My 5 Favourite JRPG Franchises

Well if you got to this post hoping to discover a rare gem you could sink your weekend into, then you’re about to be very disappointed. I’m the most basic gamer girl out there. The very first 5 JRPG titles that flashed into your mind, almost subconsciously are probably the exact ones I’m about to name. There you go, you don’t even need to read the post now!

No wait! Don’t go! I was only kidding…yeah that’s right. Where else are you ever going to hear about games like…Final Fantasy…

Kingdom Hearts

I am currently playing KH 2. I had always heard about the franchise and had always wanted to get into it but for some reason never got around to playing the games. Quarantine changed that. I ordered a bundle with everything so far and started making my way through it.

I finished the first game. The cleared Chain of Memories which I actually really liked. I thought the mechanics were interesting and the story got a lot more intricate and well…weird. I then watched 358/2 days. Unfortunately, turns out the version I have is basically just a movie made up of all the cut scenes instead of an actual game. It doesn’t quite work. My advice would be to just read the plot summary and skip it. I started KH 2 last weekend and so far I’m digging it. It’s pretty similar to the 1 but I really want to see how Sora and Roxas come together. I also teared up a little when I saw Mickey which makes zero sense since I have never seen a mickey movie in my life. Man, I’m easy to please.

From what I have seen game 3 is an actual classic turn-based JRPG and I can’t wait!

Suikoden

I’m not sure in what order I’m putting these. Suikoden is more of an oldie and I admit I only played games 1 to 3. This said I played the heck out of Suikoden 3. I really loved that game and got super invested in the universe.

Suikoden games allow you to gather up a huge amount of playable characters and in-game three, there’s this little minigame where you can put on a play with whatever characters you have gathered. I spent hours obsessively putting on plays with different combinations of characters just to see how they would turn out. HOURS!

I would happily play another Suikoden game if a new one came out! And I hope one does. It’s a classic JRPG franchise that deserves to be revived.

Persona

Ok, so I guess these are officially in NO order! I played Persona 3 or rather small bits of it at a friend’s house (another JRPG enthusiast) when it first came out. I never got the game for myself for some reason so I couldn’t enjoy it to its fullest. But when Persona 4 came out… I actually missed it altogether.

It wasn’t until years later when I found a copy of Persona 4 on the PS store remastered for the PS3 that I actually started playing. And oh boy did I ever get into the game. I have subsequently cosplayed as 3 of the characters. I really loved Persona 4. enough to make me go back and play the 3 which I like a lot as well. When Persona 5 was announced I jumped at it.

I got the fancy preorder with the shiny case and schoolbag and everything. To be honest, I was a little afraid it wouldn’t live up to expectations. I was wrong. Although 4 will forever hold a special spot in my heart, 5 was a delight. I have finished it twice and I am considering buying the new version to play it all over again!

Final Fantasy

So this is my tied for the first pick. When you think JRPG, you think Final Fantasy, right? I have played 11 of the Final Fantasy games (Crisis Core is brilliant.) and although they’re not all masterpieces, I tend to always enjoy them at least on some level. I have yet to finish 15 that I restarted a few times already, but I do like it whenever I pick it up.

However, FF7 was my gateway JRPG and actually my gateway game altogether. I have always enjoyed video games and use to code little joke games in MS-DOS as a little kid for fun. But I never really thought of myself as someone who likes games until I played Final Fantasy 7. That’s when I realized, you, I’m a gamer girl. That’s what I want to do in my free time.

And FF7 is still one of my favourite games after all this time. I have not played the remaster yet. I’m actually waiting for the entire thing to come out. But I will. And I’m gonna love it.

Honourable mention: Fire Emblem

So why is Fire Emblem just an honourable mention? It probably deserves its own spot! It’s not like it’s not a super well know JRPG series. Well, it’s because I have only played 3 houses. I really liked 3 Houses. It’s one of those games I had to complete. Consequently, I finished it with all three houses and the fourth option as well. I also liked the DLC a lot. It ramps up the difficulty quite a bit which was refreshing.

I enjoyed 3 Houses enough that I would be happy to play the next Fire Emblem game. I should probably look into the past ones actually. Any one to recommend?

Tales

I feel like this list has just been a repetition of me saying I love this game over and over again. I love the tales series which happens to be one of the most prolific JRPG series out there. To be more specific, I love Tales of Vesperia which I am playing through for the third time. I own it on a few platforms now. But I quite liked Berseria and Symphonia, even Graces. I’m intrigued by Tales of the Abyss, I wonder if there’s a remaster available.

