Of all the genres of video games available, none have the ability to suck you in for hours on end like a good old-fashioned role-playing game. Once exclusive to PCs, RPGs can be found on all platforms these days and are very popular on consoles. Often set in fantasy worlds full of fire-breathing dragons, magical beings, and strange beasts, RPGs offer the perfect escape from the real world. Choose your character type, grab a broadsword, and head out on adventures for hidden treasures and mystique amulets or take down some monsters.
Over the years RPGs have evolved from simple tabletop games to epic 3D quests with lifelike graphics and challenging enemies to face. The best RPGs more often than not combine a detailed and immersive storyline with thrilling gameplay and eye-catching visuals. Recent releases have also incorporated science fiction into the world, with many great RPGs set on a future Earth or in space.
But for every incredibly detailed game like The Witcher 3 or classic Japanese RPG like Final Fantasy 15, you'll encounter a dozen duds. Games like the problematic Two Worlds and mind-numbingly boring Lunar: Dragon Song are just two examples of RPGs gone wrong. To guide you through the hundreds of RPGs on the market here's a selection of the 15 best you have to play along with the 15 most disappointing to avoid at all costs.
When it comes to RPGs, few franchises are as long-running and successful as Final Fantasy. After six years without a new entry in the series, the long-awaited Final Fantasy XV delighted fans and critics alike when it dropped in 2016, thanks to its massive open world, in-depth storyline, and gorgeous visuals. The game features some top-notch vocal talent (Sean Bean, Lena Headey, and Aaron Paul) and an emotionally stirring plot, with the detailed world of Eos a joy to discover. It might still be fairly new but Final Fantasy XV is not only one of the best games in the series, but one of the greatest RPGs of all time.
The Dungeon Siege series of games is well-liked by RPG fans, but the poorly-performing Dungeon Siege III put an end to that in 2011. The first in the series to be released on consoles, as well as PCs and the first developed by Obsidian Entertainment, Dungeon Siege III, failed to connect with gamers.
Underwhelming graphics, a tedious storyline, and a haphazard multiplayer mode all contribute to the game's downfall.
You spend most of the time trawling similar looking dungeons for boring treasures, resulting in a repetitive snooze fest that quickly wears thin.
This 1995 Super Nintendo Japanese RPG still holds up as an exciting game today, even if the graphics aren't up to scratch. Featuring a top-down perspective, Terranigma has quite an original plot, with players taking control of a young boy named Ark who is responsible for Earth's resurrection and continued evolution. These heavy themes of life and demise run throughout the game and give it a grown-up feel.
The music and sound effects are surprisingly terrific considering the year of the game's release while the gameplay is also fantastic, with Terranigma one of the better SNES RPG titles available.
The Might And Magic franchise hardly put a foot wrong but when they decided to port Might And Magic III: Isles Of Terra to the SNES they did a terrible job. The game fails to capture the fun and action of the turn-based PC version, with horrible graphics and long waiting times between turns adding to players dismay.
While the game does adhere to the plot of the PC game, the interface just doesn't work and is hard to navigate when using a controller pad. Stick to the original PC game and you'll be fine.
The first RPG ever to be released on the SEGA Mega Drive, Phantasy Star II is a turn-based game that hooks you in from the get go.
The graphics are incredible for a 16-bit game and the combat system works really well.
The science fiction setting is a masterstroke and something rarely seen in RPGs of the time, helping Phantasy Star II attract a wider audience than anticipated. Add in solid music and sound effects, an intriguing plot, and some great characters and you have yourself one of the most revered RPGs to hit the console market.
The Japanese are responsible for some of the best RPGs of all time but The 7th Saga certainly isn't one of them. Another SNES release, this 1995 turn-based RPG involves players searching for seven ancient runes to become the new heir to the throne.
The game is unique in that it allows you to pick from seven characters who all interact with each other in the game at some point and go down different parts. Unfortunately, this isn't enough to save The 7th Saga, with the annoying music, dull graphics, and repetitive combat system making it a complete failure.
The fifth and largest game in The Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim is an absolute beast of an RPG that will keep you entertained for hours on end. Set 200 years after the previous game, the main aim of Skyrim is to defeat Alduin the World-Eater - a dragon who is prophesied to destroy the world - but there is so much more to do.
The world created by Bethesda is ginormous and you can spend hundreds of hours exploring the beautifully rendered environments, tackling side quests or just admiring the scenery. It's going to be hard for Bethesda to top this one.
Trying to cash in on the success of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Two Worlds is a real-time 3D action-adventure RPG that pales in comparison. The storyline is weak, the graphics at times laughable, and the sound effects and music annoying.
Parts of the game feel unfinished and the ending is a major letdown.
It's not all bad though, with the ability to invest in different character skills as the game progresses a great addition and the open world fun to explore, but these two things aren't enough to save Two Worlds from being a major disappointment.
Many recent RPGs switch the fantasy setting for the modern day or a futuristic environment, and Fallout 4 is one of the best. Taking place in a post-apocalyptic world you take on the role of the "Sole Survivor" as you journey the barren lands to find your taken child.
