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10 RPGs You Must Play Before You Croak - Recommendations

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2018 12:43 am
by Jagosaurus
I've always been a fan of RPGs but like many of us, struggle with the time commitment that goes into them. Emulation and save states (as well as save friendly handheld RPGs) have fortunately helped breathe new life into the genre for me. They allow me to squeeze RPGs into my busy work, home, family/kiddo life. Over the years I have played many of the "can't miss classics" such as Phantasy Star IV and Dragon Quest V (two of my personally favorite games, period)... but I am guilty of missing out on many mainstays such as Chrono Trigger and FF7.

Rather than tell you every RPG I've ever played, I thought this would be a fun exercise to see your recommendations to anyone wanting a top 10 "must play" RPG list. This might be the same as your top 10 favorites list... or it might differ. I welcome SRPG/TRPG, dungeon crawlers, western, and action RPGs.

Essentially, I want to create a backlog of roughly 10 to 15 RPGs I haven't played that veterans of the genre consider to be best of breed, cannot miss titles... and ensure I knock them off my list if I have not played them. Think of it as my RPG bucket list. I will likely focus on PS2 games and back to NES/SMS personally, but feel free to mention more modern titles as well. I want to see your list and then mold to my taste and consoles at hand.

Re: 10 RPGs You Must Play Before You Croak - Recommendations

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2018 1:07 am
by prfsnl_gmr
Here are my top ten (with no more than one game per series)!

Chrono Trigger
Demon’s Souls
Dragon Quest III
Final Fantasy VI
King’s Field: The Ancient City
Mario & Luigi Superstar Saga
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Phantasy Star
Shining Force II

Honorable Mentions: Castlevania: SOTN, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

If I included more than one game per series, the list would look a lot different. I also have not played through a lot of classic RPGs either; so, I am keenly interested in what other members have to say on this topic.

Re: 10 RPGs You Must Play Before You Croak - Recommendations

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2018 1:52 am
by MrPopo
This is a tough one. Here's what I'd recommend, in no particular order, with explanation:

Ultima IV - Ultima IV stands out by being an open world game that violates a lot of previously held RPG conventions. Prior to it RPGs were generally D&D combat simulators. The specific stats and mechanics might differ, but at their core it was run around, kill monsters, get loot. Here the goal is to demonstrate your ability to be a paragon of virtue. And while that did involve some vanquishing of evil, it also involved a lot of giving to beggars, not stealing from blind herbalists, and showing mercy to wildlife that was just attacking because you seemed threatening. There's also a lot of items to collect to prove your worth, and a final dungeon to test your mettle. It really stands out from the pack of its contemporaries.
Earthbound - Earthbound has the most heart of any RPG I've played. While your quest is to save the world, by setting it in the modern day and having the protagonists be preteens the whole thing gets very grounded. You equip baseball bats to whack your enemies, which are frequently wildlife which has been corrupted by the bad guy. You have to help your friends, you get colds and sunburn, and you need to remember to give mom a call now and then less you become homesick. There's so many little details in the game that makes everything so unique. And without all of that, it'd be a pretty basic Dragon Quest clone, showing just how much presentation can affect things.
Chrono Trigger - Created by the Dream Team of developers from Square and Enix, Chrono Trigger is a full distillation of the 16 bit era of JRPGs. It features character designs by Akira Toriyama and sprites large enough to let the designs shine. It adds a fresh take on the ATB system by letting your characters combine their skills for new and more powerful effects. And it utilizes a time travel system across several eras of the world, letting you see how society progresses and make some changes to the timeline yourself. It's a bit on the easy and short side, but the whole thing just comes together so well.
Final Fantasy VI - This is Square's magnum opus, in my mind. Building on top of what they learned from previous entries in the series, FFVI gives us the largest cast and the most gorgeous presentation, both visually and aurally. Every character has an arc, and most of them have a depth that was rare to see in this era. The game combines elements from FFV's hyper flexible job system and FFIV's fixed classes to make each character distinct in combat while still allowing them to be useful in a variety of roles. And that world saving journey you're on? You fail.
Pool of Radiance/Curse of the Azure Bonds - I list both of these as a single entry because which one you should consider essential depends on your opinions on the best level segment in the AD&D system. If you prefer low level games then PoR, whereas if you prefer games in high singles/low teens where you start to have some real firepower then CotAB. Both of them have an excellent combat system that allows for a lot of decisions in combat and captures the AD&D ruleset very well. There's also a good mix of quests and first person dungeon exploration that never gets into the masochistic realm of Wizardry.
Baldur's Gate/Baldur's Gate II - Like above, I list both because of the breakdown in how you prefer your AD&D level curves. What the Gold Box games brought to the combat system and exploration, Baldur's Gate brings to story, quests, and character development. While the main quest in each game can still be summed up as something droll, all the little details of the plans and the people you encounter along the way make all the difference. This is also where you see the start of Bioware's trademark party banter, which really gives a lot of life to your characters and makes them feel like part of an impromptu group, with all the friction that can cause.
Shining Force II - I consider this to be the best example of the SRPG genre. It's large, expansive, and has a lot of army building, but it also has very approachable mechanics. Individual combats are less deadly than in Fire Emblem, and it doesn't suffer from the command complexity of Final Fantasy Tactics. There's also a ton of unit variety, and you have the freedom to load up on a few classes or have a very diverse force, depending on your tastes and how you like the characters.
Might and Magic IV & V - This should be experienced as the combined game, rather than looking at them separately. World of Xeen is a shining example of everything good about the first person turn based RPG. You have a large world that you slowly can explore more of as you gain the ability to fight harder monsters and the mobility abilities. There are a variety of sidequests to help you in your journey, and there is a sense of building progress through the world, rather than just getting deeper into a dungeon. You actually feel like you are making the world a better place due to your actions thanks to the ability to stop monster spawns. And the way Might & Magic approaches character building means that you always want to pick up new gear, since there are probably upgrades, and you are constantly improving.
Dragon Quest VIII - DQ8 is a sort of greatest hits of the DQ franchise. You've got a party with their own stories to tell, a skill system that both lets you customize your characters while keeping them distinct, and graphics that are perfectly suited for that Akira Toriyama art. Visually, it is a lighter and softer RPG compared to its contemporaries, but story wise it is anything but. Your journey is long and arduous and full of setbacks. It's very reminiscent of a hero's journey shounen anime. And the localization set the standard for every future DQ localization.
Etrian Odyssey - EO is the next evolution in the tried and true Wizardry formula. Wizardry stayed strong in Japan even when it faded out in the US, and EO brings it back in a big way. While the story is still light, there are a lot more encounters that make the dungeon feel more alive. The skill system completely changes how you build and run your parties, and you can expect to even completely swap out a member or two to exploit a new strategy available at high character levels. The FOEs make dungeon diving much more puzzle like, as they are an enemy you probably can't face the first time you arrive on a floor (or at least, not without blowing most of your resources). And the mapping itself is perfectly suited to the second screen of the DS, and adds a huge layer of satisfaction when you finish a map.

