Role-playing games from Japan have their own distinct blend of plot, gameplay, and, frequently, style. JRPGs are very captivating, frequently lasting for hours on end, because of the combination of turn-based battles, which frequently feature unique mechanics, character advancement, and item management. Here is a list of the top 10 JRPGs that you ought to play.
JRPGs are the genre that we’re using for this ranking. Even though all of our games were developed by Japanese firms, we omitted titles like Dark Souls. Although it is an RPG and was developed by a Japanese studio, it does not adhere to the genre norms of a JRPG because it is more of an action game with RPG features.
1 Chrono Trigger
Release date: March 11, 1995
Platforms: SNES, Nintendo DS, iOS, Android, Windows, PlayStation, Apple TV
One of the most intriguing video games ever made is Chrono Trigger. The Final Fantasy series inventor Hironobu Sakaguchi, the Dragon Quest series founder Yuji Horii, and the most well-known game character designer Akira Toriyama all contributed to its creation, which was done by a supergroup of game developers.
The end result is amazing, despite Chrono Trigger’s chaotic development (it was initially intended for the Final Fantasy series and subsequently the Mana series). With time travel as a key game concept, you play as one of six people from various historical periods. Your group learns of a beast that will eventually destroy society while traveling back and forth across time, and you have to go back in time to stop it from happening.
Chrono Trigger pioneered a number of gameplay innovations that are still in use today. For instance, there is a “new game plus” mode and enemy encounters aren’t random; enemies are clearly visible on screen. The game emulates Final Fantasy’s Active Time Battle system in combat, where characters can act after their timer expires.
2 Final Fantasy VI
Release date: April 2, 1994
Platforms: SNES, Wii, Game Boy Advance, PlayStation, Android, iOS, Windows
It’s challenging to choose the top Final Fantasy game because there are 15 numbered titles, numerous sequels, and even more spinoffs. We’re paying homage to Final Fantasy VI (or, if you’re on the SNES, Final Fantasy III) from the SNES era rather than one of the more recent games in the series, like VII or X.
The final 2D sprite-based Final Fantasy game before Square settled on low-poly character models and pre-rendered scenery for the original PlayStation is Final Fantasy VI. The game has stunning aesthetics and an exciting battle system, giving off the impression of being a masterpiece of classic Final Fantasy design.
But the thing that really sticks out is the tale. Final Fantasy VI, which eschews the high-fantasy backdrop of earlier games, investigates a steampunk scenario where magic and mechs coexist. Final Fantasy VI established the tone for the rest of the series and laid the groundwork for Final Fantasy VII, often regarded as the best game in the franchise.
3 Dragon Quest VIII
Release date: November 27, 2004
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, PS2, Android, iOS
When Dragon Warrior was first released in the West in 1986, Dragon Quest effectively pioneered the JRPG genre. Dragon Quest VIII faced stiff competition when it was released in the same year as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Metal Gear Solid 3, and Katamari Damacy. Despite that, it’s among the PS2’s top games.
The game, created by Level-5 and released as the first game under the Dragon Quest name in the West, marks a turning point in the series. Battles are managed via menus and submenus in the conventional turn-based manner. But VIII also has a tension-management system. You can do this to skip a player’s turn and strengthen their subsequent attack.
Additionally, it has Dragon Quest V’s monster-capturing system, which lets you capture and employ monsters in combat. Despite being the best game in the series, Dragon Quest VIII is only available for the PS2 and 3DS (there are poor ports for Android and iOS). Dragon Quest XI, the most recent game in the series, is a close second to VIII if you’re using a modern system.
Release date: August 27, 1994
Platforms: SNES, Wii, Nintendo 3DS
Earthbound is the middle game in a trilogy by Mother, the first and last of which were only available in Japan. You take on the role of Ness, a young child from Eagleland, in the game. Ness and his neighbor Pokey learn that aliens known as Giygas have transformed their bright village into something much more deadly after looking into a meteorite crash.
As you gather tunes from eight Sanctuaries, each of which aids you in combating the alien danger, you’ll enlist additional party members as you progress through your adventure. Despite having a conventional plot in general, Earthbound has a unique take on the JRPG genre.
A series like Pokémon is significantly more lighthearted than games like Final Fantasy, which primarily emphasize the post-apocalyptic element of the plot. Earthbound succeeds in achieving both goals by contrasting the story’s grim subject matter with an overall upbeat ambiance. Additionally, much like Undertale, Earthbound makes fun of a number of JRPG tropes.
5 Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Release date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
The most recent entry in the venerable strategic RPG series, Fire Emblem: Three Houses, seems like the most comprehensive Fire Emblem experience to date, despite stiff competition from Awakening and Path of Radiance.
Three Houses incorporates a life simulation into its strategic gameplay, in contrast to earlier games that were almost entirely focused on fighting. You must select one of three houses, each of which has a unique cast of hireable people and plot.
Outside of combat, you’ll spend your time as a professor teaching students, forming friendships, getting things, and enlisting new students. Similar to Persona, the relationships you develop outside of combat will affect how you perform in combat, giving the franchise a new degree of depth. Most people agree that Three Houses is the best Fire Emblem game, while those seeking a more authentic experience may consider Path of Radiance.
6 Persona 5 Royal
Release date: March 31, 2020
Selecting a favorite Persona game is similar to choosing a favorite child. When it comes down to it, they’re all really good, however there is probably one you like above the others. For us, Persona 5—more particularly, the improved version known as Persona 5 Royal—is the most recent offering from Atlus. You play as the game’s mute lead character, Joker, who journeys inside corrupt hearts with a group of companions to restore them.
