Top 12 Best Phantasy Star Games Of All Time (Ranked)

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Developed by SEGA with the involvement of Sonic Team, the first Phantasy Star released in the late ‘80s shocked the world of RPGs with its colorful graphics, complex battle system, and fleshed-out narrative.

The series is a definite favorite of those fortunate souls who grew up with SEGA consoles such as the Master System and Sega Genesis.

And despite not being nearly as talked about nowadays, it’s one of the franchises that shaped the RPG industry as we know it today.

After seeing immense changes over the years, the series has become more focused on online gaming, with the large-scale MMO Phantasy Star Online 2 released in the west in 2020.

To remember the original sprite-based adventures and get fans hyped to enter the world of PSO2, I’ve decided to rank the best games in the franchise, including every game released for Western markets.

12. Phantasy Star Online III: C.A.R.D. Revolution (2003)

Phantasy Star Online III: C.A.R.D. Revolution (2003) Playthrough

I’ll be straight with you – I don’t like always-online games for consoles, especially those as old as the GameCube, which had no native online functionality.

Not only will the player population always be lacking, but you have to get yourself cumbersome peripherals and, overall, the experience is anything but polished.

PSOIII doesn’t only suffer from these limitations, but its gameplay is an excessively-experimental card-based game that broke with everything we knew about the series.

I can only imagine how much frustration this game must have caused to uninformed buyers over the years. Certainly better titles to try in my humble opinion. Next!

11. Phantasy Star Online I & II (2002)

Phantasy Star Online I & II (2002) Nintendo Gamecube

While vastly superior to PSOIII, the original two episodes of Phantasy Star Online still suffer from the same always-online limitations.

This GameCube and Xbox release serves as a sort of expansion pack to the original PSO, featuring new monsters and quests in an entirely new Episode II, along with the original content, now called Episode I.

Among the things this version did best was supporting split-screen multiplayer, allowing your friends to hack’n’slash online along with you from a single console.

10. Phantasy Star 0 (2009)

Phantasy Star 0 (2009) Nintendo DS

Phantasy Star 0 on the NDS has surprisingly similar gameplay and combat to PSO despite the limited button layout, but with arguably prettier graphics even on a portable console.

It also features a sufficient single-player campaign that can be experienced from different perspectives depending on the race of your character.

Definitely one of the best action RPGs in the entire NDS roster.

Worth a playthrough for sure.

9. Phantasy Star Universe (2006)

Phantasy Star Universe (2006) Xbox 360 Longplay

Even though it’s meant to be played online, PSU on the PS2 and XBOX360 also features a robust single-player campaign with a fully-realized story.

And it was the first online Phantasy Star title to do so.

On the 100th anniversary of a peace treaty signed between three planets, an apparent meteor shower heralds the arrival of the SEED, an invasive species of alien monsters. It’s up to you to stop them.

The gameplay is mostly the usual PSO fare with a few tweaks.

In fact, the game feels like a graphically upgraded PSO, now with single-player appeal.

8. Phantasy Star Universe: Ambition of the Illuminus (2007)

Phantasy Star Universe: Ambition of the Illuminus (2007) Gameplay

Ambition of the Illuminus is a criminally underrated expansion to the original PSU.

Not only are the graphics crisp and the story considerably more interesting, but it features some killer pre-rendered cutscenes and a ton of new content.

If anything, the developers were mistaken pouring their work into an already limping horse, but if you get the Xbox 360 version of PSU – which lets you download Ambition of the Illuminus for free – you won’t be disappointed.

7. Phantasy Star Online 2 (2012/2020)

Phantasy Star Online 2 (2012/2020) Level 80 Gameplay

Despite being an eight-year-old game, PSO2 is only just getting a worldwide release outside of Japan sometime in 2020.

That said, you don’t have to worry about outdated graphics or content.

As this MMORPG is very successful in the Land of the Rising Sun, and developers have been updating it year after year.

The plot centers around Oracle, a spacefaring organization using special technology to colonize the far-off reaches of the universe.

It’s hailed by many Japanese as the best Phantasy Star experience to date.

