Long-Running RPG Series On The Top Of Their Game
It can be easy to look at the past and pine for it. Nostalgia for older titles is its own cottage industry at this point. Of course, many of those games are genuinely great, too. Alongside this comes the natural inclination to be extremely critical of newer content. Both of these phenomena appear to be the strongest when it comes to RPG titles.
One thing that should be emphasized is that we live in a blessed age of excellent video games. Even during an off-year, there will still be dozens of truly excellent titles released. While some major RPG franchises struggled a little during the seventh generation, many of them have been reasserting themselves in a big way. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that some of these series are in a better place now than they have ever been.
10 The Mana Series
The Mana series has always been the plucky underdog in Squaresoft's lineup. It started off as a Gameboy series, it then transitioned into a couple of (excellent) SNES titles, and a great Playstation game. After that, things got a little less consistent, and then they got pretty quiet. Many of the portable entries in the series weren't particularly well received. A not-great remake of Secret of Mana on the PS4 was released, followed by more quiet. However, things have been picking up quite a bit in recent years.
The mana series recently had an excellent collection release. This included a translation of Trials of Mana, which is an incredible game that was never released in the west. Soon after that, we received a very solid remake of the aforementioned Trials of Mana (which sold well beyond expectations). And just recently the experimental (and pretty cool) Legends of Mana from the PS1 was released digitally. That isn't it, though. Square has announced that there is a new Mana game in the making. Never before have we had such a deluge of Mana content. The series truly feels like it is in a better place than it has been in a long time. Maybe even ever.
9 Kingdom Hearts
Kingdom Hearts has never felt like it was in a necessarily bad place, there has been a fairly steady stream of games being released, and most of them were well-received. There has, however, been a growing sentiment that the series was maybe getting a little sidetracked. Moreover, the franchise was spread across a bunch of different platforms, making it difficult for new players to begin.
All of these issues have now been (largely) dealt with. The fantastic remasters are available on all the modern consoles, making it easy for anyone to start right from the beginning. And, most importantly, the third game in the franchise has now been released. It feels like Kingdom Hearts is in an excellent place now. There is no excuse for holdouts anymore. Come join us and lavish in Nomura's Disney-flavored fever dream.
8 Phantasy Star Online
The Phantasy Star Online series had a relatively strong start on the GameCube, but in recent years these games have struggled to earn themselves a release outside of Japan. With the most recent entry into the series, Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis, that has all changed.
Players from all over the world are now able to play: and they have been. Sega Sammy has said that the sales have been strong, and millions of players have now signed up. For the first time in years, things are looking very good for this fan-favorite franchise.
While Nier only has two games in the franchise (three if you consider the remake) it is remarkable to see how healthy the franchise is at this point. The original title is something of a spinoff to the Drakengard games. Drakkengard was always a series that had fans, but it was also a little rough around the edges and was generally considered niche. Nier continued that trend.
However, with Nier: Automata all of that changed. With its intriguing story, its incredible soundtrack, and its iconic characters it was able to establish itself as a certified classic. Since then, the first title was remade and released as Nier Replicant, selling considerably more copies than the original did.
6 Shin Megami Tensei
The Shin Megami Tensei series had not been released on a home console since Shin Megami Tensei 3 was released on the PS2 nearly twenty years ago. While the fourth game in the franchise dropped on the 3DS in 2013, the series has really started to hit its stride now, with nearly a new release every year.
From HD rereleases to new mobile entries to Shin Megami Tensei 5 releasing on the Switch, the series is more active now than it has ever been. Moreover, these new games have been consistently great.
5 Tales Series
The Tales series was undoubtedly at its strongest during the Playstation 1 and Playstation 2 eras. While the Tales games started out strong during the seventh gen of consoles with Tales Of Vesperia, the series would enter into a bit of a bumpy patch thereafter (that, unfortunately, lasted for about a decade).
However, Tales Of Berseria was better received than any other Tales game that had come out in years. Then, Tales Of Arise was released and completely blew the doors open. It now feels like the Tales series is experiencing a fierce renaissance. People are excited about the Tales franchise again. Possibly more than they have ever been.
4 Dragon Quest
With Dragon Quest 11 having been such a success, it may be easy to forget that the series went a solid thirteen years without releasing a console game. While Dragon Quest 9 was pretty well received, it also had a roster filled with generic NPCs, which made for less charming interactions. Dragon Quest 10 was an MMO that the west never received.
Moreover, with Dragon Quest 11 on the Switch, we have even received the ability to play Dragon Quest with both modern and nostalgic graphics, which is, at the very least, pretty cool. On top of that, there has been a steady stream of remakes and rereleases. It is a good time to be a Dragon Quest fan.
The long-running, beat-'em-up RPG franchise that feels like the modern reincarnation of River City Ransom seems to just be getting better with each passing year. There is now a mainline Yakuza series that is exploring an exciting new battle engine, as well as an off-shoot Judgment series that is carrying the torch for the action-RPG formula (and are immaculate experiences).
The Yakuza series has never truly been in bad shape. However, there was a period of time where people in the west never knew if they were going to receive the next game in this venerated franchise. But, those days are truly over. The series is in great shape, excellent games in the franchise are releasing at a steady pace, and they are all releasing outside of Japan. Now we just need Kenzan and Ishin to get ports and we will have truly ascended.
2 Monster Hunter
If there is one series that has been consistently high quality, it is the Monster Hunter series. However, as good as it has always been, it is only in recent years that it really started to take off in popularity worldwide. A big part of its success has to be chalked up to the incredible Monster Hunter World.
Many thought it was impossible, but Monster Hunter World managed to modernize the series, streamline a number of elements, but retain nearly everything that the longtime fans loved about it. Building on World's approach, we then received Rise, which does everything World did, but on the Switch. Even the side-titles have been pristine as of late, with Monster Hunter Stories 2 being one of the best-received side games in the franchise yet. It truly feels like Monster Hunter is in the best place it has ever been.
Certainly, there will be some fans of the first three Persona games that aren't as into the series focusing so much on the social link aspect that the new titles have introduced, but for everyone who is on board with the iterations that Persona 3 brought to the series, it is unquestionably in a very strong state now.
Not only is Persona one of the premier JRPG series on the market, but there are a number of excellent rhythm-based games, and fighting games, attached to the series as well. It is impressive how much the series has grown. Persona is unquestionably in a very good place.
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