The best JRPGs for 2023

The party move through the overworld past an immense sleeping dragon
(Image credit: Sabotage)

The best JRPGs come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes. Short for Japanese Role Playing Game, JRPG doesn't just refer to titles developed in Japan. Rather, it refers to a specific style of RPG rooted in theatrical storytelling, deep battle systems, and larger-than-life characters.

Starting way back in the 1980s, this trend is alive and well today. The formula may have evolved thanks to improved graphics and processing power available to developers, but the core pillars of the genre have remained the same. That said, the best JRPGs of today can differ quite wildly. For instance, Trails from Zero preserves the classic turn-based formula while titles like Final Fantasy 16 embrace real-time action, taking lessons from the likes of Devil May Cry 5.

This diversity is part of why many of the best JRPGs end up on our best RPGs list, too, as well as our lists of the best single-player games and best story games. Every title on this list is uplifted by strong writing, memorable characters, and emotionally fraught storylines which are bound to immerse and entertain. Read on to see exactly which JRPGs stand as the very best.

The best JRPGs

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The gang fight a squad of magical birds

Chained Echoes (Image credit: Ark Heiral)

Chained Echoes

What's old is new again
Why we love it

Chained Echoes isn't just a love letter to JRPGs past, it also improves on them. Thanks to the Overdrive system, there's never a dull moment in combat as you strive to use the right attacks at the right time to stop your party from overextending themselves.

Platforms available: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC

Chained Echoes is an indie project that punches far above its weight, easily securing a place on our best JRPGs list. On the surface, it's a homage to the classic 16-bit era of JRPGs. Fans of Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy 6 will feel right at home thanks to the game's rich ensemble storytelling. However, Chained Echoes adds modern flair to the old formula, offering savvy, self-aware dialogue alongside welcome changes to traditional turn-based combat. 

What's captivating about Chained Echoes is how every aspect of the game reinforces the others. Dispensing random encounters, developer Matthias Linda opted to deliberately place encounters throughout the world, giving them a sense of place and depth. The title also boasts lavish visuals which manage to catch the eye and stir the heart. Chained Echoes proves that you don't need cutting-edge graphics to make a cutting-edge game.

Final Fantasy 16

Final Fantasy 16 (Image credit: Square Enix)

Final Fantasy 16

Clive, claugh, clove
Why we love it

Final Fantasy 16 realizes the dreams of the 16-bit JRPGs of the past, offering an experience seeped in the sort of cinematic richness that was only a dream to the gamers of the late 1990s. With Final Fantasy 16, Square Enix's flagship series finally looks and feels exactly how we imagined all those years ago.

Platforms available: PS5

Final Fantasy 16 takes the cinematic aspirations of the best JRPGs of old and realizes them, offering an experience full of modernizations, but which still retains the heart and soul of the Final Fantasy series. The tale follows Clive Rosfield as he attempts to pull the world of Valisthea from the brink of disaster and offers a gripping political tale that slowly ramps up before offering a thrilling crescendo. 

The game overflows with grit, charm, and soulfulness, grounding Clive's story in a wider geopolitical struggle between Valisthea's nation-states. Though Clive is very much the central protagonist, he is supported by a lovable ensemble of friends and do-gooders who range from lightning-wielding freedom fighters to humble blacksmiths. All the while, Final Fantasy 16 stays true to the hopeful optimism and sense of humanity that makes the series great.  

Trails from Zero screenshot - Lloyd Bannings stating "cease your fighting immediately!"

Trails from Zero (Image credit: NIS America)

The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero

A tale of two cities
Why we love it

Trails from Zero is the perfect point of entry to Nihon Falcom's sprawling Legend of Heroes series. With its gripping political intrigue and complex interpersonal drama, the series covers so many interwoven tales that it gives War and Peace a run for its money. 

Platforms available: PS5, PS4,  Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Amazon Luna.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero is unique among our best JRPGs list because it opens the door to a sprawling network of game series that gives the Marvel Cinematic Universe a run for its money. For the uninitiated, The Legend of Heroes spans multiple series of games, all of which exist in an interconnected setting. Characters will sometimes bounce from series to series against a thrilling backdrop of political intrigue and international conflict. 

