5) Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox) - A top five RPGs of the last generation list wouldn't be complete without an entry from the Western world. While there are a few other Japanese RPGs worthy of this spot (namely Tales of Symphonia, Xenosaga, and Digital Devil Saga), Bioware must be represented, as they are the masters of choice-based storytelling. And, KOTOR is one of the best. It combined an enthralling universe with competent gameplay, but where it truly succeeded was in the creation of a good, neutral, or evil main character, all based on the player's decisions. Even to this day, RPGs struggle to emulate KOTOR's ability to make the player feel truly good or evil, and I'm not sure it's been topped.
4) Shadow Hearts: Covenant (PS2) - This selection may come as a surprise to some, as Shadow Hearts: Covenant doesn't bring anything particularly unique to RPG history. Nevertheless, it is one of the most solid RPGs of the last generation, and one of the most underrated. While not too original in terms of gameplay, Covenant's characters and story elements are as fresh as can be. The quirky characters aren't there just for novelty, however, as they combine to create a touching and epic storyline, one of the few to bring me close to tears. Along with excellent gameplay overall, fun character progression, and a mind-blowingly intense soundtrack, these elements culminate into one of the most enjoyable titles of the past generation. My memories with Yuri and his demons are as fond as can be.
3) The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (GC) - A fan of just about every Zelda installment out there, I was absolutely thrilled about the release of a more realistic title when compared to the previous one, Wind Waker. Although Wind Waker didn't disappoint me (in fact, I think it's great), I found Twilight Princess to be nearly as perfect as a Zelda title could be. The game possesses a simple, yet well-told story and a great new character, Midna, along with awesome gameplay including mounted combat, puzzling dungeons, and a wide, beautiful world to explore. Twilight Princess is action adventure at its very best, and I doubt anyone can do much better. This is what the Zelda series has always strived to be.
2) Final Fantasy X (PS2) - Final Fantasy X: one of the best traditional RPGs to date, the last Final Fantasy to appear before the series' departure from its roots, and the reason I purchased a PS2. Although FFX doesn't introduce spectacular new mechanics to the RPG formula, it simply does everything right and better even than subsequent Final Fantasies. The story and characters approach high art, and the game world is one of the most unique of the Final Fantasies, and the most beautiful. Despite some changes to the series, such as the lack of an overworld that put it behind classics like FFVII, FFX retains the true feel of the previous entries in the series. Currently the final true Final Fantasy in many regards, FFX is an unforgettable adventure with an atmosphere and beauty rarely achieved even today.
1) Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 and Persona 4 (PS2) - Released at the end of the PS2's life, Persona 3 quickly became one of my favorite RPGs of all time. Not only that, but it stood out as soulful, profound, and artistic in an age when games are challenged for the lack of such intangibles. Despite sounding terrible in theory (time limit, one randomly generated dungeon, traditional battles), Persona 3 played out almost perfectly. Indeed, no flaws readily come to mind, and it constantly pushes for the evolution of Japanese RPGs. Persona 3 offers a challenging and engaging system of gameplay, but best of all, it possesses what may be the most memorable, realistic cast of characters in RPG history. Persona 3 left me longing for more time with these endearing characters that I almost feel I can appropriately call friends. Persona 4 employed an almost identical system as Persona 3, with improvements along the way. Despite those improvements, which include a better story and incredibly endearing NPCs, Persona 4 does not top its predecessor due to its reliance on previously established material. Thus, both Persona 3 and 4 take the top position.