JRPGs “Not RPGs” “Just Action Adventure Games”


The Japanese RPG is now being derided not only as an exercise in guiding a party of overwrought adolescents around a clichéd science-fantasy world, but also as a sham RPG “more akin to an adventure game.”

An editorial published on a western gaming site and quickly finding its way back to the Japanese Internet dissects the term “RPG,” finding that the Japanese version is now something quite different:

The purest of RPGs in computer gaming are titles such as Elite. You can role play as a trader, a pirate, a bounty hunter, a bastard, or whatever.

With the absence of a structured story or any real exposition, the player is invited to use their imagination and the game environment to make up and enact the player-directed narrative and continue it with their in-game decisions, which is continually reinforced and progressed by the game outputs. The player creates a part of the fiction themselves within the playground of the game world.

In the same vein, MMORPGS follow this concept. They grant a great deal of liberty to the player and allow them a lot of freedom over the control, appearance, actions and fiction of their avatar.

I think that most Western RPGs are correctly classified so, too. Planescape, Fable, Fallout and Mass Effect all adapt significantly to the inputs the player makes and subsequently create a tailored experience for each player based upon the actions they take.

There are some games that appear to offer everything that an RPG requires, such as Red Dead Redemption. You are granted relative freedom and can make John Marston be a hunter, a merchant, an asshole or a saint.

But ultimately, if you want to progress through the game and access new areas, you must engage in the main missions. Although there is a degree of superficial choice (and thusly “role play”) in these, you cannot really change anything of significance.

Players will interpret their characters differently from one another; much like readers will use their imagination to perceive a protagonist in a book, for example.

However, my version of John Marston, a shrewd, unforgiving and untrusting former outlaw is all well and good whilst I’m controlling things, but when the story, mission and cut scenes conspire to make John do things I would never want to do (be foolish enough to trust character X, when for me, John would never have fallen for such an overt trap), it ruins the whole point of the role-playing dynamic.

Therefore, Red Dead Redemption is definitely not a RPG; it’s something else.


Similarly, what many consider to be true RPG titles, like Final Fantasy, Skies of Arcadia and Dragon Quest do not adhere to this notion of what constitutes an RPG. Somehow over the past few decades, the term RPG is strongly associated with features such as turn-based combat, fantasy settings, inventory screens, upgrade trees, fighting parties and enemy stats.

Oddly, very few of these types of RPG (most commonly labeled as a JRPG) actually include the key role-playing features.

Cut scenes occur with no player input. Players have relatively little control over dialogue trees.The player merely exists to advance the inevitable progression of the character, and consequently each player will come away with a very similar experience. The game is therefore didactic in its presentation of the controllable character.

The Persona series is one of the few that bucks the trend, allowing the player to choose how they interact with characters, making those relationships an important part of the gameplay and story.


So basically JRPGs have been mislabeled and are, in essence, no different to the majority of action/adventure games in terms of form. It’s only the presentation that differs. Red Dead Redemption, Grand Theft Auto and BioShock all present a number of role-playing features, from choice-making and freedom to combat upgrades and visual customisation, yet all three are lacking in true role play.

There is no overall, coherent scope to unite these features together to allow the player to impose their own mind upon the character, to mold it into something personal to the player. Of course I’m not saying this is a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, and the cut scenes, stories and characters would not be as fantastic as they are without the careful dilution of the RPG elements.

Nevertheless, JRPGs follow this formula precisely. Although they offer role-playing opportunities on some levels, ultimately the story and form is too narrow and scripted for the games to be considered RPGs at all. Who better to summarize the argument than Daniel Erickson of the RPG experts, BioWare:

“You can put a ‘J’ in front of it, but it’s not an RPG. You don’t make any choices, you don’t create a character, you don’t live your character. I don’t know what those are – adventure games maybe? – but they’re not RPGs.”

Bioware have been amongst the most dismissive but a number of western developers now seem to think similarly, and even some Japanese are adopting the view – in this view, the increasingly unfashionable JRPG is nothing more than a rather hackneyed stat-based dungeon crawler.

