A question was recently asked on twitter “what are peoples favourite RPG games of all time?” which got us thinking. They are comfortably my favourite gaming genre, I love that with a well-made RPG you’ll be treated to an epic story, awesome characters and that you help move the story along whilst interacting with all of these elements. With that in mind, I thought I’d make a list of my top 10 RPGs and then discuss what I like about each of them so much. I’ve made the rule that I am only allowed to pick one game if it is part of a bigger series. Even so, I think that a top ten is going to cause me a fair amount of stress over what to include and I’m pretty sure that I am going to miss something out that should have been included. I don’t even want to think about it, so let us just get going!
Update: Ok, it’s now a top 25 as there are already games I’ve thought about that I just can’t bring myself to leave off any list, dammit. I’m going to do light touches on numbers 25 to 11 and then be a bit more expansive with my top ten.
25. Phantasy Star Online
My first experience of online gaming on the good old Dreamcast and it was a lot of fun to boot. It also didn’t make me listen to people screaming obscenities into a microphone.
24. Wild Arms
One of the many decent RPGs that I picked up on the PlayStation 1 after discovering how much I liked the genre. I enjoyed the way the narrative had the characters start separately and then meet up at a set point in the game and that’s where the story properly began.
23. Star Ocean: The Second Story
An RPG that focussed on characters to the point where specific events could trigger in towns for party members that developed their characters further, it was a nice touch.
22. Golden Sun
A portable RPG that had characters and a story far more impressive than anything I’d previously played on a handheld machine. I invested a decent amount of time completing this game.
Literally the first RPG I ever owned, I’ll always have a soft spot for this game. It was essentially a good quality rip off of a Zelda game but in this instance, I actually prefer it to most entries in the Zelda series.
20. Legend of Dragoon
A Sony developed RPG for the PlayStation 1, this was similar to Final Fantasy VII in terms of presentation but had it’s own quirks and story which I really enjoyed.
19. Kingdom Hearts 2
An action RPG that combines various Disney and Final Fantasy characters in one delightful package, it also helped that it was a lot of fun to play.
18. Chrono Trigger
A non-Final Fantasy RPG from Square that involved time travel mixed and interesting characters. I was very glad to get the chance to play it again when it was released on the Nintendo DS.
17. Tales of Symphonia
I loved everything about this game! it had great a great soundtrack, visual style, characters and the story has always stuck in my mind. From a personal standpoint, it was one of the best GameCube RPGs that was released.
16. Shenmue 2
Essentially a slightly more refined iteration of Shenmue set in Hong Kong, it was great to be able to continue the story and the new setting definitely added something to the exploration on offer.
15. Legend of Zelda: Majoras Mask
A Zelda game with a groundhog day style twist was an intriguing proposition way back when. Made better by the dark tone, this is my favourite Zelda game to date just seeing off The WindWaker.
14. Octopath Traveller
With retro visuals that remind me of the 16-bit era, developed characters and intrigue as to how each story will eventually tie together. This has made this a nice surprise considering it was an unknown quantity upon release.
13. Fable 2
Took the initial promise but flawed delivery of the original game and largely improved on it across the board. It also included a fun, if ultimately flawed, multiplayer aspect which I enjoyed as I prefer co-operative multiplayer as a rule.
12. Fallout: New Vegas
The Fallout 3 game engine combined with the writing of Fallout 2, it was made by a team comprised of people who worked on the pre-Bethesda games. The same great experience we have come to expect but combined with the old, dark sense of humour which was a treat.
11. Grandia 2
Another visually impressive RPG, the story was good and had the standard gruff lead character that changes over the course of the game. It’s great and I’m incredibly happy that it’s coming to the Nintendo Switch as I’d definitely love to play it again.
Now we move on to the top 10 where I intend to be a little more detailed. I will point out that this list is pretty much in motion, the positions change constantly.
10. Skies of Arcadia
A game about sky pirates, it’s automatically a pretty cool concept so it’s nice that the graphics and gameplay can back up that promise. Story-wise it sticks to the tried and tested saving the world scenario though this is hardly a bad thing. Combat is fun, there is a lot to explore and basically, it’s well overdue a re-release or a sequel at this point. There’s a lot to love about this game.
As utterly vast as you’d expect an Elder Scrolls game to be with the added bonus of being able to utilise the new dragon shout mechanic to punt people off cliffs and stuff. It really is a lot of fun and comparatively very accessible. There is also a hell of a lot to do and the current-gen releases have all the DLC included which is a decent chunk of extra content.
8. Breath of Fire 4
An RPG where you get two sides of a story due to playing as two characters over the course of the story, it’s pretty clever and interesting to see the game unfold from different perspectives. I found the story to be quite moving and it’s stuck with me over the years more so than some stories in other forms. It also has a fantastic soundtrack.
7. Pokemon Ultra Moon/Sun
This is the pinnacle of Pokemon games for me, it’s the first time that the formula has really been changed much and it’s a breath of fresh air. The changes make it more balanced in terms of catching Pokemon early on and then raising them through the course of the game.
I purchased this on a whim 18 years ago and it became a firm favourite from the word go. It casts you into the middle of a civil war where you have to build up an army. There are 108 characters to be recruited over the course of the game and they all bring something unique to your army. It’s a good mechanic for encouraging you to explore the world and makes for an incredibly fun game.
5. Dragon Age Inquisition
Bioware, for the most part, are fantastic at bringing characters to life, world building and this game is one of the best examples of their talent. It’s a compelling story made better by the way your party of characters react to what is happening around you discussing it throughout. Dragon Age also has an excellent soundtrack and the DLC furthers the story setting up the sequel quite nicely.
4. Final Fantasy VII
I’d have to say this was the first epic RPG I ever played, the game came on three discs so there was a lot of content to play here. I think it was the first game where I sank over 100 hours of playtime into it. I spent a lot of that time trying to do side quests and such on top of progressing the main story. The story itself was interesting with one very shocking moment (which everyone knows at this point) and what I consider to be a superb reveal about the main character which massively re-contextualises what has happened in the story up to that point.
3. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
It’s a Star Wars RPG and it’s bloody fantastic. Bioware again showing that when they get a game right they get it right, memorable characters and a story that features one of the greatest plot twists I think I’ve witnessed. It remains one of the best Star Wars games ever made even 15 years after being released. It’s possibly due a remake or at least some sort of HD re-release sometime in the not too distant future.
2. Mass Effect 2
The sequel improves on the original in almost every way. Vastly improved combat mechanics combined with the removal of the clunky inventory and because of this, it’s a much more streamlined experience. The story also manages to make you feel like there are genuine stakes at play, there’s a real sense of urgency and danger which is a great tone to set for the conflict that’s being set up.
1. The Witcher 3
Christ I played this a lot, I think I sank around 150 hours into the main game and that’s not even factoring in the DLC which was as good as some full-price releases. Truly epic in scope and manages to be far more accessible than previous games in the series, it’s nicely balanced and you definitely feel a sense of achievement as you improve with the combat. The story is great, the acting is very impressive and simply it is one of the best games I’ve ever played much less one of the best RPGs which is why it gets my top spot.
Obviously, I’ve been a little hyperbolic with my title here as I’m very much aware that this is just my opinion rather than a definitive list of the best RPGs of all time. With that in mind, I’d love to hear what anyone reading this thinks in the comments. If nothing else I’ll learn of some new games to give a go to or realise (as expected) that I’ve made some kind of glaring omission.