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Best RPGs of All Time

Albert Bassili May 14, 2019

The truth is, life sometimes sucks; a tiring and monotonous job here, a slow and tedious week there, and also the occasional depression. Altogether, it’s not always great.

This is why RPG games are fantastic. They allow you to escape into another world and pretend not just to be that blue or white collar employee, toiling away at anonymity. Instead, you can be a powerful sorcerer, or a brave knight, or even a compassionate hero. You can save the world or also chose to experience your tale of growth and empowerment.

skeleton commander with army

Aside from that escapism though, RPGs (and games in general) allow you to learn and gain something positive. Maybe it pulls you out of a depression (or at least helps), perhaps that white/blue collar job doesn’t bother you as much.

Whatever it may be, RPGs are fantastic, and since I know you’re all super busy, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best games to play in the genre in the hopes they bring some happiness to your life.


Best Writing in an RPG: Sunless Skies

The follow-up of Sunless Seas, an already excellent game, Sunless Skies is more of the same, but better. The story is a bit tighter, and it’s much easier to follow the story and arrange all the narrative beats.

sunless skies title train

Most importantly though, this game probably has some of the best writing you’re going to find, even more so if you’re into Victorian-era fiction.

Gameplay

As the name suggests, you captain a flying ship where you navigate from one floating body to another. While you explore this dark and exciting world, you run into literal tons of historical events that tell you more about the world.

You also get the chance to hire people and upgrade your vessel, which is good, since you there is challenging combat you can get into.

Graphics

Well, considering this is a game that came out in 2019, the graphics are gorgeous. It is a top-down game, but don’t let that fool you, the amount of detail and environmental storytelling is just mind-boggling. The atmosphere conveys the theme well and immerses you in this strange, Victorian-like world.

An awesome thing about Sunless Skies that even though it looks great, it doesn’t require a top-end GPU. You could easily run it at high settings using the best graphics card for gaming under $150.

Storyline

Taking place ten years after Sunless Seas, you are entrusted with one of these spaceships by its dying captain, entrusting you with delivering a mysterious black box to London without looking inside of it. After that, it’s all entirely up to you, whether you decide to complete that mission, or go out and do your own thing. There’s no real ‘linear’ story like most games, with you just pretty much doing whatever you want.

Co-op/Multiplayer

There’s no multiplayer in Sunless Skies, and quite frankly, I’m ok with that. The game doesn’t lend itself to playing with other people and serves mostly like your little world to explore and alter to your whims.

sunless skies big ben

That being said, a multiplayer or co-op option might be attractive, although it would be hard to do correctly.

Overall Thoughts

The Fallen London universe and Sunless Skies itself are mysterious, intriguing and compelling worlds where strangeness exists. Combined with the solid mechanics, and the beautiful visuals,  it all together paints a picture you want to stay in forever.


Most Anticipated RPG Sequel: Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines

If you’re a big fan of Tabletop RPGs (TTRPG), you might have heard of or played Vampire: The Masquerade. If not, it’s a pretty old school RPG (first released in 1991), wherein you take the role of a vampire and try and deal with the day to day insanity of being a vampire. Well, Bloodlines is a game based on that TTRPG, and while it’s development was turbulent, it’s considered on the best examples of storytelling and narrative in video games.

Gameplay

As you’d expect from a game based on a TTRPG, a lot of the gameplay revolves around your character and your stats. Your choice of clan essentially dictates what sort of game you’re going to have, with some clans making you more sensitive to light but increasing your intelligence, while others give you more charisma, but make you weaker.

vampire the masquerade title screen

One of my favorite parts though is that there’s gunplay and that you could choose stealth if you want to, which isn’t something you see in a lot of RPGs.

Graphics

Ehhhh, unfortunately, the graphics aren’t that great. You have to remember, the game came out in 2004, so it’s well over a decade and a half old. That being said, it’s not necessarily a deal breaker, especially if you’re the kind of person who adores old school games and graphics.

