Overview

More than two years ago I published the Nintendo Game Project, looking at various statistics of all (at the time) 15,000 games on Nintendo platforms. I thought it would be interesting to do the project again, but with Sony games this time. While Sony doesn’t have as long a legacy as Nintendo, it should be interesting in its own right, and I can do some comparisons. Nintendo can be at odds with the rest of the video game industry, while Sony has largely dominated it since the PlayStation.

I have kept my methods the same as before to facilitate comparisons, but let’s go over them. This study includes officially licensed games from the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, and PlayStation 4. My cutoff date for games was the last day of 2020, so not all PlayStation 4 games are included. I have not included PlayStation Classics, just as I did not include Virtual Console games. Unlike last time I did include games not released in North America, Europe, or Japan.

I combined development studios and publishing companies that were owned by another company into one. For example, Ubisoft Paris and Ubisoft Barcelona are both Ubisoft studios, so they both just count as “Ubisoft”. Ubisoft bought Red Storm Entertainment in 2000, so that company counts as Red Storm Entertainment before they were bought, and as Ubisoft after. Sometimes video game companies are bought by non-video game companies, I ignored these unless that company also owned at least one other video game company. For example, Atlus was bought by Index, which also owned Interchannel, so those companies were counted as Index. I counted a company as owned by another if they owned more than 50% of it, so D3 Publisher counts as Bandai Namco from the date that they acquired most of their stock.

Merged companies I counted as a new company. So Squaresoft and Enix are counted separately from Square Enix. If a company changed their name, I used the most recent. When games were ported, I credited the porting studio, whether that was the original creator or not.

Many games are likely fully or partially developed by uncredited studios in countries with cheaper labor, art assets have especially been outsourced in recent years. I can only list developers officially named, please keep in mind that developer and country data can not be perfect.

I have included some data from my Twenty-Five Years of Games Across Eight Metrics project, namely ESRB ratings, genres, and average lengths of games. This data only covers games released in North America, and the PlayStation 4 data is a few years old now, though since this data is presented as an average it is unlikely to have changed much.

Fortunately, there were few issues with even the oldest Sony games having no developer named, or with vague release dates.

System Infographics

Before we dig in I have to talk a bit about the original PlayStation and why it’s incomplete. In late 2020 I copied the list of PlayStation games from wikipedia to get started on this project. At the time I thought it was a shame that the PlayStation 4 list would not include many games that would come out before I finished this project. I did not expect to come back to the PlayStation list almost a year later while I was working on these infographics and see that almost one thousand new games had been added to this 25 year old console’s list of games.

Almost all of these games seem to be Japanese exclusives. According to Sony, 4,944 games were released in Japan, which likely means the original PlayStation’s library is even larger than the PlayStation 2’s. I’m glad Wikipedia editors are documenting these games, but I do wish I had somehow timed things better. This throws my numbers off for the number of games developed in Japan, and the top developers and publishers is likely off a bit too. I apologize for the errors.

Sony’s first system was an immediate success, with over 10 times as many games as their nearest competitor, the Nintendo 64, and selling three times as many hardware units.

We’ll be seeing Konami a lot on these lists, and they are off to a roaring start here. You probably haven’t heard of any of Lightspan Adventure’s games, even though they released over 100 titles for the PlayStation. Lightspan sold educational games directly to schools, and were quite prolific while they lasted.

While many will call PlayStation a haven for Role-Playing games, it actually has the smallest share of them of any Sony system. What it does have the most of is Racing and Sports games.

The age ratings of PlayStation games are heavily skewed towards younger audiences with the highest share rated E for Everyone and lowest share rated M for Mature among Sony systems.

This was before the E10+ rating was introduced, but the PS1 has the only Early Childhood games on a Sony system (probably, it’s harder to find Early Childhood games since the ESRB got rid of the rating and made them unsearchable for on their website).

The PlayStation 2 is the best selling video game system of all time with a huge and varied library.

Konami takes the top developer spot again, by a wide margin. Sega left the hardware business in 2001 and still became a top developer for both the PlayStation 2 and Gamecube. They merged with Sammy in 2004, and if you were to count Sega and Sega Sammy as the same company they would be ahead of Koei among developers, and in the top 7 publishers. Very few of Idea Factory’s games left Japan, but they mostly make tactical RPGs and visual novels.

With two systems to compare we can see some trends: games have become more mature, longer, and less exclusive to one region, though not so much with Japan quite yet.

Being a handheld, the PlayStation Portable still has a strong Japanese presence. I was a bit surprised to see how many sports and racing games Electronic Arts released. QuinRose made otome games, published every single one themselves, and not a single one left Japan.

Puzzle, Strategy/Tactics, and Role-Playing games reach higher proportions on the PSP. If my genre data had included Japanese exclusives the PlayStation Portable would likely have looked fairly different, with many Japanese-exclusive visual novels qualifying as Adventure games.

This is the only Sony system where one of the top 5 best sellers is exclusive to one region: Monster Hunter Portable 3rd.

The PlayStation 3 is where things change for Japan. From making nearly 60% of the PS2 and PSP libraries to 30%, and there are also now three non-Japanese companies among the top 7 developers. Japanese exclusives drop from around 40% to 12.51%, and the amount of games released in all regions doubles. Fewer best sellers and top rated games are developed in Japan.

Regional exclusives in general suddenly become much less common, and with Japan making fewer games they are now the region missing out on the most games.

I would have expected average game lengths to increase with the advent of trophies, but it actually goes down a bit from the PSP.

There is also a shift towards more games with more mature age ratings.

The PlayStation Vita is Sony’s biggest aberration, receiving little support after its first few years and selling much less than any other Sony system.

While the PS3 stepped away from Japanese games, the Vita was much more popular there than anywhere else, and there were about the same portion of games released there as with the PSP. Meanwhile, the North American and European markets had nearly identical libraries.

Without Electronic Arts’ support there are much fewer Sports games, and we see some new companies in the top 7s, while Sony develops and publishes fewer games than any of its other systems. Idea Factory and 5pb made a lot of visual novels. None of Media5’s games left Japan, 18 of them start with “NextRev” and might be designed to help you study for various kinds of exams, such as nursing, if I can trust google translate. We’ll talk more about Limited Run in a moment.

Sales data is very limited for the Vita, with very few official announcements, likely due to its poor sales.

The top developers and publishers represent much smaller pieces of the pie than ever before with the PlayStation 4, something also seen with the Switch. Games take longer to make, and there are more small studios making games than ever before.

Limited Run was the first and probably currently is the largest company making limited amounts of physical versions of smaller, mostly indie, games that wouldn’t otherwise have been able to release physically. Their first PS4 release was about 2 and a half years into the system’s life, making it all the more difficult to claim the top spot. Limited Run were just getting started with the Switch when I released my Nintendo project, I’m sure they are currently near the top there too.

Japan falls even further in the country rankings, but barely manages to remain the top producer of PS4 games.

While the Vita’s sales numbers are likely spotty due to poor sales, there also seems to have been a change with major publishers in this era that led to them releasing fewer and more vague sales numbers, which is why these sales numbers are so nicely rounded. Many reports by these companies now focus on total revenue or number of active players. Nintendo on the other hand releases sales numbers to the ten-thousandths place for any titles that have sold at least one million copies every quarter.

At this point region exclusivity is almost dead, I had only 2 European exclusives recorded for the PS4. Japan has become the big loser when it comes to games not being localized.

Sony Games by System

This graph shows us the lifespan of the Sony systems, and how new systems supplant the old. 2013 was quite a year, with 5 systems receiving new releases.

Rather than relative amounts, here we can see the total number of games by year. The PlayStation era numbers should be quite a bit higher, as wikipedia had not documented many games at the time I grabbed its data. The increasing amount of time it takes to produce a game is apparent here with 2018 and on releasing fewer games than ~20 years ago, despite the larger number of developers. Even in the PlayStation 3’s third year it was still barely outdoing the output of the PlayStation 2.

Countries and Regions

Here’s all the data for the regions by system. Unlike with the Nintendo project I included games not released in the big three regions, and there were a fair number for the PS2. European exclusives have always been rare.

A more graphical way to look the data from the chart.

The 10 countries that developed the most games for Sony systems, and their share of all games released for each system.

Overall we have seen more and more countries develop video games over time, with the PlayStation 4 making a large jump.

We don’t often think of Canada as a powerhouse of game development, but several provinces provide tax breaks for game studios, and Montreal is home to many development studios, including one of the largest in the world, Ubisoft Montreal, while Electronic Arts Vancouver makes a lot of sports games.

It’s difficult to get a good color gradient for this map, since many countries have only produced a handful of games, but it is nice to see that game development has truly become a global effort.

This graph is a bit silly, and probably a bit hard to understand. What I wanted to find out was which countries had a lot of game developers per capita and which didn’t, but there isn’t that kind of data for many countries. Instead, this is how many games were developed in each country per person, as of 2020. So for instance, Japan developed 7,498 games in this study, and had 126,476,461 people, so it made 0.0000593 games per person. This is a bit cumbersome to read, so scientific notation is used. 5.93E-05 means 5.93*10^-5, or 5.93 with the decimal moved left 5 times, or about 6 games per 100,000 people.

Japan is clearly very dedicated to making video games, and second place, the United Kingdom, has about half as many games per person with roughly 3 games developed per 100,000 people. Malta may have only worked on 6 Sony games, but that is a lot for its population of 441,543. China, India, Pakistan, and Indonesia have large populations, but few games, putting them on the bottom of the list.

Developers and Publishers

These graphs are very similar, but please note the y-axis is different on each.

I’m surprised the PSP has the fewest, it sold much better than the Vita, games were relatively cheap to make for it, and digital distribution had just begun, opening the way for smaller titles.

I would have expected the PS3 to have more developers and publishers as well, with the indie explosion in full force during its lifetime.

Self publishing has become a viable option for many small digital-only games, one cause of the large number of publishers for the PlayStation 4.

When we consider games per developer or publisher, things are a bit different. The PlayStation 2 was a huge hit and a lot of companies threw everything they could at it. Over 6 games per developer on average is incredible. Two generations later it was only possible to make a third as many.

Here is a look at how many Sony systems developers and publishers supported. A great majority had short lives or didn’t stick around for more than one system. Twenty-nine developers and 23 publishers have released a game for every Sony system, and I will show you who they are soon. Nintendo has had 6 developers and 8 publishers if you omit the Virtual Boy and combine Bandai/Namco/Bandai Namco and Koei/Tecmo/Koei Tecmo.

I did not include companies before and after merger as one company for this, unlike the equivalent Nintendo chart. If I had Bandai/Namco/Bandai Namco, Koei/Tecmo/Koei Tecmo, and Sega/Sammy/Sega Sammy would have been included in both developer and publisher lists.

The usual suspects are here, but there are some lesser known companies too.

Nacon was known as BigBen Interactive until recently.

Behaviour Interactive, formerly known as Artificial Mind & Movement does of lot licensed games.

Very few of SystemSoft’s games leave Japan, but they have some long running series, including Daisenryaku, WWII era war strategy games.

Despite their shorter history Sony has both developed and published more games for their platforms than Nintendo. Konami is not far behind, once again showing its prolific output, it was the #1 developer and #2 publisher for Nintendo.

Idea Factory is not well known outside of Japan, yet claims fifth most prolific developer.

Electronic Arts and Ubisoft are the only non-Japanese companies in either top 10.

Lightspan is the only company to make this list that only supported one console, and 3 others managed it with only 2.

If I had combined pre- and post-merger companies as a single entity the totals would have looked like this:

Bandai/Nacmo/Bandai Namco: 519 developed, 1016 published

Koei/Tecmo/Koei Tecmo: 412 developed, 422 published

Sega/Sammy/Sega Sammy: 291 developed, 472 published

Square/Enix/Square Enix: 218 developed, 328 published

This graph shows the difference in the percent of games developed in each country between Sony and Nintendo. Negative values mean a country has a larger share of the total Nintendo games, while a positive value means Sony does. For example, 50.960% of Nintendo games were developed in Japan, while 48.409% of Sony games were developed in Japan. The difference is -2.551, indicating that a larger percent of Nintendo games were developed in Japan when compared to Sony. If a value is red it means that no Sony games were developed in that country, if it is black then no Nintendo games were developed there.

