Reaching back to the days of the original Ultima and Wizardry, there has been a wide variety of role-playing video games to come out, but as with any genre, some are better than others. They rise above the quagmire of RPGs, and set themselves apart in their own ways that make them special. With over 30 years of history to the genre, there are so many RPGs that can even be considered great, but which are among the best? To answer this question I have comprised with my top ten RPGs of all time. These are excluding RPGs I have not yet finished entirely (including arguably great games such as Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, Baldur’s Gate and Mass Effect). With that being said here is the list:

10.  System Shock 2

System Shock 2 is a cult-classic, sci-fi, horror RPG that is considered by some to be the best PC game of all time. System Shock 2 did a number of things right that made it unique during its era. The game fused the first-person perspective of a shooter, with all the role-playing elements of games like Neverwinter Nights. Couple this with deep writing and a heavy mixture of palpable atmosphere and horror, and you get what is easily one of the most unforgettable experiences that every self-respecting RPG enthusiast should play.

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9. Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic

It is hard to deny that Bioware has a way of making great RPGs, so it is no surprise that their foray into the Star Wars universe was a great success. Knights of The Old Republic was a marvel for many reasons, it crafted a noteworthy story, had fun gameplay, and the game merged the RPG systems of previous Bioware games Neverwinter Nights  and Neverwinter Nights 2 into the Star Wars universe, allowing for you to be the Jedi or Sith you wanted to be. Even today, it is hard to find many RPGs that match the caliber of Knights of The Old Republic, and it is just as difficult to find a Star Wars game of any genre that can match it either.

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8. Diablo II
Addictive, gripping and just plain fun, Diablo II made the dungeon crawler as popular as it is today. The game merged addictive action combat, randomly generated worlds and a story about stopping Diablo himself. While the first game was a classic, it was in fact the second game that established the franchise as a gaming icon. The result was a game that is still loved and played by millions today that does not look like it will die anytime soon, even if Diablo 3 was considered to be a step down from Diablo 2.
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7. Fallout 2

Fallout was a unique gem in the sea of RPGs for its setting and approach to storytelling. It was an RPG set in the remains of a nuclear-war-ravaged world that also made the player think of the consequences behind their actions. The game was flawed, but it still stands in the memories of many as a great RPG. It is no surprise that the sequel, Fallout 2 improved upon its predecessor in every way. The writing was upped, the gameplay was improved and played more like the Baldur’s Gate series, and the atmosphere was thick. It is no surprise then that Fallout 2 stands out, and that there are really no other RPGs like it.

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6. Fallout 3/New Vegas

What happens when you take the Fallout series and fuse it with the openness of Elder Scrolls? You get Fallout 3. When Bethesda took over the Fallout franchise, many worried about what it may become; however, the resulting game that came from this was much more than expected. What we got was an organic, open world that took all of the elements of the previous Fallouts and brought them to the third dimension. On top of that, the game’s setting was changed from out west to Washington, DC. The result crafted an engaging and enjoyable RPG that you can easily sink hundreds of hours into. New Vegas, while technically its own game, is also here because it felt more like an expansion for Fallout 3 that returned to the setting of previous Fallout games.

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5. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Easily Bethesda’s best game yet, Skyrim created an Elder Scrolls game unlike any other with a huge, beautiful world to explore, rich with open-world gameplay, and a story with moments you create yourself. Let us not forget Skyrim’s story of ancient dragons which makes the game all the more interesting. Skyrim is also the most accessible Elder Scrolls title, making it easy for anyone to get into and spend hundreds of hours in this world filled with dragons and fantasy creatures. (I was debating between Morrowind and Skyrim for this spot. It was difficult because while Skyrim’s gameplay is much more engaging, Morrowind was a unique game and was more creative in many ways.)

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4. Neverwinter Nights

Neverwinter Nights is an arguably one of Bioware’s best games. It was the first game to fully capture Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition by fulling incorporating the multi-classing system. In doing so, the game allowed you to play virtually anyway you want in the D&D universe. Neverwinter Nights had an engaging, well-written story, tactical gameplay that allowed you to play any role, and an ability to create and play your own worlds with friends. All of this helped solidify Neverwinter Nights as a classic among PC gamers. Which is why it was a shame that Neverwinter Nights 2 did not live up to the standard set by its predecessor. The only question that now needs to be answered is, where is Neverwinter Nights 3?

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3. Final Fantasy IV

Final Fantasy IV is a rather old game compared to many on this list.  It made its debut on the SNES and since then, it has captivated the hearts of gamers worldwide. The game had addictive, strategic gameplay and a large world with several interesting characters to meet and things to do. The major draw for FFIV, though, was the story. FFIV is a story of redemption that showed even the worst of us are still people inside. It is because of this that I have played through Final Fantasy IV countless times on both the SNES and GBA and I still am enjoying it to this very day.

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2. Pokémon

Pokémon is the bane of many hardcore RPG fans. Talk to any of them, and chances are, they have played or still play Pokémon. It is not hard to see why though; for years Pokemon has been a huge franchise for Nintendo. But why is it so popular? Pokémon has addictive turn based combat, a large world to explore, hundreds of things to do, multiplayer battles, and, of course, the “gotta catch ’em all” gameplay that many OCD-plagued gamers cannot refuse. To top it all off, the game is portable and playable anywhere, allowing to to be the ultimate handheld RPG. However, since it is hard to determine one that is above all others, I decided here that the whole series gets the spot. I say this because with the coming of each game, something is improved over its predecessor. It’s hard to say that the original is the best when there are so many improvements in future installments. In all though, the Pokémon series is deserving of this spot in many regards.

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1. Planescape: Torment

Planescape: Torment is a difficult game to explain. It does not win out for gameplay, because the gameplay is not the best of any RPG, and it does not win for the ability to create your own worlds either. No, Planescape wins because of its design and story. Nowhere else will you find a story quite like Planescape: Torment’s. Nor will you find a game with such a unique art style and atmosphere. The game concocts an epic story that is intriguing and puzzling, and one that keeps you playing the whole way through. The Nameless One is a very interesting protagonist because of everything he is, not what he has done. The setting itself is also extraordinary, as it takes place on a plane which is essentially an area between dimensions. Because of this, creatures from all worlds appear in Planescape and the locales are all unparalleled in creativity. Even if I were to say much more of the game, I would not do justice to how odd and compelling Planescape: Torment is, and because of this, it earns the spot as my number one RPG.

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All in all, while this list may be comprised of some of the best RPGs, it is in no way stating that there are no better RPGs to other gamers. The fact is, this mostly comes down to personal preference, and in that light these are my favorite RPGs that I have completed. That being said, all of these games are still great RPGs regardless that deserve to be played as you will not find any other games quite like them.

What about your favorites? See anything that may be too high or low on the list? Let us know in the comments!

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3 Comments

  • Nice list! Good to see PC RPGs getting some love here. Also, yay Pokemon! 😀

    As for other stuff I like…I also always loved Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and Champions of Norrath on the PS2. Other than that, I guess I mostly play JRPGs, so Final Fantasy is a given. 😉

    • @Jennifer, Thanks! Yes those are in fact some of the best in terms of creative direction. Yes the list would not be complete with Pokemon. I wanted to include Baldur’s but I have not finished it. 🙁 As for Champions, I do not have a PS2 so I will have to emulate I guess.Well of course and since I like RPGs largely for story as much as gameplay Final Fantasy is a must. The older titles mostly though.

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