Games have been a part of my life for a long time and, if it depends on me, the two will continue side by side. One of the genres that most enchants me is RPG. In RPG, you stop being a mere spectator throwing commands via the controller, instead becoming one of the characters in the game, growing and experiencing a rich story in an involving and constantly evolving world.
So, after trying hard to convince my boss to let me write, (I'm kidding, he's an amazing person!), I'll write about my 10 favorite RPGs of all time and how each one marked my life with its peculiar characteristics, unique characters, and creative gameplay.
Warning: I haven't played all the RPGs in the world and I assume that some are a reason to bury my head into the sand, like Mass Effect series and Skyrim (I only played about 5 hours, my save bugged, so I gave up). I'm biased by turn-based combat or jRPGs, so if you're just an action RPG player or think Zelda is an RPG, you probably won't like this list.
10. Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Before playing the game, I read the books. And oh boy/girl, was I right. You can play the game as a standalone edition, and you will miss some references from Witcher 1 and 2, but nothing that will impact your gameplay or the story.
What pleased and mesmerized me the most about Witcher 3 was the depth of the quests, interactions, and decision-making that could change the outcome of the main quest. The books helped me understand the internal jokes between two characters. Usually, when you meet an acquaintance of Geralt, he comments something like "This time I'm seeing you in pants", and quickly you refer to something that happened in the 3rd book, page 87, second paragraph.
As the events of the game happen years after the books, besides being able to visualize the words in images, sounds, and life, you understand how the majestic evolution of the universe happened. What occurred after the war ended or where that particular character lives now after losing a limb. Except for Jaskier, the poet. They changed the name to Dandelion, something I didn't like and I refuse to accept it, but other than that, the game is a masterpiece and deserves the attention of those who like an engaging story, personalization of characters, and decisive results based on conversations sarcastic or with the language of your fists.
9. Diablo II: Lord of Destruction
I progressed in the game, motivated by the hack and slash gameplay, loot system, and the story, because after reaching at least level 10 in Diablo II, the first game left me with a feeling of looking at a puzzle missing a piece in the middle. And it was all because of the lack of the skill tree.
And it was also because of the presence of the skill tree that I became addicted to Diablo II and spent a good part of my life in the game, testing different classes and builds. When I thought the game was getting into a grinding repetition - and after getting tired of killing the Mephisto 200x to drop a Ring of Jordan, they launched the Lord of Destruction expansion and I met my new passion: the Druid.
Many claim that Diablo II was very easy compared to Diablo I, and I agree that it was. However, the sequence gave a depth to the game that motivated you to repeat all the Acts in search of the unique items and to test new builds with the same class.
The story was also an upgrade, improving the lore and expanding the territory to new environments such as deserts and swamps. Visiting Old Tristam and saving Cain is an unforgettable experience for many Diablo I players who love to give him coins to identify your items.
8. Pokémon Red
Who doesn't want to be the very best like no one ever was? I may be too old to remember, but I think Pokémon was my very first RPG. I was 7 at the time and my dad had given me a Gameboy with the game. I was surprised at the possibility of exchanging Pokémon with my friends and even more when my friend's Pokémon did not obey me and made me lose the battle. Daycare for life, Machamp.
As I said, it is possibly my first RPG, but for sure my first turn-based RPG. There was something in the game pacing that won me over. You didn't have to be hitting a button madly. You had to think strategically, think about the strengths and weaknesses of your Pokémon, use items, and even run away because everyone knows that the hero who runs today, lives to become a legend tomorrow.
As I took Charmander as my starter, I had difficulties in the first two gyms and this showed me that it is in the adversities that we learn the most. I, at the age of 7, didn't understand anything, so I restarted the game, picked Bulbasaur, and destroyed the first two gyms like a boss.
7. Final Fantasy Tactics
I learned to play checkers and chess at an early age, but I didn't like it. First, because I couldn't think three moves ahead, second because I always lost since I couldn't think three or more moves ahead. So when I first played Final Fantasy Tactics, a strategy game that had grid-based gameplay and combat, I didn't think I would like the genre so much as to put it on my Top 10 list.
The Final Fantasy series has a huge weight by itself in the RPG world. I had to control myself to not put more than (spoiler alert) three games of the series here. So it was very difficult to filter and choose only a few. Tactics was one of them because of the fantastic story about war, betrayal, power, and a mysticism involving the zodiac that made me reassess if it was good to have been born as an Aries or not.
