When going through the Prima Games archives, I noticed that a previous staff member published a piece declaring the best role-playing games on the Nintendo Switch. It’s a good list! No shade here. However I, as a previous writer for spots like Siliconera and Shonen Jump, have the power of anime on my side.
Powerful weeablood flows through my veins and has given me exceptional taste in Japanese RPGs. In fact, that genre makes up most of my personal Switch library. So I figured this article could use a little companion, with a more specific focus.
The Best Japanese RPGs on Nintendo Switch
Atelier Ryza: Ever Darkness and the Secret Hideout
I’ve always looked at the Atelier games from a distance, intrigued by developer Gust’s overall style and vibe. In a space that’s often full of perv-pandering otaku cheesecake, the Atelier games just seem to be whimsical and happy to be there. But between time limits, super deep item crafting systems and slow gameplay, I could never crack the code.
But Atlerier Ryza feels made exactly for people like me. It’s faster, it’s friendlier, there’s no time limits, and there are even quality of life improvements baked into the alchemy.
The story, which sees a group of kids stuck on an island find an opportunity to see the world, is also as earnest, endearing, and sometimes touching in ways you might not expect. It’s easy to see why Gust has seen unexpected success with Ryza, and why it’s getting a direct sequel so quickly.
Digimon Cyber Sleuth: Complete Collection
Growing up, Digimon always seemed like it wanted to be an edgier, more “anime” Pokemon competitor. But it only danced around that vibe and still tried to appeal to children for the most part. But Digimon Cyber Sleuth absolutely just goes for it. This game is anime AF, with wild music, a bizarre plot, and strange characters that develop in complex ways throughout the story.
It’s also one of the best monster raising/battling games out there, with systems that rival even Pokemon in how engaging, user-friendly, and fruitful it is. The “sequel” is more of a quick response to the first game, but having them together in one package makes way more sense. You can easily lose 100 hours to Cyber Sleuth just trying to build a badass team before you end the story.
I knew I wanted to include a Mystery Dungeon-style game on this list, but there are so many good ones on the Switch it was hard to pick one at first. Then I remembered Void Terrarium, and how absolutely absorbed in it I was throughout the whole experience.
It’s a moody, post-apocalyptic virtual pet game, accented with procedurally-generated dungeon-crawling in the Mystery Dungeon style.
As a service robot that stumbled upon the last remaining human after a fungal plague wiped out society, you have to manage both keeping a young girl healthy and alive, and finding the tools to improve her terrarium and maybe figure out a way to save the human race.
It’s one of the few games in this space that has real storytelling chops, and the progression systems intersect with the roguelike elements in unique and compelling ways.
SaGa Scarlet Grace: Ambitions
SaGa can be a super hard series to get into, even despite its DNA connections to Final Fantasy. The mechanics are often obtuse and deliberately unexplained, while even basic battles can be merciless. But their focus on character-building puts a ton of meat on the table, and makes all the effort to survive feel super rewarding.
Scarlet Grace, which is a juiced-up port of a Vita game, is perhaps the friendliest SaGa game. But only because it actually tries to explain its systems. Otherwise you’ll be on your own when it comes to learning the punishing battle system, best ways to build characters, and figure out all the mysteries the world is hiding from you. You have to know what you’re getting into here, but it’s so very worth the effort.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
It’s a sign of cosmic justice that Tokyo Mirage Sessions, the ill-fated Wii U Fire Emblem/Shin Megami Tensei crossover that bombed on arrival, got a second chance. This is a game that knows exactly what it is, and has no interest in apologizing for it.
The ways it weaves Fire Emblem and SMT together have very little to do with previous games, and is more about themes, systems, and little quirks like musical cues and how leveling up works. On top is a nearly unrelated story centered around a group of upcoming Japanese pop music idols doubling as supernatural crime fighters.
Anyone not familiar with Japanese idol culture would be totally lost here, but luckily you don’t need to speak the language fluently. With its bright colors, earnest presentation, and weird storytelling that does find a way to connect to Fire Emblem, Tokyo Mirage sessions is one of the most distinct JRPGs of the modern era. And since there’s a lot of grinding, it’s perfect for the Switch.
- Monster Hunter Rise & Stories 2 Announced For Nintendo Switch in 2021
- Disgaea 6 Coming to Nintendo Switch With a Major Visual Change
- Final Fantasy XVI announced as PlayStation Console Exclusive
There are many more RPGs of multiple cultural and geographical origins on the Nintendo Switch, because it’s the best platform for the genre. If you need a “podcast game,” something to do during commutes, or simply just another one of these to add to your pile, I firmly believe these are the best ones from Japan.