Old school JRPG fans rejoice! Octopath Traveler is a smash hit and a terrific way to spend dozens of hours if you like strategic combat, dramatic characters, and fantasy adventures. While it may have its shortcomings (read FANDOM’s review here), it’s fair to say that Octopath Traveler is likely to be at the top of many gamers’ favorites list this year.
All good things must come to an end, though, and eventually, your appetite for delightful JRPGs will return within weeks of completing gem of a game. Thankfully, these five classic JRPGs manage to satisfy even the most robust strategic, narratively grand, turn-based cravings.
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years
Final Fantasy IV is one of the most celebrated games in the series due to its achievement in combining an epic narrative, fleshed out characters, and the active time battle system. Final Fantasy IV: The After Years – which initially released as a phone game seventeen years after the original – takes place fifteen years after the main game and episodically follows some of the main characters from the original game in their new circumstances in life. For example, Cecil and Rosa are married and have a headstrong teen, Ceodore. Admittedly, this sequel isn’t a must-play unless you’re a fan of the original, but it still offers an entertaining experience while capitalizing on nostalgia.
Switching between different characters in each chapter of the game, The After Years focuses on multiple characters journeying through their own story with some overlap with the other protagonists. In the final chapter, there are 20+ playable characters, creating endless party combinations.
While this story structure has flaws both in this title and Octopath, it’s still refreshing to play a JRPG that isn’t afraid to deviate from a more traditional narrative structure. It’s also pretty heartwarming to watch Palom and Porom grow up, Rydia move on from her trauma, and Kain finally gain a sense of redemption.
Dragon Quest IV
The Dragon Quest franchise revels in beloved JRPG tropes more than perhaps any other series in the genre. Dragon Quest IV masterfully breaks from tradition, though, and brought innovations that either became cornerstones of the gaming medium or are to this day rarely attempted. Rather than focusing solely on the hero, the game lets players control the supporting characters in their own quests before they join the hero’s party. This makes the struggles and motivations of each character feel far more personal than those of other characters in similar games.
On top of this unique story structure, Dragon Quest IV is believed to be the first video game to have a boss with multiple forms and transformations. This concept is a core part of video game combat in RPGs to this very day and is vital in creating enticing encounters. If you like Octopath Traveler’s dynamic combat and unique story structure, DQIV should go right to the top of your backlog.
The colorful cast of Dragon Quest IV — including the bumbling merchant Torneko Taloon and the alluring dancer Maya Mahabala — seemed to have inspired characters and classes in future JRPGs, including Octopath.
Final Fantasy VI
It’s pretty evident that Octopath Traveler takes a hefty amount of inspiration from Final Fantasy VI. Aesthetically, Octopath looks identical to FFVI with the added benefit of modern lighting and water effects. The two games also feature an ensemble cast of characters, that all distinguish themselves with unique abilities that heavily relate to each character’s personality and profession.
The most striking similarity between these two games – and perhaps FFVI’s best feature – is the character building that occurs within the World of Ruin. After the world is destroyed two-thirds of the way through Final Fantasy VI’s story, the player travels around the shattered world and once more recruits fellow adventures who are now living their new lives in the apocalypse. Every gamer should play Final Fantasy VI, but if you’re digging Octopath Traveler, you are almost guaranteed to enjoy this phenomenal title.
Bravely Default and Octopath Traveler share a lot of similar features due to the two titles sharing several key members of their development team. Both games have a very similar style in their key art and promotional material. Moreover, both games have a risk and reward combat system that let a character take multiple actions in a single turn in exchange for more limited actions in future turns. They even both have some of the most fun and expansive job systems in recent memory.
Most importantly, though, the appeal of both games hinges on their collection of unique and memorable characters. While each of Octopath’s protagonists is endearing in their own right, Bravely Default features a wide array of supporting characters that all have delightful interactions with each other and the protagonists. If you do wish Octopath had a few more quality of life features and character interactions, Bravely Default is a great follow up game.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Octopath Traveler would not exist if SaGa Frontier didn’t premier back in 1997. SaGa Frontier follows the story of seven different protagonists as they go on their own adventures with hardly any overlap between each tale. Frontier even allows the player to progress through the stories in any order they want, similarly to Octopath’s story structure.
There’s plenty of stylistic overlap between these JRPGs as well. Bosses and more powerful enemies are scaled up in size during battle, regardless of their actual dimensions compared to other characters. The incredibly distinct personalities and backgrounds of each character also keep characters firmly invested in the events of each game. If you’d like to hit up a classic JRPG after checking out the this latest addition to the genre, you cannot go wrong with SaGA Frontier.