Get ready for dungeon crawling, anime art styles, and storylines more complex than George R. R Martin’s dreams as we take a look at the best PS1 JRPGs of all time!
PlayStation is pretty synonymous with the JRPG genre at this point, but back when the PS1 first launched, games of this ilk were few and far between.
However, as the system’s life cycle progressed, more and more JRPG titles became available in not only Japan, but the rest of the world.
But which are the best titles to play? What separates a JRPG from an RPG, and how many hours have we put into playing all of these games?
The answers to the first two can be found below… the last one is a secret we’ll be taking with us to our graves.
Here, we’ve picked the cream of the crop for you to take a look at, all being fantastic in their own regard.
And yes, don’t worry, at least one Final Fantasy game does make the cut!
Table of Contents
We open up this best PS1 JPRPGs list with a game that doesn’t actually follow the traditional formula – Valkyrie Profile.
We say this because while it offers turn-based combat that JRPGs are known for, the exploration side of things is akin to more of a platformer.
This is due to you stepping into the shoes of Lenneth, a Valkyrie tasked by Odin to recruit and train the souls of fallen warriors for the impending battle of Ragnarok.
On your travels, you encounter dungeons, cities and towns. In the overworld, this will be in 3D but as you transition into the areas, it’ll move into the more traditional 2D approach.
Instead of the standard turn based combat, you have your whole party having one complete turn for simultaneous attacks. The order of these attacks is determined by your button presses.
For characters, you can pick up a total of 24 with some of these only being available on certain difficulties which is great for those who like multiple playthroughs.
We won’t spoil it, but the story is great and has 2 different endings, so get playing to see what’s in store!
If you didn’t own a PS1, you might have already heard of Vagrant Story due to both its critical acclaim as well as its re-releases on later consoles.
It’s one of those games that has certainly stood the test of time and there’s no surprise since the team behind Final Fantasy Tactics was behind it.
In terms of gameplay, you take control of a protagonist – Ashley Riot, in an effort to explore Leá Monde and its catacombs.
Interestingly, there are some features that you don’t typically see in JRPGs of that time – a first person camera perspective option and real-time battling.
These make for a fresher feeling experience if you’re someone who knows JRPGs inside and out.
Moreover, with even more new takes on battling with a Risk system coupled with the fact that you can do a plethora of weapon/armor upgrading, there’s some incredible depth to the game.
To enhance things that bit further, you can enjoy New Game Plus allowing for even more content to be explored.
Wild Arms lives on a bunch of different consoles today, but did you know it was this best PS1 JRPG that started it all?
This one offers a mostly 2D aesthetic but with completely 3D battling which can be jarring at first but actually works really nice.
It is obviously turn based like most JRPGs, but there are unique elements such as Force Techniques coupled with different abilities for each of the characters.
The story is rich and is full of lore for any of the media that came after, which is great for those that want to follow the franchise.
Many overlook Wild Arms due to it releasing just before Final Fantasy 7, but in our eyes, it’s definitely worth playing.
The Legend of Dragoon had a huge budget for a game of this ilk at the time but thankfully, it translated into one of the best PS1 JRPGs around.
You’re looking at a 3D JRPG here which is perfect for those either bored of the isometric/2D style, or simply don’t like it.
Coupled with the CGI cutscenes (thanks to the large budget) the graphics are at the top for the time.
Contrary to the more ‘open world’ maps of other games, this one follows more linear paths but you’re still able to visit a plethora of areas and interact with various NPCs.
In terms of battling, the unique element here is the Dragoon Spirit which allows for your character to basically transform into a dragon-like creature, offering different attack styles.
All in all, if you want a graphically impressive game with an interesting take on JRPGs, The Legend of Dragoon is worth your time.
The Breath of Fire series of games are definitely up there with some of the best JRPG experiences and Breath of Fire IV is our pick from the PS1 era.
This one basically does everything Breath of Fire III does but cranked up that bit further.
The graphics are some of the best around in JRPGs at time of release in our opinion with beautiful hand drawn sprites on some really nice backgrounds.
The camera moves the full 360 degrees too, allowing you to soak all the action in.
The Master System is back from Breath of FIre III which is definitely welcomed, allowing you to customize characters and develop their skills as you progress.
What is new in this version though is the introduction of a Combo System allowing you to stack attacks and benefit from additional damage bonuses, making for a bit more strategic thinking for those looking for a challenge.
You may have heard of Chrono Trigger on the SNES, and Chrono Cross is its successor on the PS1.
