At the end of the day, I love to snuggle up with a blanket — my cat beside me — and dive into an intensive JRPG. Battling crazy monsters, adding new characters to my team, leveling up my skills, and managing items is so therapeutic, especially when enshrouded by glorious anime nonsense. So if you’re like me, someone who loves anime, grinding battles, and intensive plots or intensive mechanics, these Nintendo Switch JRPGs will be right up your alley.
Some of these games can be pretty big, so be sure you have enough room on your best microSD card before downloading any of them.
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition has you play as a young man who’s wrongly accused of being an evil force. It’s up to you to save the world while being hunted by powerful enemies and good people under their influence. You’ll meet a cast of colorful characters, some of which join your team and offer different skills in battle. The imagery changes up quite a bit as you travel to sea towns, explore caves, or enter forests along the way.
This game was already highly regarded as one of the best Nintendo Switch JRPGs out there, but the Definitive Edition takes things to new levels. The music has been enhanced with a real orchestra, and you can switch between retro 16-bit visuals or modern 3D graphics throughout the game. Battles are rewarding yet challenging, and there’s character oozing from every moment. Plus, you’ll easily get about 60 hours of playtime out of it, so it’s well worth your purchase.
Play this one to hold you over until the new Dragon Quest Treasures comes out on December 9, 2022!
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Noah, Eunie, and Lanz are Keves soldiers who grow up in a world where children are taught to fight the rival faction, Agnus, from as far back as they can remember. Then one day, the trio meets a group of Agnus soldiers named Mio, Sena, and Taion and realize that they hold a mysterious power when working together. Suddenly, they are all outcasts from home colonies and must band together to survive this cruel world and stop the bloodshed on both sides.
In Xenoblade Chronicles 3, players take charge of one teammate at a time as they travel through a vast fantasy world. Each character can level up and work on mastering new classes to make themselves even stronger. This is not a turn-based game as all characters (whether you’re controlling them or not) will have at the same time. Characters attack automatically, but you choose when they unleash their more powerful attacks.
This Nintendo Switch JRPG gives plenty of bang for your buck as it takes over 100 hours to beat. You’ll want to make sure your microSD card has enough room to hold the 15 GB game file. The plot is plenty interesting and the ability to level up and change classes will keep you entertained all the while.
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin
Instead of being a hunter in Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin, you’re a Monster Rider out to raise Monsties and fight alongside them in battle. While there are popular monsters, weapons, and armor from the Monster Hunter series, this game has more in common with some of the best Pokémon games in many ways.
Battles basically follow rock, paper, scissors rules. Each monster has one of three preferred battle types that defeats one of the other battle types and gets beaten by the other. You’ll have to remember what each monster’s type is to effectively fight in turn-based battles. I love these fights as they require skill and strategy and introduce an element of luck to keep you on your toes. Your monster fights on its own accord, but you can typically guess what it will do. Plan your moves strategically to work with your monsters and deal devastating blows.
Unlike Pokémon, you can’t capture monsters in the wild. Instead, you’ll explore different locations, dive into monster dens and try to make it out safely with an egg. Near the start of the game, you’re given stewardship over a Rathalos egg that others are hunting down. It’s up to you to keep this red dragon safe and learn about its true destiny.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The Fire Emblem series has long been a bestseller in Japan but only reached popularity recently in the U.S. So whether you’re unfamiliar with the series or a longtime veteran, Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the perfect game for you. Players take control of Byleth, a professor at the Garreg Mach Monstery. You decide whether to teach the Black Eagles, Blue Lions, or Golden Deer. Each house has unique students who affect the game’s plot.
Time spent at the academy helps you increase your student stats or acquire items. Then at the end of each week, you put your students to the test in battle. This requires strategic, tactician-level thinking as you need to keep the strengths and weaknesses of your allies in mind at all times. Battles are incredibly rewarding but can be very challenging. Yes, permadeath is optional for die-hard players, but Byleth also has the ability to turn back time if things don’t play out in your favor. These difficulty options make it a fun game for any player.
The best part about this game is that your battle choices and how you interact with your students while at the academy determine what happens in the overall story. Over time, the political backgrounds associated with the school’s students pull the classmates apart, and you’re forced to choose sides.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2
The Xenoblade Chronicles series has had several high points since the first game was released, and Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is one you really shouldn’t miss out on. In the world of Alrest, civilizations are built on the backs of giant creatures called titans. But hang on to your hats cause the plot is rather confusing.
