The 5(+1) Best JRPGs on PC that are Available Now
There was a time when JRPGs were a myth on personal computers, much like Diablo’s cow level. There were a few titles here and there that were either ported from consoles (Final Fantasy VII and VIII, for instance) or developed straight for the PC (Recettear comes to mind), but for many years the smooth and juice cream of the JRPG cake was a console thing. As time passed and the video game market grew, Japanese studios started to open their minds to a market that was largely occupied by Western releases. Today, while it might be difficult to spot mentions of Shin Megami Tensei, Dragon Quest (no, we’re not taking the Heroes spin-off into this conversation), and Kingdom Hearts alongside the acronym “PC” or the word “Steam,” those with a multi-purpose machine don’t have to look very hard to find something worth their money and time.
In order to help our fellow aficionados pick something interesting to scratch that JRPG itch, we compiled a list of some of the best JRPGs available now on PC. Please note that these are distributed in no particular order. We’re not playing favorites, we’re just letting you know (or reminding you) of these great titles.
The Best JRPGs on PC
Let’s start by getting the most obvious nominations out of the way. As an MMO, FFXIV probably belongs in another type of list, but as a JRPG, it’s just perfect. The fourteenth entry in the main Final Fantasy series (not counting direct sequels, spin-offs, and XIV’s own past), XIV is also the second MMO to grace this multiverse filled with crystals and Warriors of Light. As such, it features a number of references and callbacks to its predecessors. Are you a Final Fantasy VIII fan? Then you’ll be right at home with Eorzea’s very own Triple Triad! Miss VII’s chocobo races? Giddy up for a trek across some of the realm’s greatest vistas! And how about Final Fantasy III and its awe-inspiring Crystal Tower? Eorzea got you covered with its own lore-friendly instance of the dungeon! Besides being a label feast for Final Fantasy fans, XIV is ripe with content and a business model that despite being arguably outdated, it’s a far cry from the pay-to-win everyone loves to hate. And if that’s not enough, it is one of the most popular MMORPGs out there which shows no signs of going free-to-play anytime soon.
Whether you love it or hate it (and who in their sane mind hates it?!), there’s no denying that Dark Souls is a genre-defining franchise. Although Demon’s Souls was the first entry in the Souls series, Dark Souls’ multi-platform appeal introduced FromSoftware’s concept to a much broader audience. The title’s unforgiving difficulty tied to familiar RPG elements and a compelling story that needs to be pieced together changed the industry to a point where newer titles that are even slightly difficult will have Dark Souls splattered on reviews and comments. As far as JRPG goes, this is a landmark anyone interested in the video game industry should check out. And if the difficulty is a problem, treat it as a study on mechanics instead. Don’t forget to take notes on the improvements brought by its sequels! Now might be the perfect time to pick it up or give it another go as the Return to Lordran campaign, organized by the community, started on October 4th and goes until October 26th.
If you haven’t played it, Dragon’s Dogma is likely a game you heard of. Either your friends were going on about how awesome it is or websites were praising its dynamic combat and approach to multiplayer, which doesn’t really have multiple players interacting with one another. There is a lot to like about Capcom’s take on traditional fantasy RPGs, especially if you keep an open mind and look over its flaws in favor of its achievements. Though it first came out in 2012 on the PS3 and Xbox 360, it was ported to PC through Steam and GOG in 2015 with a slew of graphics improvements. In light of the PS4 and Xbox One releases, the PC version received a 1 GB update with slight enhancements as well as additional localization. It has a small but active community on PC, so no new or returning players should be short of pawns within their level range. To the more adventurous, there’s an MMO spin-off available to Japanese audiences. With the help of VPNs, Google Translator, and fan-made patches, it’s possible to play from the comfort of your Western home.
Down to the least obvious titles, NieR: Automata is a game that almost never came to be. A direct-yet-independent sequel to 2010’s Nier (PS3 and Xbox 360), it took the desire of fans for Square Enix to give the green light on a full-fledged sequel. Alongside PlatinumGames (known for Bayonetta, Metal Gear Rising: Revengence, and the canceled Scalebound), Yoko Taro came up with one of 2017’s weirdest releases. NieR: Automata’s shifting gameplay style makes it a risk as well as one of the most diverse games in the market. It is primarily an action-oriented JRPG with a compelling skill customization system, but it also extends as a shooter, a bullet-hell, a sidescrolling platformer, and even a parkour racing at a couple instances. Tying it all together is an emotional story about morality, mortality, and existence that no one can be properly prepared for. It’s a shame that the PC version didn’t receive a single update since its conception early in March, but some of its performance issues can be addressed thanks to Kaldaien’s FAR mod.
Despite reaching the “overwhelmingly positive” review mark on Steam, CrossCode is a title you probably haven’t heard of. In this retro-inspired “Western JRPG” developed by newcomer studio Radical Fish Games you control Lea, a girl who’s logged into an organic MMO called CrossWorlds. “Wait a minute, ‘organic MMO’? You high, homie?” You must be asking yourself. And the answer to that is absolutely not. CrossWorlds is situated in a real-life terraformed moon called Shadoon, where some people actually live. Players explore the world through materialized avatars who can interact with the environment as well as actual people. Not that you get to see actual people within the game environment, but that’s beside the point. Aside from being a game within a game (and one that gets the atmosphere of modern MMOs just right), CrossCode draws elements from old-school JRPGs and improves them with a fast-paced and dynamic combat system, a slew of gear and skills to customize Lea, and puzzles. So many puzzles. Retro fans looking for a 2D action RPG with more than just a slaughter fest will be pleased with the ingenious level design found in the major dungeons, all of which involve mind-bending puzzles. CrossCode is currently on Steam Early Access and is due to early 2018.
It surprises me when I mention the acronym “PSO” and only two out of ten people know what I’m talking about. Despite being the first online game to hit consoles back in 2000 as well as the first to be available on multiple platforms (its Windows version hit shelves in 2001), SEGA’s Phantasy Star Online eludes many gamers who weren’t close to their Dreamcasts or Game Cubes—or are just too young to know what a Dreamcast is. The game was officially shut down years ago but is kept thanks to the passion of fans who host servers primarily for the PC version of Blue Burst, an expanded version that includes episodes 1, 2, and 4.
Based on the popular eponymous quadrilogy from the 80’s and 90’s, Phantasy Star Online expands on the franchise’s successes with a standalone story, instance-based exploration, and drop rates that make MMO enthusiast cry like an anime fan at prom night. PSO is a sweet piece of video game history worth checking out if you’re patient enough to adapt to its outdated controls and mechanics. Those interested in a more old-school approach to JRPGs can find Phantasy Star 2, 3, and 4 on Steam; but if you’re interested in what else SEGA did with the IP, there’s Phantasy Star Online 2 (available only in Japan, unfortunately), Phantasy Star Universe (gotta move a few strings to play this one on PC), and a number of sequels spread throughout handhelds.
Steam has a number of other JRPGs that many would argue should’ve made the list. From The Legend of Heroes to the Tales franchise, the JRPG scene has been growing on PC. The future of the genre looks even brighter with .hack//G.U. Last Recode due to November, Ni no Kuni II coming out in January, and Final Fantasy XV’s PC version expected for early 2018.
Which are your favorite JRPGs available on PC and why? Are you expecting a specific title to make it to Steam? Let us know in the comments below! Also, be sure to check out our JRPG archive.