Winner: Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Few original games this year harkened back to the grand scale of old-school JRPGs more than Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Sprawling open world? Check. Glorious twelve-hour soundtrack with contributions from Yasunori Mitsuda, ACE, and more? Check. Epic story that boils down to a titanic clash between good and evil? Slight oversimplification for emphasis, but check.
Yes, the combat is by no means traditional in the sense of being turn-based (what else is new with Xenoblade?), but so many other mechanics (e.g., level-based class system, skill trees) are sleek, streamlined versions of what came before.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 sets a new bar for what JRPGs ought to be in the 21st century, and is a worthy successor to not only Xenogears but also the likes of Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. Yeah, I went there.
by Gio Castillo
Runner-Up: LIVE A LIVE
It’s hard to deny that LIVE A LIVE was ahead of its time, given how well it resonated with fans in 2022. An anthology JRPG is an amazing fit for today’s time-strapped fans, while more hardcore players will find a unifying story that stands up with some of the best of the SNES era. Each story feels distinct from the others, ranging from stealth action to town defense, all the way to visual novel. It’s all wrapped in a lightly tactical battle system with plenty of team-building options and unique growth systems. Sure, it might not have won Game of the Year, but runner-up is a fine feather in the cap of a 28-year-old game!
by Wes Iliff