I’m hoping Tales of Arise will be out next year. And I will be buying it. Just take my money, please!

Every time I start a new tales game I just get submerged in a familiar and comfortable adventure that can make even the most boring Sunday afternoon riddled with excitement. I don’t actually remember the last time I had a boring Sunday afternoon so I’m talking theoretically here!

See, I told you it wouldn’t be exciting. And there are tons of other great franchises and individual games as well. These just happen to be the ones I have played the most.

What are some of your favourite, maybe I can discover my next game!

Irina

I'm much nicer than I seem, we should be friends!

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42 Responses

  1. My favorite would be the Tales series as well. I already finished Tales of the Abyss, Legendia, Graces and Xillia. I haven’t finished Symphonia or Vesperia yet, Sadly.

  2. mkoulikov says:

    Gonna throw my word in for the Trails games too! But please please please *do not* start with Cold Steel III! I mean, you CAN…but there’s just so much more if you actually start with the first one.

    So much of those games is not even the story, it’s just finding characters who you love, and a chara pair who you love. And see it build through four games!!!

    Rean x Towa!!!

  3. Aether says:

    Well, you say they’re basic, but these are the genre standards for a reason. It’s not easy to make a good JRPG, and these are the series that have really stood the test of time and reliably delivered quality.

    As far as Fire Emblem recommendations go, I can back up Justin’s recommendations from earlier, Path of Radiance and Awakening are my favorites of the series… but Path of Radiance isn’t available digitally, which makes it tricky, and Nintendo is still charging full release price on Awakening.

  4. Halsdoll says:

    I love Suikoden series as well. I played all them except for the DS one: Suikoden Tierkreis. I like recruiting the characters, they are all so interesting.

  5. wingking78 says:

    Dragon Quest is definitely top of my list – I go back over 30 years with that franchise. It’s also the series I’ve finished the most games for: I beat 1, 2, and 3 on the NES, 5 on an SNES emulator, and 8 on PS2, plus the spinoff game Dragon Quest Builders on PS4. The 5th one (Hand of the Heavenly Bride) is probably my favorite, partly because it just had a fantastic story and partly because it was the first multi-generational RPG I ever played. You begin the game as a child, and by the end of the story (over 30 game years later) you have your own wife and children, one of whom ultimately ends up being the great hero.

    2-5, in no particular order:
    Persona. I beat #3 and #4, bought #5 but haven’t gotten very far into it yet.
    Disgaea. I beat #1 and #5.
    Sakura Wars. I’ve only played (and beaten) #5 since it was the only one ever released in NA until the reboot that just recently came out, but I loved every bit of it.
    Final Fantasy. I almost hesitated putting Final Fantasy on this list because while I’ve started a lot of them (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 12, and 15), 1 and 6 are the only ones I’ve ever actually finished, and 2 is the only other one I got more than halfway through. That said, FFVI is one of my favorite RPGs ever, on any platform, and FF1 was one of the games that got me into RPGs in the first place, so I think just for those two games alone it deserves a spot on my list.

    • Irina says:

      I started DQ XI recently. In fat, as soon as I’m done with blog stuff, I will be sinking into the sofa to play for as long as I can before life makes me do stuff again…

  6. ashleycapes says:

    Cool! You might like the sound of this – or might have come across it already?

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rabbitandbearstudios/eiyuden-chronicle-hundred-heroes/description

    Takes about an hour to scroll down to the ‘about/description’ section but some key folks from Suikoden are behind this game, so I’m quite keen for its release!

    • Irina says:

      Dayum I do like the sound of it. I’ve actually had amazing luck with kickstarted projects I just can’t seem to find the time to keep up with what’s out there.
      This looks amazeballs – thank you so much!

      • ashleycapes says:

        My pleasure 🙂 Hoping time flies a bit, as the release feels like it’s so far away, but then, I want them to take however long it takes too 🙂

        Me too, there’s such a steady stream of amazing stuff, impossible to keep up, yeah

  7. Krystallina says:

    “I have not played the remaster yet. I’m actually waiting for the entire thing to come out.”
    Are we placing bets on when that will be? Because put me down for 2027.

  8. Dawnstorm says:

    I’ve never played Kingdom Hearts. I have no particular fondness for Disney characters, and the gameplay isn’t my thing either (I might, thus, be more interested in 3 if it’s really a trad turnbased RPG). I can’t say if I’d like it or not, but I’m just not too interested.

