The acronym “JRPG” usually refers to a role-playing game of Japanese origin. However, its meaning has evolved over the years to represent a certain style of storytelling and character design. When you compare a traditional JRPG to a western RPG, you’ll find that the characters are a lot closer to anime than real life.
Often these JRPG games involve intricate party customization systems and a higher focus on plot rather than gameplay. JRPGs have developed a unique storytelling style of their own that is designed to get you emotionally involved with the characters. JRPG worlds can be set in science fiction, high fantasy, or a combination of both.
Today, I will take a look at the top 40 JRPG games of all time (PC, PS, PSP, Switch). Sony’s PlayStation has traditionally been considered the best platform for JRPGs, with Nintendo at 2nd place. In recent times though, more and more JRPG titles have been ported over to PC.
Top 10 JRPG Games Of All Time For PC
Yakuza: Like A Dragon
Yakuza has always been a brawler RPG with an open-world design inspired by Shenmue. In Yakuza 7, the entire combat system is overhauled. Instead of a brawler, you now have a turn-based JRPG.
And instead of Kiryu, the protagonist is now Ichiban. In pretty much every way, he is the polar opposite of Kiryu. Even his outfit is essentially an upside-down version of Kiryu’s classic grey suit and crimson-red shirt.
Once again, you have a story that effortlessly switches between melodramatic anime moments and more serious crime drama. But this time, you have a party of 7 with up to 4 active members at any given time. Each party member has jobs and upgradable weapons/ stats/ clothing.
Upon release, it was universally praised for its excellent narrative and unique gameplay style created by combining several genres. Nier Automata is a game that everyone should play at least once. I say at least once because the game has 26 different endings that can each be obtained through various methods.
The game is set in a futuristic post-apocalyptic world where you play as an android. Aliens are invading the Earth, and they have created their own machines to engage with human androids in a proxy war. There are 3 playable characters, each with its own unique weapon selection and specialties.
Combat is melee hack and slash, with both light and heavy attacks. You can also evade and counterattack. As you defeat enemies and gain levels, you can install chips in your Android to upgrade their abilities and stats.
Throughout your adventure, you will be assisted by a robot companion. Each one is called a “Pod”, and you can customize their abilities to suit your needs. These are basically flying support bots that can execute a variety of ranged attacks.
if you are interested to check out more all-time best games from different genres, check out my other post Top 40 Turn-Based Strategy Games Of All Time (PC, Android, Switch, PS)
The original Valkyria Chronicles was released for PS3 in 2008, with a Windows version that launched in 2014. This game manages to blend real-time action with turn-based tactical strategy. You control a special military unit belonging to the fictional country of Gallia.
Everything takes place in an alternate reality where Europa (a version of Europe) is torn apart by the 2nd World War. Instead of Petroleum, nations are looking for an ore called Ragnite which is essential to fuel their war efforts. You can monitor the battlefield with an overhead map that utilizes turn-based commands.
But moving individual units and attacking enemies will put you in a real-time action combat system. There are different types of units, each with its own strengths and weakness against other units. Each mission has different objectives, usually involving the capture or control of enemy emplacements/ bases.
Tales of Berseria
A story of good vs evil with many excellent characters and tons of overlapping plots. Featuring a protagonist who was forced into a life of violence due to her traumatic childhood and evil forces who threaten her land. Tales of Berseria is the 16th Tales game, and it introduces a bunch of new mechanics.
Like the modified LMBS (linear motion battle system) that lets you move freely within the combat zone while also rotating the camera. Your characters have access to physical attacks and magical spells, along with special moves called Artes that use your soul gauge. Having enough souls lets you unleash ultimate moves called Break Soul.
Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom
Is it an animated movie or a game? Ni No Kuni 2 has an exceptional art style featuring a world and characters that look hand-drawn. The game is colorful, bright, and an absolute joy to play through.
Your character is a young king called Evan who is on a journey to unite the people of his kingdom. Along the way, he makes new friends who join him to help his cause. You can freely roam the giant open-world doing side quests and activities, or complete main quests to advance the story.
if you are interested to check out more all-time best games from different genres, check out my other post Top 30 Platformer Games Of All Time That You Must Play
Tales of Zestiria
A sequel to Tales of Berseria, this is the 16th entry in the mainline Tales series of games. Set 1000 years after the events of Berseria, Zestiria puts you in the role of someone known as the “Shepherd”. Simultaneously a warrior and a guardian, it’s your job to unite the human and Seraphim while stopping the advances of evil human forces.
The venerable linear motion battle system reappears, albeit with some major tweaks. Now, you have special characters who can fuse together into a single being and unleash devastatingly powerful attacks. Now, you have a massive open world to explore and fully voiced conversations between characters during skits.
