USgamer's Top 25 RPG Countdown Begins!

AXE OF THE BLOOD GOD | Kat and Nadia talk about Ys 8's localization woes before diving into number 25 on their list of the best 25 RPGs to date.

Article by Kat Bailey, .

Axe of the Blood God is our weekly RPG podcast hosted by Kat Bailey and Nadia Oxford. You can find the previous episodes here.

E3 2018 is officially done and dusted, and that means that Nadia and I can finally get to more pressing business: choosing our definitive list of the 25 best RPGs in gaming history [download link here]!

As I note in the podcast, the original impetus for this project was Game Informer and IGN posting their Top 100 RPG lists at roughly the same time last year. It made me want to put together my own list, but trying to sum up these grand hundred hour experiences in a few paragraphs felt hollow to me. So decided to give every entry its own segment in Axe of the Blood God instead!

Over the next few months, Nadia and I will be counting down our list of the top 25 RPGs in gaming history. We will talk about its history, why it stands out, some of its best moments, and of course, why it still holds up today. We'll also be doing a companion essay on the site, so keep an eye out for that as well.

Lists like these are always a little dumb and arbitrary, but they do help to put things into context a little bit. Plus it's an excuse to talk about some of our very favorite games! I hope you'll join us as we undertake this journey through RPG history.

Where to find us (Subscribe, rate, and review!)

Show Description

It's finally time! Kat and Nadia commence Axe of the Blood God's countdown of the Best 25 RPGs with an in-depth discussion of number 25 on our list! We discuss its history, what makes it stand out, some of its best moments, and ultimately why it holds up. Don't miss out! Plus we're joined by GameXplain's Ash Paulsen to talk about Ys VIII's Switch port and its ongoing localization woes.

Music from Axe of the Blood God is courtesy of Lena Chappelle, who has also contributed the themes to Active Time Babble and Roleplayers' Realm. I also use music from the RPG Music Pack over at Check it out!

This article may contain links to online retail stores. If you click on one and buy the product we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments 37

Comments on this article are now closed. Thanks for taking part!

  • Avatar for Talraen #1 Talraen 4 months ago
    I long considered FF5 overrated, and only very recently came around to fully appreciate it. I checked it out back in the emulator days, but emulators were still so bad that there were transparency issues that made the ship graveyard impossible to navigate, and I never played the full game until the PS1 release. (Incidentally, the name "Butz" is from the fan translation, he's always been Bartz in the official releases.) The game's story is underwhelming, and a lot of the best drama and humor was undercut by the translation.

    I liked the GBA version well enough, but only when I replayed the game a few months back did I really appreciate what makes FF5 great: it is just so impeccably balanced, and that makes combat fun. I don't like grinding generally, but it's much more enjoyable here than in any other FF I can think of. The time investment in jobs has an excellent payoff, the game gives you lots of interesting options (such as picking 3 of the legendary weapons at a time), and it's just... fun.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for BrianClark #2 BrianClark 4 months ago
    Speaking of Final Fantasy V, this year's Four Job Fiesta just started! You get assigned a random class from each of the 4 crystals and those are the only classes you can use for the entire game. It's a ton of fun and makes you play the game in pretty creative ways!

    Come join in and gives some money to Child's Play while you're at it!
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for TheWildCard #3 TheWildCard 4 months ago
    Not sure if I'd say it's the second best Final Fantasy game, but FF 5 is legit and still underappreciated on the whole. The GBA version is one of my favorite titles on the system.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #4 SIGGYZtar 4 months ago
    Final Fantasy IV felt poddling to me, as we were bound to whatever characters they gave us in the story-driving but grindy game. Final Fantasy V I love because you can do whatever you want to your characters, and the grindy part didn't feel as much as a pain as the customization was the carrot on the stick., Another plus, I never felt scared that I would get wiped out in some highly elaborate dungeon inside a world map of a dungeon. A good game to start this list.Edited June 2018 by SIGGYZtar
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for pdubb #5 pdubb 4 months ago
    Please troll everyone and make FFXIII #1.
    Please troll everyone and make FFXIII #1.
    Please troll everyone and make FFXIII #1.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for neilhood #6 neilhood 4 months ago
    ooooooooh man. I love me an RPG top x list.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Maxbeedo #7 Maxbeedo 4 months ago
    Giving FF5 some love isn't that controversial, but having it the "2nd best FF" definitely is. I'll preface the rest of this post by saying I typically prefer complexity over simplicity, and FF5 is very simple. I would probably put it in the top half of FFs, but that's about it. Combining "grinding" and "no story" is the fastest way to get to "boring", although it can be relaxing. It's probably the funniest FF, and it's fairly enjoyable throughout, but it's also bland and forgettable. The mechanics were enough to hook me to beat it twice, but we got it pretty late here in the US when FFs and RPGs in general were able to start putting together complex mechanics AND interesting stories in one game (a popular joke about the early FFs, you get one or the other). I'd put at the very least 6, 7, 10 and 12 ahead of it (maybe others depending on my mood). Interesting start to the list ;-).
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for nickfugate95 #8 nickfugate95 4 months ago
    Final Fantasy V is not a favorite of mine at all, but I await the rest of the list.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #9 Flipsider99 4 months ago
    Cool choice, FFV is a really great game!

