The best Japanese RPGs on PS4 - essential buyer’s guide

 
 

What is a Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG)?

JRPGs are traditionally story-driven adventure games developed in Japan, featuring a group of pre-defined characters journeying on a quest fraught with danger. Typical traits of the genre include turn-based combat, fantasy elements - especially magic, extensive character and/or squad customisation, and character progression or 'levelling' systems. 

The JRPG has evolved significantly since its early days, and now encompasses a range of sub-genres, including tactical RPGs and action RPGs, which absorb elements from other genres. The lines can get blurry! For the purpose of this condensed list, we've focussed on titles that adhere to more traditional aspects of the genre - but if you enjoy these games, start exploring more widely - a world of adventure awaits!

 
 

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix

This is no mere remaster of this classic PlayStation JRPG juggernaut. Nearly every part feels like a love letter to fans: the visuals are light-years beyond even the pre-rendered cinematics of the original, while the music has been carefully updated and re-orchestrated to modern standards.

Remake’s new battle system will appeal to new players and fans alike with a blend of contemporary real-time button presses and slowed-time, menu-driven special attacks, spells and all-powerful limit breaks. Both halves fuel each other to make for strategic, dynamic combat encounters.

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Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster

Helping pave the way for future Final Fantasy remasters and remakes, this HD return to Square Enix’s popular two-pronged tale of a world broken by Sin helped redefine the massive series. 

 
 

Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age

Developer: Square Enix
Publisher:
Square Enix

Featuring a raft of enhanced gameplay features on PS4 such as a revised battle design and a more customisable character levelling system, this remastered classic helped change the direction of Final Fantasy games when it first launched on PlayStation 2 back in 2006.

Focusing on more naturalistic in-game character designs rather than the cute ‘chibi’ style of previous titles, FFXII’s spectacular visuals and complex plot of fallen royalty make it one to remember. 

Final Fantasy XV

Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: 
Square Enix

Set off on an unusual road trip where a massive, fantastical open world of magic, machines and monsters await. Join Prince Noctis and his entourage as they travel across the dangerous kingdom of Lucis in a mission to reclaim the throne.

A real-time battle system which seamlessly transitions from non-combat situations makes this sprawling quest as beautiful to watch as it is fun to play.

 
 

Final Fantasy XIV Online

Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix

Alongside crafting the kind of huge, story-driven campaign that Final Fantasy games are famous for, Final Fantasy XIV also goes down the same trailblazing route left by Final Fantasy XI – and has helped change the face of the series as a result. Set in the vast and interconnected land of Eorzea, this massively multiplayer online JRPG creates a realm where you and 18 million adventurers worldwide can embark on epic quests together.

Filled with deadly deserts, bustling cities and towering forests, FFXIV’s constantly updated and ever-engaging world isn’t just about defeating massive monsters with your personalised Warrior of Light, but also lets you craft items, enjoy series staples including Chocobos, Moogles and Airships, and even buy a house.

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Black Desert

Immerse yourself in a vast and constantly evolving world, where you and dozens of friends trade, craft and do battle using a deep combo-based fighting system. 

 
 

Persona 5 Royal

Developer: ATLUS
Publisher: Sega

With each new entry (and eventual re-release), the Persona series has steadily gained popularity on the back of its heady blend of dungeon crawling, monster capturing and fusion, and management of daytime social/romance commitments.

This time, Japanese high schoolers use their newly-awakened personas to change the actions of villains by diving into their subconscious. The Royal version adds even more content and quality-of-life updates, giving you an astounding number of hours for the asking price.

I Am Setsuna

Developer: Tokyo RPG Factory
Publisher: Square Enix

Weaving its magic to create a charming throwback to ‘90s-style JPRGs, this poignant story of innocence lost casts you in a world full to the brim with beautiful character designs and environments.

Setsuna’s quest to fulfil her destiny takes you across dark forests, snowy plains and secretive towns – while even the deadliest of turn-based battles can be won with careful use of the combo system. Do you have the heart to make the ultimate sacrifice and protect the people of Setsuna’s land? 

