Based on a graphic novel of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Mixes Dragon Quest and Dynasty Warriors. Journey across the vast land of China, go through towns, caves, and tunnels, and fight enemy warlords in open areas, forts, and castles. You can also recruit over 100 generals to your side, through show of force and/or bribery. There's quite a bit to see, do, and even miss out on. Has a japan-only sequel below, however it does have a full translation patch. Both are badass and worth playing.
This one's pretty nice. You don't have to play any other DQ game before this. Has pretty nice pacing, and the chapter system is a means to help you learn the ropes while still giving a bit of challenge before the fifth and final chapter, which is longer than all past chapters combined. The twist there is that you only take control of the Hero character, and your other allies act on their own accord based on tactics you give them. The AI is surprisingly decent with the right tactics, though it does make some dumb mistakes from time to time. There's a revamp on the DS that's just as good as this, if not better, but this one is still worth playing due to its curious quirks. If you want to learn a bit more about the series and its games, just click the title on the left to go to a semi-incomplete page that some jackass made.
The classic JRPG by Square. Make a party of 4 characters from 6 different jobs. Mix and match these six choices, even choosing more than one of the same job. If that wasn't enough, at a certain story point, ALL of your 4 allies promote to better classes. This has a rather epic storyline that to this day, still requires a long window of time to beat. FF1 got remade and ported to a number of systems, said remakes added, fixed, and altered several things to be more in line with later FF games. The GBA and PSP versions are the easiest. The GBA version may not look or sound as pretty as the PSP version, but the action flows faster and also comes with Final Fantasy II's remake. This was the game that made Square into a household name long before Final Fantasy VII.
The Magic of Scheherazade
A diamond in the rough. Incredibly ambitious and, for the most part, actually follows through on it. Mixes action battles and exploration along with turn-based event battles. The ideas and puzzles are fairly well-executed, but it does have a few odd design choices, such as having "lives" and passwords. Still, you should give it a shot. Many would call it Culture Brain's masterpiece, and it's definitely not a bad game in its own right. There's quite a few resources and fan-pages for this, should you bump into trouble. Like this one
An RPG developed by HAL, creators of Kirby and Super Smash Bros. Arcana is a great little JRPG with a lot of heart. Grab some loot in town and head out into whatever dungeon is next on your list. You explore dungeons from a first-person, Phantasy Star-esque perspective, but this game features a VERY helpful map. Battles are standard turn-based fare with random encounters. Even though monsters and characters are displayed on cards, nothing about the game is really card-based. Other characters will come and go in the story, but you always have one space in your party for different elemental beings that travel and fight alongside you. You collect more of these beings as the game progresses. This game's soundtrack is composed by the guy who scores the Kirby games. Kirby music. In an RPG. This game features a lot of polish and is truly a hidden gem. No Virtual Console release yet, but it's not a hard game to find.
Breath of Fire
A JRPG by Capcom. Your hometown's destroyed, your sister's kidnapped, and an evil empire is running amok. What next, a dragon? Unlike other RPGs, You ARE the Dragon! As a dragon-man, you can transform into a dragon to kick some evil ass. Later on, certain party members can fuse together. Despite the setup being rather dull, the story fleshes itself out in very unique and touching ways, with a number of unexpected twists. It also has great music. It was ported to the GBA with a few additions, most notably the 'run' button and added EXP. The GBA version is recommended to make the game less tedious.
Breath of Fire II
You are still the dragon, but not the same one, as this takes place centuries later. You can now power up party members with elemental shamans you find, and build/run your own town later on. This game features a pretty twisted story as well. It was also ported to the GBA with a few additions, similar to Breath of Fire I (EXP gain and the run button, mostly). The localization for both is horrendous though, and there's a superior translation patch for this (with a run button!). Also has great music like the first. The series continues on Playstation 1 with BoF III.
Active Time Battle
A classic time-traveling JRPG by Square. Great visuals, fantastic music, an imaginative story, and gameplay that best utilizes the classic ATB system out of any game that has it. Considered to be one of the best RPGs of all time.
A quirky, humorous, deep and emotional RPG, parodying the JRPG style with western pop culture. Some may love it for its 'deep' story but even if you don't go for that kinda thing you'll still love the fuck outta this!
Final Fantasy IV
Active Time Battle
A classic by Square. This was one of the first games to have a more complex storyline, and it introduced the ATB system used in many of its successors. Regarded by some as probably the best intro to the series for beginners.
Final Fantasy VI
Active Time Battle
AAnother classic JRPG by Square. It has a large and varied cast of characters that can be customized by equipping Magicite on them. Translation is a lot better than FF2us. Great music, widely contested to be the best in the series. The SNES version is noted for having LOADSAEXPLOITS, many of which can be used by the player to become overpowered, especially Vanish+Doom.
Illusion of Gaia
The second game in Quintet's Heaven and Earth/Soul Blazer series. A young boy with psychic powers named Will beats up monsters with a flute. He also obtains the ability to transform into powerful warriors with their own abilities. This game is noteworthy for having you travel around places that strongly resemble cultural and historical sites in our own reality and also its rather dark, but VERY well done, story and soundtrack.
Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals
Traditional Turn-Based Dungeon Crawler
This game is a through-and-through traditional JRPG. Still, it pulls it off with GREAT music and writing. It also features Zelda-like puzzle dungeons.
Metal Max Returns
Although the Style category says otherwise, this game is hardly "traditional" in many ways. Starts out a bit weak with only a few options for equipment and very few places to go. Then you get your first tank (yes, there's more), then you unlock the region gate, and soon you realize there's much more to the world and many dangerous areas and foes await. Thankfully, there's many more weapons and items to find as well, along with new vehicles and equipment to customize said vehicles with. The best part is that the game doesn't hold your hand at all. Good luck! Only released in Japan, but has a fan-translation patch. Has a spiritual successor released in US/English called Metal Saga on PS2.
Secret of Mana
Another widely-loved Action RPG by Square. Up to three people can play simultaneously. It expands on the weapon and magic abilities of Final Fantasy Adventure for Game Boy, the first Mana title. Magic is aligned to various spirits and each has their own sets of spells. This really setup the Mana series and the various mythos, along with elements and characteristics that it is so well known for today: weapon skills, tough bosses, pleasant visuals, great gameplay, and incredible soundtracks.
The first game in Quintet's Heaven and Earth/Soul Blazer series. In this spiritual successor to Actraiser, God/The Master sends down a hero to save the world from Deathtoll, the big bad that the stupid king struck a deal with. The music is awesome (and strangely groovy for this sort of world it takes place in), and the game itself is a lot of fun, but kinda hard at times. As an early title, it's a little stiff control-wise, but the later games in the series improved this, so fear not.
Super Mario RPG
Timed hits, saving the princess, Geno, Mallow, and one of the most fun RPGs made by Square. Has an awesome soundtrack. As well as incredible characters and bosses with many colorful and awesome environments. Dear god, play this now. Has a spiritual successor in the Paper Mario series, which has a spiritual successor in the Mario and Luigi series.
The third game in Quintet's Heaven and Earth/Soul Blazer series. Ark, a boy from the underworld village of Crysta, is tasked with the creation and resurrection of the overworld. Considered by some as the best non-Ninendo release of the SNES due to its awesome soundtrack and gameplay, complex storyline and mind blowing graphics.
Uncharted Waters: New Horizons
A game about nautical adventures with an awesome soundtrack and good plot. You can choose role of merchant, adventurer, combater by choosing different characters as protagonist.
A game in the vein of Startropics, Ys, and Zelda, with elements of each (platforming, multiple weapons, and hidden passages). Starts a bit slow, but picks up fast. The action's a little stiff, but still enjoyable. The bosses start small, but some TAKE UP MORE THAN THE SCREEN CAN SHOW. The story has some neat twists that'll keep you playing and the action only gets better.
a.k.a. "Langrisser Hikari" Sequel to Warsong. Story and dialog are a bit better and the massive ass fields full of foes are just as impressive. Although Der Langrisser is preferable, this version is still great, and has some of the best non-CD-based music of the series (especially compared to the SNES version's music, which is just bad).
The first 16-bit Phantasy Star. A number of things have been removed or added since the original, but for the most part, everything has been improved. Although a bit old, it is an RPG with some strongly emotional scenes, which makes up for the difficulty. For a very early title, this game has some pretty impressive visuals.
Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom
The "black sheep" of the Phantasy Star series. Several things here work unlike any other entry. One interesting aspect is that at end of the first two "generations" of heroes, you'll choose who to marry. This affects your child's stats and abilities, alters what adventures they go on, and adds replayability as well. Sadly, previous generations do NOT help their kids (due to plot restrictions), but your two robot pals are always ready to help any generation combo.
Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
The most refined of the classic PS series, adding in-party talks, macros, spell/skill combos, faster-moving everything, and more. You don't need to play the past games to enjoy this, though it may dull the impact of some connections if you don't at least read up on them first. This team would later make Skies of Arcadia on Dreamcast, which is also great. Beware level 99 without a patch or cheat device to fix the bug.
Arguably, Sega's answer to Fire Emblem. Both have units with different stats, classes, abilities, and promotions. However, Shining Force has out-of-battle exploration of towns and battlefields to stock up and meet new allies, instead of everything done mid-battle. This has harder odds at times, but is more forgiving as there's no perma-death. The Shining series has great music, decent visuals, and a unique flair that's been spun-off into other games and genres under the its name.
Shining Force II
This is even longer than the first! Exploration has a stronger role with some more freedom. Some classes have alternate promotion options as well. The soundtrack variety is not as strong as the first, and some of the more chatty characters are a little annoying, but the gameplay is much improved, including the difficulty. Not to mention the visuals are vastly superior to the previous games and are some of the best on the whole system.
Shining in the Darkness
Turn-Based Dungeon Crawler
Dungeon crawler that started 'Shining' franchise. Visuals really aren't the series best, though they display the well-known whimsical fantasy in character and monster designs. Not so hard for a crawler, but the mazes are somehow complicated, challenging, and have a number of secrets to find. Has some really cool music as well, though the normal battle theme can get annoying.
The first in the Langrisser series. Great tactics game, with deep gameplay, epic battles, and lots of unit-types. Mechanics are based around commanders and their armies, like a fusion of Fire Emblem and Famicon Wars. Commanders are stronger and level up, but your grunts are generic fodder, meant for protection (they get slight buffs when near their commanders) and taking out other grunts. It's kinda basic in story and dialog, but great in terms of strategy and colossal battlefields filled with troops. Hidden gem as the series wasn't otherwise released in US and Europe.
A turn-based RPG about some kid, Pike, who saw his parents get assraped by monsters when he was an infant and afterwards he was raised by furries (harpies). Then, his adopted sister is turned to stone and it's up to him and a TALKING SWORD to find the cure and stop those evil magicians from turning the world's races against each other and resurrecting the ancient god.
Panzer Dragoon Saga
Schmup Turn Based
Free roaming exploratory levels either on foot or by dragon with loads to do. Your dragon evolves here too like in Zwei and Orta. Battles are turn based but with real time maneuvering that lets you angle attacks and perform certain strategies and may include multiple enemies that generally have multiple points which you can combat using your attacks, items, or berserks (spells).
The Legend of Oasis
Successor and Prequel to Beyond Oasis on the Genesis/Mega Drive. Has similar concepts of utilizing elemental spirits.
You play an egg-shaped robot recently dug out of a ruin and re-activated, now trying to uncover your past. A Zeldalike overhead action-RPG with impossibly pretty hand-drawn environments. Good luck getting past those gates, you'll see. Boss battles are 3D arena battles, by contrast. A great, underlooked DC title.
Evolution: The World of Sacred Device
Traditional Turn-Based/Dungeon Crawler
Lighthearted JRPG that has you trying to get out of debt by exlporing randomized dungeons filled with traps and finding artifacts and treasure. Typical JRPG turn based combat, now with 50% more status effects.
Turn-Based/Active Time Battle
Though unrelated story-wise, Grandia II follows its PS predecessor in spirit. The protagonist is refreshingly sarcastic and distrustful of the various, colorful characters who join his party, all of which have their own charms. Once again, the character-driven story and battle system, which combines active-time battles with turn-based strategy, are the main draws. Gets sappy towards the end, but who cares.
Skies of Arcadia
One of the best JRPGs of its generation, which follows the exploits of womanizing, skyfaring steampunk pirate Vyse, who explores airborne islands and engages in large-scale airship battles with his crew, along with standard JRPG combat. Everything about this game is immensely enjoyable and a treat for fans of the adventure anime-inspired JRPG.
A Zelda-esque overhead action-adventure with light RPG elements where you play as a boy who can explore people's dreams. It's visually pleasant, there's lots of secrets to uncover, and the well-told story has some refreshingly somber tones. However this game is much more puzzle-intensive than your average Zelda, and some can get frustratingly hard. Expect some silly out-of-place dialogue courtesy of Working Designs.
Arc the Lad Collection
A fantasy RPG trilogy localized by Working Designs, with a monster arena/casino side-game thrown in. The first game is a basic but satisfying adventure with grid-based, SRPG-style combat. The second game follows the first directly (but has you play as the first game's antagonist), refines the combat, is much more expansive, has an excellent story, and is the best overall. The third game is an unnecessary and uninspired regression to the first that the team originally didn't want to do, but is still "okay."
Explore a tower of randomly-generated floors and slay monsters in roguelike-style combat, where death means the loss of items and progress. Outside of the tower you can hatch and raise companion monsters, help build up your town, and indulge in a limited dating sim feature. The sprite work is kind of ugly, but it has that PS1 RPG charm.
Breath of Fire III
A traditional, turn-based JRPG set in a fantasy world populated by anthropomorphic beings. Features limited character customization, and side-activities such as fishing and raising a fairy village. Beautiful sprite work and fluid combat transitions. Very long, even for a JRPG. Regularly considered the best entry in the series.