But most of us will have to play it for ourselves and decide.

6. Phantasy Star II (1989)

Phantasy Star II (1989) Mega Drive Longplay

The original series’ second installment was released for the Sega Genesis a year after the original came out, featuring massively updated graphics and sound enabled by the hardware’s jump from 8bit to 16bit.

The game follows Rolf, a government agent-turned-rebel to destroy terraforming AI Mother Brain.

This brain has been malfunctioning for a while due to the influence of Dark Force, the first game’s villain from 1,000 years before. Crazy right?

This deep and engaging storyline was one of the game’s many draws.

PSII is far from perfect, as the maze-like dungeons and the introduction of backtracking make the game feel more grindy than its predecessor. But it’s absolutely a fun game and perfect for those with nostalgic memories.

5. Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom (1991)

Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom (1991) Mega Drive Longplay

The third installment in the original series was a bit of a departure from the heavy sci-fi aesthetic of the first two games – at least at the beginning of the story.

You see, the game is set in what seems like medieval times… except they aren’t.

But that’s a plot-twist I don’t really want to spoil for you.

One of the game’s most amazing points is that the story spans three generations of characters.

And you get to influence who the next protagonist will be by choosing who you’re going to marry each time.

That, along with the detailed spritework and stellar combat made it accrue both critical acclaim and lots of love from fans.

4. Phantasy Star Portable (2009)

Phantasy Star Portable (2009) PSP Gameplay

Despite not having the word “Universe” anywhere in its name, Phantasy Star Portable is actually the third installment in the Universe saga and the direct sequel to Ambitions of the Illuminus.

After the terrorist threat from the Illuminus has been dealt with, a re-emergence of the SEED plunge the world into chaos once more.

And it’s up to the android Vivienne and the player character to solve it.

Gameplay features a more polished version of PSU’s combat, and the game has quite honestly better-looking graphics thanks to the developers making smart use of the PSP’s hardware, which also allowed the game to support up to 4-players in Co-Op.

3. Phantasy Star Portable II (2010)

Phantasy Star Portable II (2010) Gameplay

The game’s quality only improved with the release of PSPII, the fourth installment in the Universe saga.

Now with more experience working the PSP’s architecture, developers delivered even better graphics, with beautiful textures and effects.

It continues to play like a charm and it’s longer and more challenging than its prequel.

If you have the time I’d recommend playing these games back-to-back.

2. Phantasy Star (1988)

Phantasy Star (1988) Gameplay

Despite the franchise going down the dark yet profitable path of MMO gameplay, Phantasy Star started out in the ‘80s as a groundbreaking RPG franchise standing beside other giants like Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger.

It served as an introduction to the planets, races, and lore of the series, all delivered through the story of Alis Landale.

She’s a woman seeking revenge after her sister was killed by a corrupt monarchy.

Every character in the party has a defined personality and fully fleshed-out backstory, which was amazing for the time’s standards.

If you make the sound decision of playing it, I recommend the enhanced Phantasy Star Generation 1 for the PS2.

1. Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium (1995)

Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium (1995) Nintendo Playthrough

Coming out late into the Sega Genesis’ lifespan, Phantasy Star IV was overlooked by most critics and users, which prevented it from achieving the success it deserved.

Not only did it feature many more side-quests and game features than its predecessors, but the sprites were simply superb and the soundtrack even more-so.

Story-wise, it finally concludes the original saga. As the main cast deals with the dangers of a world in turmoil 1,000 years after the destruction of Mother Brain, and endeavor to finally defeat the Dark Force once and for all.

It was also the first in the series to feature in-depth interactions between the members of your party.

Nowadays it’s regarded as one of the best entries in the franchise and has a solid case for the title of best 16bit RPG.

And I think it deserves this spot in my list for exactly this reason.

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Nelson Chitty

Nelson Chitty is a Venezuelan expat living in Argentina. He’s a writer and translator passionate about history and foreign cultures. His ideal weekend is spent between leisurely games of Civilization VI and looking for the next seinen anime to marathon.