With new RPGs being released in droves every year, it almost seems unfair to broach the subject of the best RPGs of all time. Obviously, the topic will inspire debate. The RPG, or, role-playing game is the easiest kind of video game to get sucked into; if you’re playing a good RPG, you’ll likely identify with the characters, get lost in the intricacies of its world.
The games on this list all share one vital quality: at no point will most players feel rushed to beat them. These games are immersive experiences that the player will (hopefully) one day look back upon with nostalgia.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003)
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was the game every fan of the franchise wanted. Not only did it allow you the freedom to explore the vast Star Wars universe, but its story gave insight to events not included in the films (KOTOR is a prequel to Episode I). Players could become either a Jedi Knight or Sith Lord, based on decisions made in-game.
Vagrant Story (2000)
At the time of its release, Square Enix’s Vagrant Story didn’t get the praise it deserved. While, yes, 100,000 units were sold within the first 20 days of its release, its legacy was ultimately overshadowed by other brilliant Square titles like Final Fantasy IX and Chrono Cross. Even critics who praised the game claimed that its battle system was a bit too complex. All this being said, however, it is now regarded as one of the most influential RPGs ever made, its narrative introducing a level of maturity that was then uncommon for mainstream video games.
Persona 5 (2016)
Recently voted the best RPG of all time by Famitsu, Persona 5 is a stylistic marvel. The game is particularly long, and its incredible aesthetics manage to keep players’ attention throughout. It features detailed character arcs that rival those of your favorite anime. And its soundtrack is one of the best in gaming history; if you have ~100 hours to spare, we can’t recommend Persona 5 enough.
Baldur’s Gate 2 (2000)
Fans of Dungeons & Dragons were enthralled by the release of Baldur’s Gate 2, which took even D&D’s most complicated concepts and translated them into an easy-to-understand digital format. What’s best about the game is its choice-and-consequence storytelling that shapes the narrative in accordance with the player’s personality.
Pokémon Gold and Silver (1999)
Pokémon Red and Blue changed the world, but it was the second generation of Pokémon games that solidified the franchise’s staying power. Introducing 100 new Pokémon, two new typings (dark and steel), and the region of Johto, Gold and Silver is still thought upon by many fans as the series’ peak. Perhaps its coolest feature was the ability to go back to the Kanto region (the setting of Red and Blue) after defeating Johto’s elite four.
The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion (2006)
While Skyrim can be considered the “blockbuster” entry in the Elder Scrolls series, Oblivion is undoubtedly the franchise’s greatest in terms of influence and aesthetics. The game implemented a simplified combat system that essentially made RPGs accessible to the masses. On top of this, it was filled to the brim with addictive guild quests and side quests that kept players invested for years to come.
Final Fantasy VI (1994)
Square Enix’s Final Fantasy series includes some of the most revered RPGs of all time. So choosing one that would make this list was challenging, to say the least. After much deliberation, however, we feel that Final Fantasy VI is the perfect blend of challenge and freedom to explore, as well as gameplay and narrative. While the series has obviously improved graphically over time, VI is the pinnacle of everything that makes Final Fantasy great.
Fallout: New Vegas (2010)
Even for an open-world RPG, Fallout: New Vegas is meticulously detailed, featuring an abundance of side quests and out-of-the-way locales. There is no straight path towards finishing the game, as players must navigate a complicated web of choices that only boost its replay value.
Chrono Trigger (1995)
Chrono Trigger is Square Enix’s finest moment. Incredibly ambitious, especially for its time period, the game’s protagonist and party must travel through time to save the world from a monster called Lavos. It features 13 different endings, the ending the player gets resulting from choices made in-game. While Chrono Trigger didn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, it took every RPG trope and perfected it.
Diablo II (2000)
For better or for worse, many consider Diablo II to be the first “addictive” RPG. And it’s easy to see why. With such a vast, immersive world and easy-to-understand combat system, players would (and still do) pour hours of their lives into the game. It introduced never-before-seen levels of customization, as well as RPG tropes that are now considered standard (i.e. an emphasis on item acquisition and a variety of settings).