Breath of Fire IV
Similar in most ways to its predecessor, but with a more Far East-inspired setting. Features a less focused story, but a more memorable villain. Activities like fishing and the fairy village return, while combat is more fast-paced and streamlined. Once again, beautiful sprite work and animations.
Brigandine: The Legend of Forsena
A highly replayable SRPG; pick one of six nations and take over the continent with your knights and monsters. Each nation has its own ruler and story, and the AI is competent.
An experimental JRPG with only loose connections to Chrono Trigger. Features over forty obtainable party members, a grinding-free level-up system, and a philosophically-inclined story. Very easy. Sublime ambient soundtrack and gorgeous, pre-rendered stages with dreamlike art direction. A controversial and ambitious game.
Essentially, this amounts to Tamagotchi with a lot of exploration. The "Digimon World" is a huge land with tons of secrets. The goal of the game is to recruit Digimon to revive File City. Although a bit unforgivingly difficult at first, once you start recruiting some Digimon, the game is extremely addicting.
Digimon World 2
Dungeon Crawler/Monster Collecting
Digimon World 2 is a good sequel though very different. It's a dungeon crawling RPG where you can recruit different digimon to fight for you(up to three per battle). What's interesting is that there's a cap for each digimon and to raise that cap you have to start fusing them ending up with a different party all the time.
Digimon World 3
Digimon World 3 is a run-of-the-mill RPG. Not bad, but load times do hurt it. The EU version is better since you can keep playing after the ending. Features a rather limited cast of playable Digimon compared to the first two and borrow quite a few elements from the portable Pokemon games, like "Gym" battles.
In a world flooded by global warming, scientists discover dragon-like creatures long frozen in the now-thawed Antarctica, which are cloned and spliced, resulting in many races of beasts used in battles for profit and sport. A monster-raising sim with more customization than usual, and an engrossing time sink.
Dragon Warrior VII
A famously huge game at its time of release, even for the Dragon Quest series. DWVII didn't make any massive changes to the tried-and-true formula of the franchise, though it features an especially lovable cast of characters and a remarkably put-together story, even if it's muddled by all the padding. The game has you constantly traveling between the past and present, which can lead to a lot of boring back-and-forth, but most back-tracking can be avoided through shortcuts. Though it has a really slow first couple hours and generally requires patience (especially for the Dharma Temple), it's worth sticking with if you have the time. Series newcomers may struggle with it.
A very basic SRPG in the style of Final Fantasy Tactics where you fuse magical gems to an army of puppets to shape their skillset; you can also combine them to form stronger units, but this system is very unreliable and sometimes results in weaker ones. While the presentation is lacking and the story is boring (often with 5-6 battles between any story scenes), controls are tight and combat is solid at its core (with an overall low level of challenge), sure to satisfy anyone desperate for more of that rare FFT-style action on the console.
Final Fantasy VII
Active Time Battle
One of the most popular video games of all time. A turn-based JRPG with an innovative, fantasy steampunk setting and an emotional story. Its unique art direction, memorable character designs, and excellent soundtrack have made it a classic of the genre. Features limited character customization and lots of side-content, including two optional party members and several optional bosses.
Final Fantasy VIII
Active Time Battle
SquareSoft was under a lot of pressure to follow up FFVII, and what resulted was a strange game with a grandiloquent central romance, crazy (and beautiful) sci-fantasy settings, and a Draw system that still has the fandom split. It seems like Square tried to one-up FFVII in every way and came up with a game that is very inconsistent, but interesting. Has its diehard fans and haters. Worth at least a try for series fans. Gameplay aside, the music is some of the best in the entire FF series.
Final Fantasy IX
Active Time Battle
With the changing aesthetics and themes of FFVII and VIII, this game was a return to the lighthearted fantasy of the NES/SNES titles, with more cartoony characters and lots of callbacks to FFI-VI. A solid game with a shiny coat of nostalgia.
Final Fantasy Anthology
Active Time Battle
A collection of Final Fantasy V and VI with some new features and cutscenes. Was the first time V released in the USA with an authentic translation. Has some sucky load times for battles.
Final Fantasy Tactics
A grid-based SRPG set in Ivalice and penned by Yasumi Matsuno. The job system is addictive and fun, but somewhat nullified by the broken characters you recruit later on. The story revolves around political unrest and clashing ideologies, but later devolves into DEMONS! fare. It is still an engrossing SRPG.
Front Mission 3
Square's Front Mission series usually stays in Japan on account of being about international politics and giant robots, but this game was very competently localized. Play through two different scenarios (each one over 30 hours long) witnessing a confict from different sides, where characters do the best they can in a morally ambiguous setting. Combat is grid-based and turn-based, where you use skills and strategy to destroy enemy robots' body parts, and can even eject your pilots to hijack your opponents' machines. Robot customization is a deep and essential part of progressing. If you can get past the ugly, muddled combat visuals and stiff animations, you'll find an engrossing game.
Active Time Battle
Fantasy JRPG with a thrilling combat system that combines real-time action with pausing for commands, and emphasizes timing. The story is heavily character-driven and imbued with a sense of warmth that is similar to the LUNAR games (they share the same developer). Very easy, and lacking in optional content.
Kartia: The Word of Fate
An obscure SRPG with character designs by Final Fantasy's Yoshitaka Amano. Entirely linear, you play through two separate stories with different protagonists which eventually intertwine. Summoning and upgrading your troops all revolves around Kartia, magical cards. Very tense and melodramatic plot.
Kagero: Deception II
The unique Deception series revolves around setting up deadly traps in your castle to kill uninvited guests in the most points-racking way possible. This time traps can interact with each other for combos, and there are multiple endings.
Action RPG/Dungeon Crawler
Actually King's Field II in Japan, the first game was never localized (but has been fan-translated). King's Field is the grandaddy of Demon's/Dark Souls, and has the same claustrophobic, dreadful atmosphere and sadistic difficulty. You are dropped on a cursed island with no backstory and have complete freedom to progress, which is made by finding keys, secret doors and new weaponry. The aged graphics and rudimentary, first-person interface haven't dampered its charms, but it's not for everyone.
The Legend of Dragoon
Billed as the competition of Final Fantasy VII upon release due to its long story and state-of-the-art graphics, Legend of Dragoon is really a fairly conventional fantasy RPG. The story has a bit of an eighties cartoon vibe (the characters wear dragon-themed power suits), and the graphics still hold up today, with some neat art direction and cool settings. However, the story is very long and dragged-out, and the battle system, which uses timed hits similar to Paper Mario, can get really tedious. It has a cult following, still hoping for a sequel.
Legend of Legaia
The world has been covered in evil mist, and it's up to you to go from town to town figuring out ways to push it back and ultimately, destroy the Mist Generators in each region. A beautiful 3D RPG with lots of great extras, and a wonderful fighter-like combat system, which allows each playable character to perform several special moves right from the moment you recruit them (Think Sabin from FF6, but without knowing the commands right off the bat). As you level up, the amount of moves you can perform per turn increases and more powerful\complex combos can be executed. Also features a "Magic" system that involves copying the abilities of regular critters and using them in your favor.
Legend of Mana
Atmosphere: the Game. Another way of describing it is Side Quests the game, almost all quests feel like side quests, but actually contribute to the main story while usually leading you to the ending, all without you knowing it. The harder modes are absolutely beyond brutal.
LUNAR: The Silver Star Story Complete
Classic JRPG adventure with a lovable cast and vibrant setting. Excellent score and highly entertaining writing, well-localized for its time (though the team took some liberties). Developed by Game Arts, also behind the Grandia series, which has much of the same "kids on an adventure" vibe. Traditional, turn-based combat system with some limited tactics. Not a hardcore RPG, but one for fans of heartwarming stories.
LUNAR 2: Eternal Blue Complete
Distant sequel to LUNAR, with a new core cast but similar story beats and writing. Turn-based combat also returns without major changes, though the game as a whole is harder. The tone is also more serious, though with lots of room for humor.
Monster Rancher 2
A monster raising game with a fun battle system, Monster Rancher 2 improved upon every aspect of the original. You can create new monsters by inserting any CDs. If you play it on PS3, you can even use DVDs and Blu-Ray discs!
Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen
An enhanced port of the SNES tactical classic. Part of a long, incomplete fantasy saga. Great combat and story. Made by Quest, which would later develop Tactics Ogre and FFT.
Active Time Battle/Survival Horror
An RPG with elements of Resident Evil-style survival horror. The combat system is similar to Vagrant Story in its combination of free movement with pausing for commands. Set in contemporary New York with a twisted, sci-fi story and grotesque monster designs. Short and entirely linear, but features a lengthy New Game+ dungeon. Excellent electronic soundtrack and art direction.
Parasite Eve 2
Survival Horror/Action RPG
Closer to the Resident Evil formula, with more static camera angles and big, grotesque boss fights. Continues the story directly and features some Aya fanservice as well as quite a bit of replay value, and is in general underrated.
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment
Turn Based/Monster Collecting
Unlike the first chapter of Persona 2, this one did come out in the US. It directly follows the story of Innocent Sin and plays almost exactly like it, spell cards and fusion spells included. However, it also introduces a full new cast.
Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure
Cute fantasy RPG with an anime-inspired fairy tale setting and a comical, non-serious story. Features turn-based combat on a grid, where multiple units can be moved and commanded. An extremely easy game with virtually no optional content and somewhat boring gameplay, but fun dialogue and entertaining musical numbers.
Guide one of seven people through seven different quests and countless worlds in a quest...well, to do a lot of things, really. Highly customizable characters and a fast-paced battle system; suffers from high difficulty and the developers running out of time/money at the end.
SaGa Frontier 2
This one is a bit different from the other SaGa games, as it uses a scenario system, where each scenario advances the story a bit. Aside from that it is still classic SaGa. You have two main characters, with their stories running in parallel and eventually crossing over, spanning over various decades. Some scenarios merely advance the story, while others feature a barebones duel battle which mixes regular battles with some strategy elements.
Saiyuki: Journey West
Based on the nineties anime Saiyuki, which is in turn based on the classic Chinese epic Journey to the West. You play as the human priest/ess (you can pick) Sanzo, who travels along with his/her motley crew of were-buddies. Similar to FFT in presentation and combat, though the learning curve is very uneven. The Auto-battle is awesome though, and makes any grinding you need to do (if any) a breeze.
Star Ocean: The Second Story
Sci-fi/fantasy RPG with an action-based, three dimensional battle system. Highly customizable skill system, massive item creation system, and so bad it's hilarious voice acting.
Turn Based/Human Collecting
Turn-based fantasy JRPG with 108 obtainable characters (not all can be used in battle). Improve your headquarters by adding new features and functions. Though low on visual appeal or innovation (it could easily be a SNES game), it's a brisk and fun JRPG with virtually no grinding and a consistent challenge level.
Turn Based/Human Collecting
The sequel to Suikoden. Play as a solider who ends up leading an entire army against his old allies. Criminally under-rated; is one of the best RPGs on the system. Is considered by most to be the best in the series, and has one of the greatest villains of video gaming, the legendary Luca Blight.
This is actually a sequel to Ogre Battle 64 and the later GBA prequel, Knight of Lodis. Plays like Final Fantasy Tactics (which is unsurprising since they were made by many of the same people), but more challenging with balanced strategy (Although there are some exploits that might make the game too easy later on, and they aren't exactly hard to notice). Release date confusion had this called an FFT ripoff, which is ironically not the case. Do not overlook this game if you are a fan of the Ogre series or SRPGs in general.
Tales of Destiny
The first Tales game to be localized. The Tales series is known for fairly generic anime fantasy games, but with a memorable cast of characters, and a fully active battle system. Tales of Destiny has an especially likable main cast, which helps carry the story. But the combat, which is fully active and takes place on a 2D plane, can feel very clunky and slow. The graphics also look rather basic. The game allows local co-op multi-player, but it only works in battle. Overall, you should play this if you're more into RPGs for the characters than anything.
Tales of Destiny II
Most Tales games take place in their own self-contained universe, and this game has no continuity with Tales of Destiny; it's called Tales of Eternia in Japan. (Ironically, an actual Tales of Destiny 2 was released later for the PS2.) In comparison to Destiny this game has a rather boring cast of flat anime stereotypes, and the story certainly hasn't improved. However, the combat system is a lot faster, more fluid, and fun overall, plus the graphics have significantly improved (especially in-battle). Unlike the previous game, you should get this if you're into RPGs for the gameplay.
Turn Based/Dating Sim
A parodic, referential RPG where you date girls to power up your sword. Subtle. The combat and graphics are somewhat barebones, but the humor and ecchi elements manage to carry the game for the most part. One of the few RPGs where flirting with chicks serves some significantly pragmatic purposes.
Threads of Fate
A one-off SquareSoft game where you play as either a boy or girl protagonist. Though both have minor story and gameplay differences (the boy can shape-shift while the girl uses magic), progression is basically the same, and playing as the girl is recommended because her dialogue is hilarious, while the boy has a cardboard-cutout personality. Structured kind of like a Zelda title, with an interconnected overworld and underground dungeons full of puzzles. Though it has some frustrating platform segments and somewhat tedious combat, the neat, crisp graphics and entertaining story (if you picked the girl) make it worth a try for sure.
Action RPG/Weapon Customization
Another jewel by Matsuno, an action game with a moody Gothic-pop atmosphere and Shakespeare references left and right. Boasts an excellent story and a ridiculously in-depth weapon customization system. Takes place in the same universe as Final Fantasy XII and Tactics
An Tri-Ace title based on Norse mythology; as a valkyrie, you must recruit valiant souls to fight for the side of good as the Ragnarök approaches. Combat and exploration are involving, as they mix platformer and traditional RPG elements together, and the story is sparse, albeit very appealing. Every recruited character has their own backstory. There are multiple endings: Differently from most games, this title relies on a rather large number of factors to determine which one you'll get; After your first playthrough, a rerun using a guide is recommended, since the A Ending, often regarded as the best, requires a set of specific, non-intuitive measures. A very innovative and bold game which gives a lot of freedom to the player and stray away from the comfort zone set by some of its contemporaries.
