Before I give you the full rundown, here’s the short answer: I can appreciate a good story. I view Role Playing Games (RPGs for short) the same way I view novels. They pull you into a world with a cast of characters with their own hopes and dreams trying to make a difference in their world.
Unlike all of the other genres, most RPGs ask the player to progress through the game at a significantly slower pace. This is by design though the many sub-genres provide exceptions to the rule. Speaking of rules, in terms of Gameplay Mechanics an RPG usually has ALL of the following characteristics:
- Level Up Mechanic: The Playable Characters, Weapons, Magic and/or Skills can increase in level and power when game-specific conditions are met.
- Number and Word Value Stats: Attack, Magic, Defense, Speed, etc.
- In-game Economy: In most RPGs you get money for beating up enemies. Said funds can be used to buy goods and/or services in the game.
- Protagonist(s) with a complex: I can’t use anyone specific without spoiling a game so I’ll try being generic. In many RPGs the Hero(es) has/have some kind of baggage they have to deal with while trying to save the world.
- Antagonist(s) with a complex: Same as above but replace Hero(es) with Villain(s) and save the world with destroy, corrupt. rule or enslave.
- Interactive World: You travel the world talking to people, fighting bad guys, meeting new friends and exploring caves, ruins and other places most folks would give pause before exploring.
Those are the six that immediately come to mind. Most RPG series have more than these and some games that are not RPGs have some of them. The Legend of Zelda games are a textbook example of the latter. They have many of the qualities that one would find in an RPG though technically, it’s not an RPG. I didn’t even know they weren’t RPGs until a few years ago and I’ve played nearly all of them up to now.
When the term “RPG” is thrown around most folks immediately think of the Final Fantasy games, Pokemon, Persona or an MMO (let’s be honest: No other genre can come close to the popularity or success of an MMORPG). There’s nothing wrong with that. After all, all of them fit all of the above criteria one would find in an RPG. The Persona and Final Fantasy games literally spell it out for you that you are playing a role as the game’s protagonist(s).
Now, I have one more set of lists to go over before I do an overview of my 10 all-time favorite RPGs. Said list has changed as of this past summer. Before we get to that, I want to talk about some of the sub-genres some RPG series are known for. Don’t worry, this list will be short:
- Strategy RPG: Basically, it’s a stratedgy game with RPG elements or the other way around if you prefer. Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics/Advance and Shining Force are some of the most known games of this type. You recruit a stable of heroes and take a handful of them into battle at a time. Like most stratedgy games, certain types of units are effective in certain situations such as Archers vs. flying units in the Fire Emblem games.
- MMORPG: Probably the most well known subgenre today. You are a hero in a living world. Since it’s an MMO the game ends when the company that created the world shuts down the servers. There’s always something that needs to be done. A villain needs to be put in their place and the world needs saving. You’ll find no end of it in any of the many MMORPGs available today–Rift, Aion, League of Legends, Everquest, Guild Wars 2, Warhammer and World of Warcraft to name a few.
- Monster Tamer: If you’ve heard of the Pokemon games that’s the gist of this sub-genre. The creatures you catch and train do the fighting instead of you. Actually there are a few exceptions to that last part: Shin Megami Tensei IV and Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World are two such games in which you can recruit the monsters you encounter to fight alongside you.
There are certainly more but I think I’ll leave it at those three. The rest I leave for you to discover or research on your own. Now it’s on to my list of my 10 favorite RPGs of all time. I posted a list on my forums a few years back but that list is out of date. Here is what I consider the most up to date list. I reccommend trying them all if you get the opportunity. I won’t provide a description here since I will be make a page with detailed info in the near future.
- Final Fantasy VI
- Tales of Symphonia
- Persona 4 (PS Vita Version)
- Star Ocean: Second Departure
- Chrono Trigger
- World of Warcraft (Includes all the expansions)
- Final Fantasy VII
- Tales of the Abyss
- Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
- Pokemon Yellow
A few other favorites worth mentioning by name:
- Pokemon Fire Red and Leaf Green (GBA)
- Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
- Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
- Star Ocean: First Departure
- Star Ocean; The Last Hope
- Phantasy Star III
- Shining Force
- Fire Emblem: Awakening
- Shin Megami Tensei IV
- Tales of Vesperia
- Final Fantasy IV
- Guild Wars 2
- Super Mario RPG
- Tales of Phantasia
- Fire Emblem 6: The Sealed Sword (Japan only)
- Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver (Nintendo DS)
- Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
- Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions (PSP port of the original Playstation 1 game, Both are available via the Playstation Network but only War of the Lions will work on a PSP or a PS Vita. FFT works on a PS3 as well as the handhelds)
- Xenoblade Chronicles (Wii)
- Tales of Graces f
- Dragonball Z: Legacy of Goku II (Game Boy Advance, it was re-released twice during the GBA’s lifecycle with one of the other GBA DBZ games)
Almost all of the games listed I have played over the last 15 years. There are many more not on the above list but these lists alone…they’re plenty. In my personal opinion most of ’em should be played from start to finish at least once before moving on to the next game. Having said that, I want to end by speaking on something that’s become a popular trend over the last 10 years with Speed Runs. RPGs were never meant to be completed very quickly. I have heard some people over the internet say they can complete some RPGs in under 12 hours. Ok look. I’m not trying to tell anyone how to play their games. I do want to point out RPGs were never meant to be cleared very quickly. The main reason is the story-heavy emphasis on most of them.
While yes there has been an influx of RPG games in recent years with a de-emphasis on the storyline, the way I see it those are not true RPGs. It’s at the point folks are forgetting what RPGs are about and even worse, those who never played the older games have no idea what they’re missing. I say that last part earnestly since all of the games on the above list can still be found on store shelves, on Console-based online stores, via an online store like Amazon or a combination of all three.
Speaking Memorable RPGs, I recently completed my first playthrough of Persona 4 for the PS Vita. I enjoyed the game so much, right after I beat the game I bought the Anime in full (Review for that coming too!) from iTunes and downloaded game’s soundtrack. My next post will be a review of said game so look out for it!