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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was originally posted on reddit and I was overwhelmed with the response. So overwhelmed that I decided I wanted to do a lot more of this kind of thing. Please keep in mind that this was written in mid 2019. This post has been slightly edited.

One day I found myself wondering just how many Japanese exclusives there are and where games are being made and how it has changed over time. I really wanted to know, but I couldn’t find anything substantial. I started this project in November, 2018 and that is the cutoff, any games released after that date are not included. I made a collection of spreadsheets with every game, system, country(ies) of origin, developer(s), publisher(s), and release status among North America, Europe, and Japan. I used this data to create charts and infographics to answer my questions and look into video game history.

I stuck to Nintendo because they have a long history in games and I know them well. Even if you’re not into Nintendo, I think there is a lot of interesting information about the industry here and how it has changed since the 80s.

I know 15,000 is a suspiciously round number, but I didn’t plan it that way. After I pasted wikipedia’s lists into my spreadsheets, and added some games I found missing, it was about 15,035. I got rid of some stuff that didn’t belong, detailed below, and ended up with exactly 15,000.

What is included:
  • All officially licensed and released games on consoles and handhelds by Nintendo.

  • 64DD

  • Virtual Boy

  • Famicom Disk Drive

  • Digital-only titles, DSiWare, WiiWare

What is not included:
  • Virtual Console titles. These I considered the same thing as the original.

  • Satellaview. Many games have very incomplete information, and it’s not always clear if a game is “different enough” from its original SNES version to be considered a different game.

  • Non-games software. So no Game Boy Advance Video, Hulu app, or system settings. This also includes a few oddities like a sweater design program or 8 keys you can press to make music. I was very broad minded about this one, for example a study guide for taking a learner’s permit test for the DS said it had mini games, so I included it.

  • Games that didn’t release in North America, Europe, or Japan. There were fewer than 10 of these, but I did uncover a Hello Kitty and Bomberman game exclusive to South Korea, and some rugby/soccer and singing games exclusive to Australia. If I were to include them, I’d need release information for South Korea and Australia on every other game, and that information does not seem to exist.

  • Philips CD-i

  • Game & Watch and other miscellaneous electronic Nintendo gadgets.

Some Important Details

There are some important things to note about how I structured this data. 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 it 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. I found quite a few Switch games were handled by porting companies, but there are probably some that I missed on other systems because wikipedia is inconsistent about who gets credit.

Because of all this, some titles are credited to companies that might seem odd.

I wanted to get some stats about second parties, but that is a bit more complicated than it may seem. If you look for a list of Nintendo second parties, you will see different companies included and the likes of Intelligent Systems, Next Level Games, and HAL Laboratory. Developers that often or exclusively work with Nintendo. But most of these companies are not owned by Nintendo. Only four external studios are owned by Nintendo: Retro, 1-up, Monolith, and NDcube. I did actually make special note of these companies, they released 50 games total, on about half of Nintendo’s systems. This was pretty minor and not very interesting so I didn’t give them special sections in anything.

Sometimes companies were bought and sold and merged and went independent several times. Researching all of this took a lot of time. Have a quick look at the many Atari pages on wikipedia if you’d like to see how fun it was. I have about 10 pages of notes about company name changes and ownership.

There were also many cases of different sites having different information. On one occasion I found 5 unique developer and publisher combinations listed for a game on 5 different sites.

Some games (mainly tie ins and other very cheap stuff) will have a very obvious publisher that you can find anywhere, but the developer is unlisted. I did my best here, researching hundreds of games to try to find the company that made them. When I couldn’t find anything I credited the publisher as being the developer, which will be true in some cases and not in others. Konami and Bandai Namco seem especially likely to not credit development companies. Many of these are probably done by low profile and often anonymous outsourcing companies. You can read more about these companies here and here.

The Charts

First I’ll go through system by system, and then some charts detailing the overall progression of various things over time.

System Charts

This includes the Famicom, Famicom Disk System, and NES. Wikipedia lists them separately so I had to combine games when they were ported overseas. We can see right away that Japan dominates releases here in the 80s. Eight of the nine companies that developers or published the most games are Japanese, and most of them are still around! Most games were released in Japan and a majority were exclusive.

Nintendo’s next piece of hardware was the Game Boy. Not quite as Japan-dominated as their home console. That 7th developer is Graphic Research. Given its long life and how cheap it was to make games for, you might have expected more than 1053 games.

