What are the best JRPGs? JRPGs are a very different beast from Western RPGs, and the genre has significantly evolved since the early days of both the classic NES-era Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy games.
The very best JRPGs range from vast open-world adventures to more refined turn-based combat as seen in tactical RPGs. Some JRPGs do away with traditional fantasy in favor of a more realistic setting; others focus on adding to the game’s overall package to flesh out the world. Either way, the best JRPGs bring a different flavor than what you can expect from the best RPGs in the West and could be considered some of the best PC games to fans of the genre.
The best JRPGs on PC 2023 are:
Genshin Impact is probably the closest game to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild that we’ll see on PC, with a vast open world to explore and various dungeons and quests to complete. Over time, the game has grown much larger, with each new update introducing new mechanics like gardening, houses, and character hangout quests – as well as a slew of new Genshin Impact characters.
With regular updates, including the upcoming Inazuma region, it’s unlikely that Mihoyo’s RPG is slowing down anytime soon. This free game does use a gacha system for unlocking new characters, so you may want a bunch of Genshin Impact codes to get yourself some free primogems to spend on wishes.
This PS2-era RPG has a bit of a cult following, and it’s largely due to its slightly more macabre tone than most other JRPGs. Your character moves to a small country town just before a string of murders begins, the bodies all found near mysterious telephone poles. Compared to the other Persona games, it’s not as bleak, but it does have rather adult themes and explores characters that, in many ways are atypical for the genre, in a relatively mature way.
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By socializing with friends outside of dungeons, you can build up your character’s bond to grant them bonuses, both in and out of battle. Its turn-based combat system is deceptively simple on paper as enemies do regularly go after weaknesses, but you’re also able to recruit new demons to aid your main character in battle. Of course, it helps that the PC version is the definitive version, even if it’s just the PS Vita port upscaled for modern PCs. And if you end up getting on with Persona then the sequel, Persona 5 Royal, is on PC Game Pass now.
What begins as possibly the worst stag any groom-to-be could ever dream of, Final Fantasy XV turns into an action-packed adventure that features its own unique battle system. You play as Noctis, the crown prince of the kingdom of Lucis, as he uses his warp ability and striking greatsword to keep enemies at bay, alongside his trusted allies and best pals Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto. In addition, you can indirectly control other allies in battle by performing certain actions or using chunks of the Tech Bar to command them.
It’s undoubtedly one of the best looking Final Fantasy games on PC, as you take to the road in the snazzy Regalia and explore the expanse of this open-world game – rustling up meals by the campfire or racing chocobos through meadows and completing many elaborate side quests. Although your road trip takes a considerable detour and a dark turn, you’ll find yourself among friends who genuinely care for each other while at the same time mildly mocking each other, you know, as friends do. Although the beginning takes a while to get going, stick with it because it’s an unforgettable journey.
If you are looking for a JRPG with the visual quality of a Studio Ghibli film, why not play the game that the renowned Japanese studio actually worked on? You take on the role of Oliver, a young boy transported to an alternative world that’s linked with our own via the idea of soulmates – how every person in one world has a counterpart in the other.
This JRPG has a mixture of various tried and tested battle mechanics: the active time battle system from some Final Fantasy games, real-time movement from more modern RPGs, and familiars you can send out to aid you in battle, in a remarkably similar nod to the Pokémon games. It all works together well, and even though this JRPG can be rather difficult at times, it’s worth persevering. The story is whimsical and well told, with capturing and managing your familiars scratching the same itch that the Pokémon games do so well. It’s a hugely satisfying game that’ll keep you occupied for hours on end. Fair warning for when you begin Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch: we highly recommend having a box of tissues to hand.
Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s combat is nothing like the previous Yakuza games, which were more about learning combos for real-time fisticuffs with street thugs and enemy Yakuza. Instead, Like a Dragon opts for a classic turn-based battle system, as whenever the new protagonist Ichiban throws down, he just starts “thinking in Dragon Quest terms”. The big difference here is that rather than silly names for regular spells, Like a Dragon has you battering thugs with bikes and summoning giant lobsters with a quick phone call. If that’s not setting the tone for this bizarre caper, then we don’t know what is.
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It’s not just the turn-based combat that we love, but also the tons of side quests. This is where the classic Yakuza charm shines through, with minigames ranging from running your own business to a full-blown Mario Kart-style clone. It’s also one of the best-looking Yakuza games – you only need to look at Ichiban eating bread to see just how impressive it looks.
Octopath Traveler’s stunning visual style is the main draw to this JRPG – with a mix of 2D sprites set against gorgeous isometric backdrops. No matter if you’re walking around a snowy town or fighting monsters in desert plains, this JRPG is immensely pleasing to the eye, like something from a concept art book. Completing all eight character stories may sound daunting at first, but Octopath Traveler breaks down each story into digestible chapters so as not to overwhelm you, and it lets you explore at your own pace.
