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10 Must Play RPGs

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Over the years I’ve seen countless games come and go, but some titles just stand out as timeless. Ones that absolutely must be experienced at least once, if not several times over. These are 10 RPGs of various styles you owe it to yourself to play in your lifetime.

#10—Dying Light

Dying Light is everything that Dead Island tried to achieve in a zombie-based RPG adventure and more.

Enjoyable on your own, or in co-op, players take on the role of Kyle Crane in the midst of a viral outbreak in the city of Harran. An enthralling main plot and an addicting assortment of sidequests meets satisfying melee combat and parkour through a city where the dead rule and the quickest survive. Just be careful if you go out at night, as terror looms constantly when the sunlight fades.

#9—Diablo 2

The middle child in the series to date, Diablo 2 serves as the quintessential action RPG.

Picking up after the events of Diablo, a new threat arrives in the form of The Dark Wanderer and evil now begins to flow freely over the lands of Sanctuary. Players can find themselves engaging individual enemies, but more often than not they’ll take on hordes of demons and other nasty denizens at the same time. You’ll grow in strength at a relatively good pace so that you won’t have to fear the hordes long, and of the five classes to pick from you’ll feel like you’ve gone from zero to hero. Spoiler Alert: Pick the Necromancer for an incredibly good time.

#8—Final Fantasy VIII

My personal favorite of the PlayStation installments to the franchise, Final Fantasy VIII is a game that I first played in childhood that seems like it only gets better as time goes on.

While it plays very similarly to other entries in the series, Final Fantasy VIII took the largest graphical leap for the franchise at the time, along with sound design and the story spares no expense going all-out that by the end if you’ve blinked, you may have missed something important. There’s a lot of wheels moving at once in the plot and once it all comes together at key moments, you’ll go “Oh! It all makes sense!” until it happens again, and again, and again. The story is a rollercoaster, and it’s a fun one at that and once all the pieces finally stay together offers up an ending you won’t soon forget, and may even bring tears to your eyes.

#7—Fallout 2

War. War never changes.

The same cannot be said for the Fallout franchise which has had quite the makeover since Bethesda took control of the IP. Where Fallout currently feels like a post-apocalyptic take on the typical Bethesda formula, there was a time when Fallout was an isometric rpg with a heavy emphasis on party building and tactical turn-based combat. Of the early days of Fallout, nothing stands out more than Fallout 2.

Fallout 2 has some of the most memorable cast of characters in the franchise, including a boss that seems ridiculously hard at first glance. It also boasts a wide variety of side quests, like getting an old car up and running so you can blow through the overworld map like it’s nothing. Or if starring in a fade-to-black adult film is more your character’s style, do that too and earn some quick caps.

Fallout 2‘s set up was all about variety, and if you’re not using an in depth guide, you’re going to be finding new things each time you play through.

#6—Divinity: Original Sin

Divinity: Original Sin harkens back to the isometric era of RPGs, despite only being made a few years ago.

The thing that makes this a must-play for me is precisely that it allows players who aren’t willing to take that trip back-in-time to a lower resolution era to experience the same thrills of the time with a new, fresh coat of paint. Pile on some of the most addicting co-op turn based combat where player abilities actively compliment each other, a plot that makes me strive to see what comes next, and a balance of fun and difficult enemy encounters makes Divinity: Original Sin a clear choice for any RPG fans.

#5—The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Immersion is an important staple in any RPG, and while many on the list do it well, perhaps none more so than The Witcher 3.

The Witcher 3 has players once more in the boots of Geralt of Rivia, this time in search of his daughter Ciri across not only one of the largest worlds in a modern RPG, but also one of the most densely packed. It seems around every corner, behind every tree, beneath every stone there is something new to discover. What’s more, within the main plot and sidequests are so many branching side stories that you feel less that you’re playing a game, but more that you’re really experiencing the life and travels of a Witcher.

#4—Dark Souls

The name alone elicits groans and cheers in equal measure, the Dark Souls games are known for being incredibly difficult.