Fallout 4 has a solid story balancing humor and drama in a detailed open world you'll never want to stop exploring.
The combat system is much easier to master than previous entries in the series and the ability to manage settlements and the attention to detail when crafting items is fantastic. While a few technical issues do occur from time to time, they aren't enough to dampen the joy of playing Fallout 4.
Here's another Japanese RPG that fails to capture what makes the genre so great. The game takes place over a looping period of five days, ripping off The Legend Of Zelda: Majora's Mask without any of the quirks that make Zelda great.
The worst thing about this game is the repetition involved, with players having to engage in monotonous battles over and over again. The plot's also a little shaky and the overall game design poor, making Ephemeral Fantasia another disappointing RPG.
While I admit both the sequels are worthy of making this list you can't go past the original Dark Souls when it comes to an action-packed RPG. While the plot is pretty thin, the well-designed levels, hard to defeat bosses, creepy atmosphere, and tight gameplay make Dark Souls a winner.
The online multiplayer mode is also refreshing and adds another element to the game.
While some found it difficult, particularly when first starting out, that's part of what makes Dark Souls such a great challenge and gives it an edge over similar RPGs. There's a real sense of achievement when you finally crack the game that makes it all worthwhile.
A sequel to Arc The Lad: Twilight Of The Spirits, this Japanese RPG is let down by poor animation, stupid A.I., and a near pointless storyline. It's the only game in the series to swap the tactics based combat system for a real-time-based combat system, and to be honest, it just doesn't suit the game at all.
There is an online mode that offers something new but the sub-standard graphics, boring gameplay, and dodgy cut scenes add up to make Arc The Lad: End Of Darkness a prime candidate for this list.
There's no better dungeon based RPG than Diablo 3. Choosing from one of seven player classes (Barbarian, Crusader, Demon Hunter, Monk, Necromancer, Witch Doctor or Wizard) you enter the well designed dungeon to find and dispose of the Lord of Terror, Diablo.
The new skill and combat systems improve on previous Diablo games while the levels are pleasing on the eye with the game offering great replay value. Although some gamers complained about the graphics being too colourful and the amount of small changes made to the gameplay, I for one am a big fan of what Blizzard achieved with this game and still prefer it over the other titles in the series.
Possessed by a demon and given the choice to follow your evil urges or reign them in and follow a righteous path, Bound By Flame certainly has an interesting premise. As is often the case, this doesn't translate well in the actual game and is not helped by silly A.I., poor combat controls, and a short playtime.
Many critics labeled Bound By Flame a poor man's Witcher, and having played both games, it's easy to agree with this statement. This one is for dedicated RPG players only, and even then you're likely to be turning it off after a few hours.
The third game in the Dragon Age series is also the best thanks to its enthralling and well-written storyline spanning the epic fantasy landscape of Thedas. Not only does the plot and the character development draw you in, but the engaging battle scenes, great soundtrack, and lush graphics all help make Dragon Age: Inquisition a must play RPG.
As is the case with many great RPGs the world depicted in Inquisition is massive and takes hours to venture across, increasing the longevity of the game and making it one you'll keep coming back too.
Drakkhen is best known for being one of the first RPGs on consoles to feature a 3D open world and real-time tactics. While this is all well and good it doesn't really matter if the game is terrible, and let me tell you, Drakkhen is really terrible.
The controls and combat system are a major part of the games downfall, as is the strange sound effects and music and below average graphics. There's also the fact it's extremely easy to be knocked off by your enemies and this becomes quite frustrating as you progress further in the game.
Along with Skyrim, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is among the best modern RPG releases. Based on The Witcher series of novels this third game in the franchise finds protagonist Geralt of Rivia galavanting across the stunning open world of the Continent as he searches for his adopted daughter who is also being chased by the big bad known as the Wild Hunt.
This is the type of game where you invest hundreds of hours completing sides quests and searching for hidden items without realizing how long you've been playing. The main storyline is great but it's the vast and lush world created by developers CD Projekt that sucks you in. The majority of critics hailed Wild Hunt as one of the greatest RPGs ever made, and I have to agree.
As the name implies this RPG was an exclusive for the Nintendo 64. As well as being the first RPG on the system it's also a great example of how not to create an RPG.
The design and graphics are hard on the eyes while the sound effects and music will make your ears bleed.
The storyline and world presented in Quest 64 are both horrible and lack any depth, with the main character Brian (sounds like a serial criminals name) not overly likable. While this game is obviously aimed more at kids, there's not enough here to keep anyone entertained.
If you like your RPGs hard to crack than Bloodborne will be right up your alley. While many were critical of the difficulty, it makes the game that much more rewarding when you finally get to the end. Containing a plot about a disease set in the gothic Victorian era with a focus on intense combat and an enjoyable multiplayer option.
The dark and gloomy locations suit the horror theme of Bloodborne, creating a rich fantasy world steeped in Lovecraftian lore and a great variety of monsters to take out. GamesTM declared Bloodborne the "first absolutely essential game" for the PS4, and it's hard to disagree.
Despite receiving a horrible reception when first released in 1995, Beyond The Beyond has gained a cult following over the years, although I'm not sure why. The game is a generic RPG that adds nothing to the genre.
All the usual tropes associated with RPGs are here (turn-based combat, war between good and evil etc...) while the game is laden with dodgy manga-inspired graphics, a putrid soundtrack, and a rather dull storyline. Another low point is the longevity of the game, with most able to complete it within a couple hours. You're better off watching a Manga cartoon than this pile of rubbish.
It's not often an RPG features a female protagonist but that's exactly what you get with the fantastic Horizon: Zero Dawn. As hunter Aloy (sensationally voice by Ashly Burch) who lives in a world overrun by machines, you are able to explore the vast open-world as you're involved in skirmishes with evil robots on a journey of self-discovery.
Visually the game is stunning and there's so much to see and do on the machine-dominated earth.
Aloy is a wonderful, three-dimensional character you grow attached to as the game progresses while the eclectic soundtrack is another welcome addition to the game. Horizon: Zero Dawn is easily one of the best RPGs released on the PS4 and well worth your hard earned cash.
A typical early 90s RPG, Paladin's Quest stood out from the pack thanks to its gameplay, with player's losing health points when casting spells instead of magic points. While this combat system does add a degree of difficulty to the game it wasn't well received by many.
Not only did people not appreciate this new system but many found the storyline bland and the gameplay similar to a host of other RPGs of that time. It's also a pretty ugly game visually with a mediocre soundtrack and hard to master controls. Two thumbs down.
The peak of the franchise Mass Effect 2 is an immersive and sprawling space saga that takes you on the ride of a lifetime. Continuing the story from the first game, Mass Effect 2 has a darker tone and features an incredibly written storyline with a colorful cast of characters that propel the game forward.
The graphics are superb and matched by the haunting soundtrack, while the cutscenes are emotive and driven by the distinct personalities of each character. Combing a traditional RPG with third-person shooter elements in a futuristic setting is a genius idea, with Mass Effect 2 considered a classic by the majority of gamers.
Eternal Ring is most notable for being one of the launch titles for the Playstation 2. The RPG follows young magician Cain Morgan who is sent to the mysterious Island of No Return to find the legendary artifact known as the Eternal Ring.
The game features an inventive ring creation system, with the hero able to combine certain rings that harness different powers. That aside, the game doesn't offer much else, with a number of glitches and some shoddy level designs dampening the overall experience of Eternal Ring.
Combing role-playing elements with action-adventure combat, NieR: Automata is a fantastic modern take on the RPG genre. Playing as an android the game involves spectacular battle sequences in a futuristic world where machines battle for supremacy.
Weaving heavy themes like nihilism and prejudice through a well-written and emotional plot, NieR draws you in from the beginning. It also helps that visually the game is wonderful, the gameplay quite addictive, and the storyline in general original and captivating. A must own for RPG lovers.
Here's another RPG that tries to incorporate elements of the hack and slash genre with less-than-stellar results. Choosing one of three unique characters players you embark on a violent adventure to rescue the kingdom, and while it sounds like fun, it's far from enjoyable.
There are a number of bugs littered throughout the game, and coupled with some average graphics and horrible camera angles, makes it almost unbearable to play. Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom is a blight on the RPG genre and one game you should stay well clear of.
Released only on the Dreamcast and GameCube, Skies Of Arcadia is a traditional Japanese RPG about a young air pirate trying to stop the evil Valuam Empire from destroying the world.
It's got all the classic RPG traits such as turn-based combat and an experience points system along with solid visuals, a great storyline, and fantastic gameplay.
It's one of the best games ever released on the Dreamcast and an absolute treat to play.
This shambolic Wii game is an absolute mess with hardly any redeeming features that will make you want never to play an RPG again. It's hard to know where to start when talking about this game. From the badly rendered level designs to a basic yet flawed combat and experience point system, Call For Heroes: Pompolic Wars is a terrible game.
The plot revolves around capturing "dark souls" to defeat the bad guy Pompolic but it never really makes any sense. As IGN put it in their review of the game; "Notice to innocent consumers: avoid Call for Heroes as if your life depended on it."
Despite the title, Persona 5 is actually the sixth game in the Persona franchise and arguably the best. This Japanese RPG takes place in modern day Tokyo inside a high school where a number of students have discovered they have special powers and decide to form a vigilante group to take on the Shadows.
Persona 5 is a rewarding RPG with a dynamic and interesting storyline, some wonderful animation, and a well-developed battle system. While it might take some getting use to the Japanese style of gameplay, this one is certainly deserving of a spot on this list.
The SNES has plenty of worthwhile RPGs to invest your time in but sadly Secret Of The Stars isn't one of them. Like so many games on this list, it's a generic RPG and borrows heavily from the classic 80s game Dragon Quest.
The plot is a paint by numbers affair about a young boy going up against a big bad with Secret Of The Stars featuring average graphics and sound.
The game does take quite a few hours to complete, which is a plus, but the repetitive combat sequences, boring characters, and woeful graphics (I had to point that out again) make Secret Of The Stars a massive disappointment.