Top 50 RPG's

We writers at Culture of Gaming strongly believe that role-playing games are absolutely wonderful. “But what kind of RPGs do you mean?” All of them! JRPGs, WRPGs, MMORPGs, CRPGs, action RPGs, open-world RPGs – they’re all fantastic! They’ve given us some of the richest systems, most incredible stories, and most engrossing atmospheres in the entire video game industry. So, to express our love for the genre, we compiled our list of the fifty greatest RPGs of all time. It was a lot of work and debating putting this list together; we hope that whether you agree with it or not, you’ll find it interesting and thought-provoking.

First, a few notes and criteria:

We chose to base our list on three factors: significance at the time of release, critical quality, and most importantly, opinion. We did our very best to compare these three aspects before placing them on our list, and the result is what follows. Also, please remember, by no means do we claim that this is a definitive, objective list. It reflects the opinions and judgement of the writers at Culture of Gaming. If you disagree with a placement, that’s perfectly fine! Discuss your take in the comments! We will gladly debate you.

That said, here is Culture of Gaming’s top 50 RPGs of all time:

RPG Guild Wars 2

50 – Guild Wars 2

Taylor Evans: Many in the MMO community have referred to Guild Wars 2 as the younger but prettier sister of World of Warcraft. As a player of both, I would have to agree with that sentiment. Perhaps the one unique thing Guild Wars 2 could be credited for is innovating in the class-based RPG area.

Whereas many games will have a variety of classes to choose from, Guild Wars 2 chose to limit that number. However, it expands on what a player can do with those classes. This leads to some interesting play styles. Guild Wars 2 is a good RPG; however, it really relies on the “MMO” part of its genre to be successful as a game. That’s something that even the other MMOs on this list don’t have to fall back on. So, while Guild Wars 2 provided a unique take on the class-based gameplay concept, it comparatively fell short of other crucial RPG aspects, earning itself #50 on our list.

RPG Demon's Souls

49 – Demon’s Souls

Matthew Garcia >> A game that is as hard as it is loved.  Along with its debut, the “Souls-Like” genre was born.  Having a genre named after just one game is impressive by itself; having that genre also be one of, if not, the hardest genres in gaming is nothing short of ground-breaking.  Speaking of hard…

This is not a game for the faint of heart. Demon’s Souls hearkens back to the old days when death meant you had to restart – you will die, a lot. But with each death, a lesson is learned: Enemy positions, their movesets and traps are all part of the lesson. Each step made also has a feeling of reward that no other game can capture.

Bosses are each unique. The world is terrifying.  It was the start of something amazing.

RPG Fable 2

48 – Fable 2

Taylor Evans: While Fable might be known as the franchise of broken or empty promises, Fable 2 provided a gripping experience that can still be felt to this day. Despite being the awkward middle child of the franchise – that is, adopting a more light-hearted tone than Fable but more serious than Fable 3Fable 2 seemingly the product of a golden era of gaming. This era saw the likes of Fallout 3 and Halo 3, the former of which would join Fable 2 in experimenting with downloadable content to expand its story after the game had finished, a trend that is certainly prevalent today. From an RPG perspective, Fable 2 may not have done a lot of new things, yet it still provides just a solid RPG experience that any fan of the genre should play. Fable 2 earns the 48th spot on our list, for just being a memorable and solid experience.

RPG Jade Empire

47 – Jade Empire

David White: Released in 2005, BioWare’s Jade Empire found itself sandwiched between two far more famous BioWare RPGs: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003) and Mass Effect (2007). Following KOTOR, BioWare set out to create their own IP. They created a game that for the most part flew under the radar – despite widespread acclaim and being one of the best-looking games for the original Xbox – yet it managed to garner somewhat of a cult following. This epic story-laden action-RPG deserves more.

Set in China, Jade Empire is a magical adventure drawing much inspiration from Chinese folklore, history and culture. The player takes on the role of the last remaining Spirit Monk. There are also six characters to choose from, each with pros and cons, each unique, fun and easy to control. With the character chosen, the player goes on a quest to defeat China’s corrupt emperor, Sun Hai. Along the way, the player will feast their eyes on the incredible visuals (which still look impressive), listen to an epic Eastern-styled score composed by Jack Wall (tinged with Western elements) and meet well-acted characters to interact with in typical BioWare-style choice dialogue. The player explores various lands, full of different themes, quests and characters.

