10 Turn-Based RPGs With The Best Stories

Stories in games have come quite a long way since the days of rescuing Peach from Bowser, but the genre that often boasts the most intricate and fascinating tales is the role-playing game. Within that broad spectrum, from western RPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Diablo, all the way to Japanese RPGs like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, the turn-based affairs that became ravenously popular during the 1990s have been the home to some of the finest stories ever seen in the medium.

Some of them adhere to traditions, focusing on a group of heroes on a quest to stop an evil empire or ultimate evil, while others rely on telling smaller, more intimate fables. When it all comes together, RPGs have the capacity to tell the most remarkable and thrilling stories in the entire industry.

10 Yakuza: Like A Dragon yakuza like a dragon party getting ready for battle

When the Yakuza franchise transitioned from an action beat ’em up to a turn-based role-playing game, it’s fair to say that fans weren’t convinced. What became series creator Toshihiro Nagoshi’s final game with Sega saw longtime franchise star Kazuma Kiryu step aside for newcomer Ichiban Kasuga. Along with the new main character came a new combat system, one rooted in its blatant Dragon Quest inspirations.

One of the holdovers from previous Yakuza games was a fabulous story filled with incredible characters. The fabulous writing and world-building from previous entries was kept intact, featuring a charming collection of party members that accompany Ichiban on a funny and surprisingly emotional quest through the criminal underworld.

9 Persona 5 Royal joker from persona 5 royal

When it comes to every possible way for a game to be great, Persona 5 Royal exceeds and often demolishes expectations. And one of the highlights of this mammoth adventure is the story, one which puts players into the flashy costumes of the Phantom Thieves. Lead by the stoic Joker, the cast of Persona 5 Royal is one of the finest in the entire genre.

This all-encompassing adventure covers a wide gamut of subjects, from teen bullying and sexual abuse, all the way down to its fascinating frame story. Between the events that the Phantom Thieves are embroiled in and the mystery surrounding why Joker found his way to Shibuya, it’s one that constantly keeps players guessing.

8 Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes Of An Elusive Age hero from dragon quest 11 holding a sword

The story in Dragon Quest XI may be the most traditional JRPG story one can find on this list. It follows the classic formula of a part of young, spunky heroes that are lead by a quiet and composed leader, each of which spend time discovering themselves as they go on a journey to save the world.

JRPG stories had been trending into darker, more adult directions in the years preceding Dragon Quest XI, so to have a story so rooted in honest intentions and traditional narrative was something of a breath of fresh air when Dragon Quest XI launched in 2017.

7 Valkyria Chronicles welkin from valkyria chronicles in the middle of a battle scene

For all of its efforts, Valkyria Chronicles has had a hard time becoming a mainstay in the genre. But the combo of turn-based strategy and tactical maneuvering created a ravenous, cult-like fanbase that is still waiting on a new entry. But one thing that Valkyria Chronicles did well was its story.

Set in an alternate universe, highly steampunk-influenced vision of World War II, Valkyria Chronicles in the fictional continent of Europa, it follows the struggle between the Imperial Alliance and the Atlantic Federation. This anime-styled exploration of war, love and loyalty is a true delight to experience.

6 Mother 3 lucas from mother 3 standing in front of a wooden house

Despite its long and arduous development process that saw it transition from 2D to 3D and then back to 2D, Shigesato Itoi’s final Mother game proved to be worth the wait. Through the process of proposed launches on the Super Nintendo, the Nintendo 64 and finally on the Gameboy Advance in 2006, the skeleton of Mother 3’s incredible story remained largely intact.

Following twin brothers Lucas and Klaus, Mother 3 explores a complicated struggle in the aptly named Nowhere Islands, where an invading force known as the Pig Mask Army is attempting to take control. Backed by a staggeringly well-written story and a cast of truly remarkable characters, Mother 3 is almost physically bursting at the seams with heart, emotion and humor.

5 Triangle Strategy the party of triangle strategy at a gathering with other characters

Square-Enix’s breathtaking HD-2D style, which has powered recent masterpieces like Octopath Traveler and the upcoming remake of Dragon Quest III, has produced some of the most exciting games in the industry right now. Taking a cue from Final Fantasy Tactics, Triangle Strategy scratched an itch for this type of turn-based strategy RPG that players have been clamoring for.

Though it isn’t set in the beloved Final Fantasy spin-off universe known as Ivalice, the world of Norzelia is rife with political intrigue, bombastic villains and righteous heroes. Triangle Strategy feels effortless in the way it weaves a world that is struggling to survive a war while also crafting a cast of characters that are impossible not to love.

4 Xenogears opening cutscene from xenogears

Though its story was handicapped by budgetary constraints that forced Squaresoft to truncate the second disc into what essentially boils down to a narrated novel, what Xenogears does manage to do over the course of its runtime is truly incredible. A fantastic combination of Star Wars and Final Fantasy, Xenogears is an epic adventure across the cosmos to destroy the fascist regime of Solaris.

Featuring marvelously directed and animated cutscenes, Xenogears also features an incredible voice cast. The huge, sprawling world and ensemble cast would eventually pave the way for the creation of Monolith Soft, who would use their time with this project to create the Xenoblade franchise.

3 Parasite Eve aya and eve from parasite eve facing off

Parasite Eve feels like a game that shouldn’t even be allowed to exist, but somehow this stylish hybrid of Resident Evil and Final Fantasy was released on the PlayStation by Squaresoft in 1998. Acting as a sequel to the novel of the same name, this survival horror RPG combined an active-time battle system of Final Fantasy with the inventory management and horror of Resident Evil.

Following NYPD officer Aya Brea, Parasite Eve is a haunting exploration of motherhood and the corruption of genes. Along with Squaresoft’s trademark mastery of gorgeous CG cutscenes, the game also features a beautiful script and one of Yoko Shimomura’s finest soundtracks.

2 Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne demi-fiend from smt3 sitting down

Even though it is a spin-off of the Shin Megami Tensei franchise, Persona has managed to capture a huge audience that most certainly dwarfs Shin Megami Tensei. But despite all that, it’s Shin Megami Tensei 3: Nocturne that can stake its claim as having the best story in the entire series.

Nocturne is a dark, unsettling story about a boy who gets transformed into the Demi-fiend following a horrific, world-ending event known as Conception. The Demi-fiend’s struggles against a doomsday cult are in sharp contrast to his somewhat otherworldly interactions with NPCs and demons, which straddle the line between melodrama and quirky, dark humor in a brilliant way.

1 Final Fantasy VII aerith from final fantasy vii looking towards the camera

As the JRPG that created the 90s obsession with turn-based games featuring spikey-haired, amnesiac protagonists, Final Fantasy 7 is still being sourced and referenced as a prototypical story of the genre to this day. The combination of tragedy, slapstick, melodrama, cyberpunk and science fiction don’t at all feel at odds with each other. It’s a wholly connected and realized world.

What begins as a group of eco-terroists attempting to overthrow a villainous mega corporation becomes a globe-trotting adventure about identity, capitalism and revenge. Cloud and Sephiroth’s long-standing rivalry dominates the latter half of Final Fantasy 7, as the story uses a singular inciting incident to open up a much larger narrative, a technique that created something truly special.

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