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Best Sega JRPGs

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sega genesis mini 2 controller and console

Highlights

  • Sega’s smart move to pivot from hardware to software saved them from obscurity.
  • Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
    is a unique crossover blending Persona and Fire Emblem.
  • Valkyria Chronicles’
    innovative gameplay and watercolor art style set it apart in the JRPG genre.

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Sega was one of the two big game console companies that ruled in the 80s and 90s. It seemed like Nintendo and Sega consoles would be around forever. However, with some bad marketing moves and the introduction of the PlayStation, Sega quickly fell behind.

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They pivoted from a hardware and software company to just a software company, which was a smart way not to dry up completely. It was even smarter when they absorbed Atlus in 2013, giving them some good clout in the JRPG fan base. From internal JRPGs to Atlus JRPGs developed after the merger, these are some of the best JRPGs currently under Sega’s umbrella.

Due to being a subsidiary of Sega, Atlus’ games will be considered; however, franchises will be limited to one entry.

8 Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore

Metacritic Score: 81

Promo art featuring characters in Tokyo Mirage Sessions

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore

Released
January 17, 2020

Genre(s)
JRPG

Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore was an interesting crossover event between the Persona and Fire Emblem franchises. A group of teens in Japan got hold of relics that allowed them to summon warriors from the past. Instead of monstrous-looking Personas in that titular series, these otherworldly beings took on the form of familiar Fire Emblem characters.

The main character, for example, could summon Chrom from Fire Emblem Awakening. Gameplay was turn-based with all the familiar Persona-infused mechanics, including gaining extra turns after weakening enemies. It was originally released as a Wii U exclusive before this Encore version hit the Switch.

7 Shining Force

Metacritic Score: 84

Promo art featuring characters in Shining Force

Shining Force

Released
July 13, 1993

Developer
Climax Entertainment, Sonic! Software Planning

Shining Force is a long-running Sega franchise with too many entries to count. Also, based on names, it’s hard to tell what is a spinoff and what is a main entry, as the gameplay styles are all interchangeable. Of the many tactical games, it’s best to start with the one that started it all.

This game was released on the Sega Genesis, way ahead of its time in the West as the genre was still new. Fire Emblem was blowing up in Japan, but the West would not see a game released there until 2003. That’s probably a good reason why so many tactical JRPG fans have such fond memories of Shining Force and its tactical sequels in the 90s.

6 Valkyria Chronicles

Metacritic Score: 86

Selvaria from Valkyria Chronicles

Valkyria Chronicles

Released
October 31, 2008

Developer(s)
Sega , Media Vision

Genre(s)
RPG , Tactical , Third-Person Shooter

Valkyria Chronicles was Sega’s first new JRPG franchise in many years when it debuted on the PS3 in 2008. It was unlike anything anyone had ever experienced before. The art style used watercolors which was a step above cel-shading around this era.

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It was a tactical JRPG, but characters didn’t move on grids. Instead, they had free rein to move around, and players could manually aim their guns. It was a blend of many genres that coalesced into an unforgettable JRPG that spawned a decent number of sequels.

5 Odin Sphere Leifthrasir

Metacritic Score: 87

Fighting enemies in Odin Sphere

Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir

Released
June 7, 2016

Genre(s)
Action RPG

Odin Sphere was originally released on the PS2 and developed by Vanillaware and published by Atlus at the time. The remaster happened after the latter’s merger with Sega, and this iteration fixed a lot of things. The combat was more fluid, it looked and ran better, the story made a bit more sense in between switching characters, and so on.

The only thing still weird about the game’s mechanics was leveling up, as characters had to plant and eat food to do so. Dragon’s Crown Pro was also a later Vanillaware remaster that was reissued after the merger, which brought the game to more people and is also worth a look.

4 Phantasy Star Online

Metacritic Score: 89

Fighting enemies in Phantasy Star Online Episode 1 & 2

Phantasy Star Online

Released
December 21, 2000

Phantasy Star Online was a legendary game among the many entries in the series. It was first released for the Dreamcast, but its popularity got a huge bump when it was ported, along with tons of new content, to the GameCube. Unlike the main turn-based entries, this spinoff was an action JRPG and it supported co-op.

Gameplay came first, and the story came second, as it was more of an experience one shared with friends. It was expansive and challenging, and it helped fill in the JRPG drought on the GameCube.

3 Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth

Metacritic Score: 92

Ichiban and Joseph in Like a Dragon Infinite Wealth

Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth

Released
January 26, 2024

Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth is technically the eighth mainline game in the franchise, discounting many spinoffs and remakes. It is the second game to ditch the traditional Yakuza brawler gameplay in favor of turn-based battles. The first game was a hoot, but everything that game started was made better in this sequel.

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The new location of Hawaii is fun to explore and introduces more Western concepts into the franchise. The Job system is fun to experiment with, along with battles being more intricate. There are too many good things to say, but overall, this will be a hard game to beat in the franchise’s future.

2 Skies Of Arcadia

Metacritic Score: 93

Aika and Vyse in Skies Of Arcadia

Skies of Arcadia

Released
January 27, 2003

Developer
Overworks

Genre(s)
JRPG

Skies of Arcadia is probably the game that most Sega JRPG fans want to see a sequel for most. It was a one-and-done adventure that only got a second chance at life via the GameCube port after its Dreamcast premiere. It hasn’t even received an HD port of any kind, although maybe that rumored GameCube library will open up on the Switch’s online service at some point.

What could be more exciting than a JRPG about sky pirates? It was inventive at the time, and a bit archaic by today’s standards, but it is still an all-timer in the hearts of many.

1 Persona 5 Royal

Metacritic Score: 95

Fighting a battle in Persona 5

Persona 5 Royal

Released
March 31, 2020

Developer(s)
Atlus , P-Studio

Genre(s)
JRPG

The same could be said about Persona 5 Royal regarding its respective series. The thing that will probably jump out to most players right away is the style, from the menus to the music to the character designs. The intricate story that truly bonds players with the cast should also be applauded, as it was hard to let go once those end credits wrap things up.

The original release of Persona 5 was great, but the Royal edition kicked things up a notch by adding a lot of quality-of-life improvements along with a fun epilogue. There’s really no bad entry in this franchise after Persona 3, and it doesn’t really matter where players start, but Persona 5, for many, is the Persona franchise’s peak.

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