5) Kingdom Hearts 2 (PS2) - I was a huge fan of the first Kingdom Hearts game. Sure, it had some camera issues and was a heavy button masher, but as a lover of both Disney and Final Fantasy, I loved almost everything about it. When Kingdom Hearts 2 came around we got an improved game that played, looked, and sounded better than the first game. I loved what Square Enix added to the mix, from the new drive gauge that gave more gameplay options, to the wide cast of supporting characters, and of course the improved length that kept me up for 3 days straight until I had it beat. There was no way I wasn't going to love this game, but it blew away my expectations.
4) Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (GC) - I am a huge fan of strategy RPGs. When done right they give me the best gameplay experience money can buy. I like having to think instead of just pressing the attack button over and over again. After playing all of the Fire Emblem games on the GBA, I couldn't wait for the first console version. Man, was it a fantastic game ripe with great characters, a memorable story, and absolutely marvelous gameplay. After Final Fantasy Tactics, which I still consider the pinnacle of the genre, this is one of the best. If you played the Wii sequel Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, but skipped out on this one, go back and play the best RPG on the Gamecube.
3) Final Fantasy XII (PS2) - No one was ready for FFXII, no matter how hyped for it they happened to be. So many gamers felt betrayed by Square Enix because it was such a drastic change from the typical Final Fantasy game. I was not one of those people, however, because I fell in love with FFXII after witnessing a grand tale filled with the most believable world Square Enix has created yet. The gameplay, adopted from MMORPGs, was fast-paced, strategic, and most importantly: fun. Was I playing the same game as all those other people, or am I just better at accepting change? I'll let you decide that.
2) Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (PS2) - Much like most Final Fantasy fans, I didn't buy this game for the "game", but for the FFXII demo disc that came with it. I knew nothing about Dragon Quest, as I had never played a game in the series, but after playing this wonderful gem of a game I had to have more. It's ironic that I ended up liking this more than FFXII itself. If you were a jaded gamer like me who thought the days of old school console RPGs were over and didn't buy this game, give it a chance. You might surprise yourself as much as I did.
1) Final Fantasy X (PS2) - This game was the entire reason I bought my PS2 back then. I loved all of the PS1 Final Fantasy games and the wait for this game was excruciating. When I finally got my hands on it, I was blown away. The story grabbed me from the very beginning, the graphics were jaw dropping, the soundtrack was beautiful, and there was *drum roll* voice acting! This was actually the first RPG I ever played with voice acting, and it gave the characters more personality than I thought it would. Of course, no RPG would be any good without a decent battle system, and this was where FFX shined brightest. The battle system was more refined than any other Final Fantasy game I had ever played. To this day I still think it has the best traditional turn-based battle system of any RPG. The biggest element of the gameplay, however, was the sphere grid. It was a definite change from the traditional leveling systems of *every* RPG I had ever played. It confused me at first, and I actually hated it when I first started, but the more I played the more I loved it. If there is one game I will always remember above all others, it's Final Fantasy X.