This game combined super addictive gameplay with an unending horde of unique enemies to kill and loot to pillage. Each character class played differently and had many viable builds. The randomized dungeons and enemies added enough change to encourage many many playthroughs (of course most fun with friends). Oh and the plot was pretty engaging too! I can't get enough Diablo 2!
9. Final Fantasy Tactics
Gameplay wise, this is the greatest Final Fantasy game in existence... There were so many wonderful soldier classes to play through, and the leveling up and ability point system was ridiculously addictive. The graphics were top of the genre for the time too. Unfortunately, the plot line was less epic than a certain other Final Fantasy and the musical score less memorable. So, what should have been the best Final Fantasy game has to be placed behind a certain other.
8. Tactics Ogre
This just barely edges out Final Fantasy Tactics as my favorite strategy RPG. I mainly prefer this one because although they are both sublimely fun games, Ogre actually lets the character's decisions effect the plot for multiple endings. I also enjoyed the fact that battlefield terrain, i.e. standing on a building, could actually extend your ranged attacks even if you targeted an enemy outside of the allotted attack squares. Also, I actually preferred the plot of this game over Final Fantasy Tactics, mostly because my own decisions carried more weight.
7. Phantasy Star Online
The first online game that I really had a love affair with (well, not literally... as far as you know). I spent hundreds of hours of my childhood up way past my bedtime on school nights with the Dreamcast controller in my hand and the keyboard in my lap doing Ruins runs with my bestest E-friends. This game is actually where the universally feared Violent Bob Clan got its start poking fear into the hearts of the game's many hackers...
6. The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
Skyrim: Skyrim Skyrim Skyrim... Skyrim Skyrim Skyrim Skyrim... The game you bastards (I use the word in the most fondest of ways) made me play even though I knew going into it that it would take over my life. And it did. And yes, I did take an entire week of vacation just so that I could devote more time to this game. Was it worth it? Apparently. It is tough for a game that is a recent play with no nostalgia factor attached to it to crack the top ten. I think why this game works so well for me (well, besides the terrific gameplay itself), is because the leveling has this kind of “slow burn” element to it where it really takes a lot of time to grow a character. At the 60 hour mark in a JRPG you might be a level 99 juggernaut killing Ruby and Emerald weapons with your ridiculous Knights of the Round summon. In Skyrim, I wasn't even to the master spells yet (I am a battle-mage though, so I do a lot of one handed and archery too... Oh yeah, and that conjuration thing.). Is this a bad thing? Not at all. Even though I'm nearing the 70 hour mark and beaten all of the main story quests, it still feels like everything I do is having a significant impact on my character's growth. That's a very good thing. Now why isn't this game above Knights of the Republic? Or even higher? Plotline and character development... Sure it seemed significant to be Dragonborn initially, and it's always fun to slay the next dragon (unless of course you're already weighted down with dragon scales), but none of it seems very weighty or significant. I mean, I had an Elder Scroll and then just gave it away to an orcish librarian (yeah, I didn't have to). And I don't think there is a single character I really care about, maybe I'll kill them :D So yeah, better plotline and characters and this could have easily been number one, especially if I start playing with mods and the like. But as is, rank 6 is the right place I think.
5. Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic
OMG the plot twist! No, but seriously, I didn't see that one coming (but probably should have, it seeming obvious now). This is the greatest Star Wars game I have ever played (and I've played a lot). Leave it to Bioware to create RPG gaming perfection all in the Star Wars universe, where each of your choices has a profound effect on whether your main character becomes a light or dark side of the force baddarse. And each of your companions have so much character and back story, a lot of your time will just be spent getting to know the good folks.
4. Chrono Cross
I hoped and dreamed for a sequel to Chrono Trigger (spoiler alert... When I originally wrote this list it wasn't in reverse order so everyone already knew which games I deemed best) 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. Oh and spolier alert, Guile really is Magus from Chrono Trigger (go play the DS rerelease for the new ending).
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).
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 my favorite of the Final Fantasy games (well, Tactics would be better if it had superior plot, music, and characters). 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 ;) ;) that’s right, I can use emoticon type things too!).
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’ Oh, oh! And there is a new game plus mode where you can replay the game with your endgame stats and get 13+ different endings! For the most “complete” version of this game, get it on the DS. I hate that it messes with the original intro, but it does have a new ending and segments that better tie it to Chrono Cross, explaining some of that game's mysteries.
And there you have it! My own personal favorite RPG list. I am painfully aware that a vast majority of my favorites are Squaresoft (er... Square-Enix) games and that there are many many Final Fantasies on the list. But how can I help it if they make (or at least used to make) great RPGs? I've also been trying to play more PC and American RPGs, so you'll notice there are more Bioware games than there used to be on my list. Also, I tried playing the brilliant Bauldur's Gate, but my hard drive crashed around the 30 hour mark and I haven't had the energy to replay the game... But one day I will, and be sure it will rank highly on the list!
Oh, and I one day hope to play through the Lufia franchise, Persona games, the other Grandias and Dragon Warriors/quests, the Fallouts and the Mass Effects... But good lord that's a lot of hours I don't have these days! Plus Starcraft 2 Heart of the Swarm is coming out and it will be a huge time sink for me!
The internet masses have spoken. I am now playing Skyrim. I'm not very far in yet, but am really liking it so far. Why didn't anyone just say it was like Fallout 3 but with lightning death spells instead of guns? I would have played this game so much sooner... ;)
*update 11/07/13: When I was looking for my next game to play, Kingdom Hearts was the poll leader, so I just finished beating that. So of course I jumped right on Skyrim right? Nah, I enjoyed Hearts so much that I dove right into the sequel (well Kingdom Hearts 2 that is), so that's where I'm at now. Then I swear I "might" play Skyrim. Unfortunately I will be playing it on PC and amazon has a ton of negative PC Skyrim reviews, so I'm wondering if Elder Scrolls fans are just voting for Skyrim because it's the only Scrolls game on my poll. I think I'm going to make a new poll with just Elder Scrolls games so I can make sure I'm playing the best Elder Scrolls game ever ;)
*update 08/07: "Recently" finished Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked, Persona 4, and am well into Torchlight 2 (sorry, it was like $5 on Steam). All are great games and will definitely be making my list when I update/finish it. Will prooooobably play the Elder Scrolls: Skyrim next, it being the leading suggestion in my poll (see below). I will be playing the PC version of the game though, and I've read a lot of negative Amazon reviews about it being designed like it was made for a console. Am I still going to have fun with this game over say, Morrowind or Oblivion? Make your case in the comments box (sorry fellow Firefox adblock users, you have to enable it)!
Oh... And I've decided to consider Bastion an RPG (initially I thought it was too actiony, but it has many RPG elements and is classified as an ARPG), because it is awesome. Expect it to make the final list.
*update 05/13: Finished Fallout 3 and Fire Emblem Awakening... Both phenomenal games! Whenever I've played enough games I consider awesome enough to make a top 50 best RPG list I will include them on it. In the mean time, you can influence my decision in the comments box, or vote for a title in this poll:
Think my list sucks? Tell me about it in the comments box! Or be more constructive and list your own favorites... Maybe I'll play them. Be sure to bookmark this page and check back on your comments, because I reply from time to time ;)