Original Articles

Top 5 RPGs to [Re]Play in 2021

Next gen is here, but let us not forget where it all began.

by Victor Vellas

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So many great role-playing games were introduced in 2020, and more are planned to arrive in 2021. New IPs and sequels alike, it was a great year for the genre, which still goes strong. That said, all the groundwork for these awesome games was set years and years back, with either their previous installments or titles that inspired them. We figured that some of these games may have been forgotten a little, so it’s a great time to revisit a couple of them, with new admiration for the origins of some of today’s greatest hits.

Here’s 5 best RPGs to replay in 2021 and why. Also, the following list won’t be in any particular order of relevance, so feel free to play any of these suggestions in your leisure.

1. Final Fantasy VII (1997)

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The year was 1997, when Square literally shook the gaming world, by releasing one of the most influential RPGs of all time. The Final Fantasy franchise was already the king of the genre, alongside Dragon Quest, and Final Fantasy VII kept the legacy going with sending the legendary IP to the next generation of consoles. Not only was it the first 3D entry in the series, it also utilized techniques and formulas that following up, the majority of RPGs all over the world used as well. In fact, it is claimed as one of the greatest games of all time, with exceptional story, and characters that literally shaped some of today’s video game stereotypes. Both Cloud and Sephiroth (protagonist and antagonist alike) are considered to be 2 of the most recognizable video game characters, and no one can deny their impact in the video game industry.

Now, some could ask – “Why play this over 20 year’s old game, when a remake was released not too long ago, with the next part coming soon?”-
The reason is simple. The first part of the Remake series, is a solid game that you definitely need to try out. That said, Square Enix ensured that the Remake is different enough, to not cancel the replayability value of the original title from 1997. Which in result, makes playing the game again a refreshing experience that will be filled with nostalgia. Nothing beats remembering the time where you sat in the ground with your small TV in your bedroom, booting up the original PlayStation, in order to journey through Midgar and its fascinating streets.

I admit, Final Fantasy VII is quite outdated, with its gameplay being on the slower side of things considering today’s games, but it is an unforgettable experience, which still holds up to this day. What best to play, while we wait for the next part of the Remake? A solid choice.

2. Torchlight II

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It saddens me to say that the reason I picked this title is because the most recent installment of the series, Torchlight III, is simply not as good as Torchlight II, plain as that. Torchlight III does have an excellent core, which if the developers work with, will result to a great experience. For the time being though, it doesn’t reflect to what its predecessor offered us in the past. What is that? If I were to use one word as an answer, it would be this: fun.

In my opinion, what Torchlight II lacks of, compared to the newest title, is on the graphics side. Other than that everything else seems more polished, way more impactful and for sure, much more interesting. That being its world building, performance, better classes, skill trees, enemies and much more.  Additionally, the mod community for Torchlight II on Steam has created some exceptional content, which completely sends the game to new heights. Therefore, I suggest playing this entry now in order to really understand why the franchise is considered as a classic, and one of the better dungeon crawlers out there. Feel free to invest hundreds of hours, it really is worth it.

3. Phantasy Star Online

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A legendary IP, offering some new ideas on the table, succeeding in most of them. One of the first console titles that utilized online play, Phantasy Star Online is a project that I could talk for hours if needed. Countless people around the world ended up buying the Sega Dreamcast, purely for playing this game. For a good reason, as its gameplay loop and mechanics were extremely addicting, even if you weren’t able to connect on the internet.

Here’s the catch with this game now. Its official servers went offline a couple of years ago, therefore it is actually not possible to play online with others. With that said though, there are actual ways of doing so, which you can research online as it is not possible to mention here. If you do have the game on a console, either that being your dusty Dreamcast or GameCube, and the console still functions, it is highly advised to replay the game even offline.

Why going through all this hustle you ask? That would be due to Phantasy Star Online: Neon Genesis being around the corner, waiting for its release. The specific title is said to not be the direct sequel to the current Phantasy Star Online 2, so many simply call it PSO2.5. In any case, getting to see the origins of such a game, and the progress it made until this new entry, is enough to urge anyone spending at least a couple of hours in the original pioneer of the franchise.

4. Diablo II

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A juggernaut in the action-RPG genre, and dungeon crawlers alike, Diablo II was the poison of every gamer out there. A name that everybody knew, and nobody could deny its significance. It raised the bar so high for future projects, that some consider this title as one of the greatest games ever, similar to FF VII.

The new additions to the franchise, Diablo Immortal and Diablo IV, are rumored to launch in the near future. Seeing how this gloomy universe started, is a one of a kind experience which you definitely need to see for yourself. Diablo II may be outdated in terms of pretty much everything (let’s be honest here), but this retro feeling it provides can attract the interest of anyone trying out the game. It is even still officially supported online, so you can jump in anytime you want, with a considerable amount of people still playing this relic of the past.

5. Digimon World

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Easily the oddest of the group, but certainly not to be underestimated, Digimon World is my personal favorite of this list. I literally grew up with this game, alongside its successors Digimon World 2 and 3, for the PlayStation. The franchise may not be as big here on the West, but it shines greatly on the eastern parts of the planet, hence why it started its legacy with some great games. Digimon World being one of them, with its unique blend of pet taming and surviving in the wild, while expanding your main city.

All of the above sounds weird for a game where you collect little monsters, which you raise until they evolve, and battle to death other wild creatures. It is actually the case though, which is also the reason I picked it for the last entry in this list. The title was ahead of its time when launched, and for sure introduced ideas that were a first for the console. That said, opinions about Digimon World were mixed, with many praising the game for how different and interesting it was, others saying how troublesome it is to actually raise your partner (which I as well can’t deny) and how weak the battle mechanics feel. The specific title is for sure a niche one, not tailored for everyone out there, but it certainly is a great experience that you need to see for yourself in order to understand why the entry is such a beloved one for anyone who mentions it today.

Lastly, the reason this is my last suggestion is because Digimon World Survive, the upcoming Digimon title, is scheduled for release somewhere within 2021. Before jumping in to that universe, why not getting your Digimon fix, setting up the mood beforehand. It is always a sight to behold, to see a franchise evolving as much as Digimon has. So go ahead, dust off your old Digimon World CD and relive your adventures in File Island.

Honorable mentions

A brief list with some other games you can replay:

  • Final Fantasy XIV – ONLY on Xbox Series X/S and PS5, due to how much they improve it, performance wise. It literally feels like a new game
  • Disgaea – The new entry, Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny, is closing up for release, so why not seeing where the whole lunatic franchise started.
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic I and II – To remember Bioware’s exceptional beginnings, since they are not really hitting the spot nowadays.
  • Jade Empire – Same as above
  • Skies of Arcadia – To remind you how much you want the series to be revived
  • Dark Chronicles – Again, same as above
  • Final Fantasy IX – No real reason, just because it’s my favorite RPG of all time

2021 is set to be an exciting year for RPGs and games in general, even if we have some disturbances along the way, but let us not forget where it all began and why we started to love them at first place. I hope I urged you to relive some memories with this list, and rest assured I will be taking my own advice, by booting up my PlayStation for some Digimon action.

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