The thrill of exploration, the looting, the seemingly endless possibilities and boundless adventure…Role-Playing Games stand tall as one of the most appealing and largely popular genres within all of video gaming. Additionally, there are literally hundreds upon hundreds of individual offerings out there, not to mention loads of series which are steeped in incremental development thereby offering steady improvements in gameplay and visuals on multiple fronts. This is one of the main reasons why putting together a list of the top 5 RPG’s (for any platform) is so daunting, of course (not to mention the fact that there will likely be one released next month or year which will top them all). Nevertheless, we have to give it a shot, don’t we?
(…bear with us and remember not to flame on with the hateful comments if you disagree, this is a highly subjective area, after all. The results are calculated based on several factors, like freedom of movement / exploration, design, gameplay / fun factor and the ability to deliver a certain controlled “randomness” or diversity as well as historical impact. Moreover, we’re pretty much casting aside traditions and name-dropping in lieu of what’s actually enduringly popular and still “playable”).
Presented in no particular order…
One could write volumes about just how awesome Fallout 3 is and was upon its release. Sure, developer Bethesda Studios had already proven itself via the Elder Scrolls series, but when they decided to take over this franchise and transform it into a full-fledged 3D title…well, what sensible RPG addict could resist its appeal. Looking at the Game of the Year Edition of FO3, there was just an incredible wealth of content spanning hundreds of hours of wasteland exploration and desperate combat. One of the most amazing things about this game (and there are almost too many to count, in truth) is that it also managed to craft an environment that felt more “alive” and interesting than a lot of other RPG’s. You would simultaneously look forward to exploring the capital wasteland while also dreading it, knowing full well that you were going to encounter something crazy and weird. Moreover, they even managed to throw in loads of dark humor to add extra character, yet another borrowed trademark of the series at large.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
More commonly known as KotOR among gamers, “Knights of the Old Republic” was basically a revelation to those with an interest in both video games as well as Star Wars in general. Basically fusing some emerging Western RPG elements with that of more traditional JRPG offerings (like turn-based combat), this title also allowed participants to choose which side of the force they want to reside on. This was basically one of the first games which allowed you to really explore the Star Wars universe, which is why it ranks as one of the more prominent RPG’s in the first place.
The Mass Effect Trilogy
Yes, this basically crams all three mass effect games into one slot, but to really get the complete experience you need to play them all. Where other titles tend to focus on some aspect like open world exploration, character interaction, combat or whatever else you can think of, Mass Effect basically gives it all to you in varying amounts, although nearly perfectly balanced to remain artful and avoid falling into design traps. On its face it is a magnificently amazing space opera – the sort of game that’s capable of giving you chills and actually cause you to develop an emotional attachment to the characters and setting, like no other.
At the same time, it places emphasis on providing you with options and lots to do if you’re looking for a more non-linear experience. Moreover, each game seems to assume its own unique character – the first being perhaps the most “open” of them all, allowing you to explore uncharted worlds in an all-terrain buggy. The second being very “Empire strikes back-ish”, seeing you siding with a traditionally villainous group amidst a fantastic story-driven mechanic. Then there’s the third, which pushes things even further in all directions and delivers a completely spellbinding experience on multiple fronts. Even better, all three games allow you to take one character through them all, retaining your assets and abilities, which is really a first for RPG’s in general.
Including this one on the list is pretty much a no-brainer. Although hardcore Elder Scrolls fans will be more than willing to debate (at great length) which ES title is “tops”, Skyrim deserves special merit simply because it has helped to popularize RPG’s for legions of new gamers. At the same time, the visual presentation and incredible diversity in terms of interactivity is so fetching that one simply cannot overlook its brilliance. For those who love fantasy-themed exploration, character-building and variety, it really doesn’t get any better than this (unless you’re talking about the Elder Scrolls Online, but that’s an entirely different story, of course).
World of Warcraft
Last but certainly not least, we come to Blizzard’s mega franchise, “World of Warcraft”. At this point it is safe to say that WoW has spawned more interest in RPG’s than virtually any other series out there. Moreover, it’s still one of the most often-played and densely populated MMO’s EVER. Oh yeah, did we mention that World of Warcraft basically helped to popularize massively multiplayer games? …that’s kind of important. Simply put, it is nearly impossible to quickly elucidate all the factors which have made WoW one of the best RPG’s of all time. Suffice it to say, the freedom, interaction, exploration, questing, design and dozens of add-ons have melded together to turn this seemingly unimposing juggernaut into one of the “best games of all time”. Additionally, an amazing community has also grown up around (as well as basically inside) the game too, once again helping to fuel the entire video game culture as well as firmly put RPG’s on the map worldwide.