Fan translated RPGs can be some of the best games out there, but unfortunately, they don’t get quite as much recognition as they deserve, this list hopes to rectify that situation. But first, before I begin, I just have a little housekeeping to go over, this list will not include games that were originally released in Japan and then later released in America on future systems, such as Final Fantasy 2, 3 or 5 or games such as Dragon Quest 5 and 6 that were not released on their original systems, but were later remade on a future system. It will also not include games such as Terranigma, because that was released in English, just only in Europe. Also, this will not include games such as Tales of Phantasia R for the PSX or Saga 2 and 3 for DS because these are remakes of games where the original was released in America. This list is strictly Japan only games that had to be fan translated to see the light of day in English. So without further ado, let’s get started!
10. Nayuta: Endless Trails
Released on the PSP in 2012 this is a sweet action RPG, kind of like a lovechild between the action of Ys and the story of Legend of Heroes. You are Nayuta and you go exploring a world called “Lost Heaven” which consists of 4 continents, but the seasons are out of whack. Once you clear the continent and restore it to it’s original season, you can go through the stages again and find more hidden secrets. Whirlpools may change to quicksand, or lakes may freeze over depending on the season - kind of like Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons. There are tons of objectives to accomplish in each stage which keeps the game fresh and challenging, also you don’t run through the same stage 4 different times, each time there are different enemies, more treasures, special skills and magics to find and tons of secrets to uncover. And to top it off, the game is absolutely gorgeous.
9. Dragon Quest Monsters: Caravan Heart
Released for the GBA in 2003, this is a mixed bag of Dragon Questy goodness. It stars Kiefer of Dragon Quest 7 fame, while taking place in the world of Dragon Quest 2, and featuring monsters to catch from all the classic games released up to that point. It’s a joy to experience and actually has a good storyline as compared to the previous Dragon Quest Monsters games. Each chapter you are free to explore a continent, revisit familiar locales such as Moonbrooke Castle and solve the residents problems. Also, there is a recruitment system where you can enlist NPCs to join your caravan and as you do, they impart powers to your party, such as the ability to see a larger map, deal more damage to enemies or heal your party. Any Dragon Quest fan will be pleasantly surprised by the polish that went into this gem.
8. Treasure of the Rudras
Released on the SNES in 1996, this is an odd bird - at first glance you may think it’s just another Final Fantasy clone, but you would be wrong. The game follows three heroes on their separate journeys to stop a never ending cycle of death and rebirth of humanity. The story begins just two weeks before humanity is destined to perish - and that’s all the time you have. The mood is somber and fits the story well. Also different is the magic system; by speaking to people, reading books, or finding treasure, you learn different Mantras or key words and these mantras are actually spells which you can then modify with prefixes and suffixes to enable them to do different things. For example, IG is the fire spell, but if you add LUS to the end of it, it becomes more powerful. The system is addictive and unique, and the storyline enthralling. I couldn’t put this one down.
7. The Magical Land of Wozz
This lovable, innovative game for the SNES was released in 1995. At the start of the game you choose from one of three heroes to be your main hero, each with their own powers and wildly different personalities. While the other 2 characters will join your party as well also, this choice leads to a lot of replay value because each play through changes depending on who your hero is, scenes, dungeon progression, storytelling and the ending all play out differently depending on who you choose. Wozz is a lighthearted, comical game, similar to Earthbound, the instruction manual even came with a comic book based on the heroes. You can invent different items and weapons, even different modes of transit to traverse the world, such as tanks and airships to steamroll your way through Wozz.
6. Treasure Hunter G
Released on the SNES in 1996, this is a tactical RPG that follows the adventures of two brothers, Red and Blue, whom you might remember from Saga Frontier. Anyway, they’re looking for their father and later they are joined by a girl, Rain and a monkey, Ponga. RPGs need more monkeys. The graphics in this game are insane, it looks like a PSX or N64 game and while the world is small, painstaking detail went into it. You can interact with pretty much every little thing in the environment, from barrels, to flowers, to beehives, you can use anything in your arsenal to win the battles before you, because let me tell you, this game can be hard. But it’s incredibly rewarding and a joy to play through. And did I mention it has a monkey?
