Top Ten RPG Battle Systems of ALL TIME (2023 Edition)

Top Ten RPG Battle Systems of ALL TIME (2023 Edition)

Though I have not played every JRPG out there (I mean, who has), I have played some awesome games with even better battle systems! This will be a Top 10 article that I make every year, and I will be updating it with new JRPGs and their battle systems every year! Two things to note: 1) there will not be multiple games from any series on this list (otherwise there’d be too many Tales games… lol) and 2) I have not played Persona 5 because my parents won’t let me, I apologize in advance. Now without further ado, RPG Ranked presents... Top 10 Best JRPG Battle Systems of All Time!

10. Live A Live

Lord Iwama - Twilight of Edo Japan - Live a Live Wiki Guide - IGN

I love tactical RPGs, they are so fun and unique! With cool grid based systems, abilities with differing hitboxes, and a lot of strategy, they can be much more interesting than your traditional turn-based battle system. However, the biggest issue with tactical RPGs for me is that I simply do not have the time to be wasting fourty-five minutes of my life away on a single battle. In comes Live A Live, a game with quick, yet tactical battles on a seven-by-seven grid. Though it isn’t quite as in-depth as Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre, its pure simplicity and the vast array of unique abilities and characters you get in this game makes this a very fun and innovative battle system (that is part of a fun and innovative game!). On top of all of this, this game has some of my favorite optional bosses of all time: the Koi Fish and the Mammoth King! They made you really think about how you utilize all of your abilities and how you move around the tiles. Overall, with a concise grid based battle system, awesome battles, and 32 characters each with their own unique abilities, Live A Live has a battle system that I absolutely adore.

9. Lost Odyssey

Though a traditional battle system that doesn’t reinvent the wheel in any way, shape or form, I am obsessed with the battle system in this game. Due to the sheer amount of customization found through the accessories and the Skill Link system, you are always getting new abilities and utilizing new tactics each and every battle… heck, you can have up to 30 skills at a time! The Guard Condition status makes you really think about your party formation and who you should be taking to each and every battle, and the variety of characters lets you have so much customization on how you approach each and every battle. On top of that, even battles against trash mobs feel grand in scope due to the fantastic camera motions and absolutely fantastic Quick Time events. Overall, though this battle system just looks like another CTB battle system at heart, it just perfects that formula and makes this battle system one of the best in any RPG I’ve ever played.

8. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

If the AI wasn’t absolutely garbage in this game, this would probably be much closer to the top of the list. However, as it stands, I couldn’t put it any higher than eighth. But I digress. As much as I love the idea of Pokémon, I have never understood the hype because the battle systems in Pokémon games are just abysmal in my opinion (sorry, Pokémon fans). I love the creatures and the capturing in Pokémon, but the battles have never cut it for me. On the contrary, Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch has a battle system that I have never seen before or since. It is the perfect blend of turn-based and action-based combat, with movement but also bubbles that let you take pseudo-turns in battle. As much as many people hate this, I think it is absolutely fantastic. The sheer amount of familiars you can recruit in this game makes this game infinitely replayable, and the battle system is just so fun because of that. On top of that, I mean, the playable characters are already quite fun, with awesome spells, songs, and trickshots to be used! This game takes so many of my favorite elements and mashes them together: variety, replayability, a hybrid battle system, and undeniable charm. But overall, it is held back by the horrendous AI that makes me want to claw out my eyes. Like seriously, Esther, you have much better things to do than attack for 2 damage with your freaking harp! And Swaine, stop putting out your stupid level 1 Clubber Cub and forgetting to defend against the Guardian of the Worlds! Ugh. It’s just too bad the AI isn’t better, or this would be in like number 3. I’d pay $100 bucks if I could fix this stupid AI…

