There's nothing quite like a good RPG. The promise of an epic story, a huge open world to explore, and meticulously customizing your character and party stats to fit your gameplay. Aside from that, there are all of the side quests, optional bosses, and the thrill of getting 100 percent completion. If you want a deep experience, pick up an RPG. The consoles of various generations have been home to some great RPGs over the years. Something about plugging in the cartridge (or disc), sitting down on the couch and losing yourself in a fantastic world is just one of gaming's many magics.
But not all RPGs are created equal. For every stone-cold classic out there, you can find just as many stinkers. But this list isn't necessarily about Console RPG games that are the worst. Some aren't bad games at all. These are simply the most disappointing. Whether they came from venerated studios or franchises, had massive amounts of hype behind them, or just couldn't live up their predecessor, gamers weren't satisfied. There was hope these games were going to be amazing. That hope just made the sting of failure worse. The initial disappointment tanked these RPGs beyond all hope.
So let's take a look at the good and the bad. The RPGs gamers are still talking about all these years later, and the ones they've tried so hard to forget. Our team has scoured the history of gaming to bring you this list of console RPGs.
These are the 15 Best RPG Console Games Of All Time (And 15 That Disappointed Fans)
30 Best: Secret Of Mana (SNES)
If any console can be associated with classic RPGs, it would be the Super Nintendo. And of all those classics, Secret of Mana may be the most underrated. This title from RPG masters, Square, was unique in many ways for the time. It had a real-time combat system instead of the turn-based style that was the norm for JRPGs. But Secret Of Mana's most unique feature was being one of the first multiplayer RPGs. Up to three players could take control of a party member and join the fight. Square tried a few sequels, but the original still outshines them.
29 Most Disappointing: Dragon Age 2 (Xbox 360, PS3)
The first Dragon Age game, Origins, built up a fanbase quickly when it was released. Developer BioWare, having already made the classic Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic took all they learned there and applied it to their own original setting.
Surely a sequel would be even better, right? Wrong.
Dragon Age 2 was a massive disappointment to fans. The in-depth character customization was gone, the huge open world shrunk to just one city, and the stakes of the story never reached the epic heights of Origins. Thankfully Inquisition improved things, otherwise, this series would have been gone in the water.
28 Best: Final Fantasy VII (PS1)
You knew there was going to be at least one Final Fantasy game on here. Might as well go with the one everybody knows best. Part of that notoriety is circumstance. Final Fantasy VII was the first 3D Final Fantasy and the first on the PlayStation.
For a whole generation, it was their first RPG experience.
But we wouldn't still be talking about it if the game didn't deserve it. From the memorable characters to the compelling story to the visually stunning world, Final Fantasy VII brought traditional RPGs into the new millennium. And Aeris' passing still makes us tear up.
27 Most Disappointing: Final Fantasy XIII (PS3, Xbox 360)
While Final Fantasy used to be the leader in console RPGs, the more recent games have been very hit or miss. But most fans and critics agree this installment from 2010 is among the worst in the series. All the glaring problems in JRPGs were turned up to 11 here. A convoluted story even by Final Fantasy standards, annoying, unlikeable characters, and overly detailed character designs. But those weren't as bad as the AI controlled party members in combat, or the game's extreme linearity. At 60 hours long, it was just a slog for players to get through. Good thing this wasn't the final Final Fantasy.
26 Best: Pokémon Yellow (Game Boy)
Pokémon has been serving as an introduction to RPGs for over 20 years. The simple objectives, easy to learn gameplay, and an adorable variety of creatures hook kids into the genre. While there are probably better games in the series, we're going to give the spot to Pokémon Yellow version back on the original Game Boy.
Call it a nostalgia pick.
For those who grew up back in the first outbreak of Pokémania, this game was the perfect Pokémon experience. It improved on things from Red and Blue, and gave you a Pikachu that followed you around in-game. What's not to love?
25 Most Disappointing: Mass Effect 3 (Xbox 360, PS3)
Hello, again BioWare. We won't mince words, Mass Effect 3 is here for one reason. The ending. While the game itself was perfectly fine, on par with the other two in the series, fans were up in arms about the ending. There were three different ways the story could finish, coded by color, and fans hated all of them. Thinking Mass Effect 3 would be the last in the series only infuriated them more. Some even complained to the federal government and tried to sue BioWare. Say what you will about the game, but that has to be a record for disappointment.
