After a tremendous 2017, Japanese role-playing games were due for some regression, and that’s exactly what happened this year. There were no all-time classics like Persona 5 or Nier Automata in 2018.
Yet it was a decent year for the genre, and we got some JRPGs that I enjoyed quite a bit.
As is annual tradition, here are all of the JRPGs I played in 2018:
Ni no Kuni II (PC/PS4)- I enjoyed every minute of the ~30 hours I spent with the second Ni no Kuni, even if it wasn’t quite as groundbreaking as its predecessor. The story fell apart toward the end, and it was way too easy for my taste (developer Bandai Namco has since patched in difficulty settings), but running around and whacking monsters never got old.
Lost Sphear (PS4/Switch/PC) - The second game from Tokyo RPG Factory, developer of I Am Setsuna, might also be the most forgettable game of 2018. I played about 10 hours of Lost Sphear and I don’t remember a second of it. I think there was something about a moon?
Octopath Traveller (Switch) - Maybe the biggest disappointment of 2018 for me. I liked some aspects of Octopath Traveller - namely, the soundtrack and the combat - but the repetitive structure and boring stories prevented the Switch’s big July exclusive from coming anywhere close to the games it tried to emulate.
I really, really wanted to love this one, but I just couldn’t get past the fact that every single chapter played out in the exact same sequence. It became a chore to finish.
Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology (3DS) - A good remake of one of the better JRPGs of this decade. This 3DS version of the 2010 DS game Radiant Historia is worth your time if you’re in the mood for some time-travel-heavy turn-based goodness. And if you don’t mind dusting off your 3DS.
Dragon Quest Builders (Switch) - More ActRaiser than Minecraft, Dragon Quest Builders is a must-play Switch game and one of my favourites. I can’t wait for the sequel next year.
Secret of Mana (PS4/PC) - This is an interesting one. Not only was this year’s Secret of Mana a bad remake, with a mangled soundtrack and weird blocky graphics, it also made me realise that without the benefit of nostalgia, Secret of Mana has not aged well at all.
The moment-to-moment gameplay mostly involves attacking, waiting for your charge meter to reach 100%, and then attacking again. It’s tedious and boring.
The Alliance Alive (3DS) - I know what you’re thinking, and no, I didn’t just throw three random words together to see if you were paying attention. This 3DS game got my attention when I saw that its story was written by Suikoden director Yoshitaka Murayama. Then it lost my attention after I played it for an hour.
Dark Souls Remastered (PC/PS4/Xbox/Switch) - Does this count as a JRPG? No, no it does not. But I really liked this game.
Dragon Quest XI (PS4/PC) - After some 30 or 40 hours with Dragon Quest XI, I hit what I believe was the halfway point, and then just stopped. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was the grating, repetitive soundtrack, or perhaps it was the fact that I’d spent the past 30-40 hours mashing the A button without making a single interesting decision or fighting a single challenging boss.
One day maybe I’ll come back. Maybe.
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom (PS4/Xbox/Switch) - Based on the Wonder Boy/Monster World games for old Sega systems, Monster Boy is a colourful, difficult platformer with RPG and Metroidvania elements that ranks among my favourite games of the year. You’ve gotta play this one.
Sega Genesis Classics (PS4/Xbox/Switch) - I don’t really need much of an excuse to replay Phantasy Star IV, one of the best JRPGs ever made. Having that on my Switch—along with Land Stalker and Shining Force and many more—is wonderful.
Next year we can expect to see even more JRPGs for Switch, including ports of old Final Fantasy games and a new Fire Emblem. Here’s hoping for great things.