RPG of the Year 2009: The Finale

Naming our number one RPG of the year isn't an easy task. It was difficult enough picking out the winners on a platform basis, but picking out one RPG as a stand-out - the best title we've played on RPGSite in the past year - is difficult.

As if we weren't being hard enough on ourselves by picking this, we also decided that each year we'd pick out the best game of the previous year - letting us evaluate the best games of the previous year with the added bonus of hindsight.

Looking back on 2009 and 2008, they were a strong couple of years for RPGs. 2009 saw the PS3 regain major traction as a console for RPGs as well as a surge in handheld titles, while 2008 saw the release of heavy-hitting sequels including Fable II and Fallout 3.

Our 2008 winner is indeed a sequel, and our 2009 winner for the PS3 - so perhaps it's no surprise that these are the elements from each year that stand out within the RPG genre.

It's time for us to draw the curtain on 2009. But first, let's take a trip back to 2008...

Hindsight - Best RPG of 2008: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4

The wonderful thing about Persona 4 is the sense of urgency it manages to keep even when the game winds down into quieter segments, with even delicate, personal sub-plots having an active effect on how you battle later on thanks to the S-Link system. Nothing in the game ever feels like a waste of time, and that helps to make it an incredibly addictive experience.

The battle system is pretty standard for an RPG of this kind, but the manner in which you draw, level and combine Personas to get the ideal set-up is fantastic, and the addition of being able to control your party members is a welcome change from Persona 3.

The gameplay is great, but the real star of Persona 4 is the presentation from the zany, sing-along J-Pop soundtrack to the way the game skillfully makes up for the PS2's lack of graphical ability through clever design decisions and a mostly static camera. 

Persona 4's journey is one of the most well realized ones I've seen, and while it plays to traditional Japanese RPG and anime tropes it does so in a way that doesn't feel tired or old at all. 

In fact, it feels downright magical. What's so great about Persona 4 is hard to put into words - but play it and you'll see. It's definitely our RPG of 2008, and even pretty high up there on our all-time list.

RPG of the Year 2009: Demon's Souls

It never feels unfair or unjust - it only ever feels difficult - and so it should be. Determination to continue reveals depth in Demon's Souls, and that's a seemingly bottomless pit once you first break past the surface.

Difficulty aside there are still refreshing ideas and small design choices that make Demon's Souls stand out in the crowd, most notably in the form of its cleverly implemented online features.

It's a pretty game, and every well-realized blood splatter on the ground that indicates someone online died here will send a shiver through your spine as you desperately formulate a strategy for the next enemy encounter.

Demon's Souls may not reinvent the wheel, but it's fun, challenging, evocative and downright bloody terrifying when you're on the verge of death, desperately trying to survive for just a little longer. 

That - the terror the game invokes simply by challenging you - is a clear indicator of how incredibly addictive and visceral the game is.

It's unquestionably the best RPG of 2009 and is almost certainly going to be remembered as one of the strongest PS3 titles in general in years to come. It should not be missed. 

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