Re: 10 RPGs You Must Play Before You Croak - Recommendations

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2018 2:21 am
by Jmustang1968
Mine probably won't come as a big surprise to you...

Final Fantasy VI - The best of the series, great story and characters. I believe the best example of traditional JRPG.

Baldur's Gate II - This game was ahead of its time in terms of how big and epic it was, NPC interactions, and non linear structure. The first is great, but this is an improvement overall.

Tactics Ogre: LUCT - Again, love the story and characters, and the branching story paths for replayability. I've talked about this one a bunch.

Shining Force II - This is the game that got me into RPGs and tactical RPGs specifically. I've beaten this one so many times.

Ogre Battle - The SNES and N64 releases are both great. The N64 one is probably better overall, but the SNES is more dear. I've probably played through MotBQ 7 or 8 times now. It isn't for everyone though.

Mass Effect 1-3 - Kinda cheating, but I consider 1-3 a continuous story and can smash it into one entry. There are some detractors of the series, but the cinematic presentation and scifi world amazed me. I plowed through every entry until the end, which is rare for me.

Dragon Age: Origins - Basically a successor to the Baldur's Gate series, this is a more modern take and excellent game.

Phantasy Star IV - The best of an excellent series, this one is also probably the most accessible. Great cast, story, and mechanics.

Suikoden II - I love this series, and would recommend playing them in order, you don't have to, but would appreciate the stories more. Tons of characters, one of the best RPG villains. Been meaning to go back and replay this one.

For the 10th, I can't decide, but here is a list I would consider for it:
Chrono Trigger
Final Fantasy IV
Shadowrun (Genesis)
FF Tactics
Pillars of Eternity
Baldur's Gate SoA
Ys I & II
Fire Emblem Awakening
FE: Path of Radiance
Fallout series
Planescape Torment

Re: 10 RPGs You Must Play Before You Croak - Recommendations

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2018 3:59 am
In no particular order.

EDIT: I'm putting Jade Empire as a runner up entry in favor of TOCS.

