The Final Fantasy series has spanned decades, with the 16th mainline title announced, plus dozens of spinoff titles across dozens of consoles. The series was one of the first to establish many of the conventions JRPGs would be known for, but also revolutionizing on those systems with nearly every installment. It isn’t just the combat that made this series so popular for all this time, though. The story, worlds, and characters have kept players invested for hundreds of hours.
While Final Fantasy remains the biggest name in the JRPG market, that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other high quality games that have a similar feel to these classic adventures. Whether you like the classic turn based battles, more action focused titles, or just want a gripping story to sink dozens of hours into, there are more options than you might think outside of this series. If you’re looking for something similar to scratch that itch, or perhaps find a new series that can hold you over until the latest entry drops, we’ve rounded up the best games like Final Fantasy you can play right now.
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Back before the merger, the two main rival JRPG developers were Square Soft and Enix. Square Soft obviously had their Final Fantasy series, while Enix’s crowned jewel was Dragon Quest. Unlike Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest didn’t take off in the west until much later, but if you asked us to point at the example of a traditional JRPG series, Dragon Quest would be the one. Dragon Quest 11 is the newest entry in the series, with the updated version including even more content and coming to more platforms. If you like your stories about traditional heroes gathering an eclectic group of unlikely saviors to protect the world from evil and your combat systems the purest form of a turn based system, this is the perfect game for you. Every character and monster, ever since the series began, is also designed by the legendary Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame, giving the game a beautiful and unique identity.
Originally released as a Wii exclusive, but now updated and enhanced for the Switch, Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition is a masterful blend of old and new. Rather than pitting heroes weilding swords and spells against monsters, the conflict in Xenoblade Chronicles lies between man and machine. The story centers around a boy named Shulk, who you may know from Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, who acquires a special sword called the Monado that allows him to see into the future. This blade is the in universe justification for the battle system, which is based on real time positioning and chaining together your party’s attacks and abilities. The Wii wasn’t able to do justice to the massive open environments this game boasts, but the new version on the Switch allows the game to run great, look fantastic, plus add new quality of life improvements and a brand new epilogue.
This game is basically a Final Fantasy title in all but name. Created by Hironobu Sakaguchi, the original creator of the Final Fantasy franchise, along with Nobuo Uematsu and writer Kiyoshi Shigematsu split off to form Mistwalker studios and create this brand new game that is a clear spiritual successor to their previous games. Unfortunately, being made as an Xbox 360 exclusive in an attempt to market the console to a Japanese audience ended up backfiring somewhat, leaving this incredible gem of a game stranded on a console whose primary player base wasn’t interested in JRPGs, no matter how fantastic they were. This is another classic turn based style game with a mostly traditional medieval setting, though hints of more advanced technology does appear. What makes this game stand out, at least among those who played it, is the story and writing. Many consider this game to be the best written JRPG of all time, with characters that you will actually care about and moments, specifically the “A Thousand Years of Dreams” sections, bringing many gamers to tears. Don’t let this one slip under your radar.
Okay, we’re slightly cheating with this entry since it isn’t just one game but a full collection. Still, if you haven’t played the Kingdom Hearts series, there’s never been a better time. As Final Fantasy moves more toward the action RPG side of things, Kingdom Hearts has been there the entire time providing varying styles of that combat system. This is another Square-Enix series, helmed by Final Fantasy veteran Tetsuya Nomura, and even includes many Final Fantasy characters throughout the series, such as Cloud, Squall, and Auron. This collection bundles in Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance HD, Kingdom Hearts 0.2 A Fragmentary Passage, Kingdom Hearts 3, and cutscene compilations of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, Kingdom Hearts Re: coded, and Kingdom Hearts X Back Cover.
While that all may sound overwhelming, the game lays itself out in the order in which you should experience the games, making it simple to play them in the correct order. While each game is slightly different, they do all tend to lean more on the action side of things and are a bit lighter on the RPG systems. If you liked Final Fantasy 7: Remake, for example, these games will be a great next step to take. If you can get invested in the story, this collaboration of Disney and Square-Enix properties is a rabbit hole well worth falling down.
We’ve already had a few other Square-Enix, or SquareSoft, developed games on this list, but hey, who better to go to for a game like Final Fantasy than the people who made it? Chrono Trigger is seen as a timeless, pardon the pun, classic for all the best reasons. The music is outstanding, the characters completely unique and fully realized, and the writing dynamic in ways most JRPGs don’t even dare to replicate. The plot revolves around saving the world, no big surprise there, but with a time travel twist that actually makes sense and doesn’t break its own rules. It isn’t an overly long game, either, and never asks you to really grind or waste time on meaningless side quests. There are side quests, to be sure, but they’re actually somewhat deep and worth getting invested in.
What really pushes Chrono Trigger over the top in many player’s eyes is how flexible the game is. Most people’s first playthroughs will look fairly similar, but once you go into new game plus you realize just how much the game takes your actions into account. You probably won’t realize it, but you can challenge the final boss essentially any time you want, and the game will have unique endings for every point in the game where you manage to beat it. It may be an older game, but the pixel art is still beautiful to this day. Seriously, don’t let the hype turn you off of this one.
Chrono Trigger and Dragon Quest both took advantage of the artistic skills of Akira Toriyama to give their game’s a unique style, but Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch went straight for the kings of anime and brought on Studio Ghibli to animate the game’s cutscenes. The in game models, while not quite as appealing as their 2D counterparts, are still oozing with Ghibli charm and wonder. The studio also lent a hand in writing the story of the game, which is another tearjerker just to warn you, but with a lot of heart. Needless to say, if you’re a Ghibli fan, this is an easy reccomendation.
