If the PS1 represented the golden era for J-RPG fans, the PS2 was the rare sequel that was every bit as good as the original. From the early days of the system in 2000 until the PS3 finally took its place in 2006, the PS2 spawned one classic title after another.
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Publishers like Square Enix, Konami and others not only managed to release sequels to popular PS1 franchises like e.gFinal FantasyorSuikoden, but we've also seen the rise of newer franchises. Again, this is an era one could get lost in if they aren't careful, so here is this list to point out the top fifteen J-RPGs of the PS2 era for both seasoned and novice J-RPG fans alike perfect checklist to give.
Updated January 18, 2021 by Thomas Bowen:Not only has the JRPG genre given us a plethora of top titles, but it has also helped shape and influence the direction of many modern western RPGs. The late 90's and early 2000's marked a time when the genre began to make the leap from 2D to 3D graphics, with full voice acting also making its way into the standard. Without these groundbreaking titles, the landscape of modern gaming would likely look very different than it does today.
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15 Suikoden V
TrotzSuikodenSome still fear losing the series creator after the third partSuikoden Vas the bestSuikodentitle at all. It manages to make up for the fourth game's flaws while improving other aspects such as graphics and character development.
Players take on the role of the Prince of Falena, a matriarchal kingdom that is gradually being torn apart thanks to the machinations of the royals operating behind the scenes. Eventually, the prince is expelled from the kingdom and forced to assemble his own army to retake his lands for the benefit of his sister, the next queen.
14 Star Ocean 3: Until the End of Time
Once per generation, Tri-Ace manages to release astarry oceanTitle. This time the game focused on Fayt Leingod, the son of a famous scientist. Fayt was enjoying a peaceful vacation until an alien race called the Vendeeni caused him to hastily leave the vacation planet and sent him on an adventure across the stars.
Although not quite as perfect as its predecessor,starry ocean 3is still a fantastic game that works on a much larger scale than the previous games. Players can travel between multiple planets to find out what has declared war on the Pangalactic Federation. While the ending has drawn the ire of numerous fans in the past, it's not enough to blemish this classic.
13 Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
TheShin Megami TensaiSeries didn't really make an impact in the West until recently. Well, at least not compared to other big JRPG franchises. Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne is the third entry in the mainline series and one of the very best pre-Persona games developed by Atlas.
Some of the environments could have used a little more work, but other than that it really is a fantastic title. Each of the game's characters has interesting personalities and designs, and the gameplay is both tight and challenging without ever feeling unfair. However, its greatest asset is its story, which is well presented and remains gripping throughout.
12 rogue galaxy
Jaster Rogue was a simple boy living on the planet Rosa when two space pirates invited him onto their ship, believing him to be the legendary Desert Claw they are looking for. While Jaster is certainly not the so-called Desert Claw, after being dragged onto the ship Dorgenark, he becomes embroiled in a massive galactic conflict, and learning his true fate is something far greater.
How many of Level-5's games don't buy yourogue galaxyfor his act as they are pretty barebones. But the fun, action-oriented combat, unique way of leveling up characters, fun side quests, and mini-games make it one of the most solid games on the PS2.
11 Xenosaga-Episode I
A spiritual successor to his legendaryXeno gearboxdirector Tetsuya Takahashi decided to go beyond the confines of a single planet to experience something far more sci-fi influenced. Shion Uzuki is a Vector Industries employee who fights the alien Gnosis, who - along with the android KOS-MOS - is drawn into an entirely different mystery over the course of three more titles.
If there's one flaw holding this game back, it sometimes feels more like a movie than a game, with cutscenes so long they require save points in between. At least the firstXenosagais still a great first part of a great if slightly convoluted trilogy.
10 Disgaea: Hour of Darkness
Disgaeais another one of those Japanese franchises that didn't get too much love in the west until recently, but its very first entry is just as good as these modern offerings; if not better. His creative approach to game design became one of the defining characteristics of the series. as does his awesome character designs and wicked sense of humor.
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Not many people picked it up when it was first released, but thanks to a series of improved ports and remasters, it's never been more accessible and is finally starting to get some of the love and recognition it deserves. With the sixth installment in the series releasing in the West later this year, there's never been a better time to give it a try.
9 Shadow Hearts: Covenant
One of the strangest games to come out during the PS2 era,Shadow Hearts: Covenantwas set in an alternate universe version of World War I in the early 1900s. During this time, German Lieutenant Karin Koenig meets with Yuri, the protagonist of the originalshadow hearts, and a group of other warriors taking on a secret society that turns out to be behind the Great War.
Almost everything aboutBundmade it unique among other JRPGs at the time. Drawing on both a time period (the 1900s) and a setting (Eurasia) that no other game had even thought of, it also leaned into the occult and supernatural, resulting in an experience like no other.
