RPG of the Year – 1996

1996 was an interesting year given the PS1 started cranking out RPGs. Not all of them were good, but dammit they tried! As a result, this is when the SNES really kicked it into full gear to try to compete. Overall, it was a very good year for console RPGs, but that’s not to say there weren’t any good PC RPGs. There were only 15 games, so this should be quick.

#5 – Lufia 2

The original Lufia…uh…sure was an RPG. Yes, I’ve played it, but it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. Some people can go on and on about it, but not me. Lufia 2, however, was GREAT. There were excellent puzzles, graphics, music, and even a limit break-like system. I think the two major things that made this one awesome were that it was a really well done prequel and it was handled by Natsume, creator of such titles as Pocky & Rocky and Harvest Moon.

Lufia 2 is a vibrant, fun, and awesome console RPG. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not the most significant RPG ever, but it’s a very enjoyable one.

#4 – Persona

The original Persona is just okay in terms of fun. Despite this, it’s a very solid, tough RPG experience and, at the time, a very new and original concept. As a result, it was also very obscure and incredibly hard to find. Back then, if you mentioned “Persona” or “Shin Megami Tensei” there was a good chance nobody would know what the hell you were talking about.

It’s truly hard to believe that given the recent success and popularity of the series. This title remains a classic, both in terms of concept and what it meant for projecting the series forward internationally.

#3 – Suikoden

I’ll level with you. This is another title, much like Persona, that should be praised for its innovation, despite being just “okay.” Even as early as the original Suikoden, you had the ability to build up your own castle, have strategic military battles, simultaneous strikes in fast-paced combat, combination strikes, the ability to recruit over 100 unique characters, commander duels, and much more.

It’s a traditional console RPG in every sense of the word, but you get the sense that outside of these innovations, they’re just playing it by the book and not really taking any chances. Later additions in the series would expound upon the already winning formula, but the original is definitely something worth checking out, especially if you’re new to the series.

#2 – Elder Scrolls 2 – Daggerfall

I wasn’t impressed with the original Elder Scrolls. Morrowind was fairly boring for me. Oblivion, I had assumed, would literally be the only entry in the series I would enjoy, as it condensed the dialogue well, streamlined the game nicely above what Morrowind did, and yet didn’t sacrifice the freedom and openness you had in Morrowind. Honestly, though, I’m thinking Daggerfall might be a close second, if not on the same level.

Firstly, the controls, which I absolutely hated in the original, are quite better in this one. There’s also a nice tutorial to help you along. The character creation system doesn’t take too long and is pretty detailed, yet simple. Finally, the game is very straightforward initially, then opens up for you, much like Oblivion. This is the only PC RPG on the top 5 and it deservingly wins the #2 spot, which can only mean…

#1 – Super Mario RPG

WABAM, MOTHERFUCKER. Why did this one get first? Well…

– This was Squaresoft at its absolute best combining all kinds of different elements you wouldn’t expect to work in an RPG, yet work surprisingly well.
– Plenty of platforming, secrets, in-jokes, and humor qualify this as a Mario game outside of combat.
– And inside combat, all kinds of familiar techniques, characters, and whatever else are present.
– The new characters to the Mario series are sadly never mentioned again in later Mario games, yet are by far some of the most interesting characters and are really fleshed out well.
– The graphics, music, sounds, and pretty much everything are top notch.
– The difficulty curve is definitely there, but never feels totally out of control.

I could go on and on, but there’s a good chance you’ve already played this one. Besides, even if you haven’t, I personally hold this game responsible for the Mario & Luigi RPG titles for the portables and the Paper Mario series for the consoles, both of which are pretty awesome. This was one of the more revolutionary titles for the SNES and deserves to be in most peoples’ top 10 list in general.

Runner Ups

There weren’t that many PC RPGs on this list for some reason. Those that were were just…okay (except Sword of Hope 2). Yes, two of the titles on the top 5 were also “just okay,” but had enough innovations, firsts, and continuing series as a result to more than make up for it. Some of these titles in the runner ups list absolutely suck, but the others are…well…just okay. I would still recommend checking them out, if anything, just so you can experience more nostalgia.

Beyond the Beyond
Birthright – The Gorgon’s Alliance
Deception
Dragon Force
Exile 2 – Crystal Souls
Exile 3 – Ruined World
King’s Field
King’s Field 2
Nemesis – The Wizardry Adventure
Sword of Hope 2

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1 Comment

Filed under GotY Series, Nintendo, PC, PS1, Retro, SNES, Sony, Videogames

One response to “RPG of the Year – 1996

  1. Pingback: Lufia & The Fortress of Doom | Gun Sage's Blog

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