Similar in gameplay to Final Fantasy Tactics, you control several characters who move across grid-based maps and engage enemies by turns. Vandal Hearts has a bit of a dark fantasy style going on, and though the story is unimpressive, it's well-thought out. The meat of the game is really fun, because the polygonal maps are full of detail and varied terrain, with lots of things to interact with, varied mission objectives, and hidden items. It has a fair level of difficulty, and though the class system is somewhat broken, it's overall one of the best SRPGs of its generation, with decent replay value to boot.
Vandal Hearts II
A high quality strategy game. Isn't real-time, but after selecting your actions, they are executed at the same time as the enemies'. This can lead to a lot of chasin' bitches around the map for no reason. Characters are incredibly bland, especially in comparison to the first game.
A fantasy medieval SRPG, except everyone climbs into giant robots to fight! Includes a big, mostly likeable cast and story varying from a total trainwreck to rock-solid depending on which route you're playing. Combat is fun, as individual duels between mechs get very tense. It's not very polished, but what's there is quite entertaining. Also, for a game with barely any voice acting, it has an exceptional American dub.
The planet Filgaia is under attack by demons. Are you a bad enough dude to save Filgaia? Incredible music, various firearms, learnable sword skills, a neat magic system, and an interesting Wild West setting make this one worth playing. The graphics are kind of weak, but still have many cool visual effects.
Wild Arms 2
A non-linear sequel to Wild Arms with a notably darker tone and the same excellent style of music. You play as a dude with a bigass bayonet who later fuses with some seemingly evil guy. As a result, he can transform for major asskicking. The translation isn't great, but it's acceptable.
A traditional JRPG with a hugely ambitious sci-fi/mecha plot that touches on analytic philosophy and Jungian psychology. Turn-based combat and a lengthy story. Its super-slow pacing, occasional frustrating platforming, and general lack of gameplay on disc two have limited its appeal, but it has a strong cult following. Just be aware that it's a bumpy ride.
A unique entry in RPG history. A hybrid between fighting game and turn-based battle sim, player manuevers protagonist in a playing field until in position to attack, or be attacked. A very much overlooked title that tried something new.
Ogre Battle 64
Fuck long SRPG with a sweeping story and high degree of customization. Great replay-ability.
An RPG set in a paper cutout version of the Mario universe and imbued with untold amounts of charm and personality. Easy, turn-based and simple battle system where you play as Mario and one of multiple supporting partners, but perfectly-paced and balanced progress, never hitting a snag or lull like most JRPGs. The vibrant dialogue and smart fleshing-out of the Marioverse help a lot as well.
Combines the action and combos of a brawler with the structure of a roguelike. Play as three distinct characters and progress through multi-floor dungeons full of monsters and items. Death means the loss of all progress, but you can send in a second character to rescue their fallen comrade. There's a sci-fi story somewhere in the background, but it doesn't really make sense. It does have appealing, cel-shaded visuals, and varied enemies with unique attack patterns. Has an especially brutal post-game dungeon as well.
Action RPG/City Building
Dungeon-crawling action-RPG with a unique "dark fairy tale" style. Features roguelike elements as well as a city-building sim feature that's potentially just as engrossing as the main game. The story's okay, though it definitely drops the ball a bit towards the end. Very atmospheric. Unfortunately quite easy, but worth playing regardless.
Dark Cloud 2
Action RPG/City Building
A bigger sequel in every way, with more content, more side-activities, two playable characters with distinct abilities, and a grander story. There's a new, cel-shaded graphical style to go along with it. In always every way this is the superior game, although the style is very kiddy and cookie-cutter compared to the first game. Probably one of the best PS2 games to sink over a hundred hours into.
Disgaea: Hour of Darkness
The main conceit of the Disgaea series (and most NIS titles) is level-grinding, which becomes its own zen-like purpose. Level up your characters, your monsters and your items on endlessly-generated grid maps. The characters and story, which parody and celebrate otaku culture, and the sprite-based, doujin-esque presentation are also part of the appeal. (It's worth mentioning that endless grinding is not necessary if you just want to beat the game.)
Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories
Has the exact same presentation and basic gameplay as the first game, now with a (mostly) new cast and a somewhat more serious story typical for a JRPG, with multiple endings. Main characters have more distinct fighting styles, while creating your own class-based warriors no longer feels as necessary. There's a lot of very challenging post-game content to be explored, though.
Turn-Based Board Game
One of the strangest concepts turned into one of the most fun party games ever. Think Mario Party or Monopoly combined with Dragon Quest; it's all about who has the most money, and you go around leveling up and conquering towns to make it. Tons of things to do as well; multiple classes, weapons, hidden dungeons, etc. Worth picking up if you'll have friends to play it with.
Dragon Quest VIII: The Journey of the Cursed King
Dragon Quest may not be the most innovative JRPG series ever, but they've perfect its turn-based combat system down to the finest detail which makes it a dream to play. It's still very challenging and grind-intensive, though. The explorable world is massive and beautifully toon-shaded, with a rousing orchestral score, and the content is endless. The kind of game you could lose yourself in for months. Plus, the main cast is pretty basic, but eminently likeable.
An unusually dark and nightmarish JRPG with hack-n-slash gameplay. Combat gets boring and repetitive pretty fast, and players will be mostly propelled by the uniquely broken cast, twisting story, and mature narrative approach. At least you get to ride dragons, and some boss battles are cool. NiER (PS3) is distantly related. Drakengard 2 (PS2) is much more playable and less grinding-intensive, but everything else about it is horribly cookie-cutter and generic, ironically.
Final Fantasy X
A very traditional series entry in terms of gameplay, with active turn-based combat and characters with traditional class roles, while still allowing for customization in character growth. Very pretty to look at, with a tropical, Polynesian-inspired setting, though progression is very on-rails. The story is a point of contention, while most agree that the English voice acting is disappointing. It's still a neat and accessible JRPG with great production values and some gorgeous locales.
Final Fantasy X-2
Active Time Battle
Unexpectedly a direct sequel to Final Fantasy X. The story's fairly silly at times, and seems to defeat the whole point of the previous game at others. However the combat system is entertaining because the characters can change class in the middle of battle, complete with matching outfits. This makes for very engaging fights, even if some classes are more fun than they are useful. Also features the first canon all-female main cast in an FF game.
Final Fantasy XII
Active Time Battle
A more open-world and "Western" Final Fantasy in terms of presentation. Has a real-time, command-based combat system that some people find relaxing, while others feel like the game plays itself as it's not very engaging. However the game world is rich and beautiful, the cast is memorable (aside from the protagonist), and there's a ton of side-content. Partially written and directed by Yasumi Matsuno, so expect more political intrigue and less mind-bending twists.
Sequel to the ill-received Evergrace, this From Software-developed game (makers of Dark Souls) is an action-RPG where players progress through large areas, defeating strange and unique-looking monsters. The game has great creature design and a pleasant, colorful look, though it can look empty and drab as well. Very resource-intensive, players will have to stay on their toes in order to avoid death at the hands of regular mooks in the later stages. In some ways it's a precursor to the Dark Souls series, though lacking its depth and atmosphere. However, it can be relaxing and zen-like in its own way, especially if you enjoy Phantasy Star Online-style grindfests.
Front Mission 4
A slightly disappointing entry in the mecha strategy RPG series. Pretty much everything stays the same: complex political storyline, turn-based combat, and expansive mecha customization. However, the game has a sort of bland look and the lack of extra content makes it feel rushed. It's still a fairly lengthy and difficult game that will satisfy series fans, but not the best entry point for newbies.
Front Mission 5: Scars of the War
The final entry in the series is also the best, a culmination of the franchise's dense and powerful story. The visuals and music received a major upgrade, and the massive-scale battles of Front Mission 2 return. The story's great on its own, but it has hundreds of cameos and references for dedicated fans. Combat has improved mechanically and aesthetically. You are also allowed to recruit your own pilots, and explore an optional "dungeon" for gear. Japan-only, but an English fan translation has been completed.
Disney/Square crossover that became super-popular. Sora is a kid whose home was destroyed by "The Heartless", and he journeys to different Disney film worlds with Donald and Goofy to rescue his friends, home, and "The King". There's a cornball story to explain this, but combat is the main meat. It's fun and active, with melee, magic, and special techs. Even customize your abilities and what style to main. There's also some (bland) shooting segments as you voyage between worlds. Everything looks quite pretty, the music's great, and the bosses are quite impressive. Final Fantasy 7 and FF8 characters also appear. Even if you don't keep up with the series, at least give this a try.
Kingdom Hearts II
Three Hour Tutorial. If you survive that, there's lots of new Disney worlds to explore and revisit, and presentation is polished and impressive. Combat has sped up to be a hectic melee fest and downplays magic thanks to quick-time events. Boss battles get even bigger and more visually assaulting here. The melodrama has been amped-up significantly, so you may end up scene-skipping. If you like the story, Chain of Memories comes before this chronologically.
Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories
Action RPG/Card Battler
A remake of the GBA game Chain of Memories which helps fill some gaps between KH1 and 2. This version includes several new story scenes and boss battles. Battling is a real-time card-based affair, which takes some getting used to, but still plays like KH. The Disney worlds take the form of randomly-generated rooms which you have some control over; the worlds themselves are all recycled from KH.
Play a strategy game by NIS (Disgaea, Phantom Brave, Mana Khemia, Soul Nomad) where you find a book with a villainous soul inside. Great time-waster, very humorous. To unlock everything, you have to play through it multiple times. That said, it's easy to blow through with your new game+ parties, but the unlocked bosses can be assholes.
Monster Rancher 4
Arguably the best Monster Rancher game on the system. In this game, you can create hundreds monsters made from scanning any number of CDs, DVDs, PS1 games, or PS2 games. Seriously, you could spend hours, not even touching the main game, just rummaging through your house to try and find your favorite CD's to check out what monsters are in them. You can raise up to 5 of these monsters on an ever growing ranch, feeding them, training them, going on adventures with them, and competing in really awesome tournaments. Try not to get too attached to your monsters, because they age and die. And you'll miss them. ;_;
Monster Rancher EVO
This game gets a lot of flak from being different from the first four Monster Rancher games, and you know what? That's retarded. As far as summoning monster from CDs/DVDs goes, it's exactly the same. So is battling. The difference is in the training. Instead of signing your monster up for some job and then watching a pass/fail clip, you play a short mini-game where they take part in the circus you live in. The game also tries to add a story (it's not very good, but hey you don't gotta care about it), and actually let's you EXPLORE with your monster, which is totally new. The rest is the same; same battling, same cryogenically freezing and fusing, and all that other junk. It's a good game, and in some ways, better than 4, if you can get past the shitty story segments.
2D side-scrolling RPG that takes place inside a book. Choose one of five heroes armed with magical soul-sucking weapons and stab/shoot/spear/whip the hell out of anything that gets in your way. Gorgeous bosses and engrossing story; quite a bit of lag in certain areas/against certain bosses.
Okage: Shadow King
While the gameplay is very typical RPG flair, this game sets itself apart by having a fantastically gloomy and humorous atmosphere that feels like a Tim Burton/Henry Selnick movie animated by a Japanese mangaka. An early release on the PS2, it still stands out as a cult classic. This game wasn't programmed very well, so there's an annoying bug triggered by saving that results in your latest save file disappearing. Either save twice, or emulate this game and use save states. Don't let this bug ultimately put you off, though, it's a great game with a good sense of humor and superb soundtrack.
Loli necromancer and her phantom companions overcome prejudice, do odd jobs for money, save the world. Distinguished from other NI SRPGs in that the movement is not grid-based (which can be exploited, especially on ice levels) and that you can use literally anything you can pick up as a weapon. Even a fish. Even your opponents.
A JRPG where you play as a typical unruly teen boy in a fantasy world. The game's main draw is its persistent world filled with hundreds of characters with unique dialogue, backstories and schedules, most of which can be recruited. Fights are carried out in real-time, but all your allies are A.I.-controlled. Also, you can kick anything and anyone to find loot or start fights. A very fun game for collectors (requires multiple play-throughs to recruit everyone) that's light on story. Has post-game content.
Developed by the people behind Dark Cloud and similar in style and approach, but with a Star Wars-esque space opera setting. The story and characters are pretty nondescript but the gameplay is very fun, with active-time combat allowing for pausing to issue commands. The game boasts ridiculous amounts of side-content including massive optional sub-systems, which will keep you busy for weeks if not months. The cel-shaded graphics are pleasant and the world design is unoriginal, but colorful.
Delicious JRPG/WRPG fusion. Start the game as any of eight characters, each with their own quest. You don't have any fucking EXP or levels as your stats will levels up semi-randomly after battles with no apparent rhyme or reason. No hand holding bullshit here, either. After a character's opening quest, you have access to pretty much the entire world. You gotta find your own quests and figure that shit out on your own. Trying to understand all the systems, subsystems and other technical stuff going on will make your brain explode. You're better off to let things happen and enjoy the ride. This game is for masochists or for people who want something different in their JRPGs. English remake of the first game in the original SNES trilogy.
A JRPG where you play as Yuri, a "Harmonixer" who can basically turn into demons, who meets a girl named Alice, contemplates raping her (not even kidding), then decides to protect her. Do NOT play the first sequel, "Shadow Hearts: Covenant", without finishing this game first!
Shadow Hearts: Covenant
A turn-based JRPG with a cheekily dark and eccentric setting, an alternate-universe Europe during World War I where monsters and magic are commonplace. The bizarre party and supporting characters, coupled with its offbeat humor, are major points in favor, but when the story gets serious it also gets boring. Fortunately combat is great with a timed hits system to keep players engaged, and graphics, art direction, etc. are very strong. There's also quite a bit of side-content to be explored.
