JRPG ESSENTIALS

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Cap_H
DIGITAL IDENTITY CRISIS
6615
What do you think are games, which should everyone who works with RM and has an intention to make a RPG know and play? Cuz I personally played very few famous jRPGs.
My personal favorites are Ys series and probably Zelda (although I never played it properly). So, I'm more inclined to action oriented stuff and find it easier to get into. Also it's usually light on dialogues, which is good. On the other hand they're not traditional jRPGs and I hear people talking about Chrono Trigger and Xenogears all the time.

So would you go with Final Fantasy IV and Dragon Quest or do you have more series to include?
Suikoden Series, Okami, Terranigma, Breath of Fire series, Legend of Mana, Secret of Mana, Lufia II, Final Fantasy series, Dragon Quest/Warrior series, Secret of Evermore, Secret of Gaia, Chrono Trigger... and many others.




Edit: Cap asked for game titles. I'm giving game titles. As others below have said, though, it's not necessary to 'study' these games in order to be a good game creator or anything like that. However, if you DO want to check out some cool jRPGs, these are the ones you should check out. To be a bit more helpful, though here's a general 'best picks' thing:
Suikoden II/V - can teach you how to handle the characterisation of large numbers of characters. Can also give you ideas on how to add extra bits to battles and how political stories can be told.
Okami - can teach you about action-based puzzles, adding charm to your characters and how to use animal-based characters. Is also well worth playing and highly polished (and lots of fun).
Terranigma - is based on Earth and can show you a few ways to look at nature as a -being-, dealing with animal characters as well. The translation isn't the best around but it does have some really interesting ideas.
Lufia II - straight up puzzle porn. It has some great ideas in that area, also using different on-map abilities to interact with maps/puzzles.
Final Fantasy 6 - when the heroes lose.
Final Fantasy 9 - a decent love story.
Final Fantasy 7 - a classic good vs evil story. With lots of silly minigames.
Dragon Quest 4-6 - interesting trilogy with some very touching moments.
Chrono Trigger - time-based shenanigans and how to write a story that you can stop at any moment with many different endings.
pianotm
The TM is for Totally Magical.
29202
What Liberty said, plus:

Xenogears (there's a reason you hear people mentioning this), Legend of Dragoon, Phantasy Star, Beyond the Beyond, Alundra and with Libby's list, the essentials are starting to run out.
Kloe
I lost my arms in a tragic chibi accident
2236
I'd also mention Xenoblade Chronicles and Pokémon, possibly some other abstract ones, the wider range of jRPGs you look at, the more ideas and suggestions you'll have.
Shin Megami Tensei, Persona, Atelier series, Dark Souls, pretty much anything goes, really.
author=Kloe
the wider range of jRPGs you look at, the more ideas and suggestions you'll have.
Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
20691
Wild Arms series, the Xenosaga series, Valkyria Chronicles, Final Fantasy Tactics, Grandia series (though I've not played 3), Legend of Legaia, Vagrant Story...
Final Fantasy VI, Pokemon series, Golden Sun, Riviera: The Promised Land, Tales of Eternia
Craze
i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
14360
None of them in particular. If you've played a handful, enough to know you're curious about creating in the genre, that's probably enough. The golden classics are never as good as touted, and it's dangerous to just remake an old game's ideas when all these old games had so many pitfalls of their own.

So many jrpgs are just... bad. You can enjoy them for what they are, I suppose, but some of that shit above like Xenogears, Secret of Mana, and old Pokemon are so bad. They had their moment, but it's gone now. They should be viewed as weird curiosities of the past, not heralded as champions of the future.

also "what is an jrpg"/"what is an rpg" isn't a useful argument but it also makes this list stupidly ridiculous. zelda? okami? what? if you're gonna make an ff6 clone or breath of fire clone like everybody did on gamingw you don't need to have played those other games ;V
NeverSilent
Got any Dexreth amulets?
6133
I agree with Craze. Looking for suggestions to expand one's own knowledge about different archetypes of games is not a bad idea at all. But I struggle with the idea of so-called classics that you must have played in order to truly understand a genre.

For instance, Liberty mentioned Secret of Evermore, which is one of my favourite games of all time, and has influenced my personal tastes and design philosophies a lot. But I would still never go so far as to say that someone who hasn't played this game is automatically incapable of or even at a severe disadvantage when aiming to design an action RPG. That's not how such broad and malleable concepts as genres work.

