Best Gateway Into Chinese RPGs: Wandering Sword
I had no idea what I was missing out on by not playing Chinese RPGs until I played Wandering Sword. The unique Wuxia-inspired setting, deep character building mechanics informed by martial arts fantasy, and ingenious mix of CRPG and JRPG influences combine to form an unforgettable instant classic. Add to that a solid localization and beautiful HD-2D-esque visuals, and 2023 brought the best option for dipping my toes into a new world of RPGs. I’ve already got a litany of Xuan Yuan Sword and Sword & Fairy games on my list for 2024, and it’s all thanks to Wandering Sword.
Best Quirky Indie RPG That is Criminally Underplayed: 24 Killers
24 Killers is incredibly hard to describe. In one sense, it’s a type of life sim. You live on a small island in the middle of nowhere full of strange inhabitants, fulfilling their requests as your stamina ticks down with every passing moment until the day ends and the next begins. It’s also an adventure game that rewards exploration with new abilities that help you uncover the island’s mysteries. It’s like moon: Remix RPG Adventure or Chulip, even if there is truly nothing like those games out there… and there really isn’t anything else like 24 Killers either. Maybe it’s easier to tell you what it is not: it’s not a waste of time, it’s not like anything you’ve played before, and it’s not an experience you can afford to miss.
Best 2012 PSP Action RPG That Was Finally Localized in 2023 So Now It’s Also the Best Action RPG of 2023: The Legend of Nayuta: Boundless Trails
The best way I can describe The Legend of Nayuta is that it is a melting pot of Falcom’s best work. You have the silky-smooth action-based combat system and tightly designed levels refined by the Ys series. You have the cooperative relationship between Nayuta and Noi, a partnership that steadily develops as they form the magic and melee duo first introduced in the Zwei games. You have the cozy setting of Remnant Isle, with its cast of quirky and friendly neighbors impacted by the increasing stakes of the narrative that feels lifted right out of a Trails title. Despite this borrowing, Nayuta manages to carve out its own identity with a fantastic musical score that marries the various styles of Falcom Sound Team jdk into one cohesive soundtrack. With all the mainline Trails games that came out or were announced recently, it’s no wonder this decade-old spinoff got lost in the shuffle. However, any self-respecting Falcom fan owes it to themselves to give this game a shot, as it represents modern Falcom at the height of their game design prowess.
Best FromSoftware RPG Not Made By FromSoftware: Lunacid
Made entirely by one person, developer KIRA, Lunacid is a spiritual successor to FromSoft’s many first-person dungeon crawling RPGs, such as King’s Field, Eternal Ring, and Shadow Tower. Much like its sources of inspiration, Lunacid crafts a haunting and somber atmosphere to immerse you into a dark and mysterious world full of traps, dangerous creatures, and secrets to uncover if you have the courage and perception required. Where Lunacid improves upon these classic dungeon crawlers is in its mechanics, with a greater focus on character building and faster, more fluid character movement. Instead of lumbering around dark catacombs as if trapped in molasses, you are as quick and agile as your stats allow, and enemies have increased complexity and ferocity in their behavior to match. If you enjoyed the Souls series but have yet to take the plunge on the first-person dungeon crawlers FromSoft cut their teeth on, modern conveniences and a faster pace make Lunacid an excellent game to bridge that gap.