The 10 Best Golden Age JRPGs Like 'Chrono Cross'

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Brittany Vincent/ONE37pm

It’s hard not to think of Chrono Cross when you think of the “golden age of JRPGs”. After all, despite the mass of JRPGs that have been released in the last decade alone, those earliest entries really helped shape many of our childhoods, and even the industry itself.

But it was the golden age of JRPGs, which means there are even more great adventurers awaiting those hungry for brilliant worlds to explore. That’s why we’ve put together this list of some of the best golden age JRPGs like Chrono Cross.

Whether you’re looking for adventure or trying to dig into a sprawling new world, these golden age JRPGs offer some of the best environments, stories, and characters you’ll find.

1. 'Final Fantasy VII'

Few games have had the staying power of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy VII, and chances are, most JRPG fans have already sunk their teeth into this gem of the golden age of JRPGs. Still, if you haven’t played it for some reason, then you’re in for quite a treat! While the graphics aren’t nearly on par with the recently released Final Fantasy VII Remake, the story is still just as amazing as it has always been. There’s a lot to love about Cloud and his party’s adventure, and you’ll find that this world has plenty of mystery and exploration to entice you to keep coming back for more.

2. 'Wild Arms'

Originally released in 1996, Wild Arms was yet another fantastic entry in the golden age of JRPGs. The game was developed by Sony Computer Entertainment, and followed the adventures of a group known as the “Dream Chasers”. It’s a pretty standard format for a JRPG of the time and exploring the beautiful world of Filgaia, and learning more about the various ARMs (gun-like machines) that you can acquire was always a welcome part of the experience. It blends classic 2D characters and environments with fully-realized 3D battles for an unforgettable RPG experience.

3. 'Alundra'

If you want a JRPG more akin to The Legend of Zelda series, then Alundra has a beautiful world chock full of adventure just waiting for you to jump in and explore it. The game was originally released in 1997 and included a heavy emphasis on puzzle-solving. That might be a bit different from some of the other JRPGs out there, but it still makes for an interesting play. The story here is one of the brightest spots, too, with the overworld that you get to explore giving you a ton of different environmental ranges, all fixed with their own challenges. It’s also a bit of a misnomer in the world of JRPGs as it doesn’t include a standard leveling system based on earning experience points. Instead, the players themselves can earn experience by completing the various puzzles they come across.

4. 'Suikoden III'

The Suikoden series made quite a splash when it first came out because it took a lot of the standard perspective that JRPGs often offered and turned it on its head. Instead of experiencing the world from one perspective, players are given three main protagonists. This allows you to really dig deep into the events that play out through the story, giving you more insight into the different instances than most other games allow. It’s an intriguing design that continues to work exceptionally well throughout Suikoden III, as players explore the vast and beautiful world of the Grasslands region.

5. 'Xenogears'

Released in 1998, Xenogears was the start of a JRPG legacy that continues to wow role-playing game fans to this day. In the original chapter of the series, players must step into the shoes of one Fei Fong Wong, who is drawn into battle with Deus, an ancient machine weapon that many treat as a god. The gameplay utilizes many of the same standard turn-based active action systems of the golden age, while also blending in the heavy martial arts themes that the Xeno series revolves around. If you’ve ever played a game in the Xeno series, you owe it to yourself to revisit this gem and experience the story that started it all.

6. 'Dragon Quest VIII'

While technically a PlayStation 2 release, Dragon Quest VIII made our list thanks to the series' delightful and long-standing influence on the JRPG genre. In fact, it’s the biggest selling game ever for the PlayStation 2 in Japan and continues to be a bastion of fantastical adventure for fans of the Dragon Quest series. Characters from Dragon Quest VIII have continued to be iconic, too, often appearing in other Square Enix properties. Everything about Dragon Quest VIII, from the music to the combat, and even the fully-realized 3D world that you explore all help to herald back to the earlier JRPGs that helped shape the genre, while also helping to modernize the look and feel of the entire experience.

7. 'Final Fantasy Tactics'

The Final Fantasy franchise continues to be one of the guiding lights of the JRPG genre, and for good reason. While classics like Final Fantasy VIII continue to get a lot of praise, there is one Final Fantasy game that continues to stand out high above many of the others: Final Fantasy Tactics. As the first of the Tactics series, Final Fantasy Tactics had a lot to prove. Not only did it have to take the classic Final Fantasy formula and turn it on its head, but it also had to offer addicting and enjoyable gameplay despite being a turn-based strategy game. It managed to do all of that, and then some, and continues to be one of the defining titles of the golden age of JRPGs.

8. 'Secret of Mana'

Secret of Mana was released before a lot of the other titles you’ve seen on this list. In fact, it was released several years before development on many of those titles had even begun, making it one of the earliest examples of the golden age of JRPGs. Despite being released in 1993, though, Secret of Mana continues to hold tight to its place in the JRPG world, and that’s all thanks to the absolute brilliance of the gameplay and story told within the world. Unlike other RPGs of the time, which focused heavily on turn-based combat, Secret of Mana utilized a real-time battle system, including its unique Ring system, which let players pause combat to think over strategies. The game has seen a number of re-releases over the years, including a recent remake back in 2018.

9. 'Earthbound'

Few games have had the lasting legacy of Ape Inc.’s Earthbound (or Mother 2: Gīgu no Gyakushū in Japan). This iconic JRPG was our first introduction to Ness, a character that would go on to grow a cult following that spurred appearances in Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series. Earthbound is a parody of other JRPG mechanics, while also consisting heavily of the mechanics that JRPG lovers have come to know and appreciate. The game wasn’t super well received at first but has now gone on to become considered one of the greatest video games of all time. Few other JRPGs can perfectly embody the spirit of what makes a JRPG so enticing, while also having a laugh about all of it at the same time.

10. 'Skies of Arcadia'

Released for the Sega Dreamcast in 2000, Skies of Arcadia introduced players to a beautiful and expansive world featuring floating continents and massive living weapons known as Gigas. In Skies of Arcadia, players step into the shoes of Vyse, a young member of the Blue Rogue air pirates, a group of Robin Hood-like adventurers fighting bravely against the iron grip of the Valuan Empire. The game takes a heavy focus on world exploration and is perfect for those that want a massive and delightful universe to dig into. A special version of the game was later ported from the Dreamcast to the Nintendo GameCube.

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