has no equal. It is the quintessential adventure, and an absolute triumph.

Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter {Underrated}

Like Panzer Dragoon Saga (spoiler alert: right below this!), Dragon Quarter is uncompromisingly unique. It was so ahead of its time at release in 2002, that 15 years later it's arguably still ahead of its time.

Dragon Quarter is systems-driven, focusing on a series of overarching systems that interact with each other to form a canvas of rules operating in the background. And, in the web of interlocking mechanics it constructs and challenges you to navigate, it is by far the most elegant systems-driven JRPG I've ever played.

Absolutely no mechanics are wasted; everything has been meticulously implemented, from the ground-up, to be a system playing off of all the others. Even setting aside the phenomenal soundtrack, memorable setting, and unique art direction, it is the gameplay systems themselves that lead to the incredible sense of immersion that the game offers.

The combat is incredibly strategic, dependent on positioning and manipulating traps and environmental hazards. There is an ominous countdown until the main character dies and the game ends (not a temporary game over - the playthrough literally ends), and this mechanic interacts with the limited saves and special abilities to form a complex web of risk/reward decisions. The narrative itself is even systems-driven, and unfolds differently depending on how many times you've viewed the cutscene (a substantially more likely scenario in this game, given how comparatively easy it is to essentially make the game unwinnable and force a restart). Hell, there is even a respectable risk/reward decision in choosing to restart the entire playthrough, as the lost progress is counterbalanced by certain things that you hold onto on a manual restart.

In many gameplay-driven games, the game gives me the tools I need to fight the enemies I face. In Dragon Quarter, more than any other RPG I've played, I feel like the only truly critical tool I have is my own brain, and behind the mask of enemy units, my true enemy is the game itself. Not in a frustrating or tedious way; but, rather, in a chess-like, challenging battle of wits, against a team of designers who engineered an enormous puzzle to ensnare me if I let my guard down. Sightseers and those looking for a relaxing, fun romp need not apply under any circumstances - Dragon Quarter is punishing, challenging, and preys on your poor decisions mercilessly. But the payoff for that intensity is one of the most thrilling and immersive experiences in all of gaming, and the absolute pinnacle of systems-driven gaming in the JRPG format.

As a bonus, the narrative itself is a fascinating, surprisingly well-executed thriller that reveals itself in tantalizing chunks. A brutal, powerful testament to game design, and one of the most memorable experiences in the medium. Second only to Nocturne in its elegance. Absolutely essential.

Panzer Dragoon Saga

I have very, very rarely seen such a mixture of obscurity and quality, as I have with Panzer Dragoon Saga. Perhaps due to its obscurity, it remains a stunningly original work even two decades after it released; its post-apocalyptic world, like Nocturne, is dream-like and surreal, but it combines those elements with an atmosphere of post-industrial mysticism that has yet to be matched, or arguably even challenged.

Its real-time combat system is also entirely unique, and relies on positioning and cooldown-based actions in intense aerial skirmishes. Even its soundtrack, a bizarre but effective mix of tribal drums, exotic melodies, and electronic rhythms, has very few peers. In many ways, the game feels like it was somehow imported from the game industry of a different planet; it's hard to communicate just how foreign it feels.

While Saga's narrative begins with a relatively pedestrian setup, the world-building and atmosphere carry it until it evolves into something far greater. By time Saga reaches its finale, it is a different beast altogether; the formulaic revenge story has morphed into a stunningly ambitious sci-fi fable, one that even comments on the nature of video games and player agency in the style of EarthBound and Undertale. It is, without question, one of my favorite endings in an RPG, and perhaps the most thought-provoking ending I've ever seen in a video game.

Reproduced here is a snippet of an article I wrote five years ago about Saga's ending. The sections dealing with the actual plot points of the ending are spoiler-tagged:

Panzer Dragoon Saga's narrative and characters are rooted in myth; they are archetypes. However, the potency of Saga's mythic conventions stems from the way that it reinvents those archetypes in service of its medium - the video-game. Edge's (the protagonist) quest for revenge is one not at all original in any medium, and like many other games, Saga offers its spin on the classic tale. However, Saga's concern with this oldest of heroic myths is simply a bait for the audience, a familiar premise that is subtly and organically stripped away to ultimately reveal the true myth at its core, what we might call "the modern myth": namely, what it means for a creature that looks human, acts human, and feels human, to truly be human.

The shift from Edge's story to Azel's (for ultimately Saga is Azel's story) is a reinvention of that myth in video-game format, a format in which the most mysterious aspect of the human condition - free will - can, at last, be directly represented with a formal narrative element: player agency.

In a closed system, what does it mean to have free will? Does anybody have free will in such a system? Do the characters in a book have free will? Do the characters in a film?
The answer, of course, is no; they are written as-is, and exist in a closed system that cannot be internally altered.

What Panzer Dragoon Saga recognizes is that in a video-game, that simply isn't true. A video-game, despite being a narrative format, is not a closed system; someone involved in the narrative does have free will: the player. (NOTE: General spoilers for Panzer Dragoon Saga's ending start here.)
And by the end of the game, Azel ostensibly has free will as well, due to the player's actions in ending the reign of the towers and essentially resetting the game's world.

And yet, every time the final cinematic plays out, even with this "free will," Azel's decision remains the same: she resolves, irresistibly and hopelessly, to search for the one who gave her that free will. That being is the player; who, by exercising their own free will and taking the final step to destroy the towers, has beaten the game and therefore removed themselves from the game's world. Removed themselves beyond Azel's reach.

Even in a world which you have ostensibly freed of all metaphysical restraints and regulations, where Azel is free to do anything she wants, she instead proceeds slavishly, inexorably, and hopelessly in a journey to find you, a god that no longer exists. Because, to her, you are what it means to be human. In the act of giving her free will, you have freed her from the grip of ancient civilizations, destiny, the developers, or whatever you want to call it; but you have enslaved her to an endless search for the one that she believes holds the key to being human. Panzer Dragoon Saga's devastating conclusion is that free will is a misunderstanding of the human condition. Humans do not have free will at all; rather, like Azel, we proceed slavishly, inexorably, and hopelessly toward the metaphysical constructs that always exist beyond our grasp, because we believe that they hold the key to understanding what it means to be human.

Panzer Dragoon Saga is, without a doubt, an unparalleled experience in my time with the medium, and one of the last great masterpieces of the 20th century
Ridiculously unique, powerfully thought-provoking, and - maybe the most important of all - incredibly fun to play, Panzer Dragoon Saga is an underrated masterpiece, and absolutely well-worth the hurdles of trying to track it down and play it.


<FULL POINT GAMES &#8211; 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT &#8211; 3 points} Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
{UNDERRATED &#8211; 4 points} Breath of FIre: Dragon Quarter
Suikoden II
Panzer Dragoon Saga

Sorry about missing the deadline, I was off my account for a couple of weeks, and forgot about getting contributing to this list. For the time being I've started a rough list of my favorite RPGs without the bells and whistle, will need to go back and check whether I'm missing any gems. This list will also likely change when I finish Persona 5, Nier Automata and get around to buying Divinity OS2.

1. Demon's Souls

Simply my favorite game of all time. I made a trip to the only Gamestop 40+ miles away from my house back in 2009 to buy the only copy available, and passed on buying an entire set of Berserk manga on clearance at my local bookstore for this game. It far exceeded my expectations of what I wanted out of an RPG, as I was originally looking for a action RPG reminiscent to Phantasy Star Online and Diablo on the PS3. Enjoyed all the systems and mechanics introduced in this game, and it became the first game I played competitively to some degree online.

2. Dark Souls
3. Transistor

I originally played Bastion after Diablo 3 vanilla started growing stale on me, so I wasn't too fond of the game originally. With the touch control release of Bastion, I had gotten a new found appreciation for mobile gaming, as I thought the touch controls in that game were tight and made complete sense, so I more than enthused to play another SuperGiant Games' release. Transistor exceeded my expectation and every sense I could imagine; I appreciated the theme, short narrative constructed with the world and dialogue, being able to mix abilities for new ones, along with the addition of a strategy component. I've bought the mobile edition for the game, but probably wont be able to play it unless I change to a larger screen. That being said, I already beat the game multiple times, maxed out Red and would absolutely do it all over again.

