The best JRPGs offer an escape to weary travelers looking for extraordinary worlds, colorful characters, and epic quests to right wrongs. Of course, defining what exactly constitutes a JRPG, beyond simply an RPG that was made by Japanese developers, can be tricky. There’s a common misconception that all JRPGs have turn-based combat, but even that rule has been rendered untrue by a great many games including Yakuza 7: Like a Dragon, Tales of Arise, Final Fantasy 7: Remake, and others.
These days, the term is incredibly vague and generally applies to RPGs that are distinctly Japanese in their visual and sound design, have a cast of main characters, and most importantly, focus more on storytelling than pure action. It’s for that reason that, despite being an RPG very much developed by a Japanese studio, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild won’t be included in this list of the best JRPGs. It’s too open-ended, the story is too subtle, it doesn’t require grinding, the skill system is totally different from most JRPGs, and so on.
We preface this list with this quick explanation because we don’t want to upset anyone by what we’ve chosen to include or not include. Two people can have wildly different ideas about what constitutes a JRPG and both be correct. This list represents the best of the genre as decided by our collective team of JRPG enthusiasts here at GamesRadar, and we hope, if anything, it inspires you to check out something new and hopefully fall in love with a new game or series.
Anyway, enough small talk. Here are the best JRPGs to play in 2022:
10. Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition
The epic JRPG from Monolith made a comeback in a big way on Switch thanks to the Definitive Edition. As well as enhanced visuals, Xenoblade Chronicles got improved battle and inventory UI, along with an all new epilogue chapter. Following the origins of Shulk as he goes up against the mechanical Mechon. With a sprawling world to explore, plenty of side quests outside of its main story, and its own blend of real-time combat with a party of companions, Xenoblade Chronicles was an impressively modern JRPG for its time that continues to stand the test of time with its revamped release.
9. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered
There’s undeniable charm to Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch that you just can’t help but fall in love with. With a beautifully delightful art style brought to life by Studio Ghibli, along with an enchanting soundtrack from Joe Hisashi, the classic adventure follows the imaginative story of a young boy called Oliver who sets out on a quest to try and save his mother and bring her after an unfortunate incident takes place in his hometown of Motorville. With familiars, magic, and a cast of characters to meet, the remastered version of Level-5’s classic JRPG really is a treat.
8. Tales of Arise
The Tales series has a long history of delivering intriguing stories and memorable characters you truly come to care for, and the latest entry is no exception. Following the story of two worlds that are home to the divided people of Dahna and Renan with protagonists Alphen and Shionne. As you adventure through this modern JRPG, you can soak up the sights and explore the lush environments of Dahna with a party of companions. Tales of Arise really does feel like a true visual evolution thanks to its arrival on the new-gen consoles that brings it into the modern era, with gorgeous graphics that make the most of its world and characters. It’s also made all the more engaging thanks to its stylish, satisfying combat.
7. Dragon Quest 11 S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition
The definitive edition Dragon Quest 11 is unquestionably the best way to experience one of the best JRPGs from creator Yuji Horii. You can even switch between 2D and 3D graphics to get a retro taste of the experience and enjoy the colorful world and character designs from Dragon Ball artist Akira Toriyama. As a traditional JRPG that’s easy to jump into without any prior knowledge of the Dragon Quest series, the 11th entry takes you to a beautiful, lavish world filled with a vast variety of different foes that let you make the most of the polished turn-based combat. With a cast of memorable characters and a satisfying level of challenge, Dragon Quest 11 really is packed with charm.
6. Yakuza: Like A Dragon
Yakuza: Like a Dragon introduced one of the best protagonists in recent memory in Ichiban Kasuga. As a big fan of Dragon Quest, we see the world through Ichi’s RPG-loving heart, which transforms this Yakuza adventure into a JRPG of its very own. Packed full of humor and loving homages to traditional JRPGs, Ichiban’s quests make a departure from the beat-’em up style action that’s a mainstay feature in previous Yakuza games. It’s hard not to be utterly charmed by Like A Dragon’s take on turn-based combat. with a cast of loveable and eccentric characters. It plays on the idea of having a party so spectacularly well, and really makes it so easy to bond with those you fight alongside.
Also known as Mother 2, Earthbound is a JRPG full of surprises that has earned itself a passionate following over the years. Now with the release of Earthbound Beginnings and Earthbound on Switch, we can once again relive the wonderfully unique and memorable adventure all over again. Following the story of a young boy called Ness, you set out to save the world from the alien threat known as the Giygas. Along with a group of friends, you face a host of unusual, imaginative enemies through various locales. The 2D look of Earthbound still holds up to this day, and its story is with lots of heart and humor that’s worth experiencing for yourself.
4. Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is an exemplary entry in the long-running JRPG strategy series that just begs to be replayed thanks to the various paths you can follow. Set in Fodlan, you take on the role of a professor who can choose to teach one of three different houses. Each house is led differently with a group of students that all have their own unique personalities, backgrounds, and stories to tell. Using its grid-based combat system, you’re challenged to use all of your students tactically to emerge victorious from each conflict – each student’s fighting style can also be changed and improved off the battlefield as you take to teaching classes. The sweeping story is set over the course of many years, but the characters are undoubtedly the game’s beating heart. Fire Emblem: Three Houses will pull you right in and surprise you with its depth and satisfying sense of progression.
3. Persona 5 Royal
Persona 5 has all of the classic makings of a JRPG with turn-based combat, dungeons, a party of characters that fight alongside you, and different fighting styles. But it also succeeds at feeling very modern thanks to its story and setting, which follows a group of teenagers that confront various social issues as the Phantom Thieves. Following a calendar year structure, you’ll spend your days and weeks going to school, taking on classes, getting to know your fellow students and companions, and even develop a romantic relationship should you choose to. With an utterly slick soundtrack, engaging combat, and all of the social sim aspects, it’s all too easy to lose hours of your time getting caught up in this satisfying JRPG that has plenty to offer.
2. Final Fantasy 7
The Final Fantasy series is full of excellent JRPG experiences, but Final Fantasy 7 is arguably one of the most influential among them. The cast of memorable characters have found their way into popular culture time and again, and it’s still very much in the collective consciousness of players today thanks to the release of Final Fantasy 7 Remake back in 2020. When the game first released in 1997, it introduced a whole new generation to JRPGs on the PS1 and became a huge success. Delivering an in-depth story with many twists and turns leaves a lasting impression, and its signature blend of turn-based combat and leading protagonists still capture the hearts of players all these years later.
1. Chrono Trigger
This classic ’90s JPRGs still stands as one of the very best you can play today. The epic adventure was brought to life and developed through the collaboration of some very notable creators – With Dragon Quest’s Yuji Hori, Final Fantasy’s Hironobu Sakaguchi, and Dragonball’s Akira Toriyama all bringing their talents to create the world and story of Chrono Trigger. Following a story of time travel that unfolds across many different eras, there’s plenty of humor and charm to be found in what becomes an unforgettable journey with real-time turn-based combat. While the graphics may be slightly dated by today’s standards, the 2D look still holds up well today.