In terms of gameplay, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch has elements of a Pokemon game in the form of familiars you can use to fight for you, or you can fight with Oliver, the main character, himself. Either way, you directly control the character in a 3D battlefield using attacks, spells, and abilities like you would expect. You will take on quests, side quests, and just explore the fantastical world. The entire map is open right from the start, letting you explore to your heart’s content. This is a cozy, heartwarming title fit for gamers of all ages.
Another old, but classic JRPG from the SNES era is the cult hit EarthBound aka Mother 2. Like Shulk from Xenoblade Chronicles, most people were probably first introduced to Ness, the main character of EarthBound, through the Super Smash Brothers games, where he has appeared in every entry. This JRPG still stands out as being one of the most unique in the genre for its setting alone, which is a twist on modern day suburban life. The battle system is also one that no other game has really tried to replicate, using turn based battles that use a kind of ticker system for health. When you take damage the ticker for your HP will obviously begin ticking down, but if you can manage to use an item or win the battle before the ticker goes all the way down, you won’t take the full damage. That means attacks that deal more damage than you have can be survived if you act quick enough.
EarthBound’s major influence has been its writing. The clever ways the game breaks the fourth wall has inspired many future games, including the hit indie Undertale, which the creator actually made ROM hacks for, and cites the game as a goal he wanted to hit in terms of emotion, humor, and sense of wonder. While we may never officially get the next game in the series, the GBA game Mother 3, EarthBound is still an experience that more than stands on its own among the best JRPGs.
We’ve touched on games with very strong ties to Final Fantasy, but Bravely Default takes things to the next level by being a game so much like Final Fantasy that it was originally planned to be a mainline title. It eventually grew into something so different that it became its own franchise, with two more games in the series so far, but the roots of it can easily be traced to the classic Final Fantasy games it was meant to be a part of. The main holdover from those early plans is the story, focusing on four elemental crystals that will immediately scream Final Fantasy to anyone whose played the early games in the series.
Where Bravely Default strikes out and makes a name for itself is in the battle system. It takes the best aspects of turn based battles and the job system from Final Fantasy, but adds in the titular Brave and Default actions. The amount of Brave Points, or BP, a character has determines how many actions they can take on their turn, with some more powerful attacks for example costing multiple BP. Default is a mix of a normal defend move, but allows that character to build up extra BP for their next turn. You can also spend more BP than you have, but will then loose future turns until the debt is paid off. All of this leads to an immensely satisfying battle system that makes every fight dynamic and engaging.
What do you get when you combine the framework of a Final Fantasy game, throw in a dash of Pokemon’s monster catching formula, light life sim elements, and give it some of the most striking visuals and design of any game out there? Persona 5: Royal is the answer. Another updated version of a game for the list, this time adding even more content to a game that could already take up 100 hours of playtime, and yet we were more than happy to jump back in. The story, thanks to strong characters you can really get to know through social links, is very grounded for a JRPG that involves summoning spiritual monsters to fight for you and deals with issues in a surprisingly mature and delicate way.
Battles, meanwhile, are turn based affairs where exploiting enemy weaknesses is the key to victory. The press turn system means that any time you hit an enemy with their elemental weakness, their turn is skipped, allowing you to follow up with another attack. If you hit every enemy with their weakness before they can recover, your entire team can rush them for a powerful all out attack. But be aware that you and your party are just as susceptible to elemental weaknesses too. The entire Persona series has been improving and evolving, getting more and more attention, and with this latest entry is looking to be just as major of a JRPG series as the likes of Final Fantasy.
If Final Fantasy sits at the top tier of JRPG series, at least in terms of popularity and exposure, then the Tales of series would sit somewhere two or three notches below that, at least for now. The series has been steadily growing its audience with each game, and the upcoming Tales of Arise looks to be the series’ breakout hit. Perhaps due to a few less favorable entries in the series, or confusing naming convention, it is still somewhat of a hidden gem in world of JRPGs. But, just like any great JRPG, its the characters that really make Tales of Vespiria Definitive Edition worthy of picking up.
Vespiria isn’t the newest game in the franchise, that’d be Tales of Bersaria, but this upgraded version of one of the best rated games in the entire series adds in two more characters, more quests, costumes, and of course brings it to modern consoles. Most games have similar action based combat, though with their own unique twists and additions of course, but its the characters and their interactions where most players draw the line on which they prefer more. And there’s no real reason to worry about the titles. Each game stands alone so pick whichever one seems most interesting to you, as long as you have the platform to play it on, and give it a shot.
This small title developed by Tokyo RPG Factory wears its SNES JRPG inspirations on its sleeve. I Am Setsuna is so close to one of those old school games in almost every way that it feels like a game made in that era that was just rediscovered and released. The game is set in a land locked in a never ending winter and features a party lead by a mercenary and the maiden Setsuna he is responsible for protecting. Similar to Final Fantasy X, and spoilers ahead for that game, your role as her protector is to help her sacrifice herself to keep a force of evil demons at bey. Along the way you will encounter new party members with their own motivations and personalities, but this game’s main theme is wrapped in melancholy.
Of course the battle system also borrows from JRPGs of the era, and I Am Setsuna adopts one of the most popular: the active battle system, or ATB for short. You travel around overworlds from an isometric perspective, and enter combat by contacting enemies on the map without switching to a new screen, just like Chrono Trigger. From there, battles will feel like second nature to JRPG veterans. You que up attacks, cast spells, unleash Tech attacks, again borrowing from Chrono Trigger, but the twist is the Setsuna gauge. When this meter is filled you can trigger a momentum change that buffs your character’s actions, such as being able to attack multiple times, healing, and getting guaranteed crits.
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