Storyline

The starts you off as a normal human being who is killed and resurrected as a vampire . . . to the surprise of absolutely no one. Thankfully, while the vampire who turned you is executed for breaking the rules, you are spared and are entrusted as a lackey for the prince of vampires.

While I won’t go into many details to avoid spoilers, you’re running around LA trying to figure out the complex web of vampire politics, while trying to prevent something terrible from happening.

Co-op/Multiplayer

Sadly, Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines doesn’t have any co-op or multiplayer, which is a shame, because it would be so awesome. I believe the company that holds the IP was going to create an MMORPG based in the world, similar to Elder Scrolls: Online, but unfortunately, that plan was axed.

Overall Thoughts

Alright, so it’s not the latest and greatest RPG, and it is technically an unfinished game since the devs had to rush it out for release. That being said, it is a flawed masterpiece, and one of the better vampire-related narratives and storytelling.

vampires the masquerade bloodlines 2 male

Don’t let the dated graphics and other issues get to you; you absolutely must play this Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines.


Best RPG to Get Into Character: Fallout: New Vegas

The Fallout franchise has been one of the biggest in gaming for ages now, even though some of the more recent games, such as Fallout 76, have been a bit lackluster. That being said, some of the older games are still complete gold, and with the absolute tons of mods that are now out there, they are even better. More specifically though, we’re going to look at what is considered one of the best entries in the franchise; Fallout: New Vegas.

Gameplay

The majority of gameplay revolves around four things; Combat, Crafting/modding, gaining reputation and dealing with the plethora of companions you can have.

Combat is pretty standard in terms of an FPS, with the added benefit of the V.A.T.S., a slow-mo targeting system that allows you to pull off more difficult shots, as well as to give you a moment to plan. Unlike previous Fallout games, the crafting in New Vegas allows you to make pretty much anything, from food to rad-aways to weapon mods, the latter of which you can stick on your weapons to give them some additional stats.

Reputation is also pretty crucial since there are quite a few factions out there, each with their agenda and personality. As you’d expect, having a better reputation means that you’ll get lower prices at vendors, being given things randomly, and even allowing you to complete some quests easier. On the other hand, having a terrible reputation could make them attack you on sight.

Finally, your companions are going to be the primary source of amusement and entertainment as you wander the wastelands. You can have two of them going at a time (one human and one non-human), and you get a bunch of control over how they move, attack, and even some of their perks.

Graphics

Ok, so here’s the wonky bit. The original graphics of the game are kind of . . . Meh. I mean, it’s nearly a decade old now, so you can’t expect much. That being said, there’s a ton of mods that have come out over that time, and with some select graphical mods, you make the game look gorgeous (One mod I particularly love is Nevada Skies. I’m not going into specifics but certainly check it out).

Storyline

In creative writing, a ‘blank slate’ is a character with no beliefs, experiences or opinions and can be molded or changed by external events or by yourself as the player. I mention this because as you start the game, your character gets shot in the head, wiping his/her memories, and giving you one of the blankest slates in gaming.

fallout new vegas title screen

As you can imagine, getting shot in the head isn’t super great, and the majority of the storyline is about you searching for the one who shot you. Once you do, you deal with the aftermath of that discovery, and what it means for you, and New Vegas as a whole.

Co-op/Multiplayer

So again, the vanilla game doesn’t have any multiplayer, but some enterprising modders have been working on one for a while. It’s a bit finicky, especially when you consider the engine wasn’t accurately made for it (well, you don’t need to imagine, look at Fallout 76 and its issues). Even though it might be a pain to get working, it’s still worth checking out.

Overall Thoughts

The new mods that have come out in the past few years have revitalized Fallout: New Vegas and made it a great game to play, even nearly a decade on.

fallout new vegas courier tower

From the storyline to the crafting and the ability to roleplay, it remains one of the best games in the Fallout franchise.