I have heard before that Nintendo is generally not as popular in Europe as it is in the United States. While that seems to be true of the United Kingdom, Poland, and Sweden if we are to judge by game development, it is not true of France, Germany, or Spain. These six countries are the European countries that developed at least one percent of all games for either company.

I also wanted to look in to which hardware maker different developers and publishers favored. The developers and publishers included are the top 25 for Sony and Nintendo, which has a lot of overlap. The percents are of Sony and Nintendo’s libraries, not the developer’s or publisher’s.

Please keep in mind the Nintendo data is a few years old, so Limited Run is probably very close between the two by now.

Electronic Arts, Koei, Koei Tecmo, Nippon Ichi, the newer SNK, Square Enix, and Take-Two are some developers making significantly more of Sony’s games. Hudson Soft, Intelligent Systems, Kemco, and TOSE are some that make many more Nintendo games. TOSE likely just got credited less often by the time Sony entered the game, however.

There is a huge gulf in the share of Sony developed games and Nintendo developed, that is made only slightly more even when considering HAL Laboratory, Intelligent Systems, and other not-owned-by-Nintendo-but-work-almost-exclusively-with-them developers.

It is striking how Konami is the first or second biggest developer and publisher for both Sony and Nintendo and also manages to represent almost the same share of both libraries, especially since few of those games released on both a Sony and Nintendo system.

On the publishing side Sony and Nintendo are much closer.

Game Titles

All game title data uses North American English localized names when they exist, European English names when they don’t, or Romanized Japanese names when neither exists.

I wanted to try this word occurrence graph again with some different words. This time I included roman numerals preceded by a space, to get a better idea of how long some series tend go on for. This is somewhat hampered by games with a space followed by a new word that begins with I or V. Final Fantasy XV is the only roman numeral-ed game that has gotten to XV.

PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable games had the longest titles, while PlayStation 4 saw quite a reduction in title length. This chart correlates fairly closely with the number of Japanese exclusives, which can be quite wordy.

The shortest games titles were D and Z, both for the PlayStation. There is also a game called X for the Game Boy.

The longest title was Hisshou Pachinko*Pachi-Slot Kouryoku Series Vol. 5: CR Shinseiki Evangelion 2nd Impact * Pachi-Slot Shinseiki Evangelion, with 120 characters. The exact title varies a bit by source, but every way I saw it rendered easily put it at the longest title.

Thirteen is the most common length, with a gradual drop off as titles get longer.

In closing

This project took a lot longer to make than I expected it to, even with the knowledge I gained making the Nintendo Games Project. I made fewer infographics for systems, but a lot more graphs covering different kinds of data. Not having to fix and research a lot of data for games from the 3rd and 4th generation helped speed things up somewhat.

I don’t see myself ever making a Sega or Microsoft games project, they just weren’t/haven’t been around long enough as hardware makers.

I hope you enjoyed this project and learned something interesting.

Sources

MobyGames – Genre information

MetaCritic – Metascores

ESRB – ESRB ratings

List of best-selling video games by platform  – Lists of best selling games

Lists of video games – Lists of games for each system

Overview

Video game magazines used to be the hub of video game discourse, with the latest news, editorials on the state of the industry, and, of course, reviews. While the internet eventually buried most of these magazines I still find it fascinating to look through them to see what was a big deal at the time and how others viewed particular games.

I wanted to make these magazines more accessible, while learning more about my favorite genre: the JRPG. So I have collected as many JRPGs reviews from magazines as I could and presented them here. I hope you find them as interesting as I do, and maybe find some new games you would like to play. If you’re here you’d probably also be interested in my JRPG project, where I use a mountain of data to attempt to find the best system for JRPGs based on review scores, price, exclusivity, and more.

Almost all scans are from RetroMags, an invaluable resource for video game history. A few scans I found from internet searches years ago and don’t know the origin of, sorry. I hope to update this archive a few times a year as more scans become available. As for the games, I am using JRPG Chronicle’s JRPG Index, which is maintained by Lucca. It’s a great website and discord channel for JRPG lovers, check it out if you’re into JRPGs.

This project includes video game magazines from the United States and United Kingdom. I generally stuck to magazines with at least a dozen issues available, which includes most of the big magazines you’ve heard of, other than Game Informer and GameFan, which do not want scans of their magazines online.

The included magazines are Computer & Video Games, Dreamcast Magazine, Electronic Gaming Monthly, GamePro, Gamers’ Republic, GMR, Next Generation, Nintendo Power, Official Sega Dreamcast Magazine, Official U.S. Playstation Magazine, Playstation Magazine, Pocket Games, PSExtreme, Sega Force, Sega Visions, Ultra Game Players, and VideoGames & Computer Entertainment/Video Games – the Ultimate Gaming Magazine.

Games are listed by their official title in North America at the time and in alphabetical order without leading articles. Series with roman numerals are in number order rather than alphabetical. The order can look weird since titles can vary in length as well as where the spaces, numbers, and colons go. If a game was released on multiple systems with the same name I have indicated which the review is for. I’ve done my best to get exact names correct, but let me know if I’ve made a mistake.

The earliest game included is 1988’s Phantasy Star, the third JRPG to reach North America or Europe, while the latest is 2014’s Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII. There are very few reviews from after 2010, though, as there were few magazines left, and even fewer scans available of them. The 1994-2000 era is probably the most complete period.

There are a few anomalies worth noting. Magazines occasionally reviewed the Japanese versions of games, and sometimes they never ended up coming to the region that the magazine served. There are a few retrospective reviews, written years after a game came out. Nintendo Power’s early days threw out review scores inconsistently, sometimes giving scores to games without a written review, or giving scores in a walkthrough. They even reviewed Brandish twice.

You can click on the images to expand them to full size. Pressing the right arrow key or clicking on the right half of the image will go to the next image, while the left arrow key and left half of the image will go to the previous. Pressing escape will close the image lightbox. You may want to open some very large images in a new tab. Filenames start with the the name of the magazine if you ever want to check.

11/22/21 update: 26 games have had new reviews added, and 12 new games have been added: Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, Car Battler Joe, Dragon Ball Z: Legendary Super Warrior, Dragon Warrior III (GBC), Exile (Genesis), Faxanadu, Lufia: The Legend Returns, Metal Gear Ac!d, Mystic Heroes, Pokémon Crystal Version, Ring of Red, Star Ocean: First Departure

Total Games: 515

Total Games with a Colon in the Title: 187

A – 21 games

  • Advance Guardian Heroes
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin
  • Advance Wars: Dual Strike
  • Aedis Eclipse: Generation of Chaos
  • Albert Odyssey: Legend of Eldean
  • Alundra
  • Alundra 2
  • Arcana
  • Arc the Lad
  • Arc the Lad Collection
  • Arc the Lad: End of Darkness
  • Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits
  • Ar Tonelico: Melody of Elemia
  • Atelier Annie: Alchemists of Sera Island
  • Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana
  • Atelier Iris 2:  The Azoth of Destiny
  • Atelier Iris 3: Grand Phantasm
  • Avalon Code
  • Away: Shuffle Dungeon
  • Ax Battler: A Legend of Golden Axe
  • Azure Dreams

B – 22 games

  • Baten Kaitos
  • Baten Kaitos Origins
  • Beyond Oasis
  • Beyond the Beyond
  • Blade Dancer: Lineage of Light
  • Bladestorm: The Hundred Years’ War
  • Blue Dragon
  • Blue Dragon Plus
  • Boktai: The Sun is in Your Hand
  • Boktai 2: Solar Boy Django
  • Brain Lord
  • Brandish
  • Brave Fencer Musashi
  • Bravely Default
  • Breath of Fire (SNES)
  • Breath of Fire (GBA)
  • Breath of Fire II (SNES)
  • Breath of Fire II (GBA)
  • Breath of Fire III (PS1)
  • Breath of Fire IV
  • Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
  • Brigandine

C – 27 games

  • Cadash
  • Car Battler Joe
  • Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
  • Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
  • Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
  • Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
  • Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
  • Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
  • Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles
  • Children of Mana
  • Chocobo’s Dungeon 2
  • Chrono Cross
  • Chrono Trigger (SNES)
  • Chrono Trigger (DS)
  • CIMA: The Enemy
  • Coded Arms: Contagion
  • Contact
  • Cosmic Fantasy 2
  • Crimson Tears
  • Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII
  • Crystal Warriors
  • Crystalis (NES)
  • Crystalis (GBC)
  • Cubivore
  • Custom Robo Arena

D – 46 games

  • Dark Cloud
  • Dark Cloud 2
  • Dark Savior
  • Dark Souls II (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
  • Dark Wizard
  • Dawn of Mana
  • Deception 3: Dark Delusion
  • Defenders of Oasis
  • Deep Labyrinth
  • DemiKids Light Version/DemiKids Dark Version
  • Destiny of an Emporer
  • Digimon World
  • Digimon World 3
  • Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII
  • Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness
  • Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2)
  • Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories (PS2)
  • Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice
  • Dokapon Journey
  • Dokapon: Monster Hunter
  • Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 2 (Wii)
  • Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3 (PS2)
  • Dragon Ball Z: Legendary Super Warrior
  • Dragon Crystal
  • Dragon Force
  • Dragon Slayer: The Legend of Heroes
  • Dragon Warrior I & II
  • Dragon Warrior II
  • Dragon Warrior III (NES)
  • Dragon Warrior III (GBC)
  • Dragon Warrior IV
  • Dragon Warrior VII
  • Dragon Warrior Monsters
  • Dragon Warrior Monsters 2
  • Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors
  • Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen
  • Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride
  • Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King (PS2)
  • Dragon Valor
  • Dragon View
  • Dragonseeds
  • Drakengard
  • Dungeon Explorer
  • Dungeon Explorer II
  • Dungeon Magic
  • Dynasty Warriors: Gundam

E – 19 games

  • EarthBound
  • Ehrgeiz
  • Elemental Gearbolt
  • Elemental Gimmick Gear
  • Enchanted Arms (PS3/Xbox 360)
  • Ephemeral Fantasia
  • Eternal Eyes
  • Eternal Ring
  • Eternal Sonata (Xbox 360)
  • Etrian Odyssey
  • Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard
  • Evergrace
  • E.V.O.: Search for Eden
  • Evolution Worlds
  • Evolution: The World of Sacred Device
  • Evolution 2: Far Off Promise (DC)
  • Exile (Genesis)
  • Exile (TurboGrafx)
  • Exile: Wicked Phenomenon

F Part 1 – 23 games

  • Faria: A World of Mystery and Danger!
  • Fatal Labyrinth
  • Faxanadu
  • Final Fantasy (NES)
  • Final Fantasy (PSP)
  • Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls
  • Final Fantasy II (SNES)
  • Final Fantasy II (PSP)
  • Final Fantasy III (SNES)
  • Final Fantasy III (DS)
  • Final Fantasy IV (DS)
  • Final Fantasy IV Advance
  • Final Fantasy V Advance
  • Final Fantasy VII (PS1)
  • Final Fantasy VIII (PS1)
  • Final Fantasy IX (PS1)
  • Final Fantasy X (PS2)
  • Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2)
  • Final Fantasy XI Online (PS2/PC)
  • Final Fantasy XI Online (Xbox 360)
  • Final Fantasy XI: Chains of Promathia (PC)
  • Final Fantasy XII
  • Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings

F Part 2 – 25 games

  • Final Fantasy Adventure
  • Final Fantasy Anthology
  • Final Fantasy Chronicles
  • Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon
  • Final Fantasy Legend II
  • Final Fantasy Legend III
  • Final Fantasy Mystic Quest
  • Final Fantasy Origins
  • Final Fantasy Tactics
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance
  • Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift
  • Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions
  • Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles (GC)
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Echoes of Time (DS/Wii)
  • Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates
  • Fire Emblem
  • Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
  • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn
  • Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon
  • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
  • Folklore
  • Forever Kingdom
  • Fossil Fighters
  • Front Mission 3
  • Front Mission 4

G – 15 games

  • Golden Sun
  • Golden Sun: The Lost Age
  • Grandia (Saturn)
  • Grandia (PS1)
  • Grandia II (DC)
  • Grandia II (PS2)
  • Grandia III
  • Grandia Xtreme
  • The Granstream Saga
  • Great Greed
  • Grim-Grimoire
  • Growlanser: Generations
  • Guardian Heroes
  • Guardian War
  • Guardian’s Crusade

H – 16 games

  • .Hack Part 1: Infection
  • .Hack Part 2: Mutation
  • .Hack Part 3: Outbreak
  • .Hack Part 4: Quarantine
  • .Hack//G.U. Vol. 1//Rebirth
  • .Hack//G.U. Vol. 2//Reminiscence
  • Harvest Moon: Animal Parade
  • Harvest Moon: Back to Nature
  • Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town
  • Harvest Moon: Island of Happiness
  • Harvest Moon: Sunshine Islands
  • Heroes of Mana
  • Hero’s Saga
  • Hoshigami: Ruining Blue Earth
  • Hybrid Heaven
  • Hydlide

I – 5 games

  • Illusion of Gaia
  • Infinite Undiscovery
  • Inindo
  • Innocent Life: A Futuristic Harvest Moon
  • Izuna 2: The Unemployed Ninja Returns

J – 3 games

  • Jade Cocoon
  • Jade Cocoon II
  • Jeanne D’Arc

K – 15 games

  • Kagero: Deception II
  • Kartia: The Word of Fate
  • Kingdom Hearts
  • Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
  • Kingdom Hearts II
  • Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories
  • Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
  • Kingdom of Paradise
  • King’s Field (Japan)
  • King’s Field (North America)
  • King’s Field II
  • King’s Field: The Ancient City
  • Knight Quest
  • Knights in the Nightmare (DS)
  • Koudelka

L – 38 games

  • Lagoon
  • La Pucelle: Tactics
  • Legacy of Ys: Books I & II
  • The Legend of Dragoon
  • Legend of Legaia
  • The Legend of Heroes: A Tear of Vermillion
  • The Legend of Heroes II: Prophecy of the Moonlight Witch
  • Legend of Mana (PS1)
  • Legend of Oasis
  • The Legend of the Ghost Lion
  • Legend of the River King
  • Legend of the River King 2
  • Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII (PS3/Xbox 360)
  • Little King’s Story (Wii)
  • Little Ninja Brothers
  • Lord of Arcana
  • Lost Kingdoms
  • Lost Kingdoms II
  • Lost in Blue
  • Lost in Blue 2
  • Lost in Blue 3
  • Lost Magic
  • Lost Odyssey
  • Lucienne’s Quest
  • Lufia & the Fortress of Doom
  • Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals
  • Lufia: The Legend Returns
  • Lufia: The Ruins of Lore
  • Luminous Arc
  • Luminous Arc 2
  • Lunar Knights
  • Lunar Legend
  • Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete
  • Lunar: Dragon Song
  • Lunar: Eternal Blue
  • Lunar: Eternal Blue Complete
  • Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (PS1)
  • Lunar: The Silver Star

M – 44 games

  • Magical Starsign
  • Magician’s Quest: Mysterious Times
  • Magic Knight Rayearth
  • The Magic of Scheherazade
  • Magic Pengel: The Quest for Color
  • Magna Carta: Tears of Blood
  • Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome
  • Mario Golf (GBC)
  • Mario Golf: Advance Tour
  • Mario Tennis (GBC)
  • Mario & Luigi: Boswer’s Inside Story
  • Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time
  • Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga
  • Master of Monsters: Disciples of Gaia
  • Mega Man Battle Network
  • Mega Man Battle Network 2
  • Mega Man Battle Network 3: Blue Version/White Version
  • Mega Man Battle Network 4: Red Sun/Blue Moon
  • Mega Man Star Force 3: Red Joker/Black Ace
  • Mega Man X: Command Mission (PS2/GC)
  • Medabots: Metabee Version/Rokusho Version
  • Metal Gear Ac!d
  • Metal Gear Ac!d 2
  • Metal Walker
  • Monster Hunter
  • Monster Hunter Freedom
  • Monster Hunter Freedom 2
  • Monster Kingdom Jewel Summoner
  • Monster Rancher
  • Monster Rancher 2
  • Monster Rancher 3
  • Monster Rancher 4
  • Monster Rancher Advance
  • Monster Rancher Advance 2
  • Monster Rancher Battle Card
  • Monster Rancher Battle Card: Episode II
  • Monster Seed
  • MS Saga: A New Dawn
  • Muramasa: The Demon Blade (Wii)
  • Musashi: Samurai Legend
  • Mystaria: The Realms of Lore
  • Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer
  • Mystic Heroes
  • My World, My Way

N – 5 games

  • Nightmare of Druaga
  • Ninety-Nine Nights
  • Ninja Boy 2
  • Ninja Taro
  • Nostalgia

O – 8 games

  • Odin Sphere
  • Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber
  • Ogre Battle: Limited Edition
  • Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen (SNES)
  • Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen (Saturn)
  • Okage: Shadow King
  • Onimusha Tactics
  • Opoona

P Part 1 – 17 games

  • Paladin’s Quest
  • Panzer Dragoon Saga
  • Paper Mario
  • Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
  • Parasite Eve
  • Parasite Eve II
  • Persona 2: Eternal Punishment (PS1)
  • Phantasy Star
  • Phantasy Star II
  • Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom
  • Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
  • Phantasy Star Collection
  • Phantasy Star Online
  • Phantasy Star Online: Episode I & II (Xbox/GC)
  • Phantasy Star Online Episode III: C.A.R.D. Revolution
  • Phantasy Star Universe (Xbox 360/PS2)
  • Phantasy Star Ø

P Part 2 – 20 games

  • Phantom Brave
  • Phantom Brave: We Meet Again
  • Pocket Kingdom: Own the World
  • Pokémon Colosseum
  • Pokémon Crystal Version
  • Pokémon Diamond Version/Pearl Version
  • Pokémon Emerald Version
  • Pokémon Gold Version/Silver Version
  • Pokémon FireRed Version/LeafGreen Version
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky
  • Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Red Rescue Team
  • Pokémon Platinum Version
  • Pokémon Ranger
  • Pokémon Red Version/Blue Version
  • Pokémon Ruby Version/Sapphire Version
  • Pokémon Stadium
  • Pokémon Yellow Version: Special Pikachu Edition
  • Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness
  • Popolocrois

Q – 1 game

  • Quest 64

R  – 15 games

  • Radiata Stories
  • Record of Lodoss War
  • Rengoku: The Tower of Purgatory
  • Rengoku II: The Stairway to H.E.A.V.E.N.
  • Revelations: Persona
  • Revelations: The Demon Slayer
  • Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure (PS1)
  • Ring of Red
  • Robopon Sun Version/Star Version/Moon Version
  • Robopon 2: Cross Version/Ring Version
  • Robotrek
  • Rogue Galaxy
  • Romancing Saga
  • Rune Factory 2: A Fantasy Harvest Moon
  • Rune Factory Frontier

S Part 1 – 34 games

  • Saga Frontier
  • Saga Frontier 2
  • Saiyuki: Journey West
  • Secret of Evermore
  • Secret of Mana
  • Secret of the Stars
  • Seventh Cross Evolution
  • The 7th Saga
  • Shadow Hearts
  • Shadow Hearts: Covenant
  • Shadow Hearts: From the New World
  • Shadow Tower
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 FES
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
  • Shining Force
  • Shining Force CD
  • Shining Force Exa
  • Shining Force Neo
  • Shining Force: Resurrection of the Dark Dragon
  • Shining Force: The Sword of Hajya
  • Shining Force II
  • Shining Force III
  • Shining in the Darkness
  • Shining Soul
  • Shining Soul II
  • Shining Tears
  • Shining the Holy Ark
  • Shining Wisdom

S Part 2 – 28 games

  • Skies of Arcadia
  • Skies of Arcadia Legends
  • Sorcerer’s Kingdom
  • Soul Blazer
  • Spectral Souls
  • Spectrobes: Origins
  • SpellCaster
  • Star Ocean: First Departure
  • Star Ocean: The Second Story
  • Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
  • Suikoden
  • Suikoden II
  • Suikoden III
  • Suikoden IV
  • Suikoden V
  • Suikoden Tactics
  • Suikoden: Tierkreis
  • Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2
  • Super Hydlide
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
  • Super Ninja Boy
  • Super Paper Mario
  • Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier
  • Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation 2
  • The Sword of Hope
  • The Sword of Hope II
  • Sword of Mana
  • Sword of Vermilion

T – 24 games

  • Tactics Ogre (PS1)
  • Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
  • Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis
  • Tail of the Sun
  • Tales of Destiny
  • Tales of Destiny 2
  • Tales of Legendia
  • Tales of Phantasia
  • Tales of Symphonia
  • Tales of the Abyss (PS2)
  • Tales of the World: Radiant Mythology
  • Tales of Vesperia (Xbox 360)
  • Tao’s Adventure: Curse of the Demon Seal
  • Tecmo’s Deception: Invitation to Darkness
  • Terranigma
  • Thousand Arms
  • Threads of Fate
  • Time Stalkers
  • Tobal No. 1
  • Torneko: The Last Hope
  • Trapt
  • Tsugunai: Atonement
  • The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang

U – 3 games

  • Uncharted Waters
  • Uncharted Waters: New Horizons (SNES/Genesis)
  • Unlimited Saga

V – 14 games

  • Vagrant Story
  • Valhalla Knights
  • Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga
  • Valkyria Chronicles
  • Valkyrie Profile
  • Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria
  • Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume
  • Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth
  • Vandal Hearts
  • Vandal Hearts II
  • Vanguard Bandits
  • Vay
  • Virtual Hylide
  • Virtua Quest

W – 14 games

  • Wanderers From Ys (SNES/Genesis/TurboGrafx)
  • Warsong
  • Wild Arms
  • Wild Arms 2
  • Wild Arms 3
  • Wild Arms 4
  • Wild Arms 5
  • Wild Arms Alter Code: F
  • Wild Arms XF
  • Willow
  • A Witch’s Tale
  • Wizardry: Tale of the Forsaken Land
  • The Wizard of Oz: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road
  • The World Ends with You

X – 4 games

  • Xenogears
  • Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht
  • Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits Von Gut Und Bose
  • Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra

Y – 7 games

  • Yggdra Union
  • Yakuza
  • Ys Book I & II
  • Ys III
  • Ys: The Ark of Napishtim
  • Ys: The Vanished Omens
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Duelists of the Roses

Z – 2 games

  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
  • Zone of the Enders: The Fist of Mars

When a popular video game has been out for a while and its sales have slowed the publisher may release a discounted reprint. The requirements and names for these reprints vary by system and region. In North America Nintendo calls them “Player’s Choice” or “Nintendo Selects”, Sony calls them “Greatest Hits”.

This isn’t a comprehensive history of the practice though, what I’m interested in is the secondhand market for these games. Due to the addition of strongly colored banners and other changes to the box art many collectors will turn their nose up at these, considering them an eyesore. Some may consider them too “common” or “cheap” to be worthy collector’s items. Consequently, the common thought is that they are less valuable, and thus sell for less.

It has occurred to me many times that these reprints must actually be the rarer versions, since they are only released once a game has sold most of the copies it is going to sell and the publisher is willing squeeze whatever extra money they can from a game. What an unusual situation, where the rare version of something is cheaper and less desired. Collector’s editions and other variant printings are also less common, but generally sell for more than the base game in the secondhand market.