Just like KOTORJade Empire has its own morality system. However, unlike KOTOR, JE’s morality system is unique. It’s less Good or Evil, instead focuses specifically on a player’s altruism. There are two categories in which to lean: “Open Palm” or “Closed Fist”, neither being Good nor Evil, but instead are altruistic or self-reliant respectively. It’s an interesting take on the typical black and white good vs evil morality systems that you would usually see in other games.

While exploration is fun, the real fun starts when magic, fists, feet and magic fists start flying. Jade Empire features excellent real-time combat. One that is accessible, deep and customisable. The story and its world imaginative, detailed, vibrant, full of life and highly immersive. Overall, Jade Empire is essentially an absorbing, deep and fun 3D beat ’em up adventure. So guys, stop waffling about KOTOR and Mass Effect and give Jade Empire some love!

RPG Stick of Truth

46 – South Park: The Stick of Truth

Joel Yap: Few games match the craziness of South Park: The Stick of Truth. It’s brings the popular cartoon of South Park into the world of gaming, as it introduces RPGs for what they truly are: a child’s imagination.

The story is based around a holy relic, the Stick of Truth. With kids dressed as elves, and the impressive Kingdom of Kupa Keep, its satire for the fantasy and RPG genres alike is so hilarious that it makes the game one of the best fantasy RPGs I have ever witnessed.

The characters are brilliant, as in the show, and the way they are portrayed to their role playing in the game is spot-on. But most impressive of all is that it feels like an episode of South Park. So overall, if you enjoy South Park as a cartoon, I recommend this game. Though hardcore fantasy RPG fans might find this offensive, I think it’s a nice game to play in a relaxing afternoon.

RPG FONV

45 – Fallout: New Vegas

Omar Banat: Fallout: New Vegas is a wonderful game that has a convoluted backstory on how it came into the world. Here is the short version.

Black Isle Studios developed Fallout 2, and Interplay published it. Obsidian Entertainment was formed by former Black Isle employees around the time the company shut down. Bethesda published Fallout: New Vegas which was developed by Obsidian in a shockingly short amount of time. And that’s how fantastic RPGs are made.

Fallout: New Vegas was nothing short of a triumph. From the truncated development cycle to the heart and soul of Black Isle Studios shining through, it’s hard to not love this game. It’s the one post-Interplay Fallout game that is consistently compared to the originals. The story and lore adhere to the original vision of the series.

Obsidian’s mastery of RPGs shines through in this game. The multiple endings, branching story paths, weapon and character customizations are staggering. You could do a dozen runs of the game and have a different experience every time. There are only four factions for the main story line, but the settlements, smaller factions, and companions each make an important impact on the story as well. Even people who have completed 10 playthroughs likely haven’t seen every possible ending.

What makes this all much more impressive is that Obsidian pulled off this gem over the span of one year. 12 months is a terrifyingly short development time even for small games. Yet, these RPG craftspeople got the game out the door and into stores with an undoubtedly large amount of crunch. The hard work paid off in the long run as Fallout: New Vegas is one of the best RPGs I’ve ever played.

RPG FO2

44 – Fallout 2

Taylor Evans: Some would call Fallout 2 the last good game the series has seen. While that is arguable, I don’t think it can be argued that Fallout 2 was certainly the game in the franchise that fully realized what Fallout is. Successfully refining and adding onto the world and setting of Fallout, Fallout 2 turned the formula up to 11, and no subsequent game in the franchise has quite hit that level. The mature gameplay elements and themes expertly blended with the wasteland humor one can expect from the franchise, as well as the insane amount of customization offered. Going back and playing Fallout 2 is perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences in gaming today, and because of its realization, earns the 44th spot on our list.

RPG Octopath

43 – Octopath Traveler

Michael Solseth: Role-playing games and Square Enix go hand in hand with each other. While we will showcase a good number of games out of their camp, we’ll start off with their latest on the Nintendo Switch: Octopath Traveler.

