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Top Ten Tuesdays | Best JRPGs Of This Generation

Jonathan Lester
Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy XIII, JRPG, RPG Games, Top Ten, Top Ten Tuesdays, Valkyria Chronicles, Xenoblade Chronicles

Top Ten Tuesdays | Best JRPGs Of This Generation

Before he quit his post at Capcom, Keiji Inafune bemoaned the fact that Japanese game development isn't the creative powerhouse that it used to be. And to be honest, he's probably not wrong. In particular, there's a case to be made that we're falling out of love with the whole concept of JRPGs as Western studios continue to deliver hit after roleplaying hit, while the Land Of The Rising Sun continues to become less relevant with each passing month.

But there are still some great JRPGs out there - on a wildly differing array of platforms - and plenty for us lovers of story and spectacle to dive into head first. Here's what we'd consider to be the finest examples of this current generation.

10: Enchanted Arms [PS3, Xbox 360]

Top Ten Tuesdays | Best JRPGs Of This Generation

Enchanted Arms failed to cause much of a splash when it launched early in the Xbox 360's life span and subsequently made its way to Sony's console, but it's actually a rather neat little game. An innovative chess-style battle system and the ability to independently train dozens of impeccably designed automatons make it a unique and exciting experience that's well worth a second look if you can find it at a decent price.

It's also an achievement hunter's paradise, if you're interested in that sort of thing.

9: Lost Odyssey [Xbox 360]

Top Ten Tuesdays | Best JRPGs Of This Generation

Mistwalker's JRPG is an epic in any sense of the phrase. Epic value, epic storyline and a ridiculous amount of lore rewards anyone brave enough to plunge into its universe, but the clichéd mechanics, progression and drab art style turned many players off. And hey, it's nice to control a protagonist who's a grizzled (if admittedly still pretty) veteran rather than an awkward androgynous pin-up every once in a while.

8: Final Fantasy XIII [PS3, Xbox 360]

Top Ten Tuesdays | Best JRPGs Of This Generation

Style over substance? You betcha. Final Fantasy XIII certainly looks the business, but its grind-heavy front end and uninspired design caused a major backlash against what should have been one of this generation's most triumphant JRPG properties.

It's not a bad game by any means, and we're not sure that it deserves a lot of the hate that it receives. But there's no doubt that Square Enix dropped the ball on this one.

7: Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels Of The Starry Skies [DS]

Top Ten Tuesdays | Best JRPGs Of This Generation

This was the feel good hit of last summer. The long, languid dry release period just flew by thanks to the insane amount of exploration, character development, party building and combat mechanics that we could enjoy on the Nintendo DS - perfect for commutes or enormous grind sessions in front of the telly. Dragon Quest IX packs a staggering wealth of content onto its tiny cartridge, and an incredible adventure to boot. You can check out our 9/10 review for more details.

6: Eternal Sonata [PS3, Xbox 360]

Top Ten Tuesdays | Best JRPGs Of This Generation

Eternal Sonata instantly deterred a number of potential players by appearing to be "just another" JRPG that follows the same old tropes.

I've got sour news for you, Jack: it ain't. The juxtaposition of real life trauma and an escapist fantasy is food for the soul as well as an interesting premise - and that's not even taking the excellent visuals into account. Try to get the PS3 version if possible, though, as it contains plenty of extra content.

5: Tales Of Vesperia [Xbox 360]

Top Ten Tuesdays | Best JRPGs Of This Generation

It was difficult to decide whether Eternal Sonata or Tales Of Vesperia deserve to be highest on the list, but this Xbox 360 exclusive wins out on the strength of its art direction and genuine personality. It's gorgeous to behold - in fact, it looks like a top-tier anime feature - and the combat is slick, intuitive and packed with subtle nuance. Tales Of Vesperia delivers everything that series fans wanted with enough innovation to satisfy a new generation.

4: Valkyria Chronicles [PS3, PSP]

Top Ten Tuesdays | Best JRPGs Of This Generation

I'm lumping both the original Valkyria Chronicles and its capable handheld sequel into the same category, because they're both absolutely astounding games. A refreshing World War setting, mature characters and deep tactical combat conspire to create an exceptional experience that stands tall as thoroughly unique and occasionally thought-provoking.

Plus, it has tanks. And tanks are awesome.

3: Chrono Trigger [DS]

Top Ten Tuesdays | Best JRPGs Of This Generation

Is it fair that an ancient, archetypal RPG makes an appearance on this list? Not really... and absolutely yes. The DS port is much more than a portable conversion, featuring the entire seminal time-travelling adventure, unforgettable characters and a host of new features and dungeons that take advantage of the era-hopping mechanics.

Chrono Trigger also boasts what I'd consider to be the best story ever told by a videogameDiscuss.

2: The World Ends With You [DS]

Top Ten Tuesdays | Best JRPGs Of This Generation

This astoundingly imaginative RPG has already reached the status of 'cult classic'... with good reason. The World Ends With You is a completely fresh, exciting and entirely brilliant proposition, blending an impeccable funky modern presentation with a wild and wonderful control system. There's literally nothing else like it, on any platform, anywhere.

It's probably the most "unique" game on this list. And certainly one of the best.

