Best Ys Games: Ranking Every Title In The SeriesThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
There was a time when action role-playing games were pretty much impossible.
Gaming devices of the late 80s couldn’t handle RPG complexity in real-time without exploding. One developer, however, stood up to the challenge, managing to make a full-fledged action RPG without sacrificing fast-paced combat, exotic locations, and big bosses.
This developer was Nihon Falcom. The game that made history is Ys: Ancient Ys Vanished.
The original Ys was unlike any other released in the late 80s. Completely doing away with turn-based battle systems, the game relied on an extremely simple battle system. Anyone could adapt.
While absurd in hindsight, the system worked so well that an entire series was born from the simple first iteration.
And it’s a series that continues to evolve to this day, while remaining faithful to its exciting adventuring roots.
13. Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (1989)
Adol Christin is good at a couple things.
Getting into trouble. Saving the world. And changing the rules of the game!
Ys III: Wanderers from Ys sees the introduction of one of the series’ main character. Plus Adol’s tireless friend Dogi, and a story that again involves defeating a great evil that’s threatening the world.
I do admit the story isn’t particularly original.
But Wanderers from Ys makes up for it with innovation, as the gameplay does away with the top-down camera view of its predecessors. Now we get a side view camera, reminiscent of platformer games of the era.
This gives a slower yet more methodical combat system.
The experiment was bold. But it was not particularly successful due to controls and physics, so it was up to the amazing remake to let the world know how Adol defeated the mighty Galbalan and saved the world for the second time in his career.
12. Ys I: Ancient Ys Vanished (1987)
The first entry in the Ys series is among the most influential role-playing games ever made.
But it did not age particularly well.
Controlling the young and (still untested) Adol Christin, you explore the land of Esteria.
Along the way you’ll be picking up the six Books of Ys to prevent an ancient evil from destroying the land by literally bumping into it. Or however the tale goes.
The simple combat system does have its intricacies, but the wonky hit detection will soon have you forgetting about them, and instead making you go full throttle into every batt.e
There is a lot to love as you explore beautiful plains and dank dungeons.
And hey, at least grinding id painless!
11. Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter (1988)
Did you think that bumping evil in the first Ys was enough to save the world? Think again.
Ys II: Ancient Ys Vanished – The Final Chapter is the direct continuation of its predecessor.
Having found the six Books of Ys, Adol finally reaches the fabled floating island to find a way to finally save Esteria.
The bump combat system makes its glorious return, with a brand new magic system that adds a little more of variety to the experience.
Plus it offers some well-needed depth for boss battles. This keeps things interesting as they cannot be damaged by regular bump attacks. Go figure.
Being almost identical to the first game, Ys II hasn’t aged well at all. So look to the much better remakes if you want to rock out to the amazing soundtrack without having to deal with frustrations from the originals.
10. Ys I & II Chronicles (1989)
When a tale becomes a legend, it deserves to be chronicled properly.
Ys I & II Chronicles is, by all accounts, a very strange remake.
While graphics have been touched up considerably, gameplay has not.
So the bump fighting system is present in its most archaic of forms, potentially putting off many players that jumped into the collection after completing Ys VI and Oath in Felghana.
Ys I & II Chronicles asks a lot of patience from you. And doesn’t really reward it properly, at least I think most people would feel that way.
But it’s still a step above the original releases, if only for the amazing remastered soundtrack.
9. Ys IV: Mask of the Sun (1993)
Sometimes, they come back. Get ready to bump enemies once again.
Ys IV: Mask of the Sun is a return to the glorious days bumping into enemies seen in the first two entries.
In Mask of the Sun, however, the system is way less forgiving. So you will have to position yourself correctly if you want to avoid being forever lost in the land of Celceta.
The Magic system of Ys II also comes back, but it’s way less effective than before.
Pretty much like the entire game: while not extremely flawed, it’s the worse version of Ys IV ever released.
And I’m not talking about ports, but completely different takes on the same story and setting. Talk about confusing!
8. Ys V: Lost Kefin, Kingdom of the Sand (1995)
Even the most revolutionary series try to do something more traditional every once in a while.
If only to show that they can do it well.
Ys V: Lost Kefin, Kingdom of the Sand is the only entry in the series that hasn’t been officially released in English. But ROM hacks exist, so fear not.
The story? Well you’re traveling to the desert city of Kefin, a destroyed-but-not-really ancient city.
Adol Christin must (once again) fight a great evil to save the world.
And he’ll do by finally being able to swing his sword in a top-down view. And use the shield for protection, and unleash elemental spells that can be combined for maximum destruction.
It feels more like a Zelda clone that a true Ys game.
Lost Kefin has often been seen as a step back for the entire series. But is it though? Well if you can play a translated version not really. While it is difficult to shake the been-here-done-that feeling, it’s a solid enough game that all fans of the series would enjoy.
