Turn-Based? Action? Choose Your Poison
Is it already that time again? With the Holidays closing in once more, we know a lot of you are looking for gifts for all the players in your lives, and maybe some things you’d like to get for yourselves too. If you’re not sure what to get, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. From November 3rd to November 18th, we’ll be bringing you guides to satisfy every type of player each weekday. Strap in and kiss your wallet goodbye.
It wasn’t that long ago that it felt like the RPG was dying. The cost of big-budget games in the genre had forced even the biggest developers to scale back their efforts, and all we seemed to be getting were a few action RPGs and games that cared more about fan service than strong gameplay. With how things have gone the last few years, though, that feels like ancient history. The RPG is back, with tons of interesting games releasing every year. We had to cut more titles from this list than any other. Hopefully, next year will bring just as many excellent RPGs to look forward to.
Atelier Sophie 2: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Dream
Platforms: PS4, Switch, PC
I know, I was just talking about fanservice games no longer dominating the genre, and the first game on our list is an Atelier title. The Atelier series, though, have always been minor offenders when it comes to this sort of content though, at least compared to some alternatives. Sure, there’s swimsuit DLC and a lot of busty anime girls, but that’s true of most of the genre. Beneath all of that is a strong traditional RPG, with an interesting new multi-link battle system which allows multiple parties to fight together. Add in a new item synthesis system that links to games in the series past, and weather control which lets you manipulate some beautiful environments, and you have one of the best Atelier games ever. Fans of the genre should absolutely check it out.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails From Zero
Platforms: PS4, Switch, PC
Fans waited a decade for the Crossbell games to come West before The Legend of Heroes: Trails From Zero finally arrived this year. It did not disappoint with fantastic characters and a story that, while a bit small compared to the world-ending stakes that at times dominated the rest of The Legend of Heroes series, were still well worth solving. Trails From Zero will feel very familiar to those familiar with the series, but its new characters are a delight, even if I wished at times that they had been allowed to more fully own their own introductory title.
Live A Live
If fans thought they waited a long time for Trails From Zero, just think about how long Live A Live fans waited. Originally released on the Super Nintendo, this one went under the radar for decades until Square Enix, and Nintendo partnered to remake it earlier this year with HD 2D graphics that look outstanding. Guess what? It’s pretty great, too. Feeling far ahead of its time, it brings together a wide variety of characters and gameplay styles to offer an experience few RPGs can match. Sure, the end game has a few issues and becomes a bit more generic as a result, but this is still a game any fan of RPGs should absolutely experience.
Soul Hackers 2
Platforms: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
Atlus makes some strange choices. While it’s no surprise that they like to make new Shin Megami Tensei spin-offs, a sequel to a late 90s Saturn exclusive that only left Japan fifteen years later with a little played 3DS port was not on my Bingo card for this year. Yet here we are, with Soul Hackers 2 keeping the setting of the original game, even if its gameplay has seen some real twists. Borrowing heavily from both the traditional Shin Megami Tensei titles as well as Persona, the development team created something new. It won’t please every fan of the series, but those who are open to it will find an excellent story and interesting gameplay.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Considering how beloved the first Xenoblade Chronicles was, it was surprising how mixed a reception the second game received. Plenty of players certainly loved it, but others were turned off by a very different art style, changes to the battle system, and a totally different tone. Somehow, the team at Monolith split the difference with Xenoblade Chronicles 3, finding a balance that should satisfy anyone who enjoyed either of the previous games. Combat is still deep and complex, but is now far more manageable and a bit streamlined. Your party of six, who all fight together in battle, have fantastic personalities but don’t lean as heavily into tropes. Heavily emotional story beats will captivate players. If you have a Switch, this is one RPG fans should absolutely check out.