Ryan Radcliff’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, Ryan Radcliff gives us his picks.
NieR rubbed my own ignorance in my face. When it first launched, I had a friend, whose opinion I respected when it came to RPGs, spout the greatness of this game. I looked it up, and something about the artwork on the cover turned me off. So…I passed on it. It wasn’t until NieR: Automata was announced that I finally gave the game a chance, and boy was I blown away.
It is a clunky game, no question about it, but the music is beautiful, and the grim story of the ugly man on the cover trying to save his daughter really hit me emotionally like no game had before. After watching the true ending and shedding a few tears along the way, this game rocketed up to one of the most precious RPGs I have ever played. Hopefully in the future I will use this game as a precursor to not judge a book (or game, in this instance) by its cover.
The Tales series wasn’t new to me when I got around to Tales of Graces f, but I had heard of the game, and knowing it was finally getting translated and coming stateside left me eager to give it a try. What I experienced was a decent story about friendship trumping any adversity, and a main character who was one of the most oblivious main characters ever, but the battle system, which I already enjoyed, was amplified in a way that I have yet to see topped in a RPG.
Maybe it was my propensity to align with things similar to the Smash Brothers fighting game series, but Graces’ battle system felt eerily similar to that of Smash. Tales already had a system where characters could use different artes depending on which direction is pressed to execute a few different types of specials, but Graces amplified that system and added directional inputs for normal attacks, too! This, plus the inclusion of the Titles leveling system, made fighting more interesting, and, for me, less of a grind than other games. I enjoyed playing as Hubert mostly, but all the characters had unique fighting styles which all were amusing in their own right. It’s not often you get to control a mage who can ride his bladed boomerang in battle while slinging spells all across the battlefield!
PC games usually fly under my radar, but working at RPGamer has led me to discover a lot of great RPG gems hiding behind my computer monitor. CrossCode just happens to be one of these games, and while some of the puzzles were mind-numbingly tedious, the overall game and adventure was a refreshing one.
It felt so fun running around in a game which is mostly explorable, with new areas opening after each chapter, and secrets in older areas become accessible when new gear and enhancements are obtained. I am definitely a sucker for a game with old-school aesthetics, but the fast-paced battle and puzzle systems were new and innovative enough to make CrossCode appeal to the new and old-school gamers in me.
Not the most proper RPG on my list, but it has enough features from the genre to qualify for it. I pre-ordered the Switch because of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and I was not disappointed. The depth that opens up once the glider is unlocked is truly remarkable. I remember finding a tower, climbing to the top, and scanning the remarkable world for potential points of interest to investigate while also stumbling across numerous puzzles and secrets waiting for me.
Just knowing that anything I could see off in the distance was some place I could explore really left me in awe. I could tell this hybrid console had some serious power to it and Nintendo utilized all of it to leave a lasting impression for generations to come with this masterpiece.
Dragon Quest XI is long, but I could not put it down. The game quickly skyrocketed past all previous entries and established itself atop the Dragon Quest hierarchy of games I have played, beaten, and enjoyed. I really loved the cast too. I usually cringe when I hear of flamboyant characters in games, so I was hesitant at first when I heard there was an effeminate character named Sylvando in this one. Darling, let me tell you he knocks his role out of the park! He left me grinning more times than I can count, and his relaxed nature helped level the tension at times.
While he certainly shines bright amongst the cast, the other team members hold their weight really well. As a packaged deal the story, cast, and experience of DQXI works really well, and I can’t wait to see how they expand the series in future installments. Seeing this project succeed has me thinking the Dragon Quest series is in good hands for the time being.
The one teaser trailer of Octopath Traveler was all I needed to get thoroughly excited about this new retro project Square Enix was pumping out. Sign me up for a retro turn-based RPG with tons of old-school appeal, a breathtaking soundtrack, and graphics to match. I love tinkering with parties, and this game gave me eight characters with job classes and sub jobs for everyone, and eventually some unlockable jobs too.
While the game lacks polish when it comes to character interactions, the ending delivers in a very satisfying way for everyone as all the stories that seemed as if they were one-off arcs become connected before the grueling boss rush finale. I wore that Moogle Charm reward with pride afterwards.
Suicide Runs galore. The idea that my subpar decisions in a game could lead to a rather inauspicious ending left me bothered, but ultimately it was my own actions that led to these results. Mass Effect 2 made me feel the gravity of my decisions, as I saw important members getting killed off because of how I treated people in the past.
After the first game, I definitely was ready to enjoy another adventure with Commander Shepard and the other Normandy crew members. The galaxy was bigger, the battles were larger and better constructed, and the story starts epic and finishes in a dramatic fashion that had me question my every decision up to the end. I feel as though Mass Effect 2 is the high point in the series, and hope the franchise can return to this kind of standard in the future.
Another doozy of a game as far as time investment goes. This game is SO flashy and I love how it presents itself with its color schemes and animations. The gang this time is a group of thieves that have to steal the hearts of people who have been corrupted by some earthly possession.
Since the third game, the series has adopted the social links and school day-to-day routine, but in Persona 5 these segments are fleshed out more than ever, and the surrounding cast helps bring every interaction to life. While not reaching the levels that Persona 4 reached for me, this game still does a serviceable job of delivering a grand RPG experience. The wait was definitely worth it.
I was shocked when I heard the news that some fuddy duddy of a game with ugly box art was getting a sequel. Lo and behold, NieR: Automata, built on a much more refined engine thanks to PlatinumGames’ involvement, was a much more fluid and fun game than its predecessor.
The game is filled with emotional moments and tons of extraordinary scenes, but some of the better story beats are taken from the original game, so the impact wasn’t as powerful for me. Still, Yoko Taro is building masterpieces here, so the sooner we get a third game, the better!
This game is slightly tarnished by its relationship to the much less well regarded Tales of Zestiria, but only because it shares the same game world. Thankfully, nothing else of consequence trickles down from its predecessor and seemingly Bandai Namco released this gem in hopes people forgot Zestiria existed.
Tales of Berseria returns to a classic Tales battle system and has a cast that’s so wicked, it’s entertaining. The battles are fun, the story is enjoyable, and the skits are classic Tales goodness.