24 Best: Persona 5 (Ps4)
Unique among RPGs, even those from Japan, the Persona series has been doing its own things for over 20 years now. Trading in the usual Tolkien-like world for a more urban fantasy setting, the series' use of Jungian psychology and pop-art manga visuals really make it stand out. Fans will argue over whether Persona 4 or 5 deserves this spot, but we're going with the most recent game. Persona 5 has all the series hallmarks along with a cool cat burglar flare. And with main character Joker joining the Smash Bros. roster, more and more people will be discovering Persona through this game.
23 Best: Super Mario RPG: Legend Of The Seven Stars (SNES)
Super Mario RPG had a bigger impact on the history of gaming than it might seem at first blush. Yet another Super Nintendo RPG classic from Square, it was the first game to move Mario and company away from their traditional platforming adventures into a new gameplay realm.
It was the first time Mario and Bowser teamed up.
And it spawned both the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi RPG series that continue to this day. Both those series trademark humor comes right from Super Mario RPG. Those who remember it hold out hope its original characters will make it into Smash Bros.
22 Most Disappointing: Paper Mario: Color Splash (Wii U)
We would have put Paper Mario: Sticker Star here, but that was a handheld RPG. Not a console one. But Sticker Star and Color Splash, aside from their gimmicks, share much the same problems.
The Paper Mario series was best known for its offbeat stories and quirky humor on a traditional RPG experience. Color Splash tried to mix things up with a more action-RPG approach. The combat system was just frustrating though and the humor was lacking as well. The game didn't meet the standards of the series.
Let's hope Nintendo finds a way to save this franchise.
21 Best: Fallout: New Vegas (Xbox 360, PS3)
Fallout may have been born on PCs, but its console games are among the best RPGs out there. All of them were worthy of being on this list, but we're giving New Vegas the spotlight. Building off the solid foundation of Fallout 3 to create a unique experience of its own, New Vegas was no mere spin-off. The post-apocalyptic Sin City that the Courier finds themselves in is among the most unique in gaming; full of memorable and bizarre characters. And for long-time Fallout fans, it was full of easter eggs and nods to previous games. Great for newbies and veterans alike.
20 Most Disappointing: Fallout 76 (Xbox One, PS4)
This game is pretty recent but the debacle around it is too big to ignore. Designed to be the first online multiplayer game in the series, Fallout 76 promised a lot more than it could ever deliver on. While the open world was bigger than any previous Fallout game, players found little to do in the huge space. The gameplay was unfocused and the story weak at best. Especially bad was the lack of human NPCs in a series known for its colorful side characters. Expensive DLC and overpriced physical tie-in materials only made things worse. Just a fiasco all around.
19 Best: The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim (PS3, Xbox 360)
Scale is what most think of when it comes to Skyrim; especially considering its enormous, expansive, beautifully rendered open world, and all the places you can venture in it. See a mountain? You could go climb it if you wanted to. It wasn't until Breath of the Wild that any game stepped up to challenge it. But Skyrim also makes the list for its intuitive gameplay. It puts the role-playing in role-playing games. You can play your character however you like, get into the story as much as you like, or just goof off as much as you like. Be the Dragonborn you want to be.
18 Most Disappointing: Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch (PS3)
Some of you may be questioning why this game made the list. It's not because we think it's a bad game, not at all. It's a very well-done JRPG experience. But we do find it disappointing through no fault of its own.
Call it the weight of expectations.
When the legendary Studio Ghibli, the animation studio responsible for classic movies like My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Princess Mononoke are involved with your game, hopes are going to be raised pretty high. Even if Ni No Kuni was just average, it still feels disappointing when greatness is expected. Still, average is better than bad.
17 Best: Chrono Trigger (SNES)
Chrono Trigger is an RPG like none other. Making time-travel its central gimmick, it took gamers of the 16-bit era on a journey across the ages. From the far future to medieval times, to the age of the dinosaurs and back again.
It felt huge in a way no RPG has surpassed.
The story was filled with great characters and humor. Chrono Trigger made fun of common video game story tropes, but it was also emotionally impacting and engaging. Add in the character designs from legendary Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama, and you've got a game that stands the test of time.