I wanted to quantify this, just how much rarer are these discounted reprints, and how much less valuable are they? I started with Wikipedia’s lists of games to receive these reprints and recorded the complete price and sales volume from PriceCharting. While I added a few from PriceCharting’s lists that weren’t on Wikipedia, I found I had to remove far more. PriceCharting just doesn’t list the reprints separately for dozens of games.

In total 1,075 games were used, although 38 discounted reprints did not have price data, seemingly because they were so rarely sold. I only used data for “complete” games, this is more common than loose or new. PriceCharting gets its data by looking at completed listings on eBay.

Sales Volume

PriceCharting has a quirky method of displaying how often a game is being sold and I must start by explaining it. Rather than displaying the average number of sales during a standard period of time such as a year, it instead uses the format “X sale(s) per day/week/month/year”. X never contains a decimal, so it has been rounded.

Fifteen different sales volumes were observed from the games I recorded, and it is likely there are no others.

On the right is how PriceCharting describes the sales volume, in the middle is how much this comes to per year, and I broke these down into tiers for some of the graphs I will be using, shown on the left. The two gray tiers, 15, and 16, were never observed and are probably very rarely, if ever, used, considering that tier 17 consists of a single game (try guessing what it is before we get there).

This is a somewhat haphazard way of describing sales volume, and the gap between tiers varies from a factor of 1.2 times to 2.34 times.

Right away we can see that discounted reprints sell less often on average than the original version of a game. No original release was observed as being sold less than once a month, but keep in mind these are some of the most popular games for each system.

The most commonly sold discount reprint version of a game (at 2 a day) was also the most commonly sold original release of a game (6 a day): Wii Sports.

The three original releases at tier 14 (3 sales a day) are all Gamecube releases: Super Mario Sunshine, Super Smash Bros. Melee, and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.

Another thing I wanted to look into was how sales volume changed over time. This isn’t based on the games market overall, just games that have a discounted reprint. I wasn’t able to include the discounted reprints themselves because very few of them have reliable release dates.

The earliest games included were for the Game Boy, but there weren’t many with separate Player’s Choice listings. Volume remains pretty stable starting from 1998, probably due to 4th generation systems phasing out. I would have expected a gradual increase over time, as older games have more time to find permanent homes or be thrown away, and fewer people are interested in the retro scene. There was only one 2018 game included, God of War for PlayStation 4.

Price

I’ve done other studies on game prices before so I didn’t look too deeply into prices alone, but here’s how much the original versions of games with a discounted reprint cost over time. The three Game Boy games from 1989 (Super Mario Land, Tennis, and Tetris) aren’t terribly expensive, but the 1991-1994 games that used cardboard packaging sure are. As games get newer from there they slowly get cheaper.

Price vs Sales Volume

This scatter plot gives some idea of how spread out the prices are in some tiers, but it’s difficult to see much of any correlation between sales volume and price since so many dots overlap each other.

You might not expect the least sold games (remember, tier 1-6 are all discounted reprints) to be so consistently cheap. The most expensive of the discounted reprints was Super Mario World at $287.08, while the most expensive overall was the original release of Super Mario World at $580.00.

Are the rarest (or at least the least often sold on eBay) games actually the most expensive? It actually seems to be closer to the opposite, although there is not a clear a progression. Some of the wild swings are due to small sample size – tier 8, 14, and 17 among original releases have no more than 4 games each. Discounting them the average tends to creep up the more common a game is.

Discounted Reprint Vs Original Release

This graph shows just how much rarer discounted reprints tend to be. If a discounted reprint sold half as often the original release, it would be 50% here.

More than three fourths of discounted reprints have less than 15% the sales volume of the original release.

Curiously, for 48 games studied both versions sold in equal amounts. I did not see any particular pattern among these other than none of them being from before the 5th generation.

Here is another way of looking at the price difference between discounted reprints and original releases, we can see the overall trends better than the scatter plot. The price difference is small in most cases, but cheaper is a bit more common.

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within’s Platinum Hits version for Xbox is for some reason over 10 times more expensive than the original release.

And here are the price differences in absolute dollar amounts. For most games the difference is within $5.00 either way.

Super Mario World again holds a record for largest price between versions, with the Greatest Hits version being $292.92 cheaper, while the Sega All Stars version of Ready 2 Rumble Boxing for the Dreamcast is $165.00 more expensive. While I don’t have dates for either release I imagine Mario World’s Greatest Hits release was available for much longer and in much larger quantities.

Some More Trivia

The average cost of the discounted reprint of a game in this study was $16.59, while original releases went for $19.35 on average. Not as large of a difference as I suspected going in to this project.

The average reprint sold 52.09 times a year, while an original averaged 313.53 sales per year.

The biggest difference in sales volume was The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King for PlayStation 2. The original sells 2 a day, while the reprint sells 1 a year, or 0.14% as often.

 

Sources

Nintendo Selects – Wikipedia

Sega All Stars – Wikipedia

Greatest Hits (PlayStation) – Wikipedia

Platinum Hits – Wikipedia

PriceCharting

 

 

 

 

Overview

A topic that comes up from time to time among Japanese Role-Playing Game enthusiasts is “what is the best system for JRPGs?” I look at these discussions and am often baffled by some of the things people suggest, but had nothing quantitative to back my opinions. As a big fan of the genre I have been wanting to do a project centered around them so I figured this would be an interesting thing to look into. In the process I also gathered a whole lot of data that is not related to game systems which I will also be going over.

Thankfully, a few days into the project and after realizing how many hours it would take just to decide what games from the Switch should be included, I saw a thread on /r/JRPG about a “JRPG Index” of every JRPG. This project may never have happened if I had not seen it, so thank you to JRPG Chronicles and the primary editor of its index, Lucca – more links in the Sources section.

While this project mostly sticks to games in the JRPG index, my rules are slightly different. Here are the requirements for games to be included in this study:

  • Developed in Japan or South Korea – Bug Fables and Child of Light do not count, but Crimson Gem Saga and Magna Carta: Crimson Stigmata do
  • Contains “enough” RPG elements – Monster Hunter and Dark Souls count
  • Officially licensed – no homebrew, RPG maker games, or fan translations
  • Released in North America and/or Europe
  • Released on a video game console – mobile, PC, and mini/classic consoles do not count
  • Not released on a 9th generation system – The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S were still very new when I started this project and there were very few JRPGs released for them
  • Released before 2021
  • Digital ports across generations are not counted if they are emulated and identical to their original version. So the Final Fantasy VII release on 8th generation hardware that has a speed up option and graphical improvements is counted, but PS one Classics on PS3 do not count
  • Games only available on a system as part of a subscription service, such as Nintendo Switch Online or Xbox Game Pass, do not count

Game Systems – Number of Games

It’s important to get an idea of what we’re working with first. Averages don’t mean as much if the data set is small, so I’ll be starting each section with the number of games relevant to what we’re talking about. Games released on multiple platforms are counted multiple times.

Clicking on the images will expand them. You can go to the next or previous image with the arrow keys, and close the lightbox with escape.

Within the parameters of this study, there are 21 home consoles and 8 handhelds with 1,639 JRPG releases. There are a few more systems with JRPGs, notably the WonderSwan, that weren’t included because they were only released in Japan.

An important aspect of determining the best JRPG system must the number of JRPGs. More games means more chances of finding a game you enjoy. The PlayStation 4 stands above everything else by a comfortable margin as of my cutoff date of 12/31/2020, and will see a few more. But while the Switch is #2 here, it is adding roughly 33% more JRPGs to its library per year than the PS4 has been, and it has several more years of life left in it, so it will likely end up pretty close by the time both systems stop receiving releases.

People often remark on how JRPGs mostly moved to handhelds with the 7th generation, and we can see that clearly here. The 7th generation was the birth of digital distribution on video game systems, and saw a big influx of games because of it, yet the PlayStation 3 has fewer JRPGs than the PlayStation 2 or PlayStation Portable. This is even more pronounced with the Wii and the DS.

It’s quite impressive that the Vita has more JRPGs than the PSP, despite selling so much worse.

Game Systems – Metascores

But it doesn’t matter how many games are on a system if they aren’t any good, so let’s look into the quality of the JRPGs on each system, first with metascores.

Most of these metascores are from GameRankings, which closed over a year ago. GameRankings displayed scores down to the hundredth decimal place, included older games than Metacritic, and did not weigh publications differently. Games without a GameRankings metascore used a Metacritic metascore when possible. For GameRankings I only included games with at least 5 reviews, and with Metacritic, 4 reviews.

While GameRankings has metascores for some older games there is a bit of selection bias for games released before the 6th generation. Typically only the most popular and best selling games have enough reviews, driving the overall average higher.

Systems without any metascores are omitted, and please also note that the y-axis starts at 60, making differences look larger than they actually are.

While the Sega CD and Saturn’s numbers look impressive, keep in mind that they had 3 and 8 games respectively with metascores and that the worst JRPGs didn’t get reviewed at all.

The Game Boy Color and Xbox One have more games to average, but are still rarely thought of as great JRPG systems. While the Xbox One got most of the same digital-only, small developer, low budget releases as the Switch and PS4, much fewer of them got reviewed, which helped its overall average tremendously.

But the average doesn’t tell the whole story. What’s really important when you’re looking for a system to play JRPGs on is how many great JRPGs it has, right?

We have different ideas of how poor of a metascore might need to be before we wouldn’t consider looking at a game, and how high a metascore needs to be to really grab your attention, so here we have metascores broken into 10 point chunks.

The original PlayStation has had the largest number of 90+ scored games, at 6, while the DS, PS2, PS4, and Xbox One have 4. While Sega had the two systems with the highest averages, there are only 3 90+ JRPGs in Sega’s history – Panzer Dragoon Saga, Lunar: Eternal Blue, and Skies of Arcadia.

Overall, there isn’t much difference between the relative proportions of these buckets among different systems, the 70s are the largest group, followed by 60s, or sometimes the 80s.

Game Systems – Polls

To get more of the “fans who don’t happen to work for a major game reviewing outlet” viewpoint I also looked at two polls to gauge how well different systems were received.

The first was held on /r/JRPG in late March 2020. 178 users voted for up to 10 games.

The second seems to have been advertised in many places, as there were over 1500 responses. I’m not sure when it started, but it was posted to /r/JRPG in early 2021. I am using the data from the “vote for your 10 favorite games” poll. Unfortunately, I can only see the top 100 games, so many games with a few votes were not counted.

I “normalized” the votes between these two polls so that they had equal weight, despite their difference in vote totals. This resulted in a number of “points” given to each game that received at least one vote. I multiplied the number by 100 so we didn’t have to deal with a bunch of zeros, so ultimately one vote in one poll is worth .7 points, and the most voted for game (Chrono Trigger) is 100. This is what I mean when I refer to “poll points”.

Before we get to the graphs, I feel it is important to discuss the relative merits of metascores and poll points.

All metascores are of their time, based on expectations for games coming out on those systems. Metascores cover many more games, no one voted for many mediocre to bad games in either poll. However, ports often do not get enough attention to receive a metascore, especially cross generational ones.

Retrospective fan polls can favor enduring classics and foundational childhood memories. Games that are not just good for their time is also an important factor here, as some game mechanics and quality of life issues that were considered normal at the time of a game’s release may be viewed harshly in the future. Polls also favor JRPGs ported across many consoles, as more people get a chance to play a game. I chose to give all versions of a game the full number of poll points, except when the polls specifically split them into separate releases. Since people have different personal definitions of JRPGs, some games that not everyone considers to qualify will receive fewer votes. Compilations did not receive any points if a game within them was voted for.

Systems with larger libraries have more opportunities to earn poll points and are also more top of mind, so it’s not much of a surprise to see the 8th generation doing so well overall, other than the Vita.

Chrono Trigger was the most voted for game in both polls and was worth 100 points, more than a third of the SNES and DS’s point totals.