In Trails from Zero, we follow Lloyd Bannings, a young man who works for Crossbell City's Special Support Section. Crossbell City sits on the border between two rival powers, both of which are vying for control of the independent city-state. In JRPG tradition, Lloyd and his colleagues find themselves caught in the middle of the struggle. Don't sleep on this thrilling introductory adventure to the wider Legend of Heroes setting.

best JRPGs: Persona 5 protagonist Joker and a collage of his friends

Persona 5 Royal (Image credit: Atlus/SEGA)

Persona 5 Royal

Style, sophistication, and school
Why we love it

Persona 5 asks you to step into the shoes of a teenager, asking you to decide how he spends each of his days. In doing so, the game invites you to grow and mature alongside the protagonist, making for a rich and intimate gaming experience.

Platforms available: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, and PC 

When it comes to style, Persona 5 Royal is arguably the best JRPG here. The entire game oozes cool, from the acid-Jazz aesthetic to the incredibly catchy soundtrack. Even the loading screens are slick as heck. This game's aesthetic lives in my head rent-free, and, should you try the title, it may well take up residence in yours, too.

What really sets Persona 5 apart, though, is the strength of its characters. The ensemble is charming and swiftly worms its way into your heart with its authentic dialogue and relatable dramas. Thanks to this, Persona 5's high-concept story, which revolves around a gang of teenagers stealing the desires of corrupt adults, feels strangely grounded, lending the game an enduring appeal.

Nier Automata's 2B close up in green ruins

NieR: Automata (Image credit: Square Enix)

NieR: Automata

A story about sad robots
Why we love it

NieR: Automata is not just about asking big philosophical questions, it's also about cutting robots to bits with a cool sword. In many ways, this confluence represents one of the best things about JRPGs, allowing players to explore the tougher facets of the human condition through the medium of glorious cinematic violence.

Platforms available: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

No list of the best JRPGs would be complete without NieR: Automata. The brainchild of auteur Yoko Taro, NieR: Automata follows the story of a group of androids asked to reclaim the planet Earth from a machine army that has long since overrun the planet's surface. Expect slick live-action combat punctuated with jaw-dropping cutscenes. 

NieR  Automata is anything but predictable, its plot is full of enough twists, turns, and fake-outs to keep even the most seasoned JRPG fan guessing. The title also plumbs some rich philosophical depths, asking questions about free will, human agency, and morality all while maintaining that iconic Yoko Taro style.

Final Fantasy 14

Final Fantasy 14 (Image credit: Square Enix)

Final Fantasy 14

Much acclaimed
Why we love it

Final Fantasy 14 is famous for its welcoming community and impressively well-plotted main story. It's ironic that an MMO should have one of the best single-player stories in JRPG history, but the memorable characters and unforgettable set pieces speak for themselves.

Platforms available: PS5, PS4, PC

Final Fantasy 14 may well have the strongest story on this best JRPGs list. Unlike every other game here, Final Fantasy 14 is an MMO, offering years of content for new players. Though slow to start, the game's main story is fantastic, weaving together plot threads years in the making and endowing its characters with all the humanity and spirit you'd respect from a top-tier Final Fantasy. 

Final Fantasy 14 deals with some heavy themes over its hundreds of hours of storytelling. Set in a high-fantasy world riven with political turmoil, the story follows an ensemble cast of characters as they unravel an apocalyptic conspiracy that threatens to unravel all of creation. What's more, the hero of this story is yours to customize and make your own - a feature rarely seen in JRPGs. Come for the anime haircuts, and stay for the touching story beats and loveable characters.

Xenoblade 3, the Cammuravi face off against Ethel

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 (Image credit: Monolith Soft)

Xenoblade Chronicles 3

Make love, not war
Why we love it

Xenoblade Chronicles 3 doesn't shy away from the darker aspects of conflict, asking big questions about why human beings fight and what it means to be trapped in a cycle of violence. The six main characters are charming, too, and make it easy to fall in love with the game's wider world.

Platforms available: Nintendo Switch

Perhaps the best JRPG on Nintendo Switch, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 tells a story of a world stuck in a perpetual war, for reasons long since forgotten by the majority of the combatants. No prior knowledge of the Xenoblade series is necessary to enjoy the tightly plotted story or the jaw-dropping environments, but the game does reward long-time fans with the occasional Easter egg. 

