by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 14th November, 2019
We've got plenty of new and remastered JRPGs in 2019 and together with already available games they make for a strong lineup across every gaming system. Here are the best JRPGs to play in 2019.
JRPG games aren't a small niche anymore. Instead of going back to Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest titles over and over again, these days gamers can choose between dozens of excellent titles.
In 2019 alone we've got lots of outstanding titles such as Ni No Kuni 2 along with a remaster of the brilliant first game; Kingdom Hearts 3; a remastered version of cult classic Tales of Vesperia.
Octopath Traveler, which arrived on the PC. Also, Switch got a remaster of the classic Xbox 360 The Last Remnant. Let's not forget a throve of Final Fantasy remasters along with the excellent Shadowbringers, expansion pack for Final Fantasy XIV that made the MMORPG title a must-play if you're into playing with other people.
The Switch received the ultimate version of Dragon Quest XI. There's also Fire Emblem: Three Houses in case you consider Fire Emblem games to fall into the JRPG category. Oh, and the PS4 owners will get the ultimate Persona 5 version, Persona 5 Royal, near the end of October.
As you can see, there are lots of Japanese RPG games that came out in 2019 alone so finding the best ones to play this year can be a daunting task. There're so many of them and lots of those are wonderful games definitely worth your time. So, which ones to pick and play during the rainy Fall and chilling Winter?
Well, that's a hard question. Like, really hard. But we've managed to pick the best ones and don't worry, each of the four major gaming platforms at the moment - the PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC - has at least half a dozen great choices.
We've tried to include as many multiplatform releases as possible but that isn't the case with all games. Titles such as Persona 5 and Fire Emblem: Three Houses are exclusives but are also must-play for every JRPG fan and we simply had to include them.
So, check out the best JRPGs to play in 2019 and beyond since many of these games are or will become timeless classics.
Before diving into Ni No Kuni II be sure to check out the first game that got remastered for the PC and the PS4 after being a PS3 exclusive for a number of years. In all honesty, both games are definitely worth playing but the first one is better of the pair.
The gorgeous visuals and charming story are married with drop-down fantastic cut scenes made by Studio Ghibli, the famous Japanese animation studio that gave us masterpieces such as Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away.
The first game also features an emotional story that follows three children while they take the journey of growing up and experiencing important childhood moments.
At the same time, they carry the heavy burden of saving the world from the evil witch and her minions. There's plenty of exploration, two worlds to explore, and many battles to be fought.
The second game can be found just on the PS4 and PC and it features improved gameplay, especially combat. You also have a strategy-like gameplay layer where you can oversee and take care of your kingdom, which is one of the best things about the game.
On the other side, there's no more that magical Ghibli touch but the story is solid and worth experiencing. At the moment these two are some of the best JRPGs to play right now and we strongly advise players to play the two games in chronological order.
If you don't have time for both then pick the first one. It has a bit wonky combat but everything else is noticeably better than in the sequel.
Final Fantasy fans can simply pick any of the three amazing titles above or simply choose to play them all and reserve the totality of their free time until the end of 2019. And that's cool because it's really tough to recommend just one game from the pack because all three are amazing.
Final Fantasy VII is the most famous of the bunch and is one of the defining titles of the genre. Sadly, it's available in its original form without any improvements other than the HD resolution support.
But if you put the story in front of everything else, you'll be just fine. The game's story is still among the best ones in the genre and in role-playing games in general. Do note that in case you game on the PS4 wait a bit and pick up the proper remake that should land at the beginning of March 2020.
The Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster, on the other hand, is a proper upgrade over the original games. They both have gotten major upgrades that include HD textures completely changing the look of the games; improved models that aren't really current gen but they definitely look much, much better than in original, and the new lighting system that makes both games way prettier than originals.
Stories remained the same, which is definitely a good thing since Final Fantasy X and X-2 feature masterfully written stories.
The signature conditional turn-based combat system didn't receive any updates, another right move. Both games feature rearranged music and additional content in the form of new mini-games, extra costumes, and new bosses.
Another major addition is the Creature Creator, allowing players to add monsters and certain NPC to their party and train them in the coliseum.
As for the Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age, the game remained pretty much the same. It received a light graphical facelift to make it compatible with HD resolutions and it runs at 60fps which is always a positive.