You’ll clench the controller, you’ll grind your teeth, you’ll turn the game off time and time again in frustration—and if you’re stubborn, as many of us gamers tend to be, you’ll keep coming back. You’ll find yourself getting a little further each time. Before you know it, you’re not the lamb to the slaughter, but the wolf hunting them. You’ll tear through enemies and traps as though they’re nothing… only for the game to throw another surprise at you, and show you you’re not done learning yet. Equal parts RPG and a learning experience, Dark Souls is a must especially for those craving a challenge.

#3—Deus Ex

Deus Ex was one of my first forays into the cyberpunk genre.

What starts out as a game where you serve as a cybernetically enhanced government agent soon opens a Pandora’s Box of conspiracy and intrigue and it’s up to the player how to navigate it. Are you a smooth talker who sticks to the shadows when talking isn’t an option? The hacker who isn’t afraid to get some blood on his boots if things go south? Or a pure agent of death, dealing out the carnage to get to the truth perhaps? Deus Ex has one of the robust skill trees for a 2000 RPG, and taking you to locales around the globe you’ll get plenty of time to build your agent and really make the experience yours.

#2—The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

While most veterans of the series will nod to it’s predecessor Morrowind as the ‘must play’ of the series, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is the essential choice in my opinion based on its setting and main questline.

Taking place in Cyrodil, the seat of the Septim Empire the player will find themselves as the last line of defense against an impeding daedra invasion from the realm of Oblivion. The main plot itself is exciting. You’ll see yourself driving back repeated daedric sieges across the land, and countless sidequests along the way. Environmentally, the lush forests of Cyrodil still offer breathtaking views even over a decade later that keeps me coming back for more.

Oblivion also has what I consider to be the best expansion in the entire series, entitled The Shivering Isles, which brings us to the realm of the mad god in a visual feast that explores themes of both mania and dementia among the isles which eventually leads to an ending where you find yourself face to face with order that threatens to put an end to the realm of madness.

#1—Mass Effect

The first three games of the Mass Effect series are among my favorite RPGs of all time, and a testament to pushing the boundaries that Bioware was once known for.

A sci-fi experience of epic proportions, I think I’ve put at least 50 days into it over 30 different character playthroughs. I love the story that sets the stage of a meteoric rise of an alliance officer, Shepard, as they and their allies move to stop a foe who turns out to only be the tip of the iceberg for what’s lurking in the shadows.

What appeals to me the most about Mass Effect is its freedom of gameplay. Every starting class feels unique, and within those classes, there’s so much variation to be had you can make countless new builds. Every world you visit, and the choices you make upon them, feels like it affects the events going forward. Every friend you make, and noteworthy foe you face, has a role large or small that is apart of this intricate web that sometimes displays itself immediately, and others may linger until the sequels. I’d say the first three games in their entirety are worth playing—but where it all began, remains the best among them.

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  1. I’m not big on RPGs, so I’ve only played a bit of Dark Souls from the list. They are simply not my genre.

  2. Great list! For me dark souls is number one, i always wanted to play Oblivion need to check it out thanks for this.

  3. TiffTheSwift on March 15, 2019 at 1:11 am said

    You mentioned FF8!!! No one mentions VIII, best game list ever!

    • It’s interesting how opinions vary. I think FF8 is the worst of all the FF I’ve played. The only one I haven’t played is 12. Personally, in no particular order, I’d say 4, 6 and 9 are the best :p

      • I’m gonna disagree with both of you and go with VII being best. Yes its a bit cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason. I played it 20 years ago and its still the game I go back to when I want to play a Jrpg.

        • Ranek Eisenkralle on March 15, 2019 at 10:02 am said

          @Terot, I agree about VII being the best Final Fantasy – in terms of story.
          That said, I can approve of VIII being on this list instead.
          Why? Because these days people tend to demand good graphics to some extent – which VII simply is unable to deliver as it was made at the very dawn of 3d technology. If the remake is good, it might chang that, but right now VII just cannot compete in terms of visuals.
          Also, story in VIII was solid, which warrants being on this list – and it got a doggo in it as part of the party!