Set in the same world as its predecessor, you take control of Serge on his adventures through the parallel dimensions.
As usual, you’ll be moving around an overworld map visiting various places like villages and dungeons battling as you progress.
This one features an Elements system which is similar to that of materia in Final Fantasy, allowing for magic to be used on any and all opponents.
There’s 45 characters in the game which is a very respectable number and each of these actually have an innate Element coupled with special abilities which makes for some really diverse combat.
The game actually got a full remake in 2020, which always signals that it wasn’t only a great game at the time but has also aged very well.
Everyone always talks about how great Final Fantasy VII is, and while that can’t be refuted, you should definitely not overlook Final Fantasy IX.
After the more modern, futuristic feel of 6, 7, and 8, 9 throws things back to the medieval times, making for a really nice palette cleanser if you played those titles.
All the core Final Fantasy elements are present with the turn-based battling system, overworld map, and more, but there are some additions that mix things up a bit.
One of these is Active Time Events (ATE) which are a brilliant tweak, allowing for your decisions to directly impact the story, unique items to be found, and enhanced character development.
There’s also a less steep learning curve to this iteration, which could make for a nice first Final Fantasy experience for those who haven’t managed to gel with the franchise.
Sneaking into the top 3 as one of the best PS1 JRPGs of all time is Xenogears.
Xenogears is actually the one that started it all in the Xeno franchise, with the more well-known Xenoblade being the go-to for many Nintendo Switch owners.
The battling system is akin to that of the Final Fantasy series but with its own ‘gears’ additions that take things to a more complex level.
These gears add a whole different feel to the fights with characters entering mechs instead of being on foot, something that definitely sets it apart from other JRPGs of the time.
The graphics aren’t the most breathtaking but the story, gameplay, and soundtrack more than make up for this. Plus, it is a PS1 game after all.
Just missing out on the top spot, but still one of the best PS1 JRPGs, is Suikoden II.
If you’re not savvy with the genre, you might not have heard of this game at all but it’s a real treat.
This one has a huge number of characters that you can recruit, over 100 in fact, which is incredible depth considering it was first released in 1998.
This definitely translates into battling too since there’s not only small scale face offs, but also large skirmishes that something like a Final Fantasy simply doesn’t offer.
What is similar though is overworld exploration with random fights occurring as you travel, bringing some familiarity and a tried and true formula that you probably know and love.
In terms of graphics, it definitely has its charm but it is somewhat lacking when compared to some other titles. However, when you put this in the perspective of the density of the game, it makes complete sense.
What are fun though are the small battle animations when there’s an attack. These could seem goofy to some but we find them really endearing.
One of, if not the most iconic Final Fantasy game of all time, Final Fantasy VII, unsurprisingly takes the number 1 spot in our best PS1 JRPGs list.
What is there to be said that hasn’t been commented on already? Final Fantasy VII or FF7 is as close as you’ll get to a perfect all-round experience.
It has it all – fantastic story, top-tier combat mechanics, incredible exploration experience, and much more.
You can really get engrossed by Final Fantasy 7 because of this, and it’s likely that it tops many a gamer’s list not only for the JRPG genre but PS1 games as a whole.
There’s also no wonder it’s had a complete remake in recent times, adding even more to the stellar base game, and opening it up to the more modern gamer.
If you’re after the pinnacle of PS1 JRPG experiences, then this is it.
What Is The Difference Between A JRPG And An RPG?
A JRPG differs from an RPG usually because of the anime art styles used in the gameplay, as well as more of a focus on storytelling, be that through cutscenes or following the story of one character throughout the gameplay.
Both RPGs and JRPGs have parties of players and similar gameplay mechanics, though JRPGs tend to follow a turn-based structure.
And, of course, the J in JRPG stands for ‘Japanese’, which indicates where the development country.
And there you have it, a full top 10 list of the best PS1 JRPGs money can buy.
While they all fall into the broad genre, each has its own little tweaks on the traditional formula making every experience different in its own regard.
Whether you get into the legendary Final Fantasy 7, or the more lesser known Xenoblade predecessor Xenogears, you’ll have an incredible time!
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Jacob has been an avid handheld enthusiast ever since the original Game Boy was placed in his hand at an early age. From that point, he’s become engrossed in all aspects of gaming, owning most consoles that have been released, and enjoying titles from a wide variety of genres. When he is not playing the latest game releases, he’s spending far too much money modding retro systems.