It also received a completely remastered musical score as well as the Zodiac Job system that was exclusive to the Japanese version of the original. Everything else remained the same.
You have another strong story and gargantuan single-player campaign, unique real-time battle system that features one of the best AI programming of party members (the gambit system allows players to tweak behavior of party members to the smallest details and it works fantastic), and the robust leveling system featuring the chess-like License Board upgrade panel.
Dragon Quest is the apex of the long-running series and by many the definitive title for all newcomers to play. The game features a massive world to explore that looks gorgeous. The single-player campaign can take anywhere between 60 and 120 hours to finish and if you're a JRPG fan you'll love every second of it.
The game has old-school vibes at every step. The story is about a hero, the Luminary, who must free his kingdom from forces of darkness like in countless others classic RPG games. He does that by exploring the land with his faithful band of comrades, doing lots of quests and lots of exploration.
The combat system is also old-school. It's the traditional turn-based system that will never get old and that still feels amazing like it felt 20 years ago.
The battles feel a bit grindy but since the game features a robust friendly AI behavior system that allows players to automatize actions of other party members in detail battles play fast and aren't too complex. Each version of the game is quite nice but if you really want the best one we recommend getting it for the Switch.
The game's perfect in portable form, allowing players to dive into it in short bursts and still feel like they are making progress. You also have the beautiful visuals of other versions but this time with the option to turn on the classic 2D visuals and play the whole game in SNES style. Finally, the Switch version has other goodies such as additional difficulty options, new mounts, and the expanded forging mini-game.
If you want the prettiest JRPG available right now (at least technically) then you can pick Final Fantasy XV. The game isn't perfect and to be honest, it is below the quality of previous chapters of the series but it stands tall as a standalone title and is one of the best choices for JRPG fans at the moment.
The story follows Noctus, the crown prince of the Kingdom of Lucis, and his three best friends as they embark on an epic journey of saving the world. While the story is straightforward and not as complex as in past titles the chemistry between characters is superb and the camaraderie shown in the game feels honest and genuine.
The combat might not be everyone's cup of tea but you can't say developers didn't try something new. Combat is real-time and is in the vein of action RPGs with lots of fast strikes followed by simple special attacks and powers and overall, it's pretty fun.
The problem is that players can control just Noctus with his three friends being controlled by AI which can make them less effective during combat encounters. The world is huge, there's lots of exploration and the dialogue during car rides is top-notch.
Visuals are incredible and there's plenty of quests and activities to do along with some epic boss battles. And there's plenty of tasty looking food. More than enough to make for a quality JRPG game that is definitely worth your time.
If you desire a classic-looking JRPG that features old-school turn-based combat and character-focused story then you cannot go wrong with Octopath Traveler. The game looks unique as they get, with classic pixel art combined with modern lighting and the pseudo-3D world and we have to say that the combination looks not only distinctive but also extremely handsome.
If there's a game that can buy you on looks alone this one's it. The world is huge and just waits for you to explore it and there will be lots of exploration do to since Octopath Traveler features a unique campaign that reconnoiters personal stories of each of its eight playable characters. Put into hours, the campaign can be beaten in 60 hours but if you like to explore and do optionable quests you look at more than 80 hours of playtime.
The combat system follows the classic turn-based formula. It allows complex combat encounters where you have to think before making your move and it is quite rewarding, especially during the late-game encounters that can be pretty tricky.
Overall, the game has it all; an epic story that is unique in the way it explores each character in detail; an amazing turn-based combat system, a massive world that looks beautiful; and a lovely soundtrack that is often overlooked. A great choice for those who want to experience a classic JRPG that looks like no other.
Final Fantasy XIV had a rough start. The game got released in a sorry state, basically busted. This led developers and Square Enix to apologize to fans and pull the game until they completely overhauled it and released three years later as Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn. The move was an absolute success since the game became one of the best MMORPGs ever, which it still is.
While Final Fantasy XIV received plenty of updates that introduced new content along with two expansions the third one called Shadowbringers is the best by a wide margin.
The expansion introduced a new world located in the dimension called the First Star. It also massively upgraded the game in visual terms, introducing a stunning graphical overhaul. Level cap also got increased and players received a completely new story campaign along with lots of new dungeons and raids to beat.