Final Fantasy XV
The latest entry in the Final Fantasy universe, this is the only Final Fantasy game that feels somewhat like a western RPG. Not that it’s a bad thing, but the classic Final Fantasy style of gameplay feels notable absent in XV. Visually, it’s the most impressive Final Fantasy yet with graphics that are on par with the FF VII Remake.
You play as Noctis, in a fantasy world called Eos that is surprisingly similar to our own. While previous FF titles used high fantasy or steampunk themes, this game looks like a recreation of some random California suburb. The combat is more free-flowing, and exploration feels less linear than previous FF games thanks to the excellent open-world design.
Persona 4 Golden
A game inspired by murder mystery novels in which you play a teenager who has migrated to a Japanese countryside village from a large city. Upon moving to this rural area you join a school and make friends, doing normal teenager stuff. However, you can also switch into an alternate world where you solve murder mysteries using your ability to summon Personas.
Unlike traditional RPGs, Persona places a lot more focus on character development and interaction. You talk with other teenagers in your school, join clubs, eat at the cafeteria, do part-time jobs, etc. Each activity you participate in will progress time and shift the in-game clock while also causing changes in the weather patterns.
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South Park: The Stick of Truth
If you’ve seen South Park and are a fan of their humor, you’re going to love this game. A game in which you can navigate the city of South Park and meet all the famous characters while participating in absolutely insane missions. The boys are playing Wizards and Orcs, their own made-up game in which everyone roleplays as a fantasy character.
Combat is simple, yet extremely fun. It’s very similar to Paper Mario, with a variety of physical attacks and ranged weaponry. Buffs and debuffs are also present in the game, along with customizable party characters and unique abilities for each class.
A critically acclaimed game, Octopath Traveler is most famous for its unique visual design that combines SNES-era 2D sprites with modern effects and polygonal environments. Its plot is standard JRPG fantasy stuff about gods, adventurers, and ancient evils that threaten the world. However, it plays very differently from most JRPGs.
You have 8 unique characters with predefined backstories and abilities. And you play through each one of their stories at the start before their paths eventually cross within the game. Combat is turn-based with a mechanic called Boost Point that lets you improve your attack/ defense.
During your journey, you can choose to interact with NPCs in villages. How you interact with each NPC determines your reputation. Your character level and in-game currency will also decide which interaction options you get.
Top 10 JRPG Games Of All Time For PS (PlayStation)
Final Fantasy 12: The Zodiac Age
The Zodiac Age is a remaster of the original Final Fantasy 12, based on an exclusive version of this game that was only released in Japan. In Final Fantasy 12, you have a bunch of new mechanics and exploration systems that were introduced for the first time to the series. For instance, in previous FF games, roaming the world involved watching a caricature of your character walking around a minimap.
But in 12, you actually have a realistically proportioned fully-rendered world that you explore with your character. You can navigate the terrain on foot, ride a Chocobo, or fly an airship. The in-game currency is now represented by loot instead of Gil, and you can sell loot dropped by enemies at shops.
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Even though this game was launched late in 2016, it’s one of the few JRPGs that would be available simultaneously on both PS3 and PS4. The PS3 version ran smoothly with similar graphical fidelity to the PS4, but at a lower resolution. While the previous Persona game took place in a rural area next to Mount Fuji, this one is set in the middle of modern-day Tokyo.
You play a high school student called “Joker”, who is falsely accused of assault and placed under supervision. Gradually, you and a number of other students awaken hidden supernatural powers that let you enter an alternate dimension called the Metaverse. In this world, you can use physical copies of your own personality (Personas) to fight enemies.
Dragon Quest 11 S: Echoes of An Elusive Age
One of the longest-running JRPG series, Dragon’s Quest is now back with an improved graphics engine and all-new adventures. The unique thing about this game is that you can switch between 3D and 16-bit 2D on the fly. When you turn on old-school mode, the game looks just like NES/ SNES Dragon Quest.
You play as the Luminary, a man destined from birth to save the world of Erdrea. Your first two partners are a powerful wizard trapped inside a child’s body and her twin sister. Gradually you meet up with other colorful characters along your journey, each with their own interesting backstory that you can explore.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
A Final Fantasy VII remake had been teased for a long time until Square Enix finally unveiled it in 2020. This isn’t just a visual remaster of the original, but featured changes to the story and gameplay. Combat uses real-time hack and slash.
To upgrade weapons, you use the Crystarium system from Final Fantasy XIII. Weapons and armor can be upgraded with Materia that lets you cast new spells and summon creatures onto the battlefield. The Final Fantasy VII remake will be rolled out in episodic fashion, this one only has the first city from the original (Midgar).
