Square Enix dominated the RPG genre back in the 1990s, albeit separately. SquareSoft was the market leader with their Final Fantasy franchise, while Enix maintained a runner-up position with the Dragon Quest franchise. It is, then, no surprise, that later releases occupy our top spots, as both franchises held up wonderfully through time. And, in case you forgot, the game publishing companies joined forces as Square Enix back in 2003 and continued to define the genre. With backstory out of the way, let’s get into the best Square Enix games.
We took time to deliberate on this one. But after looking at gamers’ feedback and sorting our feelings out, we decided Final Fantasy XIV is the best game Square Enix made. Sorry Final Fantasy VII fans! It was a tie, almost. When it was originally released, it received a rocky welcome. But, through expansions named A Realm Reborn, Heavensward, Stormblood, and Shadowbringer, it solidified its spot as the best MMORPG experience. The game is suitable for many types of gameplay preferences, has beautiful graphics, a vibrant, living open-world, and thousands of hours of content.
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes Of An Elusive Age is the 11th of the games Square Enix created in the franchise. Despite its name, it’s a standalone game, featuring new characters and scenarios but retaining a detailed long-running plot. The game is based on bright 16-bit graphics mode translated from the Nintendo 3DS version but supports switching between 2D and 3D. It features Japanese and English voice acting, hours of orchestral music, and a captivating turn-based combat system that can be sped up 2x or 4x times. Best of all, the game is suitable for just about anybody.
Rise of the Tomb Raider took the bronze medal for the best game published by Square Enix. The primary reason for that lies in nuance and endearing wish to release a perfect sequel. In fact, anyone that played the prequel, Tomb Raider (2013), can attest to that. The developers, Crystal Dynamics, sat down, analyzed everything that worked, asked and noted players’ feedback, and decided, “let’s just do more of the same, but better”. As an example, they shrunk the number of quick-time events while increasing the number of puzzles and challenge tombs.
NieR: Automata is one of the best action role-playing games Square Enix published, set in a grim post-apocalyptic world. The game is filled to the brim with enemies you’ll have to fight or steer clear of. Helping you decide are combat android that can assist you from the ground or the air. Also, NieR: Automata is ideal for girls as it features a female protagonist. Plus, the storyline is over 30 hours long and has 25+ different endings. Finally, the game won “Best Score/Music” at The Game Awards 2017. This guarantees an immersive experience every time you replay it.
Square published Chrono Trigger in 1995 on Super Nintendo. Don’t fret, the game was re-released and graphically updated, and is now available for PlayStation, Nintendo DS, Android, and iOS. Luckily, its original spirit held up amazingly well. And how could it not? The “Dream Team” of Square creators made it: Hironobu Sakaguchi, (Final Fantasy), Yuji Horii (Dragon Quest), and Akira Toriyama (Dragon Quest characters, Dragon Ball manga). So, you can expect a battle system that feels intuitive, a detailed storyline and lore, and multiple endings.
At first glance, Kingdom Hearts II, released back in 2005, makes no sense. It’s a cartoon game that features a band of well-known characters from the Final Fantasy series and Disney properties (Goofy and Donald Duck, for example), and a ridiculous premise. However, on a deeper look, you’ll find a heart-warming, loveable storyline that will enamor you completely. And you wouldn’t be the only one. The game had 10 more releases until Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory (2020). Unsurprisingly, they expanded the number of characters and are equally charming.
7. Just Cause 3
Just Cause 3 was among our top choices for the best third-person shooter games for PC. Even better, due to high demand, we made a list of games like Just Cause. The game is packed with action, has a steep learning curve, and requires serious preparation. Also, while the graphics and surroundings are stunning, we’re sad to say that you won’t see much of them. Or, at least not in full focus. You’ll spend most of the time jumping from or flying planes, shooting, avoiding ambush, taking part in high-speed car chases, and just wreaking havoc overall.
Life is Strange is a real-life adventure game created by Square Enix that puts you into the shoes of Max Caulfield. She is a photography student, and through multiple episodes, you’ll experience her life. Boring, right? Not exactly. She can rewind time and the ability comes with consequences. We’re referring to the butterfly effect, e.g., that past actions affect the future directly, and that you are forced to go back and forth. The storyline, the music, the graphics, the voice acting, and the ongoing mystery will capture your attention. Yes, you can hold us to that.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided is a cyberpunk game set in 2029 that has everything you’d expect. An avant-garde setting, an intriguing premise, a worldwide conspiracy, mechanically augmented enemies, fancy gadgets and equipment, and cutting-edge weapons from (our) distant future. And while there’s plenty of slaying in the game, it’s still predominantly “chill” and mesmerizing. You’ll spend a lot of time running and sneaking around, completing quests, and interacting with NPCs, whether through dialogue or hours of engaging cut scenes.
10. Sleeping Dogs
The tenth entry among the games Square Enix published is Sleeping Dogs. It’s diametric to Deus Ex being brutal and action-packed. Playing as Wei Shen, an undercover cop who infiltrates a Triad gang named Sun On Yee, you’ll dance the edge between good and evil. There’s plenty of car and bike chases either way, and you’ll have to deliver beatings nonetheless. Also, you must use your environment to not only survive but come out as a hero against enemies that outnumber you constantly. Meanwhile, you’ll own luxurious houses and cars and date beautiful women.
11. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together
Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is a very complex tactical role-playing game that’s simultaneously a unique 3D game with isometric (cubic) graphics. Also, just as you could guess the genre from the name, you could decipher the premise. You begin the game with multiple troops, and build a tight-knit army by recruiting new ones. You can also control up to 6 different male and 6 female classes, and 3 demi-human classes and change their equipment. Finally, through non-linear progress, the game leads you toward one of the possible 8 endings.
Octopath Traveler is one of the newest games Square Enix released – it saw the light of day in 2018. And, if you adored Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes Of An Elusive Age, you’ll fall in love with this one. It not only has equally outstanding orchestral music throughout the adventure but it also features 16-bit graphics with 2D characters and 3D background. Speaking of characters, the game is based on 8 different ones whose individual storylines you must see them through. Each character can have its own class (“job”) and turn-based combat means you’ll have to switch strategies radically and often.
Secret of Mana nearly topped our selection of anime games. We’re not referring to the old game released back in 1993 for SNES. Instead, we’re praising its eponymous 2018 3D HD remake, which only saw improvements in all aspects. It remains a JRPG classic, with a deep character-driven storyline. To give you an idea, you’ll take the role of 3 protagonists, Randi, Popoi, and Primm, and must beat the forces of evil with Emperor Vandole at the helm. To achieve that feat, you must befriend 8 elementals that comprise Mana, a mystical energy that envelops the world.
14. Vagrant Story
Yasumi Matsuno, who directed Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, worked tirelessly on Vagrant Story as well. And he obviously knew what he was doing. After its 2000 release for PlayStation, it became the first Square Enix game that was rated with a perfect score by Famitsu, a line of leading Japanese video game magazines. And, although the game is a story-driven RPG, its influences are apparent and distinctive. For example, the game’s grim atmosphere, evident when you crawl through dungeons and fight monsters, reminds a lot of people of the Dark Souls series.
15. Parasite Eve II
Parasite Eve was one of the riskiest games Square Enix delivered for PlayStation 1 back in 1998. It was one of their first departures from RPG and was very reminiscent of Resident Evil. As such, the survival horror elements dominated the real-time combat against zombie-like creatures and terrifying bosses. Square Enix released Paradise Eve II only a year later, to a lot of praise. Many things were improved upon, and this time combat was pausable and players gained more freedom of action. The visuals were even more stunning, the story better-written, and the soundtrack atmospheric but thrill-pumping.
16. Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
Star Ocean: Till the End of Time is an action RPG released by SquareSoft just before the merge with Enix in 2003. It was re-released under the Square Enix umbrella as Director’s Cut in 2004 adding multiplayer capability. And, even though it was released 3 years before Star Ocean: The Second Story (2007) it takes place 400 years after the events, making it a sequel, technically. With that said, the game was a leader in the real-time interactive combat genre and known for its multi-character fights with a focus on leveling, crafting, and money-making.
17. Super Mario RPG
Super Mario RPG is one of the games Square Enix unveiled that might confuse you. After all, isn’t Super Mario Nintendo’s property? It sure is. But the company wanted a contender for the RPG genre in 1996 when their Nintendo 64 consoles were all the rage. And who better to ask for help with Mario & Luigi adventures than the reigning king of role-playing gaming? Although it has Final Fantasy influences, it’s a 3D platformer game with familiar mechanics and power moves of Nintendo’s protagonists. Additionally, the combat system is turn-based with no random enemy encounters.
Xenogears was among the most distinctive games SquareSoft delivered in 1998. It’s a science-fiction RPG with an exhaustive storyline with themes of religion, neurology, and philosophy proposed by Friedrich Nietzsche, Carl Jung, and Sigmund Freud. To clarify, the plot heavily revolves around uncovering the truth behind cabalistic organizations playing as protagonist Fei Fong Wong and his close friends. As you progress, you have no choice but to wonder about the nature of identity and human memory. That’s because the game forces you to examine relationships between humanity and machines, robots called “gears”, you can control.
19. Front Mission 3
Front Mission 3 hit the PlayStation 1 back in 1999 and immediately gained prominence as the first game in the franchise to be released outside of Japan. It also moved away from the turn-based strategy mechanics of predecessors and invited RPG elements. These became staples of later releases, Front Mission 4 (PlayStation 2, 2003/2004) and Front Mission (Nintendo DS, 2007). Additionally, the game featured a dystopian world overfilled by mechs, called “wanzers”. This setting and premise influenced other games based on air combat, skill-based fights, and linear progression via quests and cut scenes.
20. The World Ends With You
We’re ending the list using a game with a fitting title. Even its premise fits – The World Ends With You is the most underrated game released by Square Enix. Although the storyline is overused, “a group of friends fight evil and save the world”, it’s surprisingly well-developed. The visuals are unique and feature a 2D art style while its soundtrack seems to promote friendship. And no wonder – its protagonists are memorable and relatable and suffer from typical teenage issues. Finally, its combat system, fighting opponents on both screens of Nintendo DS, works just as well today as it did in 2007.