The release of Bravely Default on the 3DS set us into a new era of JRPG. It was a perfectly packaged throwback to what made the genre great to begin with while also subverting systems in the genre enough to make it palatable to a modern audience. It also set the stage for a new strand of games by Square Enix that all feel spiritually attached to each other, even if the connections get rather tenuous at times.
I hate doing lists in ascending order because I feel like it’s just to tease out your total page viewtime, so I’m doing this list in order of best to worst.
1. Octopath Traveler
Dang right out the gate I’m kicking the legs out from under Bravely Default by having Octopath Traveler at the top of the list. While Octopath may not be my favourite game on this list it’s music is absolutely killer, and almost infinitely replayable. Where sometimes Bravely Default goes way too hard, Octopath is more willing to chill out with you and take you for a good ride through a fantasy landscape.
Octopath also laid the groundwork for what Square Enix is marketing as HD-2D, which is another branch tying these games together. The style itself is being spun off into other remakes of older titles such as the long awaited Dragon Quest 3 and Live A Live. Next month we’ve also got the second Octopath game to look forward to! I won’t be picking it up till I’ve finished the first game… One day.
2. Bravely Default
Bravely Default has so many great themes it’s a crime that most of the time we’re only hearing them out of little 3DS speakers or earbuds. They’re epic, full of energy, and even the theme that plays while you have the game paused in the menu has a beautiful hook. Music was primarily composed by REVO I believe, who’s arrangements can go from delicate to thrashing in no time flat.
3. Various Daylife
Various Daylife has slipped under pretty much everyone’s radar, and was the inspiration to make this post, because I really just needed an excuse to share it with you. The game itself had middling reviews, making it the least loved games in this collection. This isn’t helped by the fact it was released as an iOS exclusive for the Apple Arcade. So I hope all 5 people who have a subscription for that got to enjoy this game. Anyway, the music rules on this particular mix which has hardly even broken 4k listens is a great collection. If you needed one new recommendation of something to listen to, make it this one.
Note: I started this post long before there was news of it getting a steam release. So if you’re interested, you can grab it here. Beware mixed reviews.
4. Bravely Default 2
I was hoping for more original motifes in Bravely Default 2 which is confusingly the third game (if you don’t count spinoffs). What I got was what felt like garbled remixes of the original. This was the opinion I had formed upon my first listen of it’s music at least. The game pales in comparison to the original, but the music is actually pretty dang good, and the battle theme pumps just as hard as the map screen music chills.
5. Bravely Second End Layer
I don’t believe the Bravely Default series has the ability currently to match the high bar set by the first game, and End Layer was the first example of such. The game itself introduced some cool elements here and there I enjoyed as a fan, overall it felt more like an expansion pack that just generally shitted on the tone of the original. The music suffered as well, never quite living up to the hit after hit of the original. In my personal opinion at least, I know there are plenty who disagree, and more power to them.
6. Triangle Strategy
Triangle Strategy is a ridiculously great game, in fact, it may even be my most highly recommended title, as it’s more easily accessible than the original Bravely Default. It has an incredibly good story that makes every decision you make have weight. It has a free demo on the Switch, and if you buy it on anything I’d recommend the switch. Being confined to a desk to play a TRPG is hell. Way better to take a long battle with you out to the couch in the sun or cozy in bed. With that said, the music here doesn’t hold a candle to any other game on this list. So unfortunately it’s tucked away here at the back.