The Top 22 Best RPGs of All-Time
Nothing is better to create "discussions" than lists. Nothing more internet geeks like to "discuss" than which is the greatest RPG. What happens when you combine the two? Well... Johngamer's Top 22 Favortie RPG List!
Submission by John Lindsey (aka Johngamer)
I was thinking about all of the Role Playing Games I have played over the years, and decided to make a list of my favorites. Now where as most people may have a top-ten list, a top-twenty list, etc, I actually have a top... twenty-two list. Mainly because I haven't played as many RPGs as I thought I had, or rather not played them long enough to put them on a favorites list (Persona Revalations, Lunar 2, Final Fantasy IV, etc). So, here are my top 22 favorite RPGs of all time! Oh, and keep in mind I have not included all of the many Strategy (ie Final Fantasy Tactics) and Action RPGs (ie Zelda) I have played over the years:
1. Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger, Chrono Trigger... What can I say about you that I haven’t said in the past? Probably nothing, so I’ll just repeat myself. This game is by far my favorite RPG of all time, favorite game for that matter. Something about time travel has always fascinated me, so this game was like a dream come true (yep, long ago I dreamed of a time travel video game, then there it was!). This game just grabbed me by the wee wee, and then totally immersed me in a colorful universe filled with some of the most interesting characters to ever “appear” in a video game. There is a powerful dark wizard (yep, he’s in every RPG), a giant frog that was once a man but was “magically” changed by the aforementioned wizard, a happy-go-lucky robot from the future, and three “gurus” who are named after the three magis who brought good ol’ Jesus some nice stuff when he was young (maybe they are the same magis!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!? Nah), etc. (and by et cetera, I mean a giant spiky fire alien from space, and other friends!). Oh yeah, and the music in this game is the best I’ve ever heard in a video game. It is of course not CD quality (this is a SNES game), but the nice melodies stick in your head, and never leave... even after that bout with amnesia. Oh, and did I mention that the game is a blast to play!? Well it is... foo’
2. Final Fantasy VII
Here it is folks (yes, I know you’re a folk), the game that brought RPGs into the mainstream market of gaming. Hooray for that, as now a lot more of these types of games are being made (and released in the United States). The game really is “that good” though, and it is probably my favorite of the Final Fantasy games (well, I like Tactics better, but that is strategy and not really an RPG). I know all of the Final Fantasy VI fans are cursing at me for saying that, but it’s not like I haven’t been cursed before... And by a strange old lady in the forest outside my house who vanished in a puff of smoke immediately afterwards. And did I mention she was cackling!? Because she was... Oh yeah, back to the game; VII is an excellent game despite its kind of “I’ve been done before” battle system. The storyline here was particularly memorable, as it introduces one of the coolest villains to ever be in a story. His name of course is Sephiroth, and every strange Final Fantasy VII nut (who also lives in his/her parents’ basement or storage closet) wants to grow up to be just like him... That’s why you see all of these “Sephiroth12846" screen names and the like in internet chat rooms and in online games. I can’t fail to mention the musical score in the game, which fits every situation perfectly and almost rivals the great Chrono Trigger and Cross soundtracks (some would say VII’s is better, the same basement dwellers I mentioned earlier *wink wink– that’s right, I can use emoticon type things too!).
This is my idea of a brilliant game here. An insane and murderous main character with multiple personalities, a psychopathic clone who abhors the main character, God as a planet destroying super-weapon, and... gigantic battle robots!! Yeah... giant robots. Why in the future does everyone battle in goofy robots instead of aerodynamic jet planes or something? I don’t know, must be some Japanese thing... But despite the corny robots, the game is really good. The plot is probably the greatest in any game I’ve played, and the music is high on the list too (made by the same guy who did Chrono Trigger and Cross’s– Mitsuda). Only avoid the game if you hate “deep” plots, and would rather stick with your stop “Villain X” from destroying “Planet Z” stories (aka most of the Final Fantasies).
4. Chrono Cross
I hoped and dreamed for a sequel to Chrono Trigger ever since I played the game, and finally five years down the road, I got what I wanted. A cheese pizza... oh, and a Chrono sequel. And... the game was great! No, I don’t like it as much as Chrono Trigger, but at least I don’t “absolutely hate it for not being identical to Chrono Trigger” like the other Chrono “fanboys” out there. With the music, graphics, and just overall vibe of this game, I felt like I was really a part of it and everything that was going on. It still brings a tear (a manly one at that) to my eye when I think about how enjoyable it was just to play through this game. And where at first I hated the concept of there being like 30+ playable characters (very few of them are fully fleshed out in the plot), I started to kind of like it on subsequent plays through the game, as I felt I was kind of inventing their “story” as I played along, and that I was some kind of “master” of their fate. And then I had to stop playing video games for a while, as I was feeling extremely dorky and uncool for thinking that.
