Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Classic RPGs (and their Definitive Versions)

(Note: I am compiling this list for my own benefit. It is currently derived partly from my own opinions, partly from the opinions of my friends, partly from the opinions of the online community. I am not an expert here, nor have I played all--or even most--of these titles. This is a perpetual work-in-progress designed to point myself, and others, toward fantastic, classic games that we may not have had the pleasure of experiencing. This is not a "word of God," definitive list--it's a never-ending attempt at creating such a list. As such, all input is not just welcome, but invited! )


What does it mean to be a Classic?

Anything "classic," be it a game, literature, music, film, aesthetic, language, etc., is something timeless. Something that, despite barriers of time and language and culture remains powerful. Something that has, if you'll excuse the cliche, withstood the test of time. As a gamer and an RPG aficionado, I would like to compile a list of the classic RPGs of all time--and, where necessary (in the case of multiple editions of a single game, in the form of ports, remakes and/or re-imaginings) determine which version of a classic game is the best version.

My own experience with the RPGs of yore is, sadly, limited--I've only been able to play most of the best RPGs, not all of them. So I request collaboration: help me fill out this list, to make it as full and complete and accurate as possible. The criteria for this list are simple enough: to be a classic, a game must possess that timeless quality, that potent, unforgettable, indescribable appeal--but it must also be old. Whether a game leans a bit outside of the "genre" matters not; whether a game is of American or Japanese origin matters not; whether a game follows the Western or Eastern aesthetic matters not. For the purposes of this list, I am limiting the titles to RPGs no later than 10 years ago--circa 2006 or 2007. I think it may be prudent, however, to also include a list of newer games that meet the same subjective criteria, but list them separately as "presumptive classics" because we can only presume them to remain in our collective consciousness in the ensuing years and decades.

(Note: games that are NOT playable in English are NOT eligible for this list)

Classic RPGs (and their Definitive Versions)

Presumptive Classic RPGs (and their Definitive Versions)

Key Terms

  1. A double asterisk (**) denotes a game for which there are no remakes or ports, but for which there are other games bearing the same title, necessitating a declaration of platform.
  2. Original means the original, first-released version of the game--which further indicates that any existing ports, updated ports or remakes are inferior to the original game.
  3. Updated Port means a re-release of the game that is basically a port of the original, but with small changes and/or tweaks to improve the experience... including adjustments to the script, rules set, game content, translation, and/or user interface.
  4. A remake means a complete rebuilding of the the original game on a new platform. This label includes re-imaginings--remakes that dramatically alter the core narrative and mechanical elements of the game while staying true to the general themes/outline of the original.
  5. In the case of very old games where the multitude of ports are of roughly equal quality, I've determined the "definitive version" based on which version of the game is easiest to obtain. For example, Phantasy Star III was developed for the Sega Genesis, but was since ported to the Sega Saturn, Gameboy Advance, PS2, PS3, PSP, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and PC. Since the PC version is the easiest to obtain, being available on Steam, it becomes the "definitive version."

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