The 10 Greatest RPG Franchises

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The 10 Greatest RPG Franchises

The role playing game is the unsung hero of video gaming. Don’t think so? Games like Dungeons and Dragons and Shadow Run introduced something very important to gaming, character development. The earning of experience points, rating systems, and item generation are things that occur in many games that would never be considered related to RPG’s. The next time you play Madden Football, take a look at the stat pages, and the player builder pages and thank God for D&D. In tribute to the influence that RPG’s have had on gaming, we decided to let our readers vote on what they thought was the best RPG franchise on the block.

#10 Front Mission Franchise

There are five Front Mission games in total with only the core titles qualifying as true RPG’s. One of Squares early turn based tactical role playing games, what made Front Mission unique was the story and the gameplay. Foregoing the typical wizards, warriors, thieves and what not, the characters in Front Mission are all pilots that do battle in giant upgradable mechs called Wanzers. The story was set in a somewhat futuristic world where the entire international landscape is different from that of the real world.

#9 Star Ocean Franchise

Another series from the 90’s that suffered due to a lack of mainstream American attention. Americans never saw the first Star Ocean game, and only got a poorly dubbed version of the second game. It wasn’t until the third installment (Star Ocean: Till the End of Time) that the games American appeal was realized. The third game earned a spot on Sony’s ‘Greatest Hits’ line. All of the early games are currently being redeveloped for the Playstation portable device.

#8  Phantasy Star Franchise

Phantasy Star hit the American market place years ahead of its time in 1988 (like so many rpg’s) and was considered one of the most expensive games of its era ($69.99!), at one time being only ten dollars less than the system the game played on (imagine paying $230.00 bucks for Halo 3). It was also considerably larger than any other game out at the time. It was also one of the first games to utilized an internal RAM chip so that players could save games. Phantasy Star Online debuted in 2000 and has been featured on a number of systems as well as PC. The most recent incarnation of the game was Phantasy Star Universe available for X-Box 360, PC and PS2.

#7 The ‘Mana’ series

The ‘Mana’ games were initially intended as a spin-off of the uber-popular Final Fantasy (hint hint) series, but ‘Mana’ took on a life of its own by its second installment Secret of Mana. The game series dominated the handheld market for years until hitting the Playstation in 2000 with Legend of Mana leap-frogging Seiken Denetsu 3 (the game never received an American translation)  as the next American release. The last game to be released to the consoles was World of Mana, a collection of previous ‘Mana’ games from various systems including mobile devices.

#6 The ‘Chrono’ Series

In 1995 members from the Final Fantasy development team joined forces with members from the Dragon Quest team to form the ‘Dream Team’ of game developers. They were responsible for creating what is widely considered one of the greatest, most influential games of all time: Chrono Trigger. Staffer’s at CraveOnline would have placed this game higher on the list, but the voting was completely up to the readers. In 2006 Chrono Trigger finished second on IGN’s 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time (second to another game on this list).

Here's a second clip from the Chrono Series

When it first hit the scene, the game revolutionized RPG’s with features like multiple endings, and plot related side quests that aided in character development, not only that, but players could combine their parties attacks for massive super attacks. The game also brought replay value to a genre that struggled with that concept, allowing players to alter their game play experience upon going through the game again after its initial completion. Despite the fact that this game was a serious trendsetter plans on an update or sequel are still non-existant.

#5 The Persona Franchise

While it lacks the history that some of the other games on the list have, the Persona series is actually a spin-off of sorts to the (much older) Shin Megami Tensei game that was considered inappropriate for western audiences. Persona (and its two sequels) were all available on Playstation and had a truly remarkable combat system. In the second installment, players could preprogram the parties battle commands (attack, use persona, or even heal their teammates) so that when a fight started, the party would begin combat without input from the player. This worked well because if the fight wasn’t going well, then the player could change tactics mid fight. The third game offered yet an even better way to do battle, there are no reports of a fourth game under development at press time.

#4 The ‘Shining’ Franchise

No this isn’t a horror RPG you somehow have never heard of, this is yet another game that came to America before the kids here were ready. The first game in the series was titled ‘Shining in the Darkness’ and was released in 1991, one of the first games released on the Sega Mega Drive. A first person viewpoint based game, the Shining Series would undergo format changes and jump to other systems over the years. The more popular ‘Shining Force’ was on shelves a year later and featured new characters and a revamped strategy based gameplay system, which allowed players to control a massive 12 member party at one time (to this day, an impressive number)! It wasn’t until ‘Shining the Holy Arc’ for the Sega CD that the first person aspect was revisited.

#3 Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (I & II)

Although a relative new comer to the console (the dice game has been around for decades, and its gameplay system is a basis for the video game) RPG genre (2003), the Star Wars brand brought the game instant recognition and exposure. The game developers took advantage of this leg up and in the process won numerous ‘Game of the Year’ awards. Using a battle system based on the traditional D20 Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Addition system (as well as the Star Wars game mentioned earlier) KoToR gave players a seamless realtime fight system that was still technically turn based (characters perform actions and react to others almost simultaneously). The Star Wars brand also delivered characters and locations that American gamers were likely to be more familiar with. Though the sequel to the first game was a bit lackluster for hardcore fans, it was still fairly well received. There are rumors of a third game in the works.

#2 The Legend of Zelda Franchise

This game made the list under heavy protest, since this game franchise can only loosely be labeled as an RPG (get outta here with that action/rpg bullsh*t!!!) especially since only the second installment used XP as a basis for character development (and the fact that that game is considered the bastard son of the series only strengthens the argument) There are those, in all fairness, that consider this an action/rpg so that they don’t feel left out of Final Fantasy conversations. With that being said, Zelda is arguably the greatest franchise in all of gaming, dominating sales on multiple platforms since its 1986 inception. IGN named Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (honestly, this game gets the best damn names) the greatest game of all time in 2007, and odds are the only real challenger to the throne is likely Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (see?). At the very least, Zelda did a great job blurring the lines between RPG’s and action games.

#1 The Final Fantasy Franchise


This is it. The game that helped kick start the long arduous journey of Japanese RPG’s finding acceptance on American soil. With several sequels and spin-offs, Final Fantasy is easily one of the most recognizable video game franchises on the planet, with not only top selling games, but two full length CGI movies as well. Square Enix (originally just Square) created the first Final Fantasy game in 1987 and immediately set a standard, not only for the sequels to come in its own series, but for many games to come. The most lasting feature however is the Character Class system, which has evolved into one of the most solid in game features to be seen in any game. The battle system has only recently undergone any major changes with the introduction of a more ‘realtime’ battle system.

Here is more footage from the Final Fantasy Franchise

The Final Fantasy story itself is quite unique considering that most of the games stories are vastly different from one another. Because of this, true sequels are typically removed from the numbering system (for example, the sequel to Final Fantasy X isn’t Final Fantasy XI, it’s Final Fantasy X-2). The transition from the SNES to the Playstation make it clear early on that the next gen explosion would give Final Fantasy new life, raising the bar for gameplay with each new installment, the true test will be seeing if Final Fantasy will bring players to the PS3. 

There you have it folks, look for other video game related top ten’s on very soon, and don’t forget to stop and comment on what you see here.