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Editor's Top 5 (Page 1) - Editor's Top 5 (Page 2) - Overall Top 10
Welcome to RPGFan's Games of 2003 feature. In order to come up with an overall list for RPGFan's games of the year, we have taken the top 5 RPGs of each editor and combined them to get an overall ranking. A game given 1st place by one editor adds 5 points, 2nd place adds 4 points and so on. By combining the scores each editor's top 5, we get an overall list of games. These scores are of course only based on the games that each editor actually had a chance to play, and as such, not every RPG was in the running for every person.

That said, check out each editor's top 5 RPGs of the year (plus Non-RPG Top Picks) and the Overall Top 10 list by using the navigation above.

Robert Bogdanowicz Mike Bracken Brian Cavner
Eve C. Jen Claudio Tim Duong
Eric Farand Patrick Gann Stephen Harris
Justin Hoeger Christopher Holzworth WooJin Lee
Liz Maas Ryan Mattich John McCarroll
Evan Michaels Mike Salbato Daniel Stringer
Damian Thomas Mark P. Tjan Jason Walton
Chris Winkler

Liz Maas' Top Picks

1) Fire Emblem (Rekka no Ken) (GBA) - Well, it's damn near impossible not to get excited when the series that drew you to strategy RPGs and got you addicted finally arrives to North America. In Japanese or in English, this may be my favorite Fire Emblem yet. The classic gameplay, the variety of classes, weapons, magic, being forced in so many ways to strategize, item manage and so forth, and best of all, the loveable cast of characters the game comes with. Too bad the game only makes me want more Fire Emblem to make its way over here.

2) Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2) - Honestly, when I played Brother's Angels FFX-2 at E3, I was so sure I'd hate it in its full form. Still, even then I had to admit I liked the battle system, and the job classes. So I ended up not only buying the game, but also the limited edition Brady guide as well to get the artbook. The battle engine is more fun than I'd remembered, and the story is, thankfully, much less fruity, and becomes all the more intriguing, especially if you loved FFX as much as I did.

3) Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA) - I'm a sucker for Mario RPGs. This one's the best one yet, especially since it's got Luigi and requires the two to cooperate both in battle and on the map - so even exploring areas is actually interesting. The script and some visuals are pretty damn funny too, and who knew you'd end up making TeeHee blends of coffee? The minigames don't exactly hurt things either... there's nothing in the whole game that doesn't keep me interested. Might be why I'm still playing it.

4) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (GCN) - Yeah, I never got to play the original, so when this disc became available, I was pretty damn excited, plus I wanted to play it before Wind Waker. Unfortunately, I never got to WW this year, but OoT held me over well, with all that addictive gameplay. Being my first 3D Zelda too, it was quite the new experience. Now if only I'd sit down and play Wind Waker...

5) Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille Zur Macht (PS2) - While I did like this game a lot, I honestly wanted to like it more. The story is awesome, the music is Mitsuda and needs no more words to describe it, and some parts of the battle and general gameplay system did have a lot of good ideas going for it, like the deathblows and distribution of all the 'Points.' Unfortunately, the battles got horribly repetitive, and the AGWS battles were bland. Still, the game left me all too anxious for Episode II.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros. 3 (GBA)
2) Pac-Man VS. (GCN)
3) Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN)
4) Ikaruga (GCN)
5) Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PS2)

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Ryan Mattich's Top Picks

1) Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (J-PS2) - The third installment of tri-Ace's Star Ocean series arrived in Japan this past February, setting the world on fire. Despite problems at release due to bugs in the game, all issues have since been resolved, leaving us with the most refined and innovative RPG of the year. Gamers in North America have a lot to look forward to; the adventures of Fate Linegod and company transcend worlds and the universe as we know it, driven by an intense battle system and intricate gameplay. A truly unforgettable experience.

2) Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA) - Konami has a winning formula for an Action RPG, and this is it. The latest installment of the 2D Castlevania line surpasses its 3D cousin on the PS2 with an amazing arsenal of weapons and equipment, along with soul abilities that keep the gameplay entertaining through sheer diversity in tasks to accomplish. A charming cast of characters helps to flesh out the game's premise moreso than previous attempts, and the soundtrack will keep your blood pumping during all that zombie-whipping. Another must play title.

3) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN) - I didn't have high expectations when I sat first sat down with Wind Waker, but despite the game's radical art direction, I was pleased to find that it maintained the series' trademark charm and addictive gameplay. Although the joy of exploration was hindered for me due to the length and tedium of sailing, Zelda's creatively designed dungeons and vast number of secrets to find kept me coming back for more.

4) Venus and Braves (J-PS2) - An obscure sequel to "Seven - Molmorth no Kiheitai," an equally unheard of game on this side of the ocean. Namco's Venus and Braves stars Blood Baal, one of two gods on earth who must maintain order throughout the land. His incredibly non-linear adventure allows him to recruit and train a vast array of character types, all of whom are able to fight, marry, have children together, and die as time passes in the game. A powerful storyline and a unique battle system, more akin to chess than your typical RPG, makes Venus and Braves one of the year's best. It's too bad it will never see the light of day outside of Japan.

5) Drag-on Dragoon (J-PS2) - Square Enix's latest Dynasty Warriors + Panzer Dragoon hybrid fails to outperform either of the two series, but a powerful, character-driven storyline, a vast arsenal of over sixty unique weapons and spells, as well as multiple endings made the experience worthwhile.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Viewtiful Joe (GCN)
2) Ikaruga (GCN)
3) Silent Hill 3 (PS2)
4) Soul Calibur II (Multiplatform)
5) F-Zero GX (GCN)

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John McCarroll's Top Picks

1) Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox, PC) - The highest score I've given a game in my short reviewing career, KotOR is one of the best games I've played in years. Taking Bioware's D20 engine, chopping it down to 40 hours and giving two different endings, KotOR is sheer brilliance in game form.

2) Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA) - A worthy sequel to one of the best strategy RPGs ever, FFTA takes the formula, makes it quite a bit easier - not to mention more accessable - and throws portability into the mix. Even if it weren't a game to play in between red lights, FFTA would still be one of the better SRPG titles in the last few years.

3) Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2) - Another groundbreaking title, Disgaea took the standard formula for the SRPG and turned it completely upside down. An irreverent plot, a combat system that screams uniqueness and a limitless level ceiling makes Disgaea a must-buy.

4) Fire Emblem (GBA) - It's weird to see two SRPGs on a top 5 list for a year, but three is almost uncalled for. A tough-as-nails SRPG with the old-school gamer in mind, Fire Emblem takes some old ideas, throws in some nice graphics and a difficulty trick that makes the game border on insane and brings it to America for the first time since the game series began on the NES.

5) Dynasty Tactics 2 (PS2) - You all must think I'm crazy. Four out of five of the top games of this year being Strategy-RPGs instead of the norm? Yes. This year was the ultimate year for SRPG fans, and DT2 brings up the back end with its very impressive combo system expanded from the first game. A must-have for Romance of the Three Kingdoms fans.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Need For Speed: Underground (Multiplatform)
2) Amplitude (PS2)
3) Tony Hawk: Underground (Multiplatform)
4) Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN)
5) DDR Extreme (J-PS2)

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Evan Michaels' Top Picks

1) Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA) - Symphony of the Night was one of the best action-RPG styled games ever created, and Aria of Sorrow seemed to capture the feel of it more so than any of the other GBA installments. It may be on the small screen, but Aria of Sorrow's 3D counterparts have a lot to learn from this game.

2) Final Fantasy XI (PC) - It took a long time for this game to finally hit western shores, but it was well worth the wait. One of the most well-rounded MMORPGs to come along, Final Fantasy XI manages to pack in a lot of variety alongside its lush environments and well-scored soundtrack.

3) Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2) - Perhaps not as serious or polished as its non-sequel counterparts, this Charlie's Angels-esque entry into the Final Fantasy franchise still managed to be a lot of fun. While X-2 shares a lot of the environments of its predecessor, the gameplay stands well on its own as a unique experience.

4) Dark Cloud 2 (PS2) - After the disappointment of the original Dark Cloud, I wasn't expecting much from its sequel, yet Dark Cloud 2 managed to be a surprisingly fun and refreshing entry into my PlayStation 2 collection. I typically hold much disdain for "random dungeon" type games, but this is one I enjoyed regardless. The cel-shaded graphics and mostly top-notch voice acting lends a lot to this game's success.

5) Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA) - To say I had high expectations for a sequel in the Final Fantasy Tactics series would be an gross understatement, yet FFTA managed to deliver on most counts. While it really wasn't quite in the same league as the masterful original--which remains my favorite strategy-RPG of all time--it still stands on its own as great game. While certain failings keep it from being further up on my list here, no RPG player's GBA should be without this one.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Otogi: Myth of Demons (Xbox)
2) Capcom vs. SNK 2 (Xbox)
3) Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PS2)
4) SVC Chaos: SNK vs. Capcom (Neo-Geo)
5) Soul Calibur II (Multiplatform)

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Mike Salbato's Top Picks

1) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN) - I admit I was initially weary about WW's new look - at least, until I saw it in motion, and in person. Looking far better than it did in screen shots, and with animation to die for, I fell in love with the look. Luckily, the core gameplay from the N64 titles was left intact, so it was a joy to play as well. Unlike my time with the import last year, I now have played the game in English, and love it even more. One of the best games in the series, and easily the best RPG-ish (or game with RPG elements for you sticklets) game of 2003.

2) Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2) - The beginning of FFX-2 really made me weary. Once you get past that though, you get to the superb gameplay, and graphics even better than its predecessor (the hair animates! At last!). The music quality is spotty, but it does have some good stuff. While not as epic as FFX before it, I don't think it should have been, lest it trivialize the events of the past. In the end, the class and battle systems were great enough to make up for any other setbacks. It's been awhile since I had so much fun in an RPG...

3) Skies of Arcadia Legends (GCN) - ...probably since Skies' GameCube version. Despite owning the Dreamcast version, I never played it, so this was an all-new experience for me. While the plot may not have too many twists or surprises, it remains a solid game, from the colorful cast, gorgeous 'overworld' map to an often-fantastic musical score, I definitely regret missing out on the game back on the DC. I guess I've atoned now.

4) Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA) - The third Castlevania on the GBA in not even so many years, Aria of Sorrow had many worried it was going to be rushed. Luckily for us all, it combined the best parts of the last two games, and brought back a massive inventory and weapon system akin to Symphony of the Night. While a wee bit shorter than the usual, the gameplay and music is the best of the GBA entries, and this time there's actually a decent plot. Still not better than Symphony of the Night, but the best since, for sure.

5) Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (GBA) - I was a big fan of Super Mario RPG and Paper Mario, and despite having a different developer than either of those, Mario & Luigi pulled me in and I quickly fell in love with it. Taking the Mario brothers to Beanland, there's a whole new setting compared to the norm, but there's plenty of familiar faces and cameos to make Mario fans happy. In addition to smart, fun and innovative gameplay, Mario & Luigi is full of not only hilarious, but well-written dialogue. And well, it also has some of the best mini-games in an RPG in years.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Otogi: Myth of Demons (Xbox)
2) Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PS2)
3) F-Zero GX (GCN)
4) Pac-Man VS. (GCN)
5) Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN)

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Daniel Stringer's Top Picks

1) Dark Cloud 2 (PS2) - This game is the perfect sequel. The glimpse of potential seen in the first Dark Cloud fully came to fruition in this game. By creating a player-friendly weapons system and an incredibly flexible version of the Georama system, the people at Level-5 fixed the original game's major flaws in one fell swoop. Combine this with an entertaining story, good music, and some very nice graphics, and you have one of the best RPGs ever made.

2) Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA) - IGA and the other fine people at Konami pushed the Metroidesque style of the past few Castlevanias to the absolute limit with this game. With an arsenal of weaponry to rival that of Symphony of the Night and the ability to absorb the powers of his vanquished foes, hero Soma Cruz is easily the most versatile character in a CV game to date. The game even has a story more complicated that the standard "whip Dracula, more than once if necessary" that we've come to expect. Honestly though, the gameplay is more than sufficient to keep you interested.

3) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN) - I'll admit it; I was one of those "Celda" people. That all changed when I saw the game in motion, however. This game is easily the most uniquely beautiful game I've had the pleasure of playing. Beneath the colorful new look was the classic Zelda style and feel we've come to know and love over the years. I'll never doubt the genius of Miyamoto again.