16 Most Disappointing: Chrono Cross (PS1)
Here we have another game that is actually good but was still disappointing at the time. Chrono Cross is actually a great RPG in its own right, carrying on the legacy of its predecessor Chrono Trigger. It just didn't carry on enough from the first game. Some fans of the original were upset that Chrono Cross featured no returning characters or continued the story in any way. Swapping time travel for parallel dimensions and no involvement from Akira Toriyama also ruffled feathers. The game has been re-evaluated and appreciated for what it is in recent years, but that first sting still hurts some people.
15 Best: Skies Of Arcadia (Dreamcast)
Pour one for the late, lamented Dreamcast. At least it gave us a few high points like this adventure. Made in-house at Sega by their top-tier talent, Skies of Arcadia delivered an old-school RPG experience just as console gaming was moving away from such things.
Skies of Arcadia was standard for JRPGs.
It featured a story of brave sky pirates overthrowing an evil empire and turn-based battles which were nothing new even back then. But those elements were polished to heck and back to be perfect. Plus, the 3D airship combat and exploration was the true stand-out for this game. A GameCube port raised awareness of it, but it still deserves to be better known.
14 Most Disappointing: Suikoden IV (PS2)
While not well-known today, the Suikoden series was a fairly popular JRPG series from the PS1 era. It had been chugging along just fine until this fourth installment. Fans were immediately split over Suikoden IV, and many consider it the worst in the series. Even though it was the second game on PS2, the game world felt drastically smaller. There were few dungeons or towns to explore. The story was criticized for being too short and not fleshed out enough. But the biggest disappointment was the combat, replacing the streamlined system from 3 with something much more simple and easy.
13 Best: Tales Of Symphonia (GameCube)
A sleeper hit on the GameCube, Tales of Symphonia was the first game in the venerable Tales of... series to garner real attention in the West. Mainly, it was the real-time combat system that grabbed people's interest. Rendered in a unique mix of 2D and 3D, it was easy to pick up and understand, a rarity for RPG combat both then and now.
Though the story was criticized for being somewhat cliche, the likable characters made it a great time all the same. Forget about the plot and dig into the combat and strong characterization that make up for its flaws.
12 Most Disappointing: Musashi Samurai Legend (PS2)
There's nothing more disappointing than finding out the sequel to your favorite RPG isn't an RPG at all. While the original Brave Fencer Musashi was a real-time strategy action-RPG hybrid, it was still an RPG, albeit an underrated little title from Square. So the fact that this PS2 sequel/reboot was a straight-up action game was disappointing enough. The fact the game also sucks just made things worse. Featuring poor writing, lazy music, and bad camera-work. The combat system from the original was totally thrown out for something both too complicated and too easy. Musashi fans are still praying for a true sequel.
11 Best: Fable 2 (Xbox 360)
Fable was one of the highlights on the original Xbox. The sequel improved on everything for the 360. Following the life of your character through their whole life in a fantasy world, Fable 2 offers a ton of options for how you want to play things. Want to be a brave hero? Or an evil jerk? It's totally up to you. The combat system is also surprisingly deft. The humor too, parodying ideas about common fantasy tropes and British stereotypes, is some of the best in gaming. Plus how many other RPGs give your character a dog? Who doesn't love dogs?
10 Most Disappointing: Fable 3 (Xbox 360)
Here we have an interesting case. Where critics were mostly positive toward Fable 3, fans of the series found it to be disappointing. They felt that the story was poorly paced and out of sync with the gameplay, with a pretty abrupt ending to boot.
Other features bugged longtime fans as well.
The leveling and customization system was thought to be complicated. Lack of side quests, or just really tedious ones, were also the main problem. Some special magic of the Fable series was lost with this installment, and fans weren't really sure what happened. They were all disappointed in Fable 3.
9 Most Disappointing: Two Worlds (Xbox 360)
One of a few Western RPGs to follow in the wake of Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion, Two Worlds seemed like it could be a fresh experience. How wrong that assessment was. The game released was anything but fresh. The story was generic high fantasy and the environments bland, poorly rendered as well. That wouldn't have been a problem if the gameplay was decent, but Two Worlds was fraught with glitches and bugs that ruined it. Its worst crime had to be its voice-acting though, done by the developers instead of professional actors. Thankfully, the sequels have improved greatly on this flop.
