Top 5: Role Playing Games

5. Xenogears
Squaresoft | Playstation | October 1998

XenogearsNo game captures the scale, style, substance, and elements of anime as perfectly as Xenogears. This RPG borrows heavily upon tropes and archetypes manga fans know, but manages to keep them unique and engaging. Xenogears utilizes an active time battle system, with an interactive input structure, introduces giant mechs, referred to as Gears, and tells a story which starts off small but reveals a mystery that defines all of creation. The protagonist, Fei Fong Wong, lives in a peaceful village, nestled in a valley surrounded by two warring nations. Fei suffers from amnesia, allowing players to discover the enchantment and danger of the world through his eyes. A, slightly predictable, series of events draws Fei into the centuries long conflict and a journey of self-discovery. Xenogears is the quintessential anime experience in videogame format. The action can be fast, larger than life and filled with wonder.

If you enjoy Japanese RPGs, epic animes and long multi-layered stories than this game will keep you entertained for weeks.


4. Pokémon: Red/Blue
Game Freak | Game Boy | September 1998

Pokemon RedOne game revitalized the Gameboy, made the connection cable matter and forced OCD players to catch em’ all. Pokémon’s plot and characters are simplistic and easy to pick up, but a deeper look beneath that charming persona reveals a complex, competitive battle system. Instead of controlling multiple on-screen combatants, trainers choose a team of six who battle one at a time. Each Pokémon is only able to retain four attacks, but can learn ten times that amount (well, not Magikarp). The amount of potential combinations ensure that no trainer uses the same team in battle and creates a balanced approach to combat. The path from humble beginnings to Pokémon master is familiar, because the anime, manga and sequels all crib their plot from the first entry. If you were to ask someone to name their favorite Pokémon, most responses would come from the first 151. The variety of monsters, design and unique personality that each portrayed were never duplicated. Pokémon is a household name and though the combat continues to be refined, balanced and improved; the pure joy and essence of the game cannot be recapture as perfectly as the first time.

If you enjoy a wide variety of options in battle, managing a complex team and grinding through battles to be the very best, then you must catch this RPG.


3. Persona 4 Golden
Atlus | PS Vita | November 2012

Persona 4 GoldenOne part aggressive dungeon crawler (save often because you will die), one part high school simulator and all parts personality and charm, Persona 4 Golden is everything you could ever want in a JRPG. The protagonist is the standard silent hero, this time a big city kid who moved to the countryside, who discovers another dimension that a serial killer is using to murder people in his new town. But you also join the soccer club, tutor, earn money and possibly lead a rock band. All of these real world connections and skills translate into additional power in the dungeon-filled dimension. The story balances the heavier subjects of death, justice and depression along with the lighter moments of friendship. Gameplay is broken into days, where you can only engage in one or two activities before having to go to sleep. Players choose who they want to hang out with, and get closer to, if they want to study, fish or catch a movie. The battle system utilizes turn-based mechanics with standard attack, magic and items. Each of the companions have a persona (hence the name) in the dungeons that assist them in combat and elevate their attacks. The hero can collect, equip and alter numerous personas, providing an almost Pokémon-like quality to the game. This game requires two playthroughs to uncover all the secrets, but the characters are so enjoyable that you will want to go through a second time.

If you enjoy humorous moments, anime and the feeling that the next random battle could wipe out your entire squad then this RPG is a perfect match for your personality.


2. Final Fantasy IX
Squaresoft | Playstation | November 2000

Final Fantasy IXWhile constructing the list, I wanted to limit the inclusion of FF games to one. It is a testament to the series that FF defines the RPG genre, constantly improves the mechanics and is on the forefront of discussion when mentioning the greatest RPGs. FFIX was selected because I never played FFVI, as it represents the best the series has to offer and is the most fun game to play. FFIX is a return to form for the franchise, gone are emo-protagonists, a dark and gritty dystopian future and a world of larger than life robots. FFIX is the most fantasy game of the modern series. The party consists of an overly protective knight, rebellious princess, curious mage and charming thief. What starts out as a simple heist, reveals a larger sub-plot of warring nations, politics and a mysterious force threatening to destroy the world. FFIX tells an epic tale, each character’s journey will include a multitude of emotional discoveries and arcs. Friends become enemies, enemies turn into rivals and the journey to the castle becomes an unforgettable adventure. Each of the party characters offer unique options in battle and commentary in the story, making party selections an important decision. Outside of battle there is a complex crafting system to discover powerful recipes, rare materials and the perfect combination for the most powerful gear. Though almost any FF game could have made the list, FFIX embodies the very best elements of the franchise.

If you enjoy a balance of lighthearted character moments, epic battles and mysteries contained within a steam punk universe then this game is your RPG fantasy.


1. Chrono Trigger
Squaresoft | Super Nintendo | August 1995

Chrono TriggerThe perfect RPG, and for some, the best game ever constructed. Chrono Trigger elevates the battles, storytelling and characters of the genre to the highest level. Crono is a silent protagonist, an RPG staple if you haven’t noticed, who travels to the local fair to assist his friend with her science fair project. She constructs a time machine which sends Crono and the player, on a journey to the end of the world, alternate realities, ancient magical civilizations and pre-historic dangers. The scope of the game’s story cannot be understated. The answer to the past is sometimes in the future and vice versa. Character choices from one era of time impact everything that follows. If players pick up a treasure chest in the past, it is empty in the future. But they can work from the future backwards to the past to obtain multiple items. Combat utilizes the active time battle system but with an added twist, when two or three members of the party gauge is filled they combine for a super attack. Battles require thought and cannot always be won by mashing attack in each instance. Crono does not engage in this journey alone; he is accompanied by a robust and humorous cast. Chrono Trigger takes risks with its character arcs, story progression and set pieces that truly work. There are instances which occur within this game that are unheard of in any other story. Speaking of story, Chrono Trigger boasts 13 different endings. Most of which can only be accessed through New Game+, making subsequent playthroughs important.

If you enjoy video games, epic stories or interesting characters than it is about time you played through Chrono Trigger.

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