1751 games, a figure that would not be surpassed until digital distribution. If you’re not familiar with TOSE, here’s a quote from their wikipedia page:

“We’re always behind the scenes,” said Masa Agarida, Vice President of Tose’s U.S. division. “Our policy is not to have a vision. Instead, we follow our customers’ visions. Most of the time we refuse to put our name on the games, not even staff names.”

Many of the games they are now credited with weren’t known at release. There’s a whole wiki dedicated to finding the developers of games. That 7th developer is Telenet Japan. This is the system with the highest percentage of games available in Japan, other than the Virtual Boy.

And speaking of the Virtual Boy, here it is, the holder of many distinctions. Two of the developers, Betop and Nacoty were so obscure they have no known logos. Probably the only video game system in the world to boast more than 18% of its library consisting of bowling or Tetris games.

Other than the Virtual Boy, the N64 had a publisher controlling the highest percentage of the catalog. It’s tough when your third party support vanishes so quickly. Also other than the Virtual Boy, the smallest number of games released on a Nintendo system. Few systems are as synonymous with a single developer as the N64 is with Rare, which managed to create the 6th most games for the system, all of them pretty well regarded upon release. We see a big uptick in the percent of games released in North America here, a trend that would continue with consoles. A big drop in the percent of games developed in Japan, too.

Quite a few games were released on the Game Boy Color, even though its successor was not far away. Many of these were ports of Game Boy titles, however. Nintendo made fewer games for the GBC than any other system except the Virtual Boy. The top developers is odd mix with several companies that we won’t see in the top 7 again. Please note that the Atari in the publishers is Atari, SA, which was at the time known as Infogrames. An incredibly even distribution of games available in each region, yet so few available in all.

The Game Boy Advance saw a flood of cheap tie in games. This is also towards the end of the era where even many small budget games would get separate versions released on handhelds, made by different developers. It’s very likely that many of those Konami games were not developed by them, but by third parties who did not want to be credited.

I was pretty shocked by how many Electronic Arts games there were on Gamecube. Several yearly sports titles all hit the Gamecube while Japan largely avoided the console. Over 85% of the library was available in North America, a new high for a region (excluding the Virtual Boy). Despite their last console coming out during the same generation as the Gamecube, Sega managed to make a substantial portion of its library.

Still the Nintendo system with the most titles, the DS was a phenomenon that became the second-best selling video game system. There was a big jump here in the number of countries that developed games. Nintendo developed 65 games for the system, second only to the NES/Famicom’s 72.

Japan’s lowest share of game development yet, with a lot of North American support. Like the DS, there were a lot of new or new-to-Nintendo developers for the Wii, trying to catch the zeitgeist. Unfortunately, a lot of these titles were shovelware. High Voltage Software and Data Design Interactive don’t come close to this level of output again.

The 3DS bucks the trends and has a lot more Japanese support. One of the things I wanted to look into was the Japanese preference for handhelds and here we can see the difference it makes. Despite this, we see a lot more titles released in all regions than ever before. Four companies make their first appearance in a top 7, all Japanese.

The U.S. takes first place in development for the first and only time with the Wii U. That was largely because of RCMADIAX, who was second in development and publishing output. RCMADIAX was a one man operation that flooded the eShop with cheap, barebones games. He submitted a game for approval on the Switch but was denied and left the video game industry shortly afterward. Skunk Software was also a one-man operation. At 8.41% the Wii U had my highest unknown country of origin. There were quite a few tiny indies that never even had a website and only existed for a couple years.

Keep in mind that the Switch has several years left so its library will change, but here is where we stood in November, 2018. At roughly 1000 games every two years, the Switch should eclipse the DS in number of games eventually. You may notice that the top developers and publishers have lower percents than usual. There are tons of new studios that are making Switch games, so it’s very spread out. I had to do the most research for this system because there were so many errors on the wikipedia list. Spain is so high here because there are a lot of Spanish porting studios and lots of those medium to large indie games seem to outsource their Switch ports. We also see an unprecedented surge in all-territory releases, with very few region exclusives. Despite combining their console and handheld teams, Nintendo has thus far developed and published a smaller percent of the Switch library than any of their other systems, largely because of the huge number of titles being released.

Overall Charts

 

We can see that more games have been coming to more regions over time, although a varying number of games have reached Japan.

While Japan had a large chunk of the exclusives in the early days, that number has fallen greatly. Europe has never had many exclusives.