          • I love FF8, but I have to agree based on feedback from all my friends who’ve played it and from all the fan mentions, youtube videos, etc. that FF7 was the king of Final Fantasy RPG suite.

          • I prefer FF6. FF8 is a close second. More and more I have come to blame FF7 for what the series has become. Maybe I just missed it, but more and more it seems to be going to a modern-ish setting, and I think that is the height of stupidity in a game called Final Fantasy. Or maybe it’s better to say that I think Final Fantasy works best just on the edge of developing technology. Or in sort of a twilight era where fantasy and technology are at odds, but neither side has taken too far a lead on the other.

      • Hey, another fan of IX and VI. I am not aline!

    • Louis Pulicicchio on April 12, 2019 at 3:59 pm said

      FF8 used to be my favorite Final Fantasy game because, and I know this sounds dumb, because it was more Sci-Fi than Fantasy. Even the magic is explained in a scientific manner. But nowadays I think 9 is probably my favorite, as it took the best parts of the Nintendo and Sony Final Fantasies and rolled them together, with almost none of the negatives.

  4. I’ll give you Witcher 3, Deus Ex, and Fallout 2. The rest of those are a real stretch I think. My top 10 would be:

    #1 Witcher 3
    #2 Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn
    #3 The Secret World (absolutely not the reboot SWL)
    #4 Dragon Age: Origins
    #5 Planescape Torment
    #6 Vampire: The Masquerade – Redemption
    #7 Tales of Symphonia
    #8 Grandia
    #9 Knights of the Old Republic 2
    #10 Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride

    Honorable mentions:
    Phantasy Star Online (Dreamcast edition, online mode)
    Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
    The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
    Secret of Mana (Seiken Densetsu 2)
    Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen

    Didn’t really like any of the Final Fantasies after FF VI. Although, I did like the combat system in FF XII.

  5. Mmm. Well, Deus Ex “Classic” is a great game, glad to see it and many others here. But Deus Ex changed the way I looked at the world, and encouraged me to investigate some awesome things like Ethics & heroic role-taking.

  6. No Planescape: Torment? Come on! =)

    • Ranek Eisenkralle on March 15, 2019 at 10:09 am said

      True. That one should have made the list as well. Reminds me that I’ve never gotten around to it… I should change that at some point. But alas, I am spending my gaming time on preparations for tabletop roleplays for the most part. And quite frankly video game rpgs can’t hold a candle to tabletop rpg with a good narrator/gamemaster.

  7. What makes an RPG an RPG?

  8. BeefWehelington on March 15, 2019 at 3:23 pm said

    Mass Effect 1 and 2 are still some of my fondest gaming memories… Incredible games… they just don’t make them like that anymore.

  9. I would put Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines on the lines.

  10. taking oblivion over morrowind is an interesting pic to me

    • Only makes sense if Oblivion was the first Elder Scrolls game they played (and didn’t play any of the earlier entries in the series)

      Obviously Morrowind was categorically better in every possible way. As much nostalgia love I have for ES II, ES III is just hands down the best in the series.

  11. Played a little over half these guys. ff8 is one of the few ff’s I haven’t played, but I remember at the time people said it was the worst. And yet in the past year or so I’ve seen many of these takes on the game. One day I’ll get around to it. Just finishing up ff9 right now. Training for ozma.

    Hell of a list can’t say I particularly agree with it. But I like it’s style. Kudos Jonathan Irwin

  12. I’m surprised no one has mentioned Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross yet. Those are two of my personal all time faves.

    • I thought of them, but then I realized that Chrono is rapidly becoming an irrelevant franchise to the gaming populace. I mean I respect Square Enix for not shitting on it with cash grab entries, but at most there is a Trigger re-release every so often where little is changed or added (a good decision). On the other hand the lack of activity means more and more new gamers will never play it.

