Sharpen that sword; it’s time to look at the best JRPGs of our generation!
No, I didn’t put a spelling mistake in the title; we’re looking for JRPG’s today, but don’t worry if you don’t know what that means. There’s an explanation at the bottom of this article to reward you for scrolling through.
We’ll know if you’ve skipped ahead though!
Japan has produced some of the greatest and nerdiest adventures of our geeky little lives, and for a long while, classics like the Final Fantasy series remained unknown to Western gamers.
Still, once the cat was out of the bag, we couldn’t get enough of JRPG fever.
I’ve compiled a list of the best JRPGs from multiple consoles that I’ve played to death over the years. Some you might have heard of, and others might be completely new to you.
Hopefully, in about 10 minutes time, you’ll have all 20 games in your eBay basket and a week off work booked in with HR!
Radiant Historia kickstarts this list of the best JRPGs of all time. It’s a cracking handheld title that expands on the of the original DS title and is jam packed full of beautiful game worlds and the kind of lore that Tolkien would be proud of.
Oh, and what could make a JRPG even better when it comes to crafting the perfect storyline?
Yep, throwing in some time travel elements should do it alright!
Aside from the memorable characters and epic locations for players to delve into, it’s the turn based battles make this game such a splendiferous title to play.
Seriously, critics loved this game, as did the players. But for some reason, we never got a sequel.
Look how many FF games there have been in our lives so far; it wouldn’t have been hard to just knock out one extra game, for crying out loud!
Maybe we’ll get a campaign for a new Radiant Historia game like we did for the Lunar 3 game!
First Radiant Historia, and now Xenogears; what a way to kick off an article!
Square Enix know a thing or three about making the best JRPGs alright; their name seems to be on our RPG lists more than the phrase RPG does!
So, let’s talk humanoid mecha warriors.
They’re one of the features that makes Xenogears so damn exciting, along with the active time battles and a plot that features a powerful ruler and a quest to solve the secrets of your home world.
Now here’s where things get a little odd.
Integrated into this fantasy tale are elements of religious symbolism and Jungian psychology. This could be the most in-depth JRPG that you’ve ever played in your entire life.
It’s also one of the main reasons this game almost never came to light. The developers thought no one would want to play a computer game with religious connotations, but they were very mistaken.
If you love Final Fantasy and the next game in our list, then do yourself a favour and grab a copy, pronto!
Chrono Cross takes the 18th spot in this list of the best JRPGs of all time! It’s the sequel to the spectacular Chrono Trigger and a bona fide masterpiece in its own right!
Don’t just take our word for it though; pretty much every critic the world over gave this game incredible reviews (though ours is obviously the only opinion that matters…).
The plot in this game is absolutely superb too (how many times am I going to say that through this article? Delve into parallel universes where you a boy dies in one but is alive in the other.
Add in a bunch of brutal enemies, stunning graphics, and turn-based battles reminiscent of Final Fantasy, and you’re onto a real winner!
Of course, we’ve got all the collecting and dungeon crawling that one would expect from such a high profile JRPG (I just used ‘one’ because we’re getting all fancy).
Wield elemental magic that is frankly the best out of any RPG, J or otherwise, that I’ve ever played, and delve into the backstories of all the characters involved, wholly immersing yourself in this game from the very beginning.
Persona 5 follows a long line of amazing titles in the Persona series, following the life of a teenager through a whole school year.
The difference to your school is that these teens fight demons in a shadow realm every evening as well as having to get straight As and deal with crushes.
Talk about having a lot on your plate!
The Phantom Thieves (amazing group name) can wield Persona’s to do their fighting. They’re kind of like the Patronuses from Harry Potter but more demonic.
Use your Persona to defeat evil entities and develop your character through battles and interactions in both the real and shadow world.
Next up on our list of the best JRPGs of all time is Final Fantasy VI!
Now, this is a series that doesn’t need any introduction, and FFVI is one of the best JRPGs on the SNES.
It should win an award for the front cover art alone!
