There are many top 10 lists out there of the best RPGs for
the PlayStation, but they’re all dominated by the Final Fantasy series. It’s a
great series, no question, but what would a top 10 best PlayStation RPGs list
look like if we got rid of the series? Well, let’s find out!
10. Wild Arms 2
Wild Arms, as a series, is incredibly underrated, but this game in particular seems to fly under the radar all the time, and why that is, is a mystery to me. Just like its predecessor you begin with a scenario system which introduces you to your three heroes, however, unlike the first game, you’ll have more join you later on whom you can swap out mid battle. There are items hidden all around the intricately designed world map, tons of hidden dungeons to stumble across and a plethora of hidden super bosses to find! The plot is involved and intense as well, and it isn’t your typical save the world plot from just any JRPG. The story doesn’t revolve around the power of friendship or anything cheesy like that, but actual political intrigue as you’re a member of ARMS, an anti-terrorist organization, who for the entirety of the first disc has to solve diplomacy problems among the 3 ruling kingdoms of Filgaia while also fighting against Judecca. It isn’t until the 2nd disc that the real problems arise, namely, realizing that the demon out to destroy the world is actually trapped inside the hero, Ashley’s, body - how can you save Filgaia as well as Ashley when he has Armageddon itself sealed within? It’s riveting and doesn’t let up, the only negative keeping this from being an instant classic is it’s sub-par translation, I’ve actually seen better on the NES.
9. Breath of Fire 4
To me, this is the last great Breath of Fire game, the graphic style is timeless and your party members are balanced and fun to interact with. The master system from Breath of Fire 3 returns, but this time it’s actually balanced appropriately for a more relaxing, lighthearted experience. The story this time around, instead of focusing solely on Ryu is split between him and Fou-Lu, an ancient founder of the Fou Empire who is searching for his other half, Ryu. This adds a lot of depth to the game as you get to see the antagonist from the start, control him and learn his motivations as well as tribulations in a very unique and personable way. More games should take note of Breath of Fire 4's storytelling and plot progression, it’s very well done. Combat has also been revamped, no longer do you have spend hours in battle examining enemies to learn their skills, now you just simply defend to learn the skill, also you can have all six of your party members in battle at one time and swap them out whenever necessary. The 3 party members in the back will regain AP each turn and have a chance of using a unique skill to help the front line members in their battle. Also, a combo system has been implemented where you can have two characters cast and combine two or three specific spells at the right time a more powerful spell will develop.
8. Tales of Eternia
This is the game that really set the Tales series in motion. Phantasia and Destiny had their fair share of problems, but all those are fixed in Eternia. The battle system has been overhauled to be much faster and your AI characters don’t just sit around doing nothing while the player controlled character goes on a rampage, it’s evenly balanced and a fun action packed experience. The graphics got a major upgrade and the story was pretty unique for its time. Essentially there are 2 worlds, Celestia, the upper world, and Inferia, the lower world - each world can see each other, but they aren’t able to interact, until a mysterious girl, Meredy, travel’s from Celestia to Inferia and sets off an unstoppable chain of events in the process. Tales of Eternia also began the tradition of titles, the Wonder Chef, Cooking and just having an enormous amount of sidequests, cameos and optional content, more than Destiny and Phantasia combined!
If there’s one phrase to describe Star Ocean 2, it’s “ahead of its time”. While the first Star Ocean was pretty similar to Tales of Phanstasia in gameplay, Star Ocean 2 really stands on its own two feet here, so much so that the only similarity you can really find between the games is the battle system and the skits, or private actions, as they are now referred to. To begin you have a choice for your main character, which actually makes a significant enough difference in the plot to warrant two playthroughs. Depending on who you choose there are differences in story, scenarios, private actions, recruitable characters and progression. Speaking of recruitable characters, there are twelve in all, though you can only recruit eight over the course of the game. Each of the characters comes with their own talents which allow you to learn skills such as cooking, pick pocketing, and authoring. The private action system is well fleshed out, basically when you enter a town your characters split up and you can talk to them for special events, secret items, and chances to raise affection which will eventually effect which of the over 80 different endings you receive. Affection also effects your performance in battle, if while in a battle a character dies, those with high affection will gain stat boosts. Exploration is paramount in Star Ocean 2, there are two different planets to explore, each with differing levels of technology. The series may have gotten a bad rap recently with the releases of Star Ocean 4 and 5, but definitely check out this entry, it’s innovative in all the right areas and thoroughly ahead of its time.