The game follows eight individuals with eight unique classes in eight regions of the world. There is no true protagonist as each of the eight leads have their own story to tell. These can range from find a book or, help the sick to seeking revenge and put down a dangerous beast. These stories don’t really connect to each other, but each provide unique approaches to the stories they tell.

The same can also be said of the combat too, as your party layout can dictate how a fight can usually play out. Each character can use up to two classes (their default and one other) and each one lets you gain access to a set of weapons and abilities. It is one thing to stack your team up with pure attackers, but another to have a team that can exploit enemy weaknesses, so you can stun them and lay down the damage. You can also augment how much power goes into your attacks using “BP” collected at the start of each round so you can unleash a powerful attack.

For the RPG genre, Octopath Traveler might have done nothing revolutionary. Still, there’s no denying the overall presentation, beautiful art style and wonderful music places it in our list.

RPG Secret of Mana

42 – Secret of Mana

Joel Yap: Secret of Mana is an old game released by Square in 1993 for the SNES. It’s a classic simple RPG in the same vein as the original Legend of Zelda games. Its real time combat made it fun to play, especially since you could play in multiplayer with friends.

It’s a story of a group of kids wanting to defeat an evil empire who want to harness Mana, a form of energy. It’s a good versus evil story, so it’s quite simplistic. But the atmosphere is why you play this game. The world is amazing, with beautiful graphics for its time. It’s so magical just looking at it that it can hold up to today in my opinion. The soundtrack is probably one of the best I ever heard, right up there with the Legend of Zelda series.

So overall, it’s not a must play, but if you want a classic RPG that you can play with a group of friends, I suggest this game.

RPG Awakening

41 – Fire Emblem Awakening

Andrew Marcus: The gameplay in Fire Emblem Awakening is refined and smashes the nail into the woodblock with presentation and style. The strategy and turn-based elements are still top notch with hours upon hours of content. The new support chat options allow the characters to develop even further, and the art and presentation allow each character to feel memorable and unique. Stack this art with great personalities and you have very well-crafted characters to mesh with a fun story. Awakening does not have the best story in the Fire Emblem series, but the story was still decently written enough to keep me intrigued and made me continue to want to play more.

Awakening is also very user friendly and allows player several options to customize and enhance their gameplay. Players can also play at a nice leisurely pace or amp up the difficulty to make things interesting. With solid DLC and several side quests, players can easily get several hours out of a single playthrough in Awakening. These are all the many things that Awakening did right. Awakening is now 5 years old and should be in every 3DS library; however, if you don’t have a copy of Awakening go snag a copy of it for yourself.

RPG Bravely Default

40 – Bravely Default

Ethan Braun: Bravely Default is the best thing to come from Square that doesn’t contain the words Fantasy, Chrono, or Kingdom.

On the surface, this 3DS title is no more than a throwback to old-school SNES Final Fantasy. It contains a deep, turn-based combat system, with 24 Final Fantasy 5-style classes to swap your characters between. But you don’t need to look any further than Bravely Default’s own title to find its two defining mechanics: Brave and Default.

At any point in battle, you can choose to Default (skip your own turn and gain a temporary defense boost), or Brave (rush forward and use up a turn ahead of time). It seems simple enough, but the Brave-Default system creates another level of strategy and tension to your characters’ extensive attack options. Should I Default, build up my turns and rush the enemy with 4 attacks at once? Or should I jump the gun and use up all my Brave points, hoping that he won’t strike me down when I’m completely vulnerable? That choice is up to you, on top of all the other healing, damage, and weakness systems you’ll have to consider. It’s genius combat design.

Not to mention, Bravely Default has a touching and memorable story, as all JRPGs should. You explore the world in an airship (much like Final Fantasy) as you collect four party members and discover each of their intentions and backstories. At the end, there’s a massive twist that I wouldn’t dare to spoil here, but let’s just say that all your characters’ intentions and motivations get flipped on their head (you might even compare it to Undertale or Braid). I’ll leave it at that.

Sum it up to say, Bravely Default constantly gave me reason to push forward – to find out the next story-beat and level up my characters as far as possible. I did just that, in fact – every one of my four fighters made it to level 99 by the end of my 60-hour playthrough, and I still had genuine difficulty with some of the late-game boss fights. That’s the trait of a truly great RPG.

