JRPGs led by the ladies

Wrapping up FFVII Rebirth last week ignited within me a fire to play some more JRPGs, which I haven‘t done much of since the PS2 days, with the last one I can remember playing being Star Ocean 3—outside of Fantasies Final anyway. For a variety of (not so) mysterious and inscrutable reasons, though, I can rarely get into new (to me) games/franchises with male protagonists, so I’m on the hunt for JRPGs with girls in the lead

It's one thing to punch that into a search engine and get a list, though, and quite another to get someone's genuine recommendation. So, what are some lady-led JRPGs from, say, the PS3 era and beyond you think are worth playing (or even must be played), and what makes them worth playing to you?

I'm not picky about the battle system too much, though I might slightly want a strategy/tactical RPG in the moment after being saddened by the fact that the queen in Unicorn Overlord demo wasn't the protagonist

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You might like Banner of the Maid

Oh, I guess it's also 85% off right now, that's cool. Definitely $2.50 worth of fun imo.

Also, you alluded to the Fantasies what are Final, but I have a duty to mention Final Fantasy 13 anyway.

XIII is arguably my favorite of them (with Rebirth currently fighting it tooth and nail for the title). I’ll take a look at Banner of the Maid, $2.50 is certainly an attractive entry fee, lol, and I have some fondness for Frenchness that lingers from Jeanne d’Arc so many years ago on the PSP…

@sapphicvalkyrja I was just going to recommend Jeanne d’Arc in fact! “Artistic licence” aside, it’s a great game and a great leading lady. Worth playing again as both she and the game hold up.

You can play through Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones as either the male twin or the female twin.

A few that immediately come to mind:

Tales of Beseria

Certainly one of the better Trails games since the HD era IMHO. The story is pretty good nonsense, the action is good, and Velvet is a great character.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky (and TitS Second Chapter)

Big, dense JRPGs with an accessible tactics battle system. Playing the two games one after the other is a neat gateway into the rest of the ever-expanding series if you so choose but they are effectively a standalone duology too. Superb world building.

Soul Hackers 2

Budget Shin Megami Tensei that I liked but got a mixed reception on the forum. If you like SMT and can forgive some plain dungeon design then it’s worth a punt.

Sakura Wars

A new Sakura Wars game went under the radar on PS4. I liked it a lot; the mech action is really good and the plot is bobbins but it’s an inoffensive, good time game.

I rather liked FFX-2, and always found the (at least loud) arguments against it to be rather disingenuous. “'It’s just Final Fantasy Dress-Up”, etc.

  1. Dressing these ladies up is rad;
  2. All of them will kick your ass without breaking a sweat;
  3. “Dress Spheres” is just fancy graphics around the usual Job System, and it works pretty dang well

…but I imagine there’s a decent likelyhood you’ve already played it, given you mention having history with the Fantasies already.

Eternal Sonata was a whole lot of fun – but is more of an ensemble and I guess not led by the ladies. It’s ultimately the story about Chopin, anyway.

@TomoftheFog Yeah, it’s one of the games I regret selling my PSP over, haha. I loved the transformations in particular. Now that I’m thinking about it again, I might have to see about revisiting it…

100% on Tales of Berseria. I think that game has a pretty great cast and Velvet is a terrific lead. Same for FFXIII and Lightning. I recommend playing both of them with Japanese voices.

I have only played a little bit of Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure and Summon Night: Swordcraft Story (counts if you play as Pratty) but what I’ve played looks super intriguing and I can’t wait to get back to them both, hopefully this year!!!

@sapphicvalkyrja It’s a great example of having a system for a single game!

If you do go back, bon retour en France !

Fire Emblem!! I’d recommend Three Houses, Shadows of Valentia, Awakening, Sacred Stones, or Blazing Sword if you’re looking for a game that has either a female avatar or dual M/F protagonists. Path of Radiance is also a great starting point, Ike is a great character and it has a direct sequel with another great female protagonist (and Ike gets a boyfriend in the end). Engage, Fates, and New Mystery also let you play as a female avatar but those games aren’t good places to join the series.