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    Comment by Anonymous
    12:20 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Article is correct; fuck you weaboos and Japanese sycophants who argue otherwise. Old school games made by Japan might have been considered somewhat RPG-ish, but author is correct in that today's majority of games labele RPG, J or otherwise, are quite simply not. Note the author does not extend the RPG label to GTA, RDR, etc., because he's being fair.

    Also note the author isn't saying that this doesn't make it a bad game or not enjoyable. But they're not RPGs. You, the player, don't play a "role", you play a game and learn about someone else's role.

    Comment by Anonymous
    08:24 25/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Playing yourself isn't playing a role. Thats an oxymoron. The Elder Scrolls and Fable are NOT role-playing games for this very reason. Theyre more akin to sandbox adventures.

    To role-play means you play a role that's clearly defined. If you role-play as the pope, you don't have a choice whether or not you believe in god.
    D&D, the game most people would consider a "true" RPG, is actually a borderline RPG. The roles you play are framed within very generic alignments, nothing specific.

    Games of old wern't considered role-playing games because there was little to roles to play. Pong? Frogger? Jumpman(Mario)? You wern't really playing a role so much as you were playing a game trying to score points and pass a stage. Thats why RPGs of old were labeled RPGs. And thats why we need to get rid of the term RPG in todays world because the vast majority of what people would consider non-RPGs are actually RPGs.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:56 14/02/2011 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    If you are letting yourself be hindered by alignment then you are not good at roleplaying. Not every chaotic evil schmuck is out there to kill and destroy, not every paladins are self-righteous goody two shoes, not every wizards are good at spells, hell you may even be surprised that he can whack you with his sword anytime.

    If you allow written stat, alignment, and other miscellaneous things hinder you from what you want to roleplay, then well, you are not quite adept at it. :)

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:17 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    wry's the west being so tsundere?

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:01 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    nigga please! we all know the best rpg of all time is tetris.

    Avatar of Abel Liegod
    Comment by Abel Liegod
    12:11 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    That's what happens when you got nottin to do
    You discuss about JRPGs not being RPGs...

    Comment by Anonymous
    17:43 12/12/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    Wait... This isn't about rocket propelled grenades?

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:53 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    You know, back when I first got into RPG's and found out what it stood for, I thought the R at the beginning stood for "roll", as in rolling dice, rather than "role". I propose that alternate definition, as any classified RPG has at one point an RNG (random number generator for the newbies) built into it.

    And besides, all those games do let you fill a role as a character in a story. Manipulate no, but fill yes. Play the role, and if it's story driven consider it an RPG. Tell this bitchy critic to shove it.

    Avatar of MetalGearFlaccid
    Comment by MetalGearFlaccid
    14:46 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    That makes a lot of other games fit that description. You just opened a big can of worms that won't ever work out.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:59 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Can't we PLEASE stop arguing back and forth about this? I'm getting really tired of it!

    Comment by Anonymous
    18:46 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)


    We need a K-on! RPG with Datesim element for yuri godness!!

    Comment by Anonymous
    16:30 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I actually like Japanese Role playing games. That's what I've always played. I didn't even know of a western role playing game genre, until the topic was brought up on here.

    Avatar of raijinz
    Comment by raijinz
    17:17 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Wait, WHAT?
    Just kidding. He does have a point, although White Knight Chronicles does allow you to create your own character. They don't really participate much in the main story however...

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:36 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    >definitions and semantics

    Okay, whatever, "this isn't actually a 'role-playing' game" may be correct, but I don't see what difference it makes.

    "This isn't actually an FPS because technically you're not shooting" would get the same response: "Okay, so it's a first-person-whatever, big deal"

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:42 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    If all games from first person perspective would be called FPS you will put Morrowind on the same ground as Halo. Thats why they shoudnt call FFXIII RPG, because its clearly not anything like Fallout.