6. Legend of Legaia
Are you looking for a game that has great characters, a unique battle system and a great translation? Look no further! Once you get past the archaic graphics you will find one of the most unique RPGs to ever grace a console system. Legend of Legaia combines aspects of fighting games with turn based RPG mechanics. Your heroes in Legaia are able to input special moves or ‘Arts’ just as you would perform a special move in Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. As you level up you’re able to input longer combinations to inflict devastating attacks. However, this isn’t the only unique aspect of the combat system though. Over the course of the game you will encounter magical Seru who you can absorb and learn their magic, with this system, all magic essentially becomes blue magic. To add to the fighting game feeling, every time that you equip a new weapon or armor they actually appear on your character model, no games did that back then! The story is humorous and doesn’t take itself too seriously, basically, mist is engulfing the world and with the mist comes monsters. People in the world of Legaia live in constant fear of the mist by cloistering themselves off in walled cities, which is actually pretty realistic in comparison to most JRPGs where nary a fence separates towns from the monsters on the overworld.
5. Dragon Warrior 7
Easily the longest RPG I have ever played, Dragon Warrior 7 is not for the casual gamer, however, if you’re the type of person to get wrapped up in a game world then get ready to spend months of your life on this masterpiece. I spent easily 200+ hours on just the main story. The game opens on a peaceful kingdom on the only landmass in the world. Monsters, conflict and strangers are a thing of the past and world peace reigns - or would, if it weren’t for three meddling kids. One day while exploring the island with your friends your intrepid heroes stumble across ruins which allow them to travel back in time to regions of the world’s past which have been mysteriously sealed away in the present. It’s up to them to solve the village’s problems and restore their country back to the present. It’s very satisfying to see how the past and present connect and how your adventures in the past influence the present’s local lore and legends. At first each village’s problems seem isolated, but as you progress you slowly realize that they are all interwoven and by the end of the two discs the story comes to a satisfying, epic end. The class system returns in this installment, similar to that of Dragon Warrior 3 and 6, but enhanced. It’s quite fun and there are even monster classes to use and experiment with, though, it’s by no means necessary. Party talk is introduced and your party members will have different things to say in response to just about any location you go to, or any NPC you talk to. It’s a great bit of character development however, it can be easily overlooked.
This is one of those games that oozes personality and charm, from the main characters to the graphics, the scenery, the cutscenes and even the villains. Everyone and everything is so lovingly crafted, it’s amazing that it flew under the radar upon release and even to this day. The story follows Justin, a spastic but endearing kid from Parm and his childhood friend Sue as they go off on a grand adventure to unlock the mysteries of the past. Unfortunately for Justin, there is another group trying to do the same thing as him, hence the antagonists. Along the way through the world of Grandia Justin will explore an expansive world full of life, including of course, monster life. Encounters appear on screen and executed in active time, each character and monster appears on a turn gauge where you have the opportunity to either inflict more damage with a quick combo or attempt to cancel an enemy’s turn with a critical hit. The system is comprehensive complete with leveling up weapons and magic proficiency, similar to a SaGa game. Also to add even more character development, there are dinner scenes peppered throughout the game where you can learn more about everyone’s motivations and bond with them, though this doesn’t effect the ending or anything like that. If you want a charming jaunt through a grandiose world with adorable characters look no further than Grandia.