4. Chrono Trigger

Not sure if this game needs an introduction. It was made by Square's dream team, and it shows. I played had a bootlegged disc full of 8/16 bit games back in the early 2000's, so I would pop up games from the SNES emulator, which included Final Fantasy 3, Illusion of Gaia, Secret of Mana, Evermore... And then it had this masterpiece that mesmerized me from the very beginning. It's a true testament how this game managed to floor me when the Dreamcast and PS2 were already out, a time when no one (myself included), weren't looking back at the older generation of games because of how impressive games were looking with the 6th gen.

5. Fire Emblem Awakening
6. Monster Hunter Generations

4U was pretty good as well, Tri and 3U not so much because fighting Plesioth sucked!

7. Final Fantasy IX
8. Diablo 3

This might come to a surprise to most people, but I have played Diablo 1, 2, Torchlight 1,2 and Path of Exile. I've even played the distant cousins Borderlands 1 and 2, Phantasy Star Online, along with other lesser known Diablo-like experiences where you're going from stage to stage, ramping up in difficulty while accruing a higher stated arsenal. And to be clear, I also wasn't fond of the auction house, or the difficulty progression. However, I can't recall a game where I enjoyed the hardest difficulty, Inferno mode, as much as Diablo 3 vanilla's. The mechanics felt great, I enjoyed exploring the maps, and the mobs kept me both apprehensive and excited.

9. Persona 4
10. Phantasy Star Online - v.2, ep.1 & 2, Blue Burst
11. Golden Sun

I loved the GBA to the point my collection of games on the handheld dwarfed what I cataloged on any other hardware. If I don't count the numerous awesome ports on the device, I would without a doubt consider Golden Sun to be my favorite GBA game. The graphics, scope, Zelda-y dungeons were very impressive, and besides for Dark Souls, I can't recall any other game that left me so stoked for the sequel.

12. Fallout New Vegas
13. Baldur's Gate II

I've never finished this game when I was younger, so it's really difficult for me to rank it, also had not played the original game. That being said, I was very immersed and overwhelmed with my time with Baldur's Gate. I loved the character interaction, and the battle mechanics were enjoyable for its time. I've attempted to replay the game on my iPad, but the interface needs a rehaul for the touch screen interface.
14. Divinity Original Sin Enhanced Edition
15. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
You guys don't need to reserve posts. They aren't limited :p

Just start on your list when you have time. Some people flesh them out over a few hours or days. As long as you explain your choices.


Is "THIS LIST" meant to be a link? I'm assuming it's the last compiled list of votes?

If that's the case,

I don't think Suikoden 2 is eligible for highlight, then.

Mine will totally be Dark Souls 2 :p
Whoops. Yes, that should have been a list. I am not at my pc for a bit, so I will have to add that in later tonight. You could go back through the old threads to check until then. Some links are in the history section.

There are 2 special votes.

- the highlight special vote can be used on anything.
- the underrated special vote is only for games not on previous essential rpg top 50 lists.
Two questions.

Can my detailed list have less than 10 and still have each title fully counted? Is there a minimum number for such a list?

For the UNDERRATED ON GAF highlight, is it for the entirety of 2015? For example XBX was released in the West in December 2015. Would that count for UNDERRATED ON GAF?
Yes. The bare minimum is 5 games with explanations. You still need to include the voting ballot at the bottom of your post. Just delete the extra games and honorable mentions part.

Any game that was released in English before Jan 1st, 2016 can be used for the underrated vote if it was absent from previous top 50 lists. So Xenoblade X is eligible, but Bloodborne (Top 50 in 2016 list) or Persona 5 (released 2017) are not.
Thank you for making the thread. Below are my votes, but I may try to come back and add a few more pictures.

1. Final Fantasy 7 This game defined RPGs for an entire generation of newcomers. It shattered genre bounds in a way that really altered the landface of an entire console.

Not only that, but it's a brilliant, fun game. The first disc is so tightly paced, the music is almost endlessly enjoyable. The characters have their own motivations and relationships, even if murky at times. The graphics for the time were just unbelievable -- nothing else could match them. Yes, it was basically pre-rendered textures with a few people walking on top... but it worked.

It wasn't my first actual RPG, as I'd played a bunch on PC prior. But it's the first one I think of as "Essential", and probably the one I have replayed the most.

2. Dragon Quest 5 Although I came to it much later than Final Fantasy, this is really what I think of as the pinnacle of Japanese RPGs. Such a well paced title, I never felt bored. The beautifully designed enemies, with equally gorgeous animations. The classic music pervading every scene. The depth of the story told through pixels, the growth of a hero not just in terms of Level but in terms of personal hardship. I know other games have more interesting hooks like Chrono Trigger's time mechanics, or the oppressive Shinra corporation from FF7, but it's DQ5 that makes me love how well crafted a simple thing can be.

It also was the first JRPG to incorporate genre staples like Monster Raising, inspiring (or at least influencing) Pokemon and a whole slew of others. There had been a few other JRPG like games that had recruitment (Destiny of an Emperor), but I think this is the first game that really made the idea its own.

3. Witcher 3 -- As I regretfully told my friend, if I took out nostlagia as a factor, this would probably be superior to Final Fantasy 7 for me.

Witcher 3 had a hard road to climb for me. After playing Witcher 1 and thinking "eh, a bit gimmicky" then Witcher 2 with the "damn I died again" difficulty, I had no intentions of picking up Witcher 3. But I'm glad I eventually succumbed to the reviews I had read. The initial call to adventure is so strong, it stays with you the entire 80+ hour journey.

But it doesn't even matter, because everywhere you look, there's something inherently interesting to experience. The side quests each have a core. A unique idea they want to explore. A tough choice to make. A well crafted quip or a backhanded insult. The unbroken countryside or war torn towns.

The combat, eh, but everything surrounding it made me want to keep returning. After finishing the main quest I've almost been paralyzed to finish the DLC, as I don't ever want to completely finish the game. And speaking of the DLC, what generous DLC it is.

Witcher 3 sets the bar, so so high, in almost every domain. It came in like a Lion and tore apart the expectations that we set for OTHER games. Suddenly everything with RPG mechanics is getting compared to it (e.g. Mass Effect: Andromeda) and comes out worse for the wear.

It never brought me as much pure joy as Dragon Quest. But that might be sort of like comparing The Hobbit to War and Peace. Both are works are art, but the universe of the Witcher 3 feels like it actually exists.

4. Dragon Quest 8 -- My first Dragon Quest game will always hold a dear place in my heart. But what surprised me after a decade of exploring the other titles is just how well DQ8 holds up! I'm replaying it on the 3DS and it feels like the first time, all over again.

In many ways, this was the first "modern" Dragon Quest. And it was astounding. I would argue that it is the first JRPG (on consoles at least) with a truly "open" world. By which I mean a world where characters are consistently the same scale, towns actually inhabit space on the overworld, and you can go (almost) anywhere and see (almost) anything. Playing it on the PS2 felt like "Ah, finally, they took the sandbox of GTA3 and applied it to JRPGs". These days, it gets criticized a bit for being too empty, perhaps rightly so, but I still love roaming the country sides.

The side characters are perhaps the most fleshed out, with ample voice acting and animations during most scenes. Each has a motivation and a backstory, but the game brilliantly starts in the middle of the action and you learn more over time. After the slow start of DQ7 on PS1, this is precisely what the franchise needed.

5. Dragon Quest 1 -- The quintessential JRPG. The beginning of an adventure that's lasted over 30 years.

I played DQ1 after many of the others, inspired by DQ Builders. I mostly anticipated a historical trip to see the roots of the franchise (and perhaps if I had played NES version this would be all I would have gotten out of it). But thanks to the modern mobile port, it was just a beautiful little romp.

For example, I was caught off guard by how much fun it was to have just one character. One character with predetermined stat gains over time, fighting one enemy at a time. It's somehow so simple and refreshing I was immediately hooked. I immediately started looking for other games like it (relatively little success). Sure, there's some archaic elements, but there's something deep at the root of this game that sustained and nurtured this franchise to what it is today.