7. Ys IV: Dawn of Ys (1993)
Ys IV: Dawn of Ys is truly the dawn of a new era for the series.
Ys IV is so much better than Mask of the Sun it’s not even funny.
The bump fighting system has been exponentially improved by allowing Adol to move in 8 directions. The magic system now features long range spells that add a little bit of variety.
And the pacing of the game is so fast that you won’t have the chance to catch your breath until the end of Adol’s adventure in Celceta.
The story, while flying too close to Ys I and II territory, is also much better than in Mask of the Sun. It’s presented in beautiful anime cutscenes, all made possible by the power of the PC Engine console.
Maybe not so powerful by today’s standards, but you know how it goes with retro gaming.
6. Ys SEVEN (2009)
Ys SEVEN changed the rules of the entire series in such a remarkable way, that modern entries are still based on it.
How many times does this world need saving, I wonder?
Many times, apparently. But at least Adol and Dogi’s journey in Altago makes it feel fresher than ever.
Appearing for the first time is the party system, which allows you to control different characters coming with their own unique attack properties and special movesets.
This party mechanic makes battles more intense and flashier than ever before.
And if you think you’re a master of action games, try mastering the Flash Guard mechanic. Then show these massive bosses that like Hammer says, they can’t touch this.
5. Ys VI: The Ark of Napishtim (2003)
Ah, the Bermuda Triangle. I mean, Vortex of Canaan?
Well here we’re seeing ships and old gameplay mechanics disappear, never to be seen again.
Adol’s adventure in Canaan marks a complete departure from the classic gameplay of the series.
Gone are the bump combat formulas and the Zelda-inspired cameras of Ys V.
Instead we’re welcoming a new fast-paced system that sees Adol swing three different swords, all coming complete with different attack types and spells.
The ability to jump in this title introduces some verticality to world design. As well as unwelcome pesky flying enemies that are so annoying to take down without using spells. But it’s all in good fun.
Spoiler: use the Fire spell to cook them just right!
4. Ys Origins (2006)
An Ys game without Adol Christin? Preposterous!
Set 700 years before the first game, Ys Origins is the first and only game to not feature Adol as the main character.
You won’t miss him too much though. As Yunica and Hugo more than make up for his absence, with their melee and magic focus fighting styles that keep enemy fights pretty fresh.
And here you’re off to save two goddesses in distress, a classic RPG if I’ve ever seen one.
The level design is beautiful. It plays on the unique traits of the characters which is unique.
Not to mention the overall tightness of the experience feels great. It wastes no time in getting players into the thick of the action, make for an engaging, forward-thinking prologue story.
Time paradoxes, anyone?
3. Ys: Memories of Celceta (2012)
Ys IV again?!
Yeah, but this one is pretty good I assure you!
Ys: Memories of Celceta is the third take of Adol’s adventures in the land of Celceta.
So it shouldn’t surprise you to see familiar twists spiced up with some new story developments.
What should surprise you is how gameplay has evolved.
Taking a page from the Ys SEVEN book, Memories of Celceta features an evolution of the party system seen in that game. This means a varied playable cast, an improved Flash Guard system for when you feel the rewards outweigh the risks, plus improved dungeon designs with simple yet fun puzzles.
And no platforming whatsoever. Thank the gods.
With so many new features here, Ys: Memories of Celceta could have been the best Ys remake ever made, if it wasn’t for…
2. Ys: Oath in Felghana (2005)
A remarkable action RPG in its own right, and the best example of how to turn a mediocre game into the best thing ever.
Oath in Felghana expands the story of the original Ys III. But it keeps most of the plot points intact, combined with an enhanced version of the Ark of Napishtim combat system.
So you know what to expect, right?
Intense fights against fast mobs and uber-powerful bosses. Plus multiple magic spells to upgrade, platforming sequences, many dungeons to explore, and a world to save once again.
Oath in Felghana is not all that different from the sixth entry in the series.
But the tight controller mechanics make for the best “classic” Ys experience ever, only surpassed by the mother of all Ys games.
1. Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana (2016)
Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana is the pinnacle of the Ys series, hands down.
And for sure one of the best ARPGs ever released.
To be completely honest, there isn’t a whole lot that Lacrimosa of Dana does differently than its predecessors.
The story again involves an ancient civilization and an even more ancient evil.
The multiple main characters and party systems make a comeback as well.
Bosses are as massive as they’ve ever been, and just as dangerous.
So what truly makes Lacrimosa of Dana the best entry in the series?
It’s the execution of all these features.
The combat is faster than ever, complete with some exciting aerial combat too. And the world design is incredible. Plus the extended cast is extremely memorable.
All this will place you in an ARPG heaven from which you won’t want to leave easily. Or at least until Ys IX: Monstrum Nox launches!