[Top 10] JRPGs With The Best Story

jrpg with good story
JRPGs have told epic stories over the years. Dive in to see which stories gamers liked.

Stories are the lifeblood of any JRPG. They give our heroes something to fight for. If you didn’t have a reason for why you were killing goblins, you wouldn’t have a JRPG. You’d have Gauntlet. But which stories have touched users the most? Let's take a look at the top ten JRPG stories! 

10. Final Fantasy XII (2006 for the PS2. Re-releases for the PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch)


Two empires compete for dominance in the world of Ivalice. To ensure their security, The Archadian swallows up the kingdoms between it and its rival, sending their governments into exile and placing them under a repressive regime.

Our protagonists seek to restore their kingdom’s freedom. But, along the way, they discover secrets of the Empire. Something is manipulating them. And someone else wants to manipulate our heroes too.

Final Fantasy XII is different from many games in the series. For starters, the plot is more complex. Neither side is truly good or evil. Each has a reasonably good goal. Previous games in the series relied a lot on romantic melodrama or a simple "slay the generic demon" narrative. This iteration relies on political intrigue and mystery.

Play this if you like:

  • More complex antagonists than in typical games in the series. Almost everyone has a reason for what they’re doing. Aside from one character, the true motivations of the antagonists are revealed to be understandable and perhaps even commendable. They’re just going about it the wrong way.
  • An examination of the question, "How far is too far when it comes to defeating the enemy?" Once they are presented with the path leading to the weapon that could give them the power they need, the weight of the question is considerable. One person even says that the best use of it is "to pick it up and throw it away."
  • Really good character moments for people on both sides of the game’s conflict Dr. Cid, in particular, is amazing. He is gloriously hammy and must be seen to be believed.

 This flaming horse is the first real boss you come across in the story. 

9. Earthbound (SNES 1994 with re-releases on the Wii U, SNES Classic, and the Switch)

In Earthbound, you play as Ness. Your average, everyday kid One night, a meteor crashes in the park near his house. Ever curious, Ness decides to go look at the meteor. That’s when Ness’ life takes a turn for the weird. A bee from the future says that the future is ruined and Ness is the Chosen One to stop Giygas. But Giygas’ forces are gunning for Ness. And there’s a statue that’s causing everyone who gets near it to go insane with greed, and your neighborhood bully is reveling in helping the statue cause chaos. You must solve the mystery of the statue and gather the friends and power you need to stop Giygas.

This story sounds generic on paper, and it would be if not for a few major things. First, the setting. Normal JRPGs have you in a medieval, sci-fi, or feudal Japanese setting. This game sets you in a pastiche of America. The next thing is the enemies. The normal serious fare is changed for more comedic enemies, up to and including street signs. Finally, this game doesn’t even start to take itself seriously. It’s hilarious. It pokes fun at every JRPG trope it can. It's hilarious, and I highly recommend it if you enjoy:

  • A different spin on the JRPG genre with a different setting. It’s an urban fantasy rather than a medieval fantasy.  We don’t often get that in this genre, so it’s a nice change of pace.
  • A more comedic JRPG with quirky and goofy characters. There's a cult that wants to paint the world blue. A neighborhood bully who often looks and acts like a pig. The monsters also look suitably different. You’ll be fighting angry businessmen, dinosaurs, cars, and even street signs.
  • A story that takes you to a wide variety of environments, from a small town to trippy dreamscapes. Moonside is one of the weirdest environments in the 16-bit era.
  • One of the most terrifying final bosses in the 16-bit era. Giygas is scary, even now.


The blue cow is weird. But it’s about the least weird thing going on in this game.


8. Trials of Mana (1995 SNES Re-Releases for Switch, Android, PS4, and PC)

The world of Fa’Diel is in crisis. Thanks to wars and greed, the world’s source of magic, Mana, is dying. Empires are clashing and conquering each other for a shot at getting the ultimate power, the Sword of Mana, to control the world. You play as one of six protagonists who also seek the sword to stop the various villainous factions before they unleash devastation on Fa’Diel.

What sets Trials of Mana’s story apart is the fact that it can be different each time you play it. While many other RPGs have a character selection or creation screen, it typically doesn’t have much bearing on the story. Here, the decisions you make on the character select screen not only determine your class but also how the story plays out. Who you meet along the way and with whom you fight in the end is determined by your party choices. There are three stories in all, so you’ll have plenty of fun.