7. Eternal Sonata

For the same reasons I love Ni No Kuni’s battle system, I love Eternal Sonata’s battle system. Though Ni No Kuni has hundreds more skills and unique abilities to utilize in comparison to Eternal Sonata, this game just takes the cake for the best turn-based/action-based hybrid I’ve ever played. It allows you to control all of your characters, and you never have to worry about any terrible AI. You also get very unique elements such as the light and dark abilities that really make you think about where you should strategically move before you attack the enemy. Sometimes the best thing to do is just bait an enemy to move into a certain area so you can unleash your most powerful attacks! Building up Echoes is also a blast, and getting off an overpowered ability chain with 0.01 seconds left on the timer is one of the most satisfying feelings in any RPG battle system. The battle system also changes throughout the game due to the Party Level system, which adds extra layers on top of the already awesome battle system! Like Ni No Kuni, I would also put this near the top of the list if it weren’t for one glaring issue: some of the characters have almost no abilities. Like even Allegretto, the character with the most abilities (if I remember correctly), only has like maybe ten abilities total. And Serenade and Crescendo only have four. Comparatively, even the earliest Tales games have tens of abilities for each character. Overall, I absolutely adore this system, and am so excited to replay this game in Encore Mode in a month or so, but with so much less customization than many entries on this list, I simply could not put Eternal Sonata any higher than seventh.

6. Mario & Luigi: Dream Team Mario and Luigi: Dream Team Nintendo 3DS : Unknown: Video Games

My favorite entry in the Mario & Luigi series, Dream Team is an absolute joy to play. Let’s quickly get the negatives out of the way. Though the Giant Battles are absolutely garbage in my opinion, they still were very cool in theory. The other negative is that this game is more based on Quick Time Events than actual strategy. However, the positives most definitely outweigh the negatives. Each enemy encounter in the Mario & Luigi series is just so different and unique, and you can tell that each enemy was handcrafted by a team who really cared about their craft. The fact that there are basically three types of battles in this game adds a lot of depth, with basic battles, Dream Battles, and the aforementioned Giant Battles. It is already so fun to switch between the 2D Dream World and the 3D normal world, but the difference in the battles just really amplifies the difference between the two worlds. Having the normal battles with both Mario and Luigi was awesome on its own, but when you got to play as just Mario with Luigi’s essence fused inside of you? That was so sick. The Luiginary Attacks were hysterical, and each and every button press is unique every battle. Though it is inherently not going to be my favorite on this list because it is a lot less strategic than other entries, overall, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team has a battle system that I will always enjoy until the day I die.

5. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age

DRAGON QUEST XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age - Slayer of the Sands Boss [Super  Strong] - YouTube

This is my definition of the perfect turn-based battle system. With years of Dragon Quest games behind them, they have perfected the formula here. Each level you get new spells and skill points, which allow you to truly customize your characters via awesome skill trees with multiple branching paths. The animations are also phenomenal, and the ability to switch characters out in battle makes it just so fluid. This game has so much more depth than meets the eye due to Pep Powers, skill trees, and some insane ability combinations that you can use. My personal favorite ability combo in all of gaming is giving an enemy a status effect and dealing six times damage with Erik… who knew that status effects could actually be this cool! Also, with the ability to speed up battles and to just run around the screen just for the heck of it is an awesome touch, and each battle really is a new experience. Overall, this game just takes the most traditional battle system you can get and elevates it without losing the simplicity or the charm from retro RPGs that we know and love.

4. Blue Dragon

Blue Dragon has my favorite job system in any RPG ever made, and inherently, that is going to make me love its battle system. With so many awesome and unique combinations across the different Shadow Classes and the accessories available to your characters, it would almost be stupid for me to put this any lower on the list. One thing that I wish more games implemented is the Charge system, which really allows you to customize exactly what you want to accomplish with your spells and your attacks. On top of that, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a cooler battle animation in my life than those Corporeal attacks. Move away, Final Fantasy XV summons and One Piece Odyssey anime crap, these Corporeal attacks are the coolest thing ever. Also, each and every enemy is so cool, and being able to fight multiple battles at once via the Encounter Circle is just fantastic. And Monster Fights? One of the coolest things ever to grace RPGs. CTB battle systems are also easily my favorite type of turn-based battle systems, so I’m definitely not complaining about that! Though the battles are much too easy if you are playing in normal mode in my opinion, downloading the Hard Mode DLC is free and easy to do! And also, the bosses are some of the best I’ve ever found in any RPG. Each boss is less generic than the last, and the boss music is the best in any game I’ve ever played. Overall, I adore this battle system, and the fact it is fourth on my list is a testament to how good the next few battle systems are.

