Usually, I’m writing about genres I and many others hate. But for this list, I felt it was time to spread the love, and what better way to do that than talking about some of my favourite JRPGs? There are tons of games to pick from that are worthy of your time, but I think these 5 games are some of the best the genre has to offer. So, here are 5 JRPGs to help you (Re)Discover your love for the genre.
These are in no particular order, and if you think I missed out on a JRPG gem, let me know in the comments below!
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Following in the rather large footsteps of the 2010 original, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 builds upon what made the first game so great and manages to do more than enough to step out from its shadow and – in my opinion – surpass it. You take the role of a young scavenger named Rex who, alongside Pyra, a living weapon known as a Blade that grants you incredible power, travels across the world of Alrest to find the birthplace of humanity. As you explore a vibrant world, you’ll meet a diverse range of characters, experience a captivating story, and engage in a rich and deep RPG and combat system.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has all the trappings for a great JRPG, especially with its stunning world. The game is set in a world full of clouds, with humanity living atop and inside massive living beasts called Titans, each with unique visuals and atmospheres that are a treat to see. The story is brilliant throughout, with incredible moments between characters that add life depth and life to the world as well as a few twists and turns. Characters have a ton of personality and charm that makes journeying with them a joy. The combat and RPG elements are layered and engaging, with players mixing and matching different Blades with their party members to make use of their skills, and plenty of skills and abilities to upgrade as you progress. To top it off, it’s got some hefty DLC that adds even more story and content to an already packed game, making it an even better offering.
Those who want to jump into a truly modern classic can’t go wrong with this JRPG gem. Plus, you have plenty of time to play both games before Xenoblade Chronicles 3 releases in September 2022.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is available on Nintendo Switch.
This entry is the perfect example of mixing the old and new into something that feels both original and nostalgic all in one package. Set in a land known as Orsterra, you’ll play as one of eight adventurers, who each have their own unique stories to discover as you explore the world. With each character offering unique gameplay choices and narratives, there is a ton of variety in this retro stylised, modernised JRPG.
The most notable aspect of this game is its aesthetic, which the developers have called “HD-2D”, a mixture of retro-style pixel art brought to life with high definition effects and 3d environments, combining for a unique look unlike any other JRPG in recent memory. Aside from its visual chops, the game also boasts great player freedom and choice in both its story and gameplay. With each character having their own narrative, you are free to do each in whatever order you choose, letting you explore the world however you want. Each hero has a unique special ability called a path action, which lets you interact with the world in different ways to gather information, acquire new items and gear, and recruit NPCs to help with certain quests.
For me, it’s the RPG and combat elements that are the highlights of Octopath Traveler. The turn-based combat is given some nice additions to give a bit more variety, such as enemy shield counters, a system that has you find enemy weaknesses and exploit them to stunned and weaken foes and turn the tide of battle. Using boost points lets you amplify weapon attacks and skill potency, letting you unleash some incredibly powerful and flashy special moves at higher levels. If that wasn’t enough, heroes can dual-class, allowing for a variety of builds with different weapons, abilities, and passive skills that can be mixed and matched at any time, letting you create unique party setups and character builds throughout the game.
Those looking for a modern version of classic JRPG goodness, you can’t get much better than this stellar entry. If you love the visuals as I do, be sure to check out Triangle Strategy, the turn-based strategy that features the “2D-HD” style.
Octopath traveler is available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Steam.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Since the release of Fire Emblem: Awakening in Europe back in 2013, the series has exploded in popularity, with the most recent entry Fire Emblem: Three Houses being the highest selling game in the series history. With a ton of great and varied gameplay, multiple narratives and storylines, and a huge cast of incredible characters, it does more than enough to earn that accolade.
Three ruling nations inhabit the world of Fódlan, and its centre lies the Officers Academy, a school for teaching the next generation of Fódlan’s leaders. You play a newly appointed professor, who upon joining the Academy, must choose one of three houses, each representing a nation, to teach and lead into a battle that will shape the fate of the Fódlan.
Three houses offers a whole host of gameplay and RPG goodness to enjoy across its lengthy playtime. By teaching your students and undertaking assignments with them, you’ll help improve their combat abilities, as well as their bonds with each other and open up new strategies to use in battle. The tried and true turn-based strategy is on full display, using a weapon triangle system that empathises careful use of units and their weapons, along with skills and strategies to effectively control the battlefield.
The cherry on top is the great amount of customisation you have over your character and allies. You can train them in any class you’d like that each offer strengths, weaknesses, and weapons, giving you heaps of options in how you build your army. Chuck in a huge cast of colourful characters, 4 lengthy campaigns, and multiple endings to see and you have a huge amount of content to keep you busy. That doesn’t even include the game’s DLC, adding even more to this great game.
