Pokémon Sword and Shield have proven that turn-based combat is still appreciated, even if the backing of an established franchise obviously does help. While properties like Final Fantasy have shifted toward real-time action, classic turn-based systems will forever have a place in gaming.
Nintendo's catch 'em all franchise is the biggest license, at least commercially, to feature turn-based combat; however, the gameplay style did not originate with Pokémon and arguably was perfected elsewhere. Here are 10 awesome games with turn-based combat that are not called Pokémon.
10 Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
Dragon Quest might not have been the first game to feature turn-based combat, but 1986's entry helped shape the most popular iteration of the gameplay style. Even today, Dragon Quest's influence can still be felt throughout the JRPG genre.
Considering the history behind the franchise, it is hardly surprising that Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age ranks comfortably among the greatest turn-based RPGs of recent years. Boasting an extensive story, likable characters, a familiar but engaging combat system, and stunning visuals, Dragon Quest XI is nothing short of a masterpiece.
9 Persona 5
Putting aside a question of quality, Persona 5 is undeniably the most stylish turn-based JRPG of the current generation. Atlus's spin-off franchise blends elements from social sims, monster taming games, and traditional JRPGs to craft an experience that is truly unique.
Admittedly, Persona 5's combat system does not re-invent the wheel; however, the game's presentation goes a long way in elevating the gameplay to new heights. The campaign is long, challenging, and memorable.
8 South Park: The Fractured but Whole
Stepping away from JRPGs for a second, South Park: The Fractured but Whole improves upon nearly every aspect of its predecessor, 2014's The Stick of Truth. The turn-based combat was revamped by introducing a grid-based system, which makes encounters far more dynamic and strategic.
Fans of the cartoon are The Fractured but Whole's target audience, but those less familiar with South Park should be able to appreciate Ubisoft's expertly-designed RPG.
7 The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel
The Legend of Heroes has been producing JRPG gold since 1989, with the Trails in the Sky sub-series being especially fantastic. While those are definitely worth checking out, Trails of Cold Steel might be a more accessible place to start, especially with the third entry being localized in 2019.
Trails of Cold Steel's narrative can be described as a mix of Persona's social interactions and Final Fantasy's political intrigue, albeit with a fresh spin. The combat centers around positioning characters on the battlefield to allow for joined attacks, although that is only one aspect of a fantastic battle system.
6 Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
It is safe to assume that there is nothing Mario cannot accomplish, and starring in a timeless JRPG is no exception. Developed by Square, Super Mario RPG has aged splendidly since it was originally released in 1996.
Outside of battles, Super Mario RPG plays like a stripped-down platformer, albeit one that emphasizes exploration. In battle, action triggers and specialized playable characters add depth to an otherwise typical turn-based system.
5 Suikoden II
Once upon a time, Konami developed other things besides pachinko machines, with Suikoden representing the publisher at its JRPG best. Known for its massive playable roster and a complex plot that deals with mature themes, Suikoden II is the best entry in the franchise and has not lost a beat since originally being released in the late '90s.
Suikoden II has different types of combat situations, albeit the most common is regular encounters featuring up to six characters on each side. These battles are enjoyable, although most of the fun comes from trying out different party members.
4 Skies of Arcadia
Originally published for the Dreamcast before being ported to the GameCube, Skies of Arcadia was one of the best JRPGs of the early 2000s, even if it never quite managed to become as well-known as something like Chrono Trigger.
Exploration is a huge component of Skies of Arcadia; in fact, the world map needs to essentially be mapped out during the player's travels. The combat is more than serviceable, but the characters and world-building are Skies of Arcadia's true highlights.
3 Shadow Hearts: Covenant
Although it is best to start with 2001's Shadow Hearts, if not 1999's Koudelka, 2004's Covenant is the best entry in Nautilus' overlooked JRPG series. Set around an alternate reality version of World War I, the Shadow Hearts series boasts a brilliant storyline filled with morally ambiguous characters, surprisingly effective humor, and chilling horror imagery.
Shadow Hearts' turn-based combat expands on traditional systems through a "Sanity Points" meter, which causes a character to go berserk once depleted, and a "Judgment Ring." The latter involves stopping a radar in a specific area in a circle to improve the chances of landing a hit, along with various other effects.
2 Grandia II
Grandia II's battle system is a contender for the best on this list, if not of all time. At the bare minimum, it is the most innovative. While still turn-based, the characters can be moved around the battlefield to add an element of strategy to encounters. Additionally, magic spells require time to charge up, meaning the character will be vulnerable to attacks in the meantime. There are also combo attacks that, along with striking multiple times, can be used to cancel an opponent's turn.
Grandia III arguably improves slightly upon its predecessor's combat, but the rest of the game is weaker. The original Grandia is also worth considering, particularly for those seeking a challenging JRPG.
1 Lost Odyssey
Xbox is not especially known for its JRPGs, but a few exclusives did drop on the Xbox 360. If Blue Dragon is an enjoyable throwback to classic Dragon Quest-type games, then Lost Odyssey is a spiritual successor to Final Fantasy.
The turn-based combat does not deviate too greatly from traditional entries in the genre; in fact, Lost Odyssey's battle system might just be the weakest part of the game. That said, it is still well-executed and is bolstered by a solid progression system. The story is thought-provoking, epic, and brilliant.
If this was too bad for HBO, I dread to think what it was like.