Gold and Silver were my favourite Pokémon games growing up, so the nostalgia bug bit me hard when I played HeartGold and SoulSilver on Nintendo DS. Remaking a classic is tricky business, since you have to satisfy original players while still appealing to new ones, but Game Freak nailed it. HeartGold and SoulSilver retain all the charm and epic battles of the original while breathing new life into Johto with updated visuals, improved features, and all the new Pokémon that had since been introduced. Pokémon has been an important game series in my life and, for me, HeartGold and SoulSilver are its peak.
Final Fantasy XII features gameplay that regularly divides opinions, but players' feelings are united on the characters — sure, we tolerate Vaan, but did anyone actually think he was the best protagonist for the job? Still, while XII didn't excel in its cast, it made up for that issue with a vast, dynamic world filled with interesting locations, massive monsters, and plenty of secrets. I adored the MMO-style gameplay, and the gambit system was one of the best party "AI" systems ever; one that was both fully controlled and automated at the same time. XII doesn't even come close to my favourite Final Fantasy characters or stories, but in fun-factor, it stands far ahead of the rest.
I first picked up The World Ends With You on a whim. I'd heard nothing about it and didn't even know what genre it was, but the box grabbed my attention and the concept of the Reaper game sounded intriguing. It turned out to be one of the best game purchasing decisions of my life (so far, anyway). The World Ends With You combines RPG mechanics with aesthetics, setting, and writing in unprecedented and modern ways. The collectable pin system had me hooked, as did the engaging supernatural story, awesome music, and great cast of characters. Assuming you don't mind kids in beanies, the word "yo," and huge headphones, you shouldn't miss this will-be-one-day classic.
Skies of Arcadia Legends captured my imagination in a way that very few other games in my life have. I've always loved to explore, both in video games and real life, and the huge world of Skies filled with dozens of secrets was a perfect fit for me. Skies of Arcadia allowed me to search for treasure, fly through the skies, chart maps, and discover ancient mysteries. The fun, though traditional, RPG story and characters were just an added bonus. Sure, the ship battles were pretty slow, but it's a minor downfall in an otherwise absolutely stellar game.
It's somewhat amusing to me that an Italian plumber traditionally known for his platforming antics sits at the top of my favourite RPGs. But it does, because Paper Mario is the best RPG ever. Mario's epic adventure across the Mushroom Kingdom is built on a surprisingly complex and customisable battle system, fun and useful collectable badges, great dialogue, extensive and varied side-quests, and stacks of attention to detail including party member Goombario's unique comments on every single location and every single NPC in the entire game. There is no game I have as much fun playing as Paper Mario.