This is another year where I’m sure PC gamers are going to be pissed with me. To be honest, I was about ready to call it when I saw the list, but there were certain PC titles I wasn’t sure about. This was a good year for console RPGs and it really shows. There were 19 games in total and keep in mind that perhaps I can’t see some of these titles’ charm because I didn’t have a PC that could play them and I did have various consoles that could.
#5 – Breath of Fire
“WHA-HA-HAAAAAAT?!?!? How did this game beat out titles like the original Elder Scrolls, an Ultima title, and…and…various other AD&D stuffs?!” First off, only a couple of the other console titles were good, but not nearly good enough for a top 5. It’s especially strange to say that as I LOVE the Shining Force series. Second, Menzoberranzan had far too many game halting glitches, Elder Scrolls and Ravenloft had terrible ass controls and wonky interfaces, and I’ve never been a big fan of the Ultima games.
Finally, Breath of Fire is Capcom’s first RPG and is still heralded by some as their best. Personally, I feel 2 and 3 are much better, but that’s just me. Breath of Fire was one of the first RPGs that had a good concentration on things to do to improve upon the classic console RPG formula. Interesting animations, awesome music and sound, humor, and various things to do outside of combat were prevalent in even the first BoF.
Breath of Fire showed us the many possibilities and avenues the JRPG could go and helped shape what we think about them. Nevermind that if it wasn’t for the original, the super awesome sequels wouldn’t have come about! Even still, yet again, there are four VERY good reasons it didn’t score any higher.
#4 – Illusion of Gaia
Illusion of Gaia is a very trippy, awesome, and symbolic action/RPG. I would almost go far enough to say it’s not really an action/RPG in that you level up based on progress in the game and not pure grinding, but that doesn’t matter so much given there really isn’t any reason to continue staying in one area too long so as to grind. I don’t want to ruin the plot of the game, but let it be said you will be enticed from beginning to end on this epic journey that spans the globe.
#3 – Jagged Alliance
No, I didn’t simply select this to quell the incoming rage from the PC fanboys. Jagged Alliance is a really interesting turn-based strategy title with lots of RPG undertones and elements. There isn’t a lot of required setup and it’s fairly straightforward, which is a definite plus. Nevermind that it isn’t delving into the fantasy realm, but rather, modern day. If you’re looking for something different with relatively open-ended gameplay, this is definitely your game.
#2 – Shadowrun (Genesis)
Shadowrun is probably my favorite cyberpunk game of all time. While the SNES version is just okay, the Genesis version easily captures exactly what the pen and paper RPG is all about: decking, making money, evading law enforcement, dealing with the supernatural, experiencing the various races and cityscapes, and thwarting evil corporations. The only downside is it’s far too easy to become addicted to decking to the point that you don’t ever bother progressing the plot because it’s so fun…but then I don’t really look at that as a disadvantage.
I absolutely love this title…therefore, that can mean only one thing.
#1 – Final Fantasy 6 (3 U.S.)
To this day, some regard this as the best Final Fantasy ever. I don’t agree with them, but it is the best classically themed FF ever, to be sure. Unexpected plot twists, several plot threads and interweavings, great combat mechanics, awesome characters, lots of variety, plenty of humor, great graphics for the time, amazing music, bonus characters, two whole worlds to explore, new types of character design, limit breaks, and magicite.
This is actually the ONLY FF I’ve played through multiple times, despite liking another one so much more. There are so many memorable parts of the game that immediately come to mind when I recall this title. It is truly a classic.
Looking at the runner ups, there are very few I can’t recommend. It was tough to come up with a #5 and when I did, it actually became #3! It may not seem like it, but yes, I liked Jagged Alliance THAT much. Besides the Shining Force titles, I can’t really recommend the other console titles, but you can bet on the PC titles being pretty awesome!
Alien Logic – A Skyrealms of Jorune Adventure
Al-Qadim – The Genie’s Curse
Dark Sun – Wake of the Ravager
Elder Scrolls – The Arena
Lord of the Rings, Vol. I
Ravenloft – Strahd’s Possession
Realms of Arkania – Star Trail
Shining Force 2
Shining Force – The Sword of Hajya