A question was recently asked on Twitter “what are peoples favourite RPG games of all time?” which got me 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 The Top 25 RPGs and then discuss what I like about each of them. 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!
25. PHANTASY STAR ONLINE
Phantasy Star Online was my first experience of real online gaming thanks to the good old SEGA Dreamcast. The game itself was a lot of fun to play and didn’t force me to listen to random people screaming obscenities into a microphone, which is a bonus.
24. WILD ARMS
Wild Arms is just one of the many excellent RPGs that I was fortunate enough to pick up on the original PlayStation. It helped cement how much I admired the genre. Wild Arms delivered an enjoyable narrative which saw the main characters start separate journeys and eventually meet at set points and that’s where the story properly began.
23. STAR OCEAN: THE SECOND STORY
Star Ocean: The Second Stoy is an RPG that places its primary focus on the characters, even after they have served their overarching purpose. Specific events could trigger in towns for party members that had been developed further, it was a nice touch.
22. GOLDEN SUN
Golden Sun is a portable RPG that originally released on the Game Boy Advance and was published by Nintendo. It 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 and is easy to recommend.
This was literally the first RPG I ever owned and I’ll always have a soft spot for Alundra. It was essentially a good quality rip-off of a classic Zelda game but in this instance, I actually prefer it to most entries in the aforementioned series.
20. LEGEND OF DRAGOON
The Legend of Dragoon is a Sony developed RPG for the PlayStation 1. At a glance it would be easy to associate it with Final Fantasy VII from a presentation point of view but The Legend of Dragoon had its own exciting storyline complete with quirks, which I really enjoyed.
19. KINGDOM HEARTS II
Kingdom Hearts II falls into the action-RPG category, what sets this apart from the usual is that the game was developed as the result of a partnership between Square-Enix and Disney. The Kingdom Hearts series combines various Disney and Final Fantasy characters into one delightful package, it also helped that it was a lot of fun to play.
18. CHRONO TRIGGER
This entry in the list is a non-Final Fantasy RPG from Square-Enix! and one that involved time travel mixed with a cast of interesting characters. Originally released in 1995 for the SNES, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to play it again when it was ported to the Nintendo DS years later.
17. TALES OF SYMPHONIA
I loved everything about Tales of Symphonia! 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 II
This game was essentially a slightly refined iteration of the original 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. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: MAJORAS MASK
Ok, technically not an RPG but I wanted to include it in my list because it’s excellent. 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 Wind Waker.
14. OCTOPATH TRAVELER
Octopath has a retro visual that reminds me of the 16-bit era, developed characters and intrigue as to how each story will eventually tie together. These elements combined made Octopath Traveler a nice surprise considering it was an unknown quantity upon release.
13. FABEL II
This sequel 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 crippled, 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. New Vegas offered the same great experience we have come to expect but combined with the old, dark sense of humour which was a treat.
11. GRANDIA II
Grandia II is another visually impressive RPG, the story was good even though it had the standard gruff lead character that changes over the course of the game. Overall it’s a great game and I’m incredibly happy that it’s coming to the Nintendo Switch.
10. SKIES OF ARCADIA
Skies of Arcadia is 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. Skies of Arcadia is well overdue a re-release or a sequel at this point because there’s a lot to love about it.
Skyrim is 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. 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 adds a decent chunk of extra content.
8. BREATH OF FIRE IV
In Breath of Fire IV, you get two sides of a story due to playing as two characters over the course of the game. 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. It also has a fantastic soundtrack.
7. POKEMON ULTRA SUN/MOON
This is the pinnacle of Pokemon games and represents the first time the formula has been really changed to any degree and it’s a breath of fresh air because of that. The changes implemented make the experience 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. Suikoden 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 and 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 Final Fantasy VII was the first epic RPG I ever played, it even had to be split across three discs – there was a lot of content to play. I think it was the first game where I sank over 100 hours into it. I spent a lot of that time trying to do sidequests 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 release and possibly due a remake or HD update.
2. MASS EFFECT 2
This sequel improves on the original Mass Effect in almost every way. A vastly overhauled combat system, combined with the removal of the clunky inventory setup made this a 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. The Witcher 3 is 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 and the acting is very impressive, simply one of the best games I’ve ever played and the best RPG – 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.