4) Golden Sun: The Lost Age (GBA) - The second half of the tale more than lived up to my expectations. While there was very little deviation from the original game, there didn't really need to be. Why mess with perfection? The resolution of Isaac and Felix's journey is one of the most memorable gaming experiences of the year.

5) Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox, PC) - When I first heard about this game, I was a little unsure that something as action-oriented as Star Wars would make for a good RPG. Boy was I wrong. This game is as addictive as crack, even to people like myself who don't really care for the movies. Simply put, this game is a must-have for anyone who claims to be an RPG fan.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PS2)
2) Guilty Gear X2 (PS2)
3) Viewtiful Joe (GCN)
4) Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (Multiplatform)
5) Legacy of Kain: Defiance (Multiplatform)

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Damian Thomas' Top Picks

1) Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox, PC) - Bioware made me get an Xbox. It's as if they resurrected my beloved Infinity Engine, updated it with smooth, clean 3D, and set it in the Star Wars universe. On top of that, they managed to retain all the open-ended qualities that made games such as Baldur's Gate and Planescape: Torment so involving. Bravo to Bioware, may the Force be with you.

2) Dark Cloud 2 (PS2) - I played the original Dark Cloud for the first time this year, and loved it. It was a fun, simple game with an intuitive battle system and a system that felt a lot like that of an old favorite, Soul Blazer. Dark Cloud 2 improves in EVERY WAY on the original. Great voice acting, compelling plot, expanded Georama system, and ways to influence the future via your actions in the present made this title incredibly high-quality (like Xenosaga) while still being fun (unlike Xenosaga).

3) Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne (PC) - Again, a truly fun game. This expansion added whole new storylines as well as a Diablo-esque Orc campaign which I really enjoyed (and I didn't much care for Diablo!). Then there were the new units, balancing issues, and features added to multiplayer via battle.net. I was truly entertained by this title for quite a while.

4) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN) - Wind Waker was fun. I enjoyed the game. I liked the character/world design. I even liked the battle system, even though I despised Ocarina of Time. And Zelda can be pretty useful in this game. Plus, the game has pirates, and as we all know, pirates are tender.

5) Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2) - While I had fun with this game, I haven't been a huge fan of the SRPG genre since the Shining Force series. Still, Disgaea manages to combine great characters, an interesting storyline, and fabulous voice acting to create a truly hilarious presentation. Add to that the truly innovative Netherworld Senate, item worlds, and rewards for getting healed, and you've got a title that screams to be recognized.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Silent Hill 3 (PS2)
2) Freelancer (PC)
3) Guilty Gear XX (PS2)
4) Soul Calibur II (Multiplatform)
5) Ikaruga (GCN)

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Mark P. Tjan's Top Picks

1) Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2) - Possibly the most enjoyable Final Fantasy I've played thus far. A first for Square Enix, this sequel to Final Fantasy X successfully mixed campy dialogue, likable characters, and incredibly addicting gameplay to create a superb title. Its smooth controls for climbing and jumping certainly didn't hurt the fluid, fast-paced gameplay, and the graphics are as outstanding as ever.

2) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN) - Although hounded by early critics of its graphics, The Legend of Zelda proved to me that Miyamoto and his team can make anything work. Inventive, immersive, and incredibly fun to play. Although it took me awhile to get used to Link's new look, I've come to appreciate how incredibly detailed and beautiful the world of The Wind Waker is overall.

3) Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA) - Sequel to the highly acclaimed Final Fantasy Tactics, this little treasure took the standard tactical RPG formula and improved it tenfold. Its charming, home-grown atmosphere and deep, evolving gameplay helped win me over big time.

4) Final Fantasy XI (PC) - The big one in MMORPGs finally hit North American shores. While the player community is still developing, I've had a blast so far with this title. There's nothing quite like slugging it out in a Final Fantasy world with your friends at your side, and it doesn't hurt that it's one of the few MMORPGs with a central story to follow. It's certainly also the most beautiful MMORPG out there.