    Avatar of MetalGearFlaccid
    Comment by MetalGearFlaccid
    07:31 26/08/2010 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    Totally this comment right here. (Anon 23:42)

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:47 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Bioware is so nice. Back in the day western RPGs where dead, so baldurs gate came out, ripping of a lot of ideas of jRPG of that period.

    Without jRPG wRPG probably wouldn't even exist. Besides Biowares "Good" or "Bad" Joices are in a lot of newer jRPGs anyway. To summarize - Way of the Samurai is way more RPG than all you ever done, Bioware, so stfu!

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:01 14/02/2011 # ! Neutral (+0.2)

    And with no Dungeons and Dragons for JRPGS to rip-off, there will be no stats, treasures or adventures to watch. Oh joy.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:18 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    It's all semantics, like the "are games at?" debate.

    Avatar of Quack!
    Comment by Quack!
    10:19 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    While I'd agree that many JRPGs aren't strictly RPGs, so what? What does it matter what genre a game fits into? All that matters in the end is how much fun it is.

    And thank fuck I can get on SanCom now.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:20 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Good grief, why do some need to think to much on this, RPG is RPG. If there's a story, you qalk around, look for weapon, earn money, developed your characters, leveling up, it's a RPG, that all. For crying out loud, just play the game, no need for intense analysis.

    Avatar of Bronxdragon
    Comment by Bronxdragon
    10:21 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    They must get off bitching about this kinda like all the pirate crap about manga/anime. Honestly who gives a flying fuck.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:54 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    The people losing money. In the end it's all about the dollas to them.

    Comment by Anonymous
    09:33 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    For the game to be an RPG all that is necessary is the fact that YOU ARE NOT PLAYING YOURSELF BUT SOMEONE ELSE... Hence "Role Play". Meaning ALL games where are technically RPG

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:59 14/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    Then we can call call of duty modern warfare as an RPG. Oh wow, the fun.

    "Ramirez go get me a soda!!"

    Know the word "RPG" geez.

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:00 24/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Nah, at least adventure games are fun.

    Comment by Anonymous
    15:10 25/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Well after reading about half of the posts here I just really have one question to ask everyone. Is this even about what an "RPG" is or is this just about the difference between how America makes it's "RPG's" and how Japan does?
    Cause it seems to me that the argument has nothing to do with what an rpg it has more to do with where they came from. I mean it could just be me that sees this.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:23 26/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Its just people bitchin about how their games rock and other dont. Thats how i see it. RPG has nothing to do with it

    Comment by Anonymous
    14:43 25/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)


    Comment by Anonymous
    15:38 25/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    So-called western RPGs are fake RPGs to begin with.

    Considering the slander they do on JRPGs, they are showing they still fear them.

    Comment by Anonymous
    01:20 26/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Its a game, you play it, not fight over it. who fkin cares what or which is "true" RPG or "fake" RPG. instead of picking up useless arguments, these game devs are better off making newer and better games. Besides, what is the definition of RPG?? well it stands for role-playing-game and in it you should find the playing a certain role with a fixed story that the devs made up or just imagine your own role with your own created character. it doesnt matter which one is the true one cuz as far as im concerned, both types have some interest points, like: "oooh, i like playing FF cuz the story rocks" and "well, i like playing red dead redemption cuz i can do anything i want". the crowd wants to have nothing to do with their fights, why cant they see that?? it saddens me to see old grown ups fighting for some stupid reason just because of their ideals. dont you?

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:37 27/01/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    Its not "True or fake". This issue's take is about "miss-classification". The definition and concept of RPG have been established before video games were created, so yes, there's validity in this argument. Its like calling Super Puzzle Fighter a fighting game.

    Comment by Anonymous
    00:32 26/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    did they get all of thise from the fail ffxIII? if so those ppl need to try other games ff isnt the only rpg ff is failing.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:51 25/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    So... what makes this defination of RPG more correct then the 9001 anon's definitations of the term?

    Comment by Anonymous
    07:57 25/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    "The Persona series is one of the few that bucks the trend, allowing the player to choose how they interact with characters, making those relationships an important part of the gameplay and story."