6. Dragon Quest 7 -- After playing a bit of the PS1 game years ago, DQ7 was always in the back of my mind. But it was the 3DS version that brought it back to my attention, and I'm so glad it did.

The game is focused around short stories. Some are sad, some are touching, some are hilarious. The game isn't as modern as DQ8, and it's a bit of a marathon, but some of the short stories in 7 are my favorites from the entire series. And the feeling when it is over is just bliss.

7. Yakuza 1

I haven't touched Kiwami yet, but Yakuza 1 is just awesome. An over the top but awesome story, engaging (if slightly repetitive) combat, fun mini games. To me, it was everything Shenmue was supposed to be, and more. The sequels improved many elements but to me Yakuza 1 had the "oh shit this exists?!" factor that makes it an essential rpg.

8. Persona 4

The refinement of persona 3 combat with a tight knit whodunnit / noir. Tartarus in p3 became a chore for me while the more unique dungeon textures in p4 made me coming back for more. The time management is addictive as are the funny (sometimes unintentionally so) interactions with npcs. I hope p5 will take the crown but I'm waiting for them to fix the dialogue errors in p5 golden (not yet announced).

9. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

In my opinion this is the only "recent" star wars game able to stand toe to toe with the Dark Forces games or xwing/tie fighter. It felt you were really in the star wars universe and tells an interesting story in a new setting. My main complaint is that I want a star wars rpg in the Original trilogy timeline, and that it can feel a bit dated these days.

10. Dragon Quest 3

A fun jaunt that helped solidify some of the gameplay mechanics for later DQ games, such as the job system. I can't say too much without spoilers but it's a nice game for fans of the franchise in particular.


1. E.V.O. The Theory of Evolution

THIS IS NOT E.V.O. SEARCH FOR EDEN FOR SNES. It's the predecessor title for PC-98, made by the same folks.

This game is more story-focused and features turn-based battles, as well as a more intricate evolution system. It reminds me a lot of Dragon Quest 1, with you vs enemy always being 1 v 1. It also made me realize how amazing the PC-98 was, and how fun that system is to emulate.

I really want to give a big shout out to 46 okumen, who fan translated this game to english, even though the demand for evolution-rpg games is very thin, it's really become a great game in my mind. However, it can be a bit frustrating at times, especially the controls being a bit messy and sometimes it's unclear what one should do to move forward.

2.Chrono Trigger

A great story with one of the strongest casts in any SNES RPG. The pixel work is outstanding, the music is amazing. Multiple endings and secrets just make this game a complete joy. Although I have no problem with random battles, it's nice to see the enemies on screen and battle directly on the world you explore. The team moves also give an interesting variety of possible strategies; seeing the world change through time is just incredible. It would probably be in my top 10 in any other year, but playing through Dragon Quest games in the past few months has given me a lot of perspective of the genre. Also, while I love the first two-thirds, the last one-third never made me feel "satisfied". The ending was more of a "Ah okay" moment, then "FINALLY! I DID IT!" I should probably replay it in decade or so and see if I change my opinion.

3. Dragon Quest Builders

Bringing the full potential of Minecraft into RPGs seems like such a no-brainer in retrospect, but it took Square Enix to actually do it. Sure, it's not fully Minecraft -- you mostly build with recipes rather than blocks -- there's not that much cave exploration or even need to dig deep. But this combination, plus all the charm of Dragon Quest? Just so fun. This would have been in the top ten if it had better combat and slightly less of a grind in the third / fourth chapters. It also inspired me to go back and play DQ 1, 2, and 3 for the first time. I think Builders 2 stands a real chance of taking this foundation and making it incredible, and I can't wait.

4. Dragon Quest Rocket Slime

Rocket Slime may be more of a ARPG, but what a fun, cute, ARPG it is. Controlling a slime who can stretch and cause himself to 'rocket' forward seems so simple. It seems like a thin premise that would be fun for 2 hours tops. But somehow it just keeps getting better and better. Then they add Tank Battles! You simultaneously load ammo, fight off intruders, or (I think) invade the enemy tank. The dialogue is pretty funny and the pixel work is great too. Highly recommend.

5. Dragon Quest Heroes 2

The first heroes was kind of a bore for me. I'm somewhat fond of the Musou genre, but I think I usually like the concept more than the execution. I played a few Dynasty Warrior games here and there, then the Gundam ones, and while DQ Heroes builds on those with a nice brand, I think it's the sequel, DQ Heroes 2, that helps it achieve the potential.

The variety of new and old characters, the weapon types and magic spells, the familiar monsters plus tougher boss-versions, is consistently engaging. But DQ Heroes adds quite a bit in terms of a better, more open world rather than simply choosing items from a menu. I also find the story more engaging but I'm still about 10 hours in. However, I don't think this game is quite as fun as a typical Dragon Quest game, as it does still have some button mashing -- but it's a great diversion until Dragon Quest XI arrives in NA in 2018.

6. Fire Emblem Fates

I've been a long time fan of Fire Emblem, back to the GBA days. I even have the gamecube game. But what I found about the old Fire Emblem games was how uninterested I was in the characters. I mean, I can't tell you the story of ANY fire emblem game. I might sort of recognize Marth, Roy, Lyn, and a few others... but I can't remember anything about what struggle they were facing or why it was important. I enjoyed Fire Emblem Awakening, in part because of the fun relationship building. In a non-waifu way, I liked pairing up different units and seeing what would pop out. But the story in that game felt no better.

It wasn't until Fates that Fire Emblem seems to have reached its full potential for me. The storyline, with you choosing between not just sides, but families? Made me really feel connected to the characters and the struggle they face. I guess I'd like to see a Fire Emblem with a more interesting job system, but Fates did a lot in the story department to make me connect with these otherwise bland units.

7. Yakuza 4

If you had told me that I would want to play a Yakuza game without controlling Kiryu, I would not have believed you. Yakuza 4 really opened my eyes to the potential of the universe they've built.

See, Yakuza 1 is a classic. 2 was an improvement in almost every way but I never finished it. But Yakuza 3 felt like a weird entry. The graphics were improved, sure, but that game had huge drags. I didn't care that much for the orphanage (or that girl) to be frank. I thought perhaps the franchise had run its course. And I think around that time, the zombie game came out which I never played. But Yakuza 4 brought me new hope in the franchise. I was really enjoying the story for the first time in a while, what with this loan shark with a heart of gold. I ended up loving that character and seeing how he interacts with the world.

I haven't had the chance to play Yakuza 5 or 0 yet, but Yakuza 4 stood out to me as a wakeup call to an otherwise sleepy franchise.

8. Culdcept Revolt -- A very recent release here in the US, but this has become the quintessential Culdcept for me. The new mechanics (rolling two dice by default, letting you select monsters all over the board) just add a lot more strategy to already amazing deckbuilding + Monopoly RPG. The localization seems great so far and I'm super happy with the 10-12 hours I've put in, only scratching the surface.

9. Skies of Arcadia -- Just a fun light hearted simple RPG with awesome naval combat. Unfortunately I kept getting about 2/3rds of the way and have never finished it. The beginning starts off with a bang but I felt it kind of whimpered out too much to give it a top 10.

10. Final Fantasy Tactics -- A real classic. This was the second Final Fantasy I bought, after playing FF7. I remember being so blown away that a new Final Fantasy was released that had so little marketing. It could have easily been some spinoff that killed my budding love for the franchise -- instead it was my first foray into Strategy RPGs which proceeded to dominate my gaming time. However, the loading times and the uneven difficulty meant I never finished the game. The story was also hard for me to follow at that age. So while it has a warm spot in my heart, the lack of a definitive version makes it harder to unequivocally recommend.