Best Fantasy RPG: Final Fantasy X

Ok, so I know that there have been a ton of fantastic fantasy games that have come out since Final Fantasy X, such as The Witcher 3 and Skyrim, the latter of which has spawned over 60k mods. You might wonder then, why in the heck I put Final Fantasy X on there. The truth is, I’m an old school gamer, and I remember the huge impression FFX made on me and a lot of the people I know, even compared to some of the previous FFs such as IX and VII.

final fantasy x remastered x2

Given the recent remaster, I thought it would be an excellent idea to pay homage to one of the biggest fantasy titles in the genre.

Gameplay

FFX changed a lot in the FF series, the least of which is moving away from a top-down view, to a more free form, over the shoulder like camera view. Similarly, FFX also changed the combat from active time battles to turn-based battles instead, which removes a lot of the pressure and allows you to strategize much more quickly. Of course, all the summons remain, although with some fresh new and bizarre additions.

Much like any good RPG, you have a complex stat sheet with lots of skills to put points into. This is represented as the ‘Sphere Grid,’ where people would receive Ability Points that let them spend it on ‘Sphere Levels’ and . . . . Ok, you know what? That’s a complicated way of saying that you didn’t just get pre-determined stat gain on level up, and you had a lot of room for customizing each character.

Graphics

While the remastered version doesn’t necessarily bring the graphics up to par with something like the RE2 remake, it still does an excellent job of giving it a fresher look. That being said, I don’t think the critical thing is fidelity, so much as the fantastic job they did animating and bringing the world to life. Still, it’s nice to see Spira with some updated graphics.

Storyline

The story revolves around yourself, a famous sports athlete called Tidus, as you join a summoner named Yuna in her attempt to destroy Sin, this world-altering monster. As you do, you begin to discover some hard and strange truths, as well as falling into the politics and traps that come standard with most RPGs. I don’t want to say anymore in case you haven’t played the game; you really should go in fresh.

Co-op/Multiplayer

Much like many games on this list, there isn’t any multiplayer. Again, not a significant loss since the world stands on its own so well when you play it solo.

final fantasy x combat

Of course, I could imagine a scenario where you co-op as members of the party, but I don’t know if that would spoil the experience.

Overall Thoughts

Final Fantasy X has changed a lot in the franchise, and in my opinion, it’s probably one of the best FFs you’ll find, and certainly worth a play. From the story to the mechanics, to the music, it just creates such a fantastic atmosphere and hits you hard in the heart.


Best RPG Story: Far Cry 3

Did I ever tell you what the definition of insanity is?

far cry 3 vaas on beach

If you’ve never heard of that line, then you’ve been living under a very profoundly embedded rock.

Spawning some of the most meme-able moments, Far Cry 3 was a significant change to the Far Cry series and put the game on the map for the average gamer.

Gameplay

If you’ve played a Ubisoft game in the past six years, you’re probably familiar with the gameplay, where you are essentially dropped in an open world and left to your own devices. Aside from the storyline missions, you can go hunting, liberate rebel camps, and most importantly, climb those darn towers to gain information on different regions of the map. Weapon types run the gamut from shotguns to crossbows, the latter of which is super fun and makes you feel like a total badass.

Even though Far Cry 3 is a first-person shooter, it does feature several RPG elements, such as a skill tree that’s represented with tattoos, and a crafting system for useful items and gear upgrades.

Graphics

Graphics are pretty mint, even for a game that came out in 2011. Probably the most standout part about the game is the jungle environment and how rich it feels, such as the lush wooded areas, grassy plains and even the rebel camps with the ton of detail they put into them. The weapons also look and feel great, same goes for the vehicles. You could run FC3 at high settings using the best gaming GPU under $300 so don’t worry about the requirements.

Storyline

To put it simply, you are a dumb, naive tourist on vacation on the beautiful tropical archipelago. Unfortunately, things go south very quickly, and you are captured by the pirate king Vas, an insane weirdo who plans to sell you into slavery. After escaping, you’re plunged into a story of intrigue and (drugged?)magic that involved not only the natives but also the pirate faction and even the CIA.

Yeah, it’s a bit insane.

