by Jason Parker (Ragachak)
God. Bless. America this was difficult to write. I’ll probably do some more of these based on era/consoles, to make it a little easier. Today’s list is a bit more narrow than normal. I want to focus on RPGs that made an impact on my personal life/ that I sincerely enjoyed over the last say… five years or so. There are far too many honorable mentions for this list though. I wanted to keep remakes and HD remasters off this list, with one notable exception (sort of). So Final Fantasy X, Yakuza Kiwami/Kiwami 2, games like that, that I absolutely love, I left off the list. I also wanted to only put one Final Fantasy game on there, because I could have easily made it dominated by that one franchise. So Final Fantasy XV also receives an honorable mention, because that story really got me worked into a shoot. One final honorable mention is Ni no Kuni II. It’s a beautiful, interesting game and while I enjoyed it immensely, it does not beat out the games on this list for me.
5. Randomizers: Now, I know I said no remakes/remasters, but these, in general, have really made my downtime when I’m not working truly enjoyable. There are many games that I’ve spent most of my life playing, so they become formulaic, and lose a lot of meaning/challenge. So with a randomizer, I can tackle these games that I own and love, and do so in an all-new way every single time I play. It’s always something new and different, whether it’s Final Fantasy IV, VI, EarthBound, or the new one I was clued in to, Crystallis. Everything from Doom to Super Metroid seems to have one, and there is a Final Fantasy VII randomizer in the works that I’m excited for.
4. Chroma Squad: I really need to go back and beat Chroma Squad, but as a concept I absolutely damn loved it. The gameplay was challenging, and the story is just the best. I mean, I get to play a turn-based strategy RPG where I’m running a run-down Super Sentai production? I get to make a squad of Sentai/Power Rangers, fight bad guys, and have giant robot fights? Come on, you don’t have to tell me a damn thing more about this game. It’s hokey, it’s made by people that truly understand the franchise, and it’s just a joy to play. I should really go back and stream that because it was so much fun. I don’t know why I stopped, but I regret doing so.
3. Final Fantasy XIV: How did Final Fantasy XIV beat out Final Fantasy XV? Well that’s easy – I still actively play FFXIV. XV had an unforgettable story and made me truly enjoy an open-world RPG, which is no easy feat. But Final Fantasy XIV unseated all of my favorite MMORPGs of all, I can play it with my friends, and it has so much damn fanservice to the other games in it. Themes I’m fond of, characters, areas, bosses, it’s got it all. Final Fantasy XIV is an MMO that I’ve been suggesting to people for years now, and I’m glad to see a few folks I know who never play MMOs try it, and fall in love with it. There’s a new expansion coming, with some really great classes (Gunbreaker, Dancer), and though there are things I’m not as crazy about (Eureka), there is so much more that is 100% worth playing. Go play the free trial of Final Fantasy XIV, then come back and tell me you loved it.
2. Dragon Quest XI: Dragon Quest is the series of RPGs I’ve been playing the longest. Dragon Quest XI is so good my first playthrough was over 80 hours, and I wasn’t at the end yet – nor was I upset about how much time had been spent. However, I was crushed that the last hurricane we had killed my Playstation 4, and subsequently my savefile was destroyed with it (It wasn’t backed up on the cloud for some reason). That was when I was an hour from the True Ending. I have not been able to bring myself to do it all again, but when Dragon Quest XI hits the Switch, I will play the 16-bit mode and do it all again with a smile. Dragon Quest XI’s second act was amazing and had a swerve I did not see coming. Things went from bright and cheery to ultra grimdark in about fifteen seconds. The characters had depth, the story was long, but not a slog, and it still had all of the charm the previous games had without feeling tired. This is another “go play this right damn now” game for me. Just like this next title.
1. Yakuza 0: Before I had played Yakuza 0, I had played Yakuza 4 and 5 – while I did enjoy and review them, being able to play on a more modern console, with modern console looks/feel, that is what did it for me. Yakuza 0 starts before Yakuza 1, and since I didn’t play 1-3, it gave me a lot of perspective on characters that I frankly didn’t have before. As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of sandbox games, but Yakuza 0 does absolutely so much with every square inch of the towns within it, that you never feel like there is wasted or empty space. Amazing side quests, a gripping, dark story, warm moments, hilarious spots, great mini-games. Yakuza 0 has awesome combat, delicious-looking food, and is a terrific starting point for anyone who has never tried Yakuza before. Plus it’s on PC now! Kiryu Kazuma is such a fascinating character, and being able to play as him and fan-favorite Goro Majima is just a treat. Go play Yakuza 0. Seriously. Stop reading this, and go get it.