    You mean the shitty multiple choice question test system where not picking the "right" choice basically breaks the relationship?

    If this was a real RPG, you would actually be able to play the game the way you want basically. Hell you would have been able to join Adachi in P4 and go on a shadow joy ride.

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:16 14/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    The hell you are so ignorant on the word "ROLEPLAY"

    Linear stories are "Stories", you are just watching it 'but' you are NOT affecting the flow of the story because the story is impossible to be changed or conformed on 'your' decisions or choices which in turn does not make it an RPG idiot.

    In a true RPG, choice is.. no must be everywhere in a story. Good choices and BAD choices. Not every hero will be tolerant of every ass hole move. Most villain has standards of being evil. Not every town will be happy of you saving their asses. Learn how to make a choice and learn what the word "RPG" means.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:25 25/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    All I got to say is....

    I don't really give a shit if JRPG is not exactly RPG, I play it for the characters, the humors and the adventures.

    The thing I love about RPG is really the adventure and characters, it's not because it's a RPG.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:46 14/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    Then do not call it an RPG, call it an action adventure game. Read a book about adventure or watch an adventure movie but saying that you are "role-playing in an JRPG is by definitely wrong.

    Hell, you are an audience watching a group of roleplayers playing a game. "YOU" are not part of the game.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:27 26/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Who the fuck cares what it's classified as? Just play the damn game you like.

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:41 28/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Japan cornered mindshare on the concept of what a VRPG is back in the days of the NES. PC game developers have been poopooing them all along.

    Now that consoles can hold their own against PCs, devs seem to realize that they have to do less work to port their games over and can start expanding their marketshare into console gaming. Except that having ignored consoles all along, they don't know how to develop games in that paradigm, nor do they want to learn.

    What better way to divert the JRPG fanbase than to start villifying their favorite games as passe? Puhleeze.

    Avatar of el
    Comment by el
    06:37 26/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Only thing I know that in this year Mass Effect 2 is epic win and FFXIII it's absolutely total fail for series fans. Square Enix is dead after Sakaguchi left.

    Comment by Anonymous
    06:18 26/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    I think the western developes just feel threatened by the jrpg because as good as they're doing the JRPG HAS A MASSIVE FAN FOLLOWING and they're just trying to get the world to veiw their classification of an rpg and the fact that yu're even trying to instill in the world the fact that this is an rpg nothing else is ...is pure bigotry in esense "role playing" can be taken as shifting from one roel to another a human to a lvl 56 elf lord or whatever all games really do let you do that they do give you the role of the lead character of a game mind you all of them don't give the freedom to develop that role but....its a role none the less

    The whole argument of this being an action adventure or this being an rpg makes no sense in essence what you really want to argue is game mechanics which brings it back down to what it really is a huge cock fight between developers that we as the consumers see fit to turn into a battle of opinion and rage and favourites because god know some of us just need a burning fire to throw oil onto just to feel alive ...Mass effect was an awesome game The entire shin megami tensei series are awesome games If I was to make a list of the top ten current rpgs they'd be filled with both western and jrpgs bioware and bethesda just need to be calm about their western sucees because you know why it could fall out from under them and to top it off you're not even the top selling game in the west that title belongs to infinity ward and the Modern warfare franchise and it'll take a lot more than some upturned nose remark to knock the Jrpg off its pedestal and even then it won't matter because fans are fans I,m a weeboo bastard fine then hate on my happiness while you grasp at dirt trying to silence my opinion

    P.S Hey Artefact How bout something else besides these fucking he said she saids about manga scantaltion v.s. authenthics and the jrpg versus the american rpg huh?

    Comment by Anonymous
    11:45 28/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    non-logged +

    Come to think of it, is their really even a pissing match going on here? What are Japanese developers responding with? Seems like they're too good to even bother with this shit.

    Comment by Anonymous
    10:37 26/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Can all of the people bashing on JRPGs so much just fuck off please? It is what it is. Now go play whatever video games you DON'T have a problem with.

