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RPGFan's Best RPG of 2007 - Editor's Top 5

Welcome to RPGFan's Games of 2007 feature. We're changing things up a bit this year, awarding only a single game the game of the year, but we are still including our individual top 5 lists.

That being said, check out each editor's top 5 RPGs of the year and the Game of the Year by using the navigation above.

Please remember that our "Games of 2007" reach from December 21, 2006 to December 31, 2007, and enjoy the article!.

Neal Chandran Eric Farand Patrick Gann
John P. Hussey Ashton Liu Ryan Mattich
John McCarroll Dennis Rubinshteyn Damian Thomas
The Best RPG of 2007

Neal Chandran's Top Picks

2007 has been a wonderful year for gaming, and the key word to me this year is "resurrection." My favorite piece of gaming news for 2007 was the resurrection of my favorite developer and publisher, KID (Kindle Imagine Develop) via CyberFront. What this meant was that projects once on hiatus were back on track: a new Memories Off game (Memories Off #5: Encore, released July 2007) and a new Infinity game (12 Riven: The Psycliminal of Integral, due out in 2008). July 2007 also saw the release of an 8 DVD ROM box set of every Memories Off title preceding Encore.

Another form of resurrection has been seen in the RPG genre as well. 2D has enjoyed something of a renaissance this year, and not just in the top-down 2D associated with "old-school" RPGs. Side scrolling 2D akin to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was seen in a notable way as well. Some of this can be seen in my top 5 for 2007. In addition, while more and more modern RPGs are favoring realtime or semi-realtime battle systems, games such as Atelier Iris 3 and Ar Tonelico held the torch for good ol' fashioned 2D, turn-based RPG goodness. Boss!

Now without further ado, here is my top 5 list for 2007.

5) Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (DS) - When Cing released Trace Memory, I was impressed. The game not only utilized every trick in the DS' arsenal, but it also offered a taut murder mystery story as well. Hotel Dusk was Cing's next offering, and though it did not use as many of the DS' tricks and some of the puzzles seemed ancillary to the plot, it presented a longer, more mature, and more convoluted murder mystery story with a solid cast of fairly realistic adult characters. The game had multiple outcomes as well. The heart and soul of a visual novel is its storyline, and Hotel Dusk's storyline puts it in my top 5. I can't wait to see what Cing will roll out with next.

4) Odin Sphere (PS2) - Although Odin Sphere will never replace Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as my favorite 2D side-scrolling RPG, it proves that in this era of 3D polygon pushing graphics, the 2D side scroller can make an impact and look good doing it. Odin Sphere is the most beautiful game I've seen this year, and it's more than just a pretty face. It also has a compelling Rashomon-esque story, great music, wonderful voice acting (both the original Japanese and English dubs are par excellence), and it's fun to play. It's a challenging game too (even easy mode can be brutal.) The game is not without its flaws, however. There is very noticeable slowdown, the difficulty can sometimes be unbalanced, and it can get repetitive. But for proving that the 2D side scroller can stand toe-to-toe with the polygon pushing 3D of next-gen console software, Odin Sphere makes my top 5.

3) Grim Grimoire (PS2) - Yeah, another Vanillaware 2D side scroller. But this one deserves its spot for doing something nearly impossible. RTS (Real Time Strategy) games typically do not translate well to consoles because the mouse and keyboard hotkey interface on a computer allows quicker manipulation of your avatars than the console controller. However, Grim Grimoire has a brilliant interface. The learning curve is a bit steep for those unfamiliar with RTS games, but once you're comfortable the game becomes addictively fun. It also sports an excellent story which, to me, is like Harry Potter meets Groundhog Day. Although the game is short and the backgrounds get extremely repetitive, for being an RTS RPG that actually works with a console interface, Grim Grimoire makes my top 5.

2) Aveyond 2 (PC) - I am always a supporter of grassroots/indie projects and Amaranth Games has never failed to disappoint. Ahriman's Prophecy was great, Aveyond was terrific, and Aveyond 2 is also terrific. It has the mojo of classic 2D J-RPGs along with that epic sense of exploration & discovery that reminded me of why I love the genre. The story kept me interested, the semi-linear gameplay encouraged and rewarded exploration, the logic puzzles were fun, progression was smooth yet still challenging, the visuals were lovingly designed, and the music was excellent (loved the battle theme.) Aveyond 2 is definitely more of a subjective choice for my top 5. It has its flaws, but the amount of love put into this game (and the rest of the series) cannot be denied. Games like Aveyond 2 are the reason I started playing RPGs in the first place.

1) Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (PS2) - Persona 3 makes my #1 spot because it transcended being just a game to being an experience. Everything about the game just owned my very soul: the slick visuals, unique soundtrack, varied gameplay, compelling storylines, that intangible mojo that kept me playing well past my bedtime every night, everything. I spent 95 hours on my first playthrough and was more than ready to fire it back up and do it all again. Even long after I finished Persona 3 and played other games, I continued to play that bonus soundtrack CD as my bedtime music. Yeah, I'm sleeping Persona 3. I've been a fan of the Megami Tensei games for about a decade now, and the Persona series has always been my favorite. Persona 3 just takes the whole "persona" and "school ties" themes to the next level, I hope to see a localization of the Persona 3: FES expansion, and I hope to see the Persona series and Megami Tensei in general continue to shine in North America as it has done the past few years with Nocturne, DDS I & II, Devil Summoner: Raidou Kuzunoha vs. the Soulless Army, and Persona 3.

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Eric Farand's Top Picks

As a disclaimer, I'd like to mention that I have not had the time this year to play any Playstation 2 RPGs so my choices are limited to Xbox 360, GBA and PSP.

5) Jeanne D'Arc (PSP) - 2007 has definitely been a good year for strategy RPG fans who own a PSP. With 3 quality titles like Final Fantasy Tactics, Disgaea and Jeanne D'Arc all released within a 3 month span, you can't really ask for more. Personally though, I thought Jeanne D'Arc was the best of the bunch. Not only is this a NEW game and not a re-release like the other 2, but I also thought the story was more original and I liked the numerous anime cut scenes that appeared throughout the game to drive the storyline. One of the PSP's best titles in my opinion.

4) Final Fantasy VI Advance (GBA) - I am one of those rare RPG players who had never played Final Fantasy VI on Super Nintendo before. Being a diehard Sega fan at heart, I grew up with the Phantasy Star, Shining Force and Lunar series instead of the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series. I have since rectified the situation by playing Final Fantasy 1, 2 and 4 on the GameBoy Advance and this year I got to finally play Final Fantasy VI. Although I was left unimpressed with Final Fantasy IV, I've got to say that I thorougly enjoyed Final Fantasy VI. I now understand why it's considered such a classic and it is probably one of the best 16-bit RPG available out there. Thank god Square re-released this game on the GBA and that I have 2 hours of commute on the train every day to dedicate to playing RPGs on portable systems :).

3) The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Game of the Year Edition) (PS3/Xbox 360/PC) - Since I have officially played Oblivion for the 360 for the first time in 2007, I couldn't help but put it on this list, especially since the game was released in 2007 on PS3 and re-released on PC, PS3, and 360 as "Game of the Year" with the included "Shivering Isles" expansion. There's no doubt that this is the "biggest" RPG to ever come out on console. There is just so much stuff to do in the game. It's almost an "endless" RPG because there are so many sidequests to do and so many areas to visit. It also doesn't hurt that the graphics are breathtaking and that you have so much liberty to customize your character any way you want and make him evolve in any direction you choose.

2) Eternal Sonata (Xbox 360) - Eternal Sonata may not be considered an amazing RPG by most people but it certainly fits the style of RPG that I enjoy. Beautiful, colorful graphics with tons of intricate details, beautiful music and an interesting and fun battle system. That's pretty much all I want from an RPG. The only thing missing from Sonata is a great storyline. I also didn't mind that the game was very linear because that's not something that usually bugs me. As long as I'm enjoying myself, I don't care if it's linear or not and to be honest, sometimes it's nice to have a simple straighforward RPG that doesn't require you to fiddle with tons of customizations. As such, Eternal Sonata fits the bill perfectly for me.