Sega’s entire catalog of JRPGs was beat many individual systems.

Game Systems – Physical Game Price

Physical game prices are always increasing, (studied in some detail here) making it difficult to play many of the best JRPGs on older systems. What good is a system if you can’t afford the games you want?

The following data is from PriceCharting, which analyzes games sold on eBay. The prices used in this study are of “complete in box” copies, which means the box, game, manual, and other inserts are included, but the shrink wrap has been removed and the game has likely been played. These prices are the most volatile data included and will be out of date the quickest. All prices are in United States Dollars. North American versions were used when possible.

If you’re curious about the overall average cost of a game on various systems, I have studied that too.

It will cost you $65,740.29 ($51.60 on average) to own a complete physical copy of every JRPG released before 2021, and that number is only getting bigger.

The SNES and PS1 are known for having many classics, and are often talked about as some of the best JRPG systems, but the DS is almost tied with them in terms of price.

While there aren’t many 3rd generation JRPGs, I was surprised how cheap they were overall.

The Saturn has several expensive games but Panzer Dragoon Saga, at $996.61, is carrying a lot of that price.

Game Systems – Digital Game Price

While I strongly prefer to have physical copies of my games, I understand many like to have digital copies instead. I did not record delisted games or anything from storefronts that have closed. All prices are without discounts.

I originally had a note here about the PS3 and PSVita storefronts closing, but that is no longer the case for now.

A complete digital collection of what is possible to buy at the moment will cost you $24,821.07 ($28.53 on average).

As digital prices are more standardized (more on price distributions later), total digital cost tracks closely with number of JRPGs.

Game Systems – Cheapest Versions

Maybe you’re agnostic about the format of your games and are happy to buy whichever is cheaper.

A complete collection of JRPGs, buying only the cheapest format, comes to $68,297.81. This is more expensive than either a complete physical or digital set, as it includes all physical-only and all digital-only games.

Systems without active digital storefronts have the same prices as the physical copies graph, but Switch, PS4, and Xbox One see a sizeable increase in the price of a complete collection.

Game Systems – Exclusivity

Some games get ported many times across multiple generations, while some are forever stuck on one system. In choosing the best JRPG system I feel that one must consider the exclusives.

For the purposes of exclusivity data (and no other data in this study) I have included ports to any system, including mobile, PC, and emulated ports. They still need to have been released in North America and/or Europe.

The two screen handhelds with touch controls are difficult to adapt to other systems, leaving many of their games stranded. I was surprised so many PS2 games have never found homes anywhere else.

Much of Sega’s JRPG library has ended up on various Nintendo systems.

The 3DO may only have 2 JRPGs, but it’s the only place you can play them.

The Saturn was an outlier in many ways but I’m still not sure why so few games managed to escape its orbit.

The 7th and 8th generation saw quickly declining exclusivity in terms of the North America, Europe, and Japan regions, so I wasn’t surprised to see system exclusivity also fall.

That’s it for the best system section. Did you find a new system to explore? I will have some final thoughts on what the best JRPG system is in the wrapup section. But I still have a lot of other data to show off.

Years – Number of Games

All games use the year of release in North America, unless they are a European exclusive, in which case their European release date is used.

For many games released in the 3rd and 4th generation only a year and month is known. In this case I entered the date as the first day of the month.

There are many games in this uncertain era that are listed as coming out on the last day of the month, including on days of the week that games have rarely been released on. These dates are consistent across sources even though it is very unlikely that they were actually released on that date. Games rarely even had definitive release dates back then, but these dates have been parroted around without disclaimers.

Dragon Quest is often said to be the first JRPG, but it took over 3 years to reach North America. It was the 9th JRPG to leave Japan.

As release dates for games of this era are hard to pin down it’s difficult to be certain, but Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord for the Sega Master System appears to have been the first JRPG to reach North America or Europe, coming out in January of 1988. Not a game you hear about often.

Generally, more JRPGs come out every year, but I’m quite puzzled by 2012 and the surrounding years. This was around the time the 3DS, PlayStation Vita, and PlayStation 4 launched. Looking at my study on release dates, there were also fewer overall games released around this time, centered around 2013.

Years – Metascores

What year do you think had the best JRPGs? Would it be near the end of the SNES era when 2D game development had been refined? Maybe during the PS2 when games still didn’t take too long to develop and there was still a lot of experimentation?

Please note that the y-axis starts at 50.

JRPGs did not review well at first, but their scores grew quickly every year until they reached their all time high in 1995. The best scoring games of that year were Chrono Trigger, Lunar: Eternal Blue, and Earthbound.

The JRPG genre sticks closely with overall metascore trends, where 2007 was also the worst year in gaming, metascore-wise

On the other hand, 2000 doesn’t stand out in terms of averages, yet 5 90+ JRPGs were released that year, and 2020 is not far behind.

2012 for some reason only managed 6 JRPGs with an 80+ metascore.

Years – Polls

But maybe retrospective fan polls tell a different story than current-at-the-time reviews?

Much less nostalgic than I would have guessed, and bit of recency bias instead. Since the people voting in these polls are probably mostly in their 20s, it’s natural to see fewer older games. Much bigger differences between adjacent years than the metascores.

100 of 1995’s and 2008’s points come from Chrono Trigger. Very different years without it.

Only 4 games from 2002 received any poll points, Kingdom Hearts chief among them.

Publishers – Number of Games

It may seem to make more sense to study developers than publishers. Developers make the games, after all. While that’s true, publishers exercise varying control over how a game turns out and many are developed and published by the same company. There’s also many more developers, many of which have short lives, are bought and sold to different companies, and don’t make a statistically significant number of games.

I didn’t do any combining of companies based on ownership, I just kept it to how they were credited, much to Atlus’s favor. Only publishers with at least 10 releases are included. North American publishers are used when possible.

Square Enix have dominated the JRPG genre since it was created 18 years ago. Not just Final Fantasy games but also many higher budget games that they don’t develop.

Nintendo isn’t particularly known for publishing JRPGs, but their age, their willingness to bring some games overseas when the original publisher isn’t interested, and the many Pokémon games are enough for second place.

Kemco has a long history, but it wasn’t until the last decade or so that they started cranking out cheap mobile JRPGs, and then porting them to every other system possible.

Publishers – Metascores

Working Designs was a somewhat controversial and short lived publisher known for their elaborate special editions, but comes out on top in terms of metascore.

Some people feel like Square became a shell of themselves after their merger with Enix, and there is a noticeable drop in scores.

Nintendo maintains quite a large average considering their output.

Few of Kemco’s games even get enough reviews to qualify for a metascore, but when they do, it isn’t pretty.

Publishers – Polls

Square Enix wins out on fan acclaim, with Nintendo and Atlus also pretty proportionate to the number of releases under their belt.

Nippon Ichi and Kemco really don’t make much of an impression despite their large number of JRPGs. 122 Kemco releases, and not a single person counted any of them among their favorite.

It’s not entirely fair to compare publishers with many titles against those with a few, so here is the average number of poll points per release.

Square Soft gets a big boost here, with most of its games making someone’s favorites list, while Square Enix gets a big drop.

Sony also fares a bit better, but this way of looking at the data doesn’t change much else.

Series – Number of Games

Publisher loyalty isn’t common, so let’s get angry and argue about what the best JRPG series is. Series had to include at least 5 distinct games without ports. All spinoffs were included. How many do you think qualified?

Forty-four, enough to have to split them into two graphs. Hyperdimension Neptunia and The Legend of Heroes got a bit cut off to fit better.

With a long history, many spinoffs, many remakes, and many ports, Final Fantasy is by far the most prolific JRPG series.

Atelier has been releasing games almost every year, porting them widely, and remaking some of them, but few people would probably guess that it’s #2 in terms of total games.

Series – Metascores

The y-axis again starts at 50 to exaggerate differences.

The Dark Souls series are not traditional JRPGs, but only two of its releases have scored below 85, earning it highest overall.

The Xenogears, Xenosaga, and Xenoblade games are much more eclectic but have done very well overall.

I was surprised to see Shin Megami Tensei (which includes Persona) so high up, with 31 games it’s difficult to keep the average so high.

Drakengard+Nier are a loose series that I forgot to include, but their metascore average is 72.5.

When I look back at old gaming magazines there were quite a few articles about Yu-Gi-Oh and Digimon being potential Pokémon killers, so it’s funny to see them dead last.

Series – Polls

Final Fantasy, with its large amount of titles and long legacy takes the most poll points by a large margin.

Chrono Trigger (both releases) and Chrono Cross aren’t a large enough series to be included, but if they were, they’d rank fourth, just under Dragon Quest.

As with publishers, it may be more meaningful to look at the average number of poll points per game, rather than the total.

Xeno, with only Xenosaga Episode II not getting any points, takes the crown from Final Fantasy.

The Legend of Heroes also gets a boost, while Shin Megami Tensei and Dragon Quest stay close to their original positions.

Big 4 Hardware Makers

Four large hardware makers have dominated the video games market: Nintendo, Sega, Sony, and Microsoft. Sometimes people discuss not just the best systems, but the best hardware company. With so many games over such a long period, and so many other factors to consider, I’m not sure this is very meaningful, but I still wanted to see who came out on top.

Y-axis starts at 60, so please keep in mind the overall range here is only 5.29.

The relatively small number of JRPGs released and also considered worthy of review on Sega systems overall scored quite well. Sony’s average is no doubt hurt by its huge library.

In terms of people’s overall favorite games, though, Sony has a solid lead over Nintendo, while Microsoft and Sega are nowhere close.

Miscellaneous Findings

I have several more graphs that didn’t fit in elsewhere. I won’t always have a lot to say about them, and most are small.

While exclusives are a big draw for a system, they are a bit worse on average. Overall I would say they are more likely to be low budget games that sell less than non-exclusives and would not make a worthwhile amount of money to port.

The difference is much more pronounced with poll points.

 

Physical versions of exclusives fetch higher prices overall, while digital versions cost a bit less.

While the smaller budget exclusives have to charge less to stay competitive, the secondhand physical market covets them and sees them as rarer and more valuable.

This is not just the percent of a system’s library that is a JRPG, but a JRPG that released in North America or Europe. This is a bit more speculative and harder to measure exactly than the other data that is part of this project. I used the number of releases according to wikipedia’s lists of games for each system, not including anything after 2020. These lists have different criteria for inclusion and recieve different amounts of care.

Another thing to consider is that fewer and fewer games remain Japan-exclusive over time. Something like 90% of the Saturn’s games never left Japan, and I know there were a lot of RPGs among them.

The 7th, and especially the 8th generation of handhelds have had very JRPG-heavy libraries. Surprisingly, the Gamecube very slightly beats the PlayStation 2 here, though I’m sure the difference is within the margin of error.

Digital games didn’t exist until the 7th generation (for the purposes of this study), but there are many digital-only games now. Digital storefronts don’t stay open forever though, so it may be quite a while before the number of digital JRPGs outnumbers the physical.
This chart does not include a small number of physical Europe-exclusive releases that PriceCharting does not have.

If you remove the 50s there is some very nice symmetry here, centered around the 70s bracket.
About 83% of JRPGs score between 60 and 89.99.

If I didn’t create a ceiling on this one, it would be unreadable and mostly full of blank columns until we get to the most expensive games.

While there are quite a few expensive JRPGs I wish I could afford, there are still over 950 that are cheaper than $60.00.

This is probably very close to the overall non-PC digital games market, not just JRPGs.
The relative lack of $25.00-$29.99 games is interesting.
Summon Night 6: Lost Borders is the only JRPG that costs $54.99.

Trivia and Superlatives

The games included in this study fit a common definition of JRPGs, but are not an objective truth. I make this distinction because I want any readers of this project to exercise some caution before repeating any of the following as an absolute fact. And so I don’t have to add “for the purposes of this study” over and over to every statement.

I learned a lot about my favorite genre and still have more interesting information to share.