3. Octopath Traveler II

I don’t even know how they were able to make such an intricate battle system with this level of depth without biffing it. With a CTB battle system, multiple different types of skills, breaking and boosting, a wide variety of jobs and characters, and so many different strategies, this is the most innovative turn-based battle system I have ever played. No battle is that easy in this game, and every battle requires strategy and thought (unless you spam Light Revenants early in the game, but I mean, it’s not like I did that…). This game takes everything from its predecessor and improves on it, with EX Skills, better Talents, the addition of Latent Powers, and the day/night cycle. Each boss fight is so fun to fight, as you always know you are in for something that you aren’t going to beat in just a few turns like many other games out there. Also, with a wide variety of support skills, you can customize your characters to your liking and come up with so many different unique strategies. I also like that, even though you have access to so many abilities, the game restricts you to make you pick and choose which abilities you truly need… but doesn’t restrict you too much (like the very annoying job system in Final Fantasy V, sorry if you like that battle system, but I do NOT). Overall, Octopath Traveler II is one of the most strategic and awesome turn-based battle systems out there, and I recommend it to anybody who wants a nice challenge.

2. Tales of Xillia

Gamer--freakz: Greatest Boss Fights: Golden Mage Knight (Tales Of Xillia)

This is my favorite Tales game… and I love the battle systems in Tales games. They are action-packed, but aren’t like dumb Western RPGs that only allow you to control one character the entire game. You can switch between multiple characters that are fleshed out and feel completely different to play, and each game has a unique spin on the traditional Tales formula. However, Tales of Xillia is my favorite Tales game, and as such, it has my favorite battle system! (For those wondering, I have not gotten around to Tales of Arise of Tales of Graces F yet, so those will probably make it on this list for the 2024 Edition). Anyway, I digress. The linking of different characters and the Linked Artes lets you really customize the way you fight, and I love how each character is so unique to play as (as opposed to earlier Tales games like Tales of Symphonia, which are different but not nearly to the degree of Tales of Xillia). Playing as Jude vs playing as Milla? It is a totally different experience. My personal favorite character to play was Rowen, as I loved using different magic artes and learning how to hone them to be the best they could (I will be honest though, I usually just converted my HP to TP and just spammed Fireball because that was just so fun for some reason). Anyway, I just loved this battle system, so much so that I fought every battle on screen all the way up until the end of the game. You better believe I’ll be replaying this game in the near future! Overall, this game has such fun and fluid combat and I doubt it’ll ever get old for me.

1. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

♪) Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door - Battle Theme (Touhou Remastered) -  YouTube

This game is just so fun for me. Yes, I understand why so many people like the battles in Mario & Luigi better, but I will never get tired of switching partners in and out of battle, fighting the awesome bosses in this game, and customizing my badges. This game has had my favorite battle system since I was like seven years old, and as long as you don’t spam Power Bounce against everything, you can truly find so many fun combinations to use. The amount of strategy here is endless, which I seldom feel from any games, even games with so many skills like Lost Odyssey or Dragon Quest XI. Each time I play this game, I have used a different strategy to beat the game. The first time? I leveled up my HP and FP a ton, leaving BP in the dust (I was seven, don’t judge me). The next time? Had a very defensive strategy, guarding and keeping my HP very low while having tons of BP to spare. And when I play TTYD next time? I’m going to play with the Peril and Danger strategies that I always hear about. There are so many challenges people come up with to play this game, and the sheer awesomeness is proven by the fact that everybody and their grandmother’s are trying to replicate the charm that once was with this battle system! It’s no surprise that games like Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling and the Outbound Ghost are trying to replicate the magic of this game, and that every Paper Mario fan just wants this battle system after years of weird experimentation in the Paper Mario series. As much as I still love the newer entries, they simply do not capture the magic that was found in Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Overall, due to the sheer amount of fun and variety in this battle system, this is my favorite RPG battle system of all time.

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