This is a no contest, really. I played through Chrono Trigger earlier this year and even though I beaten the game dozens of times, it still felt so fresh and fun. I love this game. While there have been games in the nearly twenty years since this game was released that have done specific things better, there is no game that combines all the things great about Chrono Trigger that comes close to matching it.
It has one of the best casts of playable characters. Sure, Crono and Marle may be nothing unique, though they have the personality to rise above their generic roots. The others are fairly unique. Lucca is some kind of mad genius who is also Crono’s best friend. Frog is the stereotypical knight that just happens to be a frog. Robo and Ayla are strongarms from another time. Ayla is especially interesting, a prehistoric leader who just happens to be a woman. They are just a fun group to be with and there are so many optional moments in the game to flesh them out. It is a well developed cast.
There is also the audio and visual excellence. The soundtrack is one of the best. While it isn’t Mitsuda’s usual style, at least the one he would develop later with strong Celtic influences, it is just about as good of a straight RPG soundtrack as there is. It is Mitsuda doing his best Uematsu impersonation and it works. The graphics are some of the best on the SNES. They are just so vibrant and colorful and detailed. I am not the biggest fan of Akira Toriyama, but his designs really work in this game.
This is the game I bought my SNES for. I played it at a friend’s house and fell in love with it. I had to have it. Even having to pay about $70 for it did not deter me. I saved money for months to get both the SNES and Chrono Trigger. When I finally got them both, they more than lived up to my expectations. Chrono Trigger was the first RPG is actually beat. Thanks to its New Game +, I proceeded to beat it several more times right in a row. I am not one to obsessively tear apart a game; I am more of a tourist. I play them, see the sights and as soon as the game can be called beaten I put it away for the next game. Chrono Trigger kept me playing until I knew all of its secrets. Playing it on the DS, when I hadn’t played it in several years, I still knew the whole game perfectly. All the tricks like examining sealed chests in the past before opening them in the present, or what bosses need elemental absorbing armors to make completely useless. Very few are the games the keep my attention like that, mostly just the top 5 of this list, and none kept me enthralled like Chrono Trigger.
I’m not sure I can say that no game is better than Chrono Trigger. It is 18 years old and there have been undeniable technical improvements since then. Also, it is an RPG, which is my bread and butter but they are definitely not for everybody. Still, it is definitely my favorite game.