Persona 3 and Persona 4. This Troper, normally impatient with RPGs, finds the plots, systems, characters (oh dear lord the characters), music, presentation, the entire package something that cannot be missed. Even though my religion finds everything about Shin Megami Tensei objectionable and my sensibilities rage at the difficulty being unreasonable (Two hour long final boss fights? Forget it), I can't turn away.
I can't think of any other series that allows you to have Metatron, Shiva, Amaterasu and Cu Chulainn in one big party of kickassery.
The most awesome characters ever like Aigis, Akihiko and Junpei, and damn, everyone is awesome after awhile. Most social links have downright heartwarming and redeemable backstories, like fascist dictator disciplanary man or elementary school kid Maiko. Hell, there are places where the game lags...that combat system is atrocious and the personas look like they fell straight off the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. The boss battles are awful. I hate the use of Japanese suffixes in an English localization. But then there are moments like September 23rd when you take Shinjiro out to the Film Festival and it warms your heart that you guys just bro'd out and watched 2 hours of Little Pet Adventures. I can't say enough good things about this game. The characterization and overall feeling of immersion makes this one of the best RPGs ever.
Persona 4 is such a happy game that the theme color is yellow. Like all of Shin Megami Tensei it has a ridiculously complex storyline but it manages to accomplish this without the usual "emo" mood. You will get so attatched to every character playing this game that you will want so badly either to live in their world or for them to be real just so you can be friends and hang out with them. Besides all the supernatural/heroic stuff, there are so many fun slice of life stories about you and your friends' adventures in ordinary life; cooking competitions, camping trips, shopping, and field trips. As mentioned above, it really feels like you are in the game.
It is also really nice to see that in a market where many games, RPGs or otherwise, try to be 'edgy' by trying to tackle big topics like religion, race, and all that. And while there are some games that pull this off well, alot of them don't know how to tackle in any meaningful way.. Persona 4 and the other Persona games by extension, has it's issues and conflicts small yet meaningful, the interpersonal relationships, the troubles each of your social links face, the Character Development, heck, even just the main cast stressing about the next test in school is pretty refreshing. And near the end, when it does tackle bigger issues, mainly the truth and "do not lie to yourself", it pulls it off excellently.
Persona 4 is the only RPG that this troper is willing to replay. The game has challenging though fair gameplay, a quirky storyline, and 3-dimensional characters that you will fall in love with by the end of the game. However, it's the way the game handled it's theme of truth that left this troper awestruck. The gameplay constantly pushes the player to find this truth whether it be through completing social links, solving the murder case, or obtaining the True Ending. It's one of the few games that actually uses game mechanics to explore its themes which makes it in this troper's opinion nothing short of a masterpiece. If this troper ever has any children, she will make sure that they play this game. Atlus, thank you so much for this wonderful experience...
...And then there's Teddie.
Persona 2 is somewhat different in comparison with later Persona titles: Social links are nonexistent, the whole team thing works in a smaller scale, and yet you can't help but feel the same awe and wonder as Tatsuya and co. as they march for the truth, when they first summon their personae, and everyone has their great moments. Even Those Wacky Nazis, Nyarlathotep, the Quirky Miniboss Squads...
The whole series, both Shin Megami Tensei and Persona, are made twice as awesome with the intricate attention to detail Atlus gets for each game and make it awesome. And Kazuma Kaneko, Atlus' master artist, gets bonus points for having drawn and brought to life so many mythologies and pantheons with such care and details for years.
Devil Survivor, a relatively new spinoff, has some weird mechanics, but the result is par for the course for Atlus: they never settle for anything but the best.
This Troper has got to say his favorite game in the series is Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne. The soundtrack, if a little low in sound quality, is beautiful, the gameplay, YMMV on this on, is sublime, and the game completely averts the Morality ranking in place of choosing simply what you believe is right. The boss fights are suitably tough, and the designs of the Demons are just amazing. And back on the soundtrack for a minute, Just listen to this.
Trauma Center deserves a spot on here. It's definitely a unique experience... instead of killing people left and right, you save them. Plus, Derek is adorable.
This troper has played Catherine and swore to never remove it from his collection. The gameplay, albeit hard, was fun, the story kept me on the edges, the characters were fun and three dimentional and the voice acting was top notch. He never had fun with other games since this one and after a summer of disapointment (Duke Nukem Forever), he didn't regret his choice to buy it.
Etrian Odyssey. This game made me realize something. What a game seeks to achieve is immersion. Its ultimate goal is to suck you into the world. And while a lot of games can do it with engrossing, sprawling plots with a healthy dose of gorgeous cutscenes, and it does work, this game manages to do it with just one thing: the feeling of exploration, of adventure. It's all about the experience and not the destination with this game. You don't feel compelled to grind and hurry through everything to advance the plot, but you are absolutely captivated and motivated to explore each and every cranny, just from the sense of adventure it gives you. And it's a lot of people's complaint about the game, about it having no plot, but firstly, that's not true. It comes in late in the game, when you don't even expect a story. It's simple, but very effective. It heigtens the sense of mystery and exploration in the labyrinth, and that is what the experience is all about, not a Let's Save the World kind of plotline. One last thing, it has made me notice the importance of difficulty regulation. Although it slips up towards the end, the merciless difficulty in the first and second strata is so carefully and deliberately callibrated. It is a Crowning Moment Of Awesome when you meet the Rapelope and get your ass handed to you so hard. You sit there shell-shocked, before slowly realizing: this is going to be AWESOME.
Seconded. This troper bought the game for the very fact she could spend time simply exploring without the plot determining a specific path. For her, the necessity of accurate map-making (not even kidding) was only more of a bonus for the sense of exploration and satisfaction Has yet to finish the final levels (and the main game took months), but will do so no matter how many times her party falls through the floor of B27F....
Robopon. A Mons series with robots that manages to be highly entertaining and playable. I still love my good ol' Golden Sunny from the first game. And it had an awesome villain in Dr. Zero!