8 Best: South Park: The Stick Of Truth (PS3, Xbox 360)
Leave it to the guys behind South Park to make both a hilarious deconstruction of RPGs and a great RPG in its own right. Stick of Truth had all the raunchy humor the show was known for, but also took great pleasure in satirizing the fantasy cliches of classic RPGs. For South Park fans too, it was weird to live in the world of the show. Made with the help of creators Trey Parker & Matt Stone, it was as authentic an experience as you can get. Stick of Truth really shows how versatile the traditional RPG format can be.
7 Most Disappointing: Silver (Dreamcast)
One of the first RPGs for the ill-fated Sega Dreamcast, Silver didn't become disappointing until after the fact. Gamers were looking for an answer to Final Fantasy VII back in those days, especially for new consoles like the Dreamcast.
Silver seemed to fit the bill.
It sold well, but once better RPGs like Shenmue and Skies of Arcadia arrived the flaws were obvious. Clunky camera and combat. A hard to navigate menu. Last-Gen graphics. Despite its early success, selling almost half a million copies, Silver was soon forgotten along with other Dreamcast titles. We hear the PC version was better.
6 Best: Jade Empire (Xbox)
Sometimes all it takes is a unique and interesting setting. That was exactly what BioWare gave gamers with Jade Empire. Eschewing the traditional Medieval European fantasy setting, Jade Empire took us to a world inspired by Chinese history, mythology, and classic martial arts movies.
The setting influenced the gameplay too.
Using a similar Light Side/ Dark Side moral choice system to Knights of the Old Republic, the differences between the two paths were more nuanced, morally grey, and grounded in traditional Chinese and Taoist philosophy. Though Jade Empire wasn't a hit, we wouldn't have Dragon Age or Mass Effect without it.
5 Most Disappointing: Quest 64 (Nintendo 64)
The transition from 2D to 3D gaming back in the late '90s was hard on the industry. Old ways of making games no longer worked. That was what made the failure of Quest 64 so hard. Nintendo had been known to be the console perfect for RPGs.
Fans of the genre had high hopes for the first turn-based adventure on the Nintendo 64. But Quest 64 let them down. The game was too linear and focused more on combat. There were no cut scenes to tell the story either, big trouble for a genre loved for in-depth stories. RPG fans would have to keep waiting.
4 Best: Dark Souls (PS3, Xbox 360)
Because it's the Dark Souls of RPGs. Seriously though, nobody was prepared for what Dark Souls was bringing to the table. It felt like a wholly original creation that took what people liked about console RPGs and made them better. The real-time combat system was incredible. The gigantic boss battles felt like actual triumphs when you overcame them.
The grim, gothic setting was haunting and memorable.
Few games become a genre unto themselves, but Dark Souls has. Even From Software, the developers, have just been remaking it with different coats of paint. Never have the words "You Died" been so inspiring.
3 Most Disappointing: Shadow Madness (PS1)
RPG fans were pretty thirsty for PS1 content after the mega-success of Final Fantasy VII. At first, Shadow Madness looked to fill that niche. Being made by some ex-Square employees, the studio behind Final Fantasy, really got the hype train going. Too bad the game couldn't back it up. Most of the development team were actually industry newbies, learning as they went. This lead to a game with ridiculously low-level caps and some of the worst character designs ever. The graphics were also subpar, even by the standards of the time. At least the music is supposed to be good.
2 Best: EarthBound (SNES)
Though it was a flop in its day, EarthBound has since become the definition of a cult classic. Like many of the games on this list, it's what makes it different that makes it special. EarthBound (or Mother 2 in Japan) is like an RPG version of a classic Steven Spielberg movie.
The story involves normal suburban kids getting caught up in alien invasions, psychic powers, and the world of imagination. The game's quirky humor also sets apart, even today. In how many other games can you fight a pile of garbage? EarthBound is a hidden gem waiting to be found.
1 Most Disappointing: Beyond The Beyond (PS1)
The very first RPG for PlayStation 1 did not set the bar high. Beyond the Beyond is basically a last-gen title ported over. It wasn't in 3D nor did it take any advantage of the new hardware. The story and music were as cookie-cutter as they come for the RPG genre, and the mass of random battles was ridiculous.
Walking through tall grass in Pokémon is less intrusive. The only interesting thing about the game is that pressing X at the right time during combat will increase damage or defense. Thankfully PlayStation owners wouldn't have to wait long for a better RPG experience.