Three Houses imo has the best story in my opinion, particularly if you like political intrigue and building deep bonds with a large cast of characters, and it has a separate section where you work as a professor and do tasks to raise your students’ tasks which is very relaxing. It’s the longest of the games around 50+ hours for your first playthrough. If you’re looking for a shorter experience, the GBA games are a good place to start. Lyn mode in Fire Emblem 7 is less than 5 hours long (it’s a tutorial prologue, but she is also in Eliwood + Hector modes which are 15 hours or so), and Eirika Mode in Sacred Stones is also about 15 hours. The 3DS games are somewhere in between.

Some others that come to mind which I don’t have time atm to write up:

  • Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
  • Nier Automata
  • Soul Hackers 2
  • Tales of Arise (Alphen technically main character but it’s equally Shionne’s story and she rules)
  • Torna: The Golden Country (The best Xenoblade game)
  • Xenosaga
  • Rhapsody

your mileage may vary with this one! I wanted to like it, and I feel like I should have liked it, but I didn’t… I would instead recommend Wargroove, which imo is a better realized indie strategy game, also on sale for cheap:


100% this. It’s got just enough of a large environment to feel expansive without being distracting and it has a much less melodramatic cast of characters.


Folklore on PS3 has dual-protags with unique stories, Ellen being the gorl option.

@LeFish I also agree. I am a certified Xenoblade Hater and Torna alleviates a TON of the issues I have with the main games, real fun stuff.

Coincidentally, the experience you had with Banner of The Maid was the exact experience I had with Wargroove! I felt like I was supposed to like it, because it’s clearly riffing on Advance Wars and I love those, but it never clicked with me.

Wow, a lot of recommendations already! The thread‘s moving faster than I expected it to, so it looks like I picked the right place to ask. I appreciate everyone’s responses so far, so I'll try to get to some of them here…

That makes two for Tales of Bersaria, on top of it being on sale and a trailer that spoke directly to my inner edgelady. I think this one's going on the list.

I have zero experience with SMT outside of an old friend who absolutely loved them, but I'm digging the character designs, so I'll keep it on my radar!

I've given X-2 a shot, but I bounced off of it, probably because I waited like 20 years to finally do so. At the time, I was *indignant* that they would make a sequel with a premise that seemed to undermine the beautiful conclusion to the original, which...probably wasn't fair to the game, lol. It's on a long list of games I want to give another go sometime for sure

This might be the best pitch for me personally that I've seen when it comes to Three Houses. It'd give me something to actually do with my rather underutilized Switch, too. Fire Emblem's one of those series I never got around to, but maybe it's time I did that

You know, now that you mention it, NieR Automata is a JRPG, isn’t it? I’ve definitely played (and loved) that one, and I’m not sure how I didn‘t think of it. That makes two for Trails in the Sky and Soul Hackers 2 as well. I haven’t played a Xeno game since Xenogears, so that's probably another thing I should put on the list…

You know, it's almost unheard of for modern pixel art games really grab me, but there's something about CrossCode I can't put my finger on that makes me think I'd like it. I'm also a sucker for Celtic mythology, so I might have to see about Folklore, too

This has been great so far, thanks to everyone for your thoughts!

X-2’s continuation of the story of Spira is imo perfect. What would happen to a world suddenly unshackled from religious indoctrination? What does a girl do when she finds out she doesn‘t have to sacrifice herself and help perpetuate an endless cycle of destruction? She goes out and has fun with her besties, that’s what.

@connrrr And like I said, I was probably being unfair to it back then, lol. I just loved the conceit of the big twist regarding Tidus and felt like a big part of X-2 featuring a hunt for Tidus took the wind out of what was at the time one of my favorite endings to a video game ever. Some of it was also just reflexive balking at the very idea of Final Fantasy sequels, though, which I‘ve since grown up about (even if, at least so far, I’ve never enjoyed one of the sequels as much as the originals, with the VII Remake trilogy being the only exception)

So one of these days, I'll see about getting back to it, maybe after a replay of FFX sometime—that might make the PS2ness of it less of a turn-off

Persona 2: Eternal Punishment is lady led! There was also a remake made for the PSP that I remember being pretty nicely done (yet another argument for tracking down a PSP)!