8 Kingdom Hearts
Not even Square Enix can escape the mouse. In 2002, Square and Disney teamed up for the releaseKingdom Hearts. The action RPG combined some of Square's own original characters - Sora, Riku and Kairi - with some of Disney's most iconic characters from their animated films, as well as classic Disney heroes like Mickey, Donald and Goofy.
Not only that, as players explored other worlds, they met each other as wellFinal FantasyCharacters. Cloud, Squall, Tidus and many more make an appearance, firmly pushing this into the realm of dream crossovers for kids who grew up fans of Disney's films and started their early teens playing gamesFinal FantasyTitle.
7 Suikoden III
SuikodenDirector Yoshitaka Murayama has taken the experimental nature of his series even further with the third installment of the game and its first appearance on the PS2. As always, the nature ofSuikodenTitles don't jeopardize the fate of the world. Instead, it's about a separate area of the world that we've already seen, the grasslands and the people who tried to control them, and the history of the runes, the sources of magic in theSuikodenWelt.
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What makes this game special is that it actually has three different main characters and the story switches viewpoints between them, making it a perfect game for players willing to pay attention to the narrative it weaves.
6 Kingdom Hearts 2
As great as the original Kingdom Hearts game was, it had some teething problems when it came to narrative structure and combat. This is where the Square Enix team seems to have devoted most of their attention; and it really shows in the last game.
Bigger and better than its predecessor in almost every way, Kingdom Hearts II has helped cement the series' place as one of the developer's most beloved franchises. The overarching narrative might be impossible to follow for most, but the Kingdom Hearts games are still incredibly fun to this day thanks to their intuitive gameplay and lovable characters. Much of this can be traced back to here.
5 Dark Chronicle
Also known as Dark Cloud 2 in the US, Dark Chronicle is the spiritual successor to Level-5's cult classic Dark Cloud, which was released for the PS2 in 2000. It followed just two years later and won numerous awards for its excellence, although it didn't sell nearly as well as its predecessor.
In the game, players take control of two protagonists who embark on a quest to stop the evil Emperor Griffon from destroying the planet. The combat system is incredibly innovative for the time, as are the game's customization and weapon upgrade features. This innovation is backed by some great text and stunning graphics that combine to create a truly wonderful game.
4 Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King
Level-5 was tasked with developing Square's prized franchises for its sole PS2 outing. When the kingdom of Trodain is enchanted by an ancient scepter, it's up to the main character, a "simple" guard, and a handful of people he gathers along the way to defeat the fool Dhoulmagus and restore order to the kingdom.
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This title brings the world ofdragon questinto the realm of 3D, using cel-shaded environments and characters to create a beautiful world for players to explore. Seen as one of the strongest entries in thedragon questfranchise, the game was a huge success for everyone involved, becoming the best-selling PS2 game in Japan.
3 Person 4
Atlus catapulted itself into the spotlight with the fourth installment in their seriesPersonaSeries. As an unnamed character who lands in the Japanese countryside, players must investigate the strange town they find themselves in while dealing with the mysterious Persona powers they have.
The game's simulation elements add an extra layer of role-playing and limit the actions to certain times of the day to maintain the feeling of actually being a high schooler. Although this title was released well into the next gen, thanks to the simulation aspects as well as the world and cast, this title caught the attention of J-RPG players everywhere, resulting in incredible sales and profitsPersonaone of the strongest remaining J-RPG franchises in the new HD world that came after.
2 Final Fantasy XII
Director Hiroyuki Ito and writer Yasumi Matsuno have teamed up to bring us back to the world of IvaliceFinal Fantasy XII, the last time the franchise would be seen on PlayStation 2. In the series, Vaan, a young boy who dreams of becoming a great sky pirate adventurer, teams up with Ashe, a young princess trying to protect her kingdom in the midst of a great war between two much larger armies.
This game wasfest, something players could easily sink into for over a hundred hours if they wanted to, thanks to the length of the story and the size of the world. Also, the game was addictive as its licensing system gave players absolute control over how they wanted to develop each member, while the Gambit system gave them full control over how their AI companions play. This game was so forward-thinking for a long timeFinal FantasyFans still want to see what might happen when these two creators get back together.
1 Final Fantasy X
Considered by many to be the highlight of the series,Final Fantasy Xwas the first mainline finale fantasy game to be released on the PS2 and features some of the best stories in the series. It isfantastic cast of charactersare really well developed and the refinements to the combat system have really helped the game feel like next-gen.
In addition to its captivating story, the game also features a wealth of mini-games andexit game contentthat help extend playtime without ever feeling too loopy or pointless. Additionally, its soundtrack is arguably the best in the franchise, with great tracks like To Zanarkand and Hymn of the Fayth providing the perfect accompaniment to its top-notch gameplay.
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