One interesting JRPG I didn’t get to talk about was Napoleon. Napoleon was only released in Japan and France, possibly the only game to ever have this distinction. I specifically didn’t make “available in English” a requirement so that it would be included.

I recorded the range of metascores of every JRPG series, too. Dark Souls unsurprisingly had the smallest range, at 8.06, but Etrian Odyssey was #2 with 9.45. On the other side of the scale Final Fantasy had the largest range thanks to its many spinoffs, at 45.46. Atelier has the second highest range thanks to the poorly received Mana Khemia: Student Alliance, at 41.22.

The cheapest JRPG with a metascore of over 90 is Final Fantasy XII for the PlayStation 2, just $6.40.

The first 5 JRPGs released in North America or Europe – remember that these dates are not exact, and are in a mm/dd/yyyy format:

  • Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord – 01/31/1988 – Master System
  • Dragon Power – 03/01/1988 – NES
  • Phantasy Star – 11/01/1988 – Master System
  • Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest – 12/01/1988 – NES
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link – 12/01/1988 – NES

The oldest JRPG still exclusive to one system is SpellCaster on the Master System, released 09/01/89. The first digital-only JRPG was Ape Quest for the PSP (01/10/08), though it did get a physical release in Japan.

The 5 JRPGs with the lowest metascores:

  • Magus (PlayStation 3) – 32.5
  • Fantasy Hero: Unsigned Legacy (Switch) – 34
  • Swords & Darkness (3DS) – 36
  • Arc of Alchemist (Switch) – 36
  • Medabots Infinity (GameCube) – 37.67

The 10 JRPGs with the highest metascores:

  • Chrono Trigger (SNES) – 95.64
  • Persona 5 Royal (PlayStation 4) – 95
  • Persona 4: Golden (PSVita) – 94.16
  • Final Fantasy III (what we know as VI now, SNES) – 93.96
  • Persona 5 (PlayStation 4) – 93.3
  • Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation) – 93.03
  • Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir (PlayStation Vita) – 93
  • Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition (PlayStation 4) – 93
  • Final Fantasy IX (PlayStation) – 92.72
  • Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS) – 92.52

The earliest game to earn any poll points was Phantasy Star for the Sega Master System, released around 11/01/1988.

The 10 JRPGs with the most poll points:

  • Chrono Trigger (SNES, DS) – 100 poll points
  • Persona 5 (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4) – 78.33 poll points
  • Final Fantasy III/Final Fantasy VI (SNES, DS) – 65.89 poll points
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4/Persona 4: Golden (PlayStation 2, PlayStation Vita) – 59.60 poll points
  • Final Fantasy X (PlayStation 2) – 56.03 poll points
  • Final Fantasy IX (PlayStation, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One) – 53.34 poll points
  • Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition (PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One) – 51.35 poll points
  • Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Portable (PlayStation Portable) – 48.61 poll points
  • Nier: Automata (PlayStation 4, Xbox One) – 48.20 poll points
  • Xenoblade Chronicles/Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition (Wii, Switch) 43.26 poll points

The 5 cheapest JRPGs (complete, physical):

  • Kingdom of Paradise (PlayStation Portable) – $3.75
  • Sushi Striker (3DS) – $4.39
  • Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. (3DS) – $4.47
  • Dragon’s Dogma (Xbox 360) – $4.60
  • Tokyo Twilight Ghost Hunters – Daybreak Special Gigs (PlayStation 4) – $4.90

The 5 most expensive JRPGs (complete, physical):

  • Earthbound (SNES) – $1,275.78
  • Panzer Dragoon Saga (Saturn) – $996.61
  • Magic Knight Rayearth (Saturn) – $742.50
  • E.V.O.: Search for Eden (SNES) – $624.99
  • Chrono Trigger (SNES) – $546.93

I should have made this a graph, but the most to least expensive average price of a physical game by system:

  • Saturn: $300.21
  • 3DO: $196.87
  • SNES: $192.38
  • Sega CD: $175.05
  • Turbografx: $155.60
  • Game Boy: $140.36
  • N64: $125.70
  • Game Boy Color: $93.55
  • NES: $87.76
  • Gamecube: $85.31
  • Game Boy Advance: $82.17
  • PlayStation: $77.28
  • Genesis: $72.70
  • Game Gear: $62.96
  • Master System: $55.48
  • Dreamcast: $46.18
  • DS: $46.00
  • PlayStation 2: $37.63
  • Wii: $33.13
  • Switch: $26.24
  • PlayStation Vita: $22.96
  • PlayStation 4: $22.87
  • Wii U: $21.06
  • Xbox One: $18.56
  • PlayStation 3: $18.56
  • 3DS: $17.65
  • PlayStation Portable: $17.20
  • Xbox: $13.95
  • Xbox 360: $13.77

The overall average was $41.67, in between the DS and PlayStation 2.

The Best JRPG System

Back to the central question of this study, first let us discuss individual systems and just their libraries, without backwards compatibility.

I have to give it to the PlayStation 4. It has the most JRPGs scoring at least 80 by a good margin, has a large and diverse library, it’s modern enough to not have the headaches of battery or memory card saves, it has online features, and it has trophy support if you’re into that. The games are also cheaper on average than the Switch, and will likely fall much more over the next ten years.

The 3DS and Switch are also excellent systems, with lots of highly rated games, and are handhelds/can be handheld. The 3DS has cheaper games on average (4th cheapest average physical price), while the Switch has a more eclectic selection of ports from different eras, but fewer exclusives.

If we’re to include backwards compatibility I think a “fat” PlayStation 3 that can play PlayStation 2 and PlayStation discs offers the best overall value with a huge and mostly affordable library. Unfortunately, finding one in working condition is becoming harder and more expensive. While a fix for the Yellow Ring of Death has fairly recently come to light, it still requires buying specific capacitors and a willingness to open up your system and solder. In addition there are quite a few PS one Classics and PlayStation 2 Classics if you want cheap digital JRPGs.

If you’re not willing to do hardware fixes or you’re not looking to buy digital games, the PlayStation 2 and non-fat PlayStation 3 both play original PlayStation discs natively, which is a nice if expensive addition to their libraries.

The 3DS, which can play DS games, is another excellent choice, with a large number of JRPGs that are unlikely to ever get ported elsewhere, and overall cheap prices with a few expensive outliers.

If you are into older handheld JRPGs, the GameCube with a Game Boy Player is actually capable of playing games from the entire Game Boy line. Those 4 systems are among the 11 most expensive systems to buy JRPGs for, so it’s not for everyone.

So overall, depending on your tastes and wallet, the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, Switch, and 3DS are all great systems with lots of quality JRPGs to play, many of which are quite affordable.

Wrapup

After reading all this did you change your mind at all? What do you value most when considering a JRPG system? Should cost be a factor at all? Is library size the only important metric? Or maybe you only care about your favorite series?

I would like to include a copy of the spreadsheet I used to make this project. Perhaps you will find it helpful in finding a new JRPG to play or perhaps you would like to study the statistics your own way. You can save this as an HTML file and then copy and paste into your preferred spreadsheet program. Some of the formatting is sloppy and I am sure I made some mistakes.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/e/2PACX-1vRivdWr57EDcnjZLQSfPzZI3Z9pJ0urTARI9ErGF-z3zPjUvGqq5Sh5gKqOfLEo6dlnYWS-jTSO5PPZ/pubhtml

Sources

The JRPG Index, by Lucca, part of JRPG Chronicles, for the base list of games.

/r/JRPG wiki’s list of JRPGs for a lot of publisher and release date information.

Wikipedia’s various lists of games for publisher, release date, and other information.

https://gr.blade.sk/#/ for an archive of GameRankings’s metascores.

MetaCritic for other metascores.

/r/JRPG’s Greatest JRPGs of All-Time poll results for providing poll numbers.

The Greatest JRPG Games and Battle Systems of All Time Poll for also providing poll numbers.

PriceCharting for physical game prices.

Nintendo Game Store for digital prices of Nintendo games.

Official PlayStation Store for digital prices of Sony games.

Microsoft Store for digital prices of Microsoft games.

MobyGames for exclusivity and miscellaneous information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most games that sell at least a million copies make some sort of an announcement to celebrate. This helps the game sell more copies as it makes more people see it as a worthwhile game. It’s a significant psychological milestone. Some big franchises can depend on always selling many millions, but for an indie studio it could be a huge success. But what sets these best sellers apart from other games?

For this study I tracked down every game I could that had claimed to sell at least a million copies among all platforms it released on, and how many. I added the data from my 25 Years of Games project, namely the (first) release date, the metascore (when available), the genres, the main story and completionist time, the ESRB rating, and any ESRB content descriptors.

I found games to include by grabbing everything from wikipedia lists like List of best-selling PlayStation 4 video games, and doing general google searches for best selling lists of other systems that don’t have such lists (as long as there were good sources), then I searched the Games subreddit for “million” for more recent multiplatform games, and finally I looked through lists of games for any titles that I thought could possibly have a big enough following to sell a million copies and looked through their wiki pages for sales numbers. I also looked through many pages at the Video Game Sales Wiki, being careful to check sources.

This ended up being 1,306 games starting from all the way back in 1979. There are many more million-sellers out there, but sometimes numbers are not announced even when a game has clearly sold more than 1 million copies. There is a recent trend of huge franchises not announcing sales numbers, such as Call of Duty and Madden NFL. I didn’t want to use estimates so I could not include them. There are also likely many games released on 3 or more platforms that sold just over one million total but were never reported as such.

Another issue is that the numbers released have become less detailed over time. Some earlier games reported numbers down to the thousands place, while now it is more common to only see the hundred-thousands place, or just “one million”.

Arcade games, one-game systems, and mobile games were not included.

Games released for multiple systems (52% of the total) were combined into one entry. Sometimes this led to “are these different versions distinct enough to be separate entries?” issues that I just had to do my best with. I used data for the first release of a game, even if its remake many years later sold more copies.

Million-Sellers by Year

So what was the first game that was released on interchangeable media to sell a million copies? It appears to be Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack on the Intellivsion, released in 1979 with about 1,939,000 copies sold. However, according to the Wikipedia page for Space Invaders there is a book by Brett Weiss that claims Space Invaders was the first. Space Invaders wasn’t released until 1980 on the Atari 2600, though. It is possible that Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack took longer to sell one million copies even though it released first, but we will likely never know, and for the purposes of this study I am only considering the release date, even if it took many years for a game to cross the million-seller threshold.

There’s a big climb in the late 90s as video games become more and more mainstream, but starting from 2013 the number declines. This is partly due to publishers releasing fewer sales numbers, and partly because newer games have had less time to rack up sales. But even with those factors, it still seems like too much of a drop to me and I don’t know how the reason why there aren’t more million-sellers in the last few years.

This is the average number of copies sold among million-sellers, please note that many of these games took several years to sell as many copies as they have and that this is only by initial release rate. Can you guess what game that has sold over 200 million copies is responsible for the spike in 2009?

The 2013 dip isn’t noticeable here. Likely caused by fewer games selling more copies.

Million-Sellers and Metascores

Metascores, obtained from a mixture of Gamerankings and Metacritic, are sparse before the year 2000, so their average will be less accurate. If you really want all of the details check out my metascore project.

We generally assume that games that sell well are of high quality and enjoyed by the people that play them, and this seems to pan out in the numbers. Million-sellers have consistently outscored the overall average, though the margin has shrunk over time.

Million-Sellers and Genre

Million-Sellers are more likely to be Action, Racing/Driving, or Role-Playing games, but the differences are never very large. For more on why just these genres are being recorded and for more details, check out the genres portion of the 25 years of games project.

The next genre charts will have different Y-axis scales, so please keep them in mind. I also have data going farther back for the genre of million-sellers, which was used for the overall graph above, but I have started the line graphs at where my “all games” data starts.

While million-sellers are more likely to have Action as a genre, there have been years where it was less relatively successful.

