If there ever was a golden age of JRPGs, then it would have unquestionably taken place on the PlayStation. Sony’s maiden console saw a true revolution of the genre as it finally broke into the mainstream and built a foundation that shaped the current landscape. While these games stood out among the rest, this was a great era that tested the limits of what gaming was capable of, and we were all the better for it.
These are the 10 of those JRPGS that stood out as the best of the PS1 era.
10 Chrono Cross
While it wasn’t the sequel to Chrono Trigger that many had hoped it would be, Chrono Cross stood on its own as a premier title on the PlayStation and didn’t disappoint outside of the loose relation to the previous title. Cross was one of the many highly regarded released late in the PlayStation’s life cycle and took full advantage of the hardware. While fans still patiently wait for a true sequel to Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross serves as a worthy epilogue to its legendary predecessor.
9 Wild Arms
This western themed RPG launched a franchise that spawned a manga and an anime. Taking place on the desert world of Filgaia, players follow just three characters from the beginning of their adventures up until the pivotal moment where the fate of their world is at stake. Wild Arms was notable for actively switching between a 2D overworld and 3D battles and acted somewhat of a bridge between the old and new eras.
While other games on the list would benefit from focusing on a larger assortment of characters, Wild Arms would be a more memorable experience due to the focused attention on its leads.
8 Breath Of Fire IV
Breath of Fire IV was the last entry of the series to be released on the PlayStation and was perhaps the best game released during the system’s final days. With six playable characters who can learn different techniques through different masters, stackable magic attacks and beautifully animated characters, Breath of Fire IV remains a compelling title today.
Positioned as Capcom’s answer to Final Fantasy, this would serve as the peak of the franchise before it slowly faded into obscurity.
7 Vagrant Story
Opting to serve more as a dungeon crawler than a turn-based RPG, Vagrant Story was a simpler concept that was packed to the brim with depth. A QTE-style combat system and even elements of platforming made this game stand out from other games of its era and had a distinct, almost Victorian influence on its presentation. While not as plot-intensive or as long as others on this list, Vagrant Story shined with what it had.
At the time, Vagrant Story was a huge hit and even earned a perfect 10 from Famitsu.
Taking its cues from games such as Zelda and the Mana series, Alundra was a break from the ordinary RPG and focused heavily on puzzle solving and top-down, 2D exploration. The game is gorgeous and the strengths of the game stem from the formidable difficulty of the game's many puzzles. Alundra was praised upon release and would eventually be a lost classic, being extremely hard to find for retro collectors.
It would spawn a forgettable sequel a few years later that bore almost no resemblance to the original.
5 Star Ocean: The Second Story
Star Ocean: The Second Story was the first game in the series to be released in the US and provided real-time combat and AI controlled party members along with a sci-fi heavy story with multiple side quests and various endings based on how the game progresses. Players could select their party numbers and determine their behavior to make them more adaptable for the coming battles.
The Second Story expanded on the original in every way, paving the way for future entries that would expand on the formula presented in this well-rounded classic.
4 Final Fantasy VII
Easily one of the most important games in history, Final Fantasy VII finally legitimized RPGs in the United States and became a legendary title that has become an institution in of itself. Featuring an emotional story and relatable characters, Final Fantasy VII played on themes such as environmentalism, self-worth and loss.
After years of speculation and rumors, this classic is finally getting the remake fans have been asking for with a 2020 release around the corner.
3 Suikoden II
With a massive roster of 108 playable characters and a gripping, yet grounded story, Suikoden II has been praised as a true gem in this golden era of RPGs.
Combat varied from traditional RPG skirmishes to individual battles to unit-based tactical battles, all while maintaining an engaging experience from beginning to end. Suikoden II also happens to be incredibly rare with prices today hovering around $150.
A game so complex and original that it would turn heads if released today, Xenogears was a classic for its time and has remained a favorite since its initial release. The game combined elements of martial arts, religion, mech combat, dungeon crawling and anime to create an incredible and wholly original experience. The scale of Xenogears is so massive that it is a testament to the game that it doesn’t fall apart under its own weight and utilized voice acting and its anime sequence to great effect.
This game was so complex that its creators have lamented that a true sequel will never come, so fans will have to settle for the game’s re-release as part of the PlayStation Classic’s line-up.
1 Final Fantasy IX
In what has been the most overlooked and underrated game of the series, Final Fantasy IX serves as the pinnacle of quality RPGs available on the original PlayStation. Upping the ante by having four players in combat than the traditional three and taking place in a wonderful medieval setting made this feel like the perfect blend of where the Final Fantasy series began and how far it came to that point. Though not as appreciated as VII or VIII, Final Fantasy IX had a charm and polish that made it the superior game.