Chrono Trigger Chrono Trigger speaks for itself really. It is THE classic, and anyone who hasn't played it owes it to themselves to do so.

Chrono Cross This one took some shit for a while for deviating a lot from Trigger. It doesn't deserve that. It's a beautiful, engrossing game and worth every minute of your time. The music alone will make you weep.

Final Fantasy IX Of course the go to FF is VI, but IX is far and away my favorite. I love the cast and the world.

Fable: The Lost Chapters/Anniversary The Fable we got is not the Fable that was promised. But what we did get is still amazing. The first game is the best of the three, and is just dripping with charm and fun. I've beaten this game well over a dozen times and love it dearly. Be sure to play either the Lost Chapters release, or the 360 port called Anniversary. They added a fair bit of stuff that the original release lacked, and it makes the game feel more complete.

Grandia 2 Super addicting and satisfying battle system. Cancelling enemy attacks at the critical moment is always a rush. I happen to love the characters and the story too, even if it doesn't really present anything new on those fronts.

Phantasy Star If you'll allow me to bait the Dragon Quest people for a moment, this is the best 8-bit rpg bar none. Accept no substitutes.

Fallout New Vegas My favorite Fallout. Simple. The options you have in the main story play a part in this, but something about it is just magnetic. Probably the Obsidian touch.

Mass Effect trilogy I agree with JM that this is probably cheating, but I also agree that this should be played as one long game. A bucket list with only one of the three would be missing the point. Play them all and marvel at the scope of this universe.

The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind - or - The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion I go back and forth between which of these two I like more. They're better at different things. Morrowind offers more options and freedom and a "figure it out" challenge that's always been compelling. Oblivion is simpler and has a more guided experience, but the world feels more alive (to me at least, many folks disagree) and is a bit more immersive for it. Both good, you can't go wrong.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel I & II Cheating again to allow for another continuous plot. These games are a slow burn, but the story, full of intrigue and politics and class warfare and the costs of war, is addictive and a joy to experience. There's really something special here.

And the runner up:
Jade Empire My love for the setting probably means I'm biased, but this is still an excellent game in the classic Bioware style.

Re: 10 RPGs You Must Play Before You Croak - Recommendations

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2018 7:04 am
by alienjesus
In no particular order:

1. Golden Sun - Probably not a very popular opinion this one, but I adore this game and it's one of the games that got me into the genre. I think it's puzzley level design is really well done

2. Pokémon (any tbh, but Red/Blue or Gold/Silver are the most iconic) - Probably the most popular RPG series there is, and it's well deserved. The typing system and variety of attack options makes it quite strategic too, although this was more of a thing in the later games in the series

3. Tales of Symphonia - I played this game to death back in the day. The battle system is a ton of fun, and whilst the story is full of cliches I found it compelling. There's a lot of stuff to find and secret sidequests abound too.

4. Final Fantasy IX- For my money, the best in the series. It's beautiful, charming and full of lovable characters. The old-school style of characters being made for distinct roles is my preferred style, but with some customisation in abilities that keeps it from being stale.

5. Paper Mario - Paper Mario is an all-time favourite of mine. It's an easy game, but it's super entertaining, with lots of fun scenarios, silly dialogue and lots of battle options to keep things interesting.

6. Xenoblade Chronicles - Xenoblade is a game I put 130 hours into without getting bored. The battle system was entertaining, and the story was interesting. The music was amazing too. This was a big commitment, but I loved all the time I put in to it.

7. Phantasy Star - As you can see by the rest of my list, my favourite RPGs tend to skew slightly more modern than the 8-bit stuff, but for my money this is my favourite of that era. I like the early Final Fantasy games OK, but this is the superior old-school RPG in my eyes.

8. Skies of Arcadia - Airships are cool, and pirates are cool, and air pirates are super cool. The world and characters here are intriguing if a little cliche, and the ship battles, whilst being way too drawn out, are still somehow super fun.

9. Earthbound - If Phantasy Star was my favourite 8-bit RPG, then this is my choice for the 16-bit era. Quirky and fun enough to overcome it's rather dated battle system, this one has a charm that sticks with you for a long time afterwards.

10. Persona 4 Golden - The strong point of this one for me is on the character interactions. The game is almost half visual novel and half RPG, and hoenstly the visual novel part is what makes it so compelling for me. You learn to really love the characters who appear in the game.

Honourable mention:
Riviera: The Promised Land - I don't know that this is a game that deserves to be in the top 10 RPGs you must play necessarily, but it's a game I had a really good time with that is super unique and interesting - with a very odd system of exploring the world and a very unorthodox battle system to boot.