<FULL POINT GAMES &#8211; 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT &#8211; 3 points} Dragon Quest 5
{UNDERRATED &#8211; 4 points} Dragon Quest 7
Witcher 3
Dragon Quest 8
Dragon Quest 1
Final Fantasy 7
Yakuza 1
Persona 4
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Dragon Quest 3

<HONORABLE MENTIONS &#8211; 1 point>
E.V.O. The Theory of Evolution (NOT Search for Eden)
Chrono Trigger
Dragon Quest Builders
Dragon Quest Rocket Slime
Dragon Quest Heroes 2
Fire Emblem: Fates
Yakuza 4
Culdcept Revolt
Skies of Arcadia
Final Fantasy Tactics

(work in progress)

Dark Souls - Renewed my interest in gaming after a slew of paint-by-numbers AAA titles that had no soul. Precise, tactical, action combat in dark fantasy world full of secrets and lore. Exciting, and tense, to explore for the first time.
The entire game is essentially one interconnected level, and, with the correct pre-grame choices, you can access many of the "advanced" locations at the beginning of the game.

Baldur's Gate II - Epic. Perhaps the greatest evocation of a Forgotten Realms atmosphere in a CRPG. This is long game, and chapter 2, if fully explored, offers more content than most games. This was my favorite game until I encountered From Software's masterpiece (see above).

Dark Souls III - Dark Souls with a refined system fueled by the Bloodborne engine. Adds speed and threat to precision and tactics.

Planescape: Torment - The best writing, in any game. The combat is forgettable, but the choices and ideas are without peer.

Fallout - Character build and choices matter here, and there are many different ways to complete the challenges in the game. I'll never forget
The Glow
, which, in a combat-optional environment, tells the prehistory of the Fallout series.

Dragon Age: Origins - Something new for CRPGS: different character origin stories, depending on the class and race of the character you've created.

The Temple of Elemental Evil - The clearest distillation of Dungeons and Dragons rules in CRPG; plays like the pen-and-paper module on which it's based.

Bloodborne - A more Lovecraftian "Souls" game whose tempo requires an attack-minded focus.

Dark Souls II - Possibly the least-like Souls game that is nevertheless superior in combat and atmosphere to most games.

Mass Effect 2 - NPC stories and quests shine here; great storytelling with (unfortunately) streamline RP elements.


<FULL POINT GAMES &#8211; 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT &#8211; 3 points} Dark Souls
Baldur's Gate II
Dark Souls III
Planescape: Torment
Dragon Age: Origins
{UNDERRATED &#8211; 4 points} The Temple of Elemental Evil
Dark Souls II
Mass Effect 2

<HONORABLE MENTIONS &#8211; 1 point>
Final Fantasy Vi
Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magic Obscura
Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

What is this "reserved" shit. What are you reserving and for what purpose? I get it on the OP:s behalf, but people please just write up your lists and post them.
Was really hoping to have gone through more titles I missed out on before this popped up again, but I'm looking forward to everyone's lists. It was reading them in the thread a year or two ago that finally got me to give Xenogears another shot then and I ended up going through the whole thing.
Fuck y'all "reserved" weirdoes, I'm the first actually posting a list! OK, lots of copy/paste from previous list, but that's OK, right? :p

1) Demon's Souls - The first of the Souls series and probably my favourite, because of its unique atmosphere and because it got me back into gaming. A masterpiece in every single way.
2) Bloodborne - See above, except for "the first of the series" bit. Combat, art direction, atmosphere, level design, character customization, bosses... everything is top-notch. I give it an extra point for managing to be a game that exceeded all my expectations despite being ridiculously hyped for it.
3) Dark Souls - PvP isn't as good as Demon's, but it largely improved on the rest. An easy choice.
4) Dark Souls 2 - My "underrated on GAF" pick. I don't care what anyone says, this game is fantastic and as good as Dark Souls in many respects. Souls games are the best games I've ever played and have made From Software my favourite developer right now. My GotY 2014 easily. Scholar of the First Sin is also an excellent version.
5) Dark Souls 3 - I think you should start seeing a pattern right now... ;)
6) Panzer Dragoon Saga - Best jRPG of all time, with an amazing combat system, soundtrack, story, world building and lore, atmosphere, art direction... the only flaw is that it's fairly short, but in this way it doesn't overstay its welcome.
7) Final Fantasy Tactics - A classic in the SRPG genre, with the amazingly deep job system, wonderful art direction and one of the best stories in gaming. It's a crime that there has been no sequel (the FFTAs don't count).
8) Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen - My favourite action-RPG after the Souls games, with its amazing combat and encounter design.
9) Shining Force 2 - Another classic SRPG, Shining Force is what got me into gaming, period. I nominate SF2 over the first, though, because it simply improved on just about every aspect.
10) Nioh - Samurai Diablo Souls? Sign me up. The combat is just so insanely good, but it also has great levels and bosses and fun looting. The only flaw are the repetitive regular enemies.

Honourable mentions

1) Phantasy Star 4: The End of the Millennium - My first jRPG and still one of my favourites. Fun, quick battles, cool combo system (before Chrono Trigger made it famous! :p), classic 90's style sci-fi Anime art, soundtrack, this game has it all. I'm just sad that the release of two more Souls games and Nioh made me bump this and FF6 off the top 10... feels wrong, somehow :(
2) Final Fantasy 6 - As far as more traditional JRPGs go, this is the cream of the crop. No explanation needed, I reckon.
3) Wild ARMs - A brilliant mix of western, fantasy and sci-fi gives it a unique flavour. Brilliant western-style soundtrack, lovable cast, tons of puzzles, this game was my first RPG for the PS1 and still one of my favourites.
4) Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate - Hopelessly addictive, I must have sunk hundreds of hours into that game and I still haven't experimented with all the playstyles. So much combat depth, such amazing monster design, such satisfying gameplay. Nothing like preparing for a hunt with friends and take down a nasty, giant monstrosity down successfull
5) Shining Force 3 - The SF3 trilogy is a masterwork of gaming; each scenario leading right into the next (probably the first time I've seen a game save being loaded into the next episode) to tell quite the epic story, told from different points of view. And of course classic Shining Force tactical gameplay and party customization and the town exploration that make it so fun.
6) Suikoden 2 - One of the best stories in JRPG history (with some gut-wrenching moments), part of an amazingly built world that I really miss... Suikoden I was already good, but II just improves on everything. The HQ/castle building is tons of fun too.
7) Ys: The Oath in Felghana - I'm a bit LTTP to the Ys franchise, which I had dismissed as having stupid "bump" combat from the old days. To my great surprise the newer ones not only don't have that (and the remakes of I&II refined the bump combat well enough), but also feature really cool levels, brutal bosses, and an amazing soundtrack! I couldn't believe how good that game was. That meme pic circulating around? Yeah it's all true.
8) Fallout: New Vegas - Is that the first non-Japanese game on my list? Ouch. Guess I'm not a fan of Western RPGs in general. But I did enjoy this a lot. The combat was terrible, and it was buggy as hell, but the quest design and world building was incredibly impressive. The White Glove Society quest, oh my... that's the thing that made me decide this game was awesome.
9) Salt and Sanctuary - Souls meets Metroidvania? Yes please. Incredible combat, boss and level design, and a cool atmosphere with creepy HD environments. Made by only 2 devs, I was blown away.
10) Horizon: Zero Dawn - Surprise gem of 2017. Combat, story and art direction were all shockingly good and exceeded my expectations. For a sequel I'd like more elaborate RPG elements.

Unranked honourable mentions:

Dragon's Crown
Breath of Fire 3
Borderlands 2
Cosmic Star Heroine
Shining Force
Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
Trails in the Sky
Trails in the Sky: Second Chapter
Trails of Cold Steel
Trails of Cold Steel 2
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Chrono Trigger
Final Fantasy 5
Golden Sun
Suikoden 3
Suikoden 5
Shining the Holy Ark
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
Ys Origin
Xanadu Next
Jeanne d'Arc
Vandal Hearts


<FULL POINT GAMES &#8211; 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT &#8211; 3 points} Bloodborne
{UNDERRATED &#8211; 4 points} Dark Souls 2
Demon's Souls
Dark Souls
Dark Souls 3
Panzer Dragoon Saga
Final Fantasy Tactics
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen
Shining Force 2

<HONORABLE MENTIONS &#8211; 1 point>
Phantasy Star 4: The End of the Millennium
Final Fantasy 6
Wild ARMs
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
Shining Force 3
Suikoden 2
Ys: The Oath in Felghana
Fallout: New Vegas
Salt and Sanctuary
Horizon: Zero Dawn

1) Persona 3

Persona 3 changed the way that I look at RPGs. It was my first experience with social/visual novel elements in a game, and it really hit a home run in that regard. I felt very strongly for the plight of every one of the characters, and at the end of the game, I just had to take a break from gaming for a couple of days. I felt a void left after I finished the game, and no other game has done that to me since. I couldn't recommend it enough to anyone looking a long, well crafted, character driven RPG.

2) Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn

Radiant Dawn was my introduction to the Fire Emblem series, and I couldn't have asked for a better entry into the franchise. The story still remains my favorite out of all the Fire Emblem titles. I loved being able to play as the different armies. My first play through was definitely a challenge. Most of my units died in the Crimean army, and about half of non-essential units died between the others. I fought tooth and nail with so many game overs just to get to the end, but it was oh so satisfying. After putting over 120 hours into my first play through, I immediately went back in and tried my best to keep everyone alive so everyone can have their happy ending in the epilogue. I've completed every Fire Emblem game in the series now, but Radiant Dawn will always be a classic to me.

3) Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War

After completing Radiant Dawn, I decided to go through and play all the Fire Emblem games I missed out on in the past. The one that stood out most of all would have to be Genealogy of the Holy War for the Super Famicom. The mechanics in the game really drove this one home for me. Things like holy blood, marriage,
the 2nd generation
. I really enjoyed the story in this one as well, especially with
the events that occur in Chapter 5. I actually teared up during the scene at the end.
It may lack some of the polish that the newer games have, but I haven't found any other Fire Emblem game that I enjoyed as much as this one.

4) Undertale

Oh boy, Undertale. I love this game, and I believe it nailed both the concept and the execution. As a big fan of pacifism-esque playthroughs in video games, being able to go through a game that is designed and rewards the player for doing so was an excellent time. All the characters were lovable, and I was compelled to try to save every last one of them. I'm terrible at bullet hell games, but this game made them enjoyable, while still being quite challenging (I can't count how many times I died). All and all, this heartwarming personal GOTY 2015 gave me an unforgettable addition to the list.

5) Valkyria Chronicles

Valkyria Chronicles is a fresh addition into the strategy RPG genre creating a very unique tactical game play style with their BLITZ system. The story was decent, but using each of the classes to their fullest potential made the game incredibly fun to play (didn't learn about scout rushing until after I beat the game). I can only hope that there will be a new entry or a port / translation of VC3 soon.

6) Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Super Mario RPG was the first RPG I've ever played, back when I was around 4. I really struggled with certain parts of the game, and have fond memories of my mother sitting with me to help me get through the game. I still remember the sunken ship password room and being stuck there for days trying to figure out what combination of letters would open up the door. Apparently
evaded both my mother and myself. While this game is a huge nostalgia trip for me, I find it aged very well, and still find myself enjoying the timed hits combat and the amazing soundtrack.

7) Megaman Battle Network 5: Team Colonel / Protoman

It was quite the toss up between Battle Network 5 and 6, but I decided that I enjoyed the liberation missions far too much to leave this one on the way side. I really enjoyed how you got to play as the different navis on a turn based grid with positioning, abilities, and all that jazz. This is the only game in the series that I ended up completing 100% with all the chips, challenges, and everything included. I'm pretty sure I have more than a thousand hours logged on my GBA cart, and I always come back to it now and then on the Wii U virtual console to give it another shot. I've never been dedicated to try to 100% complete it again, but it's still a great time nonetheless.

8) Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

Paper Mario: TTYD was my 2nd big RPG that I've played coming off of SMRPG. I wasn't huge on the art style at first, but the paper aesthetic grew on me rather quickly. This RPG handled characterization very well, and I found myself rotating through most of the cast and trying to level everyone up just because I enjoyed using everyone
even if Vivian is my personal favorite
. This game was the first game I loved by Intelligent Systems, and as this list may suggest, it was far from my last.

9) Nier: Automata

I was a little late to the party on Nier. I never was able to play the first game, and picked up the second game a few months after release. Admittedly, I was initially interested in the game from when I saw 2B in the short reveal sequence, but little did I know that the game was going to take me on a wild ride. I went in expecting a purely beat 'em up game, but the RPG elements, bullet hell elements, and
hacking elements
threw a lot more at me than I was anticipating. The story really sealed the deal, and I enjoyed being able to
play through 3 different character's perspective, even if I never got past ending E.
Nier: Automata was just a great game chock-full of surprises.

10) Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 1 took me several years to complete, and I found it a bit of a slog to go through for the most part. ME2 rectified all those issues for me, and I had it finished up within 3 days. I enjoyed every squad mate that I was with, and found the loyalty missions for each character interesting and compelling. The gun play was a lot more smooth than ME1, and I found the whole package to just be the perfect middle ground between ME1 and ME3.

Honorable Mentions

11) Lost Magic

Lost Magic was my first dive into the RTS genre, and a very.. unique one at that. The rune drawing system was really interesting, and being able to combine runes together while sending your monsters to do different things on the map made for a wonderful experience. This game remains one of my favorite DS games to this day.

12) Dark Souls

Dark Souls was a hard one to sell me on. It took me on and off playing over a year just to get past the Capra Demon, but once I did, the game clicked in an instant for me. The satisfaction of finally beating the bosses after they beat you into the ground time and time again has been relatively unparalleled in any other RPGs that I've played.

13) Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy XIV was an interesting jumping on point to the Final Fantasy series for me. It wasn't particularly traditional due to it being an MMO, but I found it quite enjoyable nonetheless. I've forged unforgettable memories with my friends here as the first game I've played to end game with the "Holy Trinity". I've let me sub lapse for now, but I'm sure I'll pick it up again someday.

14) Maplestory

I loved what Maplestory was. Before the big bang, all of my friends and myself played this game religiously at times. Leveling up was grindy, dying was painful, but the social aspect was wonderful. The cash shop was only for cosmetics, so the game never felt pay2win like it is nowadays. 3rd job was always a dream for all of us, and it was always a cool thing to see a higher level player around as they were so uncommon due to the grind. I've recently played in a private server over the summer with a 1x EXP/MESO/DROP rate, and actually got to level 70 and hit 3rd job as a White Knight. It wasn't nearly as fun as I was playing by myself, but I felt like I accomplished a goal that my 13 year old self would be proud of.

15) Advance Wars: Days of Ruin

So I actually liked Days of Ruin out of all the Advance Wars games I've played, and I'd love to see IS try that style again (although it's all but impossible now). I liked the darker aesthetic of this game versus the past AW games, and the different units that they added into the game were pretty cool. I've played a lot of 2v2 with a friend vs the AI in this game through custom maps, and I continue to have a blast doing so.

16) XCOM 2

I had a hard time deciding whether to put XCOM 1 or 2 up here. Most of my XCOM experience was through Long War, but XCOM 2's newest expansion really made it competitive. The classes and QOL upgrades that XCOM 2 added have been a huge boon to the series, and the new enemies and mechanics are a welcome addition. I've been playing cooperatively with a friend of mine over several years on an XCOM long war playthough, and I can see us doing it again now that XCOM 2 has this expansion.

17) Digimon World 4

Digimon World 4 was an interesting starting point into the series, and remains the only Digimon game that I've liked so far. It plays more similarly to gauntlet than anything else, but being able to dungeon crawl with 3 other friends locally on the Gamecube has always been a ton of fun. I never got through any of the hard modes or got the crazy Digimon, but the game has a great time for me.

18) Fire Emblem: Thracia 776

Yay, another Fire Emblem game. While I tried to limit the amount of FE games on the list, I just couldn't leave Thracia 776 out. The game is just brings so many unique changes to the series, and I really enjoyed things like the stamina system that forces players to not just juggernaut all the way through the game. I also just really like Leif as a character, so there may be a slight bias here.

19) Alpha Protocol

I really didn't see Alpha Protocol coming. I played this game before the Mass Effect trilogy, so the concept of dialogue trees was actually pretty new to me, and I really liked how they were done in this game. Being able to see the choices in this game have consequence was a really cool idea, and I'd love to see Obsidian take another crack at a game like this with a bit more polish.