Bravely Default is the modern reimagining of Final Fantasy VI. Honestly, that’s all I could ever ask for.

RPG PSO v.1&2

39 – Phantasy Star Online 1 & 2

Michael Solseth: If you grew up Sega during the 90s, you may be familiar with the Phantasy Star series. While those early games had some engaging role-playing to them and a fun mix of magic and technology, Sega went one step further when the Dreamcast came out.

Set on the uncharted planet of Ragol, players can pick between 12 classes that fall in three disciplines. Whether if you pick blades, guns or techniques (magic), combat on the planet can be fun and challenging as you chain together attacks and take down a wide range of enemies.

While online RPGs were only on PC, Phantasy Star Online was the first one to be on home consoles. Taking inspirations from what came before, Sonic Team provided us with a memorable experience we got an expansion version a few years later on the GameCube and Xbox.

Who knows why Sega doesn’t try to bring Phantasy Star Online 2 to the west. We will probably never see it. Please Sonic Team – take a break from Sonic games and give us more Phantasy Star Online! Until that day comes though, at least we have a gold standard of action RPGs. That and they should take notes from the next entry on our list on how to do a worldwide release of a highly popular franchise.

RPG MHW

38 – Monster Hunter World

Michael Solseth: When you think of games popular in Japan, you could say that the Monster Hunter series tops that list. Fans usually describe this series of games as “Boss Fights the game,” where you track down and hunt giant monsters and carving them to make better weapons and armors for the next hunt. Usually seen as a “Japan exclusive” series, the Monster Hunter games outside Japan range between having a fair showing to not going to happen. It also hurts that a “worldwide release” of a Monster Hunter game sees the rest of the world getting said game six to nine months after Japan gets it.

So, you can imagine that when we got the announcement for a new Monster Hunter game at E3 and announcing that this would be a worldwide release and a return to home consoles, Capcom was aiming for the fences and beyond. Monster Hunter World was pulling out all the stops so it would not only be a game for long time hunters, but also welcome novice players to a whole new world. The game saw a massive overhaul with all 14 weapons getting fancy new abilities, the introduction to slingers, maps being more fluid rather than zones, and hands down one of the best-looking Monster Hunter games ever.

It’s weird to consider Monster Hunter an RPG, but there are elements of role-playing to help you become stronger. It is a fine example of action role-playing games out there and if you haven’t had the chance to play it, go grab it right now.

RPG SMT: Nocturne

37 – Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne

JT: With Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, expect to die a lot. It’s possibly the most difficult Shin Megami Tensei game still to date, while never feeling unfair. Even while having Normal and Hard modes, save often as you will die in both. With the release in the US, I had never even known it was a part of the main series. It has its own feel and story to it, and remains its own separate entity. It starts with the end of the world and concludes with a possibility of 5 different endings. Not many games had choice endings at the time, with each feeling radically different.

Nocturne is a game that helped to solidify Atlus as a company, at least from my perspective. The soundtrack, the story, the strategy involved, then there was the west receiving Dante! Yes, Devil May Cry makes an appearance. For the low price of a dollar, Dante will join your cause as a level 80 party member! From what I remember, this is the only Shin Megami Tensei game he has been in. It was strange, but also very welcome. Without even playing a Devil May Cry game, you knew he belonged in that world. Everyone needs to pick this game up and give it a try. It’s just so good!

RPG Skyrim

36 – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Andrew Marcus: I like to swing my big sword around aimlessly and hope that I hit the X that marks the spot. Do you like swinging around big swords? No? I guess not everyone is into big swords. So maybe you’re a sword and shield guy? No? Well, who needs shields when you have magic? Why not try sniping that monster dragon with that tiny bow and arrow?

There’s not much that needs to be said about Skyrim. It’s a fun game with endless amounts of customization that start with the character and root its way into the menus. You can go to the blacksmith to hammer out and get a few levels for your special weapons. Stack the open world with massive customization and you have a game that delivers several hours of endless fun. What’s not to like about Skyrim?