Shadow Hearts: From the New World
A lighter-hearted sequel to Shadow Hearts taking place in the United States in the 1920's/30's (it's hard to tell). The cast of characters is much more zany than the first game, and the plot much less serious, but the creatures are still just as messed up as always.
Shining Force EXA
This game has nothing to do with the original Shining Force series, but it's a neat isometric action-RPG. Play as two different characters with various companions and explore a cozy anime world with gorgeous, cel-shaded graphics. Surprisingly, the voice acting is competent and the cast is likable. A bit of a hidden gem if you want a Diablo-like game with weeaboo graphics.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner - Raidou Kuzunoha vs. The Soulless Army
Action RPG/Monster Collecting
A dame shows up at your detective agency and shit goes down. Find and rescue the dame as you uncover the mystery of the Red Cape, fightan demons and unearthing a conspiracy along the way. Skulk around Tokyo finding clues and using demon abilities to manipulate people and the environment. As with the sequel, random encounters leave you in an arena to shoot, slash, and summon demons to help you. While many prefer the second because Gee Bill, your mom lets you summon 2 demons! this one still has fun combat and Tokyo, the story, and boss designs are arguably better in this one. Unless you want the mystery spoonfed to you and love BUGS.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner 2 - Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon
Action RPG/Monster Collecting
An action RPG by Atlus, in which you play as the titular Raidou, a demon-taming private detective in 30s Japan. The story has you investigating some mysterious occurences in the city that eventually lead you to a far-away rural village. It's an unusual setting for the series, but ends up being pretty interesting. As for the gameplay, it's got awesome real-time combat, but you can also do the classic negotiations with demons to get them to join you. Demon fusions also have a greater emphasis on passive skills, unlike other games in the series. In general, it's an all-around improvement over the first Raidou game, and a different experience for SMT fans.
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga
Traditional Turn-Based/Monster Collecting
Another sub-series within SMT, Digital Devil Saga is about gangs fighting for control in a God-forsaken world who suddenly gain the ability to transform into powerful demons that cannibalize their enemies to absorb their powers. As you may have guessed, not everyone feels comfortable with this. You control a group of friends desperately fighting for the promise that, if they are the victors, they will reach Heaven and escape this world. Has an overarching Hindu theme. The skill system is more customizable than usual. Combat itself is standard SMT fare, although you learn new abilities by eating your enemies. The stark visuals are typical for the series and the story is practically a prologue for the sequel, cliffhanger ending and all.
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2
Traditional Turn-Based/Monster Collecting
Obviously, the whole heaven thing didn't work out like you thought it would. Now, you eat more people, and want to kill God in the process.
Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
Traditional Turn-Based/Monster Collecting
You control the Demi Fiend, a schoolboy turned into a demon whose actions will determine the shape of the world to come (our world has already ended). You can align yourself with one of several ideologies, which will affect the game's progression and ending. Recruit, fuse and use demons in battle; the Press Turn system heavily emphasizes exploiting the enemy's weaknesses to succeed. A very tough, intelligent and rewarding game. Did I mention that Dante from Devil May Cry is a recruitable demon?
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES
Traditional Turn-Based/Monster Collecting/Social Sim
The Persona series shares many motifs with mainline SMT, but features teenagers summoning mythological avatars (Personae) to fight evil. This game features a school life/dating sim portion where you establish relationships that influence your party's abilities. The other half is dungeon crawling, featuring a streamlined version of the Press Turn system from Nocturne. Its main shortcoming is your inability to directly control your companions, which can lead to some silly Game Overs. The FES version includes a lengthy quest separate from the main game with Aigis as protagonist.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
Traditional Turn-Based/Monster Collecting/Social Sim
Features streamlined mechanics compared to its predecessor (you can now control your party and get around more easily). This time you're the new guy in a sleepy, rural town solving a supernatural murder mystery with your Persona-using friends. It's more unabashedly Japanese than P3, as you will quickly discover, and takes even more time time to get going than its predecessor. Social Links are more interesting (though the characters are polarizing) and the aesthetic is YELLOW EVERYWHERE as opposed to P3's BLUE EVERYWHERE.
Play a strategy RPG where you are a pretty cool guy who doesn't afraid of eating souls. Superb, interesting game that is probably the best of the NIS SRPG games thanks to many aspects, but especially story and characterization. This says a lot considering how good the Disgaea series is. One of the few NIS games to not see a re-release or port.
Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
Play a strategy RPG where you are a pretty cool guy who doesn't afraid of eating souls. Superb, interesting game that is probably the best of the NIS SRPG games thanks to many aspects, but especially story and characterization. This says a lot considering how good the Disgaea series is. One of the few NIS games to not see a re-release or port.
Action RPG/Life Sim
A non-linear real-time RPG. Play however the fuck you want, from good to evil, without having to do it all through text choices. Think a steampunk Grand Theft Auto combined with Katamari's controls and Dark Cloud's levels of customization. Play music for a living, get a boring job, become a criminal, get an apartment, get laid, become a cage fighter, etc... Has some very obvious technical issues such as loading times and framerate, but it's not unplayable.
Chronologically takes place two decades before the first Suikoden title, but knowledge of the series isn't necessary to enjoy this. Recruit 108 different characters to build up your HQ. Quick, six-character battles with a skill customization system and lots of flavor and background to the world. Graphics, pacing and writing are all better than the last game, and this is considered the best Suikoden since the PlayStation days.
Tales of Legendia
An oddball entry in the long-running Tales series. Senel and his sister Shirley are adrift at sea when they come across a colossal island-ship where a bustling community has formed. Combat is the usual Tales fare, but lacks multi-player and Mystic Artes (or another form of "super attacks"), while character designs are more exaggerated and colorful than the usual high fantasy anime look. It's original in that the game is divided into an initial main quest which, after its conclusion, gives way to shorter quests that explore each main character's past. There are also fairly frequent anime scenes. Somewhat ignored by fans, you should give this a try for a different kind of Tales.
Tales of the Abyss
A successful entry in the Tales series and a fan favorite, it takes place in a world made up of six elementary particles called Fonons; when a seventh is discovered, it generates chaos and instability. The cast is varied and full of personality and there are abundant skits. It could also be said that the protagonist is a subversion of the typical silent protagonist, as he tends to say exactly what you're thinking. Combat is very fun, with free-range motion and several techniques and Mystic Artes. Likely to remind players of Symphonia.
Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria
Real Time Combat
Sequel (and prequel-it's complicated) to the cult classic tri-ace game, this time focusing on Lenneth's sister Silmeria. Takes advantage of the jump to 3D to expand the already awesome battle system of the original, with a focus on tactical, position-based gameplay revolving around breaking off specific enemy parts to get items. Overall has a ton of complex, interesting systems, a great soundtrack, and stunning visuals, making it one of the PS2's underrated gems. Unfortunately the plot is lacking the awesome narrative hook of the first game with its tragic Einherjar backstories, but it's still a fantastic game that any RPG enthusiast should give a try.
Wild Arms 3
RPG that takes place in a fantasy Wild West setting with a nice cel-shaded sketchbook style. The world map takes getting used to, but it gets better when you get horses. Has a unique battle system that involves firearms, which you can improve the fuck out of, and an unconventional, but nifty, skill points system. Has a New Game+ and it is recommended to play twice as there are plenty of times where early parts contain Easter eggs that will make you shit bricks once you connect the dots. WA1 and 2 are also good, but the graphics take re-adjusting to. WA4 and 5 have mixed opinions, but you may want to look into them if you like this.
Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht
The spiritual prequel to Xenogears on the PS1 by Squaresoft. Made by a different company, though, so the story is completely different due to copyright shit. Cutscene heavy, but has a great soundtrack.
Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse
The sequel to Xenosaga Episode I. Is generally considered the worst of the three, but still worth playing. Has a more realistic styling to it, a turn off to many people.
Xenosaga Episode III: Also sprach Zarathustra
Considered to be the best of the series, Xenosaga Episode III concludes the series on a good note. Is also notoriously hard to find nowadays.
One of the GCN's biggest JRPG experiences was this offbeat game by Monolith Soft (of the Xeno series games). A colorful fantasy adventure about a civilization of winged people who live on floating island nations, with a turn-based, card-based combat system where each card is a weapon attack, action or spell. Improving your characters' decks and learning the finer points of combat is essential to avoid getting stuck later on. Its main draw is the incredibly creative and strange world and character design, plus an excellent soundtrack and some shocking plot twists. Has lots of easily-missed unique cards, so you might want to use a guide.
Baten Kaitos: Origins
A prequel to the original Baten Kaitos, fleshing out the world and background of the game series while featuring some younger versions of its characters. The main party's new and consists of only three characters, which allows for stronger development. Follows in the footsteps of the previous game, but the card-based combat has been streamlined a bit to allow for easier combo-stringing. As per usual the story features some ridiculous, unforeseen twists. Released at the very end of the GCN's life, the graphics are great (as is the soundtrack).
Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles
One of the best multi-player co-op RPG experiences of its generation, where you create a character from one of four different races and set out on an adventure to collect crystals and purge your land of miasma with your friends. The pastel-colored cartoon style was unusual for the franchise at the time, as was the active-time combat with melee fighting and area-of-effect spell-casting. Unfortunately multi-player (up to four players) requires each to have a GBA and link cable, which may be more trouble than it's worth. It's still a fun solo experience, though lacking in story for a Final Fantasy game
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
Took the Fire Emblem series to 3D for the first time, though the core gameplay remains the same: command unique characters on grid-based maps to attack in turns. If someone dies, they're gone for good, but the game throws lots of characters at you to make up for most losses. Introduced a new world (Tellius) and story arc, as well as the Laguz class of were-beast people who cannot fight in their normal forms but have overpowered transformations for a limited time. It also introduced skills equippable to characters, expanding customization. Though the game lacks balance in places and 3D models/animations look kind of drab/slow, it's a solid game and a great entry point to the franchise.
Action RPG/Card Collecting
Build a deck out of monsters you capture, and then use your cards to capture even more monsters! The game play of this game is reminiscent of Pokémon with a little dash of Yu-Gi-Oh!, and those who enjoy monster collectan games will enjoy this one.
Lost Kingdoms II
Action RPG/Card Collecting
This sequel to Lost Kingdoms expands and improves upon the gameplay of its predecessor. It's generally recommended over the first game, as Lost Kingdom 2's plot doesn't rely on the plot of Lost Kingdoms too much to hinder a newcomer's enjoyment.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
A solid RPG that improves upon its predecessor in many ways. You can now pull off stylish moves, your partners have health bars, and an audience system is in place that judges your performance as well as helping you fight. Clever and funny writing. The gameplay is still very fun.
Phantasy Star Online Episodes 1 & 2
Port of the Dreamcast game, but has a new episode plus split-screen multiplayer. Allows for third-party servers so the online community is still alive(ish). No longer have to pay a sign up fee.The game has a re-release called "plus" which features some bug fixes and additional content, but its pretty rare and expensive.
Skies of Arcadia Legends
Very rare port of the beloved DreamCast JRPG starring sky-faring pirates in a world of floating islands. On foot you explore dungeons and towns and engage in traditional turn-based battles, while in the air there are sweeping, large-scale fights against rival ships or giant monsters. Fantastic soundtrack, character and world design, with a lot of optional content; and this port added even more of it compared to the original. The story is fairly typical for the genre but features a small and well-developed cast, plus the main character is especially likable for behaving like an actual pirate badass and not a meek teenager. This port's only downside is the dodgy sound quality and some censorship.
Tales of Symphonia
The first fully-3D Tales game took the series to a new level of popularity thanks to its memorable main cast and fully active combat, where you can move characters around and assign special techniques to different buttons, even allowing for multi-player (but in-battle only). The lengthy story falls into a lot of typical cliches, but is buoyed by the characters and some unexpected moral choices/twists. It also has tons of extra content and a massive game world consisting of two alternate dimensions. A great introduction to the Tales series and a very solid JRPG on its own.
The closest thing the original Xbox got to a good JRPG in the west. Set in a dystopian future; you awake in a run down medical bay underground, with amnesia, only to find out that a group of Espers want to use you to rid the surface world of enemies that have succumbed to a cloud of dust that blankets the earth. The gameplay is third person action, after learning the basics of using different types of spells, you gain the ability to choose the spells you want with cards. Your attack style and abilities depend on what deck you have. With a cool style, and solid gameplay, this original game is sure to please.
Spiritual Successor to Demon Souls, and arguably harder. It improves over every aspect of its predecessor, being at least twice as big and featuring a fully streamlined world, scarcer resources (no more carrying 99 of each grass). Focuses on a more open world design over Demon Souls' disjointed levels. The tendency system gave way to a new faction system, with each of the 9 covenants having it's own mission and thus expanding a lot the way the multiplayer system works. A world of both frustrating and rewarding challenges awaits as you fight your way through tons of incredibly atmospheric dungeons. And you will die in every one of them, multiple times. And you will like it. A lot.
Dark Souls II
Places you in the presumably smelly shoes of another Chosen Undead, this time dispatched to conquer the forgotten kingdom of Drangleic. The least punishing of the Souls games by far (for example, Life Protection rings no longer disappear after breaking and can be repaired) but still a substantial challenge in its own right. PVP matchmaking is now determined based on the sum total Souls you've collected, rather than your current level. Among other minor changes: You can respec at least a dozen times in a given playthrough using a consumable, bonfires can be used to regenerate certain items and make enemies more powerful, and the weapon smithing system has been streamlined. Expanded with a trio of DLC's that add plenty of goodies and new things to kill.
