Published and developed by Namco, the Tales of role-playing series began in 1995 with the release of the first entry in the series, Tales of Phantasia. For those not so familiar with the series, Tales games feature a real-time battle system in the style of a fighting game. The standard features of a good JRPG are still present, including solid character progression, a first-class narrative, and a cast of fascinating characters. With the two combined, the Tales series present a split from the uniform gameplay that often comes from JRPGs.
Now, 25 years later, and the Tales series is still considered one of the best Japanese RPG series next to greats like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of promise for the forthcoming and impressive looking Tales of Arise. This new title could potentially be the series most advanced, but while we’re waiting, I’ll be taking a look at the best games in the Tales of series.
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10: Tales of Phantasia
Original Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)
Release Date: December 15, 1995 (JP)
Buy Now: GameBoy Advance
Tales of Phantasia is the first game in the Tales of series, originally released as a Japan-exclusive for the Super Famicon in 1995. Western fans wouldn’t receive the title until it was released on the GameBoy Advance in 2006 and ported to mobile in 2014. By today’s standards, the battle system is very dated, which is especially true when compared to Tales of Eternia and Tales of Destiny, which was just released a few years after.
Nevertheless, the game’s time-travelling story and characters are as charming as they were back then, and it remains a favourite among fans of the series. I’m still hoping for Namco to remake the game or even a remaster sometime in the future. Maybe after Tales of Arise?
As the name implies, Tales of Xillia 2 is a direct sequel and follows the event of the first game, though you take controller of a different protagonist named Ludgar Kresnik, the silent character. He can travel between parallel dimensions in order to keep his own world in balance.
Xillia 2 is full of relatable and likeable characters and, more importantly, a gripping story that ties up the events of the first game perfectly towards the end. Regrettably, it is somewhat let down by the reality that players are forced to endure its MMO-like fetch quest system to satisfy and earn the game’s debt system to push the narrative.
8. Tales of Zestiria
Original Platform: PlayStation 3
Release Date: January 22, 2015
Buy Now: PS3, PS4, Tales of Vesperia + Tales of Berseria + Tales of Zestiria Compilation
Tales of Zestiria was a game in the series that was released a year before another mainline title, Berseria, and being one of the more recent titles, it’s a return to form for the Tales series despite its slow start. Cliché as it is, the game’s King Arthur inspired story is very enjoyable if a bit predictable still the traditional Tales-style character development is fantastic.
You play as Sorey, a village boy who discovers that he’s the only person who can save the world from the darkness coming. As strong and powerful as he is, Sorey can see members of a spirited race known as Seraphim. These are beings that are god-like and are core to the plot, but also a core gameplay element. The game feels like it’s part of a larger universe that can be enjoyed more when played together with Tales of Berseria.
7. Tales of Graces F
Original Platform: Wii, PlayStation 3 (Port)
Release Date: December 10, 2009 (Wii, JP), March 13, 2012 (PS3, NA)
Buy Now: PS3
Originally released as a Wii exclusive to Japan, Namco Bandai released Tales of Graces f with lots of improvements will still be very familiar to players in terms of story and characterization. The game isn’t a landmark game in the series but still includes enough to be among the best. The game is traditional as it gets for the series, and some RPG fans might find it a bit cliché. But, the presentation and execution are fantastic. The story isn’t all that thrilling or exciting as other entries in the series, but it’s still charming and lighthearted and is presented in a way that one can’t help but fall in love with.
Moreover, Graces F’s battle system is one of the best in the series. It’s easy to pick up for novices to the series and is incredibly flexible when it comes to changing fighting styles during the heat of battle with its visually impressive battle system.
Tales of Xillia isn’t as memorable for the series as Symphonia or Vesperia or even Abyss. Still, it changed the conventional formula of placing you in the shoes of just one character by enabling players to choose between Jude Mathis and Milla Maxwell. This change provided the player with a choice between two significantly different experiences and excellent replay value.
The combat is frantically fast-paced, and the characters are lovable and quirky. The plot, although a bit short, is relatively unique. Additionally, it’s direct sequel Tales of Xillia 2 continued to build upon and develop the world of Xillia more.