At times the gameplay can feel rather old-fashioned, with a similar focus on multiple protagonists that fans of Square Enix’s Saga series will recognise. However, each playable character has unique actions outside of battle, such as pickpocketing unsuspecting victims or inquiring with townsfolk for more information. They also use their unique talents in the turn-based battle system, which also uses the classic Final Fantasy job system and its own risk-reward break and boost system that allows you to whittle down enemy defences gradually, then boost to strike harder at the cost of some of your turns. A lot is going on in this JRPG, and it’s absolutely worth exploring for yourself.
Let’s face it, this is the worst version of one of the greatest JRPGs ever made. However, even with that caveat laid bare, we would still highly recommend Chrono Trigger, largely due to its distinctive art style, designed by Dragon Ball’s Akira Toriyama. What begins with the disappearance of a young girl at a fairground soon becomes a saga about traveling through time to stop a monster from the future from ending the world. With the help of a wide variety of allies, from tech-savvy friends to robots and a frog knight, your job is to prevent the world from turning into a post-apocalyptic nightmare.
Combat is not too dissimilar from other Square Enix games of the same era, but linking up special moves with other allies is where it sets itself apart. When two compatible characters have their active time battle bar completely filled, you’ll get the option to combine their techniques for entirely different effects. For example, while Crono’s cyclone tech is primarily for hitting all enemies with regular damage, if Marle is in your party and has her bar filled, she can imbue him with healing magic to turn the cyclone into a powerful healing skill that restores HP to all allies. Part of the fun is discovering these powerful combinations to aid you in battle, all the while hopping through rifts in time. If you want the quintessential JRPG experience, we can’t think of a better game than this. If you’re looking for more retro greatness like Chrono Trigger, our list of the best classic PC games should be your next stop.
Grandia is a hero’s tale about a young lad who answers the call to adventure after discovering a mysterious stone in a temple. Before long, he meets fellow adventurers to see what lies in the journey ahead. While the story is the hook, it’s the surprisingly well-thought-out combat that reels you in. In a similar vein to Final Fantasy games of the era, Grandia has its own take on an active battle system that’s a lot of fun to play. Depending on where the pips representing your characters are at any time, it’s possible to use certain attacks like the single-hit criticals to interrupt an enemy that’s about to use a high-damaging skill or heal themselves.
Compared to other RPGs made in the era of 90s polygon backgrounds and 2D sprites, Grandia doesn’t age anywhere near as badly, and there is some rather laughably bad voice acting to enjoy. The second Grandia game is also on PC, but we think the first is still the best.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin may not be the sequel to Monster Hunter: World that everyone is hoping for on PC, but this side story is worth playing. It offers “a Saturday morning cartoon presentation and a Pokémon-style turn-based battle system”, as Jordan explains in his Monster Hunter Stories 2 review.
There is always something to work towards; snatching eggs to hatch new monster friends, upgrading your ‘monsties’, or crafting new equipment from fallen foes. This roughly 40-hour romp will take you and your monsties across a lush world filled with bright colors, in which you encounter almost any variety of Monster Hunter wyvern imaginable. While the world waits for that Rise PC version, this is a great JRPG to sink several dozen hours into – and you don’t need to play the first Stories game on PC first to understand what’s going on.
Arise makes the classic JRPG series feel genuinely new again, with revamped visuals, a more fluid and intuitive combat system, and a mature story carrying you all the way to its conclusion.
It’s clearly made to embrace new players and if you’ve ever been curious about the Tales games then this is the best in-road. However, that doesn’t mean that series veterans have been side-lined at all – it’s refined rather than dumbed down. And if you’re at all curious then there’s a free demo on Steam so you can try it before you buy.
While its sequel is more of a tactical RPG, South Park: The Stick of Truth is probably the closest we’ll ever get to Paper Mario-style combat. As the ‘new kid’ that’s just moved into South Park, where the rest of the town’s children are playing a town-wide fantasy game, you soon ally with Butters, Kenny (who is dressed as a princess), and Cartman as you try to recover the hallowed Stick of Truth. The story soon descends into utter madness, with alien abductions, Nazi zombies, and a jaunty trip to Canada. Your overall enjoyment of The Stick of Truth largely depends on whether you find Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s sense of humour ‘funny’, and whether or not you can stand callbacks to many prior episodes of the TV show.
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One thing is for certain though: the battle system is actually pretty solid. Each action that either the ‘new kid’ or one of the South Park residents executes requires a button or sequence of buttons to be pressed at the right time, making for an engaging battle system that keeps you on your toes. Everything here is absurd, and yet it has some of the more memorable moments in a JRPG of recent years, especially if you live in Europe or Australia as their versions have censorship screens (Europe has a picture of the statue of David with his head in his hands, while Australia shows a crying Koala) that are somehow far funnier than the action they describe.
We hope you enjoyed this list of the best JRPGs. If you did, how about browsing some of the best free MMORPGs on PC, which can offer a JRPG experience on a macro scale? We also have a list of the best story games if you’re looking to unspool an epic yarn.