A dark fantasy with a dreary atmosphere, Demon's Souls allows you to create your character based on various classes and then sets you free in a world riddled with traps, monsters and sudden deaths. A very difficult game for those who are up to the challenge. Its online multiplayer system is amazingly forward-thinking and involves both cooperation and backstabbing. Dying in the game will come often, and usually as the result of an oversight on your part, but will mean you will need to run through the level from the beginning again. (Although some levels provide small shortcuts.) If that, and the subsequent triumph of overcoming the challenge it presents, doesn't seem like much fun to you, the game might not be for you. If it does, though, it is quite rewarding.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice
A strategy RPG with an incredible amount of content. Has a goofy story that makes fun of itself, but nothing to write home about. Maximum experience level is 9999, but to finish the game you don't even need to make to level 500. Has tons of jobs, weapons, monsters, and other crap to earn. The graphics are pretty bad (indistinguishable from PS2 and PSP installments), but it doesn't stop the game from being fun.
Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten
Arguably the best Disgaea in terms of gameplay, MC, and extras. This one has a brand new HD animation system and everything, which looks awesome. Also has a level editor mode.
2D beat'em up by Vanillaware. Multiple classes that can spec into different roles and have their own unique play-style, whimsical narration (it's like you're really playing tabletop, goddamn), multiple campaign routes, online multiplayer that requires teamwork, skill, and in-depth knowledge of the game to win, refined gameplay across all roles and classes and crisp visuals make for a must-have for any fan of beat'em ups and sword & sorcery tales. Controls can be a bit jarring at first (particularly touch-based stuff like cooking), but you get used to it after a while. Local co-op also takes getting used to in-town.
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen
Action RPG complete with customization, questing, and terrific combat. The story revolves around a fearsome dragon who invades your happy village, then proceeds to literally rip your heart out and eat it, as you are the chosen one and bad shit must happen to you. You'll venture throughout the land, slaying mounting a myriad of mythical beast and invading dungeons. The customization is complete with body-types, facial appearances and pawns. Pawns are your fellow peers who will assist you in fights as an AI, providing you with helpful information and a hand. Aside from your own main pawn, you'll hire pawns from other players all over the globe. Combat consist of a variety of special moves that are specific based on your class. Some of these skills can be carried over to different classes, making it worthwhile to invest in multiple classes. Rereleased as Dark Arisen with new enemies (including a new final boss), equipment, enhancements, augments, character customization options and an option for moonspeak.
Turn-Based Action RPG
Featuring Chopin as a character, along with some of his work. The unique battle system is like a cross between Tales/Star Ocean and Grandia. Lots of Chopin's music accompanied by a great original soundtrack. Quite linear, and not very deep.
An action-RPG where you unravel a murder mystery while fighting through various unique worlds alongside numerous monsters that you capture. Features colorful, vibrant graphics and sixaxis controls that actually work - and work well. Though you play as two different characters, you go through the same areas as each one, so it can get repetitive.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
A beautifully done JRPG that has tons of things to do in it. As Oliver, you're sent to save an alternate universe so that your mom can be brought back to life in your world. The game's combat can be played out in many ways; Oliver can go into battle as a mage and wreck shit with his spells (be sure to have LOADS of MP though), or send out a familiar to fight the battle in a more traditional turn-based, melee approach. The familiars are pretty cool, and are basically Pokemon, in the sense that they can evolve, learn new moves, and also cast special magic. This is a great game, and a good entry-level JRPG for someone who isn't afraid to grind occasionally. Many of the environments have a filter over them that gives them the look of being painted, which is very nice. As with Studio Ghibli movies, expect really nicely animated cutscenes (that are a bit few and far between), and the typical off the wall humor. Another great thing about this game is the fact that there are many different variations of enemies within the game, with each specific area having a set type of wildlife. Plenty of side quests, too.
Sequel to ending E of the PS2 game Drakengard, NIER is a game set in a dying world where a father does everything and more to provide for his sick daughter. Has an unusual cast of characters and a layered, powerful story, which isn't afraid to ask the Big Questions. Cold and hazy environments reminiscent of Shadow of the Colossus; combat is great provided you get good. Excellent soundtrack and voice acting. A very solid and distinctive game that will satisfy everyone looking for a short RPG or a good story.
Resonance of Fate
Real-Time + Turn-Based Mix
Known as End of Eternity in Japan, this is a somewhat slow JRPG with a steep learning curve, complex battle mechanics, and a pretty good story revolving around the climate wreaking havoc on humanity. The story takes a back seat to the actual gameplay. Characters are fairly generic Cowboy Bebop clones (especially Vashyron, who is by far the best character and voiced by NOLAN NORTH). The environments are also gorgeous.
Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny
Inspired by Harvest Moon at it's base, like all titles in the Rune Factory series, Tides of Destiny takes us in a more action oriented direction. The combat is reasonably well done and all of your farming will be done by capturing and raising monsters. The world is much larger than other titles in the series and involves a great deal of roaming the oceans raising islands atop your enourmous golem servant. As always there's a host of bachelorettes to choose from (9 plus your childhood friend), however as you can choose to become a female character after completing the game there are also bachelors to chose from. The game is far better than Frontier, if you're a fan of this type of game you will enjoy it.
Tales of Graces F
Originally a Wii exclusive, this is one of the few Team Destiny games to make it over since Tales of Eternia. A lot different than most other Tales games. Uses the Chain Capacity point system from Tales of Destiny. It's also the first localized Tales game for the PS3. This is the 3rd revision of the game since it's inital release so there is more content than before.
Tales of Xillia
A good Tales game. The story is excellent combined with Xillia 2 (also great), staying true to the Tales formula while introducing enough twists to keep the player intrested. The irriating characters from Graces are gone, and replaced with the best and most likeable cast since Vesperia (also worth a go, new translation patch can be found via Romhacking.net). Combat, while no where near Graces' level, is still great and follows Vesperia's formula. Boss fights in this game are actually quite challenging requiring different strategies and actual timing instead of button mashing. Dungeons are less than stellar and are cluttered with repetitive grunts but the overall package is worth trying out.
Strategy TPS RPG
Mostly a strategy RPG, but allows you to manually control each unit on their turn, in third-person shooter form. A very anime story that dips into drama, romance and comic relief with a pseudo-magical wartime backdrop. Every recruit has their own traits and personality. Pleasant watercolor-like visuals and sound effects. Definitely a successful genre experiment with somewhat unbalanced difficulty (leaning towards overly easy), worth a look for SRPG or RPG fans.
White Knight Chronicles II
A massive console role-playing game developed by Level-5. It initially received a large amount of hype prior to its Japanese release, but gained only lukewarm reception from critics. White Knight Chronicles has 100 hours worth of gameplay and several enemies are quite large in size. Story is fairly cheesy to start off with but improves. You will shit bricks when you realize Eldore is voiced by Charles Shaughnessy.
The sequel includes an updated version of the first game so picking up the original isn't necessary.
Very typical modern JRPG with Tales-esque characters and plot. Combat, however, is strictly turn-based and comparable to Final Fantasy X. The story's nothing worth writing home about and the voice acting is absolutely awful, so consider the undub version. Graphics are okay but sometimes too colorful for their own good. It's also surprisingly difficult at points. A solid but ordinary RPG in case you own a Wii and are desperate.
Turn-Based Board Game
Mario Party meets classic JRPGs. Pick a character and class and move across the board protecting towns, defeating bosses, and making lots of money. Games take longer than your average Mario Party round, though. Known as a friendship-destroying game because it actively encourages being an asshole, and allows you to humiliate players by doing things like changing their name or shaving their head. Lots of fun.
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers
An unusual Final Fantasy game largely unrelated to other Crystal Chronicles titles. Play as a refreshingly cocky protagonist in a shallow but fun adventure. Gameplay revolves around magically levitating and throwing objects with motion controls. Features lots of mini-games and special gameplay sections, an eclectic soundtrack, and a short playtime. Might appeal to Final Fantasy non-fans.
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
Direct sequel to Path of Radiance (GCN) with much of the returning cast. The plot deals with the aftermath of the war and the rebuilding effort in the face of a new conflict. It's very hard in the beginning but gets slightly better a few chapters in. Graphically it looks practically the same as its predecessor, and includes the same features such as equippable skills and weapon-forging, though support conversations are sadly gone. At least the Laguz are slightly more useful. Overall a decent entry in the series. Has a couple replay-only characters, too.
Fragile Dreams: Farewell Ruins of the Moon
An atmospheric, exploration-focused game where you play one of the few survivors in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, trying to figure out what happened to the world. Very melancholy gameworld with ruined environments and anime-style characters. Meanwhile combat is very clunky and features survival game aspects such as breakable weapons and limited items. Definitely a game to play more for its look and feel than anything else. Has some awkwardly funny scenes as well.
The Last Story
Sakaguchi and Uematsu return and bring a decent RPG to the Wii. Features real-time combat with a cover system alongside the general slew of JRPG combat mechanics. Aside from the fairly forced love story, the plot itself is fairly focused and well done - going out of its way to subvert several cliches in the process. If you're looking to get a JRPG fix on the Wii, this is a pretty good option. Also features a Gamera cameo.
Little King's Story
This is a strategy game where you recruit civilians and assign them to various jobs. Then you go out into the open to explore, beat bosses, and conquer the world! There's a lot of secrets to find as well. Compared to Pikmin, there are a lot more kinds of minions to employ. The bosses in particular are a lot of fun here. They each have specific strategies and weaknesses that you will need to exploit. Party building and organizing are definitely a fairly important part of the game as well. Great humor and some of the most creative bosses you will ever fight. Largely regarded as the best Wii game of 2009!
Muramasa: The Demon Blade
A visually impressive game with large and detailed sprite work similar to Odin Sphere (PS2). Play as a runaway ninja or a cursed princess and hack your way through gorgeous 2D levels teeming with mythical Japanese monsters. Though the gameplay is very repetitive, combat is fundamentally satisfying and there's lots of weapons to collect, not to mention multiple endings. Voice acting remained Japanese in English localizations.
Ganbarion's submission to the Wii console comes across as a mesh between Shadow of the Colossus, Zelda, God of War, and a dating sim. Unfortunately, the game, due to its recycled areas, ill-paced plot, and repetitive soundtrack, isn't nearly as awesome as the aspects imply. Regardless, it's a solid title that's worth a playthrough. If you like it, it offers much by way of replayability, including several, significantly different endings based on how you bond with the love interest. An expansive crafting system adds a bit of depth to the game and is a good timesink for those with a completionist bent. If you're looking for an excuse to dust off your Wii for a bit, Pandora's Tower is definitely an option.
Phantom Brave: We Meet Again
A port of Nippon Ichi's PS2 strategy RPG, Phantom Brave. There's practically no changes to the main game other than the ability to display it in 480p, but the it does include a second campaign that picks off where the first one left off, letting you use some new characters, and also comes with a digital art disc, which has art work and sprites from the game. Worth checking out if you never played the PS2 version, as this is quite unique as far as SRPG's go.
Minor updates to loading times and a few textures are barely noticable.
Rune Factory Frontier
A strange mix between Harvest Moon and a JRPG. Really addicting if you let yourself get caught up in it, like any good Harvest Moon game. Obviously a spin-off. Some argue this entry is better than the DS games but to each their own.
Sakura Wars: So Long, My Love
The first installment in the revered Sakura Wars series to make it stateside. In an alternate-universe, vaguely steampunk 1920's New York, you must manage a musical theatre troupe that is actually a front for a steam mech-riding world defense team! There is no grinding; deepening your relationship with the multi-ethnic cast of girls directly affects battle performance, which takes place in turn-based SRPG form. It's incredibly cheesy to the point of embarrassment, but that's part of its charm.
An amazing JRPG by Monolith Soft (of the Baten Kaitos series). Its the 5th game in the Xeno Meta Series, the first four were on the PS1 and 2, and the first one since Nintendo bought Monolith. Often regarded as a one-of-a-generation title and equally hailed as one of the most beloved and iconic JRPGs of the post PSX/2 era, as well as the best Xenoblade title(even though each game is different enough to be valued in its own way.) Though combat can get a bit repetitive over time due to focus on certain character combos you're gonna repeat ad nauseum if you wanna be efficient. There's hundreds of hours' worth of side content, cities full of named NPCs with daily schedules and connected relationships, as well as a massive, fully explore-able world. It all makes for a deeply satisfying experience. It had a pretty limited run in the west, but still can be had for $30-50.
Mistwalker's first game for X360 featuring design by Akira Toriyama (Dragon Ball), story by Hironobu Sakaguchi (Final Fantasy) and music by Nobuo Uematsu. Very traditional JRPG gameplay wise, but with some refinement and cool ideas. Characters are hopelessly one dimensional and the story reaches the top of shonen's cliche but the game is very atmospheric, exploration is fun and there are tons of additional quests and things to do so it's still worth playing.
Spiritual successor to Demon Souls, and arguably harder. It improves over every aspect of its predecessor, being at least twice as big and featuring a fully streamlined world, scarcer resources (no more carrying 99 of each grass). The tendency system gave way to a new faction system, with each of the 9 covenants having it's own mission and thus expanding a lot the way the multiplayer system works. A world of both frustrating and rewarding challenges awaits as you fight your way through tons of incredibly atmospheric dungeons. And you will die in every one of them, multiple times. And you will like it. A lot.
Dark Souls II
Sequel that continues its predecessors tradition of challenging gameplay. The game is a bit more balanced compared to the first one and features a few tweaks that will help you on your journey (you can now fast travel for example) but that's not to say it's not hard as hell anymore. You are still going to die a lot. The game offers tons of content for those willing to put time into it, in an unique world that is simply stunning. Easily one of the best RPG experiences out there. The PvP is also very fun.
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen
Action RPG complete with customization, questing, and terrific combat. The story revolves around a fearsome dragon who invades your happy village, then proceeds to literally rip your heart out and eat it, as you are the chosen one and bad shit must happen to you.
