Let's roast some great RPGs for their absolutely god-awful names

DD man knocked out with a cat approaching to lick his hand
(Image credit: Larian)

My job demands constant generation of headlines, so I get it: Coming up with titles for things is hard. But is it really as hard as the RPG genre makes it seem? Compared to all the other genres, RPG titles tend to, well, suck.

To prove the point, I developed a foolproof, objective method for critiquing the names of RPGs: the NameRanx™ system. I am following the example of my dear friend's "Girlfriend's Dad" test for rating beers. If your romantic partner's father asked you your favorite beer, would you be embarrassed to say the name out loud? Could you hold your head high and say "Guinness" or "Bell's Two Hearted," or would you have to sheepishly mumble something like "Old Bastard Brewing's Epic Bacon Coffee Cookie Porter (it's their winter seasonal)?"

Our patented NameRanx™ system will holistically divine the everyman appeal of RPG names⁠: Do they have punchy, immediate pull to people who aren't familiar with the series or adapted property? The answer, for most, is absolutely not. 

If you saw Cleric's Journey: Epic Tales of the Bardiche Coast on the shelf at EB Games (RIP), would you pick it up if you didn't know what THAC0 (opens in new tab) was? If a coworker cornered you to talk about their favorite JRPG, Dorgalinda's Vow: Echoes of an Eysilundian Chronicle, would you still want to associate with them? If your romantic partner excitedly told you about the obscure '90s post-apocalyptic CRPG, Gun Malcom: Bullet Diaries of the Postworld, could you still view them as a three-dimensional, sexual being? NameRanx™ will answer these difficult questions for you with a cold hard number.

The NameRanx™ review scale

0%-25% This game's name sucks. If you said this game's name to a coworker they'd report you to HR. 

Examples: Golf Magazine: 36 Great Holes Starring Fred Couples, Mace Griffin Bounty Hunter

26%-50% Functional as a name, but either too generic, unwieldy, or just weird.

Examples: The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard, Spec Ops: The Line

51%-75% Okay, now we're cooking with gas. This game's name can catch your attention and stand out in your mind, but is perhaps still awkwardly worded or just missing a certain je ne sais quoi to really pop.

Examples: Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Dragon Age

76%-100% Ranges from great names that you love at the lower end to true all-timers, icons of the industry that are either timeless in their poetry, efficiently communicate and sell the game, or both. 

Examples: Arcanum: of Steamworks and Magick Obscura, Half-Life

And now, onto the games. 

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous

A wasteland where it rains blood

(Image credit: Owlcat Games)

PC Gamer review score: 76%

NameRanx™: 34%

This one is not developer Owlcat's fault, I'll just get that right out of the way. As it was adapting the pre-existing Pathfinder tabletop module of that name, Owlcat was doomed from the start. "Pathfinder" is a good name for an RPG, absolutely, but everything after the colon just drags us down here. I could not think of a more generic fantasy, "oh-that's-a game-someone's-dad-played-on-their-Gateway" name than Wrath of the Righteous. You're alienating the entire non-dad market here.

Great game though, personal GOTY of 2021.

Vampire: The Masquerade⁠—Bloodlines

more neon-soaked streets of Seattle

(Image credit: Troika Games)

PC Gamer review score: 77%

NameRanx™: 52%

Vampire Colon The Masquerade Em Dash Bloodlines, what a goddamn mouthful! "Vampire: The Masquerade" is a superb title, north of 90% easy on its own, but once you've got more than one type of punctuation in your title, your goose is cooked my friend. I don't think the appended "Bloodlines" really adds to your understanding of the game, either. "Oh, 'bloodlines,' wasn't expecting 'blood' in this vampire RPG!" The prior VtM videogame, Redemption, had a bit more of an evocative title, but I think the gold standard would be VtM sourcebooks like Chicago by Night—informative, and catchy!

NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139…

Nier Replicant fish guide

(Image credit: Square Enix)

PC Gamer review score: 90%

NameRanx™: 56.22474487139%

Yeah, I liked NieR before it was popular, but that doesn't make its name any better. Honestly, the overly long version number gag appended in the remaster is the saving grace here, really elevates the whole shebang and speaks to series creator Yoko Taro's impish sense of humor. NieR is just a weird word that also really doesn't have anything to do with the games⁠—you can pick the protagonist's name and no one ever says it aloud! I still remember telling people about this cool action-JRPG I was playing: "I know there's a sword lady running around in lingerie but the writing's actually really incredible and like, existentialist and stuff. Yeah it's called 'NieR.' No, not 'near,' it's spelled like 'N-I-E-R.'"

Disco Elysium

A dream sequence

(Image credit: ZA/UM)

PC Gamer review score: 92%

NameRanx™: 96%

Time for a palate cleanser. As the great Gordon Ramsay once said, "Finally, some good fucking food." Though I have a soft spot in my heart for the game's working titles, "No Truce With the Furies" and "Torso and McLaine," you really couldn't do better than Disco Elysium. It's unique, arresting, and fully relevant to the game, both its '70s disco motifs and its alternate history, fantastical world of Elysium.

Tales of Berseria

Tales of Berseria team hanging out

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

PC Gamer review score: N/A (80% on Metacritic)

NameRanx™: 17%

I know the composition of this list reflects that I'm not as much of a JRPG person, but I've been coming around in recent years. Even with my newfound appreciation for the genre, I can't deny the existence of the blighted "JRPG bullshit." Don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about

When trying to think of an exemplar for this phenomenon in game title form, my mind went to "what's that JRPG again, you know, like Tales of Susperia or something?" The Tales series has been carrying on since 1995, many of the entries' names end in nonsense words that rhyme with "-eria," and that's about all I know about these games. I'm not 14, so I won't call it "cringe." I will instead act my age and say it's "hokey." Do better.

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2: The Sith Lords

A battle in Kotor 2

(Image credit: Disney)

PC Gamer review score: 87%

NameRanx™: 40%

Similar to VtM⁠—Bloodlines, there's just too much baggage here. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was a fantastic name for an RPG. It tells you "Hey kid, this is Star Wars, but not your lame dad's Star Wars." Adding The Sith Lords just makes things unwieldy here. You could charitably argue it previews the sense of Sith ascendancy and Jedi decline in the game, but I'm more thinking "Sith Lords? In a Star Wars game? What will they think of next!"

Divine Divinity

DD man artfully dodging an orc to give him what for

(Image credit: Larian)

PC Gamer review score: 84%

NameRanx™: 12%

Will Larian Studios ever answer for their crimes in RPG naming? I remember a friend telling me about Divinity: Original Sin in high school and thinking "Wait, is this like Baldur's Gate? It sounds like a weird Christian education game approved by the Vatican." Don't even get me started on how you can't just say "Divinity 2" in reference to the excellent and much beloved Divinity: Original Sin 2 because there's already a Divinity 2 that was actually the third game in the Divinity series after Beyond Divinity. Christ alive.

Larian's own "original sin" however remains Divine Divinity, a quite good Diablo-like with just the worst name. And now, after all these years of naming crimes, Larian is creating Baldur's Gate 3, a continuation of one of the best-named RPGs of all time. I guess it helps that Larian remains, as ever, great at the actual RPG making part of the whole equation.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning

kingdoms of amalur combat

(Image credit: THQ Nordic)

PC Gamer review score: 74%* (original release)

NameRanx: 100%

So bad it's good. No notes. A perfect rejoinder to Rhode Island's greatest cultural export, a game born of hubris and misappropriated public funds, the platonic ideal of a bad RPG name, it lies beyond our petty human efforts to categorize or dissect.

So ends our primer on RPG names and their worst sins. All jokes aside, there is something to be said for having an inventive, communicative name that's either punchy or easy to abbreviate. If nothing else, at least RPGs are doing better than all those weird animes teenagers like that just have a full sentence as their title? "My Uncle Asked Me to Wash His Back So Instead I Took To The Road With My Bindle Stick Like An Old Timey Hobo, But Oh No I've Been Transported To A Magical Land Where My Uncle Is Immortal God Emperor?!"

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.