    Personally I wouldn't call it the 2nd best FF. My list would go something like: 6, 4, 1, 11, 7, with 5 coming in at #6. But really, there's so many great Final Fantasy games, it can be hard to make a list, with all the SNES and PS1 FFs being fantastic, and many of the others still being very good as well.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for The-Challenger #10 The-Challenger 4 months ago
    And each entry will be accompanied by a companion written piece? I look forward to those. I haven't seen anyone write seriously about FF V in years.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for donkeyintheforest #11 donkeyintheforest 4 months ago
    FF5 on the the gba was my first experience with it and it was wonderful! No complaints about it as second best FF at all! While FF6 prob has my fav characters and overall story, I really do think i like the mechanics of the job system final fantasys more (for the most part; FF10 was also really good mechanically; probably cause sphere grid was similar to the job system once you get the spheres that let you jump around the grid.

    anyone have a guess as to the other ff showing up? my guess and vote is for ff12, but who knows!
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for link6616 #12 link6616 4 months ago
    @pdubb But we know there is only one more FF left, and it's obviously Lightning Returns. No room for the first sadly.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for FTLMantis #13 FTLMantis 4 months ago
    I really enjoyed the time I spent with tbe job system in FF5, but think the pacing and structure were very poor. I couldn't get myself to play through the third world after finishing the first 2, in part because I felt I had already "solved" the job system by doing the monk/ninja mix that just let me steamroll over everything. I wouldn't have put it on my top 25 list, but I'm in part glad to see it here because it shows just how much opinions on games can change in time.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for FTLMantis #14 FTLMantis 4 months ago
    @pdubb If she hadn't said there were only two final fantasy games on the list I would have thought FF13-3 would have had a chance to at least appear! I think Kat quite liked it, though that might have been Jeremy.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #15 Kat.Bailey 4 months ago
    @FTLMantis I really liked FFXIII-3, but I don't see it being on a Top 25 RPGs list haha
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for NateDizzy #16 NateDizzy 4 months ago
    Regarding Ys VIII: XSEED has had no involvement whatsoever with the localization (much to the disappointment of long time fans). All the problems are pretty much 100% NISA. Christ, I hope they don't get their hands on the Trails series.

    As for FFV, I definitely agree the job system was incredible, but that grind was just too much. Too bad because it sounds like I missed out on some hilarious writing.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Jonnyboy407 #17 Jonnyboy407 4 months ago
    I played FFV on GBA but it never really resonated with me. I tend to prefer characters with set classes and skills.

    Any chance of doing a tease of the next game on the list at the end of the podcasts? Maybe a little snippet of music?
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #18 Kat.Bailey 4 months ago
    @Jonnyboy407 That's a good idea :)
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for riderkicker #19 riderkicker 4 months ago
    My first playthrough of Final Fantasy V coincided with my obsession with Final Fantasy Tactics and its sequel, switching jobs and tearing through enemies with crazy abilities. I did what Nadia did and downloaded the original patch and played over the course of a year, when I was trying to stay afloat in AP History. I managed to defeat both Omega Weapon and Shinryu, not knowing WTF I did as my strategy involved Jumping with Twin Lances. I think I killed Exdeath with a glitch if I recall, as I skipped through two forms. I did buy the GBA version, but did not start the extra content.

    Kat, you're moving too fast. I just got to stage 50 and realized despite getting most of the SR points, I did not fulfill the secret part of the game because I have two units who have over 90 kills. Looks like I'm attempting playthrough 2.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for link6616 #20 link6616 4 months ago
    @NateDizzy Double on this. Supposedly what NISA offered was a day and date port and release of it on PS4 which Xseed didn't have the resources for. (they've done some PC ports, but mostly its been updating existing ones as opposed to making them from scratch).

    Unfortunately, that day and date PC port was very much not that...
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for TheRiverMarquis #21 TheRiverMarquis 4 months ago
    Here's hoping Mother 3 gets a spot in the list, easily among the top 5 RPGs made by Nintendo. Hoping to see Dragon Quest V somewhere in the top 5 and Chrono Trigger in the top 3.

    As a GameXplain fan it was an awesome surprise to see Ash as a guest.Edited June 2018 by TheRiverMarquis
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Gamer-Law #22 Gamer-Law 4 months ago
    I love FF V and consider it to be a terrific choice for your top 25 list. Without the influence of FF V, I am certain that we would have never seen other great JRPGs like Bravely Default.

    FF V’s job system added new dimensions to the RPG genre that we now take for granted. It provided players more freedom in developing and advancing their characters. FF V’s story may not have been as intricate as other installments of that era, but I think its influence is every bit as pronounced.Edited June 2018 by Gamer-Law
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Mola_Ram #23 Mola_Ram 4 months ago
    Skyrim's number 1, right?