Players can chose from one of fourteen characters to play as as they move through the game. One difference to other games in the series is that FFVI covers some pretty deep topics that are going on in the world today, touching on everything from chemical warfare to teenage pregnancy.
Because of these mature themes, the audience for FFVI was much wider, helping it to gain quicker critical acclaim. The graphics might look a little old school now, but they were cutting edge back in 1994 too.
And let’s not forget that epic soundtrack. It’s not a JRPG without one, after all!
We’re keeping the quality JRPGs coming Dragon Quest VIII: Journey Of The Cursed King!
Listen, this game might have had a demo for FFXII in it, but it didn’t need it to grab people’s attention. I can’t remember seeing another title that shows the true power of the PS2 off more than DGVIII.
It’s a sensational title that looks and plays like a PS3 game… on a PS2!
So, what’s the deal with Dragon Quest VIII?
Well, apart from being the first-ever 3D Dragon Quest game, it’s also the first title to reach Western living rooms!
Square and Enix are a force to be reckoned with, and their combined minds made maps and characters that both compliment the series and supercharge it to 100. It’s a great game on the PS2 or the 3DS, and one that you need in your collection STAT!
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne takes the 14th spot in this list of the best JRPGs of all time!
If you’ve ever owned a PlayStation, then the chances are yo’ve come across the Devil May Cry games. Dante from said games is actually in this Shin Megami Tensei title.
If you defeat him as a boss, then he becomes a character in your party…
… I know… mind blown, right?
Speaking of firsts, Nocturne is also the first SMT title that western gamers got their hands on too. I think 2004 was a pivotal year for gamers falling in love with JRPGs, a love that will now last forever!
Dante isn’t the only boss that can join your party in Nocturne either. There’s a whole host of powerful demons ready and waiting to join your team as you move through the labyrinthine levels slaying bad guys and looking like Darth Maul’s Smurf cousin
We’re not just covering old games in this list of the best JRPGs you know. 2018 saw the release of another Square Enix game, Octopath Traveller, and allowed Switch users to delve into a magical world with multiple paths to travel along…
… eight, to be exact, hence the name.
Pick one of eight roles and play eight different adventures, shaping the life of your chosen traveller as you make your way through perilous levels.
Each character from the Dancer to the Warrior has a special ability that can be used in battle, with boost points being used to pull off combo attacks.
This is Square Enix at their finest and a real joy to play if you’ve held your partner second to the best JRPGs for most of your life.
Vandal Hearts holds a special place in my quite often vandalised heart as one of the best Sega Saturn games I’ve ever played. If you’re a fan of tactical battle titles like Fire Emblem, then step right up.
This game has so many old-school features that it’s almost like falling into the grid in Tron. Isometric view, lengthy dialogue on the screen, anime-style characters, NPCs with epic stances.
Yeah, it’s a classic JRPG alright.
Battling is where this game truly shines. Certain conditions have to be met in certain scenarios such as picking off a single soldier or saving certain characters while making sure others come to an untimely end.
Oh, and if your leader dies, then it’s an automatic game over. Protect them at all costs!
Skies of Arcadia takes the 11th spot in this list of the best JRPGs of all time, boasting some of the most breathtaking scenery in any role-playing-game from across the globe.
Any game that has turn-based battles up in the air and luscious landscapes to hunt for treasure in deserves to be called one of the best JRPGs of all time.
Oh, and there’s some belting tunes to listen to while you’re blasting back enemies.
BOTW fans will be all over the storyline and explorative gameplay in Skies of Arcadia. There are so many weapons to wield and the worlds are so immersive that you’ll soon find yourself losing three, four, maybe five hours!
In terms of gameplay, we’re talking Phantasy Star Online and Final Fantasy vibes with a touch of Ocarina for good measure.
If that’s not a combination for success, then I don’t know what is!
Players must work their way towards becoming a Dragonmaster, which I’m pretty sure was what I wanted to be as a kid and all the other kids wanted to be firefighters.
