We all breathed a sigh of relief when learning Sony reversed its decision to close down the PlayStation Store for the Vita and PlayStation 3. For now. I’ll be honest: we started putting this feature together when we thought all three were still going to close. But, even after Sony saved the day, we don’t know how long the storefronts will stay open, and the PSP PlayStation Store is still closing on July 2nd.
So today we present a list of nearly every notable RPG available digitally for the three consoles. Sure, some of these are available physically and won’t be affected by a digital store closure, but most will cost you a pretty penny. Additionally, we’ll be highlighting some of our can’t-miss favorites, from major titles we think everyone needs to try to smaller titles we think deserve more exposure.
Intro by Zach Wilkerson
by Zach Wilkerson
Everyone gives all the love to Suikoden II. And rightly so. Nonetheless, I recommend that virtually everyone start with the original. And why not? It does a wonderful job of laying the groundwork for almost everything that works about the series. The characters on both sides of the conflict are varied, complex, and all have reasonable motivations. Battles still feature six characters and are every bit as snappy as its sequel. You still get to build a vast army with 108 different characters, and while they might not be as universally well-developed as some later entries, it’s still a delight to watch the numbers get bigger and see your castle get nicer as you go. Maybe most importantly, Suikoden I sets the stage for many of the most important characters in Suikoden II, since it takes place a mere three years before and shares a large portion of the cast. Suikoden I is a more-than-worthy starting point to the series and sets the template for later entries remarkably well.
The Legend of Dragoon
by Neal Chandran
The Legend of Dragoon is a game that rewards patience. When I first played it in my youth, the unforgivingly finicky battle mechanics and unconventional design choices were but two of the many aspects that put me off. However, replaying this game as an adult warmed me to the uniquely challenging entity that lay under the game’s seemingly traditional veneer. The Legend of Dragoon was unafraid to take risks and required a more novel approach than what I was used to.
Plot progression also rewards patience. The first two disks are a slog, but once you get through those, the story absolutely blossoms in disks three and four. With perseverance comes one of the most satisfying JRPG endings I’ve experienced.
Revisiting The Legend of Dragoon with greater patience and maturity allowed me to appreciate its idiosyncrasies, including Dennis Martin’s delightfully funky and woefully underrated soundtrack. Maybe you should give it a second chance too.
by Quinton O’Connor
If Merriam-Webster ever decides to add Xenogears to the dictionary, its definition will be deceptively simple: “flawed gem.” Industry visionary Tetsuya Takahashi, along with his intrepid band of personnel, and a team of inexperienced young graduates, set out to craft a JRPG with a story that was too vast to fit into a single game. As a result, grievous plot and gameplay cuts were made to Xenogears’ second disc, leading to its infamous legacy as allegedly “unfinished.” There are aspects of this spectacular PS One JRPG that warranted further fleshing-out, but the rest of the game is so good that I hardly care.
From protagonists Fei Fong Wong and Elhaym Van Houten, to allies like Citan Uzuki and Bartholomew Fatima, every character experiences a layered, emotional journey, and I can’t imagine not cheering for them all by the end. Xenogears is no slouch in the villain department either, with a list of memorable jerks you’ll want to bludgeon into oblivion — and not just because fighting in giant robots is awesome. Sprinkle in one of Yasunori Mitsuda’s greatest soundtracks, and you can let my hypothetical dictionary entry say what it will; I’ll never tire of standing tall and shaking the heavens with Xenogears.
by Audra Bowling
I’d recommend any of the Suikoden games on the PlayStation Store. However, I’m going to talk about Suikoden IV because, as it’s the least critically well-received title of the vaunted series, I suspect it’s often overlooked. While a disappointing Suikoden title, it’s still a decent PS2-era RPG and worth playing as the beloved series’ prequel. There are definitely things in Suikoden IV I didn’t enjoy, such as the strategic naval battles, but I did like some elements. Lazlo’s Rune of Punishment storyline, seeing Ted before his meeting Tir from Suikoden I, the memorable pirate Kika, my personal favorite video game mermaid designs, and a good OST. I’d certainly recommend Suikoden IV if you can play its truly excellent SRPG sequel Suikoden Tactics afterward since it helps strengthen Suikoden IV’s narrative. Even without Suikoden Tactics, I think this prequel, despite its flaws, is worth the PlayStation Store price if you want to explore more Suikoden lore.
