Kelley Ryan’s RPGs of the Decade
In addition to showing the results our staff-wide voting, our massive RPGs of the Decade feature allows individual staff members to highlight their personal favourites from the last ten years. While our main list is limited to entirely new entries from the decade, our writers have been given a bit more leeway for their personal lists, being able to combine titles into a single entry in their list of ten, include various remasters and ports, and use whatever ordering, or not, they wish. Here, Kelley Ryan gives us her picks.
Despite the abundance of complaints about this game, Final Fantasy XIII stuck with me and ended up being a favorite of mine. Granted, I could see some of its flaws (the game WAS extremely linear) but the battle system more than made up for it. Do not listen to the cries of “You Just Press X to Win!”. If you play the game like that, you’re playing it wrong. Being able to swap jobs mid-battle added a nice change of pace to the series.
Every fight in the game had me on my toes trying to come up with the right loadouts to get the job done. The story was also one of the most heart-wrenching to ever grace the series. Sera and Snow’s romance filled my heart with love, and I felt Snow’s pain when trying to get her back. This game certainly is a tearjerker.
For me, the original Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire were Pokémon at its best: all of the fun of Pokémon with Super Nintendo graphics and quality-of-life changes that made the games less of a chore. So when Game Freak announced that it was remaking Ruby and Sapphire for the 3DS, I was beside myself with excitement. If giving Pokémon the 3D treatment wasn’t enough, Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire also brought forward features from X and Y to make it more accessible than ever. Trading Pokémon via the GTS was awesome, and the experience share that let an entire party gain levels at the same pace was a godsend.
Pokémon OR/AS also had one of the better stories in the series, with a world domination plot that had stakes. Not only was this awesomely rendered in 3D, but gave that story a great epilogue with the Rayquaza chapter at the end. Overall, Pokémon OR/AS are brilliant reimaginings of a classic pair of games!
I like Fire Emblem. I also like Shin Megami Tensei. I too, was excited when Nintendo announced that these two games were crossing over. Granted, it wasn’t the game I thought it was going to be (I wanted a strategy-focused SMT). However, what we got was a little gem that, at the time, made owning a Wii U worth it.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE plays like a modern Persona game, with turn-based battles, extra turns when you attack a weakness, and mind-bending dungeons. Instead of invoking Personas though, you’re partnered with classic Fire Emblem characters. Treating each battle like a concert also makes them feel like you’re the star of a show. I didn’t think I would be down with the Idol Singer aspect of the story, but I was completely wrong. Each chapter left me wanting more, and the music FMV sequences were absolutely dazzling. Also, Barry Goodman is one of the funniest characters to ever grace an RPG.
Two words: CASUAL MODE! Finally a Fire Emblem I can enjoy without the stress of losing a healer to a bad dice roll. Fire Emblem: Awakening was a game changer for me and for the series. I couldn’t put this game down when it came out. Granted, the story was somewhat confusing (most Fire Emblem stories are). However, I couldn’t wait to put Chrom and his friends through any challenge that was thrown at them. The battle animations were IMMENSELY satisfying, and so nice to look at in 3D.
The most gratifying feature, however, was the Affinity system. Pairing up characters made them practically invincible, and them falling in love in the process was a bonus! Awakening has so much depth with its endless support conversations and character match-ups. It was the perfect way to inject life into the Fire Emblem series.
The early Legend of Heroes games left a bad taste in my mouth. When I got wind that Trails in the Sky had an awesome story, I was intrigued. Then I heard that the game ended on a big cliffhanger and we might not get the second game, and I was disappointed. Then, in 2015, Second Chapter FINALLY dropped, and I took it on with both barrels.
Estelle Bright is easily one of my favorite characters ever to grace a video game. She is tough but does not have that typical “tomboy” attitude that plagues most strong women in games. She also shows a sensitive side, but isn’t depicted as weak. Estelle is the perfect character, and her journey across both games is epic. Trails in the Sky also has a turn-based battle system that doesn’t feel stale. I love battle systems that make you consider your position as well as your HP bar. Hitting all of the enemies with an AoE or super move feels SO GOOD! Trails was definitely worth the 80 hours it took to complete.
Ys: Memories of Celceta was the game that prompted me to buy a Vita. Playing through it made that purchase worth every penny. This was the first official release of Ys IV outside of Japan, and boy was it worth the wait. This time around, Adol has lost his memory and is charged with exploring the land of Celceta in order to create a map.
In a way, the game feels almost Metroidvania-like as you learn new abilities to help push further and further through the land. Going back to explore old areas to get out-of-reach chests is a blast. The battle system also feels fast-paced and fresh. Along with Adol, you can control up to two other party members, and a total of of six join you overall. Each character has their strengths and weaknesses, and that is the key to getting through Celceta. This game is certainly an excellent way to experience Ys IV, and a good introduction to the series as a whole.
I thought that Dragon Quest VIII was the best game in the series. After IX felt like a step back, and X just not hitting the west, I thought we would never see another main Dragon Quest title. I sure am glad I was wrong on this prediction, because Dragon Quest XI is the best game in the series so far. You could say that XI takes everything that was great about VIII and amps it up to 11.
Each character model feels straight out of an anime, and Toriyama’s artwork shines like never before in this game. The voice acting is amazing and brings personality to each party member. The gameworld is also enormous and has plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. Dragon Quest XI also took its tried-and-true combat system and made it perfect for a modern audience. Gone is the static RPG Maker battle screen, and in comes a turn-based system that feels dynamic and exciting. Overall, Dragon Quest XI is the perfect evolution of the series that started the JRPG.
I think by the time this game came out, I must have watched the opening movie teaser trailer about a thousand times. I loved Persona 3 and 4, and wanted to see the direction the series would take. I think Persona 5 took the best aspects of its predecessors and turned them into an action-packed sequel.
I never thought stealth and role-playing would ever work together, but this game mixes the two styles almost flawlessly. Sneaking around each palace really got me into the dungeons, and I LOVED ripping the masks off of the shadows. I also loved the turn-based battles, and finishing a fight with an All Out Attack just put a smile on my face every time. What makes Persona 5 a winner for me is the aesthetic. Everything from the menus to the text to the music makes this game feel right out of a ’70s heist movie. I love it when a game takes a theme and runs with it, and Persona 5 certainly delivers.
I’m not going to lie, this is the first Final Fantasy game that had me worried for the future of the series. With Final Fantasy XV being a remnant of the unpopular “Fabula Nova Crystallis” series and being in development hell for so long, I wondered if it was going to live up to expectations. Its numerous demos also didn’t grab me. Then, on release day, I booted up the game and got lost in its world for 90+ hours. Right from the get-go, I bonded with the four main characters. It reminded me of being a teenager, with my beat-up old car, packed full of friends, driving off to wherever to get snacks. Everything about Noctis, Ignis, Gladio, and Prompto made me smile. From their charming banter to their horseplay and, ultimately, through their hardships. I didn’t feel like I was playing a game; I felt like I was going on a road trip with four of my best friends. I never wanted it to end, but I ultimately had to push forward and see it through.
I don’t want to ruin the experience for newcomers, but this game will run you through an emotional rollercoaster. One minute you’ll be laughing, and the next you’ll find yourself choking up, or full of pain as the boys argue. I also didn’t think it was possible for me to hate a villain in a game this much, but every time I saw Ardyn’s smug face, I wanted to rip his fedora off of his head and punch him. This game is powerful stuff. Also, Gladio is the best boy band member.
Indie games hit their stride in the 2010s. There were so many good ones, it was hard to play them all. In late 2015, I started seeing fanart for these weird skeleton characters, and was curious about their origins. That is when I learned about Undertale, and the internet told me “Don’t read the story. You have to play it!”. So I bit. In a single weekend, Undertale became my favorite game of the decade. Telling a good story is hard, especially when you have to wrap it up in gameplay. Undertale nails this with its interwoven narrative and combat. You are a kid that fell in a hole, trapped in a world where monsters were sealed away.
While you can get out by fighting, you are encouraged to talk your way out of battles. This aspect plays a MAJOR ROLE in how the game plays out. Go on a murderous rampage and kill everything? Well, you’re going to have a bad time. Spare everyone and take the peaceful option? Suddenly you are on a date with a skeleton and learning to cook from a fish monster. The writing in this game is what makes it so brilliant. A game that lets me bond with its characters is a game that can’t be forgotten easily. Undertale is an experience that makes you forget you are holding a controller. Toby Fox created a fascinating little world that will leave you remembering it long after you’ve shut off the game. This game is deserving of every single line of praise that it received. It is storytelling at its finest.