5. Tales of Destiny
Original Platform: PlayStation
Release Date: December 23, 1997 (JP), September 30, 1998 (NA)
Buy Now: PS1
Tales of Destiny was the first in the series to be released in North American shores and is still considered to be one of the most beloved in the series. Although the characters and hybrid combat were enough to draw in new fans, Tales of Destiny released on the original PlayStation in the same year as Final Fantasy Tactics, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and the juggernaut, Final Fantasy VII. Just like Tales of Phantasia, it felt rather dated even when you compared it to its competition back then in 1998.
Tell someone Tales of Destiny was overshadowed would be an understatement. Still, Destiny excels, with its characters who remain a favourite among fans even today, and the battle system holds up much better than Phantasia. The game also received a full remake on the PS3, though it was only released in Japan. To this day, many fans still hope for the PS2 remake to get translated and remastered for a western release one day.
4. Tales of Berseria
Original Platform: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 (Port)
Release Date: August 18, 2016 (JP), January 24, 2017 (NA)
Buy Now: PS4, Tales of Vesperia + Tales of Berseria + Tales of Zestiria Compilation
The latest in the Tales of series, Tales of Berseria, was released only a short year after 2016’s, Tales of Zestiria. The two games happen to take place in the same universe, though Zestiria is set a few 1,000 years after the events of Berseria, and there are quite a few references and allusions between the two games.
Those anticipating a comical fantasy will be astonished to learn that Berseria has a much darker tone. The protagonist, Velvet, is emotionally conflicted, complicated and full of rage, giving her one of the most exciting leads in the series’ history. She is followed by an evenly conflicted cast of anti-heroes, each with their own mysterious plans.
For many of us, Tales of Symphonia was their introduction to the series. It could be said that Symphonia was the Final Fantasy VII to the series. Released as a GameCube exclusive, Tales of Symphonia became the most successful title in the series and still holds the record for the best selling title in the series.
It applies a more cutesy art style than more of the recent titles, but the cell-shaded visuals and wonderfully rendered towns and villages have aged pretty well and still hold up well to this day and hold a solid 60 frames per second. Symphonia possesses a story that focuses on discrimination and oppression is as poignant now as it was 15 years ago and a large cast of lovable and memorable characters.
Initially released on the PS2 in 2006 and then being ported to the 3DS in 2012. Tales of the Abyss is a huge favourite with fans of the series, and for a good reason. It’s a nearly perfect Tales game, with unique characters, plenty of content, and excellent writing. Abyss shines through with its complex world-building and character development with improvements to the combat system and its visuals.
The protagonist, Luke fon Fabre, growth as a character begins from a spoilt rich kid who is very unlikeable into the hero we know works in a custom that feels natural and entertaining. Although Abyss can feel bloated sometimes in the later stages of the game’s plot, the story’s resolution is one of the most memorable and gratifying in the series. Unfortunately, the game was never released on Steam, so you’re limited to the 3DS and PS2 versions.
1. Tales of Vesperia
Original Platform: Xbox 360
Release Date: August 7, 2008 (JP), August 26, 2008 (NA)
Buy Now: X360, NS, PS4, XB1, Tales of Vesperia + Tales of Berseria + Tales of Zestiria Compilation
Tales of Vesperia was originally released on the Xbox 360 as an exclusive in the West. Unfortuenly, Vesperia was a title that many RPG fans missed out on the first time around. Luckily for us, the game received a definitive remaster now available on the Switch, PS4, and Xbox One. Hence, it’s still possible to experience the Tales of series in its absolute best.
Although the best overall Tales game is a delicate topic, most people would settle on Vesperia as the best, and I have to agree. The story follows protagonist Yuri Lowell, an experienced warrior with a dry sense of humour that deals with many situations in a way that many would deem him to be an anti-hero. Yuri is a complete departure from the series typical spunky naive do-gooder hero. Moreover, the supporting cast is well developed, and the world-building is some of the best in the series. The combat system is close to perfect once it’s fully unlocked, and many of the more wearisome elements of other games in the series are streamlined.
Tales of Vesperia is a game that every Tales fan needs to play and every RPG fan for that matter. Namco Bandai released the Definitive Edition for modern consoles so that you can experience this classic all over again or for the very first time.
And that does it, phew, that was a long list! Thank you for making it to the end. This Top 10 took a lot of time, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Just reliving each title makes me want to have a marathon of Tales. If your favourite didn’t make it on my list, let me know what your Top 10 games in the Tales of series down below.