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Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition
You play as Yuri Lowell, a skilled warrior who used to be a soldier in the Imperial army. Vesperia takes place in the fictional world of Terca Lumireis. This world contains a magical element called Aer that is produced by special springs. It’s almost like a life force and is harnessed by devices called Blastia that were developed by an ancient technologically advanced civilization.
Blastia is needed for food, water, and defense. The world of Vesperia is populated by dangerous creatures and rival factions who are constantly at war. Yuri forms a guild to defeat the evil forces seeking to abuse Blastia for their own schemes.
Tales of Arise
Set in a beautiful land filled with natural wonders and fantastical creatures, Tales of Arise is a masterpiece. Its unique graphics style uses a shader that is “inspired by anime and watercolor painting”. And each character is as unique as they are eccentric and passionate.
Combat is stylish and over-the-top with lots of flashy moves and chainable combo attacks. Tales of Arise puts you in the adventure of a man and woman representing two rival worlds, teaming up to defeat an evil faction. Compared to previous Tales games, this one is more action-focused and encourages parrying/ blocking.
Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
It looks like a Studio Ghibli movie and plays like Dragon Quest. If you ask me, that’s a killer combination right there. You play Oliver, son to a loving mother Allie who dies of a heart attack.
As Oliver’s tears fall on the doll that was gifted to him by his mother, it comes to life and tells him about an alternate world. In this alternate world, a wizard has imprisoned a sage named Alicia who looks just like Oliver’s mother.
Apparently, people from the other world have mirror copies in this one. And if one dies the other follows. Oliver immediately sets out to rescue Alicia from this wizard in the hopes of bringing his mother back to life.
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Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of DANA
Yeah, I know- the name doesn’t make any sense. But the Ys series of games have been around for an extremely long time and are considered excellent JRPGs for true fans of the genre. The very first Ys game was launched in 1987 for the NEC PC-8801.
Ys games showcase the journeys of adventurer Adol Christin, and his companion Dogi (not a dog, but a giant blue-haired man). In Lacrimosa of DANA, you are on your way to a new continent aboard a ship when it’s attacked by a giant monster. Upon waking up, you find yourself awash on the coast of an uncharted island and start looking for survivors.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
Following in the footsteps of other Trails games, this game features an epic saga centered around a teenager on a quest to save the world. I know, that’s like 99% of JRPGs out there. But Trails of Cold Steel has a more mature and serious tone compared to say, Dragon’s Quest.
The pacing really isn’t good, with a lot of unnecessary padding in the plot. And the game is pretty much setting you up for a sequel, but the excellent combat and dialogue will make play this game for weeks. You have turn-based combat like in most other JRPGs, but with slight twists that make it stand out from the rest of the crowd.
Final Fantasy X/ X-2 HD Remaster
What FF VII was to the PlayStation 1, FF X was to the PS2 in the early 2000s. It has now been remastered with additional story content and significantly improved visuals. In this remastered collection, you get both Final Fantasy X and its sequel, X-2.
In X, you play as Tidus- guardian to a summoner called Yuna. You can freely switch between characters during combat, and there’s a deep leveling system to improve your abilities. In X-2, you play as Yuna and the game lets you change jobs by wearing a different costume.
Top 10 JRPG Games Of All Time For PSP(PlayStation Portable)
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable
The original version of this game was released in Japan for the PS2 in 2006, but later an improved version was made for the PSP. I say improved because it adds some very welcome mechanics to the base game. For starters, you can now play as a female protagonist.
Persona 3 Portable also features new story elements and soundtracks along with a UI developed specifically for the PSP. In Persona 3, you are a member of the SEES (Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad). Student at day and professional killer at night, you hunt an alternate dimension for evil entities called Shadows who feed on the minds of people.
Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
In Final Fantasy VII, you play as Cloud Strife- a former First Class SOLDIER who used to work for the Shinra corporation. But Crisis Core puts a twist on things by introducing you to Zack Fair. Zack is also a First Class SOLDIER; except he is on active duty and working for Shinra.
The events of Crisis Core are set 2 years prior to the start of Final Fantasy VII. You are tasked with finding the whereabouts of a missing SOLDIER called Genesis Rhapsodos. Along the way, you learn about Project G and its relation to Sephiroth who is another SOLDIER (also the antagonist of FF VII).
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
Set in the fictional country of Liberi, Trails in the Sky puts you in the shoes of a female protagonist called Estelle Bright. She is on a training journey to become a Bracer; these are fighters for an NGO that performs peacekeeping acts across the world. Your brother Joshua is also training to become a Bracer, and both of you participate in several quests on your adventure.