3. Suikoden 2
War, betrayal, sacrifice - all told through a lens of family, friendship and humanity. Loosely based on a classical Chinese novel of war, you can’t have Suikoden without the 108 Stars of Destiny, who are essentially your party members. Yes, pick your jaw up off the floor, you have 108 party members, though not all of them participate in battle. Many of them will just hang out in your castle and contribute towards various amenities such as shops, elevators and fortune telling. Still though, you have about 60 characters to choose from for combat, but the game does a good job allowing you to utilize all the characters because of the innovative leveling system where experience earned is based on your level as well as six person parties. Random battles in Suikoden 2 are extremely fast paced, but there is much more to the game than just random battles, there are tactical army battles to fight when you wage war to defend your castle as well as one on one duels to fight. While each Suikoden title is standalone, they are also interrelated as they all take place within the same game world, but in different countries. The music is hauntingly beautiful and appriopriate for the scenes and destinations, the only knock I can really give the game is the sometimes spotty translation, and although many people may say the graphics are dated and lazy, I disagree, I love 2D sprites and pixel art, so I’m a huge fan.
A True classic, this is another game, like Arc Rise Fantasia, Black Sigil and Chrono Trigger that deserves a true sequel, not that Xenosaga mess, but a true Xenogears 2. Sadly, I don’t think that’s going to happen, but I digress. Xenogears is epic, through and through, the music is incredible, probably still the best video game soundtrack I’ve ever heard. The graphics and animated cutscenes are gorgeous and the battle system is well done, for the most part you have traditional turn-based combat, but there are times where you’re able to summon and fight in a massive gear. You can control the gear both in and out of combat, and not just during boss fights either, it’s very innovative and fun. The story follows the adventures of Fei, who, of course, has amnesia and after tragic events befall his village, he is forced to leave only to stumble across an interplanetary conflict of massive proportions. All the protagonists and antagonists are extremely well developed and even characters who seem minor at first glance normally turn out to play a much deeper role later in the story. Speaking of the story though, it’s either love it or hate it. It’s well done, but at the same time, convoluted. The writers use a lot of complex terminology which can quickly overwhelm many players. That being said, Xenogears is a game that respects your intelligence and a diligent player is rewarded with a grand, sweeping story.. well, at least until you reach the second disc. You see, Square ran out of money halfway through development and as a result the second disc is pretty much just text on a black background that you read for awhile, then save, then have a random boss fight, only to continue reading afterwards. It’s just awful and had the second disc been fully fleshed out Xenogears would have been number 1 on the list.
1. Lunar Silver Star Story Complete
Never have I had a game move me to tears until I played Lunar, the graphics and music are astounding, Working Designs knocked this remake out of the park. I can’t exactly recall, but I believe that this was the first game I played with voice acting, let alone fully animated cutscenes and music, the emotional impact of the entire package cannot be understated. The story follows Alex, his pet Nall and his girlfriend Luna on their adventure through the world of Lunar. What starts off as a simple “get rick quick” scheme very soon morphs into something much larger, until Alex and company ultimately have to save the world from destruction, but it’s not all easy going, don’t trust everyone you meet, and don’t get too attached to your friends here, they may just turn around and stab you in the back. I know what you’re thinking though, “how can you like this game when it looks so kiddy and old school? It’s not even 3D!” My answer, I don’t care. Graphics don’t make a game, inspired storytelling, compelling gameplay and riveting characters do and this game has that in spades. The battle system is tactical turn based, much like the Trails series where you can move your characters around the field and magic has an area of effect. Each of your characters has their own specialty as well, making for strategic gameplay, also much like Grandia, the characters ooze personality, even down to the smallest NPC, Working Designs did a good job fleshing the story out and was even able to add their own special blend of humor to the townsfolk’s dialogue and while I know many people won’t care for this, I thought it was cute. The sequel is up there too as a great game, but I didn’t want to include them both on this list, but believe me, the whole package is worth a playthrough.. or three.