Best RPG Games of All Time

Top 25 RPG Games
Best Science Fiction Graphic Novels  |

RPGs have had a long history. From books, to the table top, and now video games. They provide some of the best storytelling experiences and have a sense of progression like no other genre.  Unfortunately, that also means the market is saturated. 

Though there are hundreds of good titles out there, there are also some that stand way above the rest, in story, presentation, customization, and exploration.

Based on those metrics, we've tried to come up with a list of the top 25 RPGs of all time.

Make sure you also take a look at our 'Best Fantasy Video Games of All Time' for our general 'best game lists'. And, if you love you a good story-driven game, check out our Best Fantasy Video Games with a Story" list.

It's not often that a triple A game lives up to its pre-launch hype and it's even rarer that it surpasses it. With the Witcher 3, CD Projekt Red managed to reach an acclaim far beyond not just the other titles in the series, but the genre as a whole. Every aspect of this game is masterfully executed, from the diverse and beautiful environments to the lighting, combat, and soundtrack. It took the development team three and a half years to create the game, but its incredible detail makes that feel way too short. Each side quest has memorable characters and believable plots, every creature a lore-filed background. It's far too easy to get lost in the world, finding yourself with hundreds of hours invested and no end in sight. It's the main story, however, that holds the whole experience together. The Witcher 3 tells the tale of a grizzled monster hunter searching for his adoptive daughter and fighting a powerful dark force. Along the way, he meets ex-lovers, murderers, elves, and ghosts. He kills giants, griffins, undead and spectral beings. Each character has a believability and nuance that makes it an intensely emotional experience, and the way you interact with them will determine the outcome of the tale and the fate of the world.
Few games have had as much of an impact on the genre as Baldur's Gate II. Its influence is seen across the market, from the smallest indie titles to development giants. Despite this, there's none of the forgiveness you often see in modern titles. This title requires thought, skill, and luck to survive. There are hundreds of ways to die, but the reward is easily worth it. Baldur's Gate II introduces a D&D inspired world that holds not just death around the corner, but a perfectly executed plot and great environments. It's a long and winding experience, featuring hundreds of quests, items, and characters. In the hands of a lesser developer that would mean repetition, but BioWare has used it to create a living world that's enjoyable to explore. Though it introduces all the classic RPG elements like stats, parties, and classes, the game has a perfect balance that's rarely achieved. There's an intelligent blend of story and combat, of depth and simplicity, and of progression and difficulty. 17 years down the line, it still stands up to the praise of its release.
This is a title as revolutionary in its story as it is in its mechanics. Deus Ex has been labeled a founding father of the stealth genre, but underneath those accolades is an incredible, original story that still resonates. Thrown into a cyberpunk world, you take the role of JC Denton, a nano-augmented solider with an important mission. You must recover the vaccine for a man-made virus from a dangerous terrorist organization. The premise is simple, but the overall plot is not. Deus Ex is filled with twists, layers, metaphors and side plots. Its extensive diversions from the original path both offer variety, and gives the impression of a real story. It weaves into different paths, adapts to newly discovered information, presenting anything but a straight line from start to finish. It's a game that truly adapts to your actions, and one that will keep you invested all the way.
It may have roots on the SNES over twenty years ago, but Chrono Trigger is still one of the most original and compelling stories in gaming. This title's originality has led to numerous remakes, and it's still playable today on mobile devices. This game has stood the test of time, and coincidentally, time is its core concept. Crono is a boy from 1000 A.D. who steps through a portal to the future to rescue a friend. In doing so, he discovers that an apocalypse is coming, and must travel through seven different time periods to prevent it. Unfortunately, that's easier said than done, with each action causing a butterfly effect and irrevocably changing the present. Through these mechanics, Square creates a world of cause and effect, where the world is constantly evolving and reacting to your decisions. Yet, despite the gap in time, Chrono Trigger weaves in a story of friendship. Amid paradoxes and time travel, it manages to tell a simple story that can end up to fourteen different ways.
