Final Fantasy XV is out, and I love it already. But for this week’s Top Five, we’re going to expand our focus to look at JRPGs in general, and try to do the impossible. Pick five of the very best JRPGs of all time.
Being British, I’m going to apologise in advance for missing out loads of amazing games here. This was really very difficult to do, and I’ll probably come up with a completely different list tomorrow. But it means that I really want to hear from you as well. What are your top five JRPGs? Did I get the list right? What would you change?
Anyway…here it goes.
5. Xenoblade Chronicles
Xenoblade Chronicles manages to combine the best of the evolution of Western RPGs with the staples that have made JRPGs historically great. The open-world is expansive, stuffed with things to see and do, and gloriously presented. The combat borrows from MMORPGs to feel present and impactful and exhilarating. The story is grand and sweeping, filled with twists and turns, not to mention characters that are richly drawn and brilliantly complex. It’s the best JRPG, and a contender for best RPG generally, of its generation.
4. Final Fantasy VII
To be honest, this is a toss up between Final Fantasy VI and VII really. But I’m going with the populist choice here, because of its impact. Final Fantasy VII has arugably the best setting, iconic moments, soundtrack, and characters in the whole series. But it’s the gameplay that really stands out. The battling is still strategically engrossing, the open-world is rich and varied, and Materia is best progression mechanism in the entire series. It’s simple yet enormously versatile, and it’s never been bettered. There’s a reason that this game has spawned so many spinoff games, movies, fiction. It’s brilliant, ’nuff said.
3. Pokemon Gold/Silver
It’s strange to think that a series about virtual cock-fighting has proven to be one of the greatest cultural phenomena ever created, but here we are. Pokemon was always going to make this list, but it was difficult to choose between the originals that began the phenomenon and later releases that refined the formula. In the end, though, the second generation for the series is probably where the pinnacle lies. It expanded on the original in so many key areas, introducing day and night cycles, many more Pokemon types, breeding options, and multiple regions to visit. Probably one of the most addictive gaming series ever conceived.
2. Persona 4
Part high-school simulator, and part supernatural murder mystery, Persona 4 is a genre-twisting masterpiece. Much like Xenoblade Chronicles, it’s the game you point to when some idiot tells you that JRPGs are stale and boring and stuck in the past. Here’s a game that leaves behind the grand sweeping epics to tell a more personal, relatable story, where you battle your inner demons and discover who your true friends really are. It’s a game with some of greatest characters in videogame history – characters whom you’ll miss once you finish the game. Behold the smooth combat, the innovative Persona fusion, the way P4 blends together the familiar and the fantastical. They all add up to make this game (especially the Golden version on PS Vita) one of the most captivating, moving, downright excellent games you’ll ever play.
1. Chrono Trigger
The term ‘dream team’ should not be used lightly. However, when you’re talking about a band of developers that includes the likes of Hironobu Sakaguchi, creator of Final Fantasy; Yuji Horii, creator of Dragon Quest; and Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball; there are few other ways to describe the masterminds behind Chrono Trigger. And with such talent at the helm, perhaps it’s unsurprising that Chrono Trigger is the greatest JRPG of all time. In fact, it’s probably one of the best games ever made. It tells one of the finest stories to grace our medium, delivering an epic tale of time-travel and loss, and culminating in over a dozen different possible endings. Its incredible art style and cast of compelling, loveable characters is matched by a phenomenal soundtrack, innovative combat, and a non-linear narrative that is the very epitome of the term ‘replay value’.
That’s the thing about Chrono Trigger. You can play it again and again without ever tiring of it, discovering new elements each time.
And now I have Frog’s Theme stuck in my head.