5) Valkyria Chronicles II (PSP) – Valkyria Chronicles II stepped into the cluttered world of PSP strategy RPGs and blew most of the competition away. Strikingly similar in gameplay and design to its PS3 predecessor, VCII injects new life into the portable SRPG by having an active, third-person shooter combat element. Though there are a few faults with the story and characters, Valkyria Chronicles II has gameplay that kept me coming back for more and more.
4) Resonance of Fate (PS3 / 360) – Combat in Resonance of Fate is distinctly different from any other RPG I've ever played, and that alone would almost earn it a place on this list. But beyond that, this new combat system full of triangles and wire-fu gunplay is a heck of a lot of fun. With the newness of the world, the freshness of the gameplay, and the fun puzzles of the overworld area, Resonance of Fate is a breath of fresh air for the genre.
3) Nier (360 / PS3) – With only a few weeks before the end of the year, I finally tried out Nier. While the game's visuals are a bit buggy at times, it offered a strong narrative and some strong combat. Most of all, Nier tried to do lots of different things with the JRPG: expansive boss battles, puzzle rooms, platforming elements, there's always something else going on in Nier. And while some of the game's elements are less successful than others, on the whole Nier is an enjoyable game with a stirring tone, even if the game's grasp occasionally exceeded its reach.
2) Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable (PSP) – Generic content about how terrific Persona 3 is. Typical raving over depth of gameplay, accessibility of story, and enjoyment of characters. Etc, etc. As much as you may be tired of hearing it, Persona 3 is the class of PS2 RPGs. And despite losing some of the terrific animated cutscenes, P3P has improved on the original in many ways. From story, to combat, to gameplay, P3P is as complete as any RPG in recent history, and now it's portable to boot.
1) Final Fantasy XIII (PS3 / 360) – So, as the guy who loves RPGs but never got around to playing Mass Effect 2, I found myself in 2010 playing a host of games that were average to pretty-great, but almost nothing really stood out as a phenomenal gaming experience. 2010 in a nutshell: the odds are pretty good, but the goods are pretty odd. But Final Fantasy XIII stood out amongst this year's games, and despite its flaws it was the most fun I had playing RPGs this year. The staggering visuals, the well-fashioned world, the careful attention to detail, and the customization of skills all appealed greatly to me, enough so to offset the few irritating characters and the on-rails gameplay. FFXIII may not have been what everyone wanted, but it was a great time for me.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey (DS)
The War of Eustrath (iOS)
Shiren the Wanderer (Wii)
Special Dishonorable Mention: Blazing Souls Accelate (PSP) – Without a doubt, the worst game that I've played this year. There has to be some category to recognize how terrible this game is. Overly complex, distressingly boring, and nearly impossible to complete without a guide or FAQ, Blazing Souls Accelate is not any fun to play. Though it doesn't quite qualify as entertainment, it could possibly be considered educational, as it has taught me about the limits of my patience.
Screw you, Blazing Souls Accelate.