      Then there is the fact I don’t like Cross as a sequel or a spiritual successor, in fact I think that Dark Chronicle/Dark Cloud 2 or Radiant Historia are both probably better spiritual successors. Don’t get me wrong, I realize Cross is a good game, but as either a sequel or a successor it’s still a massive let down.

  13. Kevin Thornton on March 15, 2019 at 8:01 pm said

    Type text here..Ahhh yes, replaying Mass Effect recently with graphic mods. My favorite series all time.

  14. It might not be what most here would consider to be a great RPG but I’ve always liked Jade Empire on the original Xbox.

  15. 1- Kotor and Kotor II
    2- Mass Effect Trilogy
    3- Witcher Trilogy
    4- Planescape Torment
    5-Divinity Original Sin and Divinity Original Sin 2
    6- Pillars of Eternity
    7- Neverwinter Nights and Neverwinter Nights 2(the modding community on this one was awesome, so many more great stories than just the original game)
    8- FF8 and FF7
    9- Dragon Age Origins
    10-Baldurs Gate and Baldurs Gate II

    I’m leaving so many out that it’s crazy

  16. 1.Xenoblade Chronicles Series
    2.Fallout New Vegas
    3.Final Fantasy Series
    4.Shin Megami Tensei/Persona Series
    5.Etrian Odyssey Series
    6.Dragon Quest Series
    7.Undertale
    8.Pokemon Series
    9.Dungeons & Dragons Series
    10.Seiken Densetsu (Secret of Mana) Series

    Honourable mentions;
    Elder Scrolls Series,
    World of Warcraft Series,
    Witcher Series,
    ‘Tales of’ Series,
    Buck Rogers,

  17. Test comment

  18. perochialjoe on March 16, 2019 at 2:03 pm said

    Numbers 1 and 2 are…. let’s just be honest. Horrible. Oblivion is widely regarded as the worst of the Elder Scrolls series and Mass Effect 1 did not age well in the slightest. Anybody who goes back to play either of those games for the first time will just end up hating the experience.

  19. I’d say that was a pretty fair list. Love me some FF8, Divinity and Mass Effect.

  20. Ahem. There ars *TWO* RPGs on the whole list. The rest are Action RPGs, an entirely different genre. Of all TES only Morrowind and Daggerfall qualify for RPG. Where is Planescape Torment? Arcanum? Baldur’s Gate? Might & Magic games? Wizardry? Or even newer games, like Pillars of Eternity or Tyranny (both of which I did not like but they absolutely qualify), or indies a-la Geneforge, Avernum, Underrail?.. It is a really odd pick however good games on the list are…

  21. I think one of the big things I would want to do, is remake all the ‘gold box’ SSI D&D adventures – Pools of Radiance, Curse of Azure Bonds, Secret of the Silver Blades and the Pools of Darkness again. Those games were exactly what I wanted when I was a teenager playing RPGs on a Commodore 64. – so put that as 1 whole game.

    And another one I would love to see a remake is Dungeon Master, but with more role playing elements – like conversations – so while you are exploring the dungeon for the fire staff and power gem, Lord Order and Chaos is communicating with the players to side with one of them – which you can finally do when you get the staff. Great puzzles, great story – just you couldn’t do much story with those computers way back when.

    For modern gaming –
    NeverWinter Nights was never mentioned. I can’t think of anything that gave real birth to the modern day of RPGs, because the aurora toolset gave birth to not only Kotor, Jade Empire and the Witcher 1, but it was used initially for Dragon Age: Origins – they created the entire game in it before porting it over to the Dragon Age toolset, which was a complete failure for the community.

    And no Baulder’s gate or Icewind Dale. . .

    And Oblivion. While the environments were great, the characters were a joke, a real joke – seriously, they looked like a joke. Bethesda didn’t start to get characters looking right until Fallout 4, unfortunately.

