Which game has the best loot?

Examining a shiny assault rifle in Borderlands 2
(Image credit: 2K)

Maybe there's a particular classic RPG where every magic item has its own multi-paragraph history that's actually worth reading, or a looter-shooter where the guns feel extra nice, or an action-RPG that excels at bundling bigger numbers to give you a guaranteed dopamine rush. Maybe it's loot with its own lore, or gear you can craft to your own needs. 

Which game has the best loot?

Here are our answers, plus a few from our forum.

Evan Lahti: There's a ceremonial quality to the Counter-Strike knife. You take it out at the beginning of every round, like a ritual, to bless your foot speed and sprint into position. At the end of a winning round, you'll whip it out again to celebrate your frags, stabbing the air, gouging a surface a few times as a makeshift fist-pump. And obviously, you're flashing your fancy blade to any spectators, especially if you're streaming—there's a whole button on the keyboard dedicated to showing off your hundreds-of-dollars blade and its unique twirl animation or oxidized dye job. The real-world value of these items sets them apart from other game loot: in 2015 or '16, unboxing a knife felt like finding actual treasure, or a family heirloom hidden in the attic. Not coincidentally, they were one of the things that made CS:GO the most popular modern FPS.

Jacob Ridley: It has to be Destiny's guns. Personally, that's Destiny 1's arsenal. For better or worse, I sank an immense amount of time into that game. Most of which was spent running Nightfalls and Raids for the slim chance of a Gjallarhorn popping up on my screen at the end of it. Gjallarhorn was perhaps the pinnacle of Destiny's loot: a strike-ending, boss-destroying, cheese-having, LFG-ruining rocket launcher to end all rocket launchers. All would melt at the mere sight of it.

There were a heap of other guns that I simply adored in that game too: Icebreaker, Felwinter's Lie, Thorn, Vex Mythoclast... the list goes on and on and on. Each gun has its own story, albeit a little buried in the Destiny lore, and further to that each gun has its own personal story for the guardian using it. The moment it dropped for you, or when it was the pinnacle of the in-game meta and would rinse every enemy. 

I still remember the exact moment Gjallarhorn appeared after slamming Crota to smithereens. One of my favourite gaming moments of all time.

(Image credit: Devolver Digital)

Natalie Clayton: Do roguelike items count as loot? Because discovering a new gun in Enter the Gungeon was a non-stop treat. A run starts off with a few basic pistols or shotguns, but before long you're picking up olde-timey pirate cannons, guns that shoot paper airplanes, hunting rifles that turn foes into chickens, laser blasters that become lightsabers on reload, giant bullets that shoot guns that shoot smaller bullets, screaming heads and nightmare science cannons and so on. 

Gungeon can get away with some truly broken weapons because it's going to take them away at the end of a run, but the entire game is a showcase for just how far you can take "gun" as a concept. Looter-shooters like Destiny and Borderlands could stand to take notes.

(Image credit: Gunfire Games)

Robin Valentine: I loved Remnant: From the Ashes' approach to loot. Every player's world is sort of partly randomly generated—built out of a few different possible premade encounters and areas. Which means that, for example, I might encounter a dungeon that didn't exist in your game, or you might fight a different boss to me at a certain point in the story.

All the loot in the game is hand-crafted, and wonderfully weird and distinctive—from a radioactive hammer, to a living mask, to a wooden gun that summons tree monsters. And because it's all tied to specific areas and bosses that may or may not exist in your world, it's very possible to end up with a bunch of items that your friends have never even seen. I think it's the first game I've played in the modern games-as-service era that manages to recreate that moment of jumping into your friend's game, checking out their gear, and going 'Where on earth did you get that?!'. 

Even better, the way the game's progression is structured, items don't just become useless because you've out-leveled them. As long as you upgrade it every now and then, every weapon, trinket, or piece of armour remains viable through your entire journey. Instead of just grinding for better drops, it's more like a Souls game, where you need to pick the right equipment for particular situations. So everything you find feels like an important new option in your arsenal, rather than just something to swap in until the next thing comes along. 

I'd love to see other loot games take inspiration from Gunfire Games' approach.

(Image credit: Beamdog)

Andy Chalk: I love the named weapons in the Baldur's Gate games: Jhor the Bleeder, Adjatha the Drinker, Namarra, Varscona, and all the rest. They aren't overpowered—Varscona, for instance, is a +2 long sword that does +1 cold on hits, which isn't exactly an uberweapon—but each one has a unique appearance and a vague, mysterious provenance that sets it apart from conventional magic weapons. In the context of low-level D&D (which is the best kind of D&D), that little extra shot of glamor really feels special.

Jody Macgregor: For bespoke loot with personality I'm partial to Planescape: Torment. You pick up gross charms like clots, corpse flies, and cranium rats, as well as memorably weird weapons like the antler axe, or left arm #985. Yeah, it's an arm, but one that's been embalmed so thoroughly it hits like a club. As the description says, "If you needed to, you could either use it to shake someone's hand from a distance or use it to bash their skull in."

