The Japanese gaming industry is renowned for giving birth to some of the biggest RPG franchises ever. Pokemon, Final Fantasy, Megami Tensei, and others are household names at this point. However, there are still many games that have never been released outside of Japan.
Whether it's due to fear of a lack of interest from non-native audiences or the game's just not being big enough of a priority - the reasons are varied. But many of them are solid entries in their respective franchises as well, thus it would be great to see them make it over. So here are 5 RPGs that should get localized and 5 that eventually did.
These Japanese RPGs are some of the best installments in their series
It's a shame many of these RPGs will never get an English release.
1) Mother 3
Part of the cult classic EarthBound series, Mother 3 was released exclusively for the Game Boy Advance in 2006 in Japan. It follows Claus and Lucas in their adventures across the Nowhere Islands. Following a fan translation, players have been clamoring for an official English version for a decade now. Especially given the game boasts a great story, well-written characters, and fun, rhythm-driven turn-based combat.
However, Nintendo seems to be giving them the cold shoulder, and in the case of the Japanese Wii U Virtual Console release, it's pretty much mocking fans. Then again, the Mario developer eventually brought over Mother 1 & 2 (officially called EarthBound Beginnings and EarthBound, respectively), so perhaps there still is hope.
2) Shin Megami Tensei II
First released on Super Famicom in 1994, it is the sequel to the original SMT. This one follows protagonist Aleph, who is destined to decide the fate of the world as he traverses post-apocalyptic Tokyo. Gameplay is largely similar to the original game. Players will explore labyrinthine dungeons in the first person and can battle or engage in conversations with different demons.
These can be recruited into the party and fused for more powerful variants, as is series norm. Battles are once again turn-based and also pose a decent challenge. SMT2 is one of several MegaTen games from ATLUS that still have not received a localized version. Kind of funny when the first game did get one, albeit on iOS only.
3) Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 3 Professional
Given how popular Square Enix's Dragon Quest series of RPGs is, it's no surprise to see it receive a number of spinoffs. The Monsters games try to emulate the essence of Pokemon in Dragon Quest's blueprint. Released for the Nintendo 3DS in 2017, Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 3 Professional is an enhanced version of the base game that was released a year before
The protagonist must contend with the Dark Master, who aims to hunt him down with powerful monsters in tow. Players will command a variety of monsters across DQ lore and pit them against other foes in battle. They can also be ridden to explore the 3D environment, whether on foot, underwater or flying.
More recent entries have not been localized yet. But here's the good news: fans can enjoy it via an unofficial fan patch.
4) Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn
Bandai Namco's Ni no Kuni RPGs are underrated gems, with Wrath of the White Witch on PS3 being considered a classic. However, not many fans know that this Studio Ghibli-inspired game is a remake of the 2010 DS original. This handheld rendition from Level 5 follows a young boy, Oliver, who must visit a fantasy realm in order to save his mother.
Unlike the PS3 game, Dominion of the Dark Djinn features turn-based combat. There is also a grid system allowing players to create formations of ally imajinns to take down opponents and manage defensive maneuvers on the fly. While Wrath of the White Witch has already been remastered, a remake of the DS version for modern platforms would be great to see too.
5) Soma Bringer
Another DS RPG, Soma Bringer, is one of many Nintendo games that have not left their homeland. Developed by the team behind the excellent Xenoblade Chronicles games, this is an action RPG that takes place in the magical world of Barnea. With the threat posed by the mysterious Visitors, the team of Pharzuph Division 7 must look into the matter.
Gameplay and battles are real-time. The former has players exploring dungeons with party members in tow. Upon encountering an enemy, members can join in by helping whittle down the enemy HP. There are also items to collect, weapons and armor to upgrade, and other genre staples.
These RPGs have already received or will be receiving localization in the future
1) Xenoblade Chronicles
Localized under the widely known Operation Rainfall campaign, this Europe and Japan-exclusive JRPG finally made it to North America in 2012. It was one of the few games released at the end of the Wii's lifespan and, as such, was a technical marvel for the console.
Taking place on the bodies of two frozen titans, players control Shulk, who receives the Monado - a blade that can grant visions from the future to its user. With a massive and seamless open world to explore, the game is regarded as one of the best RPGs ever made.
2) Live A Live Remake
Revealed during this year's February Nintendo Direct, the underrated SNES JRPG from Square Enix will soon be coming to Nintendo Switch. Acting as a remake of the 1994 original, this modern HD-2D rendition brings the classic to an overseas audience for the first time ever.
Players will control several different characters throughout different eras of human history and engage in tactical battles against challenging foes. Live A Live remake is planned for a Nintendo Switch exclusive launch on July 22, 2022.
3) Chrono Cross: The Radical Dreamers Edition
The recent remaster of the acclaimed PS1 Square Enix JRPG saw mediocre reviews, particularly thanks to poor performance. But this is less about the original game and more about the subtitle portion.
The Radical Dreamers is an adventure that ties into the Chrono Cross narrative with Serge, Kid, and Magil from the original game. It was first released in 1996 for the Satellaview add-on for Super Famicom.
4) Front Mission 2 Remake
The first Front Mission PS1 game is one of Square Enix's lesser-known names. With a Nintendo Switch remake of Front Mission 1st already coming later this year, the Japan-exclusive sequel will also be getting an overhaul for the hybrid console.
First released in 1997, Front Mission 2 is set 12 years after the original and sets up another politically driven plot with strategic mech combat.
5) The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero
Released first in 2010 for the PlayStation Portable, The Legend of Heroes: Trails from Zero only recently saw a Western release. It is the port of PS Vita's Evolution remaster. Trails from Zero follows the story of Lloyd Bannings and his team as they find themselves knee-deep in the faction wars for control over the city of Crossbell.
As a JRPG, players will engage in grid-based, turn-based combat against foes encountered throughout the course of the campaign while dealing with richly written NPCs.
Note: The article reflects the author's own views.