You have two different maps, one that is related to combat outside city hubs and another for city hubs. Inside hubs, you can purchase goods, report the completion of quests, interact with NPCs, etc. Combat is turn-based and takes place on a grid.
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
One of the few JRPGs in which the player can control the origin of their character. By default, your name is Denim Powell but you can change it at the start of the campaign. You will also be asked to input data like your birth date, profession, loyalty to a group/ faction, etc.
Combat is turn-based and you can field up to 10 units on the battlefield at any time, with up to 30 total in your team. Characters have a fixed move distance based on which type of attack they are using and their turn order is determined by stats such as agility. Every time you kill an enemy, there is a chance for a random drop that grants buffs to your characters.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
Kingdom Hearts is a franchise in which characters from various JRPGs collaborate with Disney legends such as Mickey Mouse and Goofy to beat evil supervillains. The plot doesn’t make any sense, neither do the abilities and dialogue. But one thing is for sure- these games are extremely popular among people of all ages.
Unlike most old-school JRPGs, Birth By Sleep uses a real-time hack and slash combat system. You can choose a deck of cards before entering combat. This deck contains special skills that can be used as your Command gauge fills up.
Disgaea 2: Dark Hero Days
This game was initially released on PS2 as Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories. The PSP port introduces 5 new characters from Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, including them on top of the base game. Some gameplay features from the PS2 version have been overhauled, and a few new ones were borrowed from Disgaea 3.
The story starts with a young man Adell in the village of Holt. Your family has been turned into demons by the curse of a powerful overlord from the nether realm. And you will attempt to defeat this creature so you can restore your family back to their human form.
Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection
Final Fantasy IV was released by Square for the SNES in 1991. Later, Matrix Software made a sequel called Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. The Complete Collection includes both these games with upgraded graphics.
Now, you have support for 16:9 resolution. And there are some new CG cutscenes too. On top of all this, a new game scenario called Final Fantasy IV: Interlude has been added whose story takes place one year after the original.
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
The world of Ivalice was first introduced in the late 90s, with the original Final Fantasy Tactics. It makes a return here, along with all the unique quirks and intricacies of the original Tactics game. The War of the Lions supports multiplayer and uses high-definition cutscenes since the PSP is a more powerful system than the original PlayStation.
FF Tactics uses turn-based combat with a strategic twist, it almost feels as if you are playing a more action-themed version of chess. With a board and units that have unique abilities, the game can get quite engaging- especially during later stages. The type of terrain you are standing on will affect how your units move, and each unit can choose from a selection of jobs.
We once again continue with the adventures of Adol and Dogi who have now traveled to a new kingdom. They eventually get into trouble with the local guards and get tossed into a cell. Later, they are freed by the King who needs their help with finding out the cause behind some recent earthquakes.
A group of ancient dragons is reawakening to fight an evil force, and they lend their powers to Adol. Ys Seven lets you switch between weapon types as they do more or less damage to certain types of enemies. Parties can have up to 3 characters, including the player-controlled character.
Jeanne d’ Arc
If you ever wondered what Joanne of Arc would be like within a JRPG, this is your game. Jeanne d’ Arc isn’t historically accurate or meant to be portrayed as such. Instead, it loosely follows the story of the real Joanne.
Jeanne leads a force of fighters against the army of an invading nation. You and your party travel between different cities within a fictional landmass that is similar to France.
Every playable character and enemy has an affinity to one of three powers- Sol, Luna, and Stella. Much like rock, paper, scissors, these phases are both strong and weak against each other.
Top 10 JRPG Games Of All Time For Switch
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
The original Xenoblade Chronicles was released on Nintendo Wii in 2010, and now a remastered version of this classic is available on Switch. Featuring a modern graphics renderer and improved UI, the Definitive Edition is a nice place to start for any Switch owner who wants to get into Xenoblade. Unlike many fantasy JRPGs that take place in fictional lands, Xenoblade puts you on the back of a frozen Titan.
Rather two frozen Titans, the body of each one being home to two rival nations. As the Titans fought before them, now their people fight each other. The open-world map has unlockable zones, and you fight in real-time with the special power to see visions of the near future.
Disgaea 1 Complete
Unlike most JRPGs that use a 3rd-person perspective, Disgaea 1 Complete puts you above the action in a top-down view. This way, you can get a good read on who is where in the battlefield and plan your strategy more efficiently. After all, this is a tactics-focused roleplaying game that puts action aside in favor of strategy.
