10 Lesser-Known Japanese Role-Playing Games To Try Out

While nearly everybody has heard of Final Fantasy, the JRPG genre has many other titles worth celebrating.

When one hears of the JRPG genre, one's mind tends to think about the Final Fantasy franchise. It a deserving claims as Final Fantasy VII and its follow-up are responsible for much of the genre's popularity in the west.  

Despite Final Fantasy's utter domination over the JRPG genre, the genre has many great RPGs that go under people's radar. 

Here are the 10 lesser know Japanese Role-Playing games (JRPG) you need to play today:

10. Wild Arms 3 

Wild Arms 3 

While this game is the third Wild Arms franchise, it's a great entry point for the franchise for several reasons. Firstly is the game place empathize on the Western-inspired element that makes the franchise stands out among peers. Secondly, it has a great story that goes against many JRPG cliches and features a great females protagonist. 

Gameplay-wise, Wild Arms 3 stands out too. With a great battle system that empathizes combining abilities than resource management. The game also includes several features that make dungeon-crawling less tedious than other games in the genre. Finally, the game has Zelda-inspire puzzles to spice its dungeons.  

9. Suikoden 2 

Suikoden 2
Source: wired

The second installment of Konami's sadly defunct Suikoden franchise is the platonic ideal of a video game sequel. The reason for that claim is that Suikoden 2 takes everything good about the original Suikoden and makes it great. 

Beyond simply being a good sequel, the game enjoys a strong story with excellent character writing despite a gigantic cast of characters. Gameplay-wise, Suikoden 2 has a simple combat system that features a great deal of variety thanks to many potential party members. 

8. Legend of the Heroes: Trails in the Sky

Legend of the Heroes: Trails in the Sky
Source: hardcore-gamer

The first installment of the Legend of Heroes franchise is a great first installment. While this game's story relies more on the strength of its character writing and worldbuilding than engaging plot beats, it serves to make the game's sequel plot more emotionally captivating.

The gameplay of Trails in the Sky enjoys a fun battle system that empathizes movement and area of attack. The game also features the Orbment system serving as a fun follow-up for Final Fantasy VII's materia system. Both systems combine to make the game's combat accessible, but deep

7. Front Mission 3

Front Mission 3
Source: lparchive

While created by the same studio behind Final Fantasy, Square Enix has sadly ignored the Front Mission franchise for the past decade. A sad realization because Front Mission 3 is one of the best turn-based strategy RPG games for the original PlayStation. 

Gameplay-wise, Front Mission 3 enjoys a great mech customization system that allows players to approach each battle with a great deal of flexibility. The game also has an enjoyable system of hijacking enemy mechs that permits players to recover from losing mech. The game is also one of the first video games to include an in-game browser that greatly helps flesh out the game's world.  

6. Radianta Historia 

Radianta Historia 
Source: squarespace

A classic in its original DS release and 3DS remake, Radianta Historia is the best time-travel-based JRPG since Chrono Trigger.  Rather than Radianta Historia using time travel just for interesting settings or characters, Radianta Historia instead focuses on the consequences of changing the past. 

That theme of changing the past helps constructs a strong story with a diverse cast of characters and a unique take on the standard JRPG fantasy setting. Combine this with a fun battle system that empathizes manipulating your enemy's position, and you have a great JRPG.  

5. Valkyria Chronicle 4

Valkyria Chronicle 4
Source: steamstatic

This soft reboot of the Valkyria Chronicle franchise, Valkyria Chronicle 4, does a great job tightening the franchise's unique take on strategy RPG. After its two more experimental predecessors, Valkyria Chronicle 4 moves the series' gameplay towards an improvement of the original's mix of turn-based strategy and third-person combat. 

Story-wise, the game goes away from the original setting of the first three-game to empathize with the larger Atlantic Federation- East European Empire conflict occurring alongside the events of the original games'. The game enjoys a strong cast of characters with many side missions to flesh out the game's supporting cast. 

4. Super Robot War V 

Super Robot War V 
Source: steamstatic

With this series' long absence from western release due to licensing issues, Super Robot Wars V is an enjoyable introduction to the long-running Strategy JRPG series. The franchise that serves as a crossover between various Mecha anime series makes a bold step in this installment by including the more traditional Space Opera series Star Blazer 2199 as the game's focus.

Beyond including an excellent Anime at its story's core, Super Robot War V shows an enjoyable refinement of the franchise's strategic gameplay. From players now being able to activate a unit's abilities before attacking and a gameplay system that incentivizes building up your units' killstreaks. Super Robot War V combines approachability with refined turn-based strategy gameplay.  

3. Skies of Arcadia

Skies of Arcadia
Source: gamefabrique

The best JRPG on the Sega Dreamcast, Skies of Arcadia, stood out from the late nineties JRPG scene for several reasons. One reason the game's story is a fun throwback to early 90s JRPGs that made it feel more light-hearted than its more cynical peers. This game's story is boost by its unique setting that combines a steampunk aesthetic with a sky-based fantasy setting.

The game also stands out with a world map that empathizes exploration with a ton of secret islands and treasures to discover. Combine this with a refined take of the traditional JRPG gameplay loop, and you have an underrated gem of the late 90s. 

2. Octopath Traveler 

Octopath Traveler 
Source: forbes

Another throw-back to early 90s JRPG, Octopath Traveller stands out for a ton of reasons. Most apparent is the game art style that combines nice-looking sprites with HD graphics. The game also has a unique story that follows eight storylines that eventually come together with eight main characters from diverse backgrounds. 

Gameplay-wise, Octopath Traveller benefits from a fun battle system that empathizes with exploiting enemies' weaknesses. It also enjoys an approachable class system that easy to understand and allows for more customizability for party set-up. 

1. Golden Sun 

Golden Sun 
Source: almarsguides

A launch title for the GameBoy Advance, Golden Sun is a fun mixture of JRPG gameplay and Zelda-style puzzles. Golden Sun's story, while not exactly ground-breaking, sets up some intriguing plot developments for the sequel. The world of the Golden Sun fills itself with unique, distinctive regions inspired by various real-world cultures.

Gameplay-wise, Golden Sun stands on two strong pillars. One is its dungeon exploration that empathizes puzzle solving using abilities called Psynergy. The other is customizing your party's abilities through creatures called Djinn that both flexibility to your party's setup along with a great reason to explore the game's world to find them all. 


As seen here the world of JRPG extends past beyond Final Fantasy and its many spinoffs. The ten games featured here are great entry points for various series and a couple of great stand-alone games. 

These games are worth giving a try as they highlight some of the best gameplay, story, and aesthetic in the genre. They are, however, just some of the great JRPG out there and I would suggest exploring the genre further after playing these ten games.

History Major that loves to write about entertainment and history.

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