5. Final Fantasy V
This game is great... But aren’t most of the Final Fantasies!? I particularly enjoyed this game’s “job type” battle engine, which was kind of a precursor to Final Fantasy Tactics’s. That alone was enough to make me like this over most of the other Final Fantasies, yes a good battle system is a must for an RPG, and a great battle system makes an otherwise good RPG excellent. Oh, and I’d like to note that X Death is the coolest villain name in any game, movie, or book to this day. I think I’ll name my children X Death, Z Death, and LL Cool Death.
6. Star Ocean 2
Don’t worry about the plot in this game (something about planets colliding, I don’t really remember), that isn’t what makes this game good. Star Ocean has what I think is the most fun “non strategy RPG” battle system I have ever used. In the battles, everything happens in realtime, and you can individually select party members to control (while the others follow the commands you gave them) and attack the enemies with. It gives this RPG the feel of a fighting game, and is a great change of pace from your typical RPG fights. The character building aspect of the game is great as well, and helps you get some good items by cooking, alchemy, etc. Now if only the game had a Xenogears quality plot and musical score, then it may have come closer to reaching my number one spot (maybe even beat out the ol’ CT).
7. Skies of Arcadia
The only “next generation” RPG that I’ve truly loved. This is one of the few games I’ve played where I actually spend time exploring towns and dungeons just to see all of the wonderful 3D environments. Most games I don’t even care about graphics, yet here I found myself zooming the camera in on a freaking wind mill... “It looks so neat!! Wind mill wind mill wind mill wind mill wind mill!” And then I actually “play” the game and find myself engrossed in a good plot with excellent music and “lovable” characters. And then there are these airship battles, which are superb. Much cooler than the “gear (aka giant robot)” battles in Xenogears and Saga. I only wish this game were more ship battles, and less “normal” battles. The frequent “normal” battles are really the only downer in this game, but eventually they can be avoided (flying above the clouds) for the most part. The only thing I didn’t like about the otherwise engaging plot, is the whole “find the crystals” thing. I always hate it in an RPG when you have to find “such and such artifacts in such and such dungeons” in order to continue the story. I know that developers only put these kind of quests in a game to make it longer... But with Arcadia, it isn’t so bad, as this is kind of the main theme and it really isn’t just a gimmick. All of the characters involved in the game more than make up for the “crystal search (moonstones, whatever they were called)” hoopla, as they flesh out the “real” parts of the storyline.
8. Lunar Silver Star Story
Now here is a love story I actually liked. Two very interesting characters are torn apart by a villain they thought was a “good guy.” Of course, the villain really thinks he’s doing what is right, but he is still mean for doing what he did. So of course, you have to kill him and get back your brainwashed love who is singing songs that bring destruction to the people. Aside from all of this, the game is pretty light hearted and whimsical , and always keeps a good humor about itself. Gotta love the corny humor... Now if only we could get giant robots to fly around in. All in all, this game shows that the moon is a pretty cool place to live, and the human race should move their ASAP.
9. Super Mario RPG
One of the first RPGs I ever played, and I thought it was so freaking great that I scoffed at the magazine Game Pro for putting RPGs above it on its 100th issue top-ten RPG list... Now if I hadn’t decided to try some of those games, then I would have never been introduced to Chrono Trigger (was one or two higher on the list), and I wouldn’t have had that... pleasure. But alas, Super Mario RPG is an excellent game, but my only complaint is that it is a bit too easy to beat. I didn’t care the first time I played this game though, as I was in love (married and later divorced) with it. Its perfect blend of RPG gameplay and Mario style platforming left me excited and flabbergasted (oh yeah!). I had never felt so alive as the first time I Geno Blasted a Koopa Troopa. And we all know Geno was the coolest character in the game (excepting maybe Frogfucius). And the story here is pure genius, a gigantic sword (presumably from space?) flies through Star Rode breaking it into pieces that rain down on the “Earth” or whatever the Mario world is called (not all of it is the Mushroom Kingdom dangit!). So naturally Mario and all of the good pals he meets in his journey have to collect the star pieces so that Star Road can be repaired. It is like a celestial jigsaw puzzle, and the gamer is a crack and puzzle addicted old man (or woman). Oh, and you’ve got to kill that sword and the “evil Smithy dude” inside of it too... you wouldn’t want them poking any more planets.