You play as Rex, a scavenger who dives into the waters below the titans and collects things to sell. On one dive, he encounters a strange blade, which is actually a living weapon in the form of a red-haired woman named Pyra. The two work together to fight off enemies and unravel a mystery that impacts the entire world.
Along the way, Rex meets new travel companions who will fight alongside him in battle. Additionally, he acquires more blades which each have different fighting styles and vastly different appearances. The plot admittedly gets incredibly confusing, so much so that it’s hard for me to describe it succinctly. But in some ways, that’s what makes some Nintendo Switch JRPGs so great. All in all, it makes for a great adventure that you can sink 45 to 50 hours into.
Pokémon Sword and Shield
Do you want to be the very best, like no one ever was? Well, then join the millions of players who’ve also become the very best in Game Freaks’ latest core Pokémon game. Seriously though, while Pokémon Sword and Shield don’t deviate too much from the standard Pokémon formula, it does provide several new elements to make this game thoroughly enjoyable.
The story takes place in the UK-inspired Galar region and has you travel around in the usual fare of battling Pokémon in gyms and earning badges. However, it also includes the Wild Area, sections of open land where you can plainly see Pokémon walking about. So naturally, the time of day, terrain, and weather determine which of the 400 Pokémon shows up as you explore. And, of course, you’ll need to trade with someone who has a different version than you to acquire them all, as some are version exclusives.
Pokémon follow a Type system in turn-based battles, with each type having strengths and weaknesses against others. For instance, Water beats Fire, Fire beats Grass, and Grass beats Water. Spend hours battling, collecting your favorite Pokémon, and diving into Max Raid Dens. If you beat the game, paying for the Expansion Pass gives you two new locations to explore and even more Pokémon to catch.
Square Enix made something extraordinary with Octopath Traveler, which uses 16-bit figures in a 3D world. The art style is stunning, to say the least, invoking memories of retro Final Fantasy games while also providing something fresh.
The game follows eight different characters, each with their own lives and ambitions. Their unique skills and personalities allow them to defeat enemies and interact with the world in different ways. Play any character in any order and see how the wider world’s politics connects them all. Will you enjoy playing as the Dancer, the Warrior, or perhaps the Scholar most? You’ll just have to dive into each storyline and see which one you like the best.
Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster
I’ll start this one off with a warning. With Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne HD Remaster being a remastered game for Switch, there are elements to it that are a little outdated and hard for a newcomer to get into. However, if you’re already into the world of Shin Megami Tensei, it’s a game you should check out.
The story takes place in Tokyo just as an apocalypse unleashes itself on the world. Players control a young boy who receives power from none other than Lucifer himself. But, of course, it’s up to you to decide what to do with it. To become stronger, you’ll need to persuade demons to join your team and fight at your side. But not every demon will want to join you.
Will you be able to grow strong enough to take on evil forces while determining the fate of the world? Check out this punishing Nintendo Switch JRPG and find out for yourself.
Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition
In the world of Terca Lumireis, a mysterious ancient technology called blastia allows civilization to run as we know it, but the Empire controls all that power. Over time, political intrigue and warring factions fight over how to use these devices and the aer energy that fuels them.
You will command a group of allies as they maneuver through this world and encounter evil groups out to take control. There’s a dark secret at this game’s core, and it’s up to you to unravel it.
Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition
Monolith Software released the first Xenoblade Chronicles game on the Wii, and it didn’t take long for it to become a cult classic. So much, so that copies of the original game are rare and sell for a pretty penny. Shulk even found his way into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Two additional games followed, with Xenoblade Chronicles 2 being the most financially successful one yet. With so much positive attention, it made sense for the original game to get ported to Nintendo Switch for more people to enjoy.
You play as Shulk, a young man who possesses a curious red blade called the Monado. He must use this weapon to take down Mechon, mechanical threats that pose a danger to life as we know it. You’ll need to acquire more allies, upgrade your skills, and travel worldwide to defeat various monsters. The battle system is unique and allows you to trigger Chain Attacks for a more efficient victory.
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster
Final Fantasy X/X-2 both made a huge impression when they were released and are often considered the best Final Fantasy games of all time. The cutscene graphics were incredibly advanced in 2001 and 2006, respectively, making a lasting impression on the video game industry.
The first game has you playing as Tidus, an athlete who somehow finds his way 1,000 years into the future after calamity strikes and destroys the world as he knew it. He must travel with a group of friends and try to defeat Sin, the destructive monster that haunted his world and threatens the one he’s now in. Along the way, he meets a girl named Yuna, and the two fall into a star-crossed love.
