20 Best RPGs You Should Play

Love to say goodbye to the outside world for days at a time? We're counting down some of the best RPG games to help you out.

Fallout New Vegas
Fallout New Vegas


11. Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger

Developer: Square

For many, Chrono Trigger is the definitive JRPG, and it is easy to see why. Designed by Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame, Chrono Trigger features time traveling, ancient mysteries, changing allegiances and evil sentient meteors, all packaged in Toriyama’s iconic character design that really lends itself well to what the SNES can do.

Chrono Trigger is a shining example of how cooperation can bring this medium to greater heights. Made by the greatest minds of Enix and SquareSoft (before they merged), it is one of those games that will forever pop up on any list of the greatest games of all time that is worth its salt. Innovations such as the ability to avoid battles, and fights that didn’t have to warp to a separate battle screen, stood out at the time.

Today it is the music, the surprisingly dark story and the lovely anime graphics that makes this RPG worth returning to over and over.

Play if: You have any love for 16-bit graphics or the SNES sound chip.
Avoid if: You can’t stand Toriyama’s character designs or the sci-fi/ fantasy mix.


12. Mass Effect 2

Mass Effect 2

Developer: BioWare

Ah, the Mass Effect games. Seldom has a series gone from such high praise to being so shunned. There will be courses using Mass Effect as an example of how to successfully run a franchise into the ground and salt the earth for future generations. But before its downfall it was one of the greatest RPG series’ ever made.

Mass Effect 2 toned down the RPG elements in favor of more fluid action, making it significantly easier to play. This time around, you really felt like Shepard was the badass action hero he was supposed to be. It is a very polished game and the craftsmanship is nothing less than impressive, cleaning up a lot of the predecessor’s bugs and UI problems.

You return in the role as Shepard and together with a motley crew of aliens and humans, it is your job to find out where the Reapers, ancient synthetic lifeforms that seem all but immortal, are and what they ultimately want. This time around, you have left the Spectre organisation and work for the shadowy Illusive Man, the criminal mastermind that was alluded to in the first game, and you will have to decide where your allegiances ultimately lie.

Full of planets to explore and interesting characters to meet, Mass Effect 2 is a true gem from the last generation. Though, it is a pity that they decided to fix the Mako from the first game by just removing it.

Play if: You like a good space opera, and who doesn’t.
Avoid if: You want more tactical decisions in battle.


13. Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords

Knights of the Old Republic 2

Developer: BioWare

Speaking of Mass Effect, the genealogy of that franchise goes in a straight line back to BioWare’s debut sci-fi series. Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords relies on a Dungeon and Dragons system and is actually completely turn-based, though it does a lot to hide this fact. This pushes the gameplay further towards hardcore RPGs, and things like leveling up your party in a decent manner becomes far more important than in Mass Effect.

The true king of the KOTOR games is its interesting story, it bends and breaks many rules and expectations of what Star Wars is. There are even some winks and nods in The Last Jedi to what happens in KOTOR 2 and how it sees the Force.

Made by Obsidian, it comes as little surprise that the writing in this game is especially good and this game is truly full of memorable characters, many who were sadly cut from the game upon release. Though, with the restoration mod that was released a few years back, the game is finally in a complete state for you to enjoy.

Play if: You are a Star Wars fan that is here for both story and lightsabers in equal measure.
Avoid if: You can’t deal with a turn-based battle system, however concealed it might be, or don’t like Star Wars.

READ NEXT: 15 Best Star Wars Games Ever Made


14. Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire

Pillars of Eternity 2

Developer: Obsidian
Obsidian/Versus Evil

Do you like gorgeous 2D painted backgrounds? Do you like a deep and varied progression system? Do you like engaging characters and an interesting story? Then the sunny islands of Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire have something to offer you, swabby. Deadfire is everything a Kickstarter success should be, it delivers exactly what it set out to do and then some. Hours upon hours of well-acted dialogue accompany you as you sail across the treacherous seas of this fantasy Caribbean archipelago on your fully customizable ship.

Is it epic? Well, if chasing after a god to hold him accountable for wrecking your home is not epic, I don’t know what is. You go from nail biting ship-to-ship combat to difficult tactical land battles with pirates, giants and everything in between. You get to commune with the gods and explore ancient pyramids full of traps and ghouls. There is almost something for anyone in this game.

Deadfire more than winks and nods back to Baldur’s Gate and its ilk, it treats you to tough combat and lots of spells to cast. Fair warning though, it will steal towards a hundred hours of your life if it gets its claws in you.

Play if: You like isometric RPGs with gorgeous graphics and a well fleshed out world.
Avoid if: You need next gen 3D graphics or spending time considering battle formations just isn’t your thing.


15. Divinity: Original Sin

Divinity Original Sin

Developer: Larian Studios
Larian Studios

The Divine Divinity series is an odd one to say the least. Starting out as a Diablo clone, the series has had both open world titles as well as strategy games throughout its timeline. Recently though, the Original Sin games have been their focus, bringing it back to more familiar RPG shores.

Original Sin has an excellent turn-based combat system that borrows a lot from games like XCOM, and these battles are an absolute joy to play. Elemental effects are of great importance and combining them is the key to success when fighting the many monsters you encounter throughout the game. For instance, it is always a good idea to soak enemies in oil before using fire spells on them or to douse them in water if you cast lightning.

Sure, the system is prone to being cheesed a bit (stacking barrels in the way of enemies is a classic) and the story is not that memorable, but the goofy world and the combat alone makes up for it. Plus, did I tell you: you get quests from cats, dogs and even a teleporting water well? So, what’s not to like?

Play if: You like tactical combat that makes use of its environment and promote creative use of in-game objects.
Avoid if: You want your fantasy games to take themselves seriously and not goof around.


16. Dragon Age: Origins

Dragon Age Origins

Developer: BioWare

Before Kickstarter money made developers able to truly revive the isometric CRPG, BioWare tried on their own with Dragon Age: Origins. It was designed to harken back to the games that made BioWare famous, Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 and Neverwinter Nights.

They largely succeeded in terms of gameplay: Origins took most of the elements of the old games and married them to a graphics engine that could deliver a more cinematic experience. You still had large AoE spells and positioning did matter in battles. But the parties were smaller and you didn’t have as many options as in Baldur’s Gate.

Unique for Origins was that you got to choose and play your origin story. Normally, a character’s background was relegated to just being a menu choice; Origins changed that. Now you could fully play your background and the choices you make will determine how certain events and relations play out down the line.

Unfortunately, it seems that the game was only a partial success because its sequel was seriously hamstrung, and it was not until Inquisition that BioWare had a chance to build anything as substantial again.

Play if: You like fantasy settings with a bit of court intrigue thrown in and stories about personal sacrifice for the greater good.
Avoid if: You can’t stand high fantasy settings or characters that are covered in blood, like all the time.


17. Legend of Grimrock II

Legend of Grimrock II

Developer: Almost Human Games
Almost Human Games

First-person dungeon crawlers have had a rough go of it in recent years. I remember the genre being quite big back in the day, with games like Wizardry on NES and Might and Magic on PC. With the Legend of Grimrock games, the genre is seeing something of a renaissance.

While the first game had you escape a dark and claustrophobic tower, the sequel lets you explore an entire island’s worth of puzzles, traps and powerful monsters. The change of setting is very refreshing since (and perhaps this is my old-man eyes talking) the darkness was a bit difficult to navigate in the first game. Here you see sunny beaches, green forests and, yes of course, dark dungeons. The different locations add some much needed variety to the game’s graphics, which I find to be really great.

Grimrock is a hard game, both in term of its combat and its puzzles. Facing is very important and you always want to fight enemies in narrow pathways, so you can’t be surrounded by enemies. The puzzles are the kind that require you to take notes and mark things on the map for future reference and can be quite challenging at times.

Play if: You like a serious challenge with plenty of opportunities of screwing yourself over.
Avoid if: The notion of having to make your own notes is something that makes your skin crawl.


18. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Skyrim remaster
Source: www.rehwolution.it

Developer: Bethesda

While Morrowind has the more interesting world and plot, and Oblivion has Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean, it is Skyrim that has the best complete package in the Elder Scrolls series. Plus, Morrowind is a very difficult game to go back to today (though I wouldn’t mind some mechanics making a comeback).

Even though the combat in Skyrim is as interesting as watching a dishrag dry, it is hard not to be impressed by the expansive vistas, the mighty mountains and the sheer volume of stuff that Bethesda packs into these games. I remember spending hours in one of the many cave systems that led to some old dwarf ruins. As I slowly made my deeper into the mountains, I realized that the world underneath Skyrim is almost as big as the one above ground.

Skyrim, together with some excellent mod support, will keep you busy for days upon days just exploring the fantastic world and finding new spells and weapons to try out.

But seriously, they need to make a new engine and rip out those old Oblivion guts next time around.

Play if: You like wandering around well realized worlds and exploring ruins and caves are up your alley.
Avoid if: You want combat in your action RPG to be, in any way, engaging.


19. Fallout: New Vegas

New Vegas
Source: Gamespot

Developer: Obsidian

Fallout: New Vegas is, hands down, the best of the modern Fallout games. It offers the best mix of the edgy storytelling of the Interplay games, married to the new graphics and the open world design of the Bethesda games.

Obsidian is always a developer you can trust when it comes to writing and storytelling, and they do not disappoint in New Vegas. While it skirts around some of the more controversial aspects of the old games (you could become a pornstar and get date raped, for one) it does offer a world and a story with some serious choices to be made.

New Vegas is still plagued by the same problems as all Bethesda games are, but this time it is paired with a more fleshed out RPG and companion system which just gives you more to engage with. In New Vegas, stats will greatly affect the way you around problems and even how you solve the late game story missions. The combat isn’t overly exciting, but guns work much better with the system than the swords and axes of Skyrim, so at least there is that.

Sadly, Bethesda didn’t take much from this game as they moved forward with Fallout 4 and that game suffered for it.

Play if: You have always dreamt of walking around in a Mad Max world set in a futuristic 50s America.
Avoid if: You can’t stand that Bethesda Jank™.


20. Xenogears


Developer: Square
Publisher: Squaresoft

Xenogears is the game that started the whole Xeno game series that has seen a real upswing with Xenoblade on Nintendo platforms in recent years.

Xenogears is a real odd little game that breaks with a lot of tropes and expectations of the genre. The battle system is heavily influenced by fighting games: you create combos and learn new moves as you level up. Furthermore, it has a whole separate combat system when you pilot mechs. It is a lot to take in, but it is ultimately a rewarding system to learn.

Like most of this series, it is full of existential conundrums, lightweight philosophy and thoughts on theology. This kicks off quickly with your village being destroyed and a shadowy figure in a mech proclaiming: ‘So, it is you, the one who will kill god’ and it just snowballs from there.

Having great music and gorgeous 80s/90s anime cutscenes, the presentation of Xenogears is fantastic. Sadly, it suffered from troubles in its development and the back half is decidedly rushed. Still, Xenogears is a great game that should be in any JRPG enthusiast’s collection.

Play if: You have a soft spot for JRPGs with interesting combat mechanics and a comparatively heavy story.
Avoid if: You dislike anime or can’t stand characters discussing philosophical problems, like the nature of god.

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