Co-op/Multiplayer

You’ll be shocked to know that Far Cry 3 does have a multiplayer mode, although they’re kind of terrible compared to the single-player portion of the game.

far cry 3 title knife

Aside from your typical capture the flag and deathmatch modes, there’s also a co-op story campaign. This campaign takes place away from the main island and is more reminiscent of left four dead, rather than Far Cry. The story isn’t great, and most of the gameplay revolves around enemy waves.

I’m not sure why they went that route, especially considering how remarkable the single-player story is. More of that but with co-op would have been great and it was a missed opportunity.

Overall Thoughts

Far Cry 3 is a good example of great storytelling molded around solid mechanics. It has become a bit dated now, especially since the formula has appeared in almost every single Ubisoft game since, but hey, if you wanted to see where that formula started, this is it.


Best Open World RPG: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

As most of you probably don’t know I’m half-Egyptian, so when Assassin’s Creed Origins came out, I nearly facepalmed myself to the Pyramids. One other thing you may not know is that my other half is Greek, so when I heard about Odyssey, I felt like I’d just gotten back-to-back slaps in the fact.

assassins creed odysey execution

Thankfully though, Odyssey fixes a lot of issues in Origins and is a pretty fun game to play.

Gameplay

This latest entry in the Assassin’s Creed franchise puts much more emphasis in Role-Playing. You’ll see things like dialogue trees, branching quests, and several ending. You also get to choose your gender, which as far as I know, is the first time you can do that in an AC game.

Other than that though, it’s pretty much the same as Origins. Combat system still has the charge up ability, and you still have skills to drop your experience points in. There’s also still a gear system, with different slots for weapons, shields, and armor.

Luckily enough, ship combat makes an appearance, something which makes me incredibly happy, especially since I was almost going to put Black Flag in this entry.

Graphics

The graphics are, of course, top notch and what you’d expect from a AAA title from Ubisoft. That being said, they aren’t as crisp and compelling as Ubisoft’s other title The Division 2. Then again, this takes place over two millennia ago, so there’s only so much detail you can put in that people can appreciate.

Be careful before purchasing this title though, it might stutter unless you run it using one of the best graphics cards for gaming available.

Storyline

The game takes place in 431 BC and covers the fictitious history of the Peloponnesian war. You take control of a mercenary that takes jobs from both the Athenians and the Spartans while trying to unite your family.

ac odysey cyclops fight

In modern times, you play as Layla Hassan, a character from Origins, as she tries to piece together a puzzle that will allow her to find a specific hidden city.

Co-op/Multiplayer

There’s no multiplayer in AC Odyssey and honestly . . . I’m not sure whether that’s a good or bad thing. Brotherhood had some good multiplayer, as did Black Flag, and arguably both styles of multiplayer could work here.

Overall Thoughts

While Odyssey doesn’t necessarily break the mold, it takes what Origins did and does it even better. The introduction of ship combat is also really excellent, and if you haven’t played Black Flag, its reason enough to play Odyssey. Overall, it’s a solid entry into the Assassin’s Creed franchise, even if you aren’t a particular fan of the other games.


Best Co-Op RPG: Divinity: Original Sin 2

Unsurprisingly, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is considered one of the best RPGs of all time, so it certainly belongs on this list. There are numbers to back that up too, with it selling over a million copies in under two months. Those two facts alone should have you intrigued.

Gameplay

Gameplay mostly revolves around yourself and your party, of which you can have up to three NPCs companions (although certain steam workshop mods can increase that number). Unlike a lot of other RPGs, you have full tactical control of them, even able to split them off to different areas to do flanking maneuvers. Similarly, these companions can have different interactions with the world or other NPCs, making the game both replayable, as well as complex.

Aside from the companions and what they can offer, it’s pretty much standard fare for isometric RPGs.

Graphics

Even though I’m not a fan of isometric views, I have to say that this one has done a pretty good job of it. The environment and player characters are crisp; while the UI is simple yet gives you the information you need. There’s also tons of details in the world, even visual effects, and I particularly like how they’ve handled how the fire looks on my 4k gaming monitor.