    Suikoden might be my favourite among those you listed, though there’s pretty tough competition. I’ve only played 4 (and its tactical RPG spinoff) and 5, but 5 in particular is a masterpiece. I find it funny that together we’ve played them all, but there’s no overlap. Out of the ones I haven’t played I wanted to play 3 the most (and it’s entirely because I heard about the play!)

    I’ve played Persona 3, 4 and 5, and loved them all. I’d say 3 had the best NPC social links; but 5 integrated them into the gameplay the best. 4s social links were fun, but after 3 I found a bit of a let-down. 4 has my favourite gameplay, and 3 has my favourite story. (I’ve also played some other Shin Megami Tensai titles and they’re fun, too.)

    Now Final Fantasy: I haven’t played that many. some of 4 and 5. All of 6, 10 (and X-2), 12, and some of 13. 6 is the standout title for me, but I’m also quite fond of X, and I liked the job-system of 5 (and riffing off that was one of the things X-2 did right). I wasn’t too fond of 12, but it was fun enough for a while; I did like the gambit system. 13 bored me to tears, and I have little interest in 15. I don’t like the new aesthetic, either. I considered buying a Playstation mini just for FF VII, but I heard the console itself isn’t too good.

    From Tales, I’ve played Symphonia (and it’s World Tree spinoff, which isn’t as bad as everyone led me to believe), Graces, Xillia 1 & 2, and Zestiria, and I liked them all, with Graces being my favourite. I always spend too much time going skit hunting. I’m considering buying a new console some time, and I’m leaning heavily towards a switch, though I considered getting a PS5, for a while. If I do get a switch, the remastered Vesperia is sure to be one of the first game that machine will play.

    Fire Emblems? It’s one of the series I haven’t played that I want to play the most.

    Pete mentioned the Atelier series, and I love what I played on it. Atelier Iris 3 (I had 2, but my PS2 didn’t recognise the disc so I gave it away again, and then I learned that I might have gotten it to work by putting some tape on the no-read side to make the disk heavier, so I’m now kicking myself for giving it away), the Arland series (my favourite), and the Dusk series. I thought the series lost a little of its charm when it went from reaction sprites during story scenes to full 3D, but it’s still great. And it’s consistently got fun music.

    I’ve only played Trails of Cold Steel 1 & 2, but judging just from that (and the odd lets play I’ve seen), I’d really enjoy the series, too.

    My own nostalgia series is Phantasy Star. I’ve played all of the original 4, and the Phantasy Star Universe games on the PS 2, and they’re just fun. PSU plays like an online game (and I suppose you can play it online), so the gameplay is a little more action heavy. But I do like the original 4, with 3 being a case of failed ambition. 2’s gameplay probably hasn’t aged too well; I’m fine with it, but it’s very grindy, and the dungeon design while interesting makes some of the dungeons a chore. 3 has reduced graphics, an extremely slow walking speed and you’ll spend a lot of time walking in a straight line, so that’s frustrating. 4 has good balance and should be fun even today. There are remakes of 1 and 2 on the PS2, I’m told, but I haven’t played any of them.

    And then there’s Disgaea. I’ve only played 3 and 4 (and Disgaea Dimensions 2), but those games are just fun. The stories are totally wacky (from what I’ve seen of 5, it’s not quite up to scratch story-wise) but work. It’s basically a hardcore otaku series, since the jokes rely a lot on anime and manga tropes. (If I buy a switch, 1 and 5 are so on my shopping list).

    I tried arranging that into a top 5 list, but it’s impossible. I mean what do I do with Final Fantasy, where many games are okay, some I love, but the recent direction (since 12) I’m lukewarm to cold on? If I go by favourite game (with restricting myself to one per series) it could go like this (from 1 – 5):

    Disgaea 4
    Suikoden 5
    Atelier Totori
    Final Fantasy 6
    Tales of Graces f

    But that doesn’t really translate to the franchise ranking…

    • Irina says:

      oh Suikoden 5 is a retelling of Water Margin, now that’s interesting. I have actually always wanted to try a Disgaea game but every time I decide to buy one, I can’t find one for any of the consoles I won. I should try again

      • Dawnstorm says:

        I’ve never heard that Suikoden 5 in particular is baded on Water Margin; the entire series is: that’s where the 108 Stars of Destiny come from, for example.

        Games not coming out on a system you have: that’s Suikoden 3 for me, never came out on the PS2 in Europe, and the PS2 (unlike the PS3) is region locked, so no import either.