5. Bahamut Lagoon
Released on the SNES in 1996, square was on a roll in the 90s with many classics that never saw the light of day in the west, weren’t they? It’s such a shame because this could be the proverbial jewel in their crown, and to make matters worse, they never revisited the IP! The music and graphics are top notch, probably the best I’ve seen on the SNES. Like Treasure Hunter G, this is a tactical RPG, but where that game was lighthearted, Bahamut Lagoon is much more grandiose and serious. You can also interact with the environment to win battles by setting fire to forests and freezing rivers. This allows many paths to victory and you will want to play through multiple times because there are many different choices to make that effect your relationships with your characters and the overall ending of the game. Also, there’s a new game + feature like Chrono Trigger, this is definitely a must play!
4. Seiken Densetsu 3 (Secret of Mana 2)
Released on the SNES in 1995, this is the true sequel of the critically acclaimed classic Secret of Mana. Except that instead of one storyline with 3 characters, now we get 3 different storylines with 6 different characters, and in addition to that, each character has 4 final classes they can ultimately change into! This allows for a metric ton of replayability. There is a misconception floating around the internet that we got Secret of Evermore in lieu of Seiken Densetsu 3, but that’s simply not true. An issue of Nintendo Power stated at the time that the main obstacles were technical issues, bugs and the cost of translation. But lets let bygones be bygones. There’s also an intricate day/night system where your powers change depending on the day of the week, though, its nothing compared to the next game on our list.
3. Tengai Makyou Zero (Far East of Eden Zero)
Released on the SNES in 1995. This game is a gem and, similar to Wozz, it doesn’t take itself too seriously, I found myself laughing out loud quite a bit during this game. There are tons of secrets for the avid explorer and an added graphics chip puts this game on par with many GBA and PS1 RPGs. But the real game changer here, literally and figuratively, is the real time event system. Upon starting the game you must manually put in the time and date and the game takes this into account, many shops are only open on certain days, sales occur at different times of day, towns change depending on whether it is night or day - in real life! You can receive gifts for your real life birthday, the world’s nations also throw festivals such as a New Years Celebration in January, and a Crane Watching Festival in August. There’s so much love packed into this sweet game, it’s a wonder it doesn’t have more of a cult following.
2. The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Zero (Zero no Kiseki)
Released on the PSP in 2010, This is a massively huge game from the Legend of Heroes series, This game bridges the gap between Trials in the Sky and Trails of Cold Steel, the “missing link”, if you will. The game follows a special branch of the Crossbell police department as they struggle to keep order in their city and keep their nation independent from the two neighboring foreign powers of Calvard and Erebonia. Featuring classic 2D gameplay with plenty of cameos from both the Sky games and the Cold Steel games it’s no wonder is this widely heralded as the best arc in the series. However, as of the publishing of this video, its sequel, Trails of Azure hasn’t been translated yet to complete the arc, but hopefully we will get a release soon.
1. Mother 3
Yay, more monkeys! Released on the GBA in 2006, This is the fabled sequel to Earthbound, could any other game be number 1? The premise of the game is extremely interesting and well done, I’ve never seen anything like it before. You begin in a small village where everyone works together and money is unheard of, then as the game progresses, capitalism slowly encroaches and changes the people’s way of life. It’s intriguing and very well done. The storyline employs a chapter system which really allows you to follow along with the changes that take place throughout your village, it’s heartwarming, touching and a classic masterpiece of a game that completes the Mother franchises story. If I had to nitpick one little thing, it would be the rhythm battle system where you are encouraged to press the A button along with the battle music, doing so will allow you to accumulate more hits. But this is very difficult when emulating the game, but I can’t fault the game for that, because I’m sure it worked perfectly on its native hardware.
Well, these were my Top 10 best fan translated RPGs that I’ve ever played, what are yours? do you agree or disagree? let me know in the comments!