by Bob Richardson
Few games resonate with such a beautifully macabre atmosphere like Vagrant Story. From the gritty dungeons to the ruins in daylight, Ashley Riot explores the odd, vaguely magical Leá Monde throughout most of the game as he hunts Sydney, a cult leader. In true Ivalice fashion, the plot is so much more than the ostensible mission. The unique atmosphere is established in various ways: clothing, color scheme, hairstyles, the overwhelming use of a weighty silence, music, and odd foes. Many remember Vagrant Story for its timing-dependent combat system where players can chain attacks targeting enemies’ different body parts. A relatively complex weaponry system initially intimidates but eventually enchants. For me, though, I remember Vagrant Story for its sense of place and meandering story. Even by today’s standards, few games can match its vibe, so make sure you don’t miss this one.
by Alana Hagues
Based on premise alone, Parasite Eve deserves to be played by everyone. Square capitalised on the rising popularity of the survival horror genre and blended it with RPG elements to create something unsettling, unique, and incredibly fun. From every pulse of Yoko Shimomura’s inorganic soundtrack, to the biological horror and grotesque mutations, it oozes atmosphere. Combat mixes real-time movement with an ATB bar that makes you feel tense as you watch your bullet count get lower. Most importantly, protagonist Aya Brea is the grounded centre of the game; she’s a normal woman who finds herself in an extremely abnormal situation, and tries to deal with it in her own way.
I can’t squeeze in everything that makes Parasite Eve stand out even today here, but the fact it’s only around 10 hours should be enough to convince you to at least try it out and hopefully fall in love like I did.
Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines
by Michael Sollosi
Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines isn’t a beloved PS One or PS2 classic like most on this list, or even a traditional JRPG with a consistent set of main characters. As a sequel to the 1999 PlayStation RPG Ore no Shikabane o Koete Yuke (which roughly translates to “Over My Dead Body”), Oreshika sees the player control a family of cursed samurai as they create descendants and blessings powerful enough to end their curse. Combining life sims, roguelikes, and job-based dungeon-crawling elements, this is one of the Vita’s most unique games. In addition, Oreshika’s traditional Japanese art style and music are dazzling.
As a Vita-only, digital-only sequel to a Japan-only game, the English language version of Oreshika is one of the most unlikely PS Store releases ever, and won’t be available anywhere if and when the Vita’s PlayStation Store closes for good. Even the free demo will be gone forever. For preservation’s sake, I implore you to give Oreshika a chance.
by Mark Tjan
Without exaggerating, Chrono Cross is one of the best RPGs on the PS One. It’s got outstanding music, a complex battle system, and an exceptionally engaging narrative. While often overlooked because it didn’t meet expectations of being a Chrono Trigger sequel, it’s a rock-solid title in its own right and well worth the 40-odd hours it takes to complete. And even though its extended cast, both visually and narratively, is a mixed bag, the core crew of Serge, Kid, and Lynx make for a compelling triad.
The soundtrack contains some of Yasunori Mitsuda’s finest work, and it all marries incredibly well with the themes and ideas that Chrono Cross presents. It’s melancholy, forceful, thoughtful, and always intriguing. Combine this with the superb visuals (especially those environments!), and the game is a real sensory feast. It’s a shame its battle system hasn’t been seen elsewhere since, but it has some deeply strategic ideas that really make it stand out. Chrono Cross leaves a lasting impression, and I hope it shines as brightly for you as it has for me.
Dissidia Final Fantasy & Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy
by Peter Triezenberg
I don’t know if there’s any game I associate with the PSP more than Dissidia Final Fantasy. I was in 9th grade and absolutely ecstatic at the prospect of all my favorite Final Fantasy heroes and villains duking it out. It was a young otaku’s dream, allowing us to settle once and for all whether Zidane or Kefka would win in a fight. Dissidia succeeds where more recent 3D arena fighters have failed. It offers a balanced and varied roster of characters with RPG-style systems to give players a rewarding sense of progression while keeping the combat fast-paced and just technical enough to appeal to fighting game veterans. In fact, the more recent Dissidia NT was a major step back in this regard, being a more generic team-based fighter with sluggish control, which makes the two PSP titles a one-of-a-kind experience.
Both PSP games have tons of downloadable content that will cease to exist if the PlayStation Store closes too. So if you’re feeling nostalgic for 2009-era Square Enix or have yet to witness the battle between Cosmos and Chaos, I strongly recommend picking up at least 012. It comes with the entire first game’s story as an unlockable bonus and is still worth your time today.
