CGR's Games of the Decade - RPG


What makes a game stand out against its peers? Honestly? Often it's because if how it resonates with the person more than how it may compare in a by the numbers game.

Continuing on our two week gush fest to celebrate Chalgyr's Game Room's 10th anniversary, here is perhaps one of our more anticipated categories with our team's RPGs!

Mass Effect 2

Not a traditional RPG in any sense, but like the Dragon Age games, Mass Effect made player choice actually matter. A shooter with a ton of RPG elements from dialog, skill trees and exploration, this was the series at its highest. I could have put a Dragon Age game or two in here as well - I adore both series (well, at least until Andromeda came out a couple of years ago), but Mass Effect 2 was not only a high point in the series, but for RPGs in general.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

To put it bluntly - I spent over 140 hours with this game on my first playthrough. The emphasis on choice mentioned about Bioware games in my Mass Effect 2 section holds true here, just with prettier graphics and a far less restrictive world. There were flaws, to be sure. The characters were somewhat shallow compared to other Dragon Age and Mass Effect games, but as someone who loves high fantasy, this title - like Skyrim - made me feel like I was exploring a huge, living, breathing world, and it became my choice for Game of the Year in 2014.

Persona 4 Golden

Sure, this is technically a remake of an older game, but the updates were more than just superficial and introduced numerous people to a franchise that was somewhat niched still at the time. Since then, the Persona franchise has become incredibly popular, and the best game on the PlayStation Vita had a lot to do with that.

Dragon Quest XI

This was a tough one but after a few weeks of thought, as much as I loved the overall adventure of the alchemist Firis, Gust's Atelier Firis couldn't compare to Square's Dragon Quest XI. Keeping all of what makes a Dragon Quest so special, this was one for the books with modern enhancements, a post-game that actually answers a fairly huge what if, AND, it felt more than just grinding for a final dungeon. It had a story just as good as the main adventure. With Dragon Quest XI S now out for the Nintendo Switch, I can't wait to go back through the whole adventure but in sprite mode!

Atelier Firis

My runner up to my RPG of the Decade is Atelier Firis. Before Ryza that came out this year and set the bar for the series, Firis was the bar. Open world-ish adventure with plenty of Alchemy, there was finally a time limit system that made sense as it was the journey of two sisters over the course of a year to see if Firis really could become an alchemist and prove everyone wrong. Everything about this adventure was just amazing and it really is a JRPG worth everyone's time.

Pillars of Eternity 2

There is a long, LONG list for what I would consider an RPG of the Decade but taking #3 over the likes of Ni No Kuni 1-2, Torment: Tides of Nemeria, Shin Megami Tensei IV or Tales of Xillia 2, is Obsidian's sequel to Pillars of Eternity. DAMN. Pillars of Eternity was good, but the sequel? Better in every regard. Taking up from the end of the first, you now get to explore the high seas as a captain of your own ship as well as play D&D in a video game the way you want to. Configuring my Rogue as an Assassin wielding a two-handed greatsword for backstabs? It doesn't get any better than that. Combine that with excellent writing, incredible side quests and consequences that bite you HOURS down the line? I can't wait to see what they come out with next in this series.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

When I initial reviewed The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt it was chalk-full of bugs, some of which were game-breaking as they prevented me from breaking out of combat (with an enemy that spawned beneath the world box), and I was harsh on it. Fortunately a short patch later I was able to start anew and things have been smooth sailing since. When I look back at many of the RPGs that I have played over the years, few have felt as real and believable as The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. From quest designs that border on genius to a massive open world spanning many locations referenced to within the Witcher franchise. It is, dare I say, perfect. From engaging combat to a believable fantasy world, to the stunning performance of its actors. Every piece simply fell into place with Wild Hunt, and we are all richer for it.

Mass Effect 2

Few franchises will hold up to the test of time as well as the Mass Effect trilogy does. While the first was clunky all around, it introduced us to a futuristic setting full of mystery, majesty, and Mass Relays, and though the third entry in the Mass Effect franchise has its share of controversy, it still gracefully closed the door on the most beloved characters in the galaxy. Mass Effect 2 has, and likely will always be, referenced as one of the greatest RPGs of all time, with spectacular action, meaningful choices, and an end-game sequence that is downright chilling. With some of the most memorable moments in gaming, Mass Effect 2 is the pinnacle of Bioware's signature style. A shame it went all downhill from there.

