10. The Witcher
The first Witcher entry gave players the ability to galavant across a medieval world like Captain Kirk, killing monsters and meeting interesting females. It was met with such a warm reception, CD Projekt RED decided to go for broke the second time out. A whole new proprietary engine, a console release, two versions of major environments so the game could adapt to your choices – it was a hugely ambitious project for such a young team. It paid off, though, and while fans struggled with changes to the combat system, Geralt’s second set of adventures remains one of the brightest lights in modern RPGs.
09. Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link
While one could argue that the Nintendo series is technically an action-adventure franchise, you are still roleplaying as an orphaned boy named Link who’s a tool used by Princess Zelda to rid Hyrule of the diabolical leader of the Gerudo, Gannon. Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link is technically the action- RPG of the series what with its combat system, experience points, the use of magic and plenty of interaction with NPCS. It is a worthy entry in the series, despite being a deviation from the other Zelda games. Whether you agree with the RPG tag or not, we all can agree the franchise if one of the greatest out there.
08. Final Fantasy
The only properly old school JRPG series to survive in the western-dominated triple-A market, Final Fantasy is the original and still the b- well, our favourite. The series is so star-studded it’s hard to choose between them. FF6 was one of the best RPGs on the SNES. FF7 made JRPGs cool. FF10 molded our adolescent hearts. And if we don’t mention FF5 and FF9 someone will want to lynch us. The FF13 series may come under fire, but FF14 is a shining achievement. We expect big things from FF15.
07. Dark Souls
What Demon’s Souls did quietly and virally, Dark Souls did loudly and brashly, thanks to a bold gamble from the smugly triumphant Namco bandai. A sequel in all but name, the second entry in what has been loosely termed “the Souls series” built on the formula with such success that it established a new genre of punishing but rewarding inaccessible action RPGs. Increasingly imitated but never equalled – except perhaps by its own sequel – Dark Souls is a modern classic relying just as much on what’s between your ears (patience, hopefully) as how quickly you flick your finger over the shield button. Pro tip: never take it off.
06. Diablo 1 & 2
Pinning down exactly what made Diablo such a time sink is difficult. Was it the perfectly drawn-out loot cycle? The scaling difficulty? The pleasure of taking on the lord of hell with a friend? The genuine joy of stringing together a simple series of keystrokes to bring a complex chain of skills, buffs and times into fruition for massive damage? Or maybe all of the above. While the third game has its fans, it hasn’t triggered the same kind of obsessive delight the first two did.
05. Fallout (Interplay)
Released in 1997 and 1998, respectively, Fallout and Fallout 2 from Interplay and Black Isle Studios are still considered two of the best RPGs ever to grace a computer screen. Even almost 30 years later, they both hold up well. Introducing players to a post-apocalyptic Southern California, the protagonist must wander the vast Wasteland, delve into various vaults, interact with odd radioactive people in need of favors and constantly check your luck. And let’s not forget our intrepid follower Dogmeat. How many times did you reload a saved game just because he died? For those who didn’t play Wasteland, Interplay’s 1988 title, these spiritual successor were indeed worthy of the moniker.
04. World of Warcraft
A true Juggernaut in the world of MMORPGs, at its height, WoW had 12 million subscribers by 2010. Now, down to 7 million, it’s still going strong 10 years later with a new expansion coming by the end of the year, which will only add to the 10 billion dollars it has grossed as of 2012. There is really nothing else to compare it to. It is the highest grossing videogame of all time with over 100 million accounts created over the course of the years. The WoW phenomenon has inspired comic books, more memes than can be counted, spawned countless mainstream jokes and references, ruined marriages, lives, and caused more people to develop carpal tunnel than masturbation ever could. It was, and continues to be a force to be reckoned with and a game in which many MMOs aspired to emulate, only to fail. It just cannot be done.
03. Baldur’s Gate
While not the first Dungeon & Dragons video game released on the market, it is still one of the best based on Ed Greenwood’s Forgotten Realms setting and it set a standard for future RPGs. With mechanics adhering – for the most part – to the Advanced D&D 2nd Edition, the game’s top-down isometric perspective and real-time combat system provided the player with a realistic simulation of the lauded table-top game. Like it’s kitchen table predecessor, it was great fun to start out as a weakling before becoming a complete badass, leading his or her party of six to glory through the main campaign and over one hundred side quests. It was definitely a life sucker for its time.
02. Mass Effect
Despite huge sales publishers persist in thinking of RPGs as a niche genre. Or they did, perhaps, until Mass Effect arrived. Oh sure, it’s a hybrid game, with plenty of shooty shooty bang bang, but there’s no hiding the fact that this is a space opera where you spend as much if not more time chatting to your squaddies and navigating the inventory system (ugh!) as you do shouting PEW PEW PEW. I don’t know why everyone thought it was doomed, but five minutes in we were all passionately in love with the adventures of Commander Shepard and her troop of alien buddies. This feeling has never gone away, and the incredible backlash to the trilogy’s ending only stands testament to its impact.