I’ve typically considered myself to have a fairly broad taste across my range of interests – music, food, etc. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, this blog being named Gaming OMNIVORE and all, that video games are no different; there’s no genre of game that I refuse to play…an enormous backlog serves as testament to this. However, my childhood years were spent playing primarily action/platformers and the broadening of my gaming tastes occurred in my later teens/early twenties. RPGs, as a genre, were something I had very limited knowledge about and even less experience with – my best definition of an RPG growing up would have been “I dunno…like a Zelda game?” I have since come to really appreciate the memorable characters, worlds, and stories of games like Chrono Trigger or Tales of Symphonia. Lately, I’ve found myself playing more RPGs; there’s been something strangely…comforting(?) in diving headfirst into some epic quest in distant land, if only for a short time. I’ve been on a bit of a Dragon Quest kick as of late, so there’s been plenty of level grinding as well.
For today’s post, I’ve mapped out some of my most significant stops along my RPG questline. These are games that have meant quite a lot to me over the years and are largely responsible for growing my appreciation of role-playing (video)games. First up, a game that due to its packaging and slight variation in approach to the genre, I didn’t even realize shared nearly every established trait of an RPG when I played it…
Pokémon. The game that traded the settings of “Chosen One and accompanying party battles forces of darkness” to “child catches every cute monster in sight on the way to become the greatest trainer.” This was THE stepping stone to RPGs as a genre for myself, along with many, many others. Whether you consider the games a legit RPG or not, Pokémon is responsible for introducing millions upon millions of kids to RPG gameplay staples like level progression, elemental weakness/resistance, and turn-based battles. I had always thought the concept of turn-based combat – politely waiting your turn to whack your enemy, sounded rather…dull. It wasn’t until after I’d spent countless hours playing Pokémon Red that it dawned on me that I had in fact, been playing a game incorporating turn-based combat.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
I’ll be honest, Knights of the Old Republic wasn’t going to be a hard sell for me, even with my limited experience with RPGs in 2003 – a Star Wars game in which you travel to different worlds across the galaxy, along with customizing your own lightsaber and recruiting a homicidal droid named HK-47. How could that NOT sound awesome? KOTOR is an example of a game where I found myself more engaged in the story, characters, and worlds than the gameplay, which was still enjoyable and nicely complemented the game’s other strengths. Knights of the Old Republic also introduced me to BioWare, whose writing and characters I would fall in love with all over again in 2007. I have a hard time not immediately blurting out “KOTOR!” when asked my favorite Star Wars game, let alone my favorite RPG…
Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls
As a kid in the 90’s, I was aware enough of Final Fantasy as a series. This was especially true reading gaming magazines counting down the release of Final Fantasy VII, which I knew was an anticipated release, but didn’t fully understand the extent of it. It wasn’t until my later teens that I bought Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls – a compilation of Final Fantasy 1 & 2, shortly after release that the series finally started to click for me. Something about the combination of FF1’s approachable, but not shallow game mechanics, story, music and 16-bit charm resonated with me and I became completely hooked. I had just begun taking a few college classes prior to the game’s release and distinctly remember much of my time between classes being spent sitting playing Final Fantasy…when I probably should have been studying(sounds surprising, right?). This is where my appreciation for 16-bit JRPGs officially began…
Mass Effect 2
Knights of the Old Republic was my introduction to BioWare, but it was the Mass Effect games(Dragon Age: Origins, too) that propelled them to one of my favorite developers. Mass Effect 2 took everything that I loved about the previous game and managed to improve it. I didn’t get around to playing ME2 until about a year or so later, but once I started, I couldn’t put it down. The game still feels as close to a perfect action-RPG as I’ve ever played, balancing the traditional role-playing elements of ME1 and the more action-oriented set pieces of ME3. Similar to KOTOR, Mass Effect 2 is another game I’d immediately nominate for all-time favorite RPG, thanks BioWare.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
My first exposure to Fire Emblem comes from the exact same place as nearly everyone else outside of Japan – Super Smash Bros. Melee. I remember having to look up which games sword fighters(naturally) Marth and Roy were from and having absolutely no idea what Fire Emblem was. I eventually played a little bit of Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance on the GameCube, and later FE: Awakening on the Nintendo 3DS. I found the games intriguing, but just like Final Fantasy, or any JRPGs really, I felt like I didn’t completely “get it”. Fast forward to the summer of 2019, Fire Emblem: Three Houses was set to be released and I was a little tentative, but eager to try another Fire Emblem game. I had been keeping an eye on the game and Three Houses gave every indication of being the most accessible FE game yet. I don’t know what it was that finally clicked – understanding of FE’s weapon triangle? Academic dating sim? My boy, Dimitri? Either way, I loved every minute of Three Houses and it went on to become one of my favorite Switch games. It even gave me the…confidence(?) to try seek out and try a few other SRPGs(my weakest genre) such as Shining Force or Advance Wars.
For every RPG that I actually finish, it seems like there’s 5-10 more that I’d like to play; just Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest games alone would keep me busy for quite some time. There’s also Persona 5, a game that I loved for the few hours I’ve played and has turned into a bit of a running backlog joke -“I’m actually gonna finish Persona 5 this year”. Here’s just a few of the many RPGs I have in my backlog that I’d like to finish up or begin playing in the near future.
- Persona 5 Royal
- Final Fantasy X
- Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
- Shining Force 2
- Chrono Cross
In closing, I’ll also use this post to segue into a shoutout for The Great JRPG Showdown. Fellow blogger and RPG/Anime expert – Pix, from Shoot The Rookie has once again put on an elimination-style tournament à la Mortal Kombat and it’s cool to see the different games nominated by everyone. I strongly encourage any JRPG fans out there to check it out if not already doing so. That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!