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
by Eva Padilla
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together can stake a claim that it’s one of the most influential SRPGs of all time. There may not be a bad way to play this Super Famicom gem, but the PSP remaster is by far the best, featuring an improved script and the “Chariot” system, which allows players to rewind up to 50 gameplay turns at any time.
When working on Tactics Ogre, lead creative Yasumi Matsuno witnessed the crumbling of Yugoslavia. Being a keen student of history, Tactics Ogre was unable to escape the anguish Matsuno paid witness to halfway across the world, and much of the game’s heartbreaking story is colored by this. It’s far from commonplace for a game to successfully grapple with topics such as classism and ethnic cleansing today. But a quarter-century ago, it was nearly unheard of. Tactics Ogre is far greater than a simple precursor to the Ivalician tales which were to come, and remains as resonant and relevant as ever.
Arc the Lad I, II, & III
by Wes Iliff
You probably haven’t played Arc the Lad. It’s a classic series with roots in the PS One era, but we only got our hands on the first three games in the West two years after the PS2 had launched. Working Designs released a lovely collection in a giant five-disc box, stretching the limits of the disc number icon on multi-disc PS One games, but the games were forgotten about as quickly as they came. Luckily, PS One Classics swooped in with the save!
The Arc the Lad games are tactical RPGs that are more Shining Force than Final Fantasy Tactics. The first acts more like a prologue to the much-denser Arc the Lad II, clocking in at around 10 hours. Arc the Lad III pushes the series forward with 3D maps and a tighter RPG structure while advancing the timeline ahead enough to act as a standalone game. And while all three feature political intrigue, it never gets in the way of its focus on a loveable, colorful cast. If you like your tactical RPGs character-centric and globe-trotting, you owe it to yourself to pick up this amazing series on the PlayStation Store while you can.
What else is available on the PlayStation Store?
PS One RPGs
- Battle Hunters
- Breath of Fire III
- Breath of Fire IV
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
- Final Fantasy Origins: Final Fantasy I & II
- Final Fantasy Tactics
- Front Mission 3
- Mega Man Legends
- Mega Man Legends 2
- Parasite Eve II
- Persona 2: Eternal Punishment
- Saiyuki: Journey West
- Threads of Fate
- Suikoden II
- Vanguard Bandits
- Wild Arms
- Wild Arms 2
- Grandia III
- Growlanser: Heritage of War
- Grim Grimoire
- La Pucelle: Tactics
- River King: A Wonderful Journey
- Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga
- Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2
- Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES
- Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
- SMT: Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs the Soulless Army
- SMT: Devil Summoner 2: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. King Abaddon
- Stella Deus: The Gate of Eternity
- Suikoden III
- Ar nosurge: Ode to an Unborn Star
- Battle Princess of Arcadias
- Class of Heroes 2
- Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice
- Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness
- Drakengard 3
- Hyperdimension Neptunia mk2
- Hyperdimension Neptunia Victory
- Ragnarok Odyssey Ace
- Rune Factory: Tides of Destiny
- Tales of Graces f
- Tales of Symphonia Chronicles
- Tales of Xillia
- Tales of XIllia 2
- Tears to Tiara II: Heir of the Overlord
- The Awakened Fate Ultimatum
- The Guided Fate Paradox
- Trinity: Souls of Zill O’ll
- Vandal Hearts Flames of Judgment
- The 3rd Birthday
- Adventures To Go!
- Aedis Eclipse: Generation of Chaos
- Brandish: The Dark Revenant
- Cladun: This is an RPG
- Class of Heroes 2
- Dragoneer’s Aria
- Dungeon Explorer
- End of Serenity
- Final Fantasy
- Final Fantasy II
- Final Fantasy IV: The Complete Collection
- Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
- Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time
- Hexyz Force
- Jeanne D’Arc
- Kingdom of Paradise
- Lunar: Silver Star Harmony
- Mana Khemia: Student Alliance
- Mimana Iyar Chronicle
- Mystic Chronicles
- Ragnarok Tactics
- Shin Megami Tensei: Persona
- Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 2: Innocent Sin
- Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable
- Summon Night 5
- Valkyria Chronicles II
- Valhalla Knights
- Valhalla Knights 2: Battle Stance
- Wild Arms XF
- Z.H.P.: Unlosing Rangerman v Darkdeath Evilman