This is a HUGE year. There are 45 games! This is also the first year we’re seeing a mobile game on the list. While you’d think this would make it hard for me to choose, just a simple glance at this list and I can already tell what’s what. Read on to find out!
#5 – Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA)
You know, there are a lot of great games this year (and some not so great ones), but the reason this one gets the number 5 spot is it’s an absolutely fantastic SRPG with a ridiculous amount of missions, side missions, jobs, classes, and what have you. It has insane depth, can be played through multiple times, and so on. It’s not as strong as the other SRPG on this year’s top 5, thus the bottom spot, but hey, the fact it beat out 40 other games should be impressive enough.
If you liked the original FFT even just a bit, this is a must have.
#4 – Mario & Luigi – Superstar Saga (GBA)
And of course the Mario RPG tradition continues with the handheld market. Easy to pick up, hard to put down, and just challenging enough, M&L would be a series that would continue on and on for damn good reason. Plus, it’s hard to say whether I like this or the Paper Mario series better as this one actually has more stats and stuff, but then again, the Paper Mario series is simpler…but shorter…hmmm…
#3 – Dark Cloud 2 (PS2)
This game is incredible. I originally thought about making it number 1, but there’s no way it can take out the upper spots. You’ll soon see why, but all the same this one is way better than the original. In a recent podcast, one of my co-hosts was bitching about why everyone loved the Dark Cloud games and I simply responded with “well, the original was okay, but holy fuck did you ever try the sequel?”
He hadn’t and unfortunately I don’t think he will because of his dislike of the original, which is truly a shame because of how incredibly awesome this one is. Citysim, dungeon crawling, weapon forging and upgrading, fishing, time travel, golf, inventing, magic, and a fuck ton of other great stuff keep this game fresh, lively, and fun. Nevermind that there’s even an incredibly tough epilogue chapter, too. A great addition to anyone’s RPG library.
#2 – Disgaea – Hour of Darkness (PS2)
Where would my head be if I didn’t include this one? If you already know what this is, likely you’re in the comments complaining why it didn’t get number 1. If you don’t, well, here goes. This is a game about the new king of the netherworld trying to claim what’s rightfully his. Now, here are just a few of the features: exploding penguins, an angel who thinks she’s a ninja, a ridiculous amount of classes and class ranks, the ability to rank up your characters in general, the dark assembly where you can bribe senators to do all kinds of ridiculous shit, the ridiculous and random item worlds, the ability to level up your proficiency with weapons and skills and learn new skills by doing so, the ability to have vassals that can teach you said skills just by having them as vassals, and…well, you get the idea.
The game is designed from the ground up to be a mega-grindfest and it’s incredibly addictive. If you’ve seriously never played the game, chances are you will not be able to stop playing it once you have. And if you have heard of it, either you’re playing it now or you just got out of your Disgaea Anonymous class.
#1 – Xenosaga Episode 1 – Der Wille zur Macht (PS2)
So why Xenosaga? Well, mostly because of *spoiler*, *spoiler*, and also that time where *spoiler*. Yes, even though it’s an 8 year old game, I refuse to spoil it for you. I won’t lie, it’s a slow starter. But holy shit is it worth it. It’s just too bad I could never get that invested in the second. I still have it, but it’s not as good. The third is pretty cool and does a nice job of wrapping things up, but I still have to give props to the original.
“Yeah yeah, okay, so the story’s awesome. BIG DEAL!! Some of the games you just trounced under foot or sorta kinda gave a thumbs up for had good stories, too!” Well, not entirely and besides, this one has a multitude of great features too, such as an interesting combo system similar to what the later Shadow Hearts did, an interesting upgrade system that allowed you to spend fuckloads of different types of points in a variety of ways to tweak your characters to your own specs, the Final Fantasy 9 style of learning techniques from accessories, lots of bonus content, and so on.
Maybe it doesn’t have as much depth as Disgaea and FFTA, but it more than makes up for it by matching the source material well and being a great prequel, which is something that’s virtually never pulled off right. Incredible story, great characters, excellent features, and epic length. What more could you want from an RPG?
Make no mistake, there were a lot of great games this year. Sure, there were some odd ones, a hentai title, and a bunch of meh ones, but this was an excellent year for RPGs on the whole. Definitely give the runner ups a whirl when you get the chance.
Arc the Lad – Twilight of Spirits (PS2)
Boktai – The Sun is in Your Hand (GBA)
Brave Soul (PC)
Breath of Fire – Dragon Quarter (PS2)
CIMA – The Enemy (GBA)
DemiKids – Dark Version (GBA)
DemiKids – Light Version (GBA)
Dragonball Z – The Legacy of Goku 2 (GBA)
Dungeons & Dragons – Heroes (Xbox)
Elder Scrolls Travels – Stormhold (Mobile)
EverQuest Online Adventures (PC)
Final Fantasy Origins (PS1)
Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2)
Fire Emblem (GBA)
Geneforge 2 (PC)
Golden Sun – The Lost Age (GBA)
Gothic 2 (PC)
Grom – Terror in Tibet (PC)
Lionheart – Legacy of the Crusader (PC)
Lost Kingdoms 2 (GC)
Lufia – The Ruins of Lore (GBA)
Megaman Battle Network 3 – Blue Version (GBA)
Megaman Battle Network 3 – White Version (GBA)
Onimusha Tactics (GBA)
Paradise Cracked (PC)
Pokemon Ruby (GBA)
Pokemon Saffire (GBA)
RPG Maker 2 (PS2)
RPG Maker 3 (PS2)
Shining Soul (GBA)
Star Wars – Knights of the Old Republic (Multi)
Temple of Elemental Evil (PC)
Unlimited SaGa (PS2)
Valhalla Chronicles (PC)
Yu Yu Hakusho – Spirit Detective (GBA)