3. Final Fantasy X
The psychological storytelling of Final Fantasy VII was exceptionally fresh, but Final Fantasy X brought it to fruition with the addition of voice, realistic character graphics and a story that actually had internal logic. The beautiful and sensitive summoner Yuna contributed as much to the story as Tidus, the ostensible main character, and the game was all the richer for it. With an excellent supporting cast, well... how can you go wrong? But that's hardly all. The game burst onto the PS2 with graphics that still stand up to scrutiny and some of the most engrossing gameplay in the series: the Conditional Turn-based Battle system made a refreshingly strategic change from the rest of the series while the Sphere Grid made leveling your characters almost criminally addictive.
2. Final Fantasy IV
Our back-breaking nostalgia almost made us award FFIV the top spot, but it barely misses out due to its lack of worldwide impact. Everything else is the absolute pinnacle of role-playing bliss. Every location, every boss, every new area you visit stands out - from the Mist Cave early on to the mechanical Tower of Babil to the interior of the moon itself. Toss in a stunning soundtrack and a robust, rotating cast and you've got an RPG that will forever rank among the best.
Its biggest contributions, however, served to change the series (and the genre) for good. The rejuvenated battle system would fuel the next five games in the series, and its "hey let's actually have characters that grow through the course of the game" approach set the stage for every RPG story to follow.