Dragons, magical swords, and HP points… definitely smells like a JRPG to me!
The remake for the Sega Saturn utilised the consoles 32bit processor and improved on the Sega CD port.
One of the best improvements it made was getting rid of the random battles. There’s nothing worse than not being able to avoid enemies when you’re in a rush!
Everything feels fresher and works more smoothly too. Magic is easier to use, and the whole experience is way more enjoyable. Give it a try if you’re looking for something truly special and a bona fide legend in the JRPG world.
9. Persona 3 (2006)
Persona 3 is up next in this list of the best JRPGs of all time!
I’ve never been an orphan moving to a new high school, so I can’t tell you how accurate having to deal with shadow beings and then developing the ability to use a patronus-esque demon actually is.
It sounds pretty tough though, I’m not gonna lie!
As if completing all your homework on time wasn’t enough, you’re also inducted into the Specialised Extracurricular Execution Squad to kill demons in a shadow realm.
Talk about full on!
If you’re a fan of the Sin Megami Tensei series, then you’ll probably already know about the Persona canon.
Don’t worry if you’re coming to this game for the first time; it stands alone fine and is a great title for newbies to sink their teeth into.
As well as summoning spirits to do battle for you, there’s also a Bully-esque life sim element to this game.
Being an angsty teenager isn’t easy at the best of times, but it must be 10-times tougher when you know you could die in a ghoulish battle before bedtime!
Obviously, you need to make sure that the good guys win…
And, here’s a cool fact for you. The main character Ryudo is voiced by the legendary Cam Clarke, the voice of Liquid Snake and Leonardo from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!
Grandia’s turn based battles are a little different to other games in the genre. Players have a little bit of free movement on each turn.
Think about the movement in Mario & Rabbids Kingdom Battle for the Switch, and you’ll get the general idea.
Grandia 2 is certainly one of the best Dreamcast RPGs we’ve ever played boasts all the key features to keep gamers hooked for months and years to come.
Seriously, it should come with a warning label!
Known as Mother to Japanese gamers, this game starts with a mysterious disappearance in the early 1900s. Generations later, a boy learns psychic powers from his gramps and takes a team of kids to uncover the mystery.
Unlike many of the best JRPGs, the characters don’t look as though they’ve just dropped out of wizard school.
If anything, Earthbound Beginnings feels a little like a video game version of Stranger things. There’s no dwarves or archers, just a young genius outcast, a sheepish girl, and a young gang member who punches first and asks questions later.
With humongous bosses to battle and PSI powers that leave your fists for collecting instead of punching, this is one game that we won’t need to use mind control to make you buy. Grab a copy and experience the brilliance for yourself..
It’s time for another newer entry. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes Of An Elusive Age S Definitive Edition is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best Dragon Quest game of all time and a title you have to see to truly believe.
That sentence is going to rile some people up, but I bet you can’t deny that BOTW and the new Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy aren’t the best in their respective series…
Plus, Echoes of an Elusive age could well be the best looking game in this list (ignore all the other times I’ve said that before…).
Just look at those mountains in the background! This game feels like stepping into a fantasy novel… I wouldn’t be surprised if Gandalf wasn’t chilling out up there!
Saving the world is still the main primary objective and this is still definitely a D.Q game at its core. Still, it feels smoother and has more about it, probably due to systems and tech that wasn’t about for previous games.
Fall in love with the graphics, stay for the battles, and keep coming back to make sure you’ve explored every nook and cranny.
Let’s carry on down the newer release line with the epic Final Fantasy VII Remake.
If you logged onto this article, then I’m going to assume that you’ve already played the original. It’s a classic, so much so that Square Enix made a remake 23 years later to spice it up for modern audiences.
The original FF VII was the first game in the classic JRPG series with a PAL release, something that Square didn’t think they needed to consider. Western audiences wouldn’t be bothered about Final Fantasy, right?
It’s a good job they did as it made $80,000,000 through the 90’s alone!
Players take a guy called Cloud through an adventure to store a mega corporation from draining his planets essence.
