The first thing that comes out of peoples mouths when trying to argue against the Atelier games are "The graphics are so crappy they look like old games". While the graphics are 2D in Atelier Iris 2, that in no way takes away from the fun factor of the game. A prequel to the first Atelier Iris game, Atelier Iris 2 pits you in two worlds, with two characters. One character, Felt, explores the world Belkhyde as his childhood friend, Viese, stays home to make the alchemy items used in his adventures. While the plot may seem like nothing at first, it gets pretty interesting as you get deeper into the game, and the alchemy system is pretty expansive. It literally took the Atelier Iris alchemy system, and increased it by 10 Fold. There are several alchemy items you can make by recipe alone, or by mixing different ingredients. The Alchemy system is the biggest part of the game, and is heavily depended on.
Lunar Legend is sort of a port from the game Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete. Though this may not be as expansive as other RPGs, keep in mind that this RPG was made back in the 90's. There, RPGs were still in their blooming stages before Final Fantasy VII hit stores. Though the game may be simple, it's actually pretty fun to play, as the plot isn't all that bad. Younger gamers and seasoned RPG Vets will most likely enjoy this game more than the older gamers, but if a new RPGer is looking for a decent RPG to get them started, this is the game for them, as it's simple and easy to get into, but it's fun to play.
Ah yes, the PC RPGs. Ragnarok Online takes the feel of a console RPG, and takes it online, with several, and I mean several things to do. Though you have to pay to play (you get a few days free), Ragnarok Online is an experience worth trying once. Literally thousands of people play this game, so social interaction is not a problem. There are several classes to choose from, such as being an Assassin, a Priest, or perhaps a Rogue. Each class has a certain skill set. However, there are several builds you can make for a character, such as a Battle Priest, or a Spear Knight, or my personal favorite, the Melee Super Novice. With all the classes to choose from, and all the sidequests to do, it shows that not all games have to be about levelling, though the game heavily encourages teamwork in order to take down the strongest foes.
I'm sure people will be asking why this is so low on my list. Chrono Trigger, first released back on the SNES, is still loved to fans by this day, and is still played to this day. Chrono Trigger a fresh release from the normal RPG with the "save the world" type of theme. While Chrono Trigger does present this, one thing makes it stand out: Time Travelling. That's right. You have to travel between certain periods of times, whether it's to find your way back to your own time by using a warp on accident, to helping someone in the past. The time travelling feature was a unique one back then, and this made Chrono Trigger stand out, and eventually made it one of the top RPGs in the history of gaming.
The Shin Megami Tensei series is not a very well known franchise here in the United States, but there are a huge, and I mean a huge amount of fans of the SMT series over in Japan. Digital Devil Saga actually isn't part of the Shin Megami Tensei series, but more like a spin off. They just most likely added the SMT part to get people to buy it. Digital Devil Saga shows that there can be even mature themed RPGs. The plot is one of the best that I've seen, and the characters are right up there with the plot. The game uses a turn based battle system, but they use something called Turn Icons. You get 3 per battle, and if you hit an enemies weakness, you gain an extra turn, whereas if you hit a void spot, you lose a turn. This added in a strategic value, forcing you to examine new enemies carefully, which in the end ramped up the difficulty level.
Hailed as one of the best Tales of games, if not the best, I couldn't leave this one off my list. The Tales of series is not all that known by the majority of the states, but the games that have come out with the name Tales of in them have proven themselves to be worth the money. (of course, people will argue against Legendia) Tales of the Abyss marks the 10 year anniversary of the Tales of series, dating way back to Tales of Phantasia for the SNES. Like all Tales of games, Tales of the Abyss features a fast paced real time battle system, in which you control who you attack and where you run on the battlefield. However, what makes Abyss the best in the battle system department, is the ability to run where ever you want on the battlefield, assuming you have the correct skill to do so. The Field of Fonons (or FOFs) system was actually clever, and added a bit of a strategic value to tragets a monsters weakness. The characters are great, the game is long (even if you don't do sidequests, a first time runthrough is looking at a 50-60 hour playtime total) and it's just so fun.
Those that know me know I'm not a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series, However, I did find two games in the series enjoyable: VI and IX. Final Fantasy VI (or III in America) is one of the best RPGs out there today, and it's praised as the best Final Fantasy game. Of course, fans of VII will say differently. Final Fantasy VI brought a large, beautiful world for you to explore with a crazy, yet interesting cast of characters, each with their own specal skills. (I.E Sabin with his Blitzes and Edgar with his ability to use Tool) The game was pretty long, and the plot was involving. However, I believe the best portion of the game was the Esper system, in which you equip Esper Crystals to learn magic as you fight battles. After every battle, you earn a certain number of Magic Points that go towards the Crystal you have equipped. Each spell takes a different amount of time to learn, since some spells are learned quickly, while others are learned slowly, depending on the Crystal.
Those that know me know I love the Shadow Hearts series very much, and are probably screaming "FANBOY" right now. True, I love the Shadow Hearts series very much, but this game can attract even the most hated fan of the genre. First off, you can usually find this game in bargain bins for a very very good price. I'm talking like, $10-$20 here people. Why is it this cheap? Well, since Final Fantasy X was released around the same time, a lot of people overlooked this game. Shadow Hearts is a rather short game, but this can be good to help a new player to the genre keep their attention to the game. The story is very deep and involving, and the characters are pretty good. The battle system, however, is what most people love about the Shadow Hearts series. THe Judgment Ring is arguably the greatest battle system out there right now, as it requires you to pay attention to your actions instead of just mashing X while watching another channel.
Some will question why a Zelda game is on this list, as it's often viewed as an Action/Adventure game. Well, let me ask you this. Do you believe Kingdom Hearts is an RPG? Zelda works practically the same way, so why shouldn't Zelda be classified as an RPG? The Zelda series is one of the most popular out there. It started out way back on the NES. The first Zelda was golden, but the second one disappointed. Nintendo then needed to get a good Zelda to win back the fans, and they did. Some people might say Ocarina of Time is the best Zelda game, but in my mind, Link to the Past is the best, and last good Zelda game to be released. This game introduced several new dungeons and enemies, as well as a truckload of new little weapons and equipment for you to play with. Though the puzzles may not be the best in the series, this game is surely the most fun, as the dungeons are pretty expansive.
Diablo II is arguably the greatest RPG for the PC, or at least in this current generation of gaming. Diablo II takes place after the events from Diablo I. That doesn't mean that you have to play Diablo I in order to understand the concept of the entire game, though. Infact, you can enjoy this game fully without having played the first one. Diablo II widely exapnded from the first game, adding in new classes. It's simple to play. All you have to do is click on a monster, and your character will whack at it until either you die, or the monster dies. You also get certain quests during the Act you're on (generally 6 of them) and you need to complete each one to complete that Act, and move onto the next one. This may seem simple enough, but the game is really challenging, and encourages you to use parties if you wish to complete the game, as each Act contains a boss at the end, and they're pretty hard to solo if you don't have the right equipment. There's also an expansion pack, which adds on an extra act and two characters. Since there are quite a few number of characters to play as, the replay value is pretty high up there. The best thing about Diablo II, though? It's free to play.