Ni No Kuni 1

The PlayStation 3 had a wide wealth of JRPGs in its library. From Ni No Kuni to NIER, the system had some incredible games in the genre.

Today, we list what gamers think are the best Japanese Role-Playing Games (as opposed to RPGs) on Metacritc on the PlayStation 3. The same rules for listing each title (as before) apply. Overall “user” rating takes precedence, games with the same score are then listed by amount of reviews. A game with an 89 rating with 30 user reviews will rank higher than a game with a similar score, but only 25 user reviews, for example.

5. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (2013) – User Score: 8.7

Ni No Kuni Dragon

Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch is really a supped up remake of the DS game (Dominion of the Dark Djinn) by Level-5. Level-5 (Dark Cloud, Dragon Quest VIII, Rogue Galaxy), was one of the premier JRPG developers during the 00’s, and Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch lived up to the developer’s reputation.

Beautiful Cel-Shaded Graphics, and a touching (if childish) tale made it a charming  AAA JRPG in an era where darker more mature Western RPGs were beginning to take hold of console market game sales within the Role-Playing genre.

Ni No Kuni’s critter based combat system (you could capture and train monsters to fight for you), made it an interesting, and complex game, as battles were much more difficult than its ‘kiddie’ visage suggested.

Given how well the game scored with us in its recent Switch port (85 overall score), it is safe to say that the game aged better than some titles on this list, and it remains a wonderful coming of age story.

4. Demon’s Souls (2009) – User Score: 8.7

FromSoftware is an interesting developer. From its PS1-PS3 days, the developer made an incredible amount (quantity) of titles. The vast majority of these titles were either bad or average (Enchanted Arms, Silent Arms: Armored Core, etc.) and would usually score under 70/100 with critics.

A year before Demon’s Souls was released the company crafted Shadow Assault: Tenchu, which holds an abysmal 46 Metacritic rating. Personally, I think that FromSoftware spread itself out too thin developing large quantities of games instead of quality titles, and Demon’s Souls would be the start of the company’s incredible turn around.

Today, FromSoftware is one of the premier developers in the world, and its streak started with Demon’s Souls.

Holding an 89 Metacritic rating, Demon’s Souls started the now famous (and legendary) Souls franchise, and the game even earned a Bluepoint remake in 2020 as a launch title for the PlayStation 5.

With Demon’s Souls, FromSoftware settled on a winning formula of careful (and brilliant) level and enemy design, in an action-RPG that required repetition, hours of grinding, and skill in order to succeed. The critics loved it, and so did PS3 gamers everywhere.

3. Valkyria Chronicles (2008) – User Score: 8.8

Valkyria Chronicles

Valkyria Chronicles is the first game in Sega’s tactical role-playing game series. Set in alternate reality (1930’s Europe), VC features a complex plot that enamored critics of the era. The game has themes, characters, and weaponry inspired by military weaponry and political conflicts of the time period.

The game’s take on strategic combat was lauded as a step forward for a genre that had mostly seen Final Fantasy Tactics clones for over a decade. In addition to its complex plot, Valkyria Chronicles’ gameplay features its “BLiTZ” (Battle of Live Tactical Zones) system.  The system allows for freedom of movement (limited by AP amounts), and for actual real time shooting while (action) time is frozen allowing for precise shots.

While initially a “flop” of sorts, positive word of mouth, and price cuts drove Valkyria Chronicles to become a 1 million unit seller on PS3. As a result of its strong sales, Sega did not give up on the franchise and released 3 more main entry titles (2018’s Valkyria Chronicles 4 being the latest one).

2. Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX (2014) – User Score: 8.9

Kingdom Hearts II for PlayStation 2

I can think of other JRPGs that perhaps should have taken this game’s spot on the list. But User ratings dominate this listing, and Kingdom Hearts is extremely popular among the PlayStation 3 crowd.

For all intents and purposes, I consider Kingdom Hearts II to be the last good KH game in the series. So, given the series’ popularity with users, and the fact that the aforementioned game is part of this three game (Birth by Sleep, Re:coded) collection, I am not surprised that it made it this high on the list.

Expect fast (and easy) Action-RPG combat, good visuals, incredible sound, and a story that begins to fall from the somewhat rational (first game) into the non-sensical territory here.

1. Dark Souls (2011) – User Score: 8.9

Dark Souls

There has been a mini-debate on our JRPG group page (Facebook) over whether Dark Souls should be considered a JRPG, or not. Well, Metacritic considers it as such, and sometimes despite ‘looks’ one needs to apply commonsense to certain things.

Is Dark Souls a Role-Playing Game? Yes. It falls within the “action” RPG category. Was Dark Souls made by a Japanese team located in Japan? Yes. Therefore we can easily conclude that it is a Japanese RPG. Early JRPGS such as Zelda, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest and Phantasy Star were heavily influenced by Western RPGs of the era, and Dungeons and Dragons, anyways.

The fact that the game doesn’t have an ‘Anime’ aesthetic should not be held against it in its “JRPG” classification.

As its stands, I agree with fans, Dark Souls is the best JRPG that you can play on the PlayStation 3, and one of the very best JRPGs of all time. Provided that you can deal with the steep learning curve, lack of direction (the game does not hold your hand, and you tackle its world in any way that you like) and extreme difficulties early in the title, you will find yourself immersed in the game’s world.

Apart from Bloodborne, I have yet to find a more addictive (bordering on psychological masochism, at times), and satisfying game. It seems that critics, and gamers alike agree, Dark Souls is, unequivocally, a masterpiece.

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By Samuel Rivera

An avid video game player and book reader, Samuel has been playing video games for the last 31 years. He has played nearly every PS1 JRPG known to man, and loves Ocarina of Time more than any other game.