While Adventure games have seen a renaissance in the ’10s, ever fewer sell a million copies. For some Adventure games it was unclear what combination of individual chapters and whole-series packs make up reported sales numbers, so I could not include them.

Very few Compilations reach the million-seller mark, with many years having none at all.

There have never been many Educational games, but it has seen a few million-sellers. The first to do so was Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Also in this genre are Art Academy, Mario Paint, Wii Fit, and Ring Fit Adventure. Carmen is the only one not exclusive to a Nintendo system.

Fewer and fewer puzzle games burn up the charts as time goes by, but Clubhouse Games managed to in 2020.

Racing/Driving games have become less common in general over time, both among million-sellers and in general.

A way to add depth to a game is to add some Role-Playing mechanics, and publishers have been keen to do so as so many sell above average.

The most eclectic genre doesn’t seem to have much impact on sales.

Many Sports games don’t get their sales numbers released anymore, otherwise I would expect it to be more prominent among million-sellers, even as fewer Sports games are made.

For the last few generations Strategy / Tactics games have had a smaller proportion of million-sellers.

Million-Sellers and Game Lengths

More information about what these times mean and how the data was acquired is available in the game lengths page of my 25 years of games project.

While games have become longer over time, million-sellers have always been longer than most other games. This has been especially true for completion times in the last decade. The most successful games tend to have bigger budgets and can include more content, but people may also be biased towards longer games, looking to get as much time out of their dollar as possible.

Million-Sellers and ESRB Ratings

Not all million-sellers have ESRB ratings because many were from before the ESRB existed, or computer games that never got one, but it was a requirement to be included in my 25 years of games project. For a more direct comparison the stacked bar chart only includes million-sellers with ESRB ratings, while the line chart includes those without one. There are a few million-sellers with the Everyone 10+ rating before it existed because of games getting later releases after it had been introduced, and I recorded games by the first release date. More on ESRB ratings here.

No million-seller has had an Early Childhood or Adults Only rating, so they are not included.

Million-sellers are just a bit less likely to be rated Everyone, Everyone 10+, or Teen, but more likely to be rated Mature.

Million-Sellers and ESRB Ratings Descriptors

I’ll be breaking the descriptors down by category, and please be aware that the Y-axis will be vary significantly. An exhaustive survey of every ESRB descriptor can be found here.

An odd mixed bag with substances. Tobacco is less common in million-sellers, while drugs are more common, and alcohol portrayal depends on if it’s a reference or someone is seen drinking it.

Different types of violence are overall pretty similar, with a few exceptions. Fantasy Violence is much more common in million-sellers, while Intense Violence is rarer.

A bit more Comic Mischief in the most popular games, but not much more.

A few rare and short lived descriptors have never been seen on a million-selling game.

I would have expected all of these to be significantly more common in million-sellers, since licensing music and hiring voice actors costs money, and overall not many games have either. The best sellers sure like using the worst of the swear words, though.

Interesting that Nudity has such a disparity compared to Partial Nudity. Only a few descriptors here have a significant difference.

 

Trivia

About 39 of the million-sellers were exclusive to Japan (I didn’t exhaustively check regions), all the way up to a couple 3DS games. I believe the only European exclusive was Dancing Stage Party Edition.

One 3DO game may have sold a million copies even before it became a pack-in: Gex, although this number is somewhat disputed. I could also only find evidence of a single Sega Saturn game selling a million copies: Virtua Fighter.

The million-sellers with the lowest metascores are Game Party and Game Party 2 for the Wii, with a 22.6 and 31.9 respectively.

To receive a Metacritic metascore a game has to have at least 4 reviews. Occasionally even million-sellers don’t reach this threshold. These are mostly exclusively for PC: Satisfactory, Stickfight: The Game, Just Survive, The Legend of Sword and Fairy 5, and Garry’s Mod are some examples. But only a few non-PC games from after 2000 have managed it: Zumba Fitness for the Wii, English Training for the DS (Japan and Europe only), and Dancing Stage Party Edition (Europe only).

Sources

Game data

GameRankings.com Archived Score Browser and Metacritic for metascores

HowLongToBeat.com for game lengths

ESRB.org for ESRB ratings and rating descriptions

MobyGames.com for genres and some miscellaneous information

Xbox Addict for some information about regionality

Sales Data

https://vgsales.fandom.com/wiki/Video_Game_Sales_Wiki

http://www.capcom.co.jp/ir/english/finance/million.html

https://www.pcgamesn.com/civilization-6/sales

https://www.reddit.com/r/Games/search?q=million&restrict_sr=1&sort=new

https://www.pcgamesn.com/civilization-6/sales

https://venturebeat.com/2020/02/06/red-dead-redemption-2-surpasses-29-million-copies-sold/

https://www.playstationlifestyle.net/2020/04/08/the-witcher-3-sales-28-million-units/

As someone who buys a lot of used video games, especially from older generations, I have long wanted to know how game prices change throughout the year. Do they tend to decrease and increase at predictable times of the year?

If you search for the answer to this question you will find many articles that are more about new and currently popular games, which mostly suggest looking for deals on Black Friday, or perhaps in January. That doesn’t really apply if you’re looking for something more than a few years old.

So in late 2018 I made a new account on PriceCharting.com and added 50 complete in box games from 23 systems to my “collection” so I could track its price; a sort of price index of 1,150 used games. Every morning at just about the same time I recorded the value of the collection. The systems I included were the North American versions of everything from Nintendo, Sony, Sega, and Microsoft, but not the most current systems at the time (Switch, PS4, Xbox One), or some small and short lived systems (Virtual Boy, Sega CD, Sega 32X, Sega Pico). The newest system’s games weren’t included because their prices haven’t stabilized. I chose the 50 most “popular” games for each system on the site, the games that were getting price checked the most.

I excluded all games that cost over $200. My thinking is, games over this price are being searched for because they are known to be rare, and people are curious about how high the price is now, are looking to complete a collection, or are looking to buy games that they suspect will go up in value, not that they are personally interested in playing. Perhaps I should have set the threshold higher or lower, but I think this was useful in not letting speculative market manipulation have an outsized impact, and to keep the data more useful and practical for more people.

That said, two years later 59 games now had a value of over $200. Most notably, as of this writing, Kuon is selling for $564 on average when complete. Pokemon Crystal, Emerald, and Sapphire also rose over $200. No games from the 7th generation rose to this price.

There were a few anomalies with the PriceCharting site. Twice a game was removed from my collection, and I assume from the site. I didn’t keep a list of every game included so I have no way of knowing which these were. There were also a few days where the total value of the collection changed by less than a dollar, which probably means that sometimes the site didn’t update prices for an extended period of time.

I was initially just going to do one year. Then in early 2020 thought I maybe two years would be good for a comparison, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep recording. Eventually it became pretty clear that the pandemic was going to be a big thing and that there wasn’t going to be a nice comparison year, but a year that should be interesting in its own right.

The Data

Please note that the Y-axis does not start at 0, which makes the change from highest to lowest look more dramatic.

On January 1st, 2019 the average value of a game from the included systems was $40.59, and on December 31st, 2020 it was $61.68.

Assuming 2019 is a typical kind of year that we may return to in 2022 and beyond, prices grow most quickly in February and March, continue to grow in April and May, and then decrease or grow very slowly June through November. I’m quite surprised November was the biggest decrease in price. There’s a lot of Christmas shopping in both November and December, yet the change between these months is the most dramatic of the year.

2020 starts much like 2019, but in March people realize they will be spending a lot of time at home and game prices spike, hitting a high in May, and not approaching pre-pandemic price changes until October. November again sees the largest price decrease of the year, but it’s an even larger swing.

While prices have begun to shrink a bit, we’re still a long way from pre-pandemic. I don’t expect prices to get anywhere near what they used to be, or for the price decreases to last much longer. We just experienced an unprecedented surge, but game prices have always increased over time and I don’t think anything will stop that.

 

I found a bunch of interesting and goofy stuff in all of those NES manuals I looked at, so I wanted to make a separate post about them.

Nintendo Seals

Not only did Nintendo Seals of Quality have an oval and circle variant, but their colors varied quite a bit. While most used the same bronze-ish gold color no matter what colors the rest of the manual had, there were exceptions.

Controller Diagrams

While some controller diagrams looked like the real thing, others looked quite amateur and had odd details added. Also watch for the many names of the D-Pad.

   

 

 

This last one is for Donkey Kong 3. Many early Nintendo games used this “he [verbs]” wording in their manuals.

Notices and Advisories

Game Pak Precautions

I wonder why this wasn’t the same notice in every manual, there was clearly some points that Nintendo wanted to stress, but with everyone writing their own version some are poorly worded or miss some details.

It’s quite a shock to see Game Paks referred to as “cassettes”, and the NES as a “computer” in some of these, Nintendo couldn’t have been happy about that.

It bothers me more than it should how often there are multiple warnings per number/bullet point.

Rear Projection TV Warnings

It’s interesting how often this is phrased as “Nintendo recommends…”

 

Enemies and Items

I found some interesting and amusing descriptions and drawings of in-game things. A heart that doesn’t look like a heart, a lamp character, some bizarre descriptions of Muppet characters, and some awful puns.

Miscellaneous Things

Some of these have interesting takes on game difficulty, quite different from today. Others have some poorly drawn game screens, slang guides, or careful descriptions of what pausing is. Ads for candy, movies, even a chess magazine. There’s even the only “righteous babe” and ESRB rating you’ll see in an NES manual.

Sources

DigitPress was the source of most of the manuals. A few were from ReplacementDocs too.

Wikipedia’s List of Nintendo Entertainment System games.

FLickr user bucky for some higher quality scans, including a color version of Faxanadu.

The NES era was still a wild, experimental time for video games with very little standardization. The medium was still new and there were no internet forums and few magazines so developers often just kind of did whatever came to mind.

Manuals were no exception, with widely varying sizes, formats, and contents. I wanted to examine these early game manuals not just to learn more about the games of the time, but to see how different companies approached how to teach players about their games, what kind of wording they used.

This study includes the manuals of 675 Nintendo Entertainment System games released in North America, just shy of the 677 officially licensed there. Going in to this project I assumed the preservation of these manuals, belonging to one of the most influential and nostalgia-ridden video game systems of all time, would be set at a high standard. Instead, many of the scanned manuals were in poor shape, scanned at low, nearly unreadable resolutions, have missing pages, or were scanned in black and white despite the manual being in color. There are several websites hosting the same set of manuals, and although I did my best to find alternate, superior scans, I found myself having to just put up with a fair amount of incomplete data. Some games had multiple versions of their manuals, I used the last one in this case.

I’m going to be breaking down several metrics by year, so it’s important to know how many games were released each year. Keep in mind that 1985, 1986, and 1994 all had few releases, so averages are less reliable. All games from 1985 and about half of 1986’s were published by Nintendo.

 

Manual Length

To start off, how long were NES manuals? I included the front and back cover as separate pages. Manuals get longer over time, perhaps as games became more complex, but perhaps more importance was also put into making a good manual over time. Virtually all sequels had longer manuals than their predecessors, especially evident in RPG manuals which often had detailed walkthroughs in them.

The shortest manual at just two pages belonged to Rollerball, which was really more of a foldable pamphlet, followed by Predator at 6 pages.

The Miracle Piano Teaching System manual, meanwhile, is bound with those metal rings that I can’t find the name of and clocks in at 198 pages. You may notice in that link that it only shows 197 pages; since an odd number of pages is impossible if we are counting both sides of every page I assumed a page had been omitted.

The next three games in manual length are tied at 84 pages and are all RPGs: Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar, Final Fantasy, and Dragon Warrior III.

Overall, the average was 23.84 pages per manual.

Colors

An example of a single color page

Almost all manuals had full color on the front/back and then a colored Nintendo Seal of Quality on the page opposite the front, but I’m not counting that as color. I’m sure black and white manuals were cheaper to print than full color, but I was surprised at the number of single color manuals. I suppose the cost is somewhere in between, but were some single colors cheaper than others?

