Best Xenosaga Games: Ranking All The Main TitlesThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
If you’ve been into RPGs for a while then you know about the Xenosaga games.
Tetsuya Takahashi has a thing for dark and depressing storylines. In fact, his Final Fantasy proposal was considered so dark and complicated that it was rejected and he was forced to just make another title, Xenogears.
Because he felt like Squaresoft was never going to shift their focus from Final Fantasy he decided to leave and do the only appropriate thing: create his own game company where he could do whatever he wanted.
At Monolith Soft he got his creative freedom to make his deep games.
Although it’s not directly related to Xenogears, Xenosaga was the true spiritual successor.
The RPG series follows the story of a group of characters as they fight for the safety of the planet. With antagonists consisting of both the Gnosis (a hostile alien race) and a group of humans trying to get control of Zohar (an ancient artifact connected to godlike powers), it’s the perfect game for any sci-fi RPG fans out there.
Although the Xenosaga series may not be the most well known in history, the titles have quite a fan base and main installments were commercially successful.
For this ranking I just want to focus on the main Xenosaga titles and will avoid any other Monolith games with similar titles(Sorry Shulk!).
5. Xenosaga: Pied Piper
I am a little biased here because I am not a fan of mobile games. Sorry if I come across a little harsh on this one.
Like the DS installment, this game was only released in Japan. Specifically for Vodafone phones which are no longer in production.
Like every other Japanese-exclusive title, you can find fan-translated scripts to read or watch a video of someone playing it to completion.
Players follow the story of a key character in the trilogy (cyborg Ziggurat 8).
It takes place a whole century before the first title and is meant as a prequel-spinoff. Those always work out great.
Content-wise the game had to undergo a lot of adjustments to be brought to the phone screen. Obviously we cannot expect the same quality from a phone and a gaming system.
Considering the limitations of mobile gaming, it is still a good game that retains the atmosphere of the other installments. The gameplay had to be altered a bit in terms of complexity but it was still engaging overall.
The graphics weren’t awful either. It could act as a standalone title, but it is more satisfying to watch if you are already familiar with the general storyline.
4. Xenosaga 1 & 2
There isn’t so much adherently different about this set, as it’s just a remake that had been changed up a bit to be playable on the Nintendo DS.
Sadly, this title is exclusive to Japan and never made an official release to North America or Europe.
It was Monolith Soft’s first portable title and was created after the success of the animation.
There are a lot of pros and cons on the topic of releasing games for a portable console like the DS. Although the Nintendo Switch has really revolutionized the quality we should expect, portable consoles never reached modern levels of graphics.
But that didn’t stop this game from getting some great reviews.
This new installment came with totally redone artwork and a few extra mechanics.
However, this game was still not that different enough from the original and was not released long enough after to be that big of a deal.
It really didn’t add anything special from the series that made it worth it. Most fans of the original game seemed to not be enticed enough to purchase the new edition of the classic game.
Although the game received rather good reviews from critics overall, it wasn’t much of a commercial success. The lack of sales likely contributed to why this version was never released outside of Japan.
3. Xenosaga Episode II: Jenseits von Gut und Bose
I would not call any of the main storylines bad.
But the third and first installment just felt stronger.
As with most trilogies: the first is in charge of introduction, the second deepening the story, and the third wraps things up.
Following this template, the second one felt a little slower.
It still had a great storyline and enjoyable gameplay but those cutscenes felt more drawn out.
Despite this it was a lot shorter than the original Xenosaga and didn’t have as much character advancement as I would have liked to see.
Still, it has crucial parts of the story (namely the development of the artifact storyline).
If nothing else this title did boast advanced graphics which upgraded the game from the outdated anime look to graphics with more realistic proportions.
Although it may not be the best, it is still a solid game. You know a series is going to be awesome when it starts needing more than one disc!
2. Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra
From the beginning, the Xenosaga series had a planned out ending.
Although the final product was cut down to a trilogy from six installments, I think the ending was executed well and wasn’t too rushed.
The two titles before it ended with a lot of questions that set the scene for a final, satisfying installment that would finally end on a note of closure.
The ending still technically leaves a little wiggle room for mysteries and further continuations. But it was overall an adequate and well planned ending that finished the story in a way that felt… completed.
This title had more cynical undertones than the other two, but that only made the storyline more enjoyable.
Without any spoilers, it is satisfying seeing all of the characters you shared on this journey really earn their peace. Even if the underlying theme is redemption, not every character meets a happy end.
If you haven’t played through Episode III yet then this is something you will have to find out for yourself.
1. Xenosaga Episode I: Der Wille zur Macht
The first installment of a series is often regarded as the best from fans who were around to play it right from the start.
And Xenosaga is no exception.
This game was responsible for introducing hundreds of thousands of people to this strange and dangerous new world.
Like other RPGs of the time, it mixes in a lot of direct gameplay with a few hours of cutscenes.
Although some people found the number of cutscenes rather excessive, most people played the game for the storyline rather than the actual game itself.
The colorful cast of characters and enticing plot drew people in. The gameplay itself isn’t revolutionary, but it’s a formula that worked.
Having to monitor vulnerabilities, learn abilities, and watch out status effects kept battles from being too easy or boring.
The graphics were great for its time and the character designs made for a cast that was distinct from other games and aesthetically pleasing.
I mean let’s face it, who could hate M.O.M.O.
Of course, cutscenes were not comparable to today. Lips didn’t always sync up but it was the early 2000s, so you can’t expect a PS4 level execution.
Depending on what kind of gamer you are you may get more from the series from watching the anime first. Although you will end up with a lot of spoilers for the game.
As a series overall, Xenosaga is amazing.
Although it’s been out for a long time it still sports an impressive following of dedicated fans who continue to enjoy the games to this day.
Sadly, despite outcry from fans, the series has yet to see a remake or HD version. But with so many other games getting the HD treatment I haven’t lost hope. Fingers crossed!