Game: Final Fantasy VI
System: Super Famicom
Release date: 1994
Whenever I'm asked to name my all-time favorite RPG (admittedly, it doesn't happen often), I nearly without exception answer, "Final Fantasy V." Whenever I'm asked to name what I consider to be the best RPG ever made, though, I usually point to that game's sequel. (Sometimes I point to the seminal EarthBound instead.) There are a number of reasons for that, of course. One is that Final Fantasy VI features some of the best graphics seen in a Super Famicom game (something that can't be said about its still-quite-attractive predecessor). Another is that it features one of that system's best soundtracks, courtesy of the incomparable Nobuo Uematsu. Neither of those things would matter much to me, though, if the game's story and gameplay sucked. Thankfully, that's far from the case. In regards to the former, for instance, VI's gritty, steampunk-ish story is among the best of any Final Fantasy game. (Its kick-ass opera sequence is worth the price of admission alone, in my humble opinion.) Its gameplay--which centers on an "Active Time Battle" system that's an evolution of the one first introduced in Final Fantasy IV--is pretty great, too, although less revelatory than its story. Anyway, although I consider Final Fantasy VI to be the best RPG ever made (or at least the best one I've ever played), it isn't perfect. For starters, I find it to be less fun than its forebear--thanks in large part to the fact that the former lacks the crazy character customization that served as the foundation of the latter. Also, VI's second act drags a bit due to its open-endedness. Considering those two quibbles are the only ones I could come up with in regards to Final Fantasy VI, though, it should be clear that this is about as close to a quintessential RPG as you're likely to get.
See also: Previous 'Great Gaymathon' posts