The Nintendo Switch has turned into a JRPG machine, with a library full of the best of old and new. If you’re not sure where to start with these dense and lengthy games, here’s the place to look.
Also, it’ll be good to note this is my list, because who can definitively and accurately say whether Final Fantasy VII is better than Dragon Quest XI? I don’t think anyone can, even though DQXI is, of course, better.
1. Dragon Quest XI
Speaking of Dragon Quest XI, I think it might be the best JRPG experience you can have on the Nintendo Switch. The game is huge, full of vibrant people and places. It looks gorgeous both handheld and docked, and the classic DQ combat is as tight as ever.
It’s genuinely charming as well, bursting with personality from even the most passable NPCs. At the same time, the cities are intricately designed to create a labyrinthine web of secrets. This game is a perfect JRPG and a great place to start if you’ve never played one.
2. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
I’ve already realised the trouble with these ‘best of’ lists. I just feel like saying ‘I love this game’ for every game on this list. Next up is Fire Emblem: Three Houses. I love this game. In terms of battle mechanics, this game focuses on turn-based tactics, a bit like XCOM. These battles are especially beautiful, with perspective shifts from top-down to close-up when battle animations occur.
Outside of these battles, you lead a house of school pupils training at a monastery and have different tasks each day involving various characters and issues therein. The best (or worst) bit about that, is if you play FE in its classic form, there is permanent death of characters should they fall in battle. So be ready for that…
3. Final Fantasy VII/VIII/XI/X/X-2/XII
Okay, this is kind of cheating. You can get any of these Final Fantasy games and be happy. Of course FFVII is the well-regarded revolutionary among the group (and especially interesting if you’ve played the remake but not the original) — but every single one of these games is someone’s favourite Final Fantasy.
So if you’ve never played one, just pick one at random. FFX/X-2 and XII are the best looking of the bunch, but also cost a tad more. FFVIII is often considered the worst but also some people insist it’s their favourite, and it’s remastered on the Switch so… yeah, just take your pick, i.e. choose one that’s on sale.
4. Xenoblade Chronicles
Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition is out in a few days and that’s where you should start with this series, for sure. Hidden behind pretty muddy graphics on the Wii, this new upgraded version looks just as good as its sequel. Speaking of which, its sequel is also very good, and you should play that, too. If you didn’t realise, I love these games.
While the latter has so many mechanics layered on top of each other that it can be overwhelming, when they all click into place, the game finds a unique groove. The DLC for Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Torna – The Golden Country, is also absolutely stellar. It’s 30 hours long as well, so some real bang for your buck. This JRPG series is one of the best, and a must-play for any Nintendo Switch owner.
5. Octopath Traveler
Octopath Traveler is a real retro-inspired kick in the nostalgia. Its gorgeous toybox soft-focus style, tight battle mechanics, and sprawling stories of 8 adventurers all come together to create the perfect blend of retro JRPG vibes and modern tweaks. It is beautiful, sprawling, and lengthy; exactly what you’d want from a JRPG.
6. Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
And the winner of the best title for any game ever goes to… Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore. I love this game. It blends Atlus’s Shin Megami Tensei and Nintendo’s Fire Emblem series into a super anime romp through a demon-infested Tokyo, with a unique battle system and a wonderful cast of characters.
Anyone waiting for Persona to come to the Switch, this is as close as you can get for now. This game was slept on by too many people due to being hidden away on the Wii U. I would highly recommend that everyone rectifies that.
7. Valkyria Chronicles
While Valkyria Chronicles 4 may be easier to get into, the original is definitely a better game. The series itself is unlike anything else on this list, combining third-person shooting with turn-based tactical movement on an open map, i.e. not grid-based. It is really something, and the sprawling story is presented beautifully. I love this game!
There are a lot of other gems on the Switch, like the Studio Ghibli art of Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch, the sim-like Rune Factory 4, or the classic Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition. I also feel obliged to mention Tokyo RPG Factory, which has made I Am Setsuna, Lost Sphear, and Oninaki. The Nintendo Switch has really become a haven for some of the best JRPGs out there.
For more RPG goodness, why not check out some of the new screenshots for Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition. For more Nintendo news, you can read about the Metroid Prime Trilogy rumour or my own worries about Nintendo’s coming year.