However, the actual attack animations and special effects are nothing short of spectacular. It’s like watching a giant anime battle playing out with god-level characters that you built up over the course of several days. There are different roles or “classes” in the game, and you can unlock additional classes by completing certain objectives/ milestones.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
Dark Arisen is an extended version of the base Dragon’s Dogma, complete with a new location and questline. You also get all the original DLC content, along with new monsters and gear. Unlike traditional JRPGs, you have a customizable avatar called the “Arisen” whose backstory and stats can be modified at the start.
Various jobs are available, each changes the attacks and spells your character gets. Fighting huge enemies in Dragon’s Dogma involves grabbing and climbing on them, which is an excellent mechanic. You can even order your AI party members to execute various movements/ attacks during real-time combat.
Final Fantasy VII
The original Final Fantasy VII can now be enjoyed in all its early 3D glory… on a Nintendo Switch. And this is the complete Final Fantasy VII, unlike the remake which only contains Midgar. Some story elements are different from the remake, and gameplay is truly turn-based with a focus on spell casting.
When this game launched back in 1997, it was a phenomenon. The 3D graphics and cutscenes combined with an excellent story blew everyone away.
On the Switch version of this game, you get a few extra features. Namely, a 3X speed mode, the ability to turn off battle encounters, and a new battle enhancement mode.
Breath of Fire 2
This isn’t just an excellent JRPG, but a great role-playing game all around. Breath of Fire 2 has definitely stood the test of time, you can still enjoy it today if you’re willing to look past the dated graphics.
In terms of gameplay, Breath of Fire 2 was ahead of its time. Featuring text-based spell menus and encounter probability indicators for enemies, Breath of Fire 2 caters to old-school JRPG fans. Unique to Breath of Fire 2 is the town building mechanic that lets you create and populate your own village.
Final Fantasy IX
Set in a medieval fantasy land of warring nations, you are on a quest to stop the queen who started all this conflict. Unlike Final Fantasy VII that is set in a quasi-futuristic universe, Final Fantasy IX made a return to its roots. Instead of evil corporations and robots, you have kings and knights.
While the world is indeed massive, you navigate through most of it on a pre-rendered map. If an obstacle like a mountain or river is stopping your movement, you can ride a Chocobo or fly an airship. When you come across an enemy, the world map changes to a battle screen with a spell and item menu.
Grandia HD Collection
Two legendary JRPGs from the 90s have been remastered with updated graphics and cutscenes in this HD Collection. You get both Grandia 1 and 2 within the HD Collection, along with an updated UI and widescreen support (both for the PC and Switch version).
You play as Justin, a young adventurer on a quest to uncover the secrets of a long-lost civilization. In Grandia, the environment is 3D while characters are 2D sprites. The levels of weapons and spells are increased depending on how often you use them in battle.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Three Houses takes place on a continent ruled by 3 kingdoms who are at peace with each other. Connecting these 3 kingdoms is a monastery with a church and training academy for young warriors. You play as a mercenary of unknown origin and take upon the role of training young cadets from one of the 3 houses.
You do mock battles between various houses, including the one that you chose to train. Apart from these battles, there is a progression system tied to the academy. You can also interact with students and staff, organizing activities such as field exercises and experiments.
Monster Hunter Rise
The 6th mainline Monster Hunter game, Rise builds upon the mechanics of MH: World while introducing new systems. You now have a new type of animal companion called the Palamute that can be ridden around the world or taken into battle. Much like previous Monster Hunter games, you go around killing various monsters and collecting their parts for bounty.
Along the way, you upgrade your character while crafting new tools and armor. You can also buy weaponry and accessories from shops scattered around the massive open world. New monster types have been introduced in this game, along with new weapons.
Trials of Mana
A 3D remake of the 1995 SNES original, Trials of Mana lets you play 3 out of 6 total protagonists. Their stories start out very differently but all converge on the same path as they try to defeat a world-threatening evil force. When you meet a new character, you can either watch a cutscene that explains their backstory or play through their prologue.
The countryside is an open environment with random enemy encounters and hidden treasures. Towns are central hubs/ safe havens where you can do all your shopping and side activities. Combat takes place in real-time, with character-specific abilities that are unlocked via a skill tree.
Some games on this list might not seem like JRPGs at first. Take South Park, for example- it may not be the first game that comes to your mind when you think of JRPGs. However, in terms of gameplay and party mechanics, it’s the closest thing to Paper Mario you can find today (alongside Yakuza 7).
If you want a platform that plays pretty much every JRPG, get yourself a PlayStation. If you want a similar platform but for mobile gaming, the Switch is your best bet. However, the number of platform-exclusive titles these days is going down since so many previous console exclusives are also releasing on PC.
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