Pick your character class, choose your weapons and recruit your comrades. We count down the 50 best role-playing games ever made.
50. Secret of Mana
Oh, Secret of Mana: how we love thee. Never had we blowed so hard on a worn out SNES cartridge, just to get you working again. With a banner real-time battle system, jaw dropping graphics, and a stellar soundtrack, for some of us, it is one of the greatest games ever. Even though the menu system was overly frustrating at first, and the story was very Japanese for some, it was unique with fun co-op and super smart AI for its time. And finally being granted access to Flammie the dragon? Seeing him fly above a ground rendered in 3D? Being able to ride him? Forget about it. The game was released 20 years ago, and yet, it still manages to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
49. Guild Wars
It boggled the mind in 2005 how ArenaNet planned to succeed in the competitive world of MMOs with a game featuring instanced PvP areas, the ability to group and quest with NPCs, and not forcing a subscription on players. It was destined to fail according to some pundits. Well, it didn’t. It succeeded and then some. By April 2009, 6 million units had been sold. It’s sequel, Guild Wars 2 released in 2012, set the bar even higher with its updated graphics and gameplay mechanics, a storyline responsive to player actions, dynamic event systems instead of the typical MMO questing, and a persistent world. All of this, and again with no subscription fees. Both were and remain a breath of fresh air in an increasingly stagnant MMO genre and are deserving of unparallelled praise for such innovation.
48. The Elder Scrolls: IV: Oblivion
The red-headed stepchild of modern Elder Scrolls games, Oblivion is unfairly derided by a generation who just didn’t love it as much as Morrowind. How can you follow a game which changed western RPGs forever, bringing them to the mainstream via consoles? Bethesda gave it a red-hot try, but nobody wanted to wander around the sunny plains of Cryodiil after the ash-strewn slopes of Vvardenfell. Still, comparisons to big brother aside, it’s a huge, brilliant fantasy epic and one of the most important chapters in the evolving TES lore. Many of its best concepts (streamlined gameplay, an intensifying calamity) were recycled to great effect in Skyrim – where the addition of snow somehow made everything alright again?
47. The Legend of Dragoon
Sure the battles could be a bit repetitive and the combo system was unforgiving at times, but despite all this, The Legend of Dragoon was damn good game. While else have there been numerous requests from fans for Sony to release another entry? It was beautiful, the storyline was tight, you could transform into a more powerful form in battle, and multiple use items were peppered across the game for the player to find in order to increase stats. And how many of you actually collected all the stardust, thus acquiring the Vanishing Stone so you could face superboss Magician Faust?
46. Ultima Online
Where do you even start? With Ultima Online, the first really successful graphical MMORPG? With nine core games and a dozen spin-offs? With the huge breadth of talent at the late Origin Systems? Or maybe with the suspected madness of Richard “Lord British” Garriott, who loved the worlds he helped create so much he can’t stop doing author-inserts and appears as a major, recurring NPC? Ultima is pure western fantasy, if not at its finest then certainly at some of its peaks.
In more innocent times Fable felt fresh and funny. An RPG set within a crooked take on the eccentric British, Peter Molyneux’s first attempt at Fable came without all the pretentious bullshit. The difficult choices were always binary so you only ever turn out purely evil or saintly good, but on the way you get to marry, drink and fart like a trooper. If nothing else it’s just bloody good fun.
44. System Shock 2
Ken Levine may have perfected his gameplay mechanics years after its release, but this survival horror, cyberpunk RPG laid the groundwork for all BioShock games to come. Released as a sequel to the 1994 PC game, the 1999 release thrust players into a starship to stop a genetic outbreak – all by yourself. Like its predecessor, the game mixed FPS elements with the ability to build up your skills and traits. While it wasn’t deemed a commercial success, it has been credited as the inspiration behind several shooters and other genres with its innovative progression system. Add in the fact this was NOT a game you wanted to play in the dark lest you wet yourself, it deserves to be on any “best of” list.
43. Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
For some of us, Level-5 can do no wrong, and Ni No Kuni proved our opinion of the developer was valid with this breathtakingly lovely DS and PS3 release. Combined with studio Ghibli’s traditional animation style and cutscenes, the player cannot help but be drawn into Oliver’s world as he and the fairy Drippy try to thwart the evil wizard Shadar. It’s a touching story, as Oliver is convinced he can bring his mother Allie back to life and help broken-hearted people affected by Shadar along the way. When he finally confronts the White Witch, we are met with a touchingly bittersweet ending to a fabulous effort by the developers.
Ion Storm’s forgotten game, Anachronox is the neglected middle child to bratty Daikatana and smug Deus Ex. Tom Hall’s name is still spoken of in reverent tones whenever fans of this beautiful project gather, and with good reason: Anachronox fronts a beautiful world, a gently good-humoured tone and bitingly good writing. Consigned to cult classic status, it deserved so much more.
41. The Legend of Heroes
If the Ys titles aren’t enough for you to appreciate Nihon Falcom, then you need to get your hands on one of the myriad of The Legend of Heroes titles. Starting life as an action series called Dragon Slayer, after the second entry, Falcom dropped the Dragon Slayer bits altogether to focus on turn-based RPG combat. Sure, the main series lived on in other Legends titles, but these branched off from the family tree. Most people familiar with the series had to import the titles, but thankfully, Falcom finally released The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky west in 2011.The series as a whole may be a bit obscure, but it greatly appeals to both the niche and JRPG crowds, and is therefore a notable entry on any RPG list.
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