The best JRPGs on the Nintendo Switch (2020)
True to a tradition started on the Gameboy, Nintendo’s consoles have always been home to plenty of great JRPGs, many of them exclusively. Fire Emblem, Shin Megami Tensei, Bravely Default, Radiant Historia—the list goes on. It’s the same situation on the Switch, except now you get to play them on big screens too. They’re the ideal entertainment for those in quarantine, with fleshed out worlds that’ll drag you away from these hard times for dozens of hours each (listed playtimes are for average players; completionists can expect even longer hours for each of these games). Here’s our list of best JRPGs on the Nintendo Switch (for 2020):
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
Playtime: ~70h + ~15h (DLC)
The first game in the Xenoblade series is still unsurpassed in a number of ways by its sequels. It’s a massive, sprawling game with an interconnected world that is as big as it is beautiful. They helped Nintendo develop Breath of the Wild’s world, so there’s no question about their pedigree. With its hundreds of NPCs and sidequests, an OST that puts most games to shame and heaps of end-game content to go through, this definitive edition has everything a JRPG fan could want. The Switch remake not only features improved visuals, soundtrack and UI, but also a brand new dozen-hour expansion. Read our review here.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
Sequel to Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition and third in the series, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a fantastic game that improves upon its predecessor in almost every regard. The combat is far more active and explosive, there are more and better quests and its graphics are unexpectedly good, given the hardware. While the main quest never quite hits the same high notes the first one’s did, it still has its moments. I also preferred the cast and character interactions between party members and with the blades. Also, be ready for some… creative clothing choices and character designs, such as Pyra’s.
Note: the game has an expansion called Torna ~ The Golden Country that I found better than the main game in many ways. Worth picking if you have the cash to do so. The package with both makes it, if not the best, my favorite JRPG on the Switch.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Playtime: ~40-60h (per playthrough)
As a Fire Emblem fan, I don’t say this lightly: Three Houses is my favorite game in the series. Featuring a rich story that you can play from four different perspectives (five with the DLC), Three Houses is a great JRPG and one of the best strategy games on the Switch. With an epic story that spans several years, a multi-sided war, and conflict with the gods themselves, Three Houses has it all. Outside of battles, you lead a house of pupils training at the Garreg Mach Monastery. You teach them, talk with them, host tea parties on their birthdays and help them mature into the warriors you’ll need on the battlefield. It strikes a nice balance between battle and out of battle activities, just enough to never bore you much of either.
Also, Edelgard’s the best. Read our review here.
While everything in this game is excellent, the best part was definitely its story (not only for JRPGs, but Nintendo games in general).
Valkyria Chronicles 1 (and 4)
Playtime: ~40h and ~50h, respectively.
Do you like wargames, XCOM, and anime? Look no further! In both games you take control of a ragtag squad of militiamen and soldiers defending against the invading forces of the Autocratic East Europan Imperial Alliance, but from different perspectives. The gameplay is very similar to XCOM’s, with different classes and abilities but, more importantly, actual first-person aiming. Instead of a flat chance, accuracy is represented by the size of your reticle, and you’ll still need to aim and shoot as if in a first person shooter. The story draws inspiration from the second world war and Nazi Germany’s attack on most of Europe, and it can get quite grim. I recommend starting with the first and going to the fourth if you enjoy it: while the sequel has a few interesting changes and gameplay improvements, the first one has the better story.
Its modular gameplay and story make it great for the Switch’s handheld mode, and if you want a JRPG to take on the go, you can’t go wrong with Valkyria Chronicles. Assuming you like its gameplay, of course.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age (and the other Final Fantasies)
I could easily recommend most of the Final Fantasies re-released on the Switch, but the 12th got the best remastering—and not just because the others are mobile ports, but because it’s actually good. Final Fantasy XII features my favorite turn-based gameplay in the series: a system called Gambit which allows you to ‘program’ basic character routines, similar to if… then commands (e.g. Ally < 50% health, use Cure). With enough preparation you can go through entire bossfights without putting in manual inputs. Another great part is the Job system, which allows you to customize your party and its classes to your heart’s content. The story gets some flak for feeling unfinished, but Ivalice is Square’s most intricate and fleshed out world.
For those who enjoy theorycrafting and fine-tuning their party, Final Fantasy XII is among the best JRPGs on the Switch.
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age
I first played Dragon Quest XI on release, on the PS4, and was blown away by how great it looked and played. Dragon Quest is Square Enix’s more traditional JRPG series, a fact its fans love but newcomers may not, with a turn-based combat system that’s been largely the same since the first game. The Switch edition is the only version to include the orchestral soundtrack and, more significantly, a completely different, 2D mode that you can alternate between. The different cities and locations are all beautifully rendered and the story, while straightforward, keeps you glued ’til the end—special mention to the myriad NPC stories, which range from hilarious to tragic and have some of my favorite writing in JRPGs.
If I had to use a single game to define as the archetype of JRPGs, it’d be Dragon Quest XI. I highly recommend this Kotaku review by Tim Rogers if you’re on the fence.
What do you think, reader? Would you add (or subtract) any games from this list?