Skyrim has had an up and down existence. Its release was quickly met with widespread praise from critics, but some players realized it wasn't everything they wanted it to be. However, the real test of this game was time, and it's passed with flying colors. Six years down the line, Skyrim remains one of the most popular RPGs, and much of that is due to the wealth of content in its open world. It's populated with hundreds of quests and items, dozens of factions and races, and many more unique characters. It can be replayed again and again, with a main quest line, that, while great, only requires a cursory look if you desire. All of it is incorporated into the Elder Scrolls lore, with a laser focus on consistency and entertaining in-game literature to help it along. Despite this, it's in some ways simpler than its predecessors. It cuts out the fluff from the skills system, settling for a game that's accessible but, importantly, offers more freedom. And that's really what Skyrim is about. It's one of the ultimate iterations of 'play your own way'. You can be a mage, an orc, an archer, a thief or a dragon killer. If there's something you don't like, chances are you can get a mod to change it, or even one that adds hours more content. It's a formula that few games have managed to execute so well, and for that Skyrim deserves its place in the hall of fame.
At the time of its release, Planescape: Torment was not a huge commercial success. It didn't sell millions of copies, but it was noted as an amazing title, and almost twenty years later, it stands out even more. Planescape shows its age through a dated interface, but the other aspects hold up surprisingly well. Its graphics are relatively timeless, but it's the story that truly stands out. In The Nameless One, the player is given a blank slate. Waking as an amnesiac and nothing but a floating skull for company, his quest is to reclaim his memory. That mystery keeps you invested in the early story, but a bigger component is deciding if you want to live up to the memories you discover.Planescape was one of the first games to introduce branching story and dialogue mechanics, and few games have done it better since. Dialogue is brilliantly executed and text-driven, and the player can legitimately affect the game. Your choices aren't between different vague one-liners with the same outcome, but specific and concrete choices. You can interrogate someone, be witty, ignore someone completely, or outright kill them. It's not just a choice between good and evil, but plenty of hard decisions with gray areas. As a result, this title remains one of the most in depth and fleshed out narratives around.
This is one of the few steampunk fantasy games to make it big, and it easily deserves that popularity. Bioshock is set in Rapture, a sprawling underwater city that has lost its status as a utopia. Inhabited by genetically modified creatures, giant mechs, and humans with supernatural powers, its brooding atmosphere makes for a tense and immersive play. Inhabiting the body of Jack, you crash land in this terrifying place, and it's up to you to find out exactly what happened. Most of the time, that will come in the form of gun-toting and magic wielding violence as you fight your way through hordes of enemies and discover audio logs and voice-overs. The satisfying blend never gets boring, the genetic enhancements that ruined the city letting you develop your abilities however you choose. As the story unfolds, 2K Games paints a much deeper picture than its FPS gameplay suggests. It details a world of unchecked capitalism, powerful personalities, and plenty of gray areas. Fantastic level design leads you through environments that are beautiful and thought provoking, to characters that will stay with you long after you're finished.
There have been many arguments over the years about Zelda and its status as an RPG. There's no doubting that it's an action-adventure game at heart, but with its latest iteration, the series strays further into role-playing territory. Though there's no experience system, it does feature skill points via shrines and spirit orbs, armor and weapon stats, and respecs. So, while the genre tag is still a debate for some, Nintendo's graceful implementation of these elements isn't. BoTW is a game of survival as well as story, forcing you to be conservative with your resources and your choices out in the wilderness. Items must be crafted, food must be cooked, and making the wrong decision will inevitably lead to death. The open world is a source of danger in this title, but also one of amazement. It's the biggest world the series has ever featured, and its complete with colorful environments of grass, sand, and rock. More important, however, is what inhabits that world: a cast of intelligent enemies and silent NPCs. There are constant surprises in store as the game subverts the genre and its predecessors. There's a hard to master combat system, head-scratching puzzles. Weaving it all together, though, is yet another iteration of Link's story – one that's up there with the series' best.
There have been many arguments over the years about Zelda and its status as an RPG. There's no doubting that it's an action-adventure game at heart, but with its latest iteration, the series strays further into role-playing territory. Though there's no experience system, it does feature skill points via shrines and spirit orbs, armor and weapon stats, and respecs. So, while the genre tag is still a debate for some, Nintendo's graceful implementation of these elements isn't. BoTW is a game of survival as well as story, forcing you to be conservative with your resources and your choices out in the wilderness. Items must be crafted, food must be cooked, and making the wrong decision will inevitably lead to death. The open world is a source of danger in this title, but also one of amazement. It's the biggest world the series has ever featured, and its complete with colorful environments of grass, sand, and rock. More important, however, is what inhabits that world: a cast of intelligent enemies and silent NPCs. There are constant surprises in store as the game subverts the genre and its predecessors. There's a hard to master combat system, head-scratching puzzles. Weaving it all together, though, is yet another iteration of Link's story – one that's up there with the series' best.