The game follows a core cast of six characters, all of whom have serious chemistry and are brought to life by thoughtful voice performances and charming dialogue. The title takes on heavy themes, ranging from personal grief to the military-industrial complex. As far as we're concerned, it's a must-buy for JRPG fans who own a Nintendo Switch.

Garl, Zale and Valere run across a forest canopy

Sea of Stars (Image credit: Sabotage)

Sea of Stars

Cozy yet compelling
Why we love it

As charming as it is gentle, Sea of Stars is a homage to the days of 16-bit JRPGs, but offers a modern, self-aware writing style that amuses and enchants. On top of this, the battle system is a pleasing fusion of the old and new, bringing a quick time element to the traditional turn-based formula.

Platforms available: PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Sea of Stars is an indie gem, offering a loving recreation of the 16-bit JRPGs of the 1990s. Though the entire game is a nod to some of the best JRPGs ever made, Sea of Stars doesn't needlessly shackle itself to the past. Sabotage Studio's latest RPG embraces modern improvements when it comes to both game systems and storytelling. Filled with witty dialogue that feels lifted from the likes of Undertale, Sea of Stars also has a wholesomeness to it that'll please fans of cozy classics like Stardew Valley and Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

What's more, the game offers a cunning twist on turn-based combat, asking the player to time button presses to attacks and blocks in order to get bonuses. It's a small change, but serves to make the battles much more involved - keeping you on your toes as you play. In our review, TRG's Cat Bussell called it " a wholesome adventure full of laughs, danger, and twists". 

An early-game battle in Fire Emblem: Three Houses showing off Edelgard and the movement grid

Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Image credit: Intelligent Systems)

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Class is in session
Why we love it

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a masterclass in pacing, grabbing your attention, and then never letting go. Battles are broken up by time spent getting to know your soldiers, which, in turn, makes the combats more nail-biting and heart-rending as you risk harm to your beloved students. 

Platforms available: Nintendo Switch

Fire Emblem: Three Houses brings strategy to our best JRPG list in a big way. The Fire Emblem series is long in the tooth and has always been centered around turn-based tactical battles where the threat of permadeath hangs over every decision. Fire Emblem games are about learning more about your soldiers and growing to love them, sometimes before they die tragically, leaving you with a broken heart. 

Three Houses dials this up to 11, by having you take on the role of a teacher at a military academy. Between battles, you train your students and form bonds with them, deciding how to best spend your time as a teacher. As you play the game and the main storyline develops, you'll become emotionally invested in the game's broad cast of characters. Even if you disable permadeath, some deaths can't be avoided, so bring tissues. 

Best JRPGs: FAQs

Joker at the School Festival

(Image credit: ATLUS)

Which JRPG is set in modern day Japan?

Persona 5 Royal is perhaps the best JRPG set in modern-day Japan. The story has you play as a young student nicknamed Joker who, having been wrongfully put on criminal probation, finds himself moving to Tokyo where he attends high school. 

When he's not living his life in the city, however, he; uses supernatural powers to sneak into the minds of corrupt adults and steal their dark desires, causing them to repent and turn themselves in. In this way, Persona 5 Royal offers both sides of the JRPG coin, offering charming slice-of-life segments punctuated by bursts of intense dungeon crawling. 

What JRPG game should I play?

Any of the titles on our best JRPG list will offer you hours of fun. For those new to the genre, we'd recommend Final Fantasy 16. Not only is the story fantastic, but the action-oriented combat will feel familiar to those who may be intimidated by more traditional turn-based combat.

Alternatively, if you're a genre veteran, we recommend Chained Echoes and Persona 5 Royal. The former is an excellent indie offering that you shouldn't miss while the latter is a towering example of the possibilities that modern gaming hardware and design approaches bring to the genre. 

How we made this best JRPGs list

When crafting our best JRPGs list, we looked at the JRPGs that take the traditions of classics like Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger and modernize them. The JRPGs on this list all seek to earnestly tell their respective stories but are willing to embrace modern design conventions and sensibilities to do this. All of the games on this list stand on the shoulders of giants and are here, in part, because they recognize that fact.

Personally, I've played dozens of JRPGs over my three decades on planet Earth both as a games journalist and fan. Suffice it to say, I know a great JRPG when I see one, and this list contains the cream of the crop.

Looking for a broader overview of the best games out there? Our lists of the best PC games, best Xbox Series X games, and best PS5 games have got you covered.