Released On: June 5, 1995 (15 years old)
There are literally tons of great Japanese role-playing games, but Earthbound, the quirky birth child of Ape and HAL Laboratory, still stands out as an exceptional piece of work that has yet to be surpassed. Its graphics are severely outdated, its combat system seems archaic in comparison to virtually any other RPG today, but none of that matters because Earthbound has something that is so depressingly uncommon today: personality.
Earthbound is charming and hilarious, full of unconstrained silliness and over-the-top wackiness that will make even the most hardened soul crack a smile. Honestly -- what other game will you ever play that has you befriending bubblegum chewing monkeys, beating up hippies and police officers, eating "magical cake" that causes you to hallucinate, allying with a prince named Poo or shouting "say fuzzy pickles"?
Earthbound is a one of a kind game, and until an optimized Nintendo DS port is released or Nintendo finally allows its sequel for the Gameboy Advance to be released in the United States, it's likely to stay that way.
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn
Released On: September 24, 2000 (9 years old)
Packed with numerous character classes, a dizzying amount of quests, an armory full of magical weapons and items, an epic storyline and an insane amount of customization, Baldur's Gate II is one of BioWare's greatest achievements. It takes everything that made its predecessor so successful and made it exponentially better.
There's more morality options, the combat is more advanced, there's more enemies and monsters to slay, and your motley crew of charismatic, memorable party members are actually worth paying attention to.
Did we mention that Baldur's Gate II is ridiculously long as well? You can easily spend 30 hours questing throughout Baldur's Gate II's assortment of dungeons, fortresses and sprawling cities before you even advance past the first chapter of the game. Once you complete the game, it's necessary to replay it at least once to experiment with a new race, gender or class. Or two times. Or three.
The only developer that might be able to topple Baldur's Gate II is BioWare itself, but even they seem incapable of defeating their best work. Neverwinter Nights and Dragon Age: Origins were supposed to be sequels of sorts to Baldur's Gate's legacy, and while they're both exceptional games, it's pretty clear that they can't match the sheer scale and complexity of Baldur's Gate II.
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