Modern Western Games Inspired By JRPGs

The distinction between western RPGs and JRPGs is a hotly debated one. While initially the difference depended on where the game was made, there were also tropes that distinguished them from each other. Western RPGs focused on gritty themes and often allowed a great deal of customization and exploration, while JRPGs tended to tell brighter, more linear stories starring a band of colorful, plucky adventurers.


That distinction has blurred over the years, with some Japanese-made RPGs such as Dark Souls exhibiting Western sensitivities, but the opposite is also true. Western developers, often those who grew up on a diet or classic finalfantasy on the SNES and PS1, have produced many examples of games that feel like JRPGs, but were made outside of Japan.

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10/10 CrossCode

CrossCode

This German-developed RPG came from a team who emerged from the RPG Maker community, a community known for producing a lot of Japanese-style RPGs. CrossCode takes place inside a fictional MMO, where the mute protagonist must venture out to recover her lost memories.

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The Japanese influences are clear. The developer has stated that Xenoblade was a huge influence on CrossCodeand its visual style was inspired heavily by Chrono Trigger, which they deliberately tried to stick as close to as possible. The game keeps itself unique with elemental tools and ball-throwing mechanics, but its influences are always front and center.

9/10 Lisa: The Painful

Lisa The Painful

An RPG Maker title that went onto become a cult classic, Lisa: The Painful is a moody and harsh game about a man trying to protect the first baby girl born in decades. With brutal mechanics, harsh environments, and a general sense of malaise, it would initially seem to have more in common with The Last of Us than traditional JRPGs.

However, there’s quite a bit of influence from the Mother series that sneaks in, seemingly imagining what that game would be like if Giygas succeeded in his plans. It also took a lot of inspiration from fellow RPG Maker projectYume Nikkiadding to its Japanese influences.

8/10 Ruined King: A League of Legends Story

Ruined King

Built heavily on the back of developer Airship Syndicate’s previous game, Battle Chasers: Nightwar, Ruined King draws a lot from classic JRPGs in its mechanics, something the developers have been open about.

Of course, Ruined King is a spin-off set in the world of League of Legends, which makes its setting and visuals much more American. It’s the perfect game for fans of Arcane on Netflix to explore if they’re not interested in delving into the deep meta of a popular MOBA.

7/10 costume quest

costume quest

costume quest emerged from a Double Fine game jam, where developer Tasha Harris envisioned a Halloween-based RPG inspired by finalfantasy, EarthBound and pokemon. The result is a fun little RPG where strategy comes from switching Halloween costumes for different abilities.

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Of course, it’s a Double Fine game, so it also follows in their tradition of funny graphic adventure titles like Grim Fandango and Psychonauts. The end result is a fun little mixture of the Double Fine aesthetic and tone alongside mechanics taken from classic JRPGs, with a dose of fun spookiness thrown in.

6/10 Child of Light

Child of Light

Child of Light is a whimsical storybook RPG where everyone talks in rhyme, a narrator guides the story, and Cirque du Soleil apparently provides costume design. It was produced by Ubisoft Montreal, using the same engine that built Rayman Legends and Origins.

However, its inspirations are unmistakably Japanese. The combat system owes a lot to finalfantasy‘s Active Time Battle system, with a touch of Grandia for good measure. Meanwhile, one major influence on the visuals was Yoshitaka Amano, the artist whose intricate flowy style helped shape the finalfantasy series in its early days.

5/10 Bug Fables

Bug Fables

Bug Fables is a cute little RPG set in a land populated by humanoid bugs. The player controls a party of three – a beetle named Kabbu, a bee named Vi and a moth named Leif – who venture across the lands on exciting adventures.

It doesn’t take more than a cursory glance to recognize how much inspiration Bug Fables took from Paper Mario. Featuring the same style of flat characters in a 3D world, relatively simple RPG mechanics and a quirky sense of humour, Bug Fables is the perfect game for anyone who feels the Paper Mario series lost its way after The Thousand Year Door.

4/10 South Park: The Stick of Truth

South Park The Stick of Truth

South Park has managed to stick around for more than twenty years due to its sharp satirical comedy that always somehow stays fresh. While there have been many South Park games over the years, the best by far is The Stick of Truth (and its sequel, The Fractured But Whole), a game that leans heavily into satire of its genre.

A fantasy RPG set in the South Park globe, The Stick of Truth is both a solid RPG while also a parody of the genre’s typical tropes. While the game is obviously based on South Park and developed by California-based Obsidian (the famed RPG makers behind Fallout New Vegas), many of its parody tropes come from JRPGs, including collectible Chinpokomon toys, based on the pokemon franchise.

3/10 Individual

Individual

One look at individual, and it’s easy to think this is a Japanese game. The art style looks like anime and much of setting is based on Southeast Asia. However, this game was produced by American studio Lab Zero, also known for the Skull girls fighting game series. The Japanese feel is persistent, from the cast of characters to the semi-turn-based combat.

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It does manage to stand out as more than just a JRPG clone, though. For one, much of the gameplay is like that of a Metroidvania, with 2D platforming segments that open up as protagonist Ajna unlocks new abilities. The combat mechanics expose the developer’s fighting game background as the potential for complex combos is pervasive despite its relative simplicity.

2/10 Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley

While Harvest Moon and its more quest oriented Run Factory are generally the first games people think of when it comes to farming RPGs, Stardew Valley is arguably the best known Western example. Its solo developer, Eric “ConcernedApe” Barone, was disillusioned with the state of the Harvest Moon series and decided to rectify it with a game designed to address all of his issues.

The result is one of the most beloved indie games out there, and while the Harvest Moon influences are clear, there’s enough in it Stardew Valley to make it stand on its own feet. The greater emphasis on RPG style quests and its anti-capitalist message are widely considered its strengths.

1/10 Undertale

Undertale

The story of Undertale‘s development is also one that gives away the game’s influence. Developer Toby Fox was known within the Western Mother fandom, even to the point of producing ROM hacks of EarthBound. That game’s influence runs throughout Undertale, with its irreverent humor, first-person battle screen, and a surprising dark side buried underneath the bright exterior. It also had a meta layer to it, as every twist and turn in the game served to deconstruct the JRPG genre as a whole.

The runaway success of Undertale has led Toby Fox full circle, as those JRPG influences have seen him work as a composer on several actual Japanese projects, such as pokemon, Little Town Hero, and Super Smash Bros. Impressive work.

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