40. Lord of the Rings Online
There are numerous games based on or taking place within JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth, but thanks to Peter Jackson’s films bringing the lore mainstream, there have been quite a few games worthy to carry the Lord of the Rings name. One of these is the MMORPG from Turbine and while some may argue over its entry due to some of the unpopular or lack of changes made over the years, no other game gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the lore and lay of the land dreamed up by the man himself. There is nothing more goosebump-inducing than the first time you encounter a ringwraith or gaze upon The Gates of Argonath. LotRO is riddled with enough scenes, landscapes, and storylines from the books to make any Tolkien fan happy, even if just for the virtual tour.
39. The Last Story
Mistwalker outdid itself – if that is even possible – with this Wii exclusive. Known for its fun Blue Dragon games, The Last Story had everything you could want in an RPG. Mercenaries, a great story, a simple but unique combat system, a fantastic soundtrack and most of all, it was fun. It was truly one of the best games ever released for Wii. Mistwalker has been rather quiet since its release, opting for iOS and Android titles for the time being. Hopefully, Hironobu Sakaguchi has something special up his sleeve and won’t keep fans waiting much longer.
38. Dragon Quest
Impossible to talk about RPGs and not mention Dragon Quest, otherwise known as Dragon Warrior. Yet another Square Enix series, this one is distinguished by the artistic stylings of Dragon Ball Z creator Akria Toriyama – not to mention an almost static core creative team led by Yuji Horii. Unforgivingly old school and satisfyingly cohesive without becoming stale, the series may have hit its peak with Dragon Quest 9.
While an MMORPG can be considered a genre all to its own, it is still an RPG, albeit one where millions of players converge online to quest together. Not the first RPG on the market, no other online RPG since Ultima caused such as craze as Sony Online Entertainment’s EverQuest. Still going strong 15 years and 20 expansions later, the game became synonymous with online addiction earning itself the nickname “EverCrack” and has inspired various real-life player meetups, millions of cosplayers, and even led to real-world, offline relationships. Its successor, EverQuest 2 accomplished all of this and more when it thrust players to Norrath 500 years after The Planes of Power storyline.
If the first entry in the MMO series wasn’t addictive enough, the second release proved it in spades. Fondly known by many players as “NeverQuest” (not the financial Trojan mind you) due to the massive server queues, server crashes, and players lining up for respawns. The game is also the subject of numerous fanfiction stories, and a couple of us know people who have left their real-life partners for those met in the game. It definitely had a culture all it’s own.
“This looks just like Fallout?” Oh, petal, sit yourself down and learn a little history. If there had never been a Wasteland, there would never have been a Fallout. Brian Fargo didn’t have the Wasteland rights when he founded Interplay, and as a compromise moved on to the Fallout series. You hear that? Fallout was a second best. The original and, if not for the eye-bleeding graphics, still the best, Wasteland is CRPG at an early peak surpassed but never made redundant by the genre’s later flourishing.
35. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines
Based on a pen-and-paper roleplaying setting that hits its peak in the late 1990s, Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines was the product of the late, great Troika. Despite our love for this developer there’s no denying it let the game out in an absolute rubbish state, but never mind – the fan community took over and is still improving this beloved classic. There really has never been a better exploration of White Wolf’s gorgeous dark world, and with the demise of CCP’s World of Darkness there probably never will be.
34. Tales series
Since 1995 the Tales series is one of the best RPGs on the market, and while the west has been given a taste here and there, Japan has been blessed with every single release since its inception. Developed by Bandai Namco, Tales of Phantasia SNES was the first of fifteen main titles, multiple spin-offs, audio stories, manga, and anime. While each contains different protagonists, all are linked by a tried and true high fantasy setting, the same gameplay mechanics, a superior battle system, and drop dead gorgeous art style. Created by Yoshiharu Gotanda, what was once a niche series outside of japan has becomes ever more popular thanks to the many who have imported the games, and raised enough ruckus that Namco relented and starting releasing more in the English speaking world. Now, about some of the spin-offs: when are we getting them, eh?
If you’re wondering why certain bright-eyed men start breathing heavily when Wii U exclusive Xenoblade Chronicles X, turn your eyes to the past and PSOne era series Xenogears. Blending Chinese culture and western philosophy – I’m talking Nietzsche, people – it’s one of the most thoughtful explorations of the man machine interface to be found in gaming. A twisting chain of spiritual successors followed as the creators played musical chairs at Japan’s RPG development studios; bless Nintendo for keeping the dream alive.
If Diablo 3 didn’t scratch that itch then it’s time to take a trip to Torchlight. Originally the jumping off point for an MMO, Torchlight proved so popular it spawned a sequel built with co-op in mind, which some aficionados consider has out Diablo-d Diablo. We lost Pat for weeks to this one.
31. Jade Empire
It’s not just the classical Wuxia heroes and traditional chinese style that makes Jade Empire a great RPG – the game has all the skill we’d expect from a BioWare game, afterall. But there’s no denying that the attention to detail, the mythical beasts and the heroes who save the land, are elevated by such attention to detail and story crafting. You’ve never come across this type of adventure in a Western RPG before, and you’re unlikely to ever again. Inspired.