At launch, Switch started with a steady sprinkle of decent releases, whether new games or ports from other platforms, but in the months that followed the software snowballed and now you can't move for quality titles across almost every category.
The RPG genre is no exception. This list of the console's essential Role-Playing Games - in no particular order - will evolve over time as Switch's library expands even further. We've taken the decision to exclude more action-oriented RPGs to give other games a chance to shine. Perhaps more than any other type of game, there are debates to be had over stratified categories, sub-genres, side-genres, -likes, -lites, -like-lites, etc. Those granular discussions can be fun, sure, but ultimately everyone will have a different opinion over what should and shouldn't be included in any given category. We feel that, given Switch's ample library, spreading the genres out a little gives games across the spectrum more room to breathe.
So, this collection steps away from the 'action' prefixed branch of the genre, instead embracing a more traditional JRPG flavour. Rest assured, the big names that you might have otherwise expected will no doubt get their recognition elsewhere in due course. For the time being, though, we think this is a standout selection of games with more traditional role-playing mechanics.
So sit back, relax and get ready to enjoy some sweeping epics...
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Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a massive, sprawling JRPG built by Monolith Soft, who developed the previous two entries and the Baten Kaitos games on the GameCube. The team also helped Nintendo design the world of Breath of the Wild, so there's no doubting the pedigree. You'll explore a massive open world made up of Titans – enormous living creatures that house entire civilisations on their bodies. Along the way you'll meet a wide variety of characters, solve a bunch of quests, and save the world. It's Monolith Soft doing what it does best, albeit without shaking off the occasional flaws of the series. This is another Xenoblade gem, though, and a must-have RPG.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has a massive, standalone DLC called Torna: The Golden Country that's also well worth playing through. It serves as a prequel to the events of 2 so you can play it before or after.
Undertale is a brilliant and smartly designed game that understands well what makes a good RPG work; so much so that it can upend expectations and deliver something that’s almost a satire of the genre. You fall into the underworld and explore a humour-tinged world full of fun things to do. You'll date a skeleton, dance with a robot, and cook delicious dishes with a woman who's part-fish. Or, you can do none of those things – Undertale delights in letting you decide what to do.
It manages to surprise you in so many unique ways, and even if it doesn’t look like much, Undertale has way more going for it under the surface. Excellently written characters, a genre-bending battle system and a solid soundtrack make this one an easy recommendation. Do yourself a favour and give this one a download.
While Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition doesn’t make any major changes to the original game, it does combine practically every piece of exclusive content into one wholesome package. With the benefit of some improved visuals in both cutscenes and gameplay, it’s very difficult to recommend this JRPG classic on any other system than Nintendo Switch thanks to how well it performs in both docked and handheld modes. If you’ve missed out on this classic, there’s never been a better way to rectify that error.
Despite a title that suggests it came out of a name generator, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a satisfying slice of JRPG with visuals inspired by the likes of World of Warcraft, Divinity: Original Sin, and classic Diablo adventures. It forges a confident, colourful character of its own from formulaic ingredients. The approachable comic style, plus a couple of neat mechanics that encourage experimentation, give it a freshness that belies the age-old systems at its core, and it doesn’t waste your time with filler. Ultimately, it’s the same old story – numbers go up! – but it’s shot through with an infectious exuberance and attention to detail that reinvigorates old tropes.
Child of Light is an absolutely gorgeous RPG developed in the same UbiArt Framework that gifted us Rayman Origins and Legends. You play as Aurora, who's on a quest to save her ill father and former kingdom. It also features co-op, with one player taking on the role of Igniculus, the shiny little ball of light.
The ‘light’ in the title sums things up nicely – you get game mechanics usually reserved for massive RPG epics in a concise package that’s as beautifully refreshing as when it was first released. It’s a shame to see framerate hitches – however occasional they may be – but they’re not enough to cast a shadow on this delightful adventure.
An indie adventure with a lush world, fun characters, and enjoyable battles, Earthlock brings the soul of PS1-era JRPGs to the Switch with excellent results. Inconsistent dialogue and notable load times are among its few missteps, but as a package, it captures the appeal of the epoch wonderfully. If you’re looking for a fresh-feeling JRPG that still calls back to the classics, this is a lovely choice.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is a direct sequel to The Stick of Truth, and once again places you in the shoes of the New Kid. You'll fight alongside your favourite South Park characters in the superhero group Coon and Friends against the villainous Professor Chaos who is trying to eliminate them.
Don't be fooled by the cartoon visuals, as this is not one for the kids. The humour – while hilarious – is offensive and adult in nature. You'll create your own super hero, complete with costume, origin story, and superpowers as you explore South Park at night to save it from evil. While it’s no great leap from the mechanics of the first game, it still offers an ideal introduction for players looking to try out a turn-based RPG and would make a worthy addition to any genre fan's collection.
Over ten years on from the Nintendo DS original, The World Ends With You has lost none of the fun or style that made it such a cult classic. Although the controls leave something to be desired, the chaotic battle system, catchy soundtrack, and engaging storyline all combine to make this an unforgettable RPG that hits all the right points. We’d give this one a high recommendation to anyone that hasn’t yet experienced this gem in some form; there’s plenty here to make it worth your time. If you’ve experienced the game before, however, we’d advise that you think hard about how badly you want it for your Switch. If this is the last we see of this property, then The World Ends With You: Final Remix feels like a fitting send-off, even if it isn’t perfect.
There’s little in Lost Sphear that you haven’t seen before in JRPGs, but that doesn’t mean it’s a title to be dismissed out of hand. If you can look past the clichés, it presents an engaging world, deep battle system, and plenty of replayability which will likely delight many an RPG fan. Tokyo RPG Factory has proven with this release that it’s capable of learning from past mistakes, and though Lost Sphear still might not be the game to surpass Chrono Trigger, it proves itself to be worthy of that legacy. We’d recommend Lost Sphear to anybody who loves a focused, traditional RPG.
Honourable mention: Lost Sphear's prececessor, I Am Setsuna, is also available on Switch. While it's a less polished adventure, it still serves as an excellent modern day taste of classic Final Fantasy-style JRPGs.