We’re through the bulk of the year now, and certainly, all the major JRPGs of 2021 have been released. As a whole, this year has been absolutely incredible for the genre. Indeed, I’d even go as far as to say it’s one of the best ever, and from January, right through to right now there has been a non-stop list of truly excellent, innovative, intelligent, rich, beautiful, emotional and entertaining JRPGs.
In fact, it has been so good that I don’t think this list even captures all the JRPGs that deserve to be on a “top ten” list, so be sure to jump in and let me know the ones that you love that have been left off.
And now, in no particular order:
Blue Reflection: Second Light
This is just the most beautiful and heartfelt game. It’s not just that the art is beautiful. It absolutely is, but it’s not that. It’s also because this game tells such a sweet coming of age story, with such a positive, wholesome, and natural take on yuri (i.e. girls loving girls) romance. There’s nothing forced nor exploitative in how it’s presented. It’s just that in between learning about themselves and exploring dungeons, these girls go on dates, flirt, hold hands and, simply, love one another. It’s just lovely to see.
The Caligula Effect 2
Neo: The World Ends With You
Shin Megami Tensei V
The darkest game on this list by a considerable margin, Shin Megami Tensei has always been that “Pokémon, but what if the monsters were demons” experience. It has also been a series unafraid to hit on nihilistic and existential themes, ask hard theological questions, and then also test the player’s JRPG skills. SMT V ramps all of that up. It’s the most thought-provoking SMT to date and, while this might just be anecdotal, it’s also the most difficult. We got SMT Nocturne remade earlier in the year and there are moments in this game that make Skeleton Matador seem like a cakewalk.
Bravely Default II
This is another one that I get the sense people have forgotten released this year, but Bravely Default 2 did indeed release this year, bringing with it beautifully classical turn-based JRPG gameplay, complete with job systems, an isometric camera angle, and every trope that we’ve come to know and love about the genre. It even has a minigame that is a direct homage to Triple Triad, the infamously wonderful minigame in Final Fantasy VIII, and a brilliant touch sitting on the top of BD2.
NieR Replicant Ver 1.22…
Undernauts: Labyrinth of Yomi
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb