The best RPGs of all time
The role-playing game is the cornerstone of PC gaming. Long before shooters or real-time strategy, the earliest PC developers replicated their tabletop RPGs on the PC, building sprawling adventures filled with orcs and wizards and foul dungeons. Those early games slowly built on their tabletop origins, and RPGs eventually became so popular, their elements spread to other genres. Here are our 25 favorites: the RPGs we’d tell anyone to play right now.
Whenever we sit down to argue our way through a list of the best games, our first step is deciding what “best” even means. In this case, we’re identifying which RPGs are fun right now. Games age; they’re products of the technology they were built on, and the technology that seemed cutting edge 25 years ago may be junk today.
We value fun more than the historical significance of a game, and doing so helps us build a list that recommends what’s great today rather than publishing a popularity contest. But we don’t ignore a game’s impact completely—innovation and influence just has a lesser weight under our criteria.
The RPG genre is tough to boil down: by the most literal definition, every game is a role-playing game. This list represents our best definition of the canonical RPG—games that emphasize story; that let you inhabit a customizable character through skill points, inventory, and dialogue decisions; that include complex, controllable relationships with companions or non-playable characters. That leaves flexibility in how the game is controlled, what perspective it uses, or what setting it takes place in. Games such as Borderlands 2 or BioShock include some of those elements, but are better defined as shooters. Drawing these kinds of lines helps us provide a better service to you, we hope.