(Image credit: 2K)

For randomized loot it's the Borderlands games, the only looter-shooters I've been able to muster any interest in. Though it's not my favorite of the series, Borderlands 3 was great at differentiating manufacturers—if you pick up a Jakobs you know it'll be some cowboy-ass gun with no elemental effects that kicks like a mule, doing tons of damage with a chance of ricochet or some bonus to crit damage. Even in Borderlands my favorite guns were often quest-specific ones with stories behind them though, like Teapot, the bright pink pistol that shoots corrosive bullets which Tiny Tina gives you for helping her throw a tea party. Or the shotgun that shoots exploding swords and is called SWORDSPLOSION!!!

From our forum

Pifanjr: This is a hard question. It's so broad that I'm having a hard time to mentally go through all the games that might fit. One that does come to mind is Sacred Gold. There are a ton of different randomized modifiers that you can find on gear. Even if a piece isn't good enough to equip, it can be fun just seeing what kind of weird stuff it does.

It's also great finding a good piece for another class and putting it in your shared chest to use with another character later, or to give to a friend playing another class. My shared chest was usually filled to the brim with legendary loot or pieces of sets for other classes. The graphic design of the weapons and armor is pretty great as well. The dark elf blades in particular looked awesome. You can also get a lightsaber or even a lightwhip.

Nightfall Weapons from Destiny 2: Palindrome, The Swarm, Shadow Price.

(Image credit: Bungie)

DXCHASE: Hard to pick one, I'm a huge fan of the loot in Borderlands, Diablo, Division, Outriders etc... but to pick one, for me, is Destiny (2). They have some of the greatest guns to go after and have some of the best ways to do that, not all of them for sure, but a good portion of them. They also have some really great outfit pieces to find as well, with special abilities. Its one of the biggest parts aside from gunplay on why I still finding myself playing that game, even with its major lows.

Frindis: Right off the bat, I would have to say Borderlands 2. I have mentioned both Borderlands 3 and Morrowind in another thread when it came down to cool and funny weapons, but right now I feel Borderlands 2 deserves the throne because of the grinding for hours getting the Infinite pistol from Doc Mercy with the right stats. The drop rate back in vanilla (at least from what I remember) was extremely low, but thankfully there were a couple of good tactics for killing the boss quite fast. It took me at least 100 times before I got my hands on the gun and seeing the legendary drop color was quite the rush.

The Infinite pistol was so amazing because it could shoot without using ammo and it just looked and sounded really cool. It was a great weapon for leveling up or when you did not have ammo left on other guns, or just wanted to save a little. The game had plenty more awesome loot, but it was this episode from Borderlands 2 I remember most clearly and that gun will always be in the book of some of my absolute favorite loot.

A bucking bronco gun in Escape from Tarkov

(Image credit: Battlestate Games)

McStabStab: Escape from Tarkov. The loot you find can change a session from a casual raid to a heart pounding extraction run. It brings you the highs of escaping with high value items and the lows of losing it. The scarcity of the items also is done very well, and with the addition of the flea market and the upgradeable hideout it's added a whole different dynamic. There's now a new form of in-game economy diversifying the loot's purpose.

drunkpunk: Risk of Rain 2. The game itself contains SO MUCH LOOT that dramatically alters the way you play or progress through a level. As you go through it, you unlock additional loot drops so the game continues to evolve as you complete runs. The rogue lite nature of the game keeps it fresh, IMO. Hades is another good example of something similar, although I haven't put nearly enough time into it yet to really see what it has to offer.

Project Zomboid also does a pretty good job with it. What I like about that game is you'll find loot where it logically makes sense most of the time, and even the most basic things have a solid purpose that will help you survive.

(Image credit: Blizzard)

mainer: Both Sacred Gold and Sacred 2 had a great loot system and Grim Dawn will also just drown you in various loot, some of which you can't use because of your particular class, but there was a shared chest that you could use for other class builds shared across your different games. But the king for me is still Diablo 2, there was just a certain pacing and balance to the loot system that is still hard to beat.

Zloth: BattleTech for me. Especially early in the game where you're putting a lot of what you find into use in the next mission.

Honorable mention to City of Heroes, which had some pretty funny loot, like Black Blood of the Earth.

(Image credit: NCSOFT)

JCgames: I know I'm going old school here but for be it has to be Baldur's gate 1&2. Finding that first flaming sword, or +4 throwing Axe or even a storm hammer. It was so fantastic to see them in all their glory for the first time in a CRPG. Till then they only existed in your mind or the rare artist's rendering. But in this game it was all there, the monsters dropping that "phat lewt". Other games had some, but this was the first that had basically every classic D&D weapon/item you could dream of. It was basically the old DM's guide treasure list in all their glory.

Ryzengang: I think Borderlands 2 for me as well. Not common that I really love loot systems but BL2 did it for me. Really unique legendary weapons and overall a lot of variety while still being recognizable (e.g., you knew how a Jakobs would generally behave).

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and Playboy.com, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.