games / Columns

The Top 8 Recent JRPGs

September 28, 2021 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Final Fantasy VII Remake Image Credit: Squaresoft

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about JRPGs, specifically more recent ones. For the sake of this list, I’m generally denoting “recent” as PS4/Xbox One generation to now. Also, I haven’t played every JRPG in the world, so I’m pretty positive Dragon Quest XI might make this list if I had played it, but I didn’t. I’m also not counting remasters of old games, so like Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition or FF 12 are out. Let’s begin:

#8: Kingdom Hearts 3

Kingdom Hearts 3 is comparatively low on this list because the story is straight up dumb. It expects you to know/care about all the ancillary games in the Kingdom Hearts franchise, so instead of a relatively straight forward story, it gets mired in obscure BS pretty quickly. I’m also, personally, not a huge fan of some of the Disney worlds/omission of Final Fantasy stuff in the game. It’s kind of a shame because actually playing the game is a lot of fun, it’s pretty fast and responsive, if not entirely easy for almost all of the game. The “Attraction Flow” stuff, letting you summon in Disney rides to take on enemies pretty much breaks the game due to how easy it makes it. But honestly I didn’t mind that at all.

#7: Ys IX: Monstrum Nox

From what I’ve gathered, the previous Ys game, Lacrimosa of Dana, is slightly better but I didn’t play that one so I wouldn’t know. I really enjoyed my time with Ys 9, my first Ys game actually in a very long running franchise. You are basically cursed to be in a town with other Monstrums and your main goal is to break the curse and who caused it in the first place. It’s more action-RPG like than most games on this list but the combat is good and the way that different districts of the city unlock as you progress through the story is solid.

#6: Final Fantasy 15

Judged just by its combat system, Final Fantasy 15 might make the top of this list. It is incredibly rewarding and complex, especially now with some of the updates, and it never got old. The real problem of Final Fantasy 15 is the story and how it’s really, barely there. The four main guys are all interesting but the whole reason for their journey, at least initially, is to get Noctis to the main town to marry Lunafreya, but she doesn’t have an actual personality and is just a plot device. So, really, the whole plot falls apart, because they just introduce half-sketched ideas instead of an actual plot. Still, driving the car was fun, the optional dungeons were extremely challenging and this was one of the games that made me think that all of Final Fantasy wasn’t so bad.

#5: Ni no Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom

I really did not like the first Ni no Kuni. I liked the characters, voice work, and general story (from what I played) but man, that battle system was rough and I think I stopped about 10 hours in. Ni no Kuni 2 fixes a lot of the problems of the first game by actually having combat be good. So that was a nice step forward. If anything, Ni no Kuni 2 is a lot like a Suikoden game, you can recruit people back to your home base, and then build shops/buildings to put them in. They can then do research products or sell you stuff based on how well your kingdom is doing. I don’t think the anime cut-scenes are quite as good as the first one, it was done by Studio Ghibli after all, but this game is a vast improvement over the first one.

#4: Yakuza Like a Dragon

Like a Dragon really is just another Yakuza game, only instead of the brawler action, they replaced it with some good old fashioned JRPG turn-based combat. Other than that though, it still has the same basic structure, winding-story, tons of mini-games and eclectic cast of characters that the older Yakuza games have been known for. Also, I love Ichiban, the new main character of the game. Kiryu was always such a stick in the mud, solemn guy. Ichiban just wants to have a good time which is way more interesting than the dour Kiryu.

#3: Tales of Arise

I’m in the middle of playing/reviewing this now and I am damned impressed by it. I’ve never been a huge Tales fan, I’ve played Vesperia, Berseria, Zesteria and maybe one or two and never really figured them out. The characters and stories were mostly good but the battle system always seemed incredibly awkward due to you having direction-based Artes (special attacks) but you being on a weird 2D plane made this very strange. Arise ditches this whole concept and just lets you equip Artes on face buttons, which makes it feel 90% better. There’s still some slight weirdness here and there but it actually feels like a modern game. Aside from that, the characters/story is interesting (aside from the bad guy problem most games have), it looks really nice on my PS5 and the soundtrack is insanely good. I hope it doesn’t take them another 5 years for them to make another one.

#2: Final Fantasy 7 Remake

Yeah, of course this game is on this list. While I think the combat system is very reminiscent of Final Fantasy 15’s, it is different enough to make it not so hack-and-slashy. Plus, I actually think Square did a commendable job in remaking the story, you still get enough of the old sequences and such, but they really went all out on making the world feel much more expansive. Which is actually fairly impressive since the old version was very linear until you get out of Midgar. I’ll be really interested to see how they handle the story in Part 2, especially with how the timeline is changing with Zack possibly alive.

#1: Persona 5 Royal

Along with FF7R, this is the most obvious game on this list. I love both Persona 5 and Royal but Royal handles certain systems slightly better, like regenerating gun ammo between battles or the upgraded Baton system. I’ll admit that the “Royal” character stuff isn’t handled the best, Maruki is integrated well but there are long stretches where Kasumi is barely present. Still, Royal is an upgraded version of Persona 5, and Persona 5 was already an amazing game, so there you go.

For comments, list your favorite recent JRPGs and why.

Next Issue
Top 8 N64 Games That Should be on the Switch