You think last year was a big year? Ha ha ha! This year, there are 49 games! Madness! Let’s do this thang!
#5 – Fable (Xbox)
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Yes, it’s very short. No, it didn’t quite live up to everything Molyneux stated. Also, it really doesn’t matter. See, for all its shortcomings, it did a lot of things right such as an interesting, branching, and more organic way of leveling up. Besides that, it was a true action/RPG, which was quite refreshing from the games that simply try to be hardcore RPG with meh action elements or action games like Devil May Cry where TECHNICALLY there are RPG elements, but they’re so minor it doesn’t matter much.
And hey, even if you didn’t like the original, there are two sequels and LOTS of expansion stuffs. This is a series I’m sure will only blossom and bloom from here.
#4 – Vampire – The Masquerade – Bloodlines (PC)
This is a lesser known title, sooo…*rubs hands together*…time for me to work my magic! Okay, here’s the deal. Fuck Twilight. No, really. Because as soon as I tell you this, you’re going to roll your eyes and that’s just…tragic. Anyway, yes, it’s vampires. You get to be in a certain clan of vampires with unique strengths, weaknesses, traits, etc. There are a wide variety of passive skills, awesome techniques, and all kinds of clan stuffs you have to mind in the world of the vampires.
Just, look dude, just…trust me on this one. I know it sounds all emo and shit, but trust me, it’s really fucking cool. It’s like Fallout 3, but with vampires, less about the apocalypse, and is set in Los Angeles. It’s badass.
#3 – Shadow Hearts – Covenant (PS2)
What would a great year of RPGs be without an entry into the Shadow Hearts mythos? Please don’t answer with “lol, what’s Shadow Hearts” or I’ll fucking bite you in the neck. Anyway, heralded as number one in the Shadow Hearts games, Covenant is a fantastic RPG that is hilarious and has great features, a great story, great characters, yada yada. Seriously, if you need me to go on and on about Shadow Hearts, either you’ve never played them (and you fucking suck) or you just wanted a reminder about why they’re so awesome.
#2 – Shin Megami Tensei – Nocturne (PS2)
Ah man…when I’m even going to write why I think this needs to be in the top 5, it’s almost hard to think of any one GOOD reason…because there are WAY too many good reasons. I can explain why it’s not #1. It gets way too hard way too quickly and only diehard RPG purists will be able to make any true progress, let alone beat it (I still haven’t as of this writing if it’s any consolation).
Again, there are a lot of great plot points I don’t want to spoil, but suffice to say you’re a demi-human of sorts wandering around a recently apocalypse’d Tokyo trying to find your human friends that you were separated from. All the while, you have classic SMT elements such as recruiting various demons, demon fusion, contracts, negotiation, etc. Very fun, very hard, very Shin Megami Tensei.
#1 – Growlanser Generations (PS2)
GG is easily one of the most interesting RPGs I’ve ever played…and also one of the saddest reminders of a dead company. See, this was Working Designs’ last title. I won’t get into why you should know who they are or why you should care, but let it be known they did some awesome stuff over the years. In any case, this is a forking, real time strategy, turn-based strategy, role playing hybrid. Got it? No?
That’s not surprising. The initial setup is a little strange, but brilliant. Most of the combat is real time, but anytime a movement is finished, the game pauses and asks what you want that person to do. You might think that’s annoying, but it works out well because often there’s so much going on at once it just wouldn’t work well being entirely in real time.
You also get to level up your characters with skill points, make crucial plot decisions, experience major and unexpected plot twists, and…well, it’s just amazing. It’s also hard. REALLY hard, at times. Literally, there are battles where if you don’t get your shit straight, you will fail the mission in one to two minutes. And yet, the random encounter rate is virtually non-existent, so you need to make every battle, every level up, and every decision count.
It’s fun, got great characters, has a very intelligent design, and is easily one of my favorite RPGs. Oh yeah, and once again, it’s actually two RPGs, so win-win.
There were actually a number of other RPGs I wish I’d gotten a chance to highlight this year, because goddamn it was a good year, and no not just because there were so many RPGs. You may have wondered why I never put either of the KOTOR titles in the top 5. Let me be frank…until Jade Empire, Bioware never really drew my interest. And yes, that means that while I’ve played both KOTOR 1 and 2, I thought they were very meh.
Much like Morrowind, I acknowledge they are good games, but just not for me. Some people right as soon as they saw them on these years may have put them in the top 5 list immediately, but not me. It could also be because I’m largely a huge fan of JRPGs, as you may have noticed. The bottom line is Bioware has made a lot of great things within the past 5 years, but leading up to that point, I wasn’t that big of a fan.
Baldur’s Gate – Dark Alliance 2 (Multi)
Bard’s Tale (Multi)
Baten Kaitos – Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean (GC)
Beyond Divinity (PC)
Blades of Avernum (PC)
Champions of Norath (PS2)
Boktai 2 – Solar Boy Django (GBA)
Elder Scrolls Travels – Dawnstar (Mobile)
Elder Scrolls Travels – Shadowkey (Mobile)
Fall – Last Days of Gaia (PC)
Fallout – Brotherhood of Steel (PS2)
Final Fantasy 11 Online (PS2)
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles (GC)
Forgotten Realms – Demon Stone (Multi)
Front Mission 4 (PS2)
Future Tactics – The Uprising (Multi)
Inuyasha – The Secret of the Cursed Mask (PS2)
Kingdom Hearts – Chain of Memories (GBA)
Knights of the Temple – Infernal Crusade (Multi)
La Pucelle – Tactics (PS2)
Lord of the Rings – The Third Age (Multi)
Megaman Battle Network 4 – Blue Moon (GBA)
Megaman Battle Network 4 – Red Sun (GBA)
Monster Hunter (PS2)
Paper Mario – The Thousand-Year Door (GC)
Phantasy Star Online – Episode 2 Plus (GC)
Phantasy Star Online – Episode 3 C.A.R.D. Revolution (GC)
Phantom Brave (PS2)
Pocket Kingdom – Own the World (N-Gage)
Pokemon Colosseum (N64)
Shadow Vault (PC)
Shining Soul 2 (GBA)
Silent Storm (PC)
Star Ocean – Till the End of Time (PS2)
Star Wars – Knights of the Old Republic 2 – The Sith Lords (PC)
Tales of Symphonia (GC)
Wars and Warriors – Joan of Arc (PC)
Weird Wars – The Unknown Episode of World War 2 (PC)
X-Men Legends (Multi)
Yu Yu Hakusho – Tournament Tactics (GBA)