There no full color manuals for the first two years of the NES’s life, yet almost all were by the end. I wonder if there was some kind of suggestion/mandate from Nintendo, if color printing became much cheaper in 10 years, or if companies just thought it was more and more worth it to make their manuals look nice.

Nintendo Seal of Quality

The Nintendo Seal of Quality was a way to assure consumers that they were buying a high quality product that wouldn’t damage their console.

Older circle emblem
Newer oval emblem

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I assume Nintendo provided the image to be used in manuals, and at some point it changed from a circle to an oval. This probably happened in 1988, which makes the ovals from before that point likely to be reprints, although I’m surprised so many companies seemingly went to the trouble, and that there were enough in circulation for scanners to happen upon them.

Controller Diagrams

Something that I noticed when going through these manuals was how common yet varied controller diagrams were. In more modern game manuals it’s clear that a diagram has been provided, and possibly required, by the hardware manufacturer, but in these days it was seemingly up to each publisher. I’ll be sharing some of the oddest looking ones in my next post.

The real thing

The main difference I noticed was most diagrams had a controller with either 3 rectangles or 5 rectangles in the middle of the controller and pretty much never 4. There is still a lot of variation within the 3 and 5 rectangle labels I created, though publishers tended to stick to one diagram. The 3 rectangle style may have been to make the diagram less busy looking. Nintendo mostly used 3 rectangles with a few later exceptions.

3 Rectangles
5 Rectangles

Jumping and Attacking

Something that can immediately make a game feel bad is if the jump button is “wrong”. People strongly prefer jumping to be mapped to the A button, but perhaps this was less obvious to developers of the time.

Thankfully, A to jump makes up the majority of games and generally gained ground over time. Not all games have a jump or an attack, but attack has a smaller majority as the B button. The despicable Up to jump was recorded for 12 games.

I was surprised that I only recorded 11 games as having a run button set to A (1 game) or B (10 games). It’s something I associate strongly with platformers, but that may be the Mario influence.

Start and Select

It seems so universal that Start should pause and that Select should select something, yet this was not unanimous. Several games had A+B to pause, which I didn’t record, or referred to opening menus with the Start button, which I didn’t count as pausing.

Select is used less overall, which makes sense as it’s the least convenient button to reach.. Many manuals describe using the Select button to move a cursor on the title screen to the mode that the player wants to play. This seems like an overly cumbersome method when the control pad is available and allows for moving a cursor in two directions.

Notices and Advisories

As I was looking through these manuals I noticed a lot of boilerplate warnings or notices and wanted to document them. Some were a lot more common than others, some were pretty much always exactly the same, and some seemed to be written differently almost every time.

FCC Compliance

The FCC compliance notices were almost always in the back, but before the warranty information. Some boring legal boilerplate that you see on lots of electronics manuals. For some reason though they seemed to stop doing these late in the NES’s life. Looking at Super Mario World’s (A SNES game) manual now, and there’s no FCC notice and I can’t find any evidence that there was a separate sheet included with this information.

FCC Notice Example

 

Warranty Notice

The 90 day warranty notice was the last thing in many manuals, though it was right the front of many Konami manuals. Its rate of inclusion stayed steady throughout the NES’s life, and may have just been omitted by some scanners. I wasn’t able to scrounge up any information about this being a requirement for an officially licensed NES game, but I assume it is.

90 Day Warranty Example

Game Pak Precautions

Game Pak (as Nintendo insisted on calling their cartridges) precautions were almost always found near the beginning of manuals. This does not include separate warnings/instructions about inserting and removing game paks, although that is often included.

The wording and exact things being cautioned about varied considerably, more than any of the other notices I recorded. Nintendo must have given some guidelines, but let publishers do their own thing with these. The most common warnings were against opening the game pak, subjecting it to extreme heat or cold, touching the pins, cleaning it with thinners, solvents, benzene, or alcohol, playing for too long, sitting too close to the TV, and inserting or removing the game pak when the NES is on.

For whatever reason these warnings became much less common after 1992.

Game Pak Precautions Example

Epileptic Seizure Advisories

I didn’t realize when recording my data just how specific to a time period these warnings were. The pre-1990 warnings were probably later print runs of the manuals. If it was so important to warn about the risk of epileptic seizures, why did they become so rare later on? Were these perhaps moved to a separate slip of paper in the box? These warnings have been included with video game manuals for decades so it seems strange that they disappeared for a time.

Epileptic Seizure Advisory Example

Rear Projection TV Warning

Screen burn in was something I heard about a lot as a kid in the 90s, both with TVs and computers. I was constantly worried about it even though none of the TVs I used were projection based.

This is another odd case of a warning peaking in 1992 and then suddenly becoming less included, and in fact not a single 1994 manual has such a warning.

Rear Projection TV Warning

Memo Pages

Memo pages used to be fairly common in manuals. Used for recording passwords, high scores, or just notes to yourself.

I did not count blank pages, but any sort of invitation to write something down, even if it wasn’t a full page, counted.

The most memo pages was 9, in Metal Mech: Man & Machine. Over 28% of the manual was memo. The overall average was 0.51 memo pages per manual.

Game Advertisements

Sometimes publishers advertised their other games in a manual. This does not count non-game ads. It does count ads for games on other systems, which in this case only meant Game Boy and Super Nintendo.

The manuals with the most ads are Rampart and Shatterhand with 16. Both Jaleco games, which did a lot of this cross promotion with essentially a list of games on the back of the manual.

The overall average was 0.78 ads per manual.

Next up is a less statistical look at NES manuals.

Sources

DigitPress was the source of most of the manuals. A few were from ReplacementDocs too.

Wikipedia’s List of Nintendo Entertainment System games.

FLickr user bucky for some higher quality scans, including a color version of Faxanadu.

 

In part 1 I went over when games are released, and how that varies by the North American, European, and Japanese regions. What I’m covering in this post is the distribution of games between regions and how long it takes for a game to reach those regions.

Regions Over Time and By System

Almost every console and handheld game once saw a Japanese release, despite having a much smaller population than either North America or Europe, but now fewer and fewer games do. North America and Europe have both seen a consistent rise in the percent of games they receive. There’s a spike of multiregionalism in 2017 that we will see in many of these graphs.

This isn’t a breakdown of how well each system has sold in each region, but it’s pretty close. While Nintendo has seen more games released in North America and Europe than in Japan,  the difference is more extreme for Microsoft systems. The Saturn’s huge number of games released in Japan is the opposite of the Xbox. The PS2 to PS3 is a dramatic shift with around twice the percent of games coming to North America.

Regional Exclusivity

The number of games exclusive to Japan has been dropping pretty steadily for 25 years as fewer games are made there and more of them that do need international sales. The spike in 2020 is probably because many games that will see further releases later just hadn’t been yet at the time I gathered my data. There have never been many European exclusives but they have almost completely disappeared in the last 5 years. 2010 was an odd year with North American exclusives briefly overtaking Japanese exclusives.

We’re not likely to ever see another video game system so focused on one market than the Sega Saturn. The Wii U had a ton of digital games developed by one person or a very small team in America that weren’t able to even release their games in Europe. One region exclusives have largely gone out of style, the Switch, PS4, and Xbox One just having a handful in many regions.

Two Regions, but Not Necessarily Exclusively

I know this is an odd category, but it was easy to do. These are the percent of games released in two regions, and maybe the third. We can see that if a game was released in Japan it has always been almost equally likely to also be released in Europe or North America. But more games overall release in both North America and Europe.

I don’t have a lot to say about this one, all systems have kept roughly the same proportions of each combination, except the Saturn.

Two Regions Exclusively

Games released in North American and Europe but not Japan have risen over time as the Japanese market has shrunk. Although it’s just one more language, compared to the several of Europe, there are some unique challenges to localizing a game for Japan, which has made it less worth it for publishers. Meanwhile few games have ever excluded just North America or just Europe and that number has shrunk over time.

No system has bucked the trend of North America + Europe but not Japan being by far the most common combination of regions.

All Three Regions

It costs a lot of money to release a game in the three major regions, and generally only games with the widest possible appeal get the chance. This has increased over time as digital distribution has reduced some of that cost. Even rarer has been the simultaneous release, which requires a lot of coordination and perhaps sitting on a completed game for some time.

The earliest game I could find with a simultaneous release that I could verify (there’s some spotty and inconsistent information on some earlier DS titles) was Gran Turismo for the PSP on October 1st, 2009. It was even sold physically.

It’s clear here that simultaneous releases were unheard of until the 7th generation, but still rare. In the 8th generation they make up a fair portion of all games. Handhelds have been a bit behind their console counterparts on both three region releases and simultaneous releases.

Regions Charts

Sorry about the wording and coloring being a bit different, but here are the charts covering all of the data seen so far in this post. Not a single PS4 game exclusive to Europe and Japan, and not a single Xbox One game exclusive to North America and Japan.

Region Gaps

Sometimes there is a short amount of time between the release of a game in two regions, and sometimes there is a long amount of time. I am calling the number of days between a release in two regions the “gap”. Games released in only one region have no gap and are not figured into the calculations below, but games released in two regions on the same day have a gap of 0.

These gaps can be for several reasons: a game may not sell well in its initial region, a game has a lot of text, a game may have aspects that are difficult make understandable to a foreign audience, localization teams are busy with other projects, a game may have been made in a way that makes it technically difficult to add support for text that works in different ways and takes a different amount of space, or logistical issues.

The “relative gap” is handy because it also shows us which region gets games first, on average. The difference between positive and negative values is in which region gets a game first. If it takes an equally long amount for a game to reach either region it will stay at 0. This graph shows us that North America has gotten games before Europe on average for every Nintendo system, although it has taken a shorter and shorter amount of time. Games released in Japan used to overwhelmingly be released in Japan before heading to North America and Europe, but this has turned around with the Wii U and Switch.

The “absolute gap”, meanwhile, does not take the first region into account, it is just the total number of days between a release in two regions. Handhelds for some reason have taken longer to leave Japan than console games. Although the 3DS and Switch are handheld neighbors there is a large difference in localization times.

The Playstation has the largest average relative gap with Japanese games taking hundreds of days to reach Europe. Sony’s handheld games have also taken much longer to leave Japan compared to their console counterparts.

The Japanese-European difference only grows in the absolute graph, showing that games released in Europe before Japan take even longer to be localized. Sony’s console games have overall taken a bit longer than Nintendo’s to make the jump to second and third regions.

Despite its overwhelmingly Japan-only library the Saturn’s multi-region games are almost perfectly balanced between how long it takes to reach each region. The Xbox was an outlier for its time, with Japan having to wait on North American and European games instead of the other way around.

Interestingly, the Dreamcast is the only 6th generation console that took longer to release games in other regions than its 5th generation counterpart. The average number of days for a game to reach Japan has stayed very equal between North America and Europe on Microsoft systems.

 

 

 

Here’s the chart for the relative and absolute gaps. The Xbox One wins the award for smallest absolute gap with just 1.77 average days between North American and European releases, no doubt many of them on the same day. Meanwhile Europe to Japan or vice versa took almost a year on average for Playstation games.

I couldn’t resist finding what games took the longest amount of time to cross regional borders for each system. The PS1’s Dragon Ball Z: Ultimate Battle 22 also came up in my metascore study as being responsible for the worst quarter for any system, scoring a 32.03% and being very late in the system’s life. I was surprised that three Pokemon games appeared on this list, as Nintendo was really pushing it hard.

The game that, as far as I can tell, has taken the longest amount of time to be released between two regions is Breath of Fire III for the PSP. 3,820 days after the August 3rd, 2005 Japanese release (physical and digital), North America got a digital-only release on February 9th, 2016. That’s over a decade – the PSVita was about to celebrate its fourth birthday in North America at the time. Europe got a physical and digital release on February 3, 2006, which makes the North America-Europe gap the second longest regional gap.

Sources

Wikipedia’s lists of games by system – for release dates

MobyGames – for release dates