You'll venture throughout the land, slaying mounting a myriad of mythical beast and invading dungeons. The customization is complete with body-types, facial appearances and pawns. Pawns are your fellow peers who will assist you in fights as an AI, providing you with helpful information and a hand. Aside from your own main pawn, you'll hire pawns from other players all over the globe. Combat consist of a variety of special moves that are specific based on your class. Some of these skills can be carried over to different classes, making it worthwhile to invest in multiple classes.
Rereleased as Dark Arisen with new enemies (including a new final boss), equipment, enhancments, augments, character customization options and an option for moonspeak. Please note that there is no upgrade option for the original game.
Turn-Based Action RPG
Tradition action-JRPG, featuring Chopin as a character, along with some of his work. Similar to the Tales series. Lots to see, do, and explore. Worldwide.
A traditional JRPG developed by Mistwalker about a man who has lived for 1000 years. If you can get past the very "traditional" JRPG battle system, you'll find a very engaging and emotional story, complete with interesting characters and unlockable short stories exploring the main character's past. Combine all this with top-notch English voice acting (particularly in the case of Jansen) and a fantastic soundtrack by Nobuo Uematsu and you have an under-appreciated gem.
An action RPG by the now dissolved Cavia and published by Square Enix about a man who's trying to find a way to cure his daughter of a strange disease in a dark and melancholic post-apocalyptic world. Sequel to ending E of Drakengard. A must-play if you're looking for something different in the JRPG genre. Plays a lot like a Zelda game would. Two versions of the game were released, Nier 'Gestalt' and 'Replicant'. Replicant was released exclusively for the PS3 only in Japan and features a younger-looking version of the protagonist who is trying to save his sister instead. Everything else is identical on both versions, so if you know Japanese and would prefer to play as a pretty boy, there's that version. Besides the four different endings, it does something very different to add replay value since you NEED to play the game at least twice to get the most out of it, especially story-wise, where you restart from a pivotal point in the game rather than the usual New Game+. Also has one of the best soundtracks ever heard in video game history so grab that as well.
Resonance of Fate
Real-Time + Turn-Based Mix
Known as End of Eternity in Japan, this is a somewhat slow JRPG with a steep learning curve, complex battle mechanics, and an okay/decent story revolving around the climate wreaking havoc on humanity. The story takes a back seat to the actual gameplay. Characters are fairly generic JRPG characters (except for Vashyron, who is pimp as fuck and voiced by NOLAN NORTH) but the environments can be pretty cool looking.
Tales of Vesperia
What are you, some kind of idiot? This game is awesome. Word of advice though, this game is hard as balls on the default difficulty setting (which stupidly enough is Normal). If you're new to the "Tales of.." series or are playing this game for the first time, do yourself a favour and play it on Easy the first time around, trust me. It will prevent you from throwing the controller at the TV in some boss battles.
Considered to be a spiritual successor to the Demon's/Dark Souls games, as they share the same development team and director. Bloodborne ditches the dark fantasy approach for a Lovecraftian one with a Victorian-style city, but the elliptical storytelling and grotesque monster designs prevail. Gameplay is also similar: dying is inevitable and pressing on is a game of risk vs. reward, but combat is much more offensively-oriented, ditching shields in favor of pistols and featuring a small amount of very distinct melee weapons. As always, online multi-player allows you to summon companions for help or invade other players' games. A very challenging and richly-detailed experience that fans of the Souls series will feel at home with, if not outright prefer.
Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin
An upgraded version of Dark Souls II. Includes all of the previously released DLC. Enemy placement is wildly different from the PS3 version. In fact, if you play this shit for the lore, stick with the PS3 version because the enemy placement makes no godamn sense anymore.
Dark Souls III
The final game in the series, this time with Miyazaki back at the helm. Expect a faster pace this time around, as the team was still fresh off of Bloodborne. This one is generally considered better than Dark Souls II, but not quite as good as DaS 1 nor Demon's Souls.
Ashes of Ariandel is a 3 hour piece of shit with little content and two bosses, but the Ringed City makes up for it and effectively ends the entire series. The Fire Fades Edition contains all DLC, so if you've waited to get a complete edition while waiting for a reasonable price, then now's the time.
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD
Imagine Crisis Core but better with 14 different playable characters, playable summons, A WORLD MAP, chocobo breeding and a fantastic story. The gameplay is difficult and will kill you if you get careless but is fun and faster than Crisis Core because less "slot machine" bullshit. Much, MUCH, bloodier, gorier and violent than the previous Final Fantasy games.
Has updated graphics compared to the PSP version, as well as the option to change the voices to English or Japanese, no multiplayer (as if anyone cared about it), an exclusive alternate ending, an updated soundtrack and an exclusive demo for Final Fantasy XV for the Day One edition. Keep away from the English dub, it is the worst English dub Square has ever worked on (even worse than Final Fantasy X but not as bad as FF4 SNES). Has a somewhat spotty translation so get the PSP version if you are willing to pirate and you have PPSSPP or a PSP with CFW.
Final Fantasy XV
Well, here it is. After ten years of the rockiest series of development cycles since Duke Nukem Forever, you can finally get your hands on Final Fantasy XV, and thankfully it's not another Duke Nukem Forever.
As Prince Noctis, heir to the Lucian throne, you're tasked to go on a road trip with your three closest friends to the neighboring country of Tenebrae in order to marry your childhood girlfriend, Lunafreya. This innocent bachelor party turns into a quest for vengeance when your kingdom gets sacked by the evil Niflheim technocracy. Final Fantasy hijinks ensue as you sneak into military bases, crawl through absolutely brilliant dungeons (I'd even argue XV has the best dungeon designs in recent FF memory), race chocobos, go on fetch quests, and teleport like a madman smacking a bunch of classic Final Fantasy monsters around. What's not to love?
The main questline is short for an FF, averaging around 20-25 hours (around 30 with the DLC), but there's plenty of side content and minigames to fill your time. The Royal Edition comes with all of the paid story DLC, an online mode, the ability to ride around in a boat (with more fishing spots), and an expanded version of the final dungeon, along with cutscene and story updates, and is ultimately the best way to play the game.
One other note: I strongly suggest you watch the tie-in film Kingsglaive before playing the game, as a lot of very important plot elements take place there, and a major character is literally introduced seconds after that character's exit from the film.
The sequel to one the seventh gen's best hidden gems. Turns out replacing an old man with a hot babe in a short skirt is what was needed to get people to care about NieR. Doesn't hurt that they replaced the questionable gameplay with Platinum, even though this is one of their weaker games it's a step above the prequel. Typical Yoko Taro depressing story which are always better than almost anything out there in games.
Ninja Gaiden meets Dark Souls. You play as a Scottish ninja, based on a real person, who's spirit is kidnapped by an evil wizard. You must travel to Japan in order to get her back. You fight all sorts of grotesque enemies and amazing bosses. There are 7 different melee weapon types and three different ranged weapons to choose from all with their own styles and unlockable combos. The postgame DLC campaigns are amazing, easily the best stuff in the game. A Complete Edition is sold digitally with all the DLC.
More like a Nioh map pack than a full second game. A prequel to the original; you play as a silent custom character who works as a lieutenant in Nobunaga's army conquests and beyond. All the weapons return from the first game as well as new dual-axes. It's an easier and longer game than the original Nioh(sans DLC). Has a *lot* of reused content from the first game, to the point of laziness. Still, a pretty good action game.
Traditional Turn-Based/Monster Collecting/Social Sim
You got an assault charge for punching out a rapist, forcing you to transfer to the only school that's willing to accept you. On top of that you've gained the power to access the hearts of the corrupt, and decide to steal their darkest desires with the power of your Personas.
(very) Arguably the best entry of the Persona franchise, and widely considered one of the best JRPGs of all time, Persona 5 takes its tried and true formula and adds a fun Lupin the Third style heist element to keep things interesting.
With gorgeous art design, a dark, gripping story, a monstrous length (over a hundred hours for the main story alone!), a bounty of sidequests, and a rock solid battle system, Persona 5 must not be missed.
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana
Despite being a numbered title this game actually takes place between Ys V and Ys VI, as Adol and a bunch of other people end on a mysterious island and must find a way out. This game brings back the party system from the two previous titles and adds a lot more exploration, making this the longest title in the series so far. Unique in that unlike other entries you don't have towns, instead you must find the other survivors from the ship crash scattered along the island and help build a settlement where they will share items and other stuff in exchange for materials as there is no actual money in the game.
KEEP IN MIND: This game was localized by NIS America, arguably the worst western localization company. Tons of bugs that weren't there in the first place are added and awful translations ensue when a game is touched by them, and YS VII was no exception. However, they did release a patch that fixed some of the bugs and edited some of the dialogue. Buy used or learn 日本語 already and import.
The spirtual precursor to Devil Survivor and a spin off of the Majin Tensei series. Plays like a cross between SMT and Shining Force. This features typical Megaten stuff of recruiting monsters (and sometimes humans) to tear shit up alongside you. Much more cute and light-hearted than the aforementioned games, but still pretty tough. Kind of slow, so be sure you have some way of speeding it up. Available in English thanks to a Fan-Translation rom patch.
The Battle of Olympus
Your gal pal has been kidnapped, and it's up to you to get some help from the Greek gods of Olympus to save her. Plays like Zelda 2 and Faxanadu. Can get pretty hard and confusing early on if you decide to go where you're not recommended to. So while it is non-linear to an extent, you should consider sticking with the advice of others to avoid getting killed. Slightly altered from the NES version, but still pretty damn good.
Final Fantasy Adventure
This is actually the first Mana game, Seiken Densetsu. Its gameplay is similar to that of the original Legend of Zelda game, but with some RPG elements. Great story, neat monster designs, and awesome soundtrack. This game pretty much proved to everyone that you can create an involving and captivating epic on a small handheld. Sword of Mana is a remake of this, but several fans of the series prefer the original. Released in Europe as "Mystic Quest".
Final Fantasy Legend II
The FFL series is known as the SaGa series in Japan. You have 3 basic types of allies: Humans, (balanced fighting and magic) and Mutants/Espers (good at magic), and Robots (good at fighting). A 4th type, Monsters, can eat meat from enemies and change into different critters with different specialties. Has a twisted, but well-told, plot involving a giant tower and killing gods from myth. Has excellent music and quite unique gameplay: no level ups, stat gains and spell learning happen based on your fighting methods. A DS remake is out in Japan, with a full English translation patch available for the ROM. It's easier, but also changes a few things for the better.
Final Fantasy Legend III
Four kids and some "guest" characters fight monsters and save the world. Business as usual, BUT you must time travel between Past, Present, and Future, to stop another dimension that's been flooding time itself with demons. Like FFL2, consume parts from enemies to turn a chosen ally into a critter (although you can revert them, too). Good aesthetics, solid gameplay mixes SaGa and the actual Final Fantasy series, and the plot gets pretty fucked up. This also has a remake for the DS, with an English translation patch being worked on. The remake is more akin to other SaGa games (i.e. no level ups and random stat bootsts), but also has use-based skill-learning (the more you use a weapon, the more skills you can learn and use).
A platform/side scrolling adventure game with some RPG elements from Capcom. You play Firebrand, a gargoyle who has powerful claws that allow him to cling to walls and other surfaces on a vertical plane. Firebrand can also hover and fly for awhile with his wings. Destroy the enemy characters with your fiery breath. The game also contains an adventure type story that is unfolded by interacting with characters from an over-head perspective.
Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon
It's friggin' Goemon. This uses similar gameplay to the Famicom games, but many would say this is much better than those. There's a large variety of enemies and bosses, and you need to do little subquests for side characters before you can move to the next level. Sequels and spinoffs are on GB/GBC, though of varying quality. Included on Konami GB Collection Vol. 3 for GBC, fully translated and colorized.
Pokémon Red & Blue
The first games of the Pokémon franchise. Released simultaneously, both games have exclusive Pokémon that you can trade to complete your Pokédex or evolve certain Pokémon. You can also battle other trainers via the Game Boy Link cable. They received updated rereleases as FireRed and LeafGreen for the Game Boy Advance, but if all you have is a Game Boy or Game Boy Color, these are acceptable alternatives.
The third version of Pokémon featured updated color (a different palette for each town), and takes story cues from the anime's Kanto arc. Pikachu's sprite and cry was updated, and the little fellow follows around behind you, letting you know what his mood is when you talk to him. It fixed up a lot of things like Charizard can fly now. Enhanced on both SGB and GBC, though it's better on the latter.
Rolan's Curse II
You play as a cast of characters who you accumulate throughout the game. Each has access to different weapons and skills which are used to navigate through the world in a Zelda-ish manner. Unlike Zelda, you actually can level up. Pretty decent for an old-school romp. Can get hard even if you level up a lot, as strategy and skill play a key part in boss fights. The first game is okay and you can play it if you want, but this one is much better.
Sword of Hope II
Remember Macventure games like Shadowgate and Uninvited? The team that did the NES versions made an RPG using a similar system. Surprisingly, it ended up pretty good. It can be kinda easy to get lost, but its still solid. Unlike SoH1, you can have a party of characters to fight with. Even though its a normal RPG at its core, the different angle on exploration can give you a new viewpoint on it, allowing an enjoyable outlook on a somewhat short-sighted genre.
A downsized port of the PS1 game. However, it was remixed a bit. For example, there's quite a few new monsters and a "second quest", where you go down the tower in a B01-B99 fashion. Sadly, as mentioned, dating got cut and town editing is limited to donating cash to Nico. But, if you want to tackle the main game, it's still plenty fun. Give it a try, but also consider the PS1 version, but be warned, that one's A LOT harder.
Dragon Warrior I & II
A port of Dragon Quest 1+2 Remix for the SNES. The gameplay and graphics are improved and streamlined from NES days (no more CLIMB STAIRS/OPEN DOOR here), but the goofy Olde English translation has been dropped. This also adds stat-boosting seeds and a quick save option. The difficulty has been boosted in some spots and reduced in others.
