The subject of JRPGs came up on the SBWG Slack channel recently, which led to this gem of a message string from Daklathen.
He titled it “the ultimate fan-boy guide to SQUEENIX,” and it is presented here in its raw and uncut form for your reading pleasure.
The Ultimate Fan-Boy Guide to SQUEENIX JRPG Games
1) Final Fantasy II – It’s Final Fantasy 1, but with a story!
2) Final Fantasy IV – Active Timebar’s first appearance, lots of items and spells and characters, story is actually fleshed out with tons of characters and motivations, American release was really easy (Final Fantasy II for Super Nintendo in the US)
3) Final Fantasy VI – The fans ultimate Final Fantasy. Probably the best game in the series to most JRPG fans. Definitely the best story.
4) Final Fantasy IX – The “ultimate” JRPG experience from the 32bit/Early 3d Era. Linear story, but engaging and wonderful world/music.
5) Final Fantasy X – The call back to true turn-based games, and also the last true “turn based” menu controlled FF game. Awesome open leveling system (especially in HD remaster) and some of the most iconic characters in modern JRPGs. Also known for being the first voice acted Final Fantasy… but it’s debatable if that is a good thing. Also, Blitzball.
6) Final Fantasy XII – Do you like Star Wars and fantasy sci-fi aesthetics? What about a massive world with tons of story and world building? How about a sweeping orchestral soundtrack featuring some of the most iconic music from old and new FF games. Fairly non-linear exploration, lots of side quests, and a really unique system.
7) Final Fantasy XV – The natural evolution of the series – This is what it all lead to. You and your 3 “boyfriends” on a road trip to save the kingdom. Learn how to push a car around! Seriously, probably one of my favorite games in the ARPG/JRPG genre in the modern era of gaming.
Other notable Squaresoft/Square Enix Titles in the JRPG genre:
1) Chrono Trigger – Probably the best received JRPG of all time. You want non-linearity? Yeah, how about 17 different endings, including one where you can fight the last boss less than 2 hours into the game. No random battles (enemies appear in the overworld). Over-all, one of the best games out there. Oh, and did I mention the entire art direction was done by Akira Toriyama?
2) Speaking of Akira Toriyama, the Dragonquest series is super popular and rivals the Final Fantasy series of releases (I think they are on Dragonquest 18 or some shit?). Art direction was also done by Akira Toriyama and the game is supposed to be really enjoyable (I haven’t played these yet)
3) Secret/Sword of Mana – JRPG that plays like an ARPG. First came out on the SNES. Notable for having local multiplayer in a typically single-player environment. Solid game with great music and a cute, but dark, world.
4) Super Mario RPG – Hey, do you like Mario? Do you like JRPGs? No? You can fuck right on off then. One of the most critically acclaimed JRPGs of all time, Super Mario RPG (and it’s later Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi successors) is hilarious, emotional, and difficult. The characters are wonderful, the worlds detailed and pretty, and it eschews the typical top-down perspective for a much needed, and refreshing isometric view. Did I mention there are no random battles and you can jump and stuff in the over-world? Oh! And instead of pushing a button and waiting for an animatic, you actually get to interact during battles, although it is mostly through QTE (if you select the jump attack, hitting the jump button with perfect timing will string it into a combo, etc).
5) Kingdom Hearts (series) – A Japanese ARPG with more heart than you can shake a keyblade at, Square and Disney give you the most ambitious cross-over of all time. With steadily improving combat, lots of wonderful disney based levels, and a really entertaining, if not completely baffling, story leaves you feeling good… and confused. Has some really difficult modes and bosses, and over-all is just a great series. Oh, did I mention that literally every game (excluding 1 DS game and 1 mobile game) are out now for PS4? And the long awaited (seriously it’s been like 14 years) finale of the trilogy spanning over 6+ games will finally be released in January of next year!
6) Final Fantasy Tactics/Final Fantasy Tactics II/Vagrant Story – I only combined these because they both take place in the same world as Final Fantasy XII. While the tactics games are… well… tactics games, Vagrant Story throws you into a whole new style of ARPG with a system similar to VATs from Fallout, where time freezes as you plan out your next moves. You can attack specific body parts and use specific weapons/skills at your leisure, making combat both tactically satisfying and deep.
7) Xenogears – This game has a STEEP hit or miss curve for most gamers, but it went on to spawn 5 additional games (although they are only tangentially related). This game is notorious for its confusing plot, super animu characters, and giant fucking robots.