10 JRPGs for people who hate JRPGs
By: Jeff Rivera
I don't know that there's a more polarizing genre in video games than the JRPG genre. Hampered or helped, depending on your point of view, by lots conventions and cliches, JRPGs have the ability to capture rabid fans just as easily as they do to create swarms of haters and detractors.
Despite such strong conventions that permeate the genre, it's a dangerous thing to look at JRPGs and paint with a broad brush, because the games can vary so much that it's hard to believe that they're actually from the same family. Below I've hand picked ten titles that I feel are great points of entry for people who generally claim to dislike the JRPG genre.
Chrono Trigger comes from Squaresoft's golden age, and it's one of the most beloved by fans of the genre. What sets Chrono Trigger apart from many JRPGs is that you don't have to deal with random encounters, you have a good deal of freedom, and the cast of characters is full of memorable people. Chrono Trigger is also pretty easy to play through, even if you don't have a deep understanding of the genre, but it's deep enough that it's challenging at the same time.
Paper Mario (series)
Paper Mario is a series that really streamlines the JRPG experience, but it's also deeply satisfying. The battle system should appeal to those who like a bit more action in their games as well. Also, in most Paper Mario games, traversing the world is a fun and interactive experience that mixes up platforming with puzzles.
It's a shame that this game was a one and done product from Square, because I would love nothing more than to see more out of this franchise. Vagrant Story forgoes the massive open world and puts you in a mostly linear dungeon crawl experience. You don't have have a huge cast of characters or tons of items to manage here, which is fairly unique among JRPGs and appealing to the types of gamers who despise burdensome item management. Vagrant Story also adds in some puzzle elements and platforming to keep things interesting.
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
This is actually my go to pick for anybody who feels intimidated by JRPs. While there are newer entries in the Mario & Luigi series, I think Superstar Saga still reigns supreme. The game has lots of platforming, puzzles, an active battle system, a cool leveling up system, and tons of humor to keep the story from getting too serious and heavy.
Earthbound isn't your typical JRPG as it really is more of a satirical work than a super serious product. While many JRPGs tend to be a little too dramatic, Earthbound is totally the opposite, yet it's completely sincere in its delivery. A cult hit for good reasons, Earthbound is a great entry point for people who struggle with common JRPG conventions.
This might be the most "hardcore" pick of the list here, but Ys Seven is perfect for gamers who enjoy RGP elements, but need a bit more action in their gaming sessions. While still prone to long dialog sections and some cliche storytelling and characters, Ys Seven is a lot of fun to play and its mold-breaking battle system should prove interesting to many types of gamers.
Skies of Arcadia
Skies of Arcadia is one of those JRPGs that really doesn't have many other games that it can easily be compared to. With half the game taking place on ground and half taking place in the air, Skies of Arcadia keeps things moving forward in a way that its pacing is perfect for gamers who don't like the typically slow pace of many JRPGs. Yes, there are tons of random encounters in the game, and the battle system (on the ground) is pretty standard, but the air battles are spectacular.
Originally created for younger gamers, Pokemon is deceptively complex and satisfying. Pokemon is also one of those games that after 2-3 hours in, it's pretty easy to understand mostly what the game has to offer. Many other JRPGs will take twice that long to just establish how all of its systems work.
Tales of Graces f
Like Ys Seven above, Tales of Graces f will sell itself to a lot of people on the strength of its battle system. It's not too often that you come across JRPGs where you can execute combos in battle. The game is also beautiful to look at, and the bright and vibrant colors sure stand out.
Persona 4 is definitely a hardcore JRPG fan's type of game, but it's also amazingly accessible for people who have little experience with the genre. Persona 4 eases you into its mechanics slowly and it manages to keep driving you forward to the next goal. It's practically impossible to get lost in Persona 4, and its social aspects will appeal to people who would rather spend time digesting a strong narrative than grinding characters to face a particularly tough boss.