Imagine if the Skeksis conquered the world; it’s that kind of vibe.
In true JRPG style, the game map is choc-a-bloc with towns to explore, NPCs holding secret info, and battles where a cool head and timing are everything.
It’s undoubtedly one of the best PS1 RPGs (J or otherwise) of all time, and the 2020 remake looks so damn good that you just can’t help but love it.
Panzer Dragon Saga takes the spot in our best JRPGs list.
It might be one of Sega’s most critically acclaimed titles and a fan-favourite when it comes to dragon games, but there are two other JRPGs that pipped it to the top spot.
Players take the guy from U2 (joking, but he is called Edge) on a mission through a spectacular world while riding a dragon.
It’s a nerd’s paradise!
This game has everything role-playing fans could hope for. We’re talking real time action, the need to explore a ginormous map, item collecting… everything!
And as I said above, you ride about on a dragon.
The only way Zelda could have been any cooler is if you could ditch Epona for a dragon. The Legend of Dragoon Zelda is be a mash up I really want to see!
Vagrant Story snaps up the bronze medal in our list of the best JRPGs ever made. And yes, it was also made by Square Enix, though back when they used to be known as Squaresoft.
This game has seen a release on the PS3 through the PSN and may well be coming to a TV near you soon as PS1 and PS2 games could be coming to PS5 in 2022!
For fans of tactical games like Fire Emblem, Vagrant Story will feel like some sort of weird gothic Christmas has come early.
Enter the Kingdom of Valendia as you take control of (get ready) Ashley Riot. WHAT A NAME!
It get’s better though; his codename is Riskbreaker. This dude is the coolest.
Find out what’s going in a local cult and uncover a plot between its leader and the government, uncovering mysteries and slaying everything from zombies to Dragons.
With epic battles that require you to work your grey matter and RPG goodness brimming from every seam (as well as giant dragons), this is a more mature JRPG that will keep you occupied for many months to come.
Second place goes to Xenoblade Chronicles, a JRPG that Grandia and Dragon Quest fans will lose their minds over.
Not literally… hopefully.
Until Link’s Switch adventure dropped in 2017, Xenoblade was the largest open world adventure on any Nintendo machine. Slotting this disc into the Wii for the first time and going up against Shadow of the Colossus-style bosses felt spectacular!
Xenoblade has some of the best side quests of any RPG too. With a day/night cycle that leaves players waiting to access certain areas and tonnes of enemies to slay with awesome abilities and powers, it’s a brilliant adventure with hidden secrets everywhere.
Oh, and don’t forget the battles.
Xenoblade has a real time battle system in some of the most breathtaking settings on a Wii game. I don’t know how these guys life some of those humongous weapons, let alone carry them around all day!
It has one of the coolest game covers ever and more than holds its own amongst the likes of Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy.
It’s also one of the most expensive rare SNES games on the planet, so make sure you look after your copy if you’ve got one!
Yes, that is a SNES game. Just look how crisp and clear it is.
It’ll look even better with the best SNES HDMI cables too!
Like all the other JRPGs in this list, there are tonnes and tonnes of characters to converse with, side quests, and epic levels to explore.
It tops every other game, however, thanks to its Grandmother Paradox-style time travel adventure and multiple endings.
And, with the brains behind Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and DBZ putting their heads together to create this game, there’s no wonder it’s one of the best JRPGs of our lives!
What Are JRPGs?
JRPGs (Japanes role-playing games) are role-playing games that have specific features that set them apart from Western games.
In most cases, you’ll find JRPGs being made by developers based in Japan, hence the J in the name. Still, that isn’t always the case these days, and the term has become as loosey-goosey as ‘RPG’.
In essence, it’s more of an umbrella term these days than an actual gaming genre. Still, you can spot the anime design of a JRPG a mile off, and the dialogue in these games tends to have less of a major impact on the gameplay as a whole.
JRPGs are well known for having party-based battles (think Final Fantasy) and big references to religious gods, made-up or otherwise.
Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 31 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.