Narrowing down the top 10 RPGs on the PSX is no simple task. Much like the Genesis was famous for its sports games and the original Xbox became synonymous with first person shooters, the PSX was undoubtedly the greatest system of all time for RPG gamers.
With literally hundreds of titles to choose from ranging from abysmal to genre defining, we knew it would be impossible to come up with a list everyone will agree with. Even creating a list we’re happy with here at CG was a challenge, but we dug in our heels, laced up our boots and dove in anyway. Three days, four black eyes, countless Red Bull, numerous fractures/contusions and even one pillow fight later we’re finished. This is Casualty Gamer’s top 10 RPGs for the PSX.
10. Saga Frontier
If Saga Frontier has one obvious flaw it’s that the game tries to do too much. This planet hopping RPG lets you play as 7 different characters, each with their own main storyline to complete and several side quests they can embark on. Structuring the game this way helped keep things feeling fresh since each storyline was shorter than a traditional RPG’s main story.
Unfortunately the lack of a cohesive overall quest hurt the game in that players really didn’t have much motivation to keep playing after they had completed two or three different characters’ quests and seen most of what the game had to offer. The overall generic art style didn’t help matters either, but the game still has all the polish we’ve come to expect from Squaresoft.
This one won’t change your life, but it’s a great ride.
This was probably the first Game Arts RPG most people got their hands on and while it never quite lived up to it’s big brother “Lunar” it certainly holds it’s own against the impressive stable of PSX rpgs. The combat system is more in-depth than that of Lunar and the graphics were very solid for it’s time.
The only real complaint I had about this game is that it never really managed to wow me. Sure, once I picked this little gem up I couldn’t bring myself to put it down until I was finished with it, but I walked away from this one wanting more. I expect this was to do with the game’s lack of any real challenge. The combat system is so flexible that any competent RPG player should be able to handle just about anything the game throws at them with relative ease.
8. Revelations: Persona
This game refused to play by the rules. Probably the most original RPG since Shadowrun for the SNES and Genesis, Persona was like nothing we’d ever seen before. The gameplay is hard to describe. Everything about it screams RPG, yet everything from the combat system to the storyline and even the setting were completely groundbreaking for the genre.
The game does get bogged down here and there with some lengthy first person dungeon crawls (a problem that was fixed by the time Persona 2 came around), but it earned it’s spot on our list through sheer innovation and plain old fun.
The Persona series’ fans take the words “die hard” to a whole new level. Speak ill of this one at your own risk.
Certainly the most action oriented RPG on our list, Alundra plays a lot like Zelda or Legacy of Kain, with a heavy emphasis on puzzle elements. Like most of Working Designs imports, the English translation was nearly flawless.
Graphically Alundra is about as nice looking as a 2d game can get with a pleasing art style and some excellent animations. Many gamers were turned off by the game’s rage inducing difficulty, but for those who were willing to stick with it, Alundra proved to be a truly rewarding experience.
Suikoden is unique in that it allows players to control up to 6 characters in combat rather than the traditional 3. It also features a seemingly endless cast of playable characters making it feel at times like the “War and Peace” of the gaming world. Fortunately the story is a fairly simple one so keeping track of important characters and their place in the game isn’t difficult.
The game was panned by some hardcore RPG fans who found it to be to easy for their tastes, but for many the game’s lack of challenge was made up for by a unique storyline, refreshing combat, and absolutely stellar audio presentation.
5. Vagrant Story
Vagrant Story isn’t just another Squaresoft RPG. It plays like a cross between Heroes of Might and Magic, Diablo and your favorite Final Fantasy game. It came out late in the PSX life cycle and it certainly shows in the game’s impressive 3d graphics.
At it’s core, Vagrant Story is basically just a dungeon hack with a very unusual combat system. It also focuses heavily on puzzle solving which was unfamiliar territory for Square at the time. It is, perhaps, a little lighter on story and character interaction than most Square RPGs but the story that is there is interesting and the characters are some of the coolest we’ve ever seen. The pacing is also excellent. Vagrant Story never bogs down to the point where it feels like a grind like many dungeon crawlers do after a long play session.
4. Wild Arms
A Wild West themed, gun toting RPG. Wild Arms felt like a breath of fresh air in a time of Japanese flavoured steampunk RPGs. Beneath it’s unique exterior, Wild Arms didn’t offer much we hadn’t seen in the 16 bit era, but what’s there is charming, clean looking and a hell of a lot of fun.
The game’s overall style and penchant for action oriented puzzles drew criticism from hardcore RPG fans, but there’s a lot to like here if you can keep an open mind.
3. Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete
As an old school Sega fan, the original Lunar: The Silver Star for Sega CD was the first RPG I ever really cut my teeth on. In that sense it will always hold a special place in my heart, much like Final Fantasy 3 (6) does for so many North American gamers.
Lunar wasn’t really revolutionary in any substantial ways apart from it’s groundbreaking use of stunning anime cut scenes, but what it does, it does extremely well. Lunar reeks of polish from the graphics, to the translation, to the seamless combat system.
2. Final Fantasy 7
You knew it was coming. The grandfather of them all. Easily the best selling title on this list and arguably (not really) the most popular RPG even to this day. Perhaps single handedly responsible for Sony’s astounding success on their first foray into the console industry, there isn’t much left to say about Final Fantasy 7 that hasn’t been said already.
I may have been crucified for suggesting this 10 years ago, but the fact is Final Fantasy 7 didn’t do much we hadn’t seen before gameplay wise. The main reason this game had such a resounding impact is that it was the first game to remind many of us that the 16 bit days were gone and dead. Weighing in at a hefty 3 discs with beautiful pre-rendered backgrounds, face melting CG cut scenes and some of the coolest looking summoning spells to this very day, FF7 was an absolute assault on the senses. Top that off with an excellent combat system, some intriguing characters and just the right amount of tragedy and you’ve got a real winner.
A traditional RPG in every sense of the word, Xenogears was the culmination of everything Squaresoft learned during the PSX era, arguably Squaresoft’s greatest era. Freed from the somewhat linear expectations placed upon any game in the Final Fantasy series, Squaresoft were able to really let loose with Xenogears and try something new. The result? Giant mechs of course.
The combination of a traditional JRPG with giant mech based combat sounds like a bit of a hard pill to swallow, but Xenogears has one of the best stories ever in an RPG. The writers managed to explain the presence of these mechanised behemoths in this world of magic and monsters quiet well. With some of the greatest production values we’ve ever seen in a game, well over 80 hours of play time, some of the slickest looking in-game graphics and cut scenes on the PSX and a perfectly balanced combat system, there’s really not much to dislike about Xenogears. If you haven’t played it already you’re missing out.
That’s all we’ve got for you. I know there are tons of very deserving games that didn’t make the cut here today. So what’s your favorite PSX RPG?