        As for series: I really, really want to play Fire Emblem. I almost bought a Nintendo 2DS just for this purpose once. As far as I know, Disgaea 5 and the remade Disgaea 1 are both on the PS4, which I think you have. I have played neither game, so I don’t know how good they are. 1 is a classic among fans, but it’s hard to go back to after playing the later refined gameplay (is what they say), and 5 is supposedly one of the best in terms of gameplay, but the story and characters aren’t the most popular. I’d buy them both anyway, because I love the series. (Both those games are on the Switch, too. I was wondering if I should buy a PS5, if it’s backwards compatible with the PS4, but the more I hear about and the more I see how they look, the more I’m partial to a Switch; no idea what Nintendo’s going to do next. I’m not currently buying a console anyway, just thinking about it. I have the money, but I don’t have the space (both the PS3 and PS2 are still active and I don’t want to retire them).

  9. Justin says:

    I’ll recommend a few fire emblem games to try after 3H, but a few (basically the Wii and Gamecube ones) are a little tough due to availability so I’m throwing in one more:

    Fire Emblem Awakening: real fun one to spend some time with, has some neat characters.
    Fire Emblem Path of Radiance (GC) and Radiant Dawn (Wii): Both have a pretty good story, varied maps means you’ll have to complete different types of missions in each. Radiant Dawn was my most played FE game until Three Houses came along!
    Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones (GBA): I’d say Blazing Sword would be fine, but it might be best to follow up with something that has branching paths and a world map, which Sacred Stones does. Gameplay is good, but I remember finding it a bit easy…

    • Irina says:

      First, Justin I love that avatar. Is that Keima from God only Knows? Sadly I don’t have a GC but I do still have my Wii so Radiant Dawn could be a good choice.

      • Justin says:

        Yes, it is indeed Keima! Good eye xD Did you watch the anime?

        Ah, then this is gonna be tough. As mentioned, it’s hard to find and if you do it’ll probably be expensive. But even if you do, you’d be jumping right into the sequel. Hopefully some of these FE games can become more available soon.

        • Irina says:

          I love God Only Knows. I was actually sad to see it end.

          Too bad about the games. But I’ll keep an eye out, you never know.

  10. ramon3ljamon says:

    I don’t really play games, but I fell in love with Nier: Automata. Did you try it?

    • Irina says:

      I have not! I’m super curious about it. I’m guessing you recommend!

      • ramon3ljamon says:

        Very much so! I went in blind, and it blew me away. Just know that three “playthroughs” are necessary to fully grasp the narrative.

        I understand you usually require a little time to get through stuff, so I hope you’ll be able to get it done by the year 11945, which is when the game is set.

  11. Wooderon says:

    On waiting for the whole ting to come out on the Final Fantasy VII remake, I’d recommend against that. Purely because, based on Square’s track record and how long it took this one bit to come out, then you might be waiting years and year.

    Plus the remake is definitely worth looking at. It’s certainly amongst my favourite games of the year. I want to avoid spoiling things about it, but it’s certainly nowhere near as straight a “remake” as you might think.

  12. Pinkie says:

    Senpai! You keep getting greater in my eyes every day! I haven’t seen you talk about games except once on Twitter!

    Oooh I recently wrote on how I love the Tale Series as well..

    I am currently playing Tales of Beseria for the first time! Pink Witches!
    My favourite one is Tales of Phantasia still.. because it has Arche Kleine.. I rented it as a kid with one of these adapter packs and it was so amazing!

    I also really liked Tales of Hearts on Vita.. I played all of them up untill Symphonia and then got a lack of Money.. I wanted to get Vesperia but the super generic blonde guy on the cover kind of put me off back then.. I plan to catch up now! I really love Tales of Beseria so far.. PINK WITCH!. and PINK TREASURE CHESTS!

    I loved Suikoden as well.. I probably would have my top 5 be..
    5. Final Fantasy with VI being my favourite
    4. “Illusion of Gaia “Trilogy”
    3. Dragon Quest Series
    2. Persona
    1. Tales

    I love Fire Emblem but I would probably not place it as an rpg series.. but a tactics game.. in which Final Fantasy ranks a lot higher then spot number 4.
    Kingdom hearts is unfortunatly not for me, I don’t like the plot or how it’s told and I don’t like the combat system.. I don’t really mind it.. but I do mind the Gummiships.. In terms of RPG series I think it would be like 12th for me,

    Suikoden would be in my top 10 just behind Lufia

    • Irina says:

      Really? I have a few game reviews on here and a weird essay about survivors guilt in video games… I’m sorry you don’t like the villain of Vesperia. You almost never see him though. Man I love Vesperia! I just started my first DQ game, XI. It has a great classic feel so far. I’m not super far in the game. I just got my 5th party member.