The job system, something very familiar in the Final Fantasy series, shines throughout the entire game. With countless jobs to choose and master, as well as unique characters with their abilities, each battle is a new and thrilling experience. Even innocent and beautiful Chocobos can become your nemesis if you are not careful.
6. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
My first side-scroller was Mega Man X. Walking and shooting enemies was something simple, but pleasant to do. But what fueled my youngish enthusiasm was when I found out I could upgrade X with new pieces of armor and get the power of the bosses by defeating them. Your character has no levels but has a fun progression.
That's why I didn't like Castlevania so much with the Belmont family. Whipping and blessing the demons with Richter was cool, but after four stages using the same weapon and sub-weapon, the game got slow for me. However, while I swiped left looking for a match, I found a vampire with a velvety voice and demonic powers, but good intentions. Alucard, the son of Dracula. (Have you read his name backward?) Man, what a game!
I won't talk much about the soundtrack, which is PERFECT, but Konami managed to take Castlevania's success formula and improve even more! I, as a good RPG addict, loved the addition of levels, different equipment and weapons, looting system, and other elements that make this game the amazing side scroller that it is. "Die monster, you don't belong to this world" - said Richter, a little before he stopped belonging in my Castlevania games.
5. Persona 5
In a world where turn-based RPGs have lost their throne to action RPGs, It appears at the end of a school corridor, a nostalgic light that carries in its core all the hope of old school RPG players. With charismatic characters - even the silent protagonist - interactions and relationships that mean something, a contemporary plot that both entertains and teaches, and of course, a super stylish turn-based combat that makes you groove while invoking the manifestation of your personality.
Persona has it all. No wonder it's among the Top 10 RPGs of all time in Metacritic. Whether you are conspiring against your school teacher about how to lecture him on good manners around students or going to the bathhouse with your friends to enhance your relationship and your charm, you feel involved. You feel that with every decision you make, something can change for the better or worse, but even so, it is your decision and your consequences. This is the essence of a great RPG.
4. Final Fantasy X
The second Final Fantasy of the list and the first where I was old enough to understand the nuances of the story, play without the help of my brother and an English dictionary. There are countless Final Fantasy considered best and I recognize that they can be, but the first love is always memorable. This game had a CG quality that transcended the technology of its time and helped to enhance storytelling and engage us even more with the people of Spira.
The introduction, a young star athlete, entering his field accompanied by heavy metal in the background to suddenly be exposed to mayhem already created an expectation that throughout the game and plot wasn't broken or lowered. Maybe a little on the laughing scene between Tidus and Yuna. But moving on, the game managed to give us fun, romantic, hateful, hopeful, and sad moments. It was the first game I cried like a newborn. I knew that the characters were more than just pixels for my entertainment, but they became part of my story, so you should listen to their story, as Tidus says. Of course, the turn-based combat was just the cherry on the cake for me to consider as one of the best Final Fantasy in my opinion.
3. Chrono Cross
I think it's amazing that even today there are still people who say that video games are child's play. I played Kingdom Hearts on stream and some people typed in the chat: why are you playing a Disney game for 5 year old children? The only reason they say that it's because they don't understand how complex, well structured, and often confusing the plot of a game can be.
But we're not talking about Kingdom Hearts, which due to some holes in the narrative is not on this list. We're here to talk about Chrono Cross, the successor of Chrono Trigger. I'm not going to go into the discussion of whether or not it's better than Chrono Trigger (draw your conclusions, there's only one on the list :D), but how it managed to expand the universe created by his predecessor masterpiece.
Instead of betting on time travel, Chrono Cross focused on alternative worlds. The protagonist Serge travels through these worlds while trying to find out why the hell he is dead in an alternative world and all the changes this has caused while hunting the Frozen Flame, an artifact that allows the user to manipulate time and space to win in the lottery. During your journeys, you can meet up to 40 party members, each with their backstory. You also find and antagonize the... antagonist, Linx, that has a motivation of its own that goes beyond that basic drive of good against evil. The battle has also innovated with a system of stamina, combos, and elements. You can be a high risk, high reward player striking hard at every move or play sparingly while building an area of elements and accumulating enormous damage on enemies.
