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24. Phantasy Star Online Episode I & II
Sonic Team | Sega | 2002
The pinnacle of Sega's engaging online RPG series, in both form and function
What made it so great?
There's a formula that works, for game after game: killing enemies, gaining experience and loot. It's feverishly addictive. Add in co-op gameplay and you have a winner. Phantasy Star Online was one of the first games to bring this formula to perfectly-balanced fruition on consoles. As it turns out, this game has yet to be bettered, even by its lackluster sequel (Phantasy Star Universe) or Final Fantasy XI.
Whether you chose to play with friends online, go in-person for split-screen co-op or even adventure solo, PSO I & II always had the right mix of pulsing music, perfect progression, beautiful graphics and balanced gameplay that made it instantly engrossing. It's a difficult juggling act, but it all came together here.
Get ready to play
This is a little tricky. The GameCube version of the game comes with a special code in the case that allows online play - which won't work if your copy has been previously used. Worse, Sega is shutting down the servers in April 2007. Still, you can play offline to your heart's content, and same-system co-op with a friend is very entertaining.
Been there, done that?
Phantasy Star Online III: C.A.R.D. Revolution will surprise you if you're used to the earlier (or later) games in the series. A card-battling strategy RPG, it's surprisingly addictive, particularly if you've got the itch for building powerful decks.