JRPGs are some of the best and weirdest games I have ever played. I grew up on basically anything my dad could find at the flea market or bargain bin, so I played some pretty unique ones. I’m still playing them today though, so that probably speaks to their credit, right?
Getting into JRPGs when you’ve never played on can be a task, especially with all the different ones floating around. So, I thought I'd compile the top 5 JRPGs for beginners to help ease those new to the genre into the process. These are in no particular order because I love them all.
With the new craze of Pokemon GO, more people than ever have probably heard of Pokemon. So why not start simple? While the newer games are trying to be more complex for more savvy Pokemon players, they’re still a user-friendly introduction into the genre. It’s simple; it’s turned-based; it’s a classic. There’s no ongoing story, so anyone can jump in at any time without missing out on key plot points. Speaking of the plot, it’s super simple. If I could follow along with Pokemon Red when I was 6, anyone can follow along with it. The game mechanics are just as easy to pick up on, so just jump right in.
For those who want a little more depth for their first go at the genre, the Disgaea series could be the way to go. There’s a story that has some connect from game to game, but it’s a loose one at best. At worst, it’s nonsensical and I love it. The Disgaea games are strategy RPGs at heart. They’re wacky, even with the more serious themes. So if you’re into weird games, this might be the one for you. From the weird weapon descriptions to the main character being physically hurt by “sexy ladies”, it’s a weird adventure. Each game adds more functions, so I would suggest starting with the first one, but it’s definitely not necessary.
The Tales of Series is the only game on this list that isn’t turn-based. Some people cannot play and enjoy turn-based games, and that’s okay. The Tales of Series does away with the turn-based system, but is still a pretty good introduction into JRPGs. The games have relatively simple controls and some of the later ones go out of their way to make sure players know what they’re doing, with tutorials accompanying every new game mechanic that gets introduced.
Something that may turn off beginners is the plot. Every Tales of game has an extensive plot -- and unless the player is into that, they may feel overwhelmed and need to step away from it for a while. I would suggest Tales of Symphonia, Tales of the Abyss, or Tales of Phantasia as a starting point.
The Fire Emblem games on the 3DS are a great introduction to the series. They’re not as plot-heavy as some other games and are pretty easy to get into, even without knowing the plot to the past games. Characters drop hints of previous plots that definitely enhance the story, but aren’t necessarily needed to enjoy the game.
The gameplay can be complicated, but you can get by with just knowing the basics. And, the games are just fun. They have a good blend of humorous and serious moments and the gameplay is easy to follow along with. The main problem a beginner would probably have with Fire Emblem games is when your characters die, they’re dead forever. Therefore, I suggest playing the game on casual the first time because you can keep your characters alive.
The last game on this list is Persona 4 on easy mode. Persona 4 is a turn-based JRPG with tons of Japanese mythology and history crammed into its story and characters. While this could alienate a beginner, I think it can also just enhance the experience.
This game also has a nice blend of humorous and serious tones, and the gameplay is super simple. The most difficult thing in this game is the strategy in battle and the grinding while waiting for the rainy days to fight the bosses. While you fight, you have to maintain your school life and relationships.
Even if this sounds boring, give it a try! The meat of the game is still the fighting and the plot and these other things just help pad it out a little bit more. It helps you get invested in the characters and know more about the world around you.
Persona 4 is an all-around cool experience and a must-play for anyone just getting into JRPGS.
These are just my suggestions. There are plenty of other JRPGs to check out, so don't limit yourself to the ones on this or any other list. Beginner is a relative term, so if you're feeling up to it, just pick a game and start playing!