What defines a JRPG, and how is it different from an RPG?

I’ve always wondered if JRPG, or Japanese Role-Playing Game, has any concrete definition for it.

I’m only curious now because lately I’ve seen a lot of people referencing Genshin Impact, a F2P MMORPG be considered a “JRPG”. Which, to me, sounds weird because it is widely known that Genshin Impact is produced by a Chinese game developer, Mihoyo.

Which then leads me to believe that there must be a more intrinsic meaning behind the category “JRPG”. If the developer does not necessarily have to be Japanese, then does it mean any developer can produce a JRPG? And if so, what defines a JRPG? What differentiates a JRPG from a regular RPG game, for instance Baldur’s Gate?


Extra Credits, a well-known YouTube channel about game design, made a video series about this topic:

Key takeaway points:

  • The reason why we have that distinction at all is because the RPG video game genre was discovered and developed independently in the Western and the Japanese industry. Those two industries interpreted the idea of the RPG very differently from the start and then had very little exchange during the following years. The Japanese RPG developers were heavily influenced by the Japanese visual novel games. This influence is still visible in their approach to storytelling.
  • Trying to define the difference between these genres by assembling checklists of specific game mechanics is misleading, because they aren’t the reason why players prefer one genre over the other.
  • Trying to define them by the country where the game was made is also misleading (at least for recent games), because game developers of today take inspiration and design cues from games made all around the world.
  • The actual difference is that JRPGs focus more on storytelling with well-established characters. WRPGs focus more on letting the player live out fantasies and express their player-character the way they want. JRPGs tell the player a story through the eyes of one of the characters. WRPGs let the player choose what kind of person they want that character to be and then the game shows the player how the story plays out with their character in it.

If you agree with this definition, then Genshin Impact seems indeed more JRPG than WRPG. The player chooses between one of two main characters whose only obvious difference is gender. The PC already has an established personality and motivation. There are very little options to customize the player-character visually or mechanically. There are lots of narration-heavy quests in the game, but dialogue choices are mostly meaningless. They are more about telling a story than putting the player into a story and having them choose what to do with it.

Source : Link , Question Author : childe , Answer Author : Philipp

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