Sure, it might be very helpful to at least be aware of certain games or franchises that have had a strong and fundamental influence on the way certain (sub)genres evolved over time, such as Pokemon or Zelda. However, I think it's more important to have played a wide range of different games of a certain type than to have played a chosen few specific games that happen to be the first or most famous examples of that type.
Cap_H
DIGITAL IDENTITY CRISIS
6615
I agree that definition is vague, It always is. Can you call a platformer RPG becuz it has an inventory? Maybe. It's mostly up to you. I'm more interested in these as important playing material.

author=Craze
So many jrpgs are just... bad. You can enjoy them for what they are, I suppose, but some of that shit above like Xenogears, Secret of Mana, and old Pokemon are so bad. They had their moment, but it's gone now. They should be viewed as weird curiosities of the past, not heralded as champions of the future.
That's why I'm interested in this. I don't really see reasons to play Chrono Trigger myself. But people mention it often, so It's probably important for the genre. Also I don't think that original and fresh games are usually essential for any genre. They're trying to get themselves out, be something more. Most people here are usually making FF and DQ inspired games and nobody can deny that these two series are something to play, when you want to learn about classic jRPGs. So, this is mostly about past and what we're supposed to take from it. I'm not a genius when it comes to gammak and can appreciate inspiration from other sources.


author=Marrend
Wild Armsseries, the Xenosaga series, Valkyria Chronicles, Final Fantasy Tactics, Grandia series (though I've not played 3), Legend of Legaia, Vagrant Story...
This is a good list of games to play. But I would probably disagree about their importance for the genre and game design.

author=Kloe
I'd also mention Xenoblade Chronicles and Pokémon, possibly some other abstract ones, the wider range of jRPGs you look at, the more ideas and suggestions you'll have.
Yeah, but it takes more time too. My idea is to make a shortlist of games, I need to play (Suikoden series are on top of it, Lib) in order to understand the genre. You can go wild and tell me to play 200 different games, but it's unlikely that I'll learn anything important from most of them.
Right now my list of 'essentials' would prolly go like this:
First Wave:
-Final Fantasy series
-Dragon Quest series
-Earthbound
-Phantasy Star
(-Zelda)

Second Wave:
-SaGa
-Suikoden
-Persona
-Lunar
-Star Ocean
-Xeno games
(-Ys)
(-Xanadu)

This is likely to get longer.
I haven't included tactics as they are a separate genre in my eyes. I should prolly exclude action rpgs too (I just wanted to mention Ys in here).

EDIT: NeSi, you're right and I'm glad for comments like this. As you can see my list consists mostly of first and famous breeds. Usually, You'll take more from a random pick you like than a super known classic.
Marrend
Guardian of the Description Thread
20691
I suppose I did approach this thread as a "suggest cool games" thread rather than "what kinds of games would you consider as 'essenatial JRPG' games" thread.

WELP.
NeverSilent
Got any Dexreth amulets?
6133
author=Cap_H
I don't really see reasons to play Chrono Trigger myself. But people mention it often, so It's probably important for the genre. Also I don't think that original and fresh games are usually essential for any genre. They're trying to get themselves out, be something more. Most people here are usually making FF and DQ inspired games and nobody can deny that these two series are something to play, when you want to learn about classic jRPGs.


Oh, well, if it's specifically your intention to learn more about jRPG "classics" and explore the roots of the genre, then that's a different story. I was never going to deny that over the course of the genre's development there have been quite a few game-changers (figuratively and literally) that established lasting archetypes which we still know and use today. If you're interested in those kinds of influential games, this topic makes a lot more sense - at least in theory.

Just don't forget that just because a game did something first, that doesn't necessarily mean it did it best. Playing games that had a significant impact on the history of video games does not automatically equal fun, especially now that the new ideas they originally introduced have been ingrained in our understanding of the genre for so long already. And remember that exploring the origins of the RPG will not necessarily make you a better RPG designer, either.
Here are some games you should play and why you should play them:

Establishing Genre Conventions
-Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy. These aren't going to be that fun by today's standards, but you can play these in less than a day using an emulator, and they're going to give you a baseline for how the genre developed.
-Phantasy Star: This one's a bit iffy. The dungeon design was visually cool at the time, but it's annoying as fuck now. This was the first jrpg that had fleshed-out characters, though.

Great Level Design
-Chrono Trigger: There are a lot of great reasons to play this one, but I think that Trigger's best feature is its level design. Play through it thinking about the enemy layout and how the developers are playing with player psychology. Now compare this to earlier RPGs, where most dungeons are simple mazes. Think about how unique each dungeon is.
-Wild Arms (1, 2, or 3--I prefer 3, but 1's easier to emulate) and Lufia 2: These RPGs have great puzzle-based dungeons. Character-wise, the areas are less unique than Trigger's, but gameplay-wise, they're just great.

Storytelling
-Final Fantasy 7: This pretty much set the standard for modern jrpg cinematic storytelling; it's got more meat on the bone than most things, too.
-Valkyrie Profile: This one has a really interesting story structure; it plays like a collection of short stories, some of which are emotionally resonant (also has some great level design).
-Earthbound/Mother 3: These games have sharp, interesting, witty writing, and they're inspiring a lot of the more popular indie rpgs coming out recently (Undertale, Lisa, Omori, Glitched...Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass? Eh?)