Here’s a chart with all of the available in and exclusive to numbers, but also with combinations of two regions. Japan and Europe exclusives are mostly soccer/football games.

These are the top 8 countries that have developed the most games. Every console has seen Japan’s relative output drop, though they have rallied a bit with every handheld, while it’s mostly the opposite with the United States. Gamecube’s Canada spike was because of EA Vancouver’s sports titles. From the Wii forward Europe and Australia seem to go up and down together.

 

Here’s a chart with every country’s percentage of games and a map of every system put together. As you can see most countries represented only worked on a handful of games, while Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, and a few Western European countries made the bulk of games. I’d say the Game Boy Advance was the start of more countries getting involved in development.

I wanted to measure how similar the group of developers/publishers were from system to system. For instance, maybe a lot of developers were only interested in the handhelds, or maybe publishers would only touch systems that were market leaders. This is a difficult thing to measure, but I gave it a try. Please consider the results as experimental and potentially inaccurate as I am not sure my methods were sufficient. The numbers are not percents, but more like “scores” where the maximum (the exact same developers/publishers in the exact same proportions) is 100. Mostly we see that systems are most similar to systems released close in time to them, which makes sense but is not very enlightening.

I listed the top 7 of each system, but here are the top 25 overall, by number instead of percent this time. Konami’s lead will erode over time, but it will take a few generations with how long it takes to make games nowadays. TOSE is not a well-known name, but it probably worked on a fair number of games they weren’t credited for. Bandai Namco could take both second places if you add their pre-merger companies together. Sunsoft largely left video games by 2001, yet still makes both lists.

In case you wanted an even bigger list, here are the top 100. Please remember that because of the way I combined companies that some of these names will be strange. To hammer home how much cheap junk RCMADIAX pumped out, they hit the top 50 despite being active only during the Wii U.

 

Here are the developers that released at least one game for at least 10 systems. This time I did combine companies before they merged with their merged company. Lot of absences for the Virtual Boy, of course. Intelligent Systems will make its Switch debut very soon with Fire Emblem: Three Houses and become the only second/third party to support every Nintendo system. Kemco had a rare Virtual Boy title, but skipped the DS of all things. Konami only released Virtual Console titles for the Wii U, yet had a launch title ready for the Switch. Square had a bit of a falling out with Nintendo over the move of Final Fantasy 7 to the Playstation, which kept them away for a time, but they eventually made up.

And here are the publishers that have supported at least 10 systems. Square Enix let Nintendo publish Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, which keeps them from the “everything but Virtual Boy” club. Ubisoft, Electronic Arts, and Take-Two weren’t always huge publishers, but they have been releasing games on Nintendo systems for a long time.

Have you ever wondered how popular it was to put “64” in the title of N64 games? More than a fifth of them did. Seven is the least common digit in titles. Almost every game title is made up of at least two words (this is a count of titles in which a text string occurs, not a total count).

Here’s the same data grouped into themes and maybe a bit easier to read.

And finally, some miscellaneous data, like how many developers/publishers only released one game on a system, and how many games were developed by more than studio, published by more than one company, and made in more than one country. Here we see that collaborations between studios, including studios in different countries has increased over time.

Other Facts I Came Across

  • From Ubisoft Montreal’s wikipedia page: “The studio as of 2017 employs more than 3,500 staff, making it one of the largest game development studios in the world.”

  • I recorded numbers for Hong Kong separate from China, but didn’t end up using them. There were 33 games developed in Hong Kong, and 50 elsewhere in China.

  • Similarly for the UK: England 1474, Scotland 74, Wales 18, Northern Ireland 1.

  • Just Dance 2014 for the Wii and Yo-kai Watch Dance: Just Dance Special Version for Wii U both had 7 development teams listed, although these vary a bit by source.

  • The shortest game title was X for Game Boy.

  • The longest game title, which I cannot confirm is accurate, is a 3 in 1 game collection: Kunio-kun Nekketsu Collection 3 Downtown Special: Kunio-kun no Jidaigeki da yo – Zenin Shūgō! Ike Ike! Nekketsu Hockey-bu: Subete Koronde Dairantō.

  • The total developer count was 2299 when combining studios owned by companies. However, the way I structured things included these subsidiary studios separately. There were 2547 developers including them (plus a few tiny ones that I lumped together).

  • Atlus was owned by Takara (7 games), Sega Sammy (12 games), Index (17 games), and was independent (46 games) which would have been good enough for 22nd most prolific developer if combined.