1: Xenoblade Chronicles [Wii]

Top Ten Tuesdays | Best JRPGs Of This Generation

Monolith Soft took a long look at the JRPG genre and decided to fix everything that's wrong with it.

And so they did. Xenoblade Chronicles is an enormous open world that never loses focus. It contains more exploration, excitement, subquests and content than practically any game that isn't developed by Bethesda. Your characters - perfectly localised by British voice talent - can swim and jump through the environments, with a perfect battle system that delivers a perfect amount of depth and accessibility. Random battles are replaced by perfectly seamless combat. Perfectly-realised art direction makes for one of the prettiest and most visually appealing games on the Wii.

Perfect, perfect, perfect. I've used this word so often that we couldn't give Xenoblade Chronicles anything less than 10/10 in our recent full review. It's not just the best JRPG of this generation... it's one of the best JRPGs ever made. Monolith Soft has made the genre relevant again, and it's better than ever.

Right, it's time for you to get involved. What are your favourite RPGs of this generation? Want to quibble about the order? Have we missed anything? Have your say in the comments!

Addendum: The Zelda franchise and Demon's Souls have been omitted from this list as we don't technically consider them to be JRPGs - at least in the traditional sense. Zelda games are puzzle-action-adventure hybrids, whereas Demon's Souls is very much a split-second action game that prioritises combat over storytelling and character development. You can take the issue up with me in the comments below.

Add a comment9 comments
Asura  Sep. 6, 2011 at 13:41

FF13 is awful - they should just remake ff7 it's all anyone wants.

Tales of Vesperia should be higher up, amazing game

hurrakan  Sep. 6, 2011 at 13:55

Knowing which games are available for which platforms would have been helpful...

Anyway JPRGS are not good - style over substance and they're all the same. No innovation ever.

I wanted to like Tales of Vesperia but when I tried it it was the same as every other JRPG (boring).

The only JRPG I ever liked was Final Fantasy 6.

Last edited by hurrakan, Sep. 6, 2011 at 13:57
JonLester  Sep. 6, 2011 at 14:09

@hurrakan: Your wish is my command.

You're right, the JRPG has seriously fallen from grace, but there's plenty of innovation to be found if you stray away from the beaten track. TWEWY and Xenoblade Chronicles brought enough for the rest of the class by themselves.

Goitie  Sep. 6, 2011 at 14:26

No, no, no.

The very idea that FFXIII is lower down the list than Eternal Sonata is ridiculous. I love Chopin, but Eternal Sonata is a pretty humdrum game in many respects; I had to force myself to finish it. FFXIII is a great game that was destroyed by the weigh of its expectations, and should be much higher up the list.

Also, why no Persona 3 Portable, or KH: Birth By Sleep? They're incredible games.

I agree with Enchanted Arms being on the list; I thought it was great fun, but you should know that it isn't a platinum trophy hunter's paradise; it doesn't support trophies on PS3 at all.

JonLester  Sep. 6, 2011 at 14:55

@Goitie: Cheers for the heads-up about Enchanted Arms, I've amended that.

Birth By Sleep definitely deserves an honourable mention.

Last edited by JonLester, Sep. 6, 2011 at 14:57
MattGardner  Sep. 6, 2011 at 15:46

P3P would definitely make the top five for my own personal list I think...as for FFXIII, I keep dipping back into it and every time I do, I wish I'd given it a lower score.

Infinite Space would be brave mention, being one of the most progressive RPGs to come out of Japan in a long time, but for that very reason it would probably top my list.

Aelynn  Sep. 6, 2011 at 16:31

I can't believe Enchanted Arms made the list... The achievements are broken on the Asian version (and probably the JP version too) and it was incredibly tiresome by the end of the game. Notable JRPGs that should have been included instead - in no particular order: Blue Dragon (very frustrating achievements and a bit too DragonBall for my tastes, but meh.), Infinite Undiscovery (again with the frustrating achievements...), Last Remnant (bit unstable at times), Magna Carta 2 (easy achievements!) and Star Ocean 4 (play the PS3 version to avoid the tedious disc-switching and forget about getting all achievements, that would be insane).

Rhyer  Sep. 6, 2011 at 19:53

I don't like the console wars, I don't want to have to buy a new console for $200 just to play a couple of games that aren't multi-platform, I'd happily give up all exclusives on the PS3 to have the same deal with other platforms. Most of these games are exclusive to Nintendo now and PS3 and Xbox 360 users are getting slapped in the face with crap JRPGs because Nintendo wants to keep them all.

skywebstudios  Sep. 7, 2011 at 17:31

Seriously no white knight chronicles?
Get Final Fantasy 13 off this list and replace it with White Knight Chronicles!!

I am shocked this game has not being included, it's one of the only rpgs staying true to the old ways of what rpg fans like. I am just as excited for Xenoblade Chronicles as I was for White Knight but have not had a chance to play Xenoblade yet (hopefully soon).

I love the kingdom hearts games but I wouldn't include them in a top ten jrpg list, it's more of an action rpg if anything and personally don't think it would match this list. Good to see you included a few good rpgs though like dragon quest, chrono trigger. Blue Dragon is another amazing game that should definitely be in this list imo.

I made a list like this recently but of my top 5 rpgs of all time. I may have to change this or make a separate list for this gen. White Knight and Blue Dragon are definitely 2 of my favourite jrpgs tho!

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