Dragon Warrior III
A port of Dragon Quest 3 Remix for the SNES. This adds better graphics (compared to the NES), streamlined gameplay, quick save, and stat-boosting seeds from 1+2, the Thief class (which can be pretty helpful if raised right), the personality system, and a rather enjoyable bonus dungeon. Many consider it to be the best version for good reason. Like 1+2, the difficulty is amp'd in some places and lowered in others.
Dragon Warrior Monsters
Sorta like Pokémon, but with randomized dungeons to explore vs. towns and gym leaders. You can have up to 3 monsters (each can have up to 8 skills) with you, same for other humans and wild mons. The 3-on-3 turn-based battles are fun and simple, but skill-learning and breeding is complex and deep as hell, as any 2 mons give their baby their skills, who can be better than either, even be a new breed and learn new skills!. Surprisingly addictive, and has lots of Dragon Warrior references for DW/DQ fans.
More monsters, more skills, and a new world! Same gameplay and mechanics as before, but the roguelike aspect is gone in favor of a more standard RPG approach where you help people and solve puzzles. There's also (MANY) random worlds to find as well, thanks to magic keys you find or earn. A somewhat different experience from 1, but still a damn good one. Most people consider these two games the best of the series, though the others are worth a shot. Like 1, there's a lot of DW/DQ fanservice to be found.
Legend of the River King
An RPG about fishing? Yes! Your little sister has a strange illness and needs the magic of a legendary fish to get better. But he's a helluva whopper, and a only master fisher can hope to catch him. So you have to fish about to get experience and make some cash for better gear. You even encounter wild animals who you fight BAREHANDED using a neat system that targets parts of their body. Despite this, its relatively laid back, and good fun.
Legend of the River King 2
An angel had parts of a heavenly jewel eaten by two mighty King fish. She asks a kid and his older brother, two fishers, to help her out. More or less same circumstances as LotRK1 apply here to be better fishers. You choose who to play as with minor differences between the two, mostly that the brother starts out a bit stronger and has a slightly harder start. As a side note, you can also trade certain items to/from Harvest Moon 2 GBC.
Lufia: The Legend Returns
A black sheep in the Lufia series, but still a good one. Foregoes the puzzle elements of the first two games in favor of rogue-like styled dungeons. Pretty good, despite what the purists say, but the new battle system takes some time to get used to. Character and party customization is pretty neat too. The other spin off on GBA has no relation to this and little to the main series, but it's more closer to form, despite the translation being iffy.
Monster Collecting/Physics-Based Combat
It's an RPG with rock-paper-scissor styled mechanics, but plays like biliards where you ram your robot into the enemy bot. You start off with a neutral robot with no real strengths or weaknesses. In the traversable overworld, you find parts to upgrade it, which gives it traits, but also abilities, such as sea travel, hovering, and shoving power. These abilities help you find more parts for more power. Surprisingly, a lot more fun than it sounds.
Pokémon Gold & Silver
The second generation of Pokémon games, often touted as the best gen because of its improved gameplay and features. Released simultaneously, both of these games are similar fare to the first gen. Once the Johto region is completed, the player can travel to Kanto and take the gym challenge there, then face down the protagonist from the first game. You can even trade with 1st gen to get your old party back!
An updated version of Gold and Silver, featuring slightly improved graphics and the ability to catch Suicuine without mucking about trying to find where the hell he is. Also, the first Pokémon game to allow the option to play as a girl (a feature that was planned for the first games, but scrapped). Not only that but the Pokémon are actually animated, and not that two sprite distortion stuff either! If you want a second-gen Pokémon game, Crystal is probably your best bet.
Revelations: The Demon Slayer
a.k.a. Last Bible. Jack Bros aside, this was the first Megaten game to hit US shores. Plays like the usual SMT fare, with demon negotiations and fusion, but also has a bit of Dragon Quest, in that the game isn't first-person POV, but overhead. It's a bit aged, but remains very solid and quite impressive for an early GB title (this is actually just a colored version in English). However, the soundtrack is the JAMS.
Robopon Sun/Star/Moon Version
Turn-Based/Monster Part Collecting
Overlooked in the past as a Pokémon knockoff. Honestly, they're not all that similar. The battles resemble that, but you can actually improve your bots in various ways with parts, software, RAM, etc. There's even a few unlockables by using a remote control on the GBC in certain events. Worth playing, along with the GBA sequel. Sun was the Only one released in America, Moon has the most content with 18 extra robopon.
Star Ocean: Blue Sphere
Sequel of sorts to Star Ocean: The Second Story. You use teams of 3 to explore the world, with each character having different attributes battle and exploration wise. As such, some of them have different types of actions, such as Ashton shooting fireballs or Precis using a mini-submarine. The battles are real-time, but limited to left and right, akin to early "Tales of" games (except the GBC one, which sucks). Still, there's a lot of exploring, skills, customization and so forth to experience. Oddly enough though, characters have become better or worse since TSS, such as Bowman being nigh-OP and CRAWD being kinda sucky. No English translation yet (official one cancelled due to space constraints, fan one still on hold) but a French fan translation very well exists and could be the next best thing.
Action RPG/Survival Sim
You're a young kid who gets lost at sea. You're all alone on a deserted island, and you have to find some way to get off. Surprisingly accurate for a GB game in featuring various states of hunger, thirst, and health- all of which can be affected by animals, food, and weather/climate of the island areas. It even has 8 different endings! You can also rig some basic tools together to increase your chance of surviving the wilds. Had a successor in the Lost in Blue series.
The first Wars to make it out of Japan (previous entries were Japan-only). A turn-based war strategy game with a bright, cartoon-ish, and lighthearted traits so jarring, they've become the series staple. On each map, you choose (or are sometimes cleverly forced) to use different Commanding Officers, each with different pros and cons, to lead your army to victory. Like Fire Emblem(7), it has a short intro tutorial, easing you into the game's mechanics, but gets very hard towards the end. Great game with a good deal of content, but is overshadowed by sequels. Still a great start, especially considering each successive entry has notable changes.
Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising
The sequel to AW. Has even more content than 1 and brand new enemies to face! Even harder than the above, especially due to the craftily-built maps and challenging missions, but the added and upgraded characters and new army units keep it oh so fun.
Breath of Fire
Handheld port of Capcom's SNES JRPG. The ultra-simplistic combat, paper-thin characters and tedious, badly-translated plot don't hold up much, but the dungeons and overworld are fun as there are many secrets to uncover, including the one that will get you the true end. The beginning of Capcom's revered (and now dead) role-playing series. This is the preferred version as it awards more EXP and gold per battle, has a Run button, link-up item trading and a few other small conveniences. The music was kept rather strong from the SNES, but the graphics and interface have been updated to be a little like 3 and 4.
Breath of Fire II
A considerable improvement, Breath of Fire II features a much more interesting cast (including the sexiest Nina in the series), better sprite-work, an actually interesting plot, and the peerless Shamanization system, which allows you to power-up and fully transform your characters in battle. You can also help build and maintain a town as a rather robust side-game. One of the better SNES JRPGs, now portable with the same additions as the port of the first game. Too bad they didn't bother to re-translate it. The transfer of aesthetics from the SNES are better than BoF1, also using the new interface, and still good. If you are emulating, you should take a look at the SNES version and the retranslation patch.
Car Battler Joe
A game that uses racing-styled controls, but has you using weapons on opponents in arenas. It's a weird experience at first, but can be pretty fun once you get the hang of it. You can customize your cars with new gear and weapons and even use items to get back in the game after taking damage. As one might guess, from a racing-type setup, it's pretty much all real time.
Demikids: Dark/Light Versions
A game that uses racing-styled controls, but has you using weapons on opponents in arenas. It's a weird experience at first, but can be pretty fun once you get the hang of it. You can customize your cars with new gear and weapons and even use items to get back in the game after taking damage. As one might guess, from a racing-type setup, it's pretty much all real time. Light version is said to be a bit easier.
Dragon Ball Z: Buu's Fury
An action-RPG taking place in the DBZ universe. One of many. Unlike the first, Legacy of Goku, it is more refined in gameplay and difficulty. Legacy of Goku II is almost as good as this, and a pretty good alternative.
Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls
Modified and easier versions of the 2 games from PS1/WS, using MP in FF1 and making things generally easier in FF2. Both added/fixed new/old equipment to utilize more effects and skills. They're also the fastest versions of the two, due to speedy, but effective, animations and special effects, thus making most random battles over in a few seconds. Each also added new foes and new extra dungeons and an extra story mode (in FF2). FF1 has foes from FF3-6, including bosses and equipment. FF2 has you fight through an unseen side of the end-game in FF2, featuring certain familiar characters.
Final Fantasy IV Advance
A port of the SNES RPG with some updated graphics and extra dungeons. Has minimal character customization, but concentrates on story. However, this is the only official version of FFIV to let you choose your final dungeon party. The European version fixed most problems of minor bugs and some lag in battles. The DS remake pumped up difficulty and added many extras, even some character customization, but no option of your final party choice.
Final Fantasy V Advance
Featuring the most refined version of the job system seen in a main Final Fantasy title to date, join Bartz and his quest to have the most female-filled party in the series, as well as his battles against a magic tree. The story is lighthearted, but still plenty cool. Enough classes to make your head spin, plus an extra dungeon and new classes for the GBA version. Again, ported from the SNES with some updated graphics and lower-quality sound. (It won't bug you unless you played the original.)
Final Fantasy VI Advance
A ragtag team of terrorists take on a war-power that's been using nature's power against itself to further its expansion. You later take on a demigod who DESTROYED THE WORLD. Job system is gone, replaced by Espers, offering less customization and more favoritism when picking characters, of which there are many. Has some GBA extras in the form of new espers and dungeons. Like always, the sound isn't as good as the SNES. C'est la vie.
Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
A loose spiritual successor to the beloved Final Fantasy Tactics, this game features child protagonists living hard lives who are suddenly transported to a magical world full of adventure (so don't expect grimdark political intrigue). As Marche, you must find a way to get back home (if you even want to). Features the same class-based, grid-based combat, but now with in-battle "Laws" (restrictions) that can put your characters in jail if broken. They're very annoying until you become able to bypass them later on. With 300 missions, it'll give you your money's worth in play time.
Designed to introduce the Fire Emblem series to the West, where dozens of characters are recruited and controlled in large-scale battles, fallen allies are permanently dead, and RNG rules your life. This starts with an easy sort of tutorial story and then dives into the main campaign. A colorful entry with energized battle sprites, a dramatic plot and a mostly loveable cast, a great way to get into the series. It is considered the quintessential Fire Emblem by many. The story is best experienced rather than summarized, but you (the player character) accompany the lords (the lively and hot-blooded protagonists of the game) Lyn, Eliwood, and Hector and the people they meet along the way as their tactician and friend, your quest to investigate the mysterious disappearance of young Lord Eliwood's father. The continent of Elibe creaks under the weight of political strife and intrigue as unknown forces conspire to plunge the nations into chaos. The story is a veritable epic (at least for a Fire Emblem game), and you're very likely absolutely love at least half-a-dozen of the characters available. It also has a lengthy additional story starring Lord Hector!
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
Shockingly, The Sacred Stones works more like a traditional RPG in that it lets you fight optional battles to level up between the standard, scripted story battles, thus making it potentially the easiest game in the series. If you don't exploit this feature, however, this is still a title that lives up to modern FE standards of difficulty. The plot isn't exactly groundbreaking, involving political intrigue mixed with magic akin to most games of the franchise, and revolves around Ephraim and Eirika, the heirs of a ruined kingdom. The cast, composed of around 40 playable characters, is diverse, if (arguably) not as charismatic as FE7's, specially in regards to the protagonists, which have a much more self-righteous and serious attitude compared to the whimsical ways of Eliwood & Co. Despite re-using a lot of elements from the previous games, TSS also introduced several unique features to the GBA series, such as branching promotions, special abilities and unlockable antagonist characters.
A rather unique turn-based JRPG. Characters utilize: magical weapons, magical items, magical critters (Djinni, which act as free in-battle skills), mighty mythical beings as summons, and last, but not least, Psynergy, which is like "magic" but also lets you use: psychokinesis, claivoyance, altering patches of the environment, and so forth. Djinni also affect your title, which changes your stats to various specializations and unlocks new Psynergy. Now that's a lot of customization! Beware for loads and loads of verbose exposition.
Golden Sun: The Lost Age
A continuation of the original, covering a much greater area of the Golden Sun world. However, this time you play as the surviving 'antagonists' of the first game. The plot twist is huge (especially if you beat the first game before this), and the game has much, MUCH more to do. Travel around in a flying boat, meet up with your characters from the first game, utilize more classes, Djinn, spells, and summons, solve more puzzles, get more magic weapons, and fight extra bosses even more challenging than the final boss! There is a password you get in the first game that you can use in the second to transfer over your stats and Djinn progression, but the password can go all the way up to 6 pages long!
Altered cartoony remix of Silver Star Story Complete. Unique compared to SSSC and Silver Star Harmony (on PSP) in that this has some unique story events and alters some others. Introduced a "limit break" kind of system, along with some new equipment options. Changed the item system to run off a menu versus a limited inventory, too. All attacks can reach anywhere, thus, there's no movement/range factors, making some fights easier or harder. It's the easiest version anyways, though. Has some exploitable glitches to make your party stupidly strong early on and keep them that way. A curiosity for Lunar fans, but still decent if you aren't familiar with the series.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
If you've played Paper Mario, there's a good chance you'll love this. Although Mario and Luigi are the only two party members, they learn a plethora of teamwork style moves that require specific button presses and timing that really spruce up the combat. The art style is gorgeous, too. The writing, golden. If you want a different kind of RPG, or just want to have a good laugh with an exceptionally made game, this one's for you. The sequel and threequel are on DS.