Play this game if you like:

  • Replay value. Depending on who you choose, each playthrough can be unique. With three final bosses and three final areas, you’ll have to replay the game if you want to see them all.
  • Inventive bosses. Even in 2D, these bosses are intimidating. Giant shellfish, a werewolf climbing a tower, or a three-headed demon are all here. This is just a sampling.
  • There are a lot of RPG trope subversions. The half-breed characters aren’t magically better at everything, like in traditional fantasy settings. They suffer physical and mental drawbacks. The heroic swordsman is not all that heroic at first. He's a battle-hungry drunk.


Draw the Mana Sword to save the world.


7. Persona 5 Royal (2016 for the PS3, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Switch and PC)

In Persona 5, you play as a kid on probation. The thing is, you’re on probation because you stopped a man from beating a woman. But the woman won’t testify in your favor You’re on probation and have to live with the stigma of being a convicted criminal. Everybody hates you, even your uncle, whom your parents sent you to get you out of your hair. After you go to sleep, you enter a dream world and get told you have to prevent some nebulous "ruin." When you wake up, you go to school and meet another outcast kid, and then you wind up in an otherworldly version of your school run by a caricature of your gym teacher. Then, you discover a new power: Persona. You gather a group of fellow outcasts and decide to use the power of Persona to change the world by infiltrating the minds of terrible people and compelling them to confess their sins. It’s like Ocean’s 11, only with psychological trauma and a talking cartoon cat. But your party will wind up in the crosshairs of a conspiracy.

Persona 5 is a difficult story to describe on paper, even by JRPG standards, but it’s a fun story nonetheless. It has great messages, like letting society’s labels not define you and, later on, that it’s better to live in the real world instead of escapism (though how we get to that point is a spoiler). The characters are cool for the most part (even if one of your party members has a complete inability to recognize that the party’s actions are supposed to be a secret), but even the ones that rub you the wrong way still have good qualities. The bad guys you fight are spectacularly bad, so you root for your party to rip them apart.

Play this if you like:

  • Some of the best power-up/transformation scenes in a JRPG. The power-ups here feel earned by overcoming mental and ethical hangups. When someone gets their Persona, it’s an epic moment.
  • There are numerous plot twists and conspiracies to be discovered. One character is not as friendly as he seems. But how the party figures it out is funny.
  • Memorable characters. Both good and bad guys alike will leave an impression on you. Your mileage may vary on it but it will be an impression nonetheless.

Joker and the Phantom Thieves will steal your heart


6.  Chrono Trigger (1995 for the SNES. Remakes for PS1 iOS, Android, Switch, and PC)

On the eve of 1000 A.D., the Kingdom of Guardia is holding a carnival to celebrate the new millennium. There are games and prizes, and the local mad scientists have developed a teleportation device. You play as Crono, the local swordsman looking for his place in the universe. When he goes to the carnival, he meets Marle, a hyperactive girl. Her hyperactivity gets the better of her when she tries the time machine and gets flung through the timestream. Thus begins the story of Chrono Trigger.

Things evolve from there, but I don’t want to spoil the story for the people who haven’t played it yet. It was one of the best stories told on the SNES for many reasons. Your decisions throughout the game will have consequences. How you behaved at the carnival would affect the way things played out in a later scene. Your actions in the past affect the present. When you decide to confront the final boss, it affects the ending. This was one of the first games to have multiple endings and a New Game+ feature. It’s on multiple systems now, so pick this up if you like:

  • Replay value. There are lots of endings. The new versions even have a new ending.
  • A variety of characters to choose from. There’s you, Marle, the mad scientist, a robot, a frog knight, a cavewoman, and if you play your cards right, even one of the antagonists.
  • A big world that changes with the eras. Each era’s game world is different. Many have different monsters. From goblins to dinosaurs to mutants, there’s a variety of things to see.


Crono starts to open a portal to his new adventure. Join in for the fun!


5. Dragon Quest XI (2017 for the 3DS, Windows, Switch, PS4, PS5, and Xbox One,)

One night, a chosen one is born. He’s destined to defeat the local demon lord. However, this demon lord is savvier than most. Perhaps taking a page from the Evil Overlord Checklist, he sends an army of monsters to storm the castle and kill the chosen one in the crib instead of waiting for him to grow up and fighting him fairly, destroying his kingdom in the process. Luckily, someone escapes with the chosen one but loses him down a river. But he ends up in a small town on the periphery of the world.