20) Vestaria Saga

Vestaria Saga has been a wild ride. I've been playing the game with help from Serenes Forest, Google Translate, and my rudimentary levels of Japanese, but it's been a lot of fun. The mechanics in this game harken back to old style Fire Emblem games, and the maps are just filled with events and triggers. It really brings back the classic Fire Emblem feel, and even though the art style is a little lacking and I can't understand the story, the game feels very mechanically satisfying.

[Ballot for Easy Tabulation]


<FULL POINT GAMES – 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT – 3 points} Persona 3
{UNDERRATED – 4 points} Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War
Valkyria Chronicles
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Megaman Battle Network 5: Team Colonel / Protoman
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Nier Automata
Mass Effect 2

Lost Magic
Dark Souls
Final Fantasy XIV
Advance Wars: Days of Ruin
Digimon World 4
Fire Emblem: Thracia 776
Alpha Protocol
Vestaria Saga



Unconfirmed Member
Like the changes to this year's edition. Hopefully we'll see some new stuff show up in the lists.

Got my lists below, gonna start making a nice one and filling in the info on them soon.

No particular order here, but they are all amazing gems that anyone should play.

Planescape: Torment: The best writing in all of video games, bar none. You play this game because you want to read an amazing story, not because you want to play a game. This game has gameplay that is AT BEST not great, and actively annoying at worst. Even by the standards of the era, the gameplay was clearly inferior to other games (like Baldur's Gate II). Yet, despite that you should play it to see and experience this story. The Nameless One is worth getting to know.

Suikoden: The original Suikoden is the story of a son growing up to lead a rag tag army against his father and an empire. Pretty standard stuff, but no other RPG of this era has 108 characters to recruit, each with a personality and skills that can help you win the overall war. The game starts slow and builds to massive army vs army battles, one on one duels, and more standard 6 party member dungeon combat. The game brings you into an amazing world and cast of characters you grow to love despite the silliness of some of them.

Baldur's Gate 2: Shadow of Amn: I can't come up with more words about this game that haven't already been said. It is the height of the original run of CPRGs, and has the broadest set of worlds and adventures for you to embark on. This game *IS* the Forgotten Realms setting of that time. Take up your mouse and go explore and live in that world and you'll understand also.

Divinity: Original Sin: D:OS is a strange game. There is lots of humor in its writing and playfulness in the characters. Yet the story is fundamentally one about a world being corrupted and destroyed by powerful magics and even more powerful beings. You and your partner (co-op fun ahoy!) explore the land of Rivellon learning about yourselves and your role in the cosmos. The combat is turn based and allows for a vast combinations of skills and magical effects with the various elemental surfaces. Combine a water puddle (made via rain or water barrels) and a lightning spell to give a powerful stun effect that is difficult to prevent, for example. There are many more and combining the skills and spells to make the combat interesting is why this game is such a delight. The story ends up taking a backseat to how much fun you're having electrifying, charming, and exploding all the monsters.

he Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky: This is talking about FC, but you really should play both this game (FC- First Chapter) and it's immediate sequel (SC - Second Chapter). Together with a final part (called 3rd), they form Falcom's foundational trilogy about the Zemurian continent and it's struggles. The arc of Estelle becoming a Bracer and moving up in the world is one that no RPG fan should miss. Don't let the graphics fool you, the combat is engaging and at times very difficult. The Quartz system for unlocking powerful magic is inventive and balancing out the various lines to make just the right spell combination makes the magic in the game fun to see more of. Eventually, though this game (and the follow ons of SC, 3rd, and all the other Kiseki games), simply set the stage for a grand universe of games that are happening contemporarily with each other. You finish one, and want to roll right into the next.

Suikoden 2: If the quotes above about Suikoden 1 don't sell you on the game, then what about getting to fight against one of the most insane villain in RPG history? And then finding out that beating him, means that you now have to fight the thing that was controlling him and his nation against your new alliance. Oh and the leader of that enemy nation? It's your childhood friend who has murdered his way to the top. Needless to say the story here is MUCH better than Suikoden 1, but while the story has improved, everything else that was great was maintained. Army battles are bigger and more complex than the glorified RPS of the first game. Units gain powers based on their members and the recruits are more interesting and varied than before. It is widely respected and known for a GOOD reason, play this.

Xenoblade: Chronicles: Xenoblade Chronicles takes a unique spin on MMO-style combat with cooldowns and learned moves that need to be activated in sequence to cause big effects. The single player nature of the RPG makes this combat a lot more interesting than in actual MMOs. There are tons of side quests and a great amount of character customization on display here as well. This hasn't even touched the story, which after it gets going is also great. The visuals here are simply amazing for a game that began life on the Wii -- and not that when played via emulation there are High Res asset packs floating around that really help when you boost the rendering resolutions. The game also has one of the greatest soundtracks ever. The Guar Plains moment in particular stands out to people due to finally realizing the massive scale of the game and the sweeping music reinforces everything great about this game. People should experience it for themselves.

Final Fantasy: Tactics: A venerable staple of the SRPG sub-genre and for good reason. The sheer variety of jobs available to your units is immense. It also gives you a very flexible way to mix and match skills you learn throughout the game. Min/Maxing your units and becoming an unstoppable powerhouse are the great parts of this classic. Then when you get to the story the game keeps delivering, especially in the War of the Lions version which makes the English translation so much better. The politics and backstabbing that are on display in this world are top notch and seeing Ramza try to navigate this world is definitely an amazing journey. And hey, when you do become an unstoppable killing machine, take your time and enjoy the soundtrack which is also top notch.

Dark Souls: Dark Souls intense mix of difficult to master, but rewarding to complete has yet to be equaled by its sequels or other games that followed it. The cohesive world design adds to the mix and makes exploring for that next bonfire all the more exciting. Finding the ways the levels loop around and connect is half the fun and learning the enemy placements and movement is the other. The game has lots of opportunity for characters to express themselves, and each playstyle is different.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt: The Witcher series' crowning achievement. The base game was fantastic on its own, but with the DLCs included, there really is very little like it. Blood and Wine in particular is so big as to basically just be another standalone game. The characters and the world are the best that AAA gaming has done in the RPG genre and despite the misgivings some might have about the combat, the game shines in its quests and world building. Go walk a mile in Geralt's shoes, and then buy new ones at the cobbler, then find some hidden monsters and slay them. It's a fantastic game that everyone should play.


<FULL POINT GAMES &#8211; 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT &#8211; 3 points} Planescape: Torment
{UNDERRATED &#8211; 4 points} Suikoden
Baldur's Gate 2: Shadow of Amn
Divinity: Original Sin
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
Suikoden 2
Xenoblade Chronicles
Final Fantasy Tactics
Dark Souls
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

<HONORABLE MENTIONS &#8211; 1 point>
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
Suikoden 5
Divinity: Original Sin 2
Xenoblade Chronicles X
Deus Ex
Final Fantasy 10
Final Fantasy 7
Final Fantasy 6

Persona 5

Persona 5, to me, is the epitome of everything I love in a JRPG. It's fast and flashy while still being deep and providing a great story, the characters are lovable, the aesthetics are second to none, and the soundtrack is incredible. I really can't say enough good things about Persona 5, I've already played through it twice this year and I'm sure it's a game I'm going to be coming back to for years to come.

Persona 4 Golden

I went into Persona 4 Golden with no expectation, I knew nothing about it other than that it was a highly regarded JRPG. What I certainly didn't expect was to fall in love with the world and characters as much as I did. The poppy visuals and soundtrack cemented P4G as one of my favorite games ever.


EarthBound is such a strange, wonderful game that words can't really describe it. It somehow manages to mash together traditional JRPG mechanics with 90's Americana in such an effective way. It's so unique and quirky despite being well over 20 years old, there really isn't anything quite like it.

Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow

These are the games that started it all, launching Pokemon to a mega-franchise that persists today. Mechanically RBY aren't great, in some ways they're even a little broken, but it gets so much right that it is hard to fault it too much. The Pokemon designs are some of the best in the series, the world is iconic and very memorable, and the game was so novel at the time that they still are worthy of praise today.

Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal

For everything that Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow did well, Gold/Silver/Crystal did even better. The transition to the Game Boy Color added some much needed graphical diversity, the sprite work is better, the mechanics are substantionally improved, the story is better, the Pokemon are better, and I could go on and on. GSC remain, in my opinion, the pinnacle of a fantastic series.

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

TTYD is as witty as it is fun to play. The writing is superb and the active combat system rewards well timed button presses, keeping you engaged throughout. The characters are super charming and it does a great job of combining the Mario universe with new, original characters.

Fallout 3

Fallout 3 is one of those games that I feel like I can keep coming back to and have a different experience every time. The world is so large and dense with things to do and explore, the systems are deep, and the lore of the world is so interesting that it keeps me coming back to it time and again.


Bloodborne was a game that I didn't expect to love as much as I did. I was drawn to the gothic-horror inspired visuals, but what made me stick around was the amazing sense of discovery I found around every corner. The combat is fast and fluid but requires you to act very deliberately and the level of customization and options with gear and weapons adds a ton of replayability.

Fire Emblem: Awakening

Awakening, in my opinion, is the game that pushed Fire Emblem to a new level. The deep strategy gameplay was always there, but Awakening's addition of more character interactions that can even lead to children add a level of depth outside of the battlefield.

Secret of Mana

Secret of Mana's fantastic soundtrack and gorgeous visuals are very evident at first glance, but the depth of the weapon and magic systems, along with the ability to play with up to two friends, are why I hold the game with such high regard. The story and world are both very interesting, but the real time combat is the star of the show for me.

Honorable Mentions:
Fallout 4

Fallout 4 is often maligned for abandoning many of the RPG elements that popularized the series, but I still love the game for what it is. At its core, the shooting and looting loop makes Fallout 4 the most fun to actually play, in my opinion.

Fallout: New Vegas

New Vegas is actually my least favorite of the Bethesda published Fallouts, but mostly because it is a technical mess. The world, while not quite as interesting to me as the worlds of 3 and 4, is still full of things to do and the sheer number of ways you can tackle quests is pretty astounding.

Pokemon Sun/Moon

Sun and Moon are the best Pokemon games since Gold/Silver/Crystal. I was finally starting to feel like the series was stagnating, but by appealing to nostalgia with Alolan forms of gen 1 Pokemon while at the same time shaking up the gym formula was just the thing the series needed.

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE

I never expected to enjoy TMS as much as I did, the game is extremely J-pop idol inspired. At its heart, however, it is an excellent crossover between Fire Emblem and Shin Megami Tensei, invoking elements of each while still standing on its own as a fantastic and fun JRPG. The worst thing about TMS is that more people didn't get the chance to play it because it was trapped on Wii U.

Dark Souls III

Bloodborne was my first Souls experience, but I knew I had to give Dark Souls III a chance when it came out. I was not disappointed, the combat and exploration that I loved from Bloodborne was still there in spades. the more defensive nature of Dark Souls makes them feel unique enough that they're both worth playing.

Fire Emblem Fates

While Fates wasn't quite the revolution Awakening was, it's another excellent entry in the Fire Emblem series. Boasting the most content I've ever played in a Fire Emblem thanks to three unique campaigns, Fates is well worth playing.

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Ni no Kuni is an absolutely gorgeous game thanks to visuals made by Studio Ghibli. The gameplay loop of collecting monsters is very remniscent of Pokemon, but the more action-oriented nature is more than enough to distinguish the two.

Final Fantasy IV

Final Fantasy IV is my favorite of the FF games that I've played. It's an excellent mix of old school RPG battles, an interesting story, and very likable characters with some beautiful 16 bit sprite work to boot.

Final Fantasy VII

Final Fantasy VII is a victim of its own legacy. Long regarded as one of the greatest games of all time, the pendulum has started to swing back the other way in the last few years. Now, many consider the game to be heavily overrated, but I think that's a little unfair. FFVII should be praised for its great battle system and story, even if the graphics haven't aged very well. But perhaps most of all, it should be remembered as the game that really allowed RPGs to break into the mainstream.

Xenoblade Chronicles

Xenoblade Chronicles is an excellent RPG with great combat and interesting characters, but my favorite thing about it has to be the world. Exploring giant ancient gods is an awesome, very unique setting that kept me interested.

<FULL POINT GAMES &#8211; 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT &#8211; 3 points} Persona 5
Persona 4 Golden
Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal
Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Fallout 3
Fire Emblem: Awakening
Secret of Mana

<HONORABLE MENTIONS &#8211; 1 point>
Fallout 4
Fallout: New Vegas
Pokemon Sun/Moon
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE
Dark Souls III
Fire Emblem Fates
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy VII
Xenoblade Chronicles

I'm probably going to come back and spice this up a bit once I have time (and think of more games), but for now, here's a rough list.


<FULL POINT GAMES &#8211; 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT &#8211; 3 points} Chrono Trigger
Chrono Cross
Kingdom Hearts II
Final Fantasy VI
Mother 3
The World Ends With You
Pokemon Gold/Silver/Crystal
Parasite Eve
Title 10 here

<HONORABLE MENTIONS &#8211; 1 point>
Radiant Historia
Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millenium
Final Fantasy
HM Title 6 here
HM Title 7 here
HM Title 8 here
HM Title 9 here
HM Title 10 here

People want their post to be read so they reserve a position on first page.
i don't think there's a tendency to read the first page in a thread, especially in list threads where they tend to get very old towards the end of the voting period. if you want to remind yourself the there is a voting thread you'd like to participate in, then acknowledge that you are doing that. it becomes more difficult for the person counting the votes to have to log which person 'reserved' a post to specifically check up on that person to see if they actually changed it later.

and most people do not. they just post reserved and don't come back unless they get a pm about it. i speak from experience.

in short: don't reserve posts, people
Q: Why are these lists are always dominated by JRPGs?

A: To annoy you personally.

Ah, one of my favorite repeating threads on GAF. And not just because I can copypasta large chunks of it neither! No, for I have about 6 potential new entries into the fray since the last list, with me into a seventh right now!
Descriptions going up soon!


<FULL POINT GAMES – 2 points>
{HIGHLIGHT – 3 points} Persona 3
{UNDERRATED – 4 points} Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War
Valkyria Chronicles
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
Megaman Battle Network 5: Team Colonel / Protoman
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Nier Automata
Mass Effect 2

Lost Magic
Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia
Final Fantasy XIV
Advance Wars: Days of Ruin
The Last Story
Fire Emblem: Thracia 776
Alpha Protocol
Sword Art Online: Hollow Fragment

I thought Advance Wars and XCOM are strictly strategy games? Never heard anyone call them RPG before.
<FULL POINT GAMES – 2 points>
1) Demon's Souls - The first of the Souls series and probably my favourite, because of its unique atmosphere and because it got me back into gaming. A masterpiece in every single way.
2) {HIGHLIGHT – 3 points} Bloodborne - See above, except for "the first of the series" bit. Combat, art direction, atmosphere, level design, character customization, bosses... everything is top-notch. I give it an extra point for managing to be a game that exceeded all my expectations despite being ridiculously hyped for it.
3) Dark Souls - PvP isn't as good as Demon's, but it largely improved on the rest. An easy choice.
4) {UNDERRATED – 4 points} Dark Souls 2 - I don't care what anyone says, this game is fantastic and as good as Dark Souls in many respects. Souls games are the best games I've ever played and have made From Software my favourite developer right now. My GotY 2014 easily. Scholar of the First Sin is also an excellent version.
5) Dark Souls 3 - I think you should start seeing a pattern right now... ;)
6) Panzer Dragoon Saga - Best jRPG of all time, with an amazing combat system, soundtrack, story, world building and lore, atmosphere, art direction... the only flaw is that it's fairly short, but in this way it doesn't overstay its welcome.
but how could Panzer Dragoon Saga be the best japanese RPG of all time when you put 5 of them above it
Would Xanadu Next be legible for an underrated vote? It was released last year to steam/gog in English, but the Japanese release was in 2005.
Votes (2 points each; not placed in any specific order)

Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn

Baldur's Gate II has almost all of the makings of a great RPG experience. It has a large roster of party characters with their own plotlines running simultaneously with the central one. It has a large variety of interesting and challenging encounters, taking full advantage of the D&D 2nd Edition ruleset to create some pretty spectacular wizard battles. It has a compelling and menacing central villain (the voice acting really sells it). But most of all, it is remembered for having a stupendous amount of high quality side content.