 
 

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix

There’s perhaps no more perfect distillation of the traditional JRPG formula than Dragon Quest XI. The acclaimed sequel deftly mixes turn-based sword-swinging and spell-hurling combat with world-ending stakes and a cast of characters that personify what has made this series a mainstay for decades. 

Despite ticking nearly all of the JRPG boxes, the sheer size and variety of the places you’ll see in this lovingly hand-crafted world make it a joy to explore. “Traditional” need not feel antiquated, and DQXI pays homage to the way JRPGs used to be.

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Tales of Vesperia

With stunning anime style visuals, a beautiful soundtrack and a massive quest to enjoy, this definitive version of a fan favourite combines classic RPG action with a variety of extras.   

 
 

Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel

Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: NIS America

With its fascinating characters, in-depth combat mechanics and a spectacular magic system, Nihon Falcom’s school-based fantasy adventure is far more than it first appears. While developing a life between lessons is a big part of this Legend of Heroes spin-off, the exploration of the series’ lore, social class and military structure provide plenty of mature and nuanced narrative to go with it.  

Tales of Berseria

Developer: Bandai Namco Studios
Publisher: Bandai Namco

From its beautiful animated opening, Velvet’s quest for blood-soaked revenge is striking, poignant and larger-than-life. Featuring the first solo heroine in the Tales series, this massive, gothic adventure explores the dark heart of humanity and the lengths taken to find personal peace. Mastering Velvet’s vicious repertoire of attacks in the fast-paced, action-based combat system is only part of the challenge that awaits…    

 
 

Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom

Developer:Level-5
Publisher: Bandai Namco

In this gorgeously-realized anime-inspired adventure, an estranged boy king narrowly avoids regicide and must rebuild his kingdom by uniting the downtrodden, guided by a cast of colorful advisors doubling as battle party members. 

More spiritual successor than direct sequel, NNK2 is brimming with ways to lose yourself for hours: Lead armies into battle, slug it out in smaller turn-based skirmishes while exploring vast lands, build up your castle grounds, and befriend common folk to help regain your throne. 

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Kingdom Hearts III

With stunning anime style visuals, a beautiful soundtrack and a massive quest to enjoy, this definitive version of a fan favourite combines classic RPG action with a variety of extras.   

 
 

Lost Sphear

Developer: Tokyo RPG Factory
Publisher: Square Enix

Adding mechanical bosses and robotic Vulcosuits to its fantasy setting, Japan RPG Factory’s spiritual follow up to I Am Setsuna delivers a more traditional quest of a world under threat.

In a land where everything is made with Memories, entire parts can disappear once a memory is lost. Through strategic turn-based combat against devastating foes, only you and a brave band of adventurers can save the very fabric of reality.

Valkyria Chronicles 4

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega

A tense blend of turn-based and real-time strategy RPG elements, Valkyria Chronicles 4 starts every round on a tactical map, then dives seamlessly down onto the battlefield for individual actions. Take direct control of each unit, avoiding incoming fire and manually targeting enemies to exploit class-based weaknesses.

Actions for every unit cost a fixed amount of command points, only refreshed between rounds, making every decision strategic and crucial, especially when death can remove characters from your roster - permanently.

Ys Origin

Developer: Nihon Falcom
Publisher: DotEmu

Ys Origin is a newcomer-friendly departure from the mainline numbered games, offering completely new main characters, and exploration of a a single, massive tower rather than a sprawling overworld.

Despite being a fresh-start prequel perfect for jumping in, this is still a tight action RPG with three distinct characters’ abilities and play styles to develop as you level them up through combat to learn their part in a greater story told through multiple perspectives.

 
 

Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance

Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Publisher: NIS America

The latest entry in the long-running Disgaea series is a comically evil tale of revenge, rife with opportunities to pile obscene amounts of damage onto enemy units while navigating a turn-based, grid-lined series of maps. 

These grids invite strategic experimentation to concoct the best mixture of positioning, elevation, attack distances and sweet, sweet vengeance for fallen comrades. Leveling up, recruiting new units with unique skills and teammate affinities, and using combined attacks just feels fun – even if you’re smacking adorable creatures around.

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Wargroove

Make tactical masterstrokes in a story driven, turn-based war, full of fun characters and rewarding combat. 

 
 

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