Top 10 jRPGs of the 1990s

8. Vagrant Story

Vagrant Story is one of those games that people love or hate.  It was one of the earliest entries into Squaresoft’s Ivalice series, which also includes Final Fantasy 12 and Final Fantasy Tactics.  It follows Ashley, a Riskbreaker, which is essentially a sort of medieval special forces, as he tries to hunt down the criminal/cult leader Sydney Losstarot who, by the way, he incredibly cool looking magic robot arms and a badass full back tattoo.  Key to this game is its story, which is both incredibly interesting and stylishly told.  Ashley Riot is motivated by the memory of his wife and children getting killed, but Sydney reveals to him that it was actually him that did the deed, leaving Ashley to wonder throughout the game: who’s lying to him, his government employers or the charismatic rebel?

7. Valkyrie Profile

Valkyrie Profile is an incredibly beautiful game that follows a unique storytelling mechanic.  You play as a Norse Valkyrie, tasked to find heroes to bring to Valhalla to participate in Ragnarok.  The execution of this is done in the form of vignetted short stories, each focusing on a new protagonist, tied loosely together by a story about humans’ rebellion against the Gods, the Valkyrie’s human life, and the ongoing preparation for the Ragnarok itself.  On top of this, it boasts a unique gameplay style that mixes sidescrolling puzzles with unique RPG battles.  It possesses artistry, heart and originality in spades.

6. Breath of Fire 3

Breath of Fire 3, the third entry to the Breath of Fire series which, overall, is very good, is the best of the bunch.  It has a timeless art style that has aged very well, and tells a deeply engrossing story about Ryu, the last dragon, on his quest to find God and, in turn, find out who he is and what happened to his people.  There’s a very interesting gameplay system wherein you collect the genes of dragons, Ryu’s ancestors, and combine them to create new, powerful dragon forms for Ryu to turn into.  It has another feature where characters can apprentice under ‘masters’, which teach skills and alter their stats, allowing you to shore up a characters’ weaknesses or embellish their strengths.  The story itself is textbook great.  It’s crisp and told effectively with a series of emotional chapters that provide great character development and an overall compelling narrative.  Just look up a guide for the desert of death, whew.  Also, it has, weirdly enough, a super fun fishing minigame that you can easily lose hours to.