JRPGs, which stand for Japanese role-playing games, are actually RPGs designed and produced in Japan. But there are other schools of (gaming) thought that say JRPGs (not JPEGs) could also mean RPGs made anywhere but in the styles of Japanese role-playing games.

These games are also generally understood as those that involve a pre-determined story and characters, as well as an emphasis on storytelling and narrative. 

While it may be true that these games’ “golden age” was during the 1990s and 2000s, and that they seem to have lost their luster, an avid gamer might disagree and say that these games are still trendy even today. That said, let’s find out today’s best JRPGs that you must consider playing, too. 

1. ‘Chrono Trigger’ (1995) 

We begin the list with “Chrono Trigger.” Though this game became popular during the 90s, it still stands as one of the best JRPGs you can play today. 

Yuji Hori of “Dragon Quest,” Hironobu Sakaguchi of “Final Fantasy,” and Akira Toriyama of “Dragon Ball” interestingly collaborated to create the world and story of this game. 

Following a story of time travel that unfolds across various eras, “Chrono Trigger” offers plenty of humor and charm found in what becomes a memorable journey with real-time turn-based combat. 

2. ‘Final Fantasy VII’ (1997)

Of course, will we ever forget “Final Fantasy VII”? Part of the classic “Final Fantasy” series, this game has a story that follows a mercenary named Cloud Strife who signs up for an eco-terrorist group to stop a world-controlling megacorporation from exploiting the planet’s life essence as an energy source. 

Events in the game send Strife and his allies in pursuit of the superhuman Sephiroth, who attempts to wound the planet and harness its healing power for his personal purpose: to be reborn as a demigod. 

Strife’s journey allows him to build close friendships with the other members of the party, such as Aerith Gainsborough, who holds the secret to saving the world.

3. ‘Persona 5 Royal’ (2020)

Though “Persona 5 Royal” was released worldwide only in 2020, quite different from the other nostalgic JRPGs, it still has the classic makings of the genre, from turn-based combat to various fighting styles. 

Thus, it also triumphs at feeling very modern thanks to its plot and setting, which are about a group of teenagers confronting different social issues. 

As a player of “Persona 5 Royal,” you will spend days and weeks attending classes, getting to know your classmates, and even forging romantic relationships. 

With its impressive soundtrack, engaging combat, and fascinating social sim aspects, it is easy to lose yourself while playing this game.

4. ‘Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ (2019)

Another game with academic themes is “Fire Emblem: Three Houses,” a tactical JRPG published by Nintendo. This game is set on the continent called Fódlan, which is divided between three ruling powers, or houses, currently at peace. These nations are bound together through the Garreg Mach Monastery, which houses a church as well as an officer’s school for students from each house. 

Players take the role of Byleth, a former mercenary who is one of the school’s professors and interestingly keeps a mysterious past, as they select a class to lead and guide Byleth’s students through a series of battles. This JRPG is a must-play. 

5. ‘Yakuza: Like A Dragon’ (2020)

“Yakuza: Like a Dragon” introduces perhaps one of the best protagonists in gaming history, Ichiban Kasuga. In this game, players see the world through Kasuga’s RPG-loving heart, successfully transforming the game’s adventures into a JRPG of its own. 

Loaded with humor and elements that pay homage to classic JRPGs, Kasuga’s quests depart from the beat ‘em up action style present in previous “Yakuza” games. As you play “Yakuza: Like a Dragon,” you will be charmed by its turn-based combat and eccentric yet sweet characters.

6. ‘DRAGON QUEST XI S: Echoes Of An Elusive Age – Definitive Edition’ (2019)

This game’s “Definitive Edition” includes the critically acclaimed “DRAGON QUEST XI,” alongside additional scenarios, an orchestral soundtrack, a two-dimensional mode, and so much more. 

“DRAGON QUEST XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition” is the game’s enhanced version. Nintendo released it for Nintendo Switch in September 2019; for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows in December 2020; and for Stadia in March 2021.

It comes from Square Enix, the makers of “Final Fantasy.” Whether you are a longtime fan of these types of games or a new adventurer, this is your ultimate “DRAGON QUEST XI” experience. 

7. ‘Tales Of Arise’ (2021)

From Bandai Namco – the maker of phenomenal games like “Pac-Man” and “Elden Ring,” “Tales of Arise” comes from the “Tales” series, which is reputable for delivering intriguing stories and unforgettable characters. “Tales of Arise,” one of its latest entries, is no exception.

Following the story of two worlds that are home to the conflicting people of Dahna and Renan, with protagonists named Alphen and Shionne, the game will have players taking on adventures through this modern JRPG as they soak up the sights and explore the lush world of Dahna with a party of company. 

Thanks to this game’s arrival on new-gen consoles that usher it to this modern era, “Tales of Arise” is a visual evolution, with gorgeous graphics that define its world and characters.

8. ‘EarthBound’ (1995)

Last but certainly not least on this list of some of the best modern-day JRPGs is “EarthBound.” Also known as “Mother 2” in Japan, this game has players playing with Ness and his party of Jeff, Paula, and Poo as they trek the world to gather melodies from eight Sanctuaries to defeat Giygas, the universal cosmic destroyer. 

It is also interesting to note that this game, which idiosyncratically portrays Western culture, subverted the mainstream RPG traditions by featuring a modern setting while parodying numerous staples of the genre. Pretty brave. Those are just some of today’s best JRPGs, and there are definitely more. Game on.

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