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

Games of the Year Bracket Battle Final Round

Look, I know this is a little later than the end of the year, but we’re getting 2023’s Games of the Year feature together! We promise it’ll be out soon.

But we are finally ready for the final showdown, and it’s between two turn-based powerhouses. Some would argue that these games are almost polar opposites in their approach: one takes everything traditional about the genre and gives it a fine sheen, whereas the other is all about the shine, all about the style. Nonetheless, I don’t think anyone can argue that these are both worthy of battling it out in the final round to determine our ultimate Game of the Year!

Winners will continue to be determined by your votes, so, be sure to vote over on the right side there! Voting will close on Wednesday, January 17th 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 3 Results

How did we get to this point? Below are the results of round 3, with the winners in bold! Don’t forget to vote!

Division XIII

  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (35%)
  • Persona 5 (65%)

Division XIV

  • Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age (58%)
  • The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt (42%)

Seed 1 v Seed 5

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

Butterfly mask? Check. “Eleven” pseudonym? Check. Lavish 1:1 scale recreation of Octagonia to inspire boldness and invoke the spirit of a warrior? Check! The Masked Martial Arts Tournament starts RPGFan 25th Anniversary Games of the Year Bracket Battle ends here! Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age has emerged victorious against four worthy opponents thus far — its own elder sibling, Dragon Quest VIII, both The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and its biggest competitor as far as the voting results are concerned, Final Fantasy VII Remake. A hop, skip, and a Pink Pirouette later, and here we are. Cue Final Battle music, for this is the decisive moment. Persona 5 draws near.

Dragon Quest is perhaps the most influential Japanese RPG series to exist, and it’s fitting that its most recent entry has made it to the final of this tournament. Echoes of an Elusive Age is the culmination of decades of iteration; the developers finessed its gameplay mechanics, structure, storytelling, and presentation to perfection. It holds hands with its opponent, Persona 5, as ambassadors, proving that turn-based combat is welcome in modern gaming. If anyone ever tells you otherwise, link them to this tournament. 25 years of Games of the Year, and the top two placements have turn-based combat. It’s all down to implementation, and while both games have built upon their forebears’ blueprints in different ways, Dragon Quest XI proves that a truly winning formula is timeless.

Gaming as a whole has seen its fair share of ups and downs through its generations. Dragon Quest, on the other hand, has almost universally been on an upward trajectory. It’s a privilege of coming from a triple-A developer, but Square Enix have created a truly magical world for Echoes of an Elusive Age. Erdrea’s locales are fully realised, and its cultures have their own histories and traditions. The overarching narrative always evokes believable and emotionally compelling reactions from its cast of characters, moving in bold and grand directions. Rarely do so many separate elements of a game resonate with each other in such a meaningful and impactful way, but it’s also rare for a game to be the product of ten genre-defining predecessors.

Persona 5 (2017)

Writeup by Aleks Franiczek

Our protagonist looking mild-mannered in a school uniform and large glasses.

I don’t mean to brag (actually, maybe I do), but I called these finalists in our podcast episode leading up to the GOTY Bracket Battle. And what finalists they are. On one end of the ring is Dragon Quest XI, representing the degree of sophistication that can be achieved by carefully and lovingly iterating on tradition. On the other end is Persona 5: a glowing symbol of modernization and creative RPG innovation. Persona 5 may not have been the first title in the series to combine turn-based battles and dungeon crawling with extensive social/dating sim mechanics, but it is the latest, the most widely known, and has best ironed out the tedious aspects of its old-school roots while retaining the foundation. This contest isn’t just a battle between two all-time great RPGs; it’s a duel of two distinct design philosophies.  

Much like DQXI did to DQVIII earlier in this tournament, Persona 5 killed its beloved older sibling in the most vicious act of fratricide since The Godfather Part II. Foundations exist to be built upon. Persona 5’s social links are more consistently engaging than those of its two immediate predecessors. The celebrated stylistic UI pops off your screen with more oomph than ever before. Its superbly conceived jazz and funk-infused soundtrack has ensured it a musical timelessness. The themes of youthful disillusionment with authority capture the rebellious gusto of the current generation. And, most importantly, Persona 5 largely ditches the procedurally generated dungeon designs of Persona 3 and Persona 4 in favor of its hand-crafted palaces with individualized aesthetics and structures. We already explored the manifested psyches of characters in Persona 4’s dungeons, but Persona 5 took this concept and ran with it—resulting in some of the most creative, enjoyable, and psychoanalytic level designs this genre has ever seen.

If Dragon Quest is the quintessential JRPG, Persona is the quintessential modern JRPG. The power of friendship isn’t just a narrative trope in Persona 5; it is baked into the way that we experience and interact with the world. One doesn’t need to look far to see how much Persona 3, 4, & 5 have revitalized how we engage with characters in this genre, and I’m sure that influence will only continue to develop from here.

Check back soon to see the winners, and don’t forget to vote by Wednesday, January 17th 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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