      • Pinkie says:

        Oh he is villain? I thought he was the hero! I really like Cress from Phantasia and thought he looked like to much of a copy ( for limited budget)

        • Irina says:

          The main character is the guy with the long purple hair. Blondie isn’t even a playable character.

          • Pinkie says:

            I thought I saw Screenshots of him being in the party .. but oh well it’s not like I would NOT play the game.. It’s just when you have to choose how to spend money.. it did not draw me at the time.. I love the franchise though so I plan to do all eventually.

            I loved the playstation one as well.. So many good games.. and Apple Gel sounds like the most delicious healing item in all JPRG!

            • Irina says:

              You can get him is some of the DLCs and you do fight against him a few times. This said, I don’t hate him as a chara. He’s a good foil for the anti hero

            • Pinkie says:

              It’s not like I hate him, He just did not inspire me to buy the game.. thinking it was “one of those protagonist” now that I know I will buy it as soon as I finish Beseria

  13. Mari says:

    These are awesome picks. I love FF, Tales and of course FE. If you wanted to check out another game in the series, there’s a bunch! I’d say if you prefer the more RPG/relationship building aspect of Three Houses you should check out Awakening on the 3DS, but if you’re more into the tactical gameplay you should check out one of the GBA titles like Blazing Sword or Sacred Stones.

  14. I loved the Suikoden series, and another one yes please. I enjoyed searching out all the characters, and all the combinations of teams you could make. I always thought the idea of a support character was pretty cool. Sadly I only played 3, 4, and 5. Three and Five I really liked 4 I never ended up finishing.

  15. Pete Davison says:

    A fine selection, and don’t worry about being “casual” or whatever; these series are all popular for good reason! And the nerd cred you get from mentioning Suikoden almost certainly balances out any “casualness” anyway. I must confess, I’ve never played a Suikoden myself, but they’re a little hard to come by here in Europe, I believe.

    If you’re open to spreading your RPG wings a bit I, of course, have plenty of recommendations.

    The Atelier series, which I’ve been covering in depth all year, is full of a really varied mix of games; even within the same “subseries”, each game tends to have quite a different feel about it. The Arland series (Rorona, Totori, Meruru, Lulua) is where most people tend to start, because those are all easily accessible; the Dusk series which followed it is probably the most popular among longstanding Atelier fans; and there’s no way you will have missed Ryza’s popularity.

    Trails is a good series if you want something to last you a looooong time, like a huge series of novels. There’s three Trails in the Sky games that are, at present, confined to PC, then four Trails of Cold Steel games which unfold in a different part of the same world. There’s also Ao and Zero no Kiseki, which unfold in a different part of the same world again, but there’s no official localisation of those as yet. I suspect it won’t be long before we get those, though, since the series has exploded in Western popularity in the last few years, and Falcom is well aware of that.

    Compile Heart’s stuff is enjoyable if you like strong characters, often with a touch of Cute Girls Doing Cute Things. Their earlier stuff has a fair amount of technical and mechanical jank about it, but the stories and characterisation make up for that; in more recent years, they’ve been making some really solid games, too. Anything under their experimental “Galapagos RPG” label is particularly worth checking out; my favourites in that brand are Omega Quintet (idols save the post-apocalyptic world) and Death end re;Quest (girl trapped in video game, much opportunity for horrible death). They also make the Neptunia series, which remain some of the best satire in the biz.

    Blue Reflection is amazing if you like magical girls and are open to the game being as much “teenage girl simulator” as it is “magical girls help people come to terms with their innermost insecurities”.

    I’m sure I have many more, but this is plenty for you (and anyone curious reading) to be getting on with! I’ve done writeups on most of these except Trails (that’s a long-term MegaFeature project for the future) over on my site if you want to know more about any of ’em, or just ask!

    • Irina says:

      I have read your Atelier posts a lot and often almost bought games. They are expensive here… I will try one. I did however Trails of Cold Steel III. It’s on my shelf. I will get to it after I finish Dragon Quest XI which I just started. I remember looking for Blue Reflection but it was unavailable at the time

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