Progression Mechanics
-Dragon Warrior 7 (3 will work, too--any of the ones that use the class system): Dragon Warrior 7's class system is great; it just takes a while to get to the point where you can take advantage of it. 3's system is less developed but you begin the game being able to utilize it.
-Final Fantasy 5 (or Final Fantasy Tactics): Final Fantasy's take on the class system is also pretty damn rad.
-Final Fantasy 10: I'm going to be honest: I don't like this one. But, the sphere grid has been ripped off pretty majorly in jrpgs ever since. It has some cool monster designs, too, and the battle system is fast-paced and fun.

Combat
-Breath of Fire 3: I went back and played this recently, and it has some excellent monster designs. Play through it and think about the unique quality of each encounter you run into--the different ways you can win each battle, the unique quality of each encounter, the skills you can learn from different monsters, etc.
-Final Fantasy 6: Encounters aren't particularly interesting outside of some boss mechanics, but notice how streamlined the combat is. There are lots of other things to like about this game, too, such as the storytelling, progression mechanics, and level design.
-Any Tales or Star Ocean game: This will give you a good glimpse into more action-oriented battle systems. I prefer Star Ocean 2; for Tales games, take your pick--they're all pretty samey.

There's a lot of overlap in my categories (Chrono Trigger could be placed in combat or storytelling as well, for example), but that'll give you a pretty comprehensive background into good jrpg design. There are lots of other games people mentioned here that are also worth playing, though, like the Suikoden series, Secret/Legend of Mana, the Saga series, etc. You should play these games, and, really, any jrpg you can get a hold of since you're working in this medium. Playing games and thinking about them critically is just going to give you more ideas.
Sailerius
did someone say angels
3304
If you want to become a good JRPG developer, I think what you should be studying aren't JRPGs but games in other genres. JRPGs are a particularly incestuous genre and they've been pretty slow to innovate. When you only look at what other people making the same kind of game have made, you let them make your creative decisions for you.

All game systems are abstractions, so if you want new ideas, you want to look at different approaches to abstracting the same ideas. For instance, I learned more about designing RPGs from Metal Gear Solid V than I did from playing any actual RPGs lately. Playing The Witness also forced me to realize on just how low a level I've been thinking of game design, and really enhanced my perspective on the craft.
Craze
i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
14360
Sailerius
Playing The Witness also forced me to realize on just how low a level I've been thinking of game design, and really enhanced my perspective on the craft.


that's just because you and Jonathon Blow have an ego thing =P

you should play games in general if you want to make games though, yes, but i don't think all jrpgs are incestuous. bad jrpgs are incestuous. there are titles to support, like tales of zestiria, lightning returns, or valkyria chronicles. i agree with your first paragraph overall, just don't want to dismiss all recent games! it was pretty fucking bad in the ps1+2 era though yeah.

i'm going to be That Guy and say you should play nothing that Housekeeping suggested except for Chrono Trigger and Phantasy Star 4 because you'll gain nothing out of the others from a modern perspective. ff7 has the worst pacing in history, gawd.

i'd hesitate to even say that suikoden 2, one of my most-all-time-favorite-est games of all time, should be worthy of You Must Play This To Make An RPG canon. it's not about what was good 10-20 years ago, it's about what's stood the test of time. ff6/ff7/bof/dq7/wa/etc. haven't at all
Phantasy Star 4 didn't really offer anything new to the genre; I didn't recommend it. It's still a good game, though.

Also, "standing the test of time" has yet to be determined; you seem to be under the impression that modern rpgs are the inherent standard, when cultural patterns are more complex than a straight line. Look at music. Music in the 70s rejected 50s pop, but then the 80s pulled from the 50s, and 90s grunge rejected that and pulled from 70s rock, and then the 80s had a resurgence, etc. Right now, the most successful jrpgs are pulling from western rpgs; that doesn't mean that's the future--it just means that it's the present.

We're working in an engine that's designed for snes-style tile-based movement. We're not going to be making the next Elder Scrolls here. If we're looking at the games that worked really well within those confines, then I think I have a pretty solid list. If we're just talking about influence and cultural impact, then the jrpgs that are going to be remembered a hundred years from now are Chrono Trigger, the Dragon Quest series, FF6, and FF7, but I was trying to give a wider perspective on well-designed jrpgs.

