In a way, it's ironic that Nintendo's Switch is overflowing with excellent RPGs, given that their home consoles of the late '90s and early 2000s were known for just about anything but this genre. And while the Switch could still probably do with a few more brand new role-playing games, Nintendo has managed to amass an army of quality RPGs in recent months - especially of the Japanese variety.
With all these big hits like Octopath Traveller, Xenoblade Chronicles 2, and the recent hyped release of Dragon Quest XI S, there are a number of hidden gems on the console that have been sadly overshadowed by the heavy-hitters. This year alone has seen the quiet release of several lesser-known JRPG greats.
So let's dive right in as we take a look at 10 of the best JRPGs on the Switch released in 2019.
10 Atelier Lulua: The Scion Of Arland
Switch seems to have a knack for shining a spotlight on JRPG franchises that are largely unknown in the west but beloved in Japan - Monster Hunter, YS, and this charming crafting-centered adventure.
The game utilizes a cute, colorful and cartoony aesthetic that fits the Switch like a glove. Despite its simple exterior, Atelier comes embedded with a subtle degree of depth with its plethora of customizations/upgrades borne of crafting, cooking, and alchemy. The combat is an enjoyable blend of fun action and interesting strategic elements that keep you wanting to grind and progress. Whether you're a rare veteran fan of this series in the West, or your jumping on board for the first time, this majestic, whimsical JRPG has a lot to offer.
9 Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen
Switch has a knack for hosting a myriad of interesting and exciting action-RPGs, both of the Western and Japanese variety. And while this Capcom adventure takes on a darker, more realistic look and some gameplay elements you'd expect to find in a WRPG, it combines this style with some Japanese sensibilities. It's Dragon Age and The Witcher 3 with a touch of Breath of the Wild.
Dragon's Dogma captivates with its depth, dynamic environments, entertaining combat, cool monsters, and its plethora of exciting quests that make up a whopping 40-hour odyssey; with even more from the DLC content in this expansion.
Despite this simple, colorfully retro aesthetic, Tangledeep will not appeal to everyone, as it runs with a tricky "roguelike" style that harshly punishes death and contains random elements, similar to the cult hit ADOM. Basically, you'll need to venture as hard and far as possible; as one unanticipated death means you lose it all, and it's back to the start.
Still, while the game definitely appeals to a certain niche of early-'90s PC gamers, there's much to love with this nuanced grid-based 2D adventure for most RPG fans. The game's equivalent of an "easy" mode, called "Heroic Mode," allows you to salvage some parts of your game even when dying. And besides, this dungeon-crawler is so fun and addictive that you'll likely want to press on regardless of the looming threat of permadeath and randomization.
7 Dragon Quest I, II, III
To many younger gamers, the original Dragon Quest trilogy might come across as somewhat archaic and bland. Yet, those who have the patience to deal with the rockier learning curve, grinding, and less glamorous aesthetic will find out just why DQ became such a monster in Japan in the first place.
Indeed, these first 3 efforts by Enix still shine as some of the richest, most satisfying RPG odysseys, and still manage to feel epic despite their flat 8-bit exterior. The first game serves as a simple, yet memorable introduction to the series - and really, JRPG gaming as a whole. II expands on the formula, while III seals the deal with its more nuanced class system, myriad of monsters, and an impressive amount of depth for an '80s RPG.
6 Final Fantasy VIII
Even among many diehard Final Fantasy fans, FFVIII exists as the sort of "black sheep" of the FF family. Why is this? Well, it doesn't help that its combat is on the basic side, nor does its initial launch timing - coming on the heels of the smash-hit FFVII - do it any favors. It also contains an unusually obscure and dark narrative that tends to turn some off.
Still, the story manages to be particularly enriching and memorable for those who choose to stick with it. And the game contains some of the most majestic, imaginative environments, colorful baddies, and 3-dimensional characters the series has ever seen. FF fan or no - Switch gamers looking for a darker, more off-kilter RPG should definitely give this superb remaster a look, especially given its meager $20 pricetag.
5 Tales Of Vesperia - Definitive Edition
In the conversation for "best Tales game," the lesser-known Vesperia typically at least manages to reside in the top 3, and many even go as far as to say it's the high point in the series. It's just unfortunate how little recognition it recieved after its original release over a decade ago. It certainly didn't help that it began as an Xbox 360 exclusive release - a console whose fanbase wasn't exactly partial to JRPGs as a whole.
This game, like many others in the series, runs with a narrative that accelerates in terms of its intrigue, and a charming cast of colorful characters to boot. It also has one of the most solid and satisfying combat systems, which keeps things exciting with its myriad of abilities and its Smash Bros-esque feel and pacing.
4 Collection Of Mana
While the Final Fantasy series has now captured the limelight both on the Sony and Nintendo line of consoles, this series, birthed from an obscure FF Game Boy spinoff, is one of the best RPG collections on Switch. Even if you aren't basking in the 90's RPG nostalgia this game radiates, it's hard not to appreciate the quality and imaginative settings provided by all three of these Mana games.
The now-archaic Game Boy originator, Final Fantasy Adventure, is still a captivating 8-bit RPG romp. Its sequels, Secret of Mana and the soon-to-be-remade Trials of Mana, shine as two of the most fantastical, robust ARPGs on the SNES. The combination of thrilling action, satisfying combat, and in-depth nuance make these enduring experiences any RPG fan on Switch should enjoy.
3 Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age
Final Fantasy diehards might not be all too keen on this oddball iteration of the classic JRPG series, which is understandable given its divergence from the franchise's typical formula. However, these unique attributes - a political plot featuring multiple protagonists, and the exciting action-RPG combat, are actually FFXII's best traits.
While the original game stands as an underrated swan song for the PS2, this version polishes up the experience even more, offering the definitive way to play this overlooked RPG. Refined battle mechanics, prettied-up aesthetics, and additional content make this a tremendous FF package for Switch.
2 Grandia HD Collection
While Final Fantasy was setting the world ablaze on the SNES, and later the Playstation, Sega was looking for their own majestic RPG hit for their Saturn. Enter the lesser-known Grandia series; a franchise that's developed something of a cult following (especially its first two games), and for good reason.
The charming original hit on Saturn, which soon made its way to the PS, contained a semi-familiar formula complete with an epic narrative and appealing JRPG gameplay. At the same time, it helped established its own style with an enjoyable time-based combat system that could disrupt/freeze upcoming turns for foes, thus setting them back. The sequel expanded further on this, masterfully blending action-based thrills with strategic nuance - and looking even sleeker in the process.
1 Dragon Quest Builders 2
This super underrated RPG sandbox journey has the misfortune of its mainline games hogging most of the limelight, and being on a console already crowded with similar titles. It was just recently that Switch received an enhanced port of the highly anticipated Dragon Quest XI to mostly rave reviews.
Still, Dragon Quest Builders 2 manages to be distinct in that it superbly blends a Minecraft-style open-world builder with Harvest Moon resource gathering and town management. And it tosses in plenty of that typically charming Dragon Quest atmosphere and traditional RPG gameplay for good measure. The sequel improves on the already fun, robust first entry by adding even more content, nuance, and an entertaining co-op feature.