1) Mass Effect (Xbox 360) - Being a huge fan of the Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games and also a huge fan of Star Control II, it's no wonder that this was my favorite RPG of the year. It successfully combined the great dialogue and storyline from KoTOR with the space exploration aspect of Star Control II (even though it was much more limited in Mass Effect). With great graphics (including the best facial models ever seen), great music, great voice acting, great storyline and a ton of sidequests, this RPG has it all. This is one RPG I will most likely replay again so I can experience it again while doing completely different choices. Instead of playing as a "nice" guy like I did in the first playthrough, I'll play the game as a girl and as a total bitch to boot :). Can't wait to see all the different outcomes.

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Patrick Gann's Top Picks

5) Avencast: Rise of the Mage (PC) - I'm putting this game on my top five simply because of how surprisingly good this Action RPG was, especially given its source. A small, first-time developer from Austria put this game together from start to finish, and they did an excellent job. Many people would prefer to play The Witcher in its place, but I was satisfied with this short and challenging title.

4) Front Mission (DS) - Yes, I've put a ported Strategy RPG from Square Enix on my list. And it's not FF Tactics. The significance of this release is that Americans had never had the opportunity to play this game before, whereas nearly all of us have conquered FF Tactics on PlayStation. If you're looking for a deep, dark S-RPG that you've never played before, pick up the original Front Mission, now ported to DS.

3) Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (PS2) - I don't need to say anything here, other than to perhaps justify my not putting this game in first place. And to that objection, I will merely say that I enjoyed the other two games more. But this game is excellent in its own right, and easily the best of the US-released Persona titles.

2) Mass Effect (Xbox 360) - BioWare got their start by creating an excellent game for a well-known franchise. (Note from John: That franchise was D&D, not Star Wars! <3) But they dropped the KotOR scene and made Jade Empire, which was a decent title. However, I believe BioWare was right to return to their "sci-fi" roots with Mass Effect. The game is just as fun and exciting as KotOR, but without the frills and baggage that comes with the Star Wars franchise.

1) Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia (PS2) - There's a reason why this game made number one, and it has everything to do with the American market. This was my first time experiencing anything even close to a dating sim, and it was conveniently packaged within a simple and fun turn-based RPG. I needed to play this, and in my opinion, all RPG fans ought to play it as well.

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John P. Hussey's Top Picks

5) Etrian Odyseey (DS)

4) The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Game of the Year Edition) (Xbox 360/PS3/PC)

3) Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (PS2)

2) Super Paper Mario (Wii)

1) The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS)

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Ashton Liu's Top Picks

5) Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia (PS2) - It's just the old school gamer in me; despite having aesthetics of a generally laughable quality, Ar Tonelico packs more substance and style than many high profile titles. Owing much of its charm to its unique setting, hilarious double entendre laden dialogue, and great characters, Ar Tonelico is the pick of the year when it comes to games where players don't have to think too much, but just want to have a good time - and if it's a good time you're looking for, you can't go wrong with Ar Tonelico. Here's hoping the sequel makes it stateside too.

4) Final Fantasy IV (Import DS) - It seems like only yesterday when I thought that Final Fantasy II on the SNES was the greatest game I've ever played. Unfortunately, time has not been kind to this classic, so Square Enix decided to give it a complete facelift, changing abilities and adding completely new ones into the mix, as well as increasing the general difficulty and adding new fights to the game. This game has a quality which all remakes should aspire to, and it's certainly a wake up call when a remake like this contains more new content than many new games in a series.

3) Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions (PSP) - Time has not dulled this game one bit. With a wonderful battle system, a complex, engaging story that rises above and beyond every other game on the PSP, and newly added features exclusive to the PSP version, War of the Lions is a must have for any PSP owner. To this day, the sheer volume of gameplay that the game offers has yet to be fully explored by me; the extensive customization system allows players to micromanage their army down to the last ability point spent. Summoners wielding swords? Go right ahead. A few technical issues mar the game slightly, but it's a small price to pay to have one of the greatest Final Fantasy games ever made available on the go.

2) Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (PS2) - This game took ages to release, then it took another year to be localized, and it was well worth the wait. A fun, lightning fast battle system, persona system allowing for a huge variety of options, and a life simulation that is just as fun, if not more so, than the main meat of the game combine to create one of the greatest games not only of this year, but of all time. Anybody who likes RPGs even the slightest bit owe it to themselves to try Persona 3 for its unique presentation of the genre.