X-2 takes place two years following the events of the first game. This time, Yuna plays the narrator and talks as though she’s telling the story to Tidus. She and two other girls Rikku and Paine, work together to fight foes as a new weapon threatens to destroy Spira. The story takes players in very different directions from the first game while still feeling true to it.
Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
XII The Zodiac Age is the most popular Final Fantasy game following X and X-2 and is definitely worth your while. Players learn about Princess Ashe, a royal bent on revenging her fallen family, and Vaan, a young man who dreams about escaping the war-filled wasteland he grew up in. The two meet and go on an adventure against the militaristic empire that will determine the world’s future.
The Nintendo Switch version is an HD remaster, complete with several improvements and new elements like a Zodiac Job System that allows characters to continue to level up even when they aren’t in your party. In addition, there are plenty of fun sidequests and minigames to keep you entertained when you want a break from the main missions. Not to mention that this version features a fully re-orchestrated soundtrack.
Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy
Three years after the first game’s events, Ryza receives a letter telling her about a strange stone located in some ruins. She determines to go after it assuming that it could be related to alchemy. As the journey unfolds, she acquires team members, attacks several monsters, and explores several locations.
This is a direct sequel to the previous game and is thus best enjoyed by people who have already played it. I’m happy to say KOEI TECMO’s creation builds upon the foundations of the first entry and improves the mechanics considerably for a thoroughly enjoyable game. In particular, the synthesizing elements menu is a lot easier to use, and the real-time combat gives you more strategies. Unfortunately, the voice acting is completely Japanese with subtitles, so you need to read to enjoy this game.
Ryza also has an apartment in the capital, which players can decorate with different furniture and items, including a pet. Ryza runs around the overworld and can ride an adorable squirrel-like creature to go faster. Since alchemy and synthesizing are a big part of the game, players spend several hours exploring the world and gathering items. All-in-all, it’s a bright and fascinating world for any anime lover to experience.
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore
Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE Encore is kind of like what would happen if Fire Emblem got drunk and had a Persona baby with Shin Megami Tensei. It’s a mixture of games that really shouldn’t work together but somehow pulls it off. Players take on the role of a group of teenagers who run around Tokyo and become J-Pop stars to battle evil forces. Yeah, you read that right. Along the way, players encounter some of the most popular Fire Emblem characters and unveil a sinister plot to steal people’s talent.
The Fire Emblem weapon triangle from older games is present in battles, so you’ll need to remember each enemy’s weaknesses and strengths to battle effectively. Then, level up your team and trigger Sessions, as seen in Shin Megami Tensei, to take enemies down faster.
This game definitely isn’t for everyone. However, if you’re really into Japanese culture, love watching anime cutscenes, and are looking for a crazy take on the JRPG genre, you ought to check it out.
NEO: The World Ends With You
NEO: The World Ends With You is the sequel to the original cult classic from the DS era. If the artwork looks familiar, that’s because it was done by Shiro Amano, the writer and artist behind the Kingdom Hearts manga. Like the original game, this one features teenagers who are pulled into the “Reaper’s Game” and are tasked with competing against other players. The catch is that the team with the lowest score at the end of each week gets eliminated from existence.
The only chance of escape is to become the best-scoring team and have your wish granted. It’s up to Rindo Kanade and his team of misfits to work together, battle monsters, complete puzzles, and explore the city of Shibuya. To fight, players must collect and equip pins that provide different attacks.
Each team member can be controlled in battle by pressing a specific button, dependent upon what pin they have equipped. If all of your player’s gauges are full, you can unleash a powerful attack that deals even more damage. It’s a great game for anyone who likes the original or who enjoys unique combat systems.
Disgaea 6: Defiance of Destiny
This story doesn’t take itself too seriously and encourages you to do the same. You play as Zed, a young boy who also happens to be a zombie. He doesn’t remember much about what life was like before, but he’ll stop at nothing to defeat the God of Destruction who’s terrorizing the netherworld. So with his zombie dog, Cerberus, in tow, he heads out on an adventure that will uncover his past and lead to a few surprises.
The battle system is streamlined from previous entries, and being a zombie has its advantages. As with most JRPGs, Zed starts relatively weak, but whenever he dies, he Super Reincarnates, coming back more powerful than before. Turn-based battles take place on a grid-based battlefield and require some strategy. However, the equipable gear and items you encounter keep the game lighthearted and silly. For example, a life jacket with the description “What’s the point of this? We’re nowhere near water!”