Few games have had as unshakable impact on the RPG genre as Final Fantasy, and out of those, the seventh instalment stands out as a major turning point. It marked a transition from 2D to 3D and, just as importantly, the rise of Square's popularity in the west. The game is almost a masterpiece, Square's vision finally realized on-screen, and a story that resonates even years later. Beautiful environments fill it, and are complimented by Nobuo Uematsu's stunning soundtrack, which still prompts instant recognition today. However, it's the incredibly memorable characters that give this game the popularity it deserves. From Cloud, to Cait Sith, to Sephiroth and Zack Fair, they've grown into a huge part of the franchise and gaming in general. It's their story that keeps the pace through the satisfying yet simplistic combat system, and it's them who will make you shed a tear when it's all over.
While the first System Shock game was largely overlooked, the second game managed to hone its formula and make its way into gamers hearts. A first-person shooter turned role-playing game, it was the spiritual predecessor to the BioShock series. Despite this, you won't see underwater cities. System Shock is a clear sci-fi title, imbued with aspects of cyberpunk. You assume the role of a soldier, woken earlier from a cryo-tube with severe amnesia and an illegal neural interface. It's a chilling scenario that's perfectly represented in the game's atmosphere, punctuated by great voice acting, sound effects, and ambiance. With the guidance of Dr. Polito, you must discover what's happened on the spaceship, your interface picking up the ghosts of dead crew members. It makes for a tense and horror-filled environment, littered with cybernetic enemies and great AI. You can dispatch them in whatever way you wish, building a character that focuses on combat, technology, psychic powers or more. It's a fantastic blend of sneaking, hacking, and shooting that will keep you constantly on edge.
This title is one of the biggest arguments for the support of indie developers. Made by a single man, it managed to be so inventive that it beat many triple-A games in sales. It's clear why. Undertale is a lovingly crafted game with a simplistic visual style only adds more emotion to the characters and scenes contained in it. It's RPG elements are frequently subverted with humor, leaving you consistently unsure of what to expect, and making the moments of sadness even more impactful. The story itself is a multi-faceted and branching one, a journey through underground catacombs that is both mystery and coming of age. It adapts to not just your choices but the way you play, yet remains unpredictable. Complimented by a NES-inspired soundtrack, its presents an unsurpassed blend of RPG and comedy.
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From the dev team that made Vampire: The Masquerade, and three big influences in the original Fallout games, Arcanum should be a good game, and it absolutely is. It's just very different from both of those. The game is set in a Victorian-era world with both steampunk and traditional fantasy elements. There's a clever mix of elves, orcs, guns, and airships. It's on one of those airships that the story begins. Attacked by half-orcs, it crashes on its maiden voyage, leaving everyone but the player dead, and quest to find a passenger's silver ring. From there it spirals into a rich story as you seek out information and it evolves to your choices. It's punctuated by believable characters and great dialogue. All of it takes place from an isometric perspective, and the contrast of technology and magic is present in the combat system as well as the story. You can spec your character towards one or the other, creating difficult choices and a sense of freedom in play style. The action itself has a similar openness, letting you choose between turn-based, real-time, or a mixture of both.  As a result, Arcanum remains a wholly unique RPG that offers a refreshing feel in both setting and gameplay.
This indie title took everyone by surprise with its innovative approach to the rogue-like genre. Darkest Dungeon presents an experience far deeper than its simple hand-drawn art style, blending dungeon crawling and RPG elements. It's true strength, however, lies in studio's approach to character. Red Hook has tied psychology into the core of its game, each party member showing the mental stresses of battle during their journey. As a result, the characters are shaped by their experience. They're flawed, and that comes with unique challenges. That variety is mirrored in other aspects of the game. Fifteen different classes populate it, each bringing different advantages to the adventuring party. To survive the procedurally generated levels, you'll have make full use of every member. Once they die, it's permanent, and that creates a feeling of attachment and satisfaction that it rarely reached.