Mega Man Battle Network
Real Time Grid-Based
MMBN has unique battles in semi-real time. In "battles", you move Megaman.exe around 9 panels in real-time, striking at enemies and dodging their attacks. During each "custom turn", you select special chips to use that heal you, deal damage, steal enemy panels, and more. You can "jack" in and explore the cyberspace of practically every electronic device in the game, leading to a great deal of exploration. Your main goal is to take down cyber-terrorists in a world run by computers.
Mega Man Battle Network 2
Real Time Grid-Based
Battle Network 2 is considered by fans to be one of the best Battle Network games. It more or less capitalizes on everything that made the first game so good. The plot is also improved. It features more hectic situations (including a plane jacking for instance). Megaman can now change into a few different elemental forms. The number of chips has increased from the first game. The bosses are also a little bit better and more difficult.
Mega Man Battle Network 3
Real Time Grid-Based
Fuck yes you are the best BN ever. Introduces the Navicust feature, where you "program" Megaman to upgrade him. Brings Style Changes back from MMBN2, and revives WWW yet again. There are numerous bosses, and the chips in Blue version are crazy compared to White (Folderback returns all your used chips, INCLUDING FOLDERBACK, back into rotation, and fills the custom gauge), But overall either one's a wholly satisfying experience.
Mega Man Battle Network 6
Real Time Grid-Based
If you liked 1, 2, and 3, definitely pick up a version of 6. The gameplay is refined to its best. Styles now become the "SoulCross" (Megaman fuses with one of 5 version-specific pals (5 per version, not 5 versions)), "Full Synchro" lets you potentially deal double damage with your nest chip, and "Beast Out"+"Beast Cross", lets you fuse with your version's "netbeast" to power up even more. Either version is great, so don't worry about which to pick. The series ends here, but had a spiritual successor/century-later sequel in Mega Man Star Force, though the 3rd is the best of those, especially if you are coming right from the BN series.
Monster Rancher Advance 2
Monster Rancher Advance 2 is a pretty basic Monster Rancher game. Instead of unlocking monsters through discs, you enter in words to generate them. Then you train them and enter tournaments. Combination monsters (example: a suezo bred with a tiger) are now just simple recolors. It's a little disappointing, but the gameplay is still series standard.
Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire
Come on, you knew these games would be on here. The third generation of Pokémon has its fans and detractors. You cannot trade critters from earlier games, but here is where Abilities and Contests were introduced (among other things), along with over 130 new monsters. These days it's hard to justify playing it, what with each generation mostly improving upon the last, and Emerald being literally the same game with improvements, but it may make for a nice walk down memory lane.
The obligatory third game that improves upon the first two and includes new content, Emerald is the way to go if you want to experience the third generation of Pokémon. It brought back sprite animations, which hadn't been seen since Crystal. Not to mention it was a major chore to get 2nd gen pokemon in R/S (you needed a GCN and Pokemon Colossuem and conectors and all that junk!) but here you can get a free Johto starter (after catching all the Hoenn pokemon) plus the Safari zone lets you catch the useful pokemon from gen 2!
Pokémon FireRed & LeafGreen
Remakes of the original Pokémon Red and Blue, including updated graphics and all the new features that later generations introduced. You can catch second and third generation Pokémon as well, and trade with Ruby and Sapphire. After traversing Kanto you will access the all-new Sevii Islands, which link the games to HeartGold/SoulSilver plot-wise and have lots of stuff to do. A great way to reminisce about the originals, and a couple of great Pokémon titles.
Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team
A roguelike-styled RPG featuring Pokemon elements and mechanics. Through a personality quiz, you end up becoming a Pokemon and questing through randomly-generated dungeons to find treasure, save others, and solve a mystery deeper than just idle exploration. Blue Rescue Team on DS is just an alternate version to this. Sequels are on DS, and all follow the same general mechanics, but have different character options. One of the most touching stories you'll get from a pokemon game!
Rebelstar: Tactical Command
A sort of spin-off of X-Com. Features surprisingly accurate rates on your damage and accuracy percentage rates. Utilizes stealth and cover quite well. If you've played X-Com before, it might feel streamlined or a step down, but even if you haven't it, it's an impressive game nonetheless. Also, you play as humans, not the aliens on the cover, at least in the main story mode. Skirmish mode is free-game for any side of (extra-)terrestrial life.
Riviera: The Promised Land
Upgraded port of the Wonderswan game. An interesting turn-based RPG where the main character is followed by a crew of girls. Lots of exploring, decision-making, and dating-sim elements. You're pretty much guaranteed not to see or get everything in one playthrough. Features very unique battles, which take a bit of time to get used to, but can be very fun. Also, dem well done dubbed voices. Ported to PSP with more voicework and remixed music.
Turn-Based/Monster Part Collecting
Actually picks up where the GBC game left off. Somewhat similar to Pokemon, but features several differences, mainly since you improve your robot with parts, software, and RAM. There are also 4-on-4 battles, a pretty expansive main quest, and an SNES inspired HUD. Not too shabby if you want different kind of collectan game to give a whirl.
Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon
Revamped version of Shining Force: The Legacy of Great Intention. Story elements are added and lots of characterization, too, especially when chatting with those who often battle. Extra content includes new characters, a few new spells, rewards for completing certain goals in battle, along with cards which allow a certain new character to utilize different powers. All in addition to updated graphics, better music (with a few new songs), and an already solid gameplay system.
Shining Soul II
A dungeon crawler action-RPG that's similar to Diablo in some aspects. You choose 1 class to play as from 8, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Leveling up allows you to customize which stats you want increased along with class specialties, such as weapon mastery, elemental resistances, and so forth. There's also some side-quests to take on, along with an arena, both of which offer various rewards. There is also multiplayer for up to 4 people, which is where some classes play best. Shining Soul II blows I away, so don't think you're missing anything by missing 1 (they're unrelated anyways).
Summon Night: Swordcraft Story
A cute action-RPG based on item and weapon crafting. Good stat-customization, charming dialogue, lots of weapons and weapon types (including swords, axes, even drills), and a fun 2D-based battle system (similar to Tales, but faster and focused on attack-weapon variety). Boss fights are fairly fun and challenging, and if you're crafty, you can steal boss-weapon recipes! On top of all that, you have one of 4 spell-wielding helpers from the game's start, one being a loli fairy lesbian and another being an demon who lusts after your mom. No joke. A bit inferior to 2, but it has some neat stuff to make it worth playing both, like this game's post-game 50-floor dungeon.
Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2
Plays similarly to 1, except for a few differences in battle, which make items more essential (such as whetstones keeping weapons durable). Exploration now goes through a variety of locations versus the few from 1. Weapons can now also be used out of battle, to clear out obstacles and gather materials. The cast and world are all new and more fleshed out. There's also more side-quests, more weapons, more weapons skills and magic, and more of the expected funny dialogues. There's also some new spoiler-filled additions which are cool (they tie into gameplay too!). Sadly, boss weapons' recipes are gone, but there's still a hefty post game like the first. EXeLD for life.
Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation
A strategy RPG with giant robots. If that doesn't sound good, something's wrong with you. Shit-tons of characters, some of which are awesome, some of which will piss you the hell off, but being able to train your favorite pilots to epic levels and upgrade their mechs is the main point. A long, winding plot that gets kind of ridiculous at times, you may not enjoy the story as much if you don't get the constant mecha anime tropes being recycled and played up.
Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 2
Continuation of the first game, improved with more giant robots, more characters, more music, more mechanics and an even more insane plot. A must-play if you really dig super robot anime. The nice thing is that once you know how to play these OG games, now you can play the other games even in japanese. OG1 and OG2 are also compiled into Original Generations for the PS2, with improved everything.
Sword of Mana
Remake of the first Seiken Densetsu(Final Fantasy Adventure on NA) on the Game Boy original. You can choose a male or female MC with different perspectives of the same (and great) story.The superb graphics,reminiscent from Legend of Mana on PSX,great fast and fluid combat system,decent and atmospheric feeling make this a great entry on the franchise,but the lack of multiplayer is kinda boring,but doesn't ruin the game.
Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis
Features much of what you'd expect from the Ogre series in mythos, artwork, and gameplay. Not as fleshed out as its PS1 older brother, but still has a surprisingly huge amount of depth and also playtime because SOME ENEMIES LOVE TO THINK FOREVER. Regardless, you'll get at least 60 hours or so on your FIRST playthrough. Extra playthroughs have extra secrets and endings, specifically one that reveals someone to be THE GODDAMN Lans Tartare. If you played FFTA and want something similar and somewhat harder, prepare to get your face punched by this. Protip: consider using a walkthrough on one of your runs, as maps love to place hidden (and helpful!) goodies in certain tiles.
Yggdra Union: We’ll Never Fight Alone
A very hard SRPG that features a strange mixture with cards, a rock-paper-scissors-type of system and an interesting battle method. It can get very frustrating near the last quarter of the game if your characters are poorly prepared. The character design and music are cool, and there's lots of thinking to do and strategies to make, along with very-easy-to-miss quests, items and secrets. Also available on PSP with an easier difficulty for casuals, a redone soundtrack, English and Japanese voice overs, and a couple of new characters (including a recruitable scythe user).
Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars
A side-game in Kojima's lighting action-mecha Z.O.E. series, The Fist of Mars combines the combat of the Super Robot Wars series with some of the action of the Goemon series' IMPACT battles (read: first-person, in-cockpit mecha combat).
Remake of the first DQ Monsters game on Game Boy. Now uses gameplay akin to the Joker games (day/night cycle, visible monsters instead of random battles, DQ8 style skill trees, etc.) with some added features, like an extra monster slot which allows for up to 4 on 4 battles (as some take up 2 or 3 slots). BUT! There's still Meat and other GBC elements as well, too. Dungeons are randomly generated, like the original, but with more depth, having structures to climb, explore, etc. Has 500 monsters to collect and breed (even every monster from Joker 2 Pro), lots of side quests, and some great online features. Note: Currently Japan only (region lock), so you'll need to import a Japanese 3DS alongside the game in order to play it. Or do some sort of loophole. Cough, cough (Not that there is such a thing.) Ahem.
Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan
First-Person Dungeon Crawler
Newest entry to the niche series. 3D graphics. Great soundtrack(first run comes with a free CD). The easiest game of the series with a new casual mode, but don't expect to breeze through it without some effort.
Fire Emblem: Awakening
The newest and biggest FE title borrows elements from JRPGs to create a more expansive world with more to explore, but the option to grind in between missions gels awkwardly with the gameplay and makes the story either too easy or populated with abrupt difficulty spikes. Character and script work have gotten a big boost with the return of detailed Support conversations and an emphasis on coupling and relationships as part of the story, and localization is great. Character and stage design are also wonderful and most everyone in the cast grows on the player. On the gameplay side you can expect the usual, but there's too much dependence on the Pair-up System and missions lack variety. There's tons of side content and DLC, including recruitable characters from all past games, and the game is in general a treat to series fans. If you're looking for a deep and challenging strategy experience this may leave you wanting, but it's full of fun and polish
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Happens after KH2, leads into 3. Play as both Sora and Riku, each now with unique skills, and both are in a dream world, so no Goofy and Donald. Instead you tame dream world enemies, each giving a variety of abilities, but features a pseduo Pokemon petting system to take full advantage of them. Gameplay is similar to Birth by Sleep (minus command fusion), but now with the lovechild of all the Drive form abilities in KH2 being at immediate disposal. Several new Disney worlds and characters. Also, If you care about the story, don't miss this, or KH3 won't make any sense. But, if you're new to KH, you can unlock a sort of recap to fill in any questions you need to ask. An HD collection of the originals is also available on PS3. Sadly, the TWEWY stuff isn't as important as you may have hoped. Also, Baloonga.
Project X Zone
Turn-Based Strategy / Fighting
Fan service at its finest. Not only a crossover of Capcom, Namco Bandai, and Sega; but a crossover of genres too. Combines tactics gameplay with a "Cross active battle system" combo system for the battle scenes. Does get repetitive towards the end but the production values and the ability to use Ulala from Space Channel 5 makes it all worth it.
Shin Megami Tensei IV
Dungeon Crawler / Monster Collecting
The long awaited follow-up to 2009's Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey, and the older SMT3: Nocturne. One of the most solidly crafted RPG's on the 3DS, providing the classic and balls-bustingly difficult dungeon crawling and demon negotiating the series has always been known for. It's also the first title in the mainline series not to feature a main cast designed by Kazuma Kaneko, though his classic demons are still here. First run copies include the usual Atlus soundtrack CD as well as a 180 page guidebook covering the first 30-40% of the game. Atlus says it's an artbook, but don't believe their lies, that only covers about eight pages of the book.
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner - Soul Hackers
First-Person Dungeon Crawler / Monster Collecting
Port of the original JP-only Sega Saturn game. The 3DS version includes fully voiced dialogue, new demons, "Hacks" which allow you to do things like adjust difficulty and a bonus dungeon in which Raidou Kuzunoha from the PS2 Devil Summoner games makes an appearance. Story involves you playing the role of a member of the Hacker group, The Spookies, as they unravel the mystery of the Phantom Society which seeks to steal all the souls of the inhabitants of Amami City via a virtual reality world known as Paradigm X. Since this game is fairly easy it would be a good starting place for individuals interested in getting into the SMT games.
Known as Shinki Gensou: SSII Unlimited Side in Japan,Spectral Souls immerses you in agreat battle between good and evil. During this role-playing game, you can switch between characters from three
Trails in the Sky
The game is the sixth entry in the "Legend of Heroes" series by Falcom, which is like the complete opposite to their other famous series "Ys" focusing on story, strategy, customization, sidequests and all you love in RPG games. Plagued by delays, but massive in scope and worth the wait. We have a detailed page on Trails in the Sky for more info.