At the town’s coming-of-age ceremony, he learns that he’s the chosen one and is told to go meet the king to receive his destiny. Unfortunately, in the eyes of the king, he’s the bringer of the apocalypse and quickly becomes a fugitive. This begins the story of Dragon Quest XI.

The setup of the story is generic, but it is executed extremely well. When it’s revealed that the king wants your head, it’s a big twist for the series. Usually, when you're told to go to the king, you get welcomed with a feast and generic starting equipment. Instead, you get an execution attempt.

The characters in this story are the members of the party. Erik the thief is always quipping. Serena, our healer, is always trying to see the best in everyone. Veronica, our de-aged mage, is grumpy about her status, and her de-aging sometimes gets the better of her. Rab, the wise sage, always has some advice. Jade keeps her emotions locked up, but when she has something to say, you’ll listen. And Sylvando Possibility is the most flamboyant character ever created.

Play this game if you like:

  • All the characters having an arc. Not one character is a disposable meatshield. They’re all colorful and well-defined. Each has its own story.
  • One of the most heartbreaking first-act endings since a certain other game on this list I can’t spoil it, but when I played through it, it was painful, even though I knew it was too early for that part of the game to end any other way.
  • A balance between tones The story says the world is on the brink of ruin, but it doesn’t look and feel oppressively depressing the way many games do when their world is said to be on the brink of ruin. It’s still bright and colorful. and it’s still fun.


You and your party leap one heck of an adventure in Dragon Quest XI 


4. Tails of Arise (2021 for Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series, PS4, and PS5)

In Tales of Arise, the world of Dahna is exploited by the world of Rena, led by five lords. Our hero-amnesic man is a slave on Dahna. His unique ability to not feel pain compels him to take the beatings for the slaves who can feel pain. One day, a woman gets brought in while wielding an artifact. Before a series of tutorial battles, the man gets the artifact, and it becomes a blazing sword that only he can wield because of his inability to feel pain. He and his new allies set out to free Dahna, and perhaps have a little romance along the way.


I’ll confess that I’ve never been much for romance in games. I usually find them to feel forced, or I think they take time away from the main story. However, I think Arise handles the romance well. I liked the romance as much as I liked the main story. The traditional character skits from Tales games are also back. And they're always fantastic and frequently hilarious.

Play this game if you like:

  • One of the best romances in the JRPG genre It doesn’t wholly consume the plot. Nor is it a distraction. It ends in a happy marriage.
  • The skits, a tradition in this series, return. They work well here. The characters work off each other for a lot of comedic and dramatic moments.
  • Better characters. They’re more than the anime trope bundles we’re used to. They’re fully fleshed out and feel like real people.

The fight for freedom never looked so good.


3. Yakuza Like a Dragon (2020 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series)

In Like a Dragon, you play as Ichiban Kasuga. He wants to work his way up the Yakuza ladder and prove his loyalty to the leader who saved his life from his own stupidity when he was a kid. And he’s given the chance when he’s asked to serve prison time in place of the son of a high-ranking Yakuza member. But when he gets out, he doesn’t get the traditional Yakuza welcome. After some investigation, he learns that the leader defected to a rival Yakuza clan. Wanting an explanation for this, he barges into a Yakuza meeting. getting shot by his boss for his trouble. Dropped in a dumpster with nothing but the clothes on his back and a bunch of counterfeit money, Ichiban decides to solve the mystery of what’s going on while working at the bottom of society.

What’s great about this story is how off-beat the characters are for a JRPG. You’re not a young hero in his prime. You’re an older person who has largely been written off by society. Your party largely consists of other outcasts, including a disgraced cop, a homeless man, and an immigrant. Together, you help other people on the margins of society as you face down a group of people who want to hurt others to create their vision of a perfect Japan.

A lot of the stuff presented here is pretty intense for a game that is often comical, but I like the message. Everyone, regardless of status, is human and has value. I think it’s a message that needs to be heard now more than ever.