1) Persona 3: FES (Import PS2) - Some may question the placement of two games with ostensibly the same content in the top five. Well, FES is much more than Persona 3 with a few meager extras. It boasts a large handful of new persona, the original Persona 3 with a large amount of extra content, increased difficulty, and a continuation story featuring one of the previous game's core members as the new lead. It's everything Persona 3 had, except better and more of it.

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Ryan Mattich's Top Picks

5) Ar tonelico: Melody of Elemia and Ar tonelico II: Sekai ni Hibiku Shojotachi no Metafalica (tie) (PS2/Import PS2) - Gust, a small studio that was originally known for the Atelier series, has seen success in recent years. One of the few developers still churning out 2D RPGs, Ar Tonelico and its sequel are solid RPG/Dating Simulation hybrids which feature branching paths, multiple endings, and some of the most amusing (and often erotic) moments in a domestically-released game. In addition to the item synthesis system, Ar Tonelico has unique battles based on "song magic," which has a long casting time, during which the songstress must be physically protected by the front-line fighters.

4) Final Fantasy XI: Wings of the Goddess (PC/PS2/360) - The #1 MMORPG in Japan continues to stand strong and the latest expansion, Wings of the Goddess, has received a warm reception. Aside from the introduction of the Dancer and Scholar classes, Vana'diel adventurers can now travel back to the past. Set during the Crystal War, players participate in "Campaign" battles and assist their respective nations in a crusade against the Beastmen Hordes. Unfortunately, the amount of available content is still limited at this time.

3) Final Fantasy IV (Import DS) - While not necessarily "groundbreaking" in any regard, Final Fantasy IV for the Nintendo DS is a welcome offering. "Decant Abilities" allow members to inherit abilities from their departed companions, which results in a limited amount of character customization. Overall, it is very faithful to the original release, but the addition of a "New Game +" feature includes a few optional bosses which will challenge even the most seasoned veterans of this classic adventure.

2) Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (PS2) - Persona 3, the black sheep of the series, is a prime example of innovation at its finest. The "Press Turn" battle system, inherited from Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga: Avatar Tuner, is a welcome enhancement to the traditional turn-based formula, and the AI-controlled characters are remarkably dependable. Combined with the "school simulation" side of the game, which leads to realistic development of interpersonal relationships, Persona 3 is 60-80 hours of very addictive, non-linear entertainment.

1) Persona 3: FES (Import PS2) - Persona 3: FES improved on Persona 3 in numerous ways, the most notable being Episode Aegis, a second adventure which continues the story of the original game. In addition to 25-30 hours of fresh gameplay, Episode Yourself has seen enhancements in the form of new personae, social links, special costumes, weapon fusion, and additional scenes which flesh out important characters in the story, Junpei and Chidori being the most significant.

If my import review wasn't enough to convince you that Persona 3: FES is one of the best releases of the year, I hope that this award will. Well done, Atlus.

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John McCarroll's Top Picks

5) Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions (PSP) - It's something to say that a port of a game is one of the best games of the year. It's entirely another to say that a bad port, with slowdown and new loading times, is also worthy of the same title. Final Fantasy Tactics is such a top-quality title that I'd be willing to sacrifice performance simply to have it portable. While the port wasn't perfect, the re-translation by Square Enix USA's staff is simply top-quality, and if you buy one SRPG for your PSP, make it this one.

4) The Witcher (PC) - There's lots of dialogue branches in The Witcher. It's not as cut-and-dried as in many games; there's no obvious good choice or obvious evil choice. It's not between saving a child or slaying him. The back of the box for The Witcher proclaims that, "There is no good, no evil - only decisions and consequences", and Polish developer CDProject has delivered a game that lives up to that line of marketing text. While the timing-based combat leaves a bit to be desired, the fact that any developer was able to pull off a mature RPG with truly worthwhile choices is no small feat indeed.

3) Pokemon Diamond and Pokemon Pearl (DS) - I'm not going to defend this with lots of pomp and circumstance - new Pokemon to capture, online modes, wireless local multiplayer. It's Pokemon.

2) World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade (PC) - I have 92 days played on my rogue. I hate you, Blizzard. I hate you.

1) Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (PS2) - I had to write the text giving this game the Game of the Year award, so this will sound repetitive. Persona 3 is simply a fantastic fusion of Japanese life-sim games and dungeon crawling RPGs tied in with a top-notch English translation and voice cast. This title should not be missed by anyone calling themselves an RPG connaisseur.

 
Dennis Rubinshteyn's Top Picks

5) Hotel Dusk: Room 215 (DS) - Cing's Trace Memory back in 2005 showed how well graphic adventures can be done in the DS and brought some new life to a declining genre on the western side of the world. While Hotel Dusk does not have as much clever puzzles like Trace Memory did, it has a more engaging, dark mystery story, with imagery having a noir feel to them. There is also an interesting cast to interact with, and a great male lead. This is another enjoyable adventure game for Nintendo's dual-screened handheld.

4) Super Paper Mario (Wii) - Super Paper Mario is not a traditional, turn-based RPG like other Paper Mario games, but a platformer with some RPG elements included. Itís a hybrid that turned out to be oodles of fun, thanks to the colorful dialogue, spicing things up to keep things fresh like the legendary dating sim moment, and having an actual good story in a Mario game, even if it isn't deep. It has its shortcomings such as the length and being a little easy, but it's another good Mario game.

3) Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations (DS) - The second installment came out back in January, but the third game is not only better, but I found it to be the best in the trilogy. Phoenix and crew are back for 5 more, colorful cases, and the trilogy comes to a powerful end. The gameplay is nothing new, but playing it for the plot and characters is what makes it worthwhile. I look forward to the fourth game in Capcom's lawyer sim next year.

2) Odin Sphere (PS2) - I consider this RPG to be my top surprise of the year. Having honestly knowing nada prior to playing it, it quickly blew me away and had a great time from start to finish. Yes, the gameplay is heavily repetitive. Yes, the game suffers some nasty framerate and kept rehashing locales, but the pros outweigh the cons. It's an enjoyable, challenging game, having a complex story with 5 memorable protagonists, a powerful musical score, and showcasing that 2D can still look amazing. Personally, a game that can get me emotional is high in my book.

1) Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (PS2) - Having never played the previous Persona games, I didn't expect much for this installment, but here is another that blew me away. The game is a school sim/dungeon crawler hybrid, and while each element isn't very deep, it blends together extremely well for a fresh and unique experience for the genre. The game is fun, and it has cool presentation and music, but what really made the game great for me are the characters. Having always been a fan of character interactions, the game is full of great characters to talk to, and receive a good amount of development. Your allies, people you socialize with and even random NPCs all have their own stories to tell. I clocked in at 80 hours, and winded up playing it again out of sheer enjoyment. This is a game that a true RPG fan should try at least once in their lives and hope that Atlus will bring the expansion to the United States.

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Damian Thomas' Top Picks

5) Rogue Galaxy (PS2) - Although its story was weak and its characters uninspired, the gameplay in Rogue Galaxy was pretty fun. Level 5 has always had a way of making fun games with interesting item creation systems, and Rogue Galaxy is no different.

4) Super Paper Mario (Wii) - Intelligent Systems did a superb job with the previous two Paper Mario titles, which mix novel design with good, humourous dialogue and a battle system that's been working since the days of Super Mario RPG on the SNES. It may have been a short game, but there was enough charm packed in there to make up for it.

3) The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (DS) - This is a perfect example of a game that pushes the capabilities of a system, in this case the DS. It uses the DS's features in game-essential ways rather than relegating them to quirks that you can ignore. With all movement requiring the stylus and bosses & puzzles that require you to refer to both screens at once, Phantom Hourglass delivers the most creative DS title to date.

2) Odin Sphere (PS2) - Beautiful visuals, excellent music, easy to pick up controls, and a deeply moving story viewable from many angles; Odin Sphere delivers all that, as well as a fun gaming experience. It's hard to top this as Game of the Year for me, but...

1) Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 (PS2) - Probably one of the most fun games I have played all year, the mixture of classic Shin Megami Tensei demons and a life simulator came together in an unexpected way to produce something wonderful. While some of the voice acting could have been better, the interactions between the characters led to a deep exploration of their psyches. Add to that excellent music and character portraits and demon fusing, and you have my choice for Game of the Year! BRING OUT FES, DAMNIT!

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