This was a HUGE year for RPGs, at least if you go off the numbers. There are 30 games! This was not an easy pick, so don’t think I just randomly selected these. I almost wish I’d done a top 10 list for this year because a lot of the RPGs are just plain incredible. Also, with apologies to Bruce here. This is the year of Baldur’s Gate, but you might not like what I have to say about it.
#5 – Pokemon Red
Don’t roll your eyes! This was the first year of Pokemon in the U.S. and it REALLY took off. Why Red? Because I…uh…owned it. Yeah yeah, SHUT UP! Come on, Pokemon was and still is a fun game. “Gotta catch ’em all!” became such an addictive catch phrase and mentality that you literally could not put the game down. Spawning countless sequels, card games, merchandise, and much more, this one absolutely deserves to be on the top 5 list.
#4 – Parasite Eve
PC and console fans alike might not agree with this one, but hear me out. This was Square’s first venture into the mature title realm and man is it awesome. Some claim it’s just a Resident Evil RPG, but it’s much better than that. The game isn’t very long, but then again, that lends itself well to multiple playthroughs, which is a must to get the different endings (plus it’s longer than any survival horror game I’ve played, so ha!).
Great story, good characters, awesome gore, nice upgrade/customization system, and interesting semi-turn based combat design. The only reason FFT didn’t take this spot instead was specifically because while it is a really good game, it’s not the kind of game I feel like playing over and over again. PE was not only new and innovative, it was addictive as hell.
#3 – Panzer Dragoon Saga
This is actually a title I picked up recently and let me tell you, it’s pretty goddamn awesome. Firstly, the Panzer Dragoon series is typically seen as an extension of Space Harrier, but much more serious. Think Gunstar Heroes, but while flying, able to shoot in any direction possible, and pure third person shooter action. Well, Saga has a semi-turn based battle system based on this.
Honestly, it feels a little closer to what you get with Skies of Arcadia’s airship battles, but more fast-paced and frenzied, also with dragons! There are also plenty of exploration areas where you get out on foot, so there’s quite a lot of variety in the game. Nevermind that there are a shit TON of FMVs (possibly too many, in fact). I honestly believe this game was way ahead of its time and I’ve never played an RPG like it since.
#2 – Baldur’s Gate
I both do and don’t agree with this one. Unless there are really interesting innovations afoot, usually hardcore traditional AD&D games and I don’t see eye to eye. However, much like Morrowind, I can’t deny that it at least has an interesting setup and has led to some truly awesome titles since. Good story and writing, simple battle system, and very traditional (if you’re into that sort of thing).
#1 – Xenogears
When I first saw the games for this year, I was intimidated. I honestly wasn’t sure what I wanted for the top 5, let alone a top 10 list! But right away I knew which one would take #1, PC gamers be damned. Xenogears is an incredible journey with an awesome battle system, great characters, good graphics, and all kinds of great game mechanics.
I honestly can’t say enough about this one and yet if I keep this up, I know I’m going to spill out some spoilers, so I’ll just say this: the game is incredible, even to this day. You must play it if you haven’t already. Although…the second disc kinda sucks.
There were many great RPGs this year. This wasn’t an easy top 5 to compile. I constantly ranked various games against each other, reconsidered what I wanted, and much more in order to make this one possible. This was by far the toughest year I’ve encountered. I only hope 1999 will be easier. And though the top 5 are the best, in my opinion anyway, I still highly recommend you check out the runner ups as well.
Brave Fencer Musashi
Breath of Fire 3
Descent to Undermountain
Elder Scrolls Adventures – Redguard
Final Fantasy Tactics
Kagero – Deception 2
Magic Knight Rayearth (Saturn)
Master of Monsters – Disciples of Gaia
Might and Magic 6
Quest for Glory 5
Return to Krondor
Seventh Cross – Evolution
Shining Force 3
Tactics Ogre (PS1)
Tales of Destiny