Comparing Baldur's Gate II to modern high budget titles in the genre emphasizes just how special it was, and reminds us of the price we paid in content and complexity to get large scale, fully voiced and graphically impressive RPGs.

Planescape: Torment

Planescape isn't the easiest game to get into, even by the standards of AD&D 2nd Edition conversions. But what is on offer is the bizarre and fascinating world of the Planescape setting. The city of Sigil and its adjacent settings feels like like walking around the hybrid of an Escher painting and a China Miéville novel, but as with many great works of speculative fiction it's story never stops being fundamentally human. The character of Ravel Puzzlewell is by my reckoning one of the most memorable in gaming.

Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect series rankings can be a bloodbath, but in my opinion, Mass Effect 2 is the finest game produced by the series. A lot of people, particularly ones who are very fond of the first game in the series, focus on what Mass Effect 2 is not, or what it does not do. It does not bring back planetary off-roading. It does not have a conventional inventory. It reduces the total number of skills. "It's not an RPG!"

I like to focus on what Mass Effect 2 is, and what it does do. It provides a large and interesting cast of characters. It spends time exploring these characters - the main plot of the game is broadly secondary in this experience. It provides dramatically improved combat over its predecessor. It fleshes out the dialogue system. And once you have the whole band together, it provides you with probably one of the best final missions in gaming. Despite some rough edges, Mass Effect 2 is up there with Resident Evil 4 for games I've replayed the most times - I would estimate 10 full playthroughs, sometimes exploring different options and classes, sometimes setting up my save "just right" for the third game, and sometimes just because I felt like diving into the experience again.

Pokemon HeartGold / SoulSilver

There's about 1 million Pokemon games out there right now. In my opinion, they never got much better than HeartGold / SoulSilver. The second generation games were dramatically improved sequels, providing 150 new Pokemon, new mechanics, and then topping it all off by including the region from the first game as post-game content. HeartGold and SoulSilver import several mechanical improvements and update the graphics for DS. While missing some later quality of life improvements in the series, I believe HG/SS are the definitive Pokemon experience, thanks in large part to having the best roster of Pokemon (1st + 2nd Gen) and a relative sparsity of gimmicks or the hand-holdey story of the latest generation.

Deus Ex
Deus Ex is not the kind of game where you start at level 1 and then deal 1,000x more damage per hit by the mid game. Instead it includes an array of non-combat skills and augmentations which serve single or dual use as keys to unlock paths inside of fixed levels or semi-open hubs. Any build is viable for finishing the game, but the role playing allows you to tailor your experience to different styles of play, not just different ways in which to engage with the same combat systems. This is not the first game to ever offer non-linear levels, or to mix both stealth and action, but it was an influential title in the industry, and is worth playing if for no reason other than historical significance. I don't feel the pressure to tell people they need to finish this game if they're not digging it - it is pretty rough, and its excellence comes from its level design and systems, NOT from its core gameplay loop, characters, or story.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

A modern take on Deus Ex, and a game that few people expected to be good. After an early version of the game leaked, the narrative became a lot more positive around the game - it was damn fun to play. It does simplify systems in comparison with the first game, but nowhere near to the extent that the much maligned Invisible War did. It shares a common soul, even if the details aren't exactly the same.

Marrying the same branching level design and hub worlds with some more modern gameplay sensibilities, it's a blast to play, albeit not the prettiest game. The dialogue "boss battles" were a particularly good new addition to the series.

Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines

Bloodlines is another take on the Deus Ex formula, this time married with an urban-fantasy setting in the World of Darkness. Although more playable than Deus Ex I still consider it weaker than Human Revolution in gameplay terms. On the other hand, it does have a more interesting setting and story, as well as offering some very interesting class based options - you can play as a hideous Vampire who cannot pass for human and must use the Sewers to get around, or you can play as an insane Malkavian vampire for a fun playthrough.

Diablo 2

Still probably the finest loot driven game out there, Diablo 2 offers extremely satisfying gameplay, a variety of classes that play very differently from each other, and built in support for multiplayer options. Despite having never properly killed Diablo in a solo game, I still return to it on a nearly annual basis to go through those first two or three acts again with a fresh character. For the budding game designer this is also a tour de force in combat feedback and audio design.

Prey (2017)

Pitched internally as "basically it's System Shock 3", Prey manages to fully live up to that legacy far more than the Bioshock series did. Despite featuring multiple twists in the plot, it never treats them with more gravitas than they deserve, and it isn't ever trying to pull the wool over your eyes so it can shout "GOTCHA!"

The real star of the show in Prey is the space station it takes place on. It's large - but not too large in that empty open world sense. It's packed with details, small character stories, optional content and clever alternate paths. The ecosystem of the Typhon is interesting and truly feels alien and threatening beyond the superficial level of jump scares or gross designs that we see in a lot of horror media. The game bombed, and I think it's pretty tragic that it did - we may never get to see the followup that this game definitely deserves.

Star Wars - Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords

While KOTOR 1 is a more cohesive and polished experience, The Sith Lords offers a series of much more interesting characters and what are by far the most mature themes and story ever featured in a Star Wars game - possibly in any star wars media. Kreia is in many ways a direct successor to the character of Ravel Puzzlewell from Planescape, and writer Chris Avellone has admitted as much in interviews.

Honourable Mentions (1 point each)


Some of the games above are difficult to get into today. Darklands is extremely difficult to get into. It's not that it's strictly too complicated, but it does have a lot of systems that are pretty opaque unless you're reading the manual, and it is not a game that fucks around or holds your hand.

I included Darklands for being a particularly interesting example of an RPG that ignored genre conventions, ignored tabletop progenitors, and even ignored the basic power curve that most games follow. It's set in Medieval Germany, and the basic premise of the game is "what if there actually were secret witches and doomsday cults out there being hunted by the Inquisition? What if medieval peasant myths and superstitions were all true?" The game's attention to authenticity (note - not realism) is admirable, with the day divided up into canonical hours of the day (as they might be in a monastery of this era), a series of cities from the HRE and a series of real saints to pray to for blessings.

Your characters get old, and as they get old, they get weaker. You can start out with a young, fresh faced recruit in his or her prime, or an older, more experienced character that has a lot more skills. Your characters can die and be replaced by new ones, and character development is done by more or less creating a back story for that character. What did they do for the first 7 years of their life? What about the next 7? And the next? These choices build your characters. The goal of the game, at least initially, is to get money and fame by going around shanking bandits and doing other tasks. By the end, more of a story has developed. I don't think the game is all that fun, but it is fascinating.

Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer

I'm not super big on the NWN games, but I'm including Mask of the Betrayer on here purely for story and themes. It's an epic level campaign, starting at about level 20, and by the end you'll be duking it out with extremely powerful beings. It's not quite as good of a plot as Planescape, there aren't as many fun characters as ME2 and the setting isn't as well realized as Prey, but it does do its own interesting thing and is worth checking out if you are into these kinds of games. It's hard to talk about what makes the story good without being spoilerific, but it has a lot in common with KOTOR 2 and Planescape's stories.


  • Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn
  • Planescape: Torment
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Pokemon HeartGold / SoulSilver
  • Deus Ex
  • Deux Ex: Human Revolution
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
  • Diablo 2
  • Prey (2017)
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords

Honourable Mentions
  • Darklands
  • Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer
Those games feel to me like Fire Emblem without the role playing elements. I wouldn't include them, but I guess OP decides.
I wouldn't have thought so either, but someone else listed it.
And it is one of my favourite nintendo franchises so if i am allowed, I would like the chance to list it down :p

Looking through my library I have A LOT of popular rpgs I have not played.... :S