And here’s the end of our list! The Xbox 360 had comparatively fewer “exclusive” RPGs, so we decided to limit the list to five. But there are still some all-timers here that are worth checking out even today! Give our list a look below.
1) Tales of Vesperia
Written by Wes Iliff
Tales of Vesperia is widely regarded as one of the best in the Tales of series. Following a morally ambiguous hero and a collection of characters ranging from wacky and childish to mature and untrustworthy, Vesperia offers a unique narrative that few games have attempted to capture, much less within the Tales of series. Exploring shades of gray and what actions a hero can justify while still being called a hero, Vesperia demands your attention more than most of its contemporaries. Combine that with a beautiful, colorful look, complex combat that rewards mastery, and one of the best voice casts of its time, and you’ve got an all-time classic from the venerable series. But that’s not the only reason Vesperia is special. Released during a brief shining moment when the greatest JRPGs landed on the Xbox 360, Tales of Vesperia helped justify the console to thousands of JRPG fans worldwide.
2) Lost Odyssey
Written by Wes Iliff
You’ve probably heard Lost Odyssey referred to as the lost Final Fantasy, but that undersells how many unique elements came together in one of the Xbox 360’s best titles. Sure, Sakaguchi wrote the story and Uematsu composed the expectedly stellar soundtrack, but the team at feelplus (who did most of the development work) created something wholly its own here. The battle system, crafted by veterans from the likes of Shadow Hearts and The Legend of Dragoon, introduces a simple timing mechanic alongside a set of strengths, weaknesses, and powerup systems that keeps the game engaging from the opening minutes. The game’s visuals are stunning for its time, from the first transition from CG to gameplay in the opening minutes to the lovingly rendered expressions on each cast member’s face. But perhaps the biggest standout are the short stories from Kiyoshi Shigematsu, detailing the main character’s eternal life. They’re guaranteed to make you cry. If you haven’t tried Lost Odyssey yet, there is no better time to remedy that than right now.
Written by Nick Mangiaracina
The first game in Xbox Live Arcade’s 2011 Summer of Games line-up, Bastion is a novel experience in many ways. A hand-drawn masterpiece, Bastion’s visuals offer a painterly style that has aged gracefully. While traversing the world of Bastion, each level literally falls in place before the player character. Bastion begins to open up as you make it to the central hub town, the titular Bastion, and meet the only character that managed to survive the calamity. Rucks, an old man that you discover is the narrator (voiced beautifully by Logan Cunningham), instructs the player to collect crystalline cores that once powered the world of Caelondia. As you play through Bastion, you learn the fate of the people of Caelondia and a few other survivors, backed by incredible music by Darren Korb. Bastion isn’t the first of its kind, but it is definitely one of the best of its kind.
4) Fable II
Written by Joshua Lindquist
At its core, Fable II is a story about a hero seeking out other heroes to stop an evil plot. What sets it apart is the freedom to do good or evil along the way while also amassing wealth, starting a family, or terrorizing the citizens. That may not sound very special today since open-world games have become common, but the freedom to “choose your own adventure” and see the consequences of your choices in-game was something I first experienced in Fable II. I will never forget hearing my (in-game) child audibly ask, “why did you kill that person?” after killing some evil men in town.
Beyond choices and consequences, Fable II blends multiple combat styles in a way that I am surprised is not copied more frequently. Rarely have I found a game that seamlessly lets me switch between throwing fireballs, firing a shotgun, and unleashing spinning sword attacks within the same battle. Fable II remains the pinnacle of the series and is well worth your time almost 15 years later.
5) The Last Remnant
Written by Sam-James Gordon
The Last Remnant remains a bit of a black sheep in Square Enix’s lengthy repertoire, yet despite launching to a somewhat mixed reception in 2008, it has stood the test of time thanks to its unique design. At the time, Square was ramping up towards action combat, with perhaps its most representative combat system coming from Final Fantasy XIII and its divisive steps to continue moving the series away from its traditional turn-based roots. Despite this, The Last Remnant not only remained turn-based, but further innovated with squad-based control and an intricate character growth system. The game has some balancing issues, with one boss fight in particular being a notorious difficulty spike. Yet, there is enough depth and charm to make the overall experience truly captivating.
Aside from its gameplay, The Last Remnant presents a beautifully realised world, bringing us some fresh takes on typical fantasy races and diverse locales. The narrative weaves elements of political intrigue, coming-of-age stories, and themes of long-lost technology but suffers somewhat from pacing issues. Is it too late to ask for a sequel?