I've excluded SRPGs from my list as I consider them to be a different genre entirely, but if you want some recommendations there, then I adore Fire Emblem (7) and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance for GBA.

Re: 10 RPGs You Must Play Before You Croak - Recommendations

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2018 6:01 pm
by ElkinFencer10
My Top 10 one game per series in no particular order:

Phantasy Star (SMS)
Final Fantasy VII (PS1)
Fallout 4 (XB1/PS4)
Mass Effect 2 (360/PS3)
Paper Mario (N64)
Pokemon Crystal (GBC)
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (Switch)
Persona 4 Golden (Vita)
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (GCN)
Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel (Vita/PS3)

Re: 10 RPGs You Must Play Before You Croak - Recommendations

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2018 6:37 pm
by pierrot
I'm just going to leave a list for now, and maybe I'll put a little more effort into the reasons sometime later.

Le list (in no particular order):

1 ) Dragon Slayer (the original)

2 ) Digital Devil Story: Megami Tensei, or Shin Megami Tensei

3 ) Final Fantasy III (JP)

4 ) Dungeon Explorer (Sega CD)

5 ) Light Crusader

6 ) Linda Cube

7 ) Chrono Cross

8 ) Suikoden III

9 ) Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter

10 ) Panzer Dragoon Saga

Other games I considered adding:
Elemental Gimmick Gear
Phantasy Star Online
Surging Aura
Popful Mail
Terra Phantastica
Dragon Quest V
Dragon Quest VIII
Suikoden II

Re: 10 RPGs You Must Play Before You Croak - Recommendations

Posted: Sun Mar 25, 2018 11:19 pm
by Sarge
This is actually going to be really hard to sort out. There's one constant, though, for my list.

1) Chrono Trigger - My favorite JRPG of all time, and apparently a lot of other folks, too. We can all argue about which is better, this or FFVI, but both are absolutely fantastic games that represented SquareSoft at the height of its powers.
2) Dragon Quest IV - This is actually a very hard decision to make. It's either DQIII or DQIV. Right now, I'm thinking IV. Honestly, both could go on the list, but in the interest of diversity, I'll keep it to one entry. DQVI, DQVII, and DQVIII are also fantastic.
3) Knights of the Old Republic - The first Western RPG I ever played through. The start is kinda boring. But once it gets going... look out! I was insanely addicted to the game once I got off-world and my combat options started opening up. By which I really mean using dual-wield and Flurry a lot. ;)
4) The Last Story - Yeah, I love this game. It may have some technical foibles, but I haven't had a game rekindle the sort of feeling I had when I played through Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI in a long, long time. This actually did that. Sort of a cover-based action-RPG, there's nothing really out there like it.
5) Final Fantasy VI - The representative for Final Fantasy. My first SNES game! Mind-blowingly good.
6) Valkyrie Profile - A somber, melancholy experience whose only misstep is the byzantine requirements for the best ending. Even without it, the game is very much worth playing even today.
7) Shadow Hearts: Covenant - One of the best on PS2, the game somehow manages to be both dark and wacky at the same time and sticks the landing.
8 ) Lufia II - I love Zelda-style puzzling, and I love great RPGs. This is both.
9) Phantasy Star IV - The best traditional RPG on the Genesis, and it sits right there with the best of the 16-bit era.
10) Golden Sun/Lost Age - These are effectively one game, so I'm including them both. I could round this list out with a lot of games, but Golden Sun manages to combine a snappy battle system, some fun puzzles, and... some verbose characters that actually didn't bother me that much.

I'm absolutely sure I've forgotten something in all this. I mean, I had to leave off stuff like Breath of Fire IV, Suikoden I/II, Symphonia/Abyss, Baten Kaitos, Skies of Arcadia, Rogue Galaxy, Pillars of Eternity, Treasure of the Rudras, Chrono Cross... there's just so many good ones!

Re: 10 RPGs You Must Play Before You Croak - Recommendations

Posted: Mon Mar 26, 2018 8:20 am
by Melek-Ric
Here's my Top 10, in no order of ranking. Also these are all games I've either finished or nearly completed. RPG is such a broad genre term there's something for every

Chrono Trigger
Lost Odyssey
KoTOR 2 (With added content mod on PC)
Phantasy Star IV
Fallout NV
Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Tales of Symphonia
Mass Effect 1

Personal favorite, not on the list: FF V (Love the job system and characters, basic story)

Honorable Mentions: Fallout 1 & 2, Grandia II, FF Tactics, Ogre Battle, DND: Shadows over Mystara.