    Comment by Anonymous
    04:35 14/02/2011 # ! Neutral (0)

    How can you expect these guys to act if you did not point out their flaws? One must say things if we want something new or if we want growth, for the better or for the worse.

    Just look at FPS and how many people said "I cannot crouch", "I cannot target", "I cannot run", "I cannot hear their footsteps", "the goddamn music sucks", "I cannot walk", "it is mindless", "it has no story", "etc etc derp derp derp.

    And look at it now.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:58 26/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    jesus christ, who the fuck cares...It's all just a bunch of geeks, nerds, and otakus bumping chest as to who is the most geeky, nerdiest, or the king of otaku.

    Comment by Anonymous
    05:26 27/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    We shouldn't argue amongst ourselves!! We must still fight those "Moral FAGS" who're trying to stop us from playing these great stuffs!!

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:50 25/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    Skies of Arcadia and Dragon Quest are still a lot more fun than any other game discussed in this article, RPG or not.

    Comment by Anonymous
    02:49 25/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    i dont really see a strong point in biowares points from past articles or this guys from this article. all they are trying to do is bash JRPGs for attention now that they have gotten on their high horse. ive played most of biowares, and bethesda(since they also bashed on a previous article) games and honestly i never really felt satisfied when playing or when i finished. just recently i finally tried to play dragon age, and after the first mission i stopped and gave it back to my roomate. the game was just not interesting enough for me, actually it was quite boring, the walk animation made it the worst for me, i was merely gliding on a fucking plane the whole time. same thing with oblivion, oh i got to create my character and skill him up how i wanted it, but there really wasnt much of a change or impact on the story my character had, it was still the generic thing, you be good, you kill bad, end of story. same thing with biowares DA or ME1-2 its the same deal, sure you get to kill off some characters here and there and you can chose what to say to people, but that shit gets boring fast. some times i just want to move ahead not having to choose between 2-6 lines of dialog of what i could saw every time my character has to talk. it gets old quick. with most JRPGs i have honestly had more fun playing cuz i dont have to bother with all that other random stuff, it lets me just get to the story of things. besides most RPGs from japan change many things. bioware, bethesda's games are already pretty much the same just different environment and worlds. they do that same things, and all this freedom they talk about going anywhere you want when you want, thats capped of by strong monsters (fallout3) so there really is only one way to go, i just end up getting lost thinking i can go somewhere else but the only way to progress the story is to keep going to point b, then c, and so on. at least most of the JRPGs dont feed you lies that you can go where you want, you have a clear objective of where to go next and thats just as fine. besides Bioware, Bethesda, should learn a lot from Demon's Souls. ill say thats more of an rpg than their games. you make your character, you level him up how you want, and any decision you take up against and npc is very critical, once you kill them they are dead until you either start a new game or do the new game+, the story you get from the world it self, i really loved that they did it that way, instead of putting me through an erroneous amount of dialog just to know what the fuck is going on. the world of Demon's souls is the story it self and you play in it, making your choices as you go along, and you always know where to go, but you do have the freedom to chose where to go next and what to do, even if its go through this boss first to get to the next, there is more freedom of choice there. you play the world, you choose who lives and who dies, and in the end you choose be good or be bad, thats more than enough. the freedom your granted in building your characters makes a big difference in how you play and how long you will be playing, mass effect, dragon age, or oblivion and fallout could not match it, they merely try to lie to you with all that other extra shit you can do or think you can do and they call it a day, just dont bullshit me and tell me that they are very different from each other when they are just the same. make meaningful changes dont fabricate useless lies. the thing i like most of bioware is there animation quality for CG, they are really good at that, very cinema oriented but aside from a few character designs or character development, they have few that they have done right.
    all in all, just play the fucking game that you want and call it a day, and to bioware and bethesda GET OFF YOUR HIGH FUCKING HORSE!!

    Avatar of InB4Haruhi
    Comment by InB4Haruhi
    03:19 25/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    People, it's Japan... since when did they keep with the norms?

    Comment by Anonymous
    03:31 25/08/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    So, Metal Max is a RPG for the overseas?

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