You’ll encounter whacky characters, including Prinnys, which are exploding penguins, and other over-the-top anime characters to keep you entertained the whole journey through.
Rune Factory 4 Special
Rune Factory 4 Special is one of those rare unicorns that is a farming simulator and RPG rolled into one. You get to choose how to spend your days. Will you spend your time tending your crops? Raise a wide range of monsters? Go fishing? Forge weapons? Go dungeon crawling? Or maybe find true love with one of the many villagers?
For those like myself who are more plot-focused, don’t worry as there is a small storyline. You travel to Selphia to make an offering to the local deity. However, your ship is attacked, and you become an amnesiac. After some rather hasty decisions, you somehow get put in charge of a small town and get to determine what happens to it.
Your character can level up as you venture into dungeons and defeat enemies. Just press buttons to defeat any monsters you see. You’ll unlock new abilities and magic powers as time progresses. Plus, your love interest can join your team and help you in battle. It’s an excellent game that scratches several different itches.
Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
As you can plainly see, Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch was created by the charming Studio Ghibli and shares a very similar art style to classic movies from the animation company. Therefore, the game plays out much like one of these films and captured the attention of several players when it was first released in the U.S. back in 2013.
The story follows Oliver, a young boy who quickly discovers that he is a wizard with the power to control Familiars in battle. Upon finding himself in a magical world, he quickly starts making friends and journeys to save his mother. This is accomplished by fighting monsters and serving others.
The gorgeous cell shading art style makes the gameplay look just like the beautiful anime cutscenes. Gameplay centers around capturing Familiars and then having them fight for you in battle. Each member on your team can have three different Familiars at a time. In many ways, battles feel as if they were influenced by Pokémon while still being unique in their own right. What really sets this game apart from other JRPGs is Oliver’s good nature and the heartwarming story he creates.
Monster Hunter Rise
Monster Hunter Rise surprised just about everyone with how well it took off in the U.S. upon release. While it’s the sixth main installment in the series, the franchise has mostly been big in Japan up until now. Rise streamlined some of the gameplay elements and provided a new Wirebug device making it possible to ride and defeat monsters in new ways.
So what is Rise about anyway? Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a storyline. Players live in Kamura Village and are aware that a catastrophic event is heading their way, triggered by violent monsters. To prevent this apocalypse from happening, players must run out, battle massive beasts, and return home with their spoils. Loot and monster parts can then be fashioned into weapons and armor, allowing hunters to take on more ferocious monsters.
What really pulled me in was being able to fight alongside my own Palico and Palamute, basically a cat and a dog with armor and weapons. While players can enjoy battles on their own, a whole game section is basically only beatable if you join other players. There are 14 weapons to choose from, and each takes hours to master. So each player can come to the game with their preferred battle style.
Bravely Default 2
Bravely Default 2 might employ that cute chibi art style, but the gameplay is anything but. Characters each have their own complicated skill tree, and the combat system will require your full attention to get far. Characters can either adopt a Brave or Default stance in battle, and players need to know when to build up to Brave points and when to attack in full.
Despite the name, Bravely Default 2 takes place in a different setting and has a different cast than the first two Bravely Default games. So while the battle system does have a bit of a learning curve, anyone who hasn’t checked out the previous games before should be able to jump into the story, no problem.
There are four characters, each with their own background: The shipwrecked Seth, Princess Gloria, the scholar Elvis, and the mercenary Adelle. It’s up to you to travel the land, collect the elemental crystals, and stop an evil power from destroying the world.
Back to the grind
There’s something absolutely calming about games that let you travel around fantasy worlds, battle monsters, and work on skill trees. Whether you’re looking for turn-based combat or prefer more action-focused gameplay, these JRPGs will do the trick. However, if you’re only going to play one, I highly suggest it be Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age. It’s a highly polished remaster that you can play with either 16-bit visuals or in glorious 3D. The story takes you to several magical locations and lets you learn about each of the characters in your party.
Another game I highly recommend is Fire Emblem: Three Houses. Playing the part of a tactician feels really cool, and I love how much the story changes based on the decisions you make along the way. If you’re looking for a hardcore experience, just make sure permadeath is turned on, and you’ll have quite a challenge.
Lastly, if you haven’t checked out Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin yet, I highly recommend you do so. It’s a creature collection game with familiar Monster Hunter elements laced throughout. The triangle combat system is easy enough to understand, but then the actions of your enemies and your own Monster provide enough luck to keep you on your toes. An enjoyable experience through and through.