  22. I personally wouldn’t have Fallout 2 on this list, if only because it was before my time.

    I would also add on the first Dragon Age, with it’s DLC of course. While the game series fell in later years, and the games weren’t a very original idea, the first game stands on a pedestal of one of the best RPG games I’ve ever played.

  23. One-Armed Swordsman on March 17, 2019 at 1:24 pm said

    In all of history? Well first, FF VI (III) was the best of the series, hands down- and the last to use hand-drawn art. The series gained mass (western) popularity w VII, then started its sellout phase after. I’m always confused why people mention VIII so much these days. That was when Square’s unabashed commercialism began to take hold, which at this point is just gross. And you never mentioned Chrono Trigger, either- that’s almost a sin.

    If Deus Ex can be on here- which it should- I assume Castlevania: Symphony of the Night can be, in which case it is an obvious addition. It is not only one of the best games w RPG elements, but one of the best games, period.

    Okami is another. Probably the most artistic, beautifully hand drawn game ever made, and criminally overlooked. It’s like if Zelda was imbued with the history of ancient eastern spirituality and Japanese art, perfectly.

    Planescape Torment. Duh. That game is still unparalleled as far as in-game writing is concerned, and it’s twenty years old.

    Last: Divinity was great. But Divinity 2 is arguably the best RPG to date. As far as story goes, its good but not the greatest- but everything else is pretty much perfect, and its eclectic combination of so many old tactical, turn-based, exploration, and path-changing elements is the best there ever has been- that series is the only I have ever played where it’s 100 hours and still feels like a story, a world, still a ‘Role-playing’ game, as opposed to some task/sandbox character building addiction made more for online profit and mods than anything else.

  24. I’m missing the love that Pathfinder: Kingmaker deserves. It had a rough start, but now that a lot of bugs have been ironed out, it’s the closest thing to the Baldur’s Gate style of RPGs.

    There’s a number of clunkers in this list, for me it’s Oblivion, which was pretty weak. Generally speaking, the Elder Scrolls series depends on the modding community to improve on the base game.

    Diablo 2 is not an RPG, so it also doesn’t belong on the list.

  25. Suikoden series are realy good and breath of fire 4

  26. The only real RPG was FF8 everything else was action, horror and shooter based games.

  27. Gwynefaer on March 18, 2019 at 9:17 pm said

    Loved Witcher, Dark Souls and Oblivion! Just got Divinity Original Sin about a week ago and looking forward to trying it!

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  29. I wouldn’t consider Diablo 2 to be an RPG.

  30. Yeah, you definitely got some great games on this list, I agree, but i’d squeeze Chrono Trigger on there. That game is by far my favorite JRPG, I’d probably put that in the 4th spot on my list.

  31. Great list, only thing I would change personally is to swap Oblivion for Morrowind.

  32. Glad to see some RPGs get mentioned that are great but get ignored. (Dying Light, Elder Scrolls Oblivion.)

  33. One of the more amazing RPG Games I ever played was Xenogears for the PS1.

    I highly recommend that one to any one else for enjoys RPG Games.

  34. WardenBlack on March 22, 2019 at 9:18 am said

    A lot of ones I like on here. I would also put Dragon Age: Origins in thisoet, but that’s mainly for a personal reason I don’t really have time to explain.

  35. I feel like RPG is such a loose term. Games should not be described with one word. I think at least two or three things should be described: the combat, the story telling (interactive or cutscene ocean) and maybe character creation (predefined or custom player character).

    • I semi concur with you

      – combat is part of almost ANY game, if its horrible you wont enjoy the game (so it need not mentioned)

      – Story telling is one of THE MOST important aspects of an RPG, a bad story makes you not feel a connection to the character, it is vital for the immersion and the fun you’ll get out of it

  36. If we talk RPG with immersion and a awesome Story that at the time might have been awesome i feel you forgot to mention

    The Masquerade – Bloodlines

    and Fallout 3 or New Vegas

    At least I enjoyed them immensly take it as you will

    • Sorry forgot the most important one

      Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 1

      One of the best SW stories ever “All Hail Lord Caipa” ;D

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