The Coronavirus – or COVID-19 – lingers over us all, governments across the world have encouraged us to stay indoors and wait it out until this pandemic has been solved. And while the question of what exactly one will do with their time during the quarantine would usually be a difficult one, we’re gamers. Thus, this question isn’t as tricky for us. The real question, therefore, is, ‘what game should I spend my time with during the quarantine?’
Well, firstly, the JRPG is the most obvious choice of genre. Combining engaging gameplay with breathtaking fantasy worlds and heart-wrenching, imaginative stories, it’s a genre that has inevitably led the way in terms of videogame narratives. But there are so many good examples to choose from! Thus, creating a list of the top 5 JRPGs for Quarantine isn’t an easy task – but by the wings of Bahamut, you’ll bet we’ll try.
5) Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (PlayStation 2/3DS)
Yeah, yeah, I know Dragon Quest XI is the one everyone’s been raving about recently (and for a good reason), but it doesn’t quite match DQVIII‘s excellence. It was the first Dragon Quest game to take place in three dimensions and bring Akira Toriyama’s idiosyncratic art style to life. Players were thrust into a vivid, colorful fantasy world with secrets hiding beyond every hill, fairytale castles standing gracefully tall, and quirky characters beaming with life. People might complain that the plot of a young soldier and his cursed King going on a quest to undo the terrible curse inflicted on their kingdom is a cliched one, but VIII does it with such charm and grace, you’re unlikely to be disappointed. Plus, the battle system is a fun nostalgic trip back to classic JRPGs – just be patient and take the time to level up during the game’s early stages, and you’ll be in for quite the ride…
4) Grandia (PlayStation 1/Switch)
It’s a dark time in our world history, so a bit of levity is just what the doctor ordered. Well, that’s where Game Arts’ lovable JRPG classic Grandia comes in. If you want a JRPG that can truly bring out your inner child, while providing lovable characters and a heartwarming romantic subplot to boot, then you have come to the right game. Grandia follows the exploits of Justin, a 14-year-old aspiring adventurer who wants to follow in the footsteps of his father. Alongside his childhood pal, Sue, Justin embarks on a quest to discover what’s on ‘The Other Side of the World’ – which inadvertently brings them into conflict with the Garlyle Forces, a military outfit hellbent on discovering the world’s secrets for themselves. This heartwarming coming-of-age plot will bring you sorrow and laughter in equal measure but, combined with vibrant worlds, memorable characters, and a fun battle system; you’ll have hours of fun with this one.
3) Kingdom Hearts (PlayStation 2/PlayStation 3/Playstation 4/Xbox One)
Imagine reading a gaming magazine back around 2001/2002, and seeing previews of a videogame promising to combine elements from Final Fantasy and the worlds of Disney. Seriously, just picture it. Nowadays, people are having their minds blown by the likes of Avengers: Endgame and the CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths when it comes to crossovers, but in the case of Square-Enix’s (then Squaresoft) Kingdom Hearts, it seemed almost impossible. And yet, there it was. A collaboration between arguably the biggest JRPG developer and the biggest animation company in existence – and what a result to come out of it!
You’ll probably already know the deal. Sora is just a (relatively) normal kid living on the Destiny Islands before it suddenly becomes overrun by the terrible Heartless – and he is instantly cast off into worlds unknown. But Sora is the chosen Keyblade master and soon joins forces with Donald and Goofy to find the missing King Mickey as well as Sora’s lost pals, Riku and Kairi. Like DQVIII, the plot is cliche-riddled, but the game succeeds based on its charming atmosphere, its lovable and extensive cast of characters, and some genuinely fun action-RPG mechanics. It’s a simple story done right, and gameplay done almost perfectly. Get this into your life now if you haven’t already.
3) Star Ocean: The Second Story/Star Ocean: Second Evolution (PlayStation 1/PSP)
Before Square-Enix was…well, Square-Enix, they were two different companies – Squaresoft and Enix. In the ’90s, Square was already wowing the world with Final Fantasy, but Enix had a big JRPG franchise under their publishing wing – Star Ocean. While the first game was successful, it was only released on the SNES in Japan, and not a lot of people outside d country was able to play it until the fan translation and PSP remake years later. However, the second game was localized in the West – and won the franchise a whole host of new fans.
Star Ocean: The Second Story is unique in that it combines elements from the science fiction and fantasy genres and propels the player through a massive journey across two different planets. You choose between two characters: Claude or Rena and go forth to solve the mystery of a ‘Sorcery Globe,’ a meteorite that fell down on the world of Expel and is causing the animals to mutate into murderous monsters. The story gets more complicated than at first glance, though, and leads to a battle that will transcend worlds. Through the journey, you fight in real-time random battles, create your own items and weapons, and develop relationships with your party with over 80 endings up for grabs. If you’re looking for an epic JRPG with replay value. You won’t be disappointed.
2) Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door (GameCube)
Out of all the games listed here, Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is most certainly the most creative game. A Mario RPG based in a world of paper, the iconic plumber, can take the form of a paper airplane to glide across chasms or even go sideways to slip between gaps. It’s a game that takes the original Paper Mario and takes the whole concept up to eleven while offering us a brand new cast of vibrant characters and locations to boot.
It’s perhaps notable for having an antagonist other than just Bowser for a change. In fact, the sinister shelled lizard shares this role with a group called the X-Nauts, who have kidnapped Princess Peach from the town of Rogueport. Upon reading a letter by Peach, Mario sets out to find out what has happened to the mushroom monarch. Along the ways, you experience a journey quite like any other, with a fun, zany battle system and a luscious cartoony world to boot. He may not be Toilet Paper Mario (something we all need right now), but this game will get you going through the coronavirus lockdown.
1) Final Fantasy X (PlayStation 2/PlayStation 3/PlayStation 4/Xbox One/Switch)
If you’re looking to get lost inside a surreal larger-than-life fantasy world, there’s no greater choice than Final Fantasy X. And, well, that was kind of the point of the project. Producer Yoshinori Kitase set out to create a fantasy world unparalleled in detail when compared to previous Final Fantasy games – and man, did he and his team deliver. The world of Spira, inspired by a number of Asian cultures, is one hard to forget even ages after you’ve put down the game. It would be an understatement to call it visually stunning.
As well as introducing fan favorites Tidus and Yuna to the fore (and even inspiring the series’ first direct sequel), the game brought with it advanced facial expressions for the characters, a deep story of love and sacrifice, and a return to the turn-based battle mechanics of old. To aid the battling is the Sphere Grid system, where you gradually develop your characters through orbs collected during battle. FFX is a joy to play and mad to miss. Get this into your life now.