The Xbox platform has long been thought of as a poor one for RPGs, but that’s pretty unfair, on balance. Thanks to the Xbox Game Pass service, there’s a huge amount of choice and variety if you’re an RPG fan and you’ve got an Xbox console (or a decently-specced PC, of course). While the PlayStation once ruled the roost for JRPGs, even this genre is well-represented on Xbox Game Pass, so let’s take a look, in no particular order, at the 15 best RPGs on Xbox Game Pass right now. Some of these may no longer be available depending on when you’re reading!
1. Pillars of Eternity
After a successful Kickstarter campaign, Pillars of Eternity pledges to return RPGs to the Gold Box days of Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. It succeeds, largely thanks to an excellent combat system and a compelling, engaging cast of characters. If you love old-school CRPGs with tactical pause systems and a party to get to know, Pillars of Eternity is where you should start on Xbox Game Pass. Unfortunately, it looks like a third game isn’t coming anytime soon, so get what you can from this game and its sequel.
Technically, Undertale isn’t really an RPG. On the surface, it looks like a lo-fi version of SNES JRPGs like Earthbound, but its aesthetic is hiding a surprisingly deep and complex bullet hell-style combat system. In any case, Undertale’s combat is just one part of this sumptuous experience. It’s a shockingly heartfelt and emotional story told with wit, humour, and humanity. To say any more of Undertale would be to give away its many surprises, so we’ll just say this: play it.
3. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
It doesn’t get much more classic than Dragon Quest. This is one of the oldest and most venerated RPG series in gaming, and the eleventh instalment is a maximalist masterpiece that distils everything Dragon Quest does well into a polished, slick package. The plot is relatively basic; you are a destined hero, and you must defeat enemies and restore peace to the land. It’s all in the presentation, though; the turn-based combat looks gorgeous, the exploration is rewarding, and the characters are surprisingly engaging.
4. Mass Effect: Legendary Edition
This bundle packs all three Mass Effect games, plus all of their DLC, into a single place, and if you haven’t experienced Mass Effect, this is an excellent place to start. As BioWare RPGs, they balance action-packed shooter combat with RPG character development brilliantly. This package fixes all of the original Mass Effect’s issues, making for a much smoother transition between the first game and the second. These are three iconic RPGs that everyone should experience at least once.
5. Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age
Final Fantasy XII is a rather odd duck. It’s a departure for its traditionally melodramatic anime-inspired series; it takes place in the land of Ivalice, and features a storyline inspired by high political drama, more Game of Thrones than Dragonball Z. Luckily, XII is also an excellent JRPG, taking influence from MMORPGs in its exploration and automation-based combat. If you love the Final Fantasy series, XII might take some getting used to, but it’s hiding oceanic levels of depth.
6. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
What more is there to say about Bethesda’s open-world RPG masterpiece? It’s Skyrim – a large, expansive world, a huge variety of character builds, and a go-anywhere freedom that feels exhilarating after the stuffy level-based limitations of recent Assassin’s Creed games. It says a lot that Skyrim still holds up after ten years on release; while its combat, exploration, and dialogue are rather shallow, there’s an addictive quality to the way you can simply pick a direction, start walking, and find something within seconds.
7. Final Fantasy X/X-2 Remaster
If Final Fantasy XII is a departure for the Final Fantasy series, then X represents the apex of its traditional formula. While it eschews trad Final Fantasy elements like the airship or the Active Time Battle system, it has the standard grand narrative, the excellent music, and the sense of emotional melodrama that XII lacks. X-2 is…different; its costume system can feel like pandering, but the combat and gameplay feel great, even if the story is less satisfying than it should be.
8. Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Originally, Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s turn-based combat was created as an April Fool’s joke. However, it proved unexpectedly popular, leading developer Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio to make it into a fully-fledged entry in the series. Luckily, it paid off. New boy Ichiban Kasuga has effortlessly filled the departing Kazuma Kiryu’s shoes, and the old idiosyncratic Yakuza blend of mundane side activities and bizarre plot hasn’t gone anywhere, either. This is a truly excellent modern RPG.
9. Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling
If more recent Paper Mario games haven’t been scratching that irreverent RPG itch, then let Bug Fables do it for you. In essence, this is Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, but with insects instead of Mario characters. Bug Fables has lots more heart than Paper Mario, though; its narrative is better, its characters are more compelling, and its combat is…well, identical. If you love Paper Mario but think it could stand to be a little more emotionally involving, Bug Fables will be your jam.
10. Fallout: New Vegas
As soon as Obsidian Entertainment got its hands on the Fallout franchise, we knew we were in for something special. Sure enough, the celebrated RPG developer turned Bethesda’s take on Fallout into a complex, nuanced story full of exciting locations to discover and characters to meet. It’s still the same tactical RPG shooter that Fallout 3 was, but this time, the story is meatier, the characters are more morally ambiguous, and the world is just plain more fun to explore.
11. Octopath Traveller
If you love the classic SNES era of JRPGs, Octopath Traveller will almost certainly appeal to you. It’s a deliberate attempt to call back to games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, and although it doesn’t have an ounce of those games’ charm, it’s an intriguing prospect in and of itself. On paper, Octopath is a standard turn-based JRPG, but its quirk is that you can choose which of its eight characters’ stories you want to follow at any given time.
12. Nier: Automata
We’re moving out of the realms of pure RPGs and into RPG-inflected games now, but Nier: Automata melds genres with experimental aplomb anyway, so we’re including it. This profoundly odd offering from Platinum Games merges classic character action combat with a fourth wall-shattering narrative, complete with lots of endings to unlock and plot twists you definitely won’t see coming. It takes a while to get going, but Nier: Automata is viscerally satisfying on an emotional level.
The genre name “Eurojank” is perhaps a little unkind. Eurojank games (which are predominantly made by European studios, hence the name) don’t have the budget or staff numbers to match triple-A games, but they’re always more interesting as a result. Greedfall is one of these games. It examines colonialism through a fantasy lens, sending you to a newly-discovered island rife with conflicts you can solve (and, of course, monsters you can kill).
14. Dragon Age: Origins
Dragon Age: Origins remains the only uncontroversially great game in its series. Dragon Age II may have its defenders, and Dragon Age: Inquisition is certainly not without positive qualities, but Origins is a great CRPG with fun characters and interesting slants on the classic fantasy races. Sure, it’s not necessarily going to be winning any points for innovation, but Origins lets you loose in a Lord of the Rings-inspired world and asks you to get lost in that world, and great writing and excellent combat mean it’s easy to do so.
15. The Outer Worlds
Obsidian’s take on a Fallout-inspired first-person shooter-slash-RPG hybrid isn’t as clever or as compelling as its bigger sibling. With that said, The Outer Worlds is still an admirable effort, and it’s got plenty of interesting moral quandaries and complex characters to boot. The satire can come across as a touch blunt and obvious, but The Outer Worlds has more than enough shoot-and-loot gameplay, outrageous scenarios, and sheer heart to get you through some of its more cringeworthy parts.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of the 15 best RPGs on Xbox Game Pass. The nature of the service means that these games are likely to rotate, so some of these titles probably won’t be available when you’re reading this. However, given the sheer quality of titles on offer, we wouldn’t be surprised if the ones that depart have been replaced with equally excellent RPGs, so you’ll pretty much never be without something fun to play if you’re an RPG fanatic and a Game Pass subscriber. Which RPGs did we miss off this list? What are your favourite RPGs to play on Xbox Game Pass?