10. Final Fantasy VI
Ahh... Final Fantasy VII. Many peoples’ favorite RPG, and often referred to as the “greatest RPG of all time!” I loved playing this game, yes, but I don’t think it was as good as all the “hype” led me to believe. Honestly, I liked Final Fantasy V and VII much better. But now that I am done degrading the game, I will tell some of the reasons why it really is a very good game regardless of my lack of favor. For one, it had a pretty darn cool storyline, up until about the halfway point in the game, and then it kind of stagnated. Pretty much, as long as Kefka was running around causing trouble, the plot would move along. But after he made a little lair to “chill out” in, not much happened. I did like the whole Esper plot line though, and the “almost” complete destruction of the world was pretty cool too. For me, the best part of this game was its overall atmosphere. The kind of worn down towns (Narshe), and beautiful music always put me in the mood... to explore! Overall, a very satisfying game to play (albeit a bit overrated).
11. Phantasy Star IV
A great “old school” RPG that had some cool innovations that were ahead of its time. Like these customizable macro skills that let you program in a series of attacks you wanted to use so that you only had to click one button to use the whole string of them in the future. A good idea, and it surprises me that more RPGs don’t use it. It also had cool vehicle battles that I hadn’t seen in any game afterwards until Xenogears. The style of animation here is vibrant, and brings the interesting cast of characters to life. Lutz and Zio of course being the coolest, gotta love the wizards; even when they aren’t wearing cool pointy hats. Oh, and Dark Falz should have been the main character...
12. Dragon Warrior
This was one of the first RPGs I ever played (may have been the first), and it started my addiction to the game type. It was great... I got to battle slimes, magidrakes, and gold men! How did my main character defeat these behemoths, I’ll never know... Oh wait, I remember, it was because I was able to caste the spell “hurt more” on them! Compared to games these days, Dragon warrior looks terrible and doesn’t play too well at all. But back when I first played it, the whole “leveling up” your hero concept was new to me, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
13. Wild Arms
I found this game pretty darn entertaining, even though it isn’t the greatest RPG out there. The battle system and all of that is strictly “traditional RPG” junk, but I really liked the whole usage of tools feature. It made the game feel a bit like Zelda, finding certain tools to help me traverse the many dungeons (which are some of the greatest I’ve played through in an RPG). There are some fiendish little puzzles here too, and not all of them have to do with pushing boxes or throwing barrels (got 5 Zenny!).
14. Saga Frontier
I think most people who played this game didn’t like it. I know it usually got “average” reviews, with most gamers just not liking the non linear style of play. But I loved it... You could pick one of many characters to start the game with (I went for the robot first, yay!), and then after a little bit of their intro story, you could go pretty much anywhere. Most of the dungeons in the game had monsters that would be different depending on how strong your party is, so you could play them in pretty much any order you choose. None of this “you HAVE to go to this town to confront this villain” nonsense. Go where you want... More RPGs should be like this (Final Fantasy X could learn something from this game)!! I enjoyed the battle system as well, which basically thrived on team combos. Certain characters were better at certain types of skills, and would learn the nest one in the series much faster; you really just used skills over and over again until a little light bulb shines over your character’s head and they do a stronger skill. That light bulb and its accompanying noise were so satisfying. Like when a starving child gets prime rib for dinner.
15. Breath of Fire 3
This is another more “traditional RPG,” but I found it fun to play as well. Sure the plot kind of sucked, the music wasn’t that great, etc, but it had a kind of charm that made me want to keep playing. I mean how many games let your main character change into different dragons? Besides Monopoly... The mini games were pretty entertaining too, and I usually don’t include a games “mini games” in my comments on it. But, this game’s are just so fun to play! I especially enjoyed the fishing one. Gotta... catch em’ all.
16. Final Fantasy IX
I liked this game a lot when I played it, but nothing about it was overly memorable. The male villain wears a thong, the black mage Vivi is gonna die, chocobos like to dig holes in the ground... and that’s about it. I did like it a lot better than VIII though.
Though this game kind of has a cult following, I thought it was just kind of average. The most notable things about it were the inclusion of different kinds of battles (like traditional RPG and these big army to army side scrolling things), the many characters to recruit (108 total I think), and the cool “build your own castle ‘game.’”
