Suikoden II is often heralded as the best entry, and for good rea son – you faceoff against one hell of a sadistic villain in Luca Blight. The epic battles and the harsh decisions of war hit hard, making it the most memorable story of the series. The result was one of the most memorable JRPGs of this past decade. Considering the game chronicled a warrior goddess harvesting the souls of the dead, an unusual and captivating vein of sadness ran through Valkyrie Profile. Bittersweet narrative aside, this title from Tri-Ace combined side-scrolling dungeon exploration with unique timing-based combat, all supported by a complex progression system.
This gave Square the chance to dramatically improve the concept with a sequel. Kingdom Hearts II marked an apex for the series thanks to its improved mechanics and more interesting Disney worlds to visit. The story was also good, though it started to go off the rails toward the end. Political intrigue often makes for powerful stories, but Konami’s Suikoden series made it especially engrossing. You fight corruption by recruiting 108 Stars of Destiny and build up your own headquarters.
Using a Final Fantasy-inspired battle system, players took on opponents on foot or in mechs. In an era where most RPGs avoided complex narrative themes, Xenogears stuck out for making players ponder topics like existence and purpose, even if its ending ultimately disappointed. Red Hook’s dungeon crawler garnered critical acclaim for its Lovecraftian atmosphere and intriguing affliction system. The game’s emphasis on sacrifice was engaging, forcing you to push your beloved heroes beyond the brink repeatedly, only to cruelly replace them with lesser adventurers when they perished. Darkest Dungeon is a must-play modern RPG, but you need to have a stomach for unforgiving scenarios.
Most gamers only remember the final go girl games four minutes of Mass Effect 3. But the controversy over a color-coded cutscene obscures the fact that the trilogy’s finale is, in its entirety, a long and poignant farewell to an unforgettable hero. Throughout Mass Effect 3, Shepard confronts the consequences of past decisions and reunites with beloved allies to save the galaxy one last time, making it a worthy sendoff to one of gaming’s best RPG trilogies. Tackling topics like religion, psychology, and philosophy, the Square team led by Tetsuya Takahashi did not hold back with Xenogears.
- Though it looked like a first-person shooter, System Shock 2 was built on top of an RPG foundation, letting players enhance their characters with skill trees and inventory management.
- The complex skill and crafting system, with characters’ unique specialties ranging from studying chemistry to composing symphonies, meant players always had something to customize.
- This mash-up approach paved the way for the likes of BioShock, Dishonored, Mass Effect, and other genre hybrids, securing System Shock 2’s place as one the most influential games of its generation.
- It’s one of our favorite Zelda games of all time, and next to Zelda II, one of the few that plays like an RPG.
While its predecessor may have lit the fire, Dark Souls brought the uncompromising dark fantasy worlds of From Software to the forefront. This foreboding game was filled with esoteric lore and secrets, breathtaking scenery, and unforgettable boss battles. The atmosphere of dread, oppression, and hopelessness is juxtaposed masterfully by the massive thrill of victory that comes after downing a seemingly impossible foe. Combining Square Enix with Disney in the original Kingdom Hearts was dangerous but successful.
Getting the best ending was basically impossible without guidance, but the payoff made the effort worthwhile. Most of Wizardry’s screen was text, but a small box in the upper left-hand corner showed monsters, dungeons, and chests. These minor visuals were enough to bring our imaginations to life. Often cited as the first party-based RPG, Wizardry showed just how deep and engaging questing could be. Numerous legendary game creators reference Wizardry as inspiration for their games, including Elder Scrolls director Todd Howard and Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii.