If you wan to go old school there is the Dragon Quest series (originally titled Dragon Warrior in the US). It has been called the most influential JRPG series ever and the game play system for Final Fantasy was completely lifted from it. All those random encounter, separate battle screen, menu attack mechanics that continue in games like FF and Pokemon came from this. Also all the concept art was drawn by Akira Toriyama- the artist who created the Dragon Ball manga/tv/gaming franchise.
The first was ground braking, but I really like the fourth which came out for NES originally and was updated for the DS. A lot of the cool mechanics of FFVI (3 in the US) can be traced back to DQ4/DW4.