Persona 4: The Golden

For all of my love of JRPGs and almost all things anime it might surprise you to hear I didn't actually play Persona 4 until about 2016-2017 when I finally got my grubby little fingers on a PlayStation Vita (seriously misunderstood and undermarketed system, shame on Sony…). Once I did though, Persona 4: The Golden was the first game I installed on it (followed quickly by Tales of Hearts R) and it being my Persona title, well … I was blown away. From gorgeous characters and touching moments, the high-school-daily-life-simulator-meets-dark-RPG is easily one of the best JRPGs of the past 20 years and without a doubt the single best title available for the PlayStation Vita. Strong choices, near-infinite replayability, and a wonderful story have cemented it as an instant classic.


Transistor

Transistor is an action RPG that drew me in immediately, with the brilliant and spectacular music, the combat elements, and the story. Its combat is turn-based in certain places, where players can choose what actions they wish to take and in which order, allowing flexibility in certain encounters. It sucked me in very quickly while I was streaming one day, and I ended up spending more time on stream than intended! Transistor was highly regarded much like Bastion, another game created by the same developers, and I found that I enjoyed Transistor much more than its predecessor. (Also because I sucked at playing Bastion...)

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is a Harvest Moon adaptation game where players grow crops, level relationships with other townsfolk, and explore the mines in order to build a successful farming business. This game has a little something for everyone like combat in the mines, fishing in all waters, farming crops, and building up relationships with the townsfolk to eventually marry a person that does help players (like some will water plants for you). I love that this game allows you the freedom to make money in a variety of ways and only has one irritating feature. Should you die in the mines, the cost of death is fairly steep like losing a bunch of your items, gold, and the rest of the day. To do this makes sense overall but it's a steep cost considering how much time it takes to upgrade some of the tools that could be lost. One more thing that I appreciate is that the game doesn't restrict players. If you want to marry the homeless man Linus, you can! There is no judgement in Stardew Valley and that is awesome.

Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth

This was the Digimon game I wasn’t aware I needed. I’ve always been a fan of the Digimon franchise, but never really got into the games. Cyber Sleuth, however? I couldn’t put it down. With a huge roster including all of my favorite Digimon, some interesting sidequest style missions to complete, the weirdest coffee blends ever imagined, and an evolutionary tree that you can go up and down basically at will and that’s interconnected, there was a lot I absolutely loved about this game. If you haven’t checked this out, I highly suggest you do. It’s kooky, funny, and full of some awesome Digimon.

Mary Skelter Nightmares

While I’ve always been a huge fan of dungeon crawlers, picking one to put on this list was tough. Between Demon Gaze I and II and Mary Skelter, it was a tough choice, but Mary Skelter had the advantage. Set on a stage of a living prison where the characters are synonymous with famous fairy tales and stories, you fight your way through eldritch abominations and really disturbing bosses to escape the “Jail”. With a really awesome soundtrack that contains my number one favorite credits theme hands down, an interesting customization system for acquiring and equipping skills, and some really interesting level designs, I really loved the spin put on the classic fairy tales used as the basis of Mary Skelter Nightmares.

Trails of Cold Steel

I’m a big RPG fan, but before playing Cold Steel I was starting to get a little fed up with some of the common tropes and re-hashed ideas that I had been seeing. Trails of Cold Steel doesn’t really stray too far from the standard formula, it does it really well. I loved the battle system, I loved the soundtrack, that one paralysis based boss can go eat a sack of bricks, and it had the first fishing minigame I’ve ever enjoyed in an RPG. While the story may feel like it alternates between action-packed and a bit of a slog at times, I enjoyed the change in pace that alternating between “recreational time” with your teammates and going out into the field to mostly do battle assignments brought. Throw in a bunch of sidequests and hidden quests to do, and there’s a lot going on. Probably one of the few games that I’ll actually remember my character builds for, as “Phantom Fie” and “Annihilator Laura” were a bit of a guilty pleasure.

Bravely Default

Hands down one of the best games I've played in a long time. Turn base style battles were my childhood. Throw in some job classes, fun characters, AN AMAZING SOUNDTRACK and you've got yourself 150 hours of pure joy. All you gotta know is that the violin, flute, clarinet and accordion are the true heroes of this game.

Persona 5

[You'll never see it coming!] Huh? What's that? I can't hear you over this really awesome music! I gotta say waiting for this game to come out in 2015 was worth the wait. [Where have you been? Been searching all along!] Colourful, in every sense of the word from its characters, to its fighting style and story. Hold on, I see a boss battle on the horizon. [Creating Rivers in the Desert!]

Odin Sphere Leifthrasir

I've always been fan of Vanillaware titles, but never got the chance to play Odin Sphere until it was re-release for the Vita. My GOD! Why did I ignore this game for so long. Each character has their own unique story and fighting style, so nothing is two in the same. Pretty sure I cried from start to finish for its beautiful art style. A must play for those who like rich fantasy.

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