From the middle to the end of the game, it's all a big and mind-blowing outcome that changes with your decisions. This game has 12 endings in all. If you blink, you get lost in the plot, like a Christopher Nolan movie. But if you pay attention, understand all the intensity of the story, character's motivation, and put together the pieces spread in the two worlds, it will justify why he is the successor of Chrono Trigger and should also keep the crown of a great masterpiece.
2. Final Fantasy XIV
The third Final Fantasy and I know you're wondering: wait, isn't that an MMORPG? Yes, it is. And it is the best MMORPG there is. As Jack Krueger said: let's go by parts.
First of all, we are talking about the version A Realm Reborn, which was reconstituted on top of the late Final Fantasy XIV, which I also played but lack compliments for it. The new version not only improved the combat, but also the story, characters, job system, and pretty much everything.
Second, it is by far the game I have the most hours played. Of course, the online factor and the grind contributed to this, but for you to want to stay so long in a game it needs at least to be decent and this game is much more than decent. It's not a simple online game. So much so that in the Shadowbringers expansion, they brought a system where you can make dungeons without needing other players. You can do them with NPCs, so you can experience the game as a great single-player adventure and enjoy the story.
The story is marvelous. It has the main storyline of Final Fantasy, then A Realm Reborn, Heavensward the first expansion, then Stormblood and Shadowbringers. Although not all of them deserve an Academy Award for best script, Heavensward and Shadowbringers have a plot that causes envy in many RPGs. You are the hero of the story and the game does not measure efforts to show you this. But with great powers, there are great responsibilities, the weight of your greatness is always in check as well as the losses between battles and struggles. The secondary characters are also amazing and things just fit together, no loose ends, nor beginnings... nor middles.
The endgame content is a traditional MMO. You have the normal version bosses and the hyper crazy hard version bosses where you can get the best equipment to kill them again since they are the hardest endgame. But unless you are a hardcore player, you can enjoy the content for casual and create memories with your guild members while they dance YMCA in your mansion.
1. Breath of Fire III
Wait, don't you mean Breath of Fire IV? NO, I didn't!
Sorry. Traumatic past. I know it's an unorthodox choice because the game is very retro and usually, those who play Breath of Fire choose IV as their favorite. But not me. Not today, not tomorrow, but hopefully in the future if they continue with the series.
Breath of Fire is a more classic jRPG (Japanese role-playing game) than the very game that created the term jRPG. You have characters with colorful hair, turn-based battles, artistic design style, and dragons. That by the way, was a strong influence on my decision since I am fond of dragons and use the nick Ryu until today in all games that allow me to choose a name. (Ryu is the name of the main character in the series Breath of Fire and it also means dragon in Japanese).
The game does not have a story as elaborate as the others, but it's charming. You start as a young Ryu who is found and adopted in a forest by two thieves. From then on, they start educating you about the world. You notice Ryu's evolution even in battles when initially he attacks with an animation of fear and then becomes firmer, holding the sword like a good gentleman holding an umbrella for his lover.
The plot begins to unfold, you meet other characters and get to know more about the background of Ryu. Until a breakthrough is reached where there is a time skip. And I loooove time skips. You can see and live a world before and after the time skip and its evolution is something amazing. Ryu also grows up, stops being a little boy, and becomes a teenager (or young adult). The plot outcome is a little grayish, but more so black and white, the traditional good versus bad. But it's the journey that matters in a game like this.
Ryu has the power to transform himself into dragons and this system is the golden egg of the game. Throughout the game, you find Chrysms, which are like tombs of other dragons. On contact, Ryu acquires the power of the deceased dragon for himself and he can make a combination of up to three powers to turn into numerous different dragons. Each one with its appearance, power, and temperament. Other elements like the Fairy Village, in which you play SimCity and the fishing minigame are great hobbies to distract you while an evil goddess plans to destroy the world.
As I warned in the beginning, I'm biased towards shift RPGs + dragons + time skip, so the number one choice was easy, even if it's one of the few in the community that chose it.
And that's it, people. I would like to thank my parents for giving me a video game from an early age and the opportunity to play these games all my life. Ok, seriously, I hope you enjoyed my list or at least, my reviews of each game. If I got one of you interested in any of these games, my job here is done. By-bye!