Play this game if you like:

  • A good, uplifting moral. As I said, this is a good message.
  • A lot of comedy There’s a lot of weirdness in this game. Have you ever seen someone use a crawfish as a special attack? Well, you will.
  • The conclusion of the arcs of many characters from past games in the franchise, There's enough Yakuza fanservice to justify its own article.
  • Really good voice acting. George Takei shows up here as a major character.
  • George Takei. If you like George Takei, get this game.


A new type of JRPG hero has entered Japan. Prepare to deal out beatings.


2. Persona 4  (2008 for PS2. Remakes for PSVita, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series, Switch)

In Persona 4, you move to a new town in rural Japan. There’s not much to do. After your long train trip, you fall asleep and find yourself in a dreamscape where you’re told your job is to solve a mystery before the year is over. At school, you learn of a legend called the Midnight Channel. When you watch it, you see someone getting mutilated. You put your hand on the TV, and it goes through it. The next day, you find out that the girl on TV has died and is hanging off an antenna. The next night, someone close to you and your friend is found dead in the same manner. Deciding that the deaths and the Midnight Channel are connected, you go into the Midnight Channel to solve the murders and put a stop to the worst reality show that's not on TLC.

Persona 4 is one of the best JRPGs for one reason: its story. You have to stop these murders, and you and your party are the only ones who can do it. In between saving people, you’re piecing together clues from the people you save. Sometimes you go down the wrong road. Other times, they’re led down the wrong path. But you get a little further each time.

The world feels lived in. The town is affected by the murders. One of the key relationships you have to form is with the brother of a victim. As is tradition, you build your power by building relationships outside of the dungeons. The people have interesting stories. Not all of them are great, but they’re at least engaging.

Play this game if you like:

  • Interesting characters. There’s the joker who has to live with the stigma of being the son of the manager of the big box store that’s destroying the town’s businesses. There’s a girl who likes kung-fu movies and is hilarious even as she charges without thinking. And then there’s the adorable little sister that every player wants to protect.
  • The side stories with the social links are great. They’re much improved over the previous games in the series. The fact that social links are easier to manage is great.
  • Some of the funniest dialogue in JRPGs This game is often serious, with the threat of murder and all. But there’s still time for culture festivals, fireworks shows, and a trip to a bar where everyone gets drunk via the placebo effect because they believe they’re drinking alcohol.


The Investigation Team goes into battle and fights to stop a killer from terrorizing their town


1. Final Fantasy VII (1997 for PS1. Remakes for PC, Android, iOS, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch)

On the planet Gaia, a corporation called Shinra powers the world with a substance called Mako. It seems clean and reliable. But not everyone looks at this futuristic power source and sees utopia. A group called AVALANCHE has noticed that Shinra has become less of a corporation and more of a military dictatorship. And Mako seems far too good to be true. Together, they’re going to take down Shinra and their paramilitary operatives and mercenaries.

The story of Final Fantasy VII is timeless. A classic David and Goliath tale. A small group of people versus a large corporation, and later one of the corporation's rogue experiments that wants to destroy the world. Everyone can at least relate to the David and Goliath part, which is one of the reasons the game took off so well (that, and Square gave it marketing). We all want to be the David in our lives. And Final Fantasy VII gives us a chance to do that. But it doesn’t shy away from the costs of doing that either. This game put JRPGs on the map. And it deserves its spot here. 

Play this game if you like:

  • A good David and Goliath story. It’s you against the world. A big corporation wants to crush you for trying to take them down. And they’re not above using collective punishment to do it. You'll have to avoid Shinra and a slew of bounty hunters.
  • The characters are more fleshed out than they had been in the previous games. We learn about their families. No longer is it the story of a bunch of single people from nowhere with no family. We see Barrett having to leave his daughter behind, knowing he might not come back.
  • A massive subversion. We all know who dies by now. But it was mind-blowing when it happened at the time. It had a huge impact on the gaming community for years. For players who don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s going to hurt.
  • A compelling villain. The villains of VII and VI are routinely in contention for the title of best villain in the series. Part of it is his big kill. The other part is his intimidation factor. Unlike Kefka, there is nothing comic about him. When you fight him, it’s terrifying. 

The gang from AVALANCHE is ready to bring the fight to save their planet to a new generation of consoles.


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As one of North Carolina's numerous rogues, Matt Stafford is always using his stealth and diplomacy skills to get the next scoop.
Gamer Since: 1995
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Dragon Quest 11
Top 3 Favorite Games:Stellaris, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic,

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