The Only 26 JRPGs You Absolutely Have to Play (2024)

By Lisa Bernier on

The Only 26 JRPGs You Absolutely Have to Play (1)

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Final Fantasy VI (Released 1994)

Ranked by by some as the No 1. game of all time, Final Fantasy VI has it all: emotional storytelling, great characters and incredible design.

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Illusion of Gaia (Released 1993)

Full of unexpected turns and twists, this game as a compelling protagonist you won't forget: Will, a psychic boy who has to journey through a surreal version of our world.

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Chrono Trigger (Released 1995)

Time travel plus a power trio of a development team (Hironobu Sakaguchi, Yuji Horii, and Akira Toriyama) equals one of the best JRPGs ever made. With an excellent story, fantastic gameplay, and a great setting, Chrono Trigger is a classic.

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Lunar: Eternal Blue Complete (Released 1994)

The sequel to Lunar: The Silver Star, Eternal Blue is one of the best of the Lunar series. With great adventure elements, a wondrous setting and a fairly cool hero (Hiro), the game also has the bonus of a soundtrack that you'll actually want to listen to.

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Persona 4/Shin Megami Tensei (Released 2008)

The protagonist splits his time between battling demons and navigating the jungle of high school. Genuinely zany, this RPG/dating sim awesomeness showcases Altus at its best.

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Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (Released 2011)

With its fairy-tale like story, attention to detail, unexpected difficulty and all-around adventure-filled moments, Ni no Kuni is gorgeous. Thanks to animation from the legendary Studio Ghibli, though, the game is truly a work of art.

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Xenoblade Chronicles (Released 2010)

Developed for the Wii, Xenoblade (as it's known in Japan) has the ultimate setting: on the bodies of two warring gods. If that's not enough to make you itch for a console, it has a huge world you can wander, a great battle system, and when it was released, it got glowing reviews.

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Xenogears (Released 1998)

You're battling giant robots, fighting the odds, and trying to save the world ... from God. What's not to like?

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Dark Souls (Released 2011)

What's most people's greatest fear? Death. What does Dark Souls have you explore as an adventure ... over and over and over again? You guessed it. Pretty dark? Yeah, but pretty amazing as well. Also, the graphics make dying look darn beautiful.

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The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky

Oh c'mon, there are airships and you talk to treasure chests. If you don't like this game, you have no soul.

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Final Fantasy IX (Released 2000)

Not so doom-and-gloom as other RPGs, and very much rooted in fantasy, FF IX features hero Zidane and (if you can believe this oxymoron) the innocent black mage Vivi. With FFIX, the series got back to its roots without being stale.

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EarthBound (Released 1994)

Four pretty special kids have to save the world from aliens. Also, it's adorable. I mean just look at that interface.

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Final Fantasy VII (Released 1997)

Adored by gamers worldwide, Final Fantasy VII marked the first time the setting went more industrial and had 3D models and animation. No wonder it was thought to be one of the greatest games ever. Don't believe us? Ask the more than 10 million people who have bought the game since its '97 release (yes, it's that popular).

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Radiant Historia (Released 2010)

Time travel, melodrama, lots of strategy in its combat systems, a war between two super-powers: Radiant Historia has all the elements an adventure-seeking gamer ever needs.

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The Last Story (Released 2011)

From Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, the game revolves around mercenary Zael and his companions as they go from city to city looking for work. Add in some class tension between the nobility and the commoners, plus some robust, real-time, strategic combat, and you have an JRPG that definitely will never bore.

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Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals (Released 1995)

If you really like your RPGs to pack brain teasers and puzzles galore, challenging you every step of the way, this is the game for you.

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The World Ends With You (Released 2007)

Inspired by the fashion of the Tokyo district of Shibuya, Japan, this game is all the best of RPG and JRPG with lots of nods to modern Japanese youth culture.

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Suikoden II (Released 1997)

With powerful storytelling, an emphasis on character, narrative and a great soundtrack, Suikoden II still holds up today. Plus, villian Luca Blight is one of the most frightening bad guys ever created.

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Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride (Released 1992)

A game that makes you invest in its main character is always solid. Dragon Quest V is one of those, since it takes place over a span of 20 years.

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Final Fantasy Tactics: The War Of The Lions (Released 1997)

If you like your fantasy with plenty of strategy and, well, tactics, then this will probably be your favorite Final Fantasy in the franchise. In addition, the game has a unique engine and battle system (grid-based combat) that isn't found in any other game in the series.

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Secret of Mana (Released 1997)

Lots of adventure, colorful locations and characters, wood sprites and yep, giant chickens. (They had us at giant chickens).

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Final Fantasy Type-O HD (Released 2011)

With a dark, more mature storyline, a variety of missions, and the ability for players to take direct control of characters, this Final Fantasy installment was a delight to gamers everywhere when it was initially released.

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Valkyria Chronicles (Released 2008)

The story seems to be based around a WWII type scenario, but Valkyria really stands out for its strategy and its emphasis on tactics. In addition, it takes place in real time.

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Tales of Vesperia (Released 2008)

Sure, the plot isn't super original (swordsman must save the world), but what makes this game is its real-time gameplay, quick pace, and the way it has its story unfold.

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Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together (1995)

One of the first games to really bring tactical gameplay into RPG, it's a precursor to Jagged-Alliance 2 and X-CON. Though the game in and of itself isn't too complicated, the real difficulty lies in managing the number of characters you're responsible for, and using their numerous skills to the best effect.

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Fire Emblem Fates

Let's start with its intriguingly wide dating pool. Add the fact that some are calling gameplay as heady an experience as a "drug," and, really, the only question remaining is, why shouldn't you try it?

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The Only 26 JRPGs You Absolutely Have to Play (2024)

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