It’s a corny concept, but Persona 5 Royal makes excellent use of it. If you haven’t played a Persona game, they are a hybrid of a JRPG and a life simulation. You spend the most of your time slogging through high school classes, making new acquaintances, reading books, and developing relationships. You can use our Persona 5 Romance guide to help you with this.
But as the story progresses, numerous situations will arise that call for the Phantom Thieves—you and your friends—to enter the hearts of the corrupted. Persona seems most like a classic JRPG in these dungeon-like settings, but one brimming with intriguing character concepts and aesthetic. The fact that the Royal adds even more content is nearly excessive considering that the base game alone was probably going to take 100 hours or longer if you’re really invested in viewing everything. You gain new party members, a complete extra semester, more confidants to level up, and more.
7 Xenoblade Chronicles
Release date: June 10, 2010
Platforms: Wii, Nintendo 3DS
With the exception of Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn and a number of re-releases for the Virtual Console, the Wii’s selection of JRPGs isn’t very well-known. The Xeno series of PlayStation and PS2 games, which began with Xenogears in 1998 and continued with the Xenosaga trilogy on the PS2, is continued by Xenoblade Chronicles.
Xenoblade Chronicles borrows mechanics from a number of different JRPGs. Although players can enter special attacks known as Arts—not to be confused with the Artes from the Tales series—the battle system is real-time. Although the game can first seem like you’re just watching a slideshow of attack animations, as the game goes on and the foes become more challenging, it develops into something far more sophisticated.
Sadly, Xenoblade Chronicles looks terrible on both the Wii and the 3DS. The limitations of those platforms prevent the game from expanding to its full potential, resulting in muddy textures and scant anti-aliasing. Thankfully, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition for the Switch offers significantly better visuals.
8 Tales of Berseria
Release date: January 24, 2017
Platforms: PS3, PS4, Windows
Although Tales of Vesperia is frequently praised as the greatest Tales game to date, we’re giving Berseria the nod in this instance. You take on the role of Velvet, a young woman from a rural town who looks after her younger brother Laphicet. If you want to start with a clean slate, just pick up the game since we’re going to reveal the story’s turning point right now.
Artorious, Velvet’s brother-in-law, is an exorcist skilled in killing demons, and as part of the Advent ceremony, he sacrifices Laphicet. Artorious then pursues Velvet, but she is overpowered by Daemons who have taken control of her arm. Velvet spends three years in jail with her devilish new arm, absorbing Daemons, before being set free by a former Artorious associate.
The first few hours of Tales of Berseria are simply that. Berseria brings together all of the best features of earlier games under one roof, boasting one of the series’ best tales and the same Arte-based combat system. Just a thousand years earlier than Tales of Vesperia, it actually takes place in the same universe.
9 Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
Release date: November 17, 2011
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Windows
Ni No Kuni, which was created by Level-5, the same company that created Dragon Quest VIII, may be its most iconic series. The best book in the series is Wrath of the White Witch, which was the first one to be published in the West. Wrath of the White Witch’s gameplay is typical JRPG fare, complete with an open world, several quests, and dungeons.
When it comes to imagery and storytelling, it excels. You play Oliver in it. Oliver’s doll comes to life as Drippy, a fairy, following a tragic incident involving his mother. Drippy explains to him that he is from a different world where a wicked magician has taken over.
The images in Wrath of the White Witch reflect how much of a fairy tale it is. The game’s animated segments were famously created by Japan’s Studio Ghibli, which also established the mood for the world’s overall design and the character designs. Despite the fact that there have been other Ni No Kuni games, Wrath of the White Witch is the first one that is fully developed and able to utilize console hardware rather than that of mobile devices.
In the follow-up Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom, Evan, a young lad who lost his kingdom, sets out to create a new home for himself and his people. Even though Ghibli was unluckily not engaged in the sequel and several gameplay elements don’t feel as tight as they did in the original, there are still many things to adore if you liked the first game.
10 Secret of Mana
Release date: August 6, 1993
Platforms: SNES, iOS, Android, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation Vita, PS4, Windows
The Collection of Mana for the Nintendo Switch, together with the remakes of Trials of Mana and Secret of Mana, helped the Mana series gain popularity once again (known as Seiken Densetsu in Japan). However, we’re going to examine how Secret of Mana’s 16-bit version served as the West’s first exposure to Seiken Densetsu.
When Secret of Mana was first made available for the SNES in 1993, it appeared to be similar to other 16-bit JRPGs. However, in contrast to its rivals, the combat take place in real-time. In addition, compared to the JRPGs at the time, it was considerably more action-oriented. However, a lot of the features, including leveling up and using magic, were similar to those found in other JRPGs.
Because its creator was also responsible for creating the Final Fantasy IV game systems, Secret of Mana has a prestigious place in the annals of JRPGs. This system was subsequently transformed into a project known as Chrono Trigger. After elaborating upon those mechanics, the ultimate release became Secret of Mana, though the designers modified many of the Chrono Trigger project components into the Chrono Trigger game.
11 Valkyria Chronicles Remastered
Release date: 2008
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS3, Switch
The backdrop of Valkyria Chronicles sets you in a battle with tanks and weapons reminiscent of World War 2, which is a setting that most JRPGs do not frequently explore. Due to the incorporation of fantasy that seamlessly fits into the more historical backdrop, the plot is just as captivating. This game is a breath of new air among all the more stagnant tales of pure magic, crystals, and monsters because of its original take on things.
Valkyria Chronicles features squad-based gameplay. Before the start of each furious battle, you manage the loadouts of your men as you build your force. Real-time and turn-based combat are both used. Time moves when you move any character, which is done in an open setting from a third-person perspective. Maintaining everyone’s life requires positioning and careful preparation, especially if you want to achieve every goal.
With four main installments thus far, the series has managed to establish a lucrative franchise, but everyone should begin their trip with the remastered original.