    (not being entirely serious here)

    Also, please don't do a Rock Paper Shotgun and make Dark Souls #1. It's a great game, but I don't think it should be classified as an RPG.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for camchow #24 camchow 4 months ago
    I loved FF5. I played it back on the GBA but never beat it (got up to ex Death's final dungeon though). Played through it on a whim last year and finally beat it.
    Here is the part I am slightly (and maybe not really?) ashamed of: I don't have time to grind. I'm getting too old for that shit so once I got to the final dungeon and I felt like I wanted to unlock certain class skills I went ahead and trekked down to the usual grinding spot (you know the one, with the floating knight statues) and just turned on a 5x or 10x ABP earned cheat. I know, fuck me right? I don't care, I'd rather the computer simulate me doing this mundane fight 5 or 10 times over than me having to sit through each one myself. We live in the age of technology, embrace letting computers take over the boring part! Anyway that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it, other than that little bit of grinding at the very end of the game I didn't cheat ot game the system. FF5 itself is a great game and a lot of fun but grinding doesn't have to be a part of that anymore.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Kuni-Nino #25 Kuni-Nino 4 months ago
    I don’t like FFV. I think FFX-2 is a much better game. Unfortunately FFX-2 doesn’t have the support of nostalgia to help it get noticed by the dinosaurs writing about RPGs.*

    *Kat and Nadia aren’t included with those dinosaurs
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for The-Challenger #26 The-Challenger 4 months ago
    @Kuni-Nino I could see FFX-2 being the other Final Fanstay game to be included on this list. If not X-2, then my guess would be FF12 taking another spot on the list.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for FTLMantis #27 FTLMantis 4 months ago
    @The-Challenger I think it's almost certain it will be one of 4, 6, 7, and 9. They've put their systems driven Final Fantasy on the list, now it'll be one of the "classic" ones.Edited June 2018 by FTLMantis
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for The-Challenger #28 The-Challenger 4 months ago
    @FTLMantis True. I thought 12 might make the list, only because it also introduced new "game-play mechanics"( I can't think of any other way to describe them) to the series.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for AstroDemon #29 AstroDemon 4 months ago
    I own most of the North American releases of FFV, and I actually prefer the "ugly" PC version. I actually like the art in most cases, but the menus aren't great. They never were, really, and the mobile/PC menus are ugly, but not enough to deter me from playing it. It would be nice, however, if there was a way to play with the old pixel art. I like the fast forward button since the game is a bit grindy, though I find it fun to farm blue mage abilities.Edited June 2018 by AstroDemon
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for tvsadam #30 tvsadam 4 months ago
    Since it came up in conversation during the episode: I really like FF4's constant party member-swapping.

    I don't necessarily prefer it to the open party customization offered by later games. The typical approach to RPG parties, "collect all your buds and then they just hang out with you forever and ever," frees the player up to experiment and sort of mold their game experience to their liking, which is nice. But I think there's also something to be said for having to regularly alter your approach to combat to suit the classes the game gives you to work with.

    I also liked it from a narrative standpoint, because it kept things lively when story events could alter the composition of your party, whether due to yet another of Kain's endless string of betrayals, characters' need to accomplish goals separate from those of the party, or just straight-up deaths.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for BRRocketDog #31 BRRocketDog 4 months ago
    According to history women did not anything before 1960? Said with bitterness. A simple search revealed 50 influential before 1960, and most of them are famously great women. Wheels off statements like this don't serve the apparent chip on your shoulder, it simply undermines your credibility.

    And then you go after the 'some of best modern games are turn-based' fan email. You dismissively state I can't think of a modern turn-based game that is great. Then your co-host mentions Persona 5, which is a game of which you are a fan. Then you change the argument by changing "best" to "popular" in the next sentence and continue to run down the email. Why have that email on the show in the first place?
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for januaryembers19 #32 januaryembers19 4 months ago
    @The-Challenger There is absolutely no way the other Final Fantasy on the list isn't FFVI. Don't even think there's a chance it could be anything else. Either FFVI or Chrono Trigger is going to take the top spot.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for januaryembers19 #33 januaryembers19 4 months ago
    Deleted June 2018 by januaryembers19
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for phatcorns #34 phatcorns 4 months ago
    Does anyone know who actually did the Anthology translation of FFV? I know Kat said she thought it was Woolsey, but I find that pretty hard to believe.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Ventifer #35 Ventifer 4 months ago
    Xseed did not touch Y's 8 at all. It was all NISA. Xseed is currently releasing Y's Memories of Celceta next. I believe in a week or two.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Kat.Bailey #36 Kat.Bailey 4 months ago
  • Avatar for Arvis-Jaggamar #37 Arvis-Jaggamar 4 months ago
    @Ventifer Thank you! Gah! I was getting a tiny bit annoyed at that portion of the episode. Poor Xseed. :P
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Arvis-Jaggamar #38 Arvis-Jaggamar 3 months ago
    One last thing to get off my chest: I *love* the inclusion of FFV on this list, but any Top 25 RPG list that doesn't have VI, VII, and Tactics on it is wrong.
    *deep breath*
    Ok, you knew that was coming, so I have no more to say on that, and I am excited about the rest of the list! Great work, guys.
    Sign in to Reply