The Best Games You Haven’t Played Part 1: RPGs

Posted: December 8, 2010 by ryanlecocq in Features

WIFE!  I demand that you shave my back!

This month’s multi-part feature is on those diamond in the rough games you may have missed from the last decade or so.  Since it’s my favorite genre I’m starting with RPGs, but Survival-Horror is forthcoming tonight or tomorrow.

Skies of Arcadia

If I weren’t such a stammering boob I might wonder if it would be better to have a free hand.

Skies is simply sublime.  Despite the game’s lack of sales, a mountain of critical praise has been given to this Dreamcast/Gamecube classic.  It’s been called ‘the last great old-school RPG’ and even the best Roleplaying game of all time.  For myself I would have to say it’s easily in my top 5 games period.  Skies of Arcadia is truly the best of the old fashioned turn-based RPGs.  Every part of this game from the battle system to the storyline is simple but perfected.  You follow the adventures of a heroic young Robin Hood type character named Vyse as he saves the world ( oh and did I mention you’re a motherfucking SKY PIRATE!).  The story is a collection of cliches executed so perfectly that it satisfies the nostalgic rather than offending.  The art design is so incredible that some of the dungeons still look better than modern games.  The best part is you can easily put 50-75 hours into this game without even getting into the tedious side quests.  A little hard to come by unless you can get the Gamecube version for play on your Wii, but worth the cost of ebay-ing.

Phantasy Star Online

What’s actually happening here is the little blue girl is distracting Col. Mustard there while the robot lady takes his wallet.  The black lady just saw it and is considering calling security, while elven David Bowie poses for the camera.

Another of the great Dreamcast classics, PSO was my first Diablo 3 substitute back in 2001.  Although the game is ostensibly the sequel to the old-school 90s RPGs of the same name, it owes a lot more of it’s heritage to Diablo.  You choose from 3 basic class groups (fighter type, ranged, magic) each with 4 subtypes.  You then traverse a number of partially randomized dungeons for randomly generated loot.  Sound familiar?  The guy that identifies blue items is even called a “Tekker” which coincidentally rhymes with “Deckard” Cain who performs the same function in Diablo.  The whole thing is covered with an extremely Japanese anime-inspired Sci-fi coat of paint.  So if Sci-fi-anime-Diablo sounds as damned amazing to you as it did to me you owe it to yourself to check this one out.  The best part is that the game is now basically freeware and there are two perfectly legal free servers for the PC running the best possible version of the game.  One can be found at and features original leveling speed and item drops.  The other, Palinurus, you have to torrent the client and then use a link within the download to register (find it by searching ‘Frezzno blue burst’ on The Pirate Bay) and has 10x rates for faster development.

Odin Sphere

This game is technically more of an action sidescrolling RPG like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but is squarely aimed at fans of Valkyrie Profile more than Metroid.  Featuring a pastel and watercolor world inspired by Norse Mythology (did anyone OMFG just reading that?  I know) coating a fast paced, beautifully animated action-RPG.  You play as a cast of 6 characters, each with unique abilities and an individual story that dovetails with the others.  The first, second and third thing anyone says about this game is that it’s beautiful.  Like Muramasa (made later on Wii by the same team) the game puts looks first, unlike that other, the gameplay is just as good.  I have known a LOT of female gamers who loved this game, but any guy who loves RPGs and can stand a little old fashioned romance (that is actually one of the best parts of the game, this from a guy quoted “Beat the blood out of people’s faces!”) will still love this game.  Since it’s on PS2 and pretty recent, it’s easy to find at Gamestop.


Believe it or not, all of these men are heterosexual.

I only put XG last because you should be ashamed if you haven’t played it.  Without question the best game on this list, Xenogears is really more than a game.  It’s a version of Freud, Jung and Neitzsche wrapped in a Macross/Green Legend Ran package that your Japanophile gamer mind can absorb.  Although it has an amazing battle system and a narrative about the characters that is life-changing, the heart of this game is philosophy.  I bet you never cared about man’s right to be god until an artificial hot teenage girl with green hair brought it up in an underground, buried, advanced city.  That’s the genius of this game.  It can go from one instant being cute and bubbly like the Tenchi Muyo or Trigun you love and then faster than you can catch, you’re in the depths of philosophy you did your best to skip in school.  Yet at the end when the credits roll, you will find your mind has been expanded and your perspective forever changed.  Overall this is one of the best stories you will ever know.  Oh and it has the best game soundtrack ever, play it and try to argue.  It’s on PS1, moderately easy to get on ebay.

Honorable Mentions:

Grandia 2 – Dreamcast

Parasite Eve – PS1

Betrayal at Krondor – PC

Shadow Hearts – PS2

  1. lagunawsu2 says:

    Firstly I STRONGLY question both Billy AND Bart’s heterosexuality. We know Fei isn’t for obvious reasons that I am SO glad at the tender age of 13 the censors were too bored to see. Citan has children (though I will admit this doesn’t rule him out entirely)…but…Bart…He’s on a ship…he’s a sailor…and he’s been raised by childhood by this dude who he’s really close to…Yeah. And Billy? Oh man talk about repression! I mean, if the Ethos is doing anything its portraying the Catholic church. And Billy was saved…as a boy…by a man named BISHOP STONE. Who took him into (>.>) the church…Yeah. You see where this goes.

    Also Citan was in a military force of ALL GUYS. Which suddenly, a generation later, is ALL GIRLS…Yeah. Maybe the Solarians realized they wanted solidarity amongst the elements, but not so solid please.

  2. samuel says:


    • ryanlecocq says:

      I can only gather from the single word in Portuguese that you either didn’t like the article, don’t like those games or are suggesting that I look up an obscure Portuguese game called “Horrible.” Anyway, the conundrum entertained me. Otimo.

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