Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Pantheon of Japanese RPGs

Japanese RPGs are one of my favorite genres of videogames, though certainly it's not a taste that everyone enjoys. JRPGs have certain gameplay and storyline conventions that many people I've known would label "limiting" or "linear." I don't disagree with these appraisal per se, I also don't think there's anything particularly wrong with directed story-telling or streamlined character customization.

Over at The Brainy Gamer, Michael Abbott has opened up nominations for his Vintage Game Club, a collection of games that the community believes are classics and, therefore, worthy of our time and thoughts. One of the leading nominees for the fourth VGC game is Chrono Trigger, considered by many to be one of the greatest JRPGs ever made. As I've been playing through the game (for the first time, I might add), I'm finding myself hard-pressed to disagree with that appraisal (I'll delve into this further on a later blog). But Chrono Trigger's much-lauded status begs the question: what other JRPGs are significant/worthy enough to be considered part of the "Pantheon of Great JRPGs"?

I've started with a short list of JRPGs that seem to be the most significant for their system or era. The list is obviously not exhaustive, and I welcome any suggestions you might have - particularly for the Sony and Sega consoles, which are not my strong suit. I'm also trying to stick with pre-Playstation 2 consoles, as otherwise the games might not be old enough to accurately judge.

I appreciate any help you might be able to provide, as I hope to make this into a larger project in the future.

Dragon Quest
Final Fantasy 1

Final Fantasy IV
Final Fantasy VI
Dragon Quest V
Chrono Trigger
Secret of Mana
Super Mario RPG

Phantasy Star 1
Phantasy Star 2

Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy Tactics

Skies of Arcadia

Pokemon Red/Blue


  1. Nice list! Just a couple of comments -

    Phantasy Star 1 was actually a Sega Master System game...2 and 4 are generally considered "best of series" as far as I can remember. Also, Lunar: The Silver Star (as opposed to its less celebrated but still great sequel Eternal Blue) was a Sega CD game.

    I would add Shining Force and Shining Force II to the Genesis list, unless you feel that they're too strategy-like to count (though the inclusion of FFTactics makes me think they should be there).

    Can I assume you've read the discussions regarding Abbott's RPG class curriculum over at TBG? Surely there's some insight embedded in those comments as well.

  2. Sorry for the late reply. Didn't realize I hadn't set up email notifications when I receive comments.

    Thanks for the corrections regarding the RPGs I listed. As I've noted, I'm fairly ignorant of Sega console RPGs, since I grew up on Nintendo. I've trying to improve that with the Virtual Console though.

    And I believe I have read some of Michael Abbott's posts about his RPG class. I should probably review it though.