Storyline

Taking place centuries after the first Divinity, you are captured by a sorcerer hating cult called the Divine Order. On your way to their prison island, you are attacked by a voidborn, these beings that are raiding the player’s world from another. In this case, it’s a Kraken which attacks the ship. You wake up in the shores of this prison as mentioned earlier island, and you discover the horrors within, which lead you to escape.

divinity original sin 2 character creation

You are then thrust into a world on the brink of collapse, that you ostensibly have to save, as is on par with most RPGs.

Co-op/Multiplayer

Shockingly, this game does have multiplayer, as you might have guessed from the category its in. Interestingly enough, the multiplayer in this game mostly takes the form of being able to play the main storyline in co-op mode, ergo the sophisticated battle tactics that are afforded to you by the gameplay. Aside from that, there’s an online, competitive arena type mode where you face off against other players on different maps (although this certainly isn’t where this game’s multiplayer shines).

Overall Thoughts

Divinity: Original Sin 2 is one of the best RPGs out there, made even better by the fact that you can take that journey with a friend. The story is compelling, the graphics are great, and the combat is lots of fun.

divinity original sin 2 sorcerer art

Oh, and you get to save the world while you experience all that, it’s a win-win.


Best Top-Down RPG: Undertale

Undertale made a lot of noise when it first came out, and for a good reason. Developed almost entirely by one person, it managed to combine excellent graphics, great soundtrack and a fantastic story, which is impressive for a one-person team.

Gameplay

Undertale uses a top-down perspective, with objectives serving as the main narrative points within the story. As the name might suggest, you are in some kind underground, where you’re free to explore through the caves and towns, as well as doing some puzzle solving.

Most of the combat is a bullet hell shooter, although you don’t necessarily have to kill everything (more on that in a sec).

Graphics

As the game is pixelated graphics, you aren’t going to find the graphical quality of something like The Witcher. That being said, it still does an excellent job of immersing you into the world.

Storyline

The storyline is where Undertale shines, and I’m even hesitant to give you a synopsis since you should go into the game fresh.

Essentially, you are a young child who has accidentally entered this underground, which is full of monsters, both friendly and the not so helpful kind. As you journey through this peculiar situation and get into combat, you’re given the choice of either killing or sparing the things you fight. What you chose ultimately has an effect on the ending of the game in a big way.

I won’t say any more than that though; you’ll have to discover the rest yourself.

Co-op/Multiplayer

There isn’t any co-op or multiplayer in Undertale, and it doesn’t need any, so no worries there.

Overall Thoughts

Undertale is an exciting, compelling and often time thoughtful and heartfelt game, which is made even more impressive by the fact that one person developed it.

undertale cover art

If you haven’t played this game yet, you absolutely should, even if you don’t necessarily like the top-down perspective or the graphical style.


Best Sci-Fi RPG: Deus Ex: Human Revolution

I’m sure those of you who are RPG fans would probably be knocking at my door with torches and pitchforks for not putting the original Deus Ex here. While I agree that it’s perhaps one of the best in the franchise (and one of the best RPGs), Human Revolution is a more updated version that modern gamers may be more comfortable with.

deus ex human revolution intro screen adam

I also didn’t pick Mankind Divided because I feel that it sells you an unfinished story, and I’m not down with that kind of policy.

Gameplay

One thing that’s made the Deus Ex franchise famous is the ability to go either full stealth or full aggressive, and Human Revolution is no different. Towards either goal, you have a set of augmentation you can choose, as well as some general passive augments that will help in conversations and general world exploration.

Speaking of exploration, a large portion of the game involves going around and discovering things, whether it’s a narrative text or a side-quest, the game almost always rewards you for going out of your way (sometimes literally with XP).

Graphics

Graphics are fantastic, even for a game that’s come out a few years ago now. There’s also a couple of perfect graphical mods, such as ENB, and SweetFX. You can find both here, and if you haven’t played this game yet, you should play it with the Mods. Heck, even if you have played it without the mod, it’s worth another playthrough with the mods.

Storyline

If you love conspiracies (whether you believe them or not), the Deus Ex franchise is perfect for you. Falling squarely in the middle of several secret organizations, such as the Illuminati, you start out having fallen victim to a terrorist attack. Through a life-saving surgery that added a bunch of military-grade augments, you are thrust into the intrigue if discovering the who the terrorists are and their exact purpose for the attack.

Co-op/Multiplayer

Deus Ex: Human Revolution doesn’t have co-op or multiplayer, which is arguably a good thing. Of course, if you do want Deus Ex multiplayer, there is somewhat of a multiplayer mode in Mankind Divided, but it’s still single-player with leaderboards, and it’s not that great.

Overall Thoughts

I will admit a bit of bias here, in that I absolutely love Human Revolution, and it certainly has a spot on my top 10 RPG games. As the first entry into the franchise for a long time, it propelled it into the future with better graphics, better gameplay, and even a better story.

deus ex human revolution combat gameplay

Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an absolute ‘must play.’


Most D&D like RPG: Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura

I remember this game pretty fondly since it was the first game I specifically built/upgraded my PC for so that I could enjoy it at more than five frames per second and let me tell you friends, it was glorious.

This is the first game made by Troika studios, the same studio that did Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. So yeah, you’re in excellent hands here!

Gameplay

The gameplay is bog standard in terms of modern gameplay. The majority of it is exploring and interacting with the world, in the same vein as Pillars of Eternity, or Diablo. Of course, you also get to have a party, although it differs from most RPGs in that you have to care about them, as they kind find particular action objectionable and leave or even attack you outright.

The best part of the gameplay though is the character you create and the progression system. There’s a whole host of different races, backgrounds, skills, and abilities to choose from, and I don’t even know if it’s possible to max out your stats. You also get an aptitude meter, which modifies your stats, such as making you immune to magic or making your spells more powerful.

Graphics

Yeah, so the graphics are pretty bad by modern standards and you don’t need the best gaming PC out there to run Arcanum. That being said, it’s not all bad, and if you like the nostalgic look of older RPGs, then you won’t mind the graphical fidelity in this game. I’ll also mention that I really love the UI design, and it’s probably one of my favorites in this type of RPG.

Storyline

Taking place in a world that melds technology and magic, you begin your journey aboard a zeppelin that gets shot down by half-ogre raiders. Waking up from the crash, you find a mysterious man that hands you a ring, tells you to deliver it, and then promptly dies without giving you any information. As such, the main storyline revolves around you trying to find out more about this ring, the reason you were attacked, and what the heck is going on in the world.

Arcanum Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura gameplay

Interestingly, this is one of the few games out there that has a complete branching storyline, with the ability to finish the game whichever you want, either aggressively or peacefully. To that end, you could bypass all the fights, or kill everybody, from party members to quest givers, whose quests are written on parchment that can be looted from their bodies. So yeah, you can certainly satisfy your bloodlust if that’s your thing.

Co-op/Multiplayer

This game doesn’t have any multiplayer or co-op, which a shame, but not surprising. Considering that this game came out at a time when the internet was still burgeoning, and LAN parties mostly focused on games like Counter-Strike, it’s not surprising it doesn’t have any multiplayer.

Arcanum Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura art

That being said, it certainly is a shame, because a co-op mode similar to Divinity: Original Sin 2 would have been pretty awesome.

Overall Thoughts

Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura was a real break-out game for its time. While the graphics may not hold up after nearly two decades, the mechanics and gameplay do. If you get the chance to play it, you certainly should, especially if you enjoy D&D and immersive roleplaying.


Best RPG of All Time: Final Verdict

As I said at the very start, RPGs are great for a bit of escapism, and these ten games are the best in their category.

Of course, there are also other amazing RPGs I couldn’t fit here. Such as The Witcher 3 and the Mass Effect series. For that, you should check out our other article on some of the best RPGs to play right now.

If you’re just getting into gaming, check out our guide on how to build a gaming PC, it’ll prove to be of immense help. Alternatively, get the best gaming laptop out there and start enjoying these titles as soon as possible.

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