Stoic's debut release caused a huge stir in the gaming world, one of the first crowdfunded video games to truly make it big. It may be masterminded by three former BioWare developers, but that's where the similarity to traditional RPGs stops. In the Banner Saga, the player is thrown into a beautiful stereoscopic world of Vikings, where the sun is trapped low in the sky and an ancient race has returned to destroy them all. In a blend of strategy and RPG, you must escort a band of travellers across the world as they search for the source of the uprising. As you manage resources and fight in turn-based battles, you'll have to make tough choices, and those decisions influence the outcome of the story. It has the feeling of a Viking saga, only enhanced by Austin Wintory's haunting soundtrack. It's a stunning game that immerses you in its world and keeps you there long after its finished.
A sword and some clothes. That's essentially all you're given when you start Mount and Blade: Warband, and it's up to you to grow it into something bigger. First, though, you'll have to make it past the in-depth character creation screen, where you can customize everything from gender to social status and stats. The choices have a real impact on how people treat you, with women even struggling to find their way in the male-dominated medieval period. What follows is a hard upward struggle to the top. There's very little hand-holding in this game, from the minimal back story to the steep learning curve. You'll probably die. Repeatedly. But that's all part of the fun. Each iteration gives you a chance to explore new beginnings. Despite this, the end goal is always the same. Slowly grow yourself from a humble villager into a general. Grow your army from a few mercenaries to a dominating force. Your decisions will affect the political landscape, either earning you a title or a reputation of an infamous bandit. It's an ultimate sandbox, made better by fantastic horse-based combat that makes every single battle a joy.
Dark Souls isn't your traditional RPG. Though stats do feature, they aren't quite mandatory, and the focus is on action rather than story. However, in the end, it's way too good to pass up on this list. The game's brooding dark fantasy atmosphere is hard to rival, as is its addicting core concept: to kill you. In any way possible. This game is filled with gigantic bosses, traps, undead, and hundreds of other creatures that will try to defeat you. You will die consistently, and with every restart learn a new way to approach the problem. It forces you to explore, both in the world and in your playstyle. That exploration leads to an organic uncovery of the games brooding atmosphere and dark story. Dark Souls has few cutscenes and little dialogue, yet the From Software manages to build an immersive world that surpasses many story-based titles.
Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy, and Enders Game. That's what Anchronox was inspired by, and if you think the execution may be lacking, consider its developers. This game was crafted by Ion Storm, creators of Deux Ex and Thief, and overseen by Tom Hall, known for his work on Doom, Wolfenstein 3D, and Duke Nukem. It's even run on a modified Quake engine. It's fair then, to say that Anachronox should have been an overnight success. Instead, it remains one of the most overlooked games of the period. It's a love letter to both JRPGs and classic sci-fi, a darker tale of mystery and a threat to the entire universe. The game follows Sylvester Boots, a PI who takes on a random case and gets wrapped up in that plot. Accompanied by his holographic assistant, he travels the universe trying to thwart it. It's populated by strong characters, great writing, and a detailed and humorous world. All of it is tied together with the turn-based JRPG combat system we all know and love. The mix of adventure, characterization, and action is one of the most compelling in the genre.
We thought long and hard about which Pokémon generation to include in this list. However, while there are a couple of stand-out successes, we realized that we could pick any of them and they would still deserve a place. It's impossible to argue the impact of Pokémon, inspiring generation after generation, reaching outside of its target audience to all regions and age groups. The game has an approachability that's rarely seen in gaming. You can just pick it up and play, instantly sucked into a bright world where creatures have a much closer bond with humans. The turn-based combat lends itself well to anyone, the themes of rivalry and collection speaking on a universal level. Despite that, there's an absurd amount of depth to be found if you look for that. Statistics and tactics that will please hardcore RPG fans, detailed environments, lines of dialogue that reference titles ten years in the past. It's been almost twenty years since its inception, but Pokémon never fails to amaze and entertain.