You’ll get lost in this mammoth for hours but it’s totally worth every moment, and it’s a must-buy for anyone with a Nintendo Switch looking for a big and brilliant JRPG.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is available on Nintendo Switch.
Persona 5 Royal
Let’s get this out the way up front. Persona 5 Royal is one of my favourite games of all time. I played the original to death, then immediately brought the deluxe Phantom Thieves edition of Royal with no hesitation. It was even my top game of 2020. Hell, I’ve even reviewed its spin-off Persona 5 Strikers and got the logo permanently inked into my arm. But despite my slight fanboy nature over this entry, it truly deserves its reputation for being one of the JRPGs of this generation, and possibly ever made.
You play a young schoolboy (no surprise there) who after an unfortunate incident, ends up transferred to Shujin Academy. But just as you begin your new school life, things take a turn for the strange as you awaken a mysterious power called Personas. Along with a diverse and rich cast of characters, you must work together to reform society as the Phantom Thieves in this enthralling story filled with twists, turns, and tons of heart.
This game really does have it all. You have incredible characters, including NPC’s, that are full of personality, charm, and depth that makes every conversation and interaction feel engaging and worthwhile. The setting and world are equally as great, boasting a ton of areas to explore and see both in modern-day Tokyo and in the metaverse, the hidden world of the Phantom Thieves.
Combat is engaging and layered, where you use different personas in a battle to gain the upper hand similar to games like Pokemon, mix, matching, fusing, and recruit new persona’s as you play. The RPG elements are plentiful and frankly perfect, with the confidants system being the most notable. Players take part in dating sim-like gameplay that has you hang out, bond, and grow closer to your friends and allies that not only unlocks personal and unique storylines for each character but also offers benefits both in and out of combat.
I can’t think of a game I’ve played that has so many mechanics that work together this effectively, with each and everything you do working in perfect synergy with everything else. Add in 100 plus hours of great story, tons of improvements and changes from the original release, and a host of extra content and you have one of the best JRPGs on the market.
I could go on for hours about this entry but I’ll simply leave you with this. If you own a Playstation, you should own Persona 5 Royal. Enough said.
Persona 5 Royal is available on PS4 and PS5 via backward compatibility.
Final Fantasy 14 Online
This one may be stretching the rules a bit, but it’s made by Square Enix, so I’m counting it. No doubt by now you have heard about this MMO that seems to grow bigger by the week, so much so that shortly after the release of the latest expansion Endwalker, the game was forced to suspend sales to curb the sudden rush in new players. Seriously, it’s that popular. But this MMO’s rise through the ranks is well deserved and well-earned thanks to a combination of a great game, a lovely community, and passionate developers.
Players create their own character who through a connection with a goddess called Hydaelyn, takes up the mantle of the warrior of light, a hero to the people of Eorzea. Along with your comrades, you make up the scion of the seventh dawn, who together battle to protect and save the peoples of the Eorzea from all manner of threats. That’s about all I can say without spoiling anything, but let’s just say it gets pretty intense.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a game that feels quite as robust as FF14, with a plethora of content to choose from and enjoy however you see fit. Fancy some top-level challenges? Try the raid and end game content. Fancy some fun minigames and socialising? Check out the golden saucer for plenty of ways to pass the time. Want to experience possibly the best Final Fantasy story to date? Then enjoy a story that spans 5 releases, each distinct and enthralling epics with great characters and narrative to enjoy.
Plus, you have a great RPG along with all this great content. One character can play all 20 combat jobs and 11 profession jobs, letting you swap freely and play any role that suits your mood, tons of customisation to make yourself stand out, and plenty of extra events and extras that constantly keep the game updated with new and interesting content.
But beyond all that, the best part about FF14, without a doubt, is its community. I’ve played many MMOs in my time, and I’ve never played one that felt so welcoming and fun to play with others. Players are friendly and helpful, willing to explain and help if you are confused or stuck on content. Often you see players just enjoying each other’s company in major cities, with bards playing music and others just enjoying the show. Free companies – FF14’s version of guilds – are more than just raid hookups. Players form genuine friendships that are shaped by a love of the game. Add to that a developer and team that truly loves their work, the community, and making the game the best it can be and you can’t go wrong.
It’s a perfect game to play solo, with strangers and friends, and has cemented itself an MMO royalty and one of Final Fantasy’s greatest outings to date, and I’ve no doubt in the years to come it will only get better.
Final Fantasy 14 is available on PS4, PS5, PC and Mac.