5) Golden Sun: The Lost Age (GBA) - While the original Golden Sun was good, its sequel takes its best traits and improves upon them, especially in the field of plotline. Although one might call the story convoluted, I'm rather fond of it. It also shows things from a second hero's perspective, reminicent of Shining Force 3, which is a welcome addition in my book.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Soul Calibur 2 (GCN)
2) Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PS2)
3) Dynasty Warriors 4 (PS2)
4) Ikaruga (GCN)
5) Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN)

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Jason Walton's Top Picks

1) Dark Cloud 2 (PS2) - Having played Phantasy Star Online extensively, I've grown to love action-based 3D RPG combat, and Dark Cloud 2 pretty much delivers what I've always wanted and expected where PSO didn't deliver. The game's aesthetics are outstanding, the musical score is pretty good, the localization job by Sony Computer Entertainment of America is top notch, and the gameplay is hands-down, phenomenal. Definitely worthy of being held high as game of the year.

2) Final Fantasy XI (PC) - MMORPGs are starting to become mainstream with the sudden surge of new and upcoming releases, and Final Fantasy XI brings very little originality to the table, but as far as MMORPGs go, the game client is very solid with rare game-crashing glitches. Square Enix is doing an incredibly impressive job keeping up on bugs and exploits with new patches, thus putting it ahead of its competition in many ways.

3) Skies of Arcadia Legends (GCN) - Having played the original extensively on Dreamcast, I didn't have to ponder on whether I wanted to get the GameCube port or not. Aside from some minor glitches, inferior audio, and the fact that the game was two years old already, the gameplay was still as solid as ever, and boasted some nice enhancements thanks to better console hardware.

4) Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II (Xbox) - It's amusing how I can continue to occasionally pick up a controller and play this simple, yet addictive online team-based RPG. The game's graphics definitely show that it's behind the times, and there are several graphical glitches in various spots which are evidence of a new rendering engine needing to be written, but for the most part, game bugs are few and far between. Thanks to Xbox Live, the game is easily patched, thus delivering arguably the best experience out of any edition of this game to date.

5) Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht (PS2) - Very reluctantly, it takes the number five spot by default, having only played five RPGs this year. Xenosaga is by no means a worthless game, it just is a poorly executed game with an ambitious development team that put too much focus on making an epic story and cutscenes, and seemingly put some gameplay to fit in however it could. With its lower price tag right now, it definitely is worth grabbing.

Non-RPG Top Picks
N/A

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Chris Winkler's Top Picks

1) Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht (PS2) - Epic, grand, mind blowing. These are attributes usually mentioned when referring to the story of Square's 1998 PlayStation hit Xenogears. With Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht, Tetsuya Takahashi proved that his cult hit of five years ago was no one-hit wonder, as the attributes mentioned above fit the story of the first episode of what is laid out as a six volume series as well. The game was one of the best RPGs I have played in recent times, and while the battle system seems to have spoiled the experience of the story for many people, I actually ended up finding it entertaining. Now all one can do is hope for MonolithSoft to solve the unanswered questions and connect the dots between them as skillfully in Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Boese as the team set them up in Episode I.

2) Sakura Taisen: Atsuki Chishio Ni (PS2) - A remake of the series' first installment, Sakura Taisen: Atsuki Chishio Ni brings back fond memories just in time before Red Entertainment and Sega WOW will steer the series into a new direction in 2004 with the releases of Sakura Taisen Monogatari - Mysterious Paris and Sakura Taisen V Episode 0 - Arano no Samurai Musume. Atsuki Chishio Ni has it all: great visuals, the trademark top-notch voice acting as well as the charming humor, clever wit and light-hearted feeling which has made the series so popular.

3) Shin Megami Tensei III - Nocturne (PS2) - Nocturne is my first foray into what is arguably the most popular Japan-exclusive RPG series: Shin Megami Tensei. Due to its rather special theme, the game has a unique atmosphere to it, which is refreshingly different from your standard fantasy tale told in most RPGs. An interesting story and a very deep, evolving and at the same time pretty challenging battle system make this one worth importing for sure. Only the amount of random battles tends to be a bit exaggerated here and there.

4) Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2) - The first-ever direct sequel to an installment of the main Final Fantasy series has been subject of heated discussions ever since its announcement. While it does conclude the story of Spira, which began in Final Fantasy X, the game lacks the epic dimensions the series is usually known for. Instead, it offers its player a heavily J-POP-inspired, light-hearted RPG experience, which at times tends to be somewhat cheesy. The fast-paced battles and the job system make this aspect of the game quite entertaining.

Non-RPG Top Picks
N/A

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