This game is one of the greatest examples of how important community is in gaming. Vampire: The Masquerade had a rushed release, plagued with bugs and underdeveloped content. Thirteen years later, it's a polished cult classic that still offers an unmatchable experience. That's all thanks to the hard work of modders, whose unofficial patches let the excellent base game shine through. As a result, it really is a joy to play. Vampire RPGs are rare, and Bloodlines offers the best customization by far. You can choose between various myth-inspired races and classes, each with its own abilities and statistics. It's possible to be a strength enhanced warrior, a blood mage, or a stealthy assassin. Whatever your choice, staying hidden will feature in the game. In this world, Vampires are not yet common knowledge, and it's essential that you keep your abilities hidden from the humans. With this, Troika Games manages to imbue a constant tension, and that's heightened by great writing. Characteristically, the Troika team has built in a winding story that's inspired by the synonymous board games. A fledgling, the player must uncover a mystery surrounding the sarcophagus of a powerful vampire. Characters don't just point you in the direction of a quest, they interact naturally and have regular lives. Plot threads behave naturally, rather than leading directly to the next point. Combined with expressive soundtrack and dialogue, this title is a must play for any RPG fan.
With all of the modern graphics and first-person shooters saturating the market, it almost felt as if classic RPGs were a thing of the past. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, came Pillars of Eternity, and it showed just how much demand there was, from old players and new. However, Pillars isn't the complete, nostalgia-filled throwback some expect it to be. Its strength is not just in reinventing old elements, but introducing new ones. Obsidians ode to Baldur's Gate contains not just the typical elves, dwarves and humans, but nations blessed by God, ones at home in the water, and others with fur-covered ears. These elements fit seamlessly into the world, each race, and class with its own struggles and perceptions by others. That depth extends to all aspects of the game, from the beautiful visuals to the world. Players get lost in the world of Eora, where children are born with no soul, and pursue an emotional tale that's perfectly complimented by a well-honed, party-based combat system.
It's clear from this list that BioWare has a history of great RPGs, but there's one more recent title that deserves a mention. Dragon Age is a spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate, yet inspired by Lord of the Rings and George R. R. Martin's a Song of Fire and Ice. If that's not enough for you, rest assured that the title lives up to its influences. Players take the form of a demon-fighting Grey Warden, and, as the title suggests, it's all about beginnings. You can choose between three races, classes, and social origins, each affecting the story and the way characters behave towards you. It's a refreshing choice that lends itself perfectly to replayability, and means you'll sink hundreds of hours into this title. Thankfully, those hours would be well spent. Origins is well-crafted, from its memorable characters to its overall plot, to its combat system and world. Voice acting is great, the music is haunting, and relationships unfold with a slow, emotional grace that never fails to tug at your heart strings.
There are few games that let you be truly evil. GTA lets you kill civilians, others let you make terrible sacrifices, but the ability to completely crush a civilization is rare. In Tyranny, you can do all of those things. The world has already been taken over by the evil overlord Kyros, and as the Fatebinder, it's up to you to enforce his will. However, even within evil there's wiggle room, and you can choose to be a monster or have mercy where possible. Make no mistake, though, you will face some difficult choices, and all within a world so richly built that it feels a shame to tear it down. Tyranny has a clear Iron Age influence but is complete with fantasy elements and text-driven dialogue that will occasionally give way to a voiced cutscenes. Your task is to end the siege on a rebel fortress and staunch a rebellion, but with high stakes. If you don't succeed, the entire province will be leveled by Kryos' magic edict. The choices you make and the company you keep in that short time will greatly affect the outcome of the story. Entire towns can be slaughtered, populations decimated, factions can be with or against you, and the extent of your power will vary. It adds a huge amount of replayability to the title, but it also acts as a poignant exploration of gray areas, and for that alone it deserves a place on this list.
The love-child of Peter Molyneux, Fable offers a different take on the genre. In the colorful world of Albion, your future is shaped not by dialogue, but the actions you take. Murder, and you will be feared; save people, and you will be lauded. Swinging a hammer results in muscle growth, magic in glowing facial runes, and death in scars. Fable is a coming of age story where you character actually grows. You begin as a young boy who witnesses a traumatic event, and end the type of hero you want to be. Along the way you'll experience a fun combat system, memorable characters, humor, and deep emotion. You'll find a wife, drink, kill, and gamble, all the while exploring the ageless environments. Despite its flaws, the RPG category wouldn't be complete without this loveable title.