  • I have 14 THQ-owned, 15 Take-Two-owned, 23 Electronic Arts-owned, and 24 Ubisoft-owned developers recorded.

  • I noticed some recurring themes in developer names. The following are the number of studios with a given string in their name. 21: 3, Infinite: 5, Planet: 5, Silicon: 6, Ninja: 8, Black: 12, Dream: 14, Pixel: 20, Star: 21.

Sources

  • Wikipedia’s lists of games was my starting point, although I had to make a lot of corrections and additions. I also visited hundreds of developer, publisher, and individual game pages.

  • Moby Games has lots of great information, including port teams, developer histories, and official website links.

  • The Giant Bomb wiki has a lot of more obscure titles and some info I couldn’t find anywhere else.

  • GameFAQs has pages for almost every obscure Japanese game.

  • RF Generation was useful for a list of eShop titles.

  • Nintendo has pages for most games released on their last few platforms.

  • Dolphin wiki for some info about Gamecube and Wii games.

  • Nintendo life for some Wii U eShop game information.

  • Youtube videos showing the splash screens as games start up.

 

This was originally posted on reddit. I probably won’t use data from VGChartz again, but I think it was a fine estimation for this kind of thing. I was surprised it got so little attention, although I’m not very happy with my writing looking back on it now.

A topic that often comes up is how important a series is to Nintendo, which series should get another game, which series are underappreciated, which get the best review scores, and which no one would miss. I wanted to approach this with numbers.

I gathered review score and sales data for 30 Nintendo series, and calculated attach rates. I thought it was important to consider both sales and attach rates because selling 3 million copies on the Wii is different than selling 3 million copies on the Wii U.

This only includes Nintendo published and owned series. Not all of these games are Nintendo developed, however.

I didn’t include some “casual” series, like Nintendogs, Brain Age, or the Wii series. I think Nintendo is done with these, and they targeted a different group than the “core” games we like to discuss.

Series had to have at least 3 games with full data available. Sorry, Kid Icarus, you didn’t quite make it. I wanted this to be more of a historical look at established series, but there’s some Splatoon numbers in the fun stats section.

The Charts

Here is the overview of average scores, sales, and attach rates. The columns on the right are normalized (scaled specifically to that list) numbers so that we can compare things more easily and for the next charts.

The top three in terms of scores don’t feature Mario at all. I knew Advance Wars was liked, but I did not realize they routinely reviewed that well. Donkey Kong Country also surprised me.

Pokemon dominates the sales numbers, although there are some caveats, which you can read about further down. If you consider dual versions as separate games, the average sales are only 9.1, which would still place it at third, and the attach rate would be 8.79, good for 6th place.

Sales and attach rates manage to stay pretty consistent, although some series with most/all of their entries on DS have much worse attach rates.

Post image

Here I add the normalized numbers to give a score based on review scores and sales/attach rate. I think this is an interesting way to look at things, it makes sense to not focus entirely on one or the other. Fire Emblem has seen a big resurgence in recent years and considered one of Nintendo’s big IPs now, yet it is only in the middle of the pack. Mario Party is also surprisingly low, but they really have been churning them out. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon’s large, vocal fanbase online has always mystified me, and here we see it on the bottom, due to its sales not making up for its scores.

Once again, I must mention Pokemon’s unique release structure and how it effects these standings. Scores have a somewhat disproportionate effect on this chart due to Pokemon’s dominance in sales when dual versions are counted as one game (that is how Nintendo does it). If you look at the first chart again you will see that the normalized numbers for sales plummet to .76 for second place, a much bigger drop than scores.

Post image

Here we see which series have a disconnect for sales versus scores, you could say they aren’t selling up to their potential or that they are hidden gems. Advance Wars takes first with its second highest scores and the second lowest sales, none of the four games have sold over a million copies. Mario Golf isn’t a something you hear a lot of demand for, but it’s pretty high up here. Pokemon’s huge sales numbers can’t make up for its merely “great” review scores.

Some fun stats

  • The highest scored game: Super Mario Galaxy with 97.64

  • Lowest scored game: Mario Party: The Top 100 with 53.2

  • Best selling game: Super Mario Bros. with 40,240,000

  • Worst selling game: Maybe Warioware Gold (still pretty new and very speculative number) , maybe Chibi-Robo Park Patrol (Wal-Mart exclusive, not even released in EU)

  • Highest attach rate: Super Mario Bros. with 65%

  • Lowest attach rate: If you don’t want to count Warioware Gold, Advance Wars: Dual Strike with .25%

  • Splatoon sold 4.93 million copies on Wii U (Splatoon 2 is at 6.76 currently). If allowed on the list it would have been 7th on the best selling chart, above The Legend of Zelda’s average. A 36.36% (Splatoon 2 at 34% currently) attach rate would be 1st overall, well above Mario Kart.

  • Average review scores for each system among the games included (this is more for fun, we don’t have a representative sample of games to really consider this a look at which systems had the best games): SNES 87.68, N64 84.02, Gameboy/Color 84.29, Gamecube 83.85, Gameboy Advance 83.5, Wii 81.84, DS 79.18, 3DS 76.73, Wii U 76.66. Interesting that they tend to go down over time.

  • The correlation between review scores and sales was r = 0.3296. Not very strong.

  • 203 games were used for this study

About the score, sales, and attach data

Nintendo almost always releases sales numbers for games that sell over 1 million copies in their financial reports. These are used on Wikipedia to make lists like https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_best-selling_Nintendo_3DS_video_games I used these lists for the bulk of the sales data. Most of these games sold over 1 million copies. Please keep in mind these often-quoted numbers are still not exact. Games can sell more after these reports come out, and Nintendo isn’t going to include a game in their reports forever. For games that sell less than one million, I have to go with the best estimates that exist, which is usually VGChartz. The errors on these numbers are certainly higher than Nintendo’s numbers, but it’s the best we have. None of them seemed particularly unlikely to me, but keep in mind that lower-selling games are more likely to be more wrong. Sometimes I was able to find supposed leaked sales estimates from NPD and I used these when possible.

I used GameRankings instead of Metacritic for average review scores mostly because it goes back farther and they are given to two decimal places. Unfortunately, it does not have NES scores. Attach rate is the percent of copies that exist relative to the hardware. If a game sells 1 million copies on a system that has sold 100 million, it has a 1% attach rate.

About the games I looked at

For each series I only included “mainline” games. When it doubt I referred to wikipedia or series-specific wikis to draw these lines. I’m sure people will disagree with some of the inclusions and exclusions, but in the context of talking about “which series does the best/deserves a new game”, it doesn’t make sense to consider Kirby’s Dream Course to be the same series as Kirby Super Star or Kirby’s Avalance, games which all play very differently. There aren’t always clear lines, and some series like Yoshi platformers are all over the place, so here are some examples: Star Fox Adventures: doesn’t count. Kirby’s Epic Yarn: doesn’t count. Super Mario Maker: doesn’t count. Donkey Kong Land trilogy: doesn’t count. Yoshi Touch and Go: counts. Tri Force Heroes: counts.

No ports or remakes, I wanted this to focus on games that were brand new when they released and free of “oh yeah, I remember liking this game” or “this game feels dated” reviews. I did, however, include pretty-much-identical ports to other systems if they happened within a year, such as Smash 4 and Twilight Princess. This ended up being beneficial to Pokemon since games like Platinum and Omega Ruby get lower scores and have lower sales.

Speaking of Pokemon, it was difficult deciding how to approach it. You have dual releases that are almost identical and have their sales numbers added together. Review sites generally review them as one game, though there are exceptions, every game has slightly different scores. However, a pretty large but unknowable percentage of people buy both versions, essentially two copies of the same game, which means sales data gives a skewed look at how popular Pokemon is. I’m sure there are also people who just wait for the “definitive version(s)” released one or two years later, while others (like me) will buy almost the same game a third time. Yellow, Crystal, Emerald, and Platinum are also much more similar to their base games than Black2/White2 and Ultra Sun/Moon were so you’d have to consider counting the latter if not the former. The remakes are also much bigger deals than other video game remakes usually are. In the end, I decided to count dual versions as one game (so 7 games, one for each generation), and average their scores. No third/fourth versions or remakes included. This gave Pokemon a big boost.

Fire Emblem Birthright and Conquest are reported with their sales numbers combined even though they are definitely more different than Pokemon versions and have more greatly differing review scores. In my spreadsheet I gave them each 50% of the sales.

I did not include download-only games. These games tend to be much lower profile, never seem to have sales data, and have much fewer reviews if any.

No Switch games. Sales and attach rates still have a lot of time to change. There were also no Virtual Boy games included, there’s no sales data or review aggregates.