RPG Star Ocean Till the End of Time

35 – Star Ocean: Till the End of Time

Ramy Abou-Setta: The combat, the story, and the characters of Star Ocean make it a very fun experience for an RPG fan like me. I remember watching my older cousins play this, them being the people that introduced me to the world of role-playing games. Having watched them play FFVII, I knew I was in for a treat, with a similar experience, giving me the same immersive gameplay, amazing characters to get attached to, and a whole new world to dig my teeth into. Another amazing game that I have stored in my memories, with its immaculate battle system and amazing story.

If you’re the type that likes micromanaging stats, then you’re about to have a ball. You can explore almost anything. Grinding is a huge part of it though, at least it was for me. It’s not a hard game, but it’ll keep you on your toes.

RPG Pokemon R/B

34 – Pokémon Red/Blue

Ryan Cook: One of my fondest memories of my gaming childhood was when my mother came home from a church sale with the original Nintendo Game Boy. If you’re old enough to remember it or have happened to have seen it online at some point, the original Game Boy was a massive grey block. With the first iteration of the soon to be legendary handheld was a copy of Pokémon Blue. Like most young people growing up in the mid-nineties I was an avid fan of the Pokémon animated series, so it goes without saying that I was instantly hooked. I recall playing it for hours until I had to replace the batteries.

Pokémon Blue was the first handheld game for me and it clearly got me hooked because I have owned nearly every handheld that Nintendo has produced. You don’t play as Pikachu, the game is in black and white, it was missing Pokémon that Pokémon Red had, and the sprites looked like kaiju, but it has a special place in my heart. Even if I never actually beat the game and just spent one hundred hours collecting and leveling these digital creatures that I gave nicknames and considered my friends seeing as I was an only child and lived half an hour away from the nearest classmate.

As someone who didn’t play Pokémon Yellow until earlier this year when I decided to go back and play all the early games after beating Pokémon Ultra Moon. I can see why even today it’s a very popular, and a very good game that stands the test of time 20 years later.

RPG P4

33 – Persona 4

JT: Persona 4 for the PS2 is an amazing RPG. I can tell you this game isn’t difficult, yet you may die a few times. It also doesn’t feel the least bit grindy. It makes for those who are fans of RPGs to not feel like they have to struggle. It was so satisfying to go through each dungeon killing monsters and bosses alike. The fact you can build relationships with each individual person to create more personas was something I loved exploring. Any games that focus on active relationship-building I will always be for!

Of course, this is also a semi-school simulator, so expect to go to class and all that. However, Persona 4 makes it fun. The game had events to play out, people to save, and so many epic cut-scenes! Being a Shin Megami Tensei game, it doesn’t hold your hand, and I enjoy that. The music is great as always, Reach out to the Truth and SMILE have been in my music collection forever. There are so many characters to get to know in this game, not just out of the main cast. Persona is still king of life sims with their Persona series, and the collection itself is a must own. They also had adapted an anime that I enjoyed watching, and a manga and light novel.

It was just one of those games. Nothing much else to say. Go check it or the PSP Vita version out for yourself!

RPG Shadowrun

32 – Shadowrun

JT: A game based on the table-top RPG franchise, Shadowrun is perhaps one of my favorites to date. There is little this game can be compared to. It’s still considered one of the most successful RPG franchises of all time for good reason. I remember examining everything, just to see what would happen. There was hacking, thugs to recruit, drugs you could either buy or sell, and intense gun-play. As someone who used to have good reflexes, you needed them in this game. It didn’t hold back with the enemies as it was incredibly difficult. Instead of actual HP, you were given a heart monitor that I though was cool. I could not for the life of me keep the monitor green throughout that game either.

Every time you talk to a person to get info, you add key words that allow you to question others on the same topic. I kept having to backtrack a lot, then run around trying to find that one guy with answers. Even while doing that, I felt I would only find more secrets to the game. There are a ton of secrets I stumbled upon just by chance, with some homage to classic RPGs. Also, just being able to recruit a guy to my team made me feel not so alone in the world. Oh, and do you ever feel alone until then. It was such a fun, strange, and very detective-oriented game. I felt I was given more choices as to how the story would end as I progressed. Worth a look for those who enjoy a non-traditional RPG. There are D&D campaigns inspired from this franchise. I can’t give it enough praise. Too much to be said about this game and what it has done for the Cyberpunk-style of gaming.