18. Grandia 2
This RPG isn’t really for everybody. But I think it had a lot of charm that warrants play. Sure the main character is pretty annoying, but the supporting ones are all good, especially the “Wings of Valmar” chick. Multiple personalities are always funny in a video game... I liked the battle system of this game a lot too, which is why I think this game is a bit underrated. These days most RPG players are stuck on the whole “epic story and awesome visuals” concept that they don’t even care whether or not the game is fun to play, and that makes me sad (cry for me). Anyway... The battles are set in almost the same perspective as Star Ocean’s, only they aren’t “realtime” per say. There is a little bar on the screen that shows in what order the players (and enemies) are going to attack, and then you can set up attacks that may interrupt the enemy’s attack. Sound stupid? Well, play the game and you will see that it works well.
19. Final Fantasy VIII
I have a kind of love-hate relationship with this game... (a very physical relationship too). The graphics and kind of “sci-fi/fantasy mixed” theme made this game feel a lot more “real” than most RPGs. Even though it has its share of sorceresses, knights, and mutated winged beasts. I really liked some of the characters too, most notably Seifer (who I sished would have just killed Squall and taken his place as “main character”) and Edea, but the others get pretty annoying. Now the plot in this game is great... that is until a little over half-way through, when it is abandoned completely (excepting in the ending of course), and replaced with one of the lamest and sappiest love stories ever. It made me want to cry... Not in happiness over the characters’ love, but because I was in a state of revulsion over the retardation of it. Not that I hate love stories in games, but the “oh my goodness I fell out of a spaceship, come save me while a goofy love song plays in the background!” is pretty lame. Really, if I’m on a spaceship, and my “lover” falls out, I’m going to scream “woman overboard,” throw her a floatation device (good luck using that in space!), and then let her fend for herself as I fly in another direction. I’ll send roses later... And a nice card, something special like “I think you’re far out! ... in space.” Or “remember my name, because you’ll be screaming it later... when you’re falling into a black hole!”
Remember all of those comments you’ve heard saying this game was just an “interactive movie” or “one really long cut-scene separated by a few ‘dungeons?’” Well, those comments were true! Now that doesn’t necessarily mean this game isn’t worth playing, as the cut scene heavy plot line is really good. It seems a lot of people these days don’t really want to “play” there games anymore, and will settle with this nonsense. Now what there actually is in this game of battles, dungeons, etc is all pretty fun. Not put together very well though... For example, at the very end of the game, I was STILL using the same attacks I had at the game’s beginning. They were just damage upgraded versions of the same thing... Really, I shouldn’t be able to defeat the last boss with skills I used to defeat the first one. That is just poor game design. And the mech battles... weren’t just a “step down” from Xenogear’s (which were actually good), but they were more of a “fall backwards down the steps and hit your head on rock bottom.” Really, why are my characters causing more damage than the “doom robots” they command from time to time!? Don’t even use the robots when you play the “game,” they’re a waste of time. Like studying for that Algebra test you know you are going to fail anyway, yep. Now there are hoards of anime fans out there that will constantly try and defend this game, but there isn’t really much of a difference here between this game and the movies they watch... With all of that being said, I probably will still buy the sequel; I’m a sucker for a good story even if I have to play a not-so-great game to get it.
21. Final Fantasy X
This is a good RPG by any standards, but for a Final Fantasy game, I thought it was a pretty big letdown and a step back in the series. Sure the storyline was alright, and the characters were cool enough, but the actual game itself seemed a bit lacking. Or maybe it just isn’t my “style” of RPG... For one thing there was never any real exploration in it, you were just moved from point to point in the storyline, with no world map (until really late in the game, and it is just a list of places...) to look for secrets in, and no side quests (until very late in the game again). And then there are the battles, which are just against the same few monsters in every area, with only changes in color and stats. This isn’t a game I’d play twice, and as you can probably guess, I skipped Final Fantasy X-2. Now that all of that is said, there were some good points to the game. The characters were all very interesting with a lot of well... character. The musical score and graphics were top-notch as well.
22. Exodus Ultima
I remember buying this game dirt cheap from a friend, because from the cartridge art, I knew it had to be an RPG (or maybe a really lame adventure game)! And it was, and a difficult one at that. I didn’t play it all too much, mainly because I didn’t really know or care about where I was supposed to go. It was pretty fun though for the most part; I liked how you could create your entire party’s character class, and I also thought the battles were fun (kind of like a really primitive strategy RPG). But the best part of this whole game (well, the little I played), was that you could attack the innocent townspeople, and then get attacked (and killed) by the village guards. And it’s almost as fun as doing the same thing in real life.
So there you have it, my top-22 favorite RPGs list! I plan on making it a top 25 list pretty soon, as I am "in the process" of playing through Final Fantasy IV, Dragon Warrior 7, and Lunar 2. Maybe eventually I will make a "top list" of my favorite strategy and action RPGs as well.
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