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Revisiting RPGFan Games of the Year: Bracket Battle – Round 3

Games of the Year Bracket Battle Round 3

Welcome to Round 3 of the RPGFan Games of the Year Bracket Battle, where we pit all of our Game of the Year winners against each other to discover the ultimate Game of the Year!

Now, we’re down to just four games. The last round was a tight one in a few categories, but now we have some big ones. But they’re all excellent choices: who can pick between two Persona games, or what some would argue are the Japanese and Western RPGs? Well, it’s time for you to do so!

Winners will continue to be determined by your votes, so, be sure to vote over on the right side there! Voting will close on December 14th at 11:59 PM EST.

Which game do you think will win? Which game deserves to win? Be sure to let us know on TwitterFacebookInstagramDiscord, or however you most enjoy interacting with us!

Round 2 Results

I know many of you are probably curious about how the second round shook out; here are the results, according to you, with the winners in bold! Don’t forget to vote!

Division IX

  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (53%)
  • Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (47%)

Division X

  • Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (50%)
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake (50%)

Division XI

  • The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (64%)
  • Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers (36%)

Division XII

  • Final Fantasy XII (32%)
  • Persona 5 (68%)

Seed 1 v Seed 5

Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (2007)

Writeup by Michael Sollosi

Persona 3 Reload - Hero, Yukari and Junpei initiating a team attack in battle.

It’s a tremendous honor for Persona 3 to emerge as the top-seeded RPG in such a crowded field of iconic video games. Persona 3 didn’t win because of weak opponents or by reputation alone; Persona 3 won because anyone who’s played it knows it’s an all-time great.

Persona 3 is the culmination of Atlus’s best RPG ideas of the 2000s. It streamlines a variation of the Press Turn battle system that began with Shin Megami Tensei III and honed by the Digital Devil Saga games. It combines the iconic demon designs of Kazuma Kaneko from those earlier games with new characters and monsters drawn by Shigenori Soejima, one of Kaneko’s proteges. And lastly, it adapts Persona 1 and 2’s concepts and setting into a school sim with loveable, relatable characters.

By uniting the best aspects of slice-of-life anime shows with Shin Megami Tensei’s demon-slaying RPG style, Persona 3 created a phenomenon. Persona 4 and Persona 5 were built upon the foundation laid by Persona 3, and the series has ballooned in sales and popularity ever since. But why is it so good? Is it the delightful setting of Gekkoukan High School and Tatsumi Port Island? Is it the stellar cast, which includes both a robot girl and a loyal Shiba Inu? I think it’s the total package, because Persona 3 truly is the total package.

Persona 5 (2017)

Writeup by Jimmy Turner

Persona 5 Royal screenshot

Over the history of JRPGs, only a select few games have made a strong enough impact to become not just part of RPG discourse but of video games as a whole. JRPGs are still relatively niche compared to other genres, yet some games are so notable that they become bigger than their genre contemporaries and find a place in the mainstream. Persona 5 is a prime example.

Persona 5 is a juggernaut. The Persona series’ growth has been gradual, with each mainline game selling more and more copies, culminating in Persona 5‘s explosion in popularity. Persona 5 is a JRPG for non-JRPG fans and has been released on nearly every modern platform. Speaking for myself, it is the game that brought me back to JRPGs after a lengthy absence, and I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one. The game is a trendsetter, and its influence can still be seen in many games today.

I could continue to heap praise on Persona 5, but if I had to sum it up in a word, I’d go with “memorable.” The story, characters, and dungeons are iconic. The game does a better job of feeling like a “superhero game” than many actual comic-based superhero games! Joker and company feel like real people with real problems who are genuinely trying to make their world a better place. What makes a group of heroes more than that?

Seed 2 v Seed 3

Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (2018)

Writeup by Sam-James Gordon

The hero holding up a shining blade triumphantly in Dragon Quest XI S

In the last round, I declared the battle of Final Fantasy VII Remake versus Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age to be the grand showdown between turn-based and action combat. Turn-based won! Cue the Final Fantasy VII Game Over theme. Can we dub this tournament as RBC — Round-Based Combat? I think so. This time, our opponent is The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which is possibly the most polar-opposite Game of the Year we could be pitting Dragon Quest XI up against. Of course, to have made it this far into the tournament means Dragon Quest XI is more than capable of holding its own against other mainstream critical successes and affirms that the series is reaching loftier heights of international acclaim with each release.

Dragon Quest XI has many more merits to its arsenal than a time-tested battle system. Something I admire about DQXI‘s storytelling is how many smaller stories it tells while driving its central narrative. It’s not just a story about saving the world with its heroes being unwitting tools; the world itself tells the story, and the characters are doing their best to keep things under control despite the odds not being in their favour. DQXI has some heart-wrenching moments — we’ll never forget you, Shell! — and the game as a cohesive package is such a powerhouse that it thoroughly deserved its Game of the Year award. As far as modern classics go, Dragon Quest XI is the pinnacle of a series respecting its roots while achieving widespread modern appeal.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)

Writeup by Aleks Franiczek

A screenshot of Ciri from The Witcher 3, a CD Projekt Red game

In 2015, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt gave us a five-star buffet of RPG flavors: seamless open environments to explore, nuanced dialogue choices, dark fantasy with political reality checks, unique side quests, hot romancing, and dad game. It didn’t matter whether you swung WRPG or JRPG; The Witcher 3 ensnared us all. Sure, the combat wasn’t that great and the world was a lot of glorified empty space, but CD Projekt RED’s breakthrough masterpiece encompassed 30 years of RPG hopes and dreams. It let us play as a cool, likable magic sword dude as we carved his personal and social legacy across a genuinely interesting and beautifully realized world. The Witcher 3 was the first game I played from the PS4 generation, and the sense of wonder and involvement I felt during that playthrough will stick with me forever—much like first playing Final Fantasy VI as a kid.

In 2023, The Witcher 3 buffet still hits the spot. Many games have tried to replicate aspects of its design, but time seems to suggest that what made it so special was more lightning-in-a-bottle than a simple formula. Characters like Triss, Yennefer, and Ciri are still some of the most fleshed-out and endearing NPCs I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know. There are also two legendary expansions that each hone different strengths from the base game and have helped define what good DLC should look like. It surpassed just about all other contemporary AAA games not only in its palpable heart and soul, but in its integrity.

Check back soon to see the winners, and don’t forget to vote by December 14th at 11:59 PM EST!

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Zach Wilkerson

Zach Wilkerson

After avidly following RPGFan for years, Zach joined as a Reviews Editor in 2018, and somehow finds himself helping manage the Features department now. When he's not educating the youth of America, he can often be heard loudly clamoring for Lunar 3 and Suikoden VI.

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