Edit: Add the Pokemon series to my list of jrpgs that will be remembered a century from now. I'd play at least one of them as an essential rpg, too, but they're all pretty samey, so take your pick.
Craze
i bet she's a diva with a potion popping problem
14360
need more people who didn't grow up with the games to talk about this; i'm assuming you did, HK, although i don't actually know. i consider not playing rpgs until i was in high school, and even then not a lot, to be a great boon to my designs. we don't need more setsunas or forever's ends, we need more undertales or shadowrun returns -- something that took a base concept/inspiration (like earthbound or tabletop-based wrpgs) and elevated it into something unique and worthwhile today. we can do even better by not leaning on earthbound or baldur's gate as we move forward.

yeah if you want to make Channel Changer or Phantasia X you can but what's the fucking point

edit: not gonna deny that games ff4/7/10 had cultural and developmental impacts (ff4's atb, ff7's massive 3d world, ff10's fully voiced narrative), but that doesn't mean they should be part of a canon that must be subscribed to in order to make a half-decent rpg. they're ancient, and games have evolved. the current generation growing up right now isn't going to be exposed to the primitive ideas those games put forth because they're already part of the general concept of gam mak
Red_Nova
The all around prick
8611
*Waves* Hello my name is Someone Who Didn't Grow Up with these Classic JRPGs! There are a few games I'd wholeheartedly recommend that have been said here, but I think they all have their strengths and weaknesses to them and should only be recommended depending on preference. I don't think any of them have really stood the test of time and should be cited as "absolutely necessary" for devs wanting to make RPGs.

Except one: Chrono Trigger.

Why? Because it, more than any other classic RPG I can think of right now, is a fantastic example of the "less is more" mentality. Chrono Trigger has a very simple (mechanically speaking) battle system containing a lot of depth. Thanks to the Dual and Triple Techs you learn, you'll be swapping out party members often to see what kind of new attacks you can do and change the way you play the game.

Plus, and this is the biggest reason to play it, Chrono Trigger is a very short RPG. I just looked through my old save file, and I cleared the game for the first time in 17 hours. I'm not exaggerating here when I tell you that it was the shortest 17 hours I've ever played in an RPG. The story can feel rushed at times, but it never lags. Chrono Trigger eliminates the fluff from a lengthier RPG; You don't need to grind so long as you fight battles along the main progression path, and the story rarely deviates from the main goal of defeat Lavos once it has been established. Side quests are fewer, but each one has significant meaning. From restoring a desert back to a jungle, to helping one of your party members cope with the loss of a lost friend, There is not a single side quest I can think of that doesn't enhance the main quest somehow by either providing deeper context to fleshing out a main character's backstory.

Chrono Trigger trims all the fat you see from lengthy RPGs like Final Fantasy, leaving pure meat and muscle, which is a fantastic lesson for developers looking to make RPGs.


I'll echo Sailerius in that you should play games from other genres. RPG appreciation is one thing, but trying to frankenstein cool RPG ideas from the past quickly leads to stagnation. However, I'll take it a step further and say you should do more real life things. If you want to make an RPG, you'll have much fresher ideas to bring to the table looking more at real life events to try and capture them into a game somehow.

But that's off topic. Every game listed by the people above has merit in some way, but if there was one game I'd recommend to EVERYONE to go play, it'd be Chrono Trigger.
Cap_H
DIGITAL IDENTITY CRISIS
6615
This is a good argument and it definitely puts Chrono on my map.

@Housekeeping, I really like your list and appreciate it. It's well formed and I think no one can become a worse developer after playing these. More frustrated maybe.

I think games like Undertale are examples of where we can take these games. They're still moving within the genre and use some of its conventions. These old games can be fun to play and also teach me what i don't want to have in my game early on. They usually do not posses good storytelling but they usually have cool level designs, nice maps and interesting mechanics. The truth is that you in order to realize the genre, you need to play one or two games and these can be (maybe even should be) average. When I opened RM for the first time some ten years ago, it was a mystery to me. I hadn't played any jRPG before and my gaming experience mostly consisted of flash games, Mario and strategies.

Also, It's more about your approach. It's about not getting too inspired and overwhelmed. I get your point that making some kind of canon can be harmful and it can be to some people. I think that we as adults are deep in pop culture and more resistant. Kids on the other hand can benefit from nice games like Earthbound.

And I noticed your edit, Liberty.
NeverSilent
Got any Dexreth amulets?
6133
Apart from Pokemon and maybe one or two lesser known Game Boy or PC titles, I hadn't played any typical turn-based RPGs before encountering RPG Maker, either. Almost all of my experience with the genre actually comes from playing RPG Maker games, most of which I found on this site.

As someone who has studied comparative literature, a field of literary studies that focuses quite a bit on "classics" and their impact on later works, I can tell you one thing: If you only want to understand how and why a medium became what it is now, creating such a canon of works not based on quality but on significance makes sense. But the great weakness of this approach is that it can only account for a contemporary audience - and that includes you yourself - in retrospect.


Still, as an aside: Based off my personal interests, so far the only "classic" RPG I had planned to play at some point was Earthbound. Guess which other game is going on that list now?
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