Overall, Shadowbringers is one of the best MMORPG expansions of all time and the only negative thing about it is the fact you have to invest plenty of time in the base game before diving into the wonderful world of the First Star. But if JRPGs are your passion the time investment is definitely worth it.
Kingdom Hearts 3 is mostly for fans of the series. Not because the game's bad or uninteresting. No, the reason why this title can be hard for newcomers to get into is its incredibly complex story that is very hard to fully understand.
In case you want to experience Kingdom Hearts 3 without playing other games from the series we strongly recommend to visit YouTube and watch some of the comprehensive videos explaining the whole world of the game and its story.
After you watch some videos this magical mishmash between the world of Final Fantasy and the world of Disney can be a joy to play. Story aside, the game features incredible visuals that make it the closest game resembling a Disney movie to date and the gameplay is something else.
You see, each world you visit represents a certain Disney animated movie, populated by known movie characters and each world features different gameplay elements that make Kingdom Hearts 3 a unique combination of genres that's really hard to put down. Excellent title, especially for gamers that are also parents since this one is the best JRPG to play with your kids.
While Persona 5 is a PS4 exclusive it's definitely worth getting the console just to play this game if you're a fan of the genre. This is one of the best JRPGs of all time and by far the best game of the series. The original combination of dungeon crawling and living the life of an average teenager in modern-day Tokyo is better than ever.
By day you to go to school, hang out with friends and live the normal life filled with daily teenage struggles and experiences. You have to get to school on time, to meet friends, and to do all sorts of things which make for an enjoyable life sim.
And then the night comes and you visit the otherworld constructed from the thoughts of others and there you battle monsters, collect creatures in the vein of Pokemon games, and experience one of the best stories in the Persona series.
The game features a wide cast of charming characters most of which are well written and layered, each with their own problems and a unique personality making every one relatable and unique.
Persona 5's cell-shaded visuals are something else and this is the best example of cell-shaded design we saw aside from Breath of the Wild and Borderlands 3. And finally, the story is epic and filled with exciting and emotional moments and it will take more than 100 hours for an average player to finish it. A massive and exemplary JRPG game that is one of the best games of this generation.
This Switch exclusive is a massive title and the biggest Fire Emblem game to date. While not a classic RPG and more of a tactical, turn-based strategy than a JRPG the story and exploration moments are definitely in the vein of what you would expect from a JRPG title.
There are three story campaigns, each following a single house of the Garreg Mach Monastery and each campaign can take more than 40 hours to complete. The campaigns have lots of things in common but in order to experience the whole story, you have to play through them all, making the total gameplay time more than 120 hours.
The fact the game is a Switch exclusive is great because you can slowly carve through the content each time you catch some time off, while having with longer playing sessions while at home.
The gameplay is divided into two distinctive parts; the first part takes place at the Monastery school - a main hub of the game - where you work as a teacher and where you hold classes, explore the school, recruit new students, and do lots of other stuff such as fishing or taking care about your own garden.
The combat and exploration take part on the world map and there you can play story battles and progress the story campaign. The combat is turn-based and it has lots of depth. It's challenging and those who like turn-based combat will adore Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Overall, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is one of the best Switch exclusives and one of the best JRPG-like games you can play right now.
Tales of Vesperia first saw light on the Xbox 360 but the remastered edition is available for all four major gaming platforms. The game looks very pretty and its cell-shaded art style received a major facelift that makes it capable of standing its ground against other modern JRPG titles.
Along with updated visuals, the definitive edition includes content previously available only for Japanese-only PS3 edition of the game along with added Japanese voice tracks. The game plays like older Final Fantasy games where you have the world map, which is explored by your party and smaller maps which you enter after reaching specific towns or important locations.
The combat is real-time and action-oriented, similar to fighting games, but the fact that it takes place in limited arenas often against lots of enemies at the same time can make it a bit cumbersome and sloppy.
The lack of the ability to directly control party members along with underwhelming AI customization tools can make the combat quite discomforting at times but overall, it's mostly enjoyable. Nevertheless, the game features a pretty good story along with a cast of interesting characters. It also takes place in a beautiful world filled with interesting locations.
And finally, the rugged leveling system combined with lots of activities to partake makes the game very fun to play. The lacking combat system is not enough to pull this one down since Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition is one of the best JRPGs to play right now.