RPG Dark Souls

31 – Dark Souls

Matthew Garcia: Welcome to the “Git Gud Gym.”

No other RPG causes a stronger sense of fear on this list with just a mention of its name. Not because it’s horrifying, but because it is hard. But with that level of difficulty, many things must fall perfectly in place. One of those pieces being the world layout. Everything is interconnected; you can take several routes the moment you step into Firelink shrine. The only thing stopping you from progressing in that area is your skill. So “git gud”.

Weapon, armor, and spell selection is amazingly diverse as well, having one of the highest replay values in all of gaming. Follow a guide, come up with something new, it’s all up to you.

RPG P3

30 – Persona 3 

Taylor Evans: Due to the mass mainstream success of Persona 5, the Persona franchise will undoubtedly be in the spotlight when the inevitable next installment comes. However, perhaps the father of modern Persona, Persona 3 is comparatively less known. Nonetheless, Persona 3 is a compelling RPG that when it released, played around and experimented with the typical RPG formula, as well as combining unique visual elements that would later be the basis for Persona 4 and 5’s signature look. While combat was like other RPGs of the era, Persona 3 successfully blended its unique setting into the combat, providing a new experience. Persona 3 earns the 29th spot on our list, for being the father of modern Persona.

RPG Legend of Dragoon

29 – Legend of Dragoon

JT: Just watch the opening to Legend of Dragoon before you even start the game itself. That opening had given me a sense of adventure and wonder unlike any other RPG has since. I remember the combat being unique where each battle was like a quick time event, yet it was never boring. Later, you pick up group members who are just as colorful as you are. I mean, literally every character had their colors and they matched their elements. Red for the main character Dart, which gave him the element of fire, black Rose for dark, etc. This is what kept drawing me into the game, the characters. With each character you also gained the ability to transform into a dragoon, which makes you twice as powerful. My personal favorite, along with most I’ve spoken with, was always Rose. She had one of the best attacks and transformations.

Everything has specific music as well, from the menu to towns. It’s amazing! The button presses and even equipping items felt like you were accomplishing something. You might literally be doing nothing, but it still sounded and felt good. For some reason, I hadn’t finished the game back then, but I think this was due to the PS2 coming out. Over 10 years later, I found out I was at the final boss. The end game was so rewarding and didn’t feel like any other JRPG I’ve beaten. It’s such a memorable game! This game deserves a playthrough.

Super Mario RPG

28 – Super Mario RPG

JT: No words express my love for this game. While never having owned a copy at the time, a friend luckily did. Between both getting my hands on it and watching someone else play, it was a fun game. It still holds up today as an SNES graphic marvel. Square and Nintendo worked on this one together and it shows! The first turn-based RPG starring Super Mario. The very beginning is what gravitated me towards that game. It starts in the castle with Bowser and almost ends as you would think. Princess Peach about to be kidnapped, only for Mario to save her. I was thinking to myself, “this is how it always ends.” It stood out to me that Nintendo was making fun of their own Super Mario trope. It took off from that point.

Finally, being able to play as Bowser, who was often the main villain, was a trip. He was so strong and funny. The battle system was like that of Final Fantasy games but felt like Super Mario. You could jump on enemies as you would with Mario while still being turn-based. There are so many references to other games and media, like Metroid, Final Fantasy, and even the Power Rangers. This blew my mind as a kid! It was difficult, but not to where you had to grind for levels. My favorite bits were always the comedic ones, and they all had Bowser. It’s become a rare game but pick it up and give it a try. As a fan of Super Mario and Final Fantasy games, it remains a personal favorite.

RPG Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

27 – Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Aidan Simonds: The original Paper Mario was a fun little experiment for Nintendo. Following the dissolution of the Square partnership, the company decided to take Mario’s next RPG adventure in a new direction. What resulted as an engaging, heartwarming RPG with a visual style all its own. Nintendo and Intelligent Systems decided to one-up themselves with the Paper Mario follow-up The Thousand-Year Door. Mario now has the ability to transform himself, because, you know, he’s made of paper. The reaction-based combat system is also improved and expanded upon, which includes the addition of an audience. Yes, ever battle is viewed by an audience, and they actually have an impact on the battle.

