5) Grandia II (DC) - The Grandia series has never been known for deep story lines or turn-based battles. Instead, the series (or at least the first two installments) offers great character development and action-oriented battles. While I'm not a big fan of the latter, I immensely enjoyed this quirky Dreamcast title precisely because of its lovable characters and fun battle system. If only the final boss hadn't been a wuss and butterfly at the same time.
4) Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Böse (PS2) - A lot of people certainly felt this game in general and the battle system in particular were precisely what the subtitle suggested, beyond "good and evil". While there is no denying that it is the weakest link in the Xenosaga franchise, it still was an above average title. After all, despite some shortcomings, Episode II still featured elements that made me appreciate the entire series: a deep story, entertaining turn-based battles, a whole bunch of sidequests and gorgeous visuals.
3) Final Fantasy X (PS2) - When it was released in mid-2001, Final Fantasy X unsurprisingly became the first RPG highlight on PlayStation 2 (sorry, Shadow Hearts wasn't my cup of tea). Tasked with creating a new battle system for Final Fantasy X, Front Mission mastermind Toshirou Tsuchida came up with a true gem of a system: the CTB (Count Time Battle) system. An atmospheric and interesting, albeit hardly ground-breaking story, a solid cast of characters (if only they had left out Bakka, eh Wakka), a huge world, tons of sidequests, and, for its time, breath-taking visuals add up to one of the finest last generation RPG experiences.
2) Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht (PS2) - Having enjoyed the Tetsuya Takahashi-directed PlayStation game Xenogears, I was curious to see what he could do as part of a new outfit named Monolith Soft. Takahashi's and Monolith Soft's first project, Xenosaga Episode I certainly did not disappoint. It was an outstanding beginning to the most epic tale anybody has told on the PlayStation 2. Not only did it put the player in charge of a likable cast of characters, but also introduced a number of interesting NPCs with distinct personalities, from Wilhelm and Virgil to Margulis. Top notch visuals, a fun-to-play battle system and an atmospheric soundtrack by Yasunori Mitsuda made this a complete package. The only thing that was tough to swallow was the long wait until Episode II's eventual release.
1) Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra (PS2) - The third and final chapter elegantly wraps up Xenosaga's epic story. In addition to an excellent story, great character development, state of the art visuals, a stellar soundtrack by Yuki Kajiura, a rock-solid turn-based battle system, and a long list of side quests make Monolith Soft's last PlayStation 2 title my pick for the best RPG of its generation. This is the RPG that anybody who, like yours truly, likes his RPGs to have deep stories, great character development and turn-based battles should play.