Winner: Shin Megami Tensei V
The long, quiet wait for Shin Megami Tensei V has been maddening, but now that it’s finally here, it’s clear that the wait was worth it. This is easily the most beautiful series entry to date — a sumptuous production that does full justice to its otherworldly setting and the series’ excellent character designs. Shin Megami Tensei V mostly forgoes dungeons in favor of expansive outdoor regions which are impressively robust and fun to traverse. The Press Turn Battle System returns, and this may be its most elegant iteration yet. It’s simple enough that even new players will grasp it immediately, but it still manages to provide a myriad of engaging tactical puzzles. Creating a fully optimized party to take down a once-impossible foe has never been easier or more satisfying. Most importantly, Shin Megami Tensei V offers a gripping story that remains faithful to the series’ core themes. Bargain with demons, question your friends and yourself and carve your own path through this gnostic apocalypse.
by Adam Luhrs
Runner-Up: Bravely Default II
Do you long for the days of SNES RPGs when crystals, airships, and job systems stood proudly as the symbols of the genre? Then the Bravely series is for you! Bravely Default II feels like what Final Fantasy would have become if Square had continued to build upon the systems in Final Fantasy V. Bravely Default II has a consistent party of four members, kingdoms with elemental crystals, and a job system that allows you to customize your party as you see fit (both in terms of abilities and costumes). And even with these more traditional RPG elements, the game never feels like a throwback, still telling a complex story with well-fleshed-out characters. I can’t wait to see where the series goes next!
by Jono Logan