There are a lot of Atelier games out there, and Gust keeps adding to the lineup with new installments in the main series and spin-offs to keep track of. It is a lot to deal with. Also, the major installments tend to come out in trilogies, which share storylines and sometimes gameplay mechanics. One line might not be as interesting for specific players, but another could be a perfect fit. So, instead of just going with recommendations of best or worst installments, let’s see if Michibiku can’t help you find certain trilogies that might fit your needs.
I want the most traditional Atelier experience.
You should get into the Arland series! Atelier Rorona basically was a revitalization of the series. It followed a young woman attempting to keep her master’s shop alive, all while becoming an alchemist in the process. It was followed by Atelier Totori, a story about a young woman trying to find her missing mother while learning alchemy, and Atelier Meruru, a tale of a young princess preparing for her kingdom to be folded into the larger Arland empire. Each one of these games has deadlines and tasks where you really need to follow along to make things happen before time runs out, and there are also extra endings. You can get all three of these games on the PlayStation 3, PS4, Vita, Switch and PC.
As an aside, Atelier Lulua was recently released and acts as an epilogue to this storyline. However, it tosses the strict schedules aside. It is available on the PS4, Switch and PC.
I want to play an Atelier game, but I am afraid of deadlines.
You should go for the Dusk line of games. This is when Gust tended to look at deadlines and toss them aside. Atelier Ayesha, a game about a girl who is trying to reunite with her sister and try to become an alchemist, does have a three year time limit. It’s easy to find Nio before Ayesha reaches that point. Atelier Escha and Logy does require you to complete assignments before chapters end, but that takes 120 days and the deadlines are more lenient than Atelier Ayesha. Atelier Shallie has no time limit at all. These are available on the PS3 and Vita.
I want to play an Atelier game, but like games that experiment!
You should look into the Mysterious series! It can seem like anything goes in these installments. Atelier Sophie introduced puzzle-like alchemy, where each ingredient has its own tetramino-like block. It also has you customizing your friend, Plachta. Atelier Firis is an open world entry in the series. Atelier Lydie and Suelle sends your protagonists into paintings to gather ingredients. Atelier Sophie and Atelier Firis are available on the PS4, Vita and PC worldwide. Atelier Lydie and Suelle is out on the PS4, Switch and PC worldwide.
If all of these people are trying to learn alchemy, shouldn’t they be in school?
Hey! You should look into the Mana series of games. Mana Khemia and its sequel both follow people at a school learning about alchemy. The former was on the PS2 and PSP worldwide, while the latter only had a PS2 worldwide release. These tend to have more of a JRPG-focus than the more recent Atelier games I talked about, so keep that in mind if you seek them out!
Also, yes. This is not a trilogy. But, these two games are quite fun and are worth people’s time if they are interested in the Atelier series, but aren’t sure if one of the more traditional, simulation-like and heroine-led installments is right for them.
You mentioned JRPGs. I like JRPGs!
Well, there’s an Atelier series for that too! The Atelier Iris line tends to feel more like traditional JRPGs that happen to have alchemy and crafting on the side. (Though, in Atelier Iris 2, you can choose between being Felt, who focuses on JRPG stuff, and Viese, who has more of a simulation side where you work to create items.) Atelier Iris, Atelier Iris 2 and Atelier Iris 3 are all only available on the PS2 worldwide.
I am fluent in Japanese and want to play through installments that might be very hard to find!
I suppose you might want to attempt to find Salburg games. These are the very first entries in the Atelier series and, well, they never were released outside of Japan. You probably would even have trouble finding guides. Atelier Marie was available on the PlayStation, PS2, Saturn, Dreamcast and eventually PC. Atelier Elie was available on the PlayStation, PS2, Dreamcast and PC. Finally, Atelier Lilie was available on the PS2.
For those of us who can’t understand Japanese or invest in this sort of search, you could at least play Nelke and the Legendary Alchemists and meet the heroines from these games.