The Paper Mario games are also known for their quirky cast of characters, and this is no exception. From the confident stage actress Flurrie to the shy and insecure Vivian, every party member is a standout. The Thousand-Year Door also has a fantastic final boss, which gives us the incredible Shadow Queen Peach. It’s a shame that the Paper Mario series has seemingly moved away from the RPG genre, because it was a standout in it.

RPG FO3

26 – Fallout 3

Omar Banat: One decade ago, the Fallout franchise took a massive left turn. Bethesda acquired the license from Interplay Studios and completely scrapped the isometric view. Now, whenever you mention Fallout, the third/first-person undoubtedly pops into the minds of most gamers. This is a testament to how great of a game Fallout 3 is. The franchise established a loyal following on PC with the first two titles, but Bethesda bought the series to the next level.

Fallout 3 changed the way people experienced open world RPGs. The old maps were not filled with places to explore. Going from place to place became more than just traversing a two-dimensional map. There were terrifying monsters around every turn. You would find settlements sprinkled here and there on your way between the major locations. It felt more alive than anything else I had played before.

Besides the fantastic feeling of the world in Fallout 3, the gameplay was incredibly entertaining. I will never forget when I cleared out the Deathclaw Sanctuary at level seven with my bare fists while wearing nothing but a sunhat. It’s a shame that I had to become addicted to Jet in the process. However, the ability to do both of those just skims the surface when it comes to the depth of the gameplay in Fallout 3. You could do whatever you want and be whomever you want. Each option and decision had its own set of advantages and consequences. Fallout 3 was an ambitious jump for the series and Bethesda absolutely swatted it out of the park.

RPG Borderlands 2

25 – Borderlands 2

Ramy Abou-Setta: Borderlands was an edgy-comedic journey through Pandora, with a lot of loot and tons of killing and funny jokes. So to be able to enter the beautiful land of Pandora again with even more loot, a better storyline, an amazing villain and brand new heroes to choose from, saw me running to grab this from my local game store. Borderlands 2, did everything that its predecessor had achieved but did it even better.

I remember the first time I saw the intro, and I was thrown straight into the action: showing off all the new heroes you could choose from and all their abilities; seeing the mascot of the franchise Psycho with his comedic deaths; and right off the bat being introduced to the main villian. Seeing all of that I instantly fell in love. I have fond memories playing with my friends on co-op, looting together and fighting the different bosses, laughing at all the comedic characters and having a great time.

In my opinion, this is must-have RPG game, and a staple of the last generation of gaming. Looking forward to what Gearbox Software has in-store for the future.

RPG Ni No Kuni

24 – Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Aidan Simonds: Studio Ghibli is a name that needs no introduction. A studio that has helped popularized anime in the west, it was only a matter of time before they got their name involved with a video game. And Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch couldn’t be a more perfect game for the famed studio. A story that’s heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time, you play as Oliver, a boy who founds himself in a strange land after tragedy strikes. In the land of Ni no Kuni, you find that citizens have had their hearts broken, which you must restore. Along the way, you meet a variety of friendly faces and befriend mysterious creatures called Familiars.

Ni no Kuni is almost like a real-time Pokémon game. You can train your Familiar, evolve them, and bring them into combat. Combat is fast and fluid, and truly is an evolution of the JRPG. We must also take a moment to appreciate its soundtrack, performed impeccably by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. While there is sadly no current way to play this game on current-gen systems, if you have the ability, do yourself a favor and try out Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.

RPG WOW

23 – World of Warcraft

Taylor Evans: While not necessarily offering anything radically new in the MMORPG genre, World of Warcraft is a notable title on this list as it provided the best experience for the genre thus far when it released. Blizzard was able to create a title that has certainly stood the test of time, as the game is still going strong 14 years later. WoW is certainly no slouch when it comes to RPG elements, as it has led the way for progression systems in both multiplayer and single-player RPGs, and perhaps does the best job of any game on this list into easing the player into all the layers it has.

Its technical prowess over the years is nothing to scoff at either, as it has consistently led the industry in mass player scaