Robert Bogdanowicz's Top Picks

1) Deus Ex: Invisible War (Xbox, PC) - I'm glad I got this one in before the end of the year. Deus Ex was Warren Spector's magnum opus and one of the best PC games of all time. The sequel certainly had a lot to live up to and does so in every possible way. The streamlined graphics (though you need a kickin' PC), wonderful ambient music and clear, life-like sound, awesome voice acting, incredibly deep plot...I could go on and on. Deus Ex 2 combines the best aspects of a first-person shooter with the stat and character building aspects of a RPG. Add in a deep, convoluted political plot, and wham. Once again, Deus Ex takes the gold.

2) Final Fantasy XI (PC) - I've logged close to 300 hours into this game already and I still have the addiction. FFXI doesn't bring much new to the world of MMORPGs, but it plays so fluidly that it keeps itself a step above the rest. Few (if any) bugs, beautiful graphics, and a fun social atmosphere make this my favorite MMORPG of all time. It's EverCrack, part deux.

3) Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA) - They say third time's the charm: apparently for Konami it was, as they finally brought everything that made Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance work into one solid package. Aria of Sorrow features the best plot in a Castlevania title to date (though that's not saying much) and once again combines beautiful graphics, artwork, music, and gameplay into what becomes the best GBA title available.

4) Skies of Arcadia Legends (GCN) - Like many other RPGFan editors, I was a big fan of the original Dreamcast title. Though Legends brings little new content to the table, it allowed me to romp freely once more as an air pirate with Vyse and company. Offering one of the most interesting and explorable worlds in a RPG to date, Skies of Arcadia proves itself golden once more.

5) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN) - I was a little apprehensive when screenshots were released for Wind Waker...the cel-shading didn't exactly fill me with happiness and I was sick of Link being a four year old character. My initial feelings couldn't have been further from the truth. Nintendo once again produces a quality title with amazing graphics, sound, and gameplay: though not nearly as epic and groundbreaking as Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker certainly sets itself above most.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Silent Hill 3 (PS2)
2) Soul Calibur II (Multiplatform)
3) Legacy of Kain: Defiance (Multiplatform)
4) Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PS2)
5) Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory (PC)

Mike Bracken's Top Picks

1) Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2)

2) Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox, PC)

3) Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht (PS2)

4) Skies of Arcadia Legends (GCN)

5) Dark Cloud 2 (PS2)

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Prince of Persia: Sands of Time (Multiplatform)
2) Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando (PS2)
3) Ikaruga (GCN)
4) Viewtiful Joe (GCN)
5) Grand Theft Auto Double Pack (Xbox)

Brian Cavner's Top Picks

1) Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox, PC) - I have been a gamer since the earliest ages of my life. I found the joy that is RPGs when the first incarnations of Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy, and Zelda appeared. I have experienced many different games since this humble beginning. But never have I encountered something quite like Knights of the Old Republic. A true gaming masterpiece and a title almost universally enjoyed by all who touch it, this extension of the Star Wars universe is truly the shining point so far in BioWare's extraordinary gaming history. As far as I am concerned, it is a sure pick not only for RPG of the Year, but also for Game of the Year.

2) Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark (PC) - The first Neverwinter Nights made me extremely giddy, and was an easy choice last year for my number three. Hordes of the Underdark, the second expansion to the game, made a great experience become truly epic. Capturing the magnitude of massive wars, the cinematic feel of a truly important tale, and the incredible gameplay that made me enjoy Neverwinter Nights so much last year, Hordes of the Underdark was another great title that came from BioWare this year.

3) Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide (PC) - While it was outdone by the expansion that came next, Shadows of Undrentide was another solid addition to the Neverwinter Nights world. Introducing Prestige Classes, new spells, new worlds, new monsters, and a plethora of new adventures, BioWare's first expansion certainly did meet all of my expectations. Given that BioWare has dominated my top 5 list thus far, I can only wait with eager anticipation to see what the Canadian company has to offer for next year.

4) The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: Bloodmoon (PC) - Last year, Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind took number 1 on my list and number 3 overall here at RPGFan. And while this second expansion to the first-person RPG could not compete against the other amazing games that appeared on the PC this year, it still did a wonderful job in holding my interest and being enjoyable for the duration of the story. Tribunal was wonderful in my mind, but with the new additions to be found in Bloodmood, such as lycanthropy, the game was easy to have come in at number 4.

5) Anarchy Online: Shadowlands (PC) - I have not had a great deal of experience with MMORPGs. Short of the bit of time I spent with Earth and Beyond last year, and a bit of experimenting with lame, Paint-quality abominations, I really did not know what MMORPGs were all about. Fortunately, RPGFan had some resident experts to help me along on my introduction to Anarchy Online. With their help, I was able to find a place to spend a great deal of time and have a lot of fun. And while I did not have the opportunity to sample Final Fantasy XI, much to their chagrin, Anarchy Online is still credited as the game which sparked my interest in MMORPGs and is a solid choice for number 5.

Non-RPG Top Picks

Eve C.'s Top Picks

1) Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA) - While it's not living up to its predecessor in my heart, the spin-off to FFT is a fairly good game with solid gameplay. Its refined graphics and good system make it easily one of the best GBA games so far, and definitely another addictive SRPG.

2) Tengai Makyou II Manjimaru (PS2) - This is one remake I had been anticipating very much. Eleven years later the "legendary RPG”'s magic is still there, and any import - and Japanese - enthusiast shouldn't miss out on this one. While the visuals aren't the best I've seen on these platforms, the music score is memorable and the gameplay has been improved to match today's standards.

3) Makai Senki Disgaea [Disgaea: Hour of Darkness] (PS2) - Being the Nippon Ichi Software enthusiast I am, I couldn't miss out on the developer's latest release. Fun and well-executed, the game's out in English so you really have no excuse not to play it. Hopefully Disgaea's example will start a trend for more... unusual games to be released.

4) Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu [Sword of Mana] (GBA) - This is one of those times where the nostalgia factor makes you forget about a game's little flaws. A remake of the original Seiken Densetsu (FF Adventure, or Mystic Quest in Europe), Shinyaku Seiken Densetsu benefits from Brownie Brown's impressive graphics and turned out to be much more interesting than Magical Vacation.

5) Summon Night 3 (PS2) - A pretty unnoticed title in this RPG-friendly year, Banpresto's strategy RPG benefits of exquisite graphics and animations. An SRPG with some adventure/simulation game elements, Summon Night 3 is the game you'll want if you can't have enough of Disgaea and don't mind importing. A game that would certainly deserve more attention, if not a localization.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Taiko no Tatsujin Doki ! (PS2)
2) Made in Wario (GCN)
3) Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN)
4) DDR Extreme (PS2)
5) Viewtiful Joe (GCN)

Jen Claudio's Top Picks

1) Dark Cloud 2 (PS2) - Released earlier this year, Dark Cloud 2 took first place the moment I spent several weeks doing what no other RPG could do for me... give me some actual fun! From fishing, building up towns, battling in dungeons, and picture taking, there's so much to do that it's hard to get bored of the game. While it doesn't don a flamboyant storyline in role-playing history, Dark Cloud 2 has a charming cast of characters in a colorful world that builds up as you create it.

2) Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2) - This is not a game to be overlooked by any hardcore Strategy RPG player. Disgaea boasts incredible gameplay that went way beyond my expectations. Anyone who has played this game could agree that the battle system is where this game shines best. The story is unlike most Strategy RPGs, too, as it doesn't take itself very seriously. Quirky and just plain odd sometimes, this game gave me some good laughs while immersing myself in its craziness both in story and gameplay.

3) Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA) - Yet another Strategy RPG... this time by Square Enix. It's no (original) Final Fantasy Tactics plot-wise, but it does fare well in its own lighter story. The gameplay is very similar to its predecessor, however, with the addition of "Judges" who restrict certain elements during battles providing greater challenge and depth. It's another sweet Strategy RPG I'd suggest to anyone done with Disgaea.

4) Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA) - Continuing the tradition of beautiful guys killing the undead under a musical sub-title, Aria of Sorrow goes up and beyond what the previous GBA Castlevanias lacked. Great control, better detail and sharpness to graphics, and an interesting twist of the story make this game a worthy successor to Konami's 2D classic.

5) Final Fantasy XI (PC) - Final Fantasy XI creeped its way into my list as I delved into its awesome world. My first impression: WOW. The graphics will definitely impress anyone roaming around the immense cities and lands, complete with weather like rain and sandstorms. While the battle system didn't impress me quite as much, it was much more fun to play with others around. A game that can provide some fun with friends is definitely something I'd love to play.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Multiplatform)
2) Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PS2)
3) Boktai (GBA)
4) Guilty Gear X2 (PS2)
5) Silent Hill 3 (PS2)

Tim Duong's Top Picks

1) Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox, PC) - No game has been able to capture the epic that is Star Wars. No game until Knights of the Old Republic, that is. From start to finish I was gripped with excitement. I truly felt like I was living in a universe of Jedi powers and Sith lore. No Star Wars fan should miss this masterpiece. Not to mention it was made by Canadians :P

2) Final Fantasy XI (PC) - I'm a rather big MMORPG player, so it was a no brainer to pick this one up. What I didn't expect was to be hooked so quickly and so intensely. It's true that it does not stray far from the tried and true ways of MMORPG, but what it does is execute it with a flawlessness expected from Square Enix. Add a core storyline into the mix and you have yourself an MMORPG that is head and neck above the competition.

3) Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2) - Probably one of the most humorous games I've played in a very long time. This title not only entertains, it does it with mad style. Everything from the character designs to the dialogue was designed to grab your attention and keep it, forever. This game does a lot to push the SRPG genre a couple steps further on the path of growth.

4) Fire Emblem (GBA) - If you're as big an SRPG fanboy as I am and miss the old days of Shining Force, this is one title you do not want to miss out on. Though very linear, the plot and writing are top notch. The game, though not as complicated as some would lead you to believe, does pose a challenge worthy of hours of thought and strategic planning. SRPG fans rejoice, the old school days are back.

5) Arc The Lad: Twilight of the Spirits (PS2) - This game takes the series from great to legendary. Though it has some flaws, none could take away from the overall quality of this magnificent SRPG. Not only does it do away with the grid that so many of us are accustomed to, it delivers it with an epic storyline and beautiful graphics.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Need For Speed: Underground (Multiplatform)
2) Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (Xbox)
3) Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Multiplatform)
4) Mario Kart: Double Dash!! (GCN)
5) Risk: Global Domination (PS2)

Eric Farand's Top Picks

1) Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox, PC) - When I heard about this game, I did not expect much as I thought it would be one of those lame attempts at making an RPG using a popular license. Little did I know that Bioware would create such a masterpiece. Not only is it a great RPG but it also succeeds in capturing the Star Wars feel from the old movies (not the recent ones). Definitely the RPG of the year in my opinion.

2) Skies of Arcadia Legends (GCN) - Being a big fan of the original on the Sega Dreamcast, I couldn't wait to play it once again - even if the game wasn't improved much at all over the original. Basically, even though it's an older game and perhaps not as impressive visually as it was back then, it is still a classic in my book and one of my favorite RPGs of all time. A must-have for any RPG fans who own a GameCube.

3) Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits (PS2) - I have never played any of the Arc the Lad games, but after playing the demo of this one, I had to get it. Good storyline, nice graphics and amazing orchestral music makes this one of the best RPGs of the year. It sucked me right in and it never let go. It definitely has a "classic" RPG feel to it.

4) Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht (PS2) - When I started playing this game, I was pretty sure that it would end up being near the top of the "Best RPGs of the Year" for me. Great graphics, an amazing soundtrack and a very intriguing and elaborate storyline. This is the classic formula to make me love an RPG. I really enjoyed playing through it but for some reason, near the end of the game (I'm assuming), I got busy with other things in life and to this day have not gone back to finish the game... This is not a positive sign. Since I was able to finish the other 3 RPGs listed above and they grabbed me and never let go, I'll take that as an indication that as much as I loved Xenosaga, something about it is keeping me from wanting to start playing again and that must mean that it's probably not as enjoyable as I thought it was.

5) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN) - I've never been a big Zelda fan, and I have not really played much of the other Zelda games but I started playing this one since I wanted another GameCube game for my collection and I thought it was pretty good. I'm not a big fan of action-RPGs but as far as those go, Zelda is one of the best ones out there.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) WWE Smackdown: Here Comes the Pain (PS2)
2) ESPN NHL Hockey (Xbox)
3) Prince of Persia (Xbox)
4) NBA Street 2 (PS2)
5) Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Xbox)

Patrick Gann's Top Picks

1) Sword of Mana (GBA) - Released in the last month of 2003, this game went ahead and did everything right. A remake of the old Gameboy Final Fantasy Adventure (the first Seiken Densetsu in Japan), this game combines the best elements of the previous four games in the series. From combat, to character/plot development, to graphics, to music, this was my absolute favorite game this year.

2) Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2) - It's fun, it's challenging, it's ridiculous, and it's a strategy RPG. All good things. I haven't actually finished the game, but from what I've played, I know it deserves the #2 slot. Thank you Atlus for another fine game!

3) Final Fantasy XI (PC) - Okay, let's see...I've never liked online RPGs; but I've always liked Final Fantasy. This was the first online RPG I was able to "get into," likely because it had that Squaresoft touch that no one can deny. Again, the music is quality, and adventuring with a bunch of other FF fans is something I've always wanted to do.

4) Skies of Arcadia Legends (GCN) - GameCube is seriously lacking in the RPG world...especially in the world of GOOD RPGs. SoAL made all the difference for this system. I have to say that I have had a lot of fun going through this game: the added subquests made the game very worthwhile. While I still wish some FMVs would've been worked into the game, I couldn't leave this one off of the list. Solid character development, good music, lots of fun through and through. Oh yeah.

5) Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2) - So everybody gave it terrible reviews...I'm sorry, but this game still makes my top five. Why? Let's see: 1) resolution to the end of FFX; 2) A fun-loving, lighthearted feel (especially in the intro) that has no precedent in domestically-released RPG history; 3) The "dress system" for class-changing sets up for some very interesting battle sequences; 4) I like most anything written by Noriko Matsueda (music), and the pop songs are fun; 5) the mission-based system is enjoyable. It's a short game, and it was meant to be. With the way FFX ended, Squaresoft couldn't have made a better game working with what they had; and I, for one, enjoyed it.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Viewtiful Joe (GCN)
2) Mario Party 5 (GCN)
3) Soul Calibur II (Multiplatform)
4) Call of Duty (PC)
5) Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Multiplatform)

Stephen Harris' Top Picks

1) Dark Cloud 2 (PS2) - Level 5 takes the ho-hum action-RPG-worldbuilding title (quite literally) to the next level in this eye-popping sequel. With an incredible story, dazzling cel-shaded visuals and more gameplay mechanics than you can shake a stick at - Dark Cloud 2 is a wickedly entertaining romp from beginning to end. My PS2 has never been so happy!

2) The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (GCN) - Another hero clad in green returns to rescue said princess from the evil clutches of Ganon. The story has been told time and time again, and we STILL can't get enough. Introducing new characters, abilities and a luscious cel-shaded engine - The Wind Waker is a gem on the Nintendo GameCube.

3) Final Fantasy XI (PC) - Being the MMORPG fan that I am, its nice to see a game come along that does just about everything right. Not only does FFXI have the incredible visual style Square Enix is known for, but have brought excellent team-based gameplay and a storyline into this blooming genre. The game isn't a push over, nor is it for the impatient. But, hardcore gamers who have the patience for an online RPG will find an endless adventure that will challenge and intrigue them for months to come. Truly the best bang for your buck this holiday season.

4) Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits (PS2) - Definitely the sleeper hit of the year. After the disappointment of Arc the Lad III, I didn't expect much from this game but was blown away with this installment. Fantastic character development and the most amazing anti-hero in the genre truly make this game shine. The bevy of well-developed characters and streamlined combat system make playing Twilight of the Spirits a joy.

5) Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille Zur Macht (PS2) - Love it or hate it, the first episode in Monolith Soft's mammoth saga is epic. While the game falls short on length and may be more story intensive than most RPG fans are used to - the tale is riveting. An impressive score by Mitsuda and excellent voice acting make the adventure that much more intense.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Legacy of Kain: Defiance (PS2, Xbox)
2) Otogi: Myth of Demons (Xbox)
3) Ikaruga (GCN)
4) Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner (PS2)
5) Silent Hill 3 (PS2)

Justin Hoeger's Top Picks

1) Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (Xbox, PC) - Not much to say that hasn't been said already. This game is beautiful, deep and detailed, with an overall story as epic as that of the whole original trilogy, a plot twist to rival Vader's revelation to Luke, and sidequests that best the newer films in scope and execution.

2) WarCraft III: The Frozen Throne (PC) - An excellent update to "Reign of Chaos," this title further blurs the line between real-time strategy and strategy RPG with its experience-gaining Hero units and involved plot.

3) Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (GBA) - A strategy masterpiece worthy of the original, the only shortcoming in this new tactical adventure is its flimsy plotting and overly whimsical tone.

4) Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2) - Far deeper even than FFTA, this quirky outing is dauntingly long and complex, its greatest strength and, for some, its most crippling weakness.

5) Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2) - This one really could have sucked, but it didn't. The first 20 minutes assail one's sanity, but after that comes a fast-paced RPG with the most entertaining, frenetic combat system in years.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) PlanetSide (PC)
2) Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge (Xbox)
3) Soul Calibur II (Multiplatform)
4) Downhill Domination (PS2)
5) Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Multiplatform)

Christopher Holzworth's Top Picks

1) Deus Ex: Invisible War (PC, Xbox) - Finally, a non-formulaic RPG. To anyone and everyone searching for something that gives "conventional" RPGs a kick to their turn-based asses, well, this game's for you. A little shy on strong dialogue and voice acting, but ultimately the intriguing, multi-branching storyline captivates players in addition to the game's ridiculously addictive gameplay. A First Person Shooter to the naked eye, a closer inspection of Deus Ex will reveal it to be just as much an RPG as any "Final Fantasy" or "Wild ARMs" games.

2) Dark Cloud 2 (PS2) - What can't I say about this game? Once again, it's a matter of gameplay versus plot. No one seems to be able to combine the two seamlessly, always sacrificing one for the other (Xenosaga ditching fun for story, Dark Cloud 2 the reverse). Dark Cloud 2 never gets old. I could have played that game for a thousand hours. Although its predecessor was the supposed "Zelda-Killer", DC2 is for sure. That is how real-time action-based combat should be done. Although the story is nothing eye-opening, it's "classic" enough to be loved, just the same as the characters. This is what games are about. Fun, and having it.

3) Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits (PS2) - This is a shocker for me, because...well...I hated Arc the Lad. I found Arc the Lad 2 enjoyable, and interesting, and damned cool at times, but then Arc 3 came along and I went right back to hating the idiotic series. With a drought of console RPGs having swept in early 2003, there was little else to play to occupy my time. Wasn't I pleasantly surprised when this 3-D Strategy-based RPG took my attention and locked it down on the game for almost three day's straight. While the plot is nothing new or fantastic and the characters often suffer from "idiot syndrome," the lead characters and an honest handful of plot twists allow the fourth Arc game to be deserving of the "classic RPG-feel" status.

4) Castlevania - Aria of Sorrow (GBA) - Another "unconventional" RPG, the Castlevania series has boasted strong RPG-elements since Symphony of the Night, and therefore has been recognized as an RPG by various media. While the Castlevania series has never had its strongpoint lie in plot, Aria of Sorrow gives an honest shot to changing this. Ultimately it's...still less than even "good", but it keeps the game rolling along well enough that players can keep their focus on the nostalgic gameplay and unique Soul System, the skill/ability customizing factor of the game.

5) Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (PS2) - Hands down, this is the best Strategy RPG I've ever played. I'm not a huge fan of 100% Japanese Humor-based Storylines, and by no means was a fan of Disgaea's, but the attitudes of certain characters and their interactions were comical enough to let me laugh off my disinterest in what the game has to say and get back to what the game has to offer - a ridiculously deep battle system. Combo-attacks, chain attacks, environment interactions, throwing your own party members...I could go on and on. The only downfall to Disgaea is that the battle system is, well, every aspect of the game. The Dark Congress, the Item World...all are founded with battling. Suffice to say, it's still one of the most noteworthy titles this year.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Jak II (PS2)
2) Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (Multiplatform)
3) Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Multiplatform)
4) Worms 3-D (PC)
5) Castlevania: Lament of Innocence (PS2)

WooJin Lee's Top Picks

1) Tales of Symphonia (J-GCN) - Possibily Namco's best RPG these past couple of years, edging out even their excellent Tales of Destiny 2 (JP, not Eternia) that came out last year. The game's excellent graphics, music, and characters really sets this game apart from their previous offerings. While the "Tales" series is still embedded in the traditional "save the world" mold, Symphonia shows a lot of innovation and originality to make it a grade A game.

2) 2nd Super Robot Wars Alpha (J-PS2) - Another year, another SRW game. The inclusion of the squadron system makes the scale of the game very bigger this time around and the new animations are so much more fluid than the previous years. My only problem with the game is that there aren't enough original characters/mecha in the game this time around...

3) Slime Morimori Dragon Quest (J-GBA) - This is probably the surprise hit of the year. In a game that is in the vein of The Legend of Zelda, you play a blue slime in Slime Town who sets out in a quest to save the villagers that have been kidnapped by the evil Tail Gang. The battles are fun, the story is funny, there are lots of cute little slimes to rescue, and you can even help rebuild your town! What more can one want?

4) Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (J-PS2) - The only word that can describe this game is "SOLID." Star Ocean 3's story is nothing special nor are the characters unique, but the battle system is engaging and multi-ending hook makes the game a very...well, solid RPG experience. It probably won't win awards for originality, but it's a game that anyone in the mood for an RPG can pick up and enjoy.

5) Wild ARMs Alter Code: F (J-PS2) - Sure, it's a remake of a game that's almost as old as the PSX itself. Sure, the story and the characters are cliched. That doesn't stop the game from being fun! ...also, me having forgotten almost everything about the original game is a very big plus.

Non-RPG Top Picks
1) Dynasty Warriors 4+Expansion (PS2)
2) Mobile Suit Gundam: Titans VS AUEG (J-PS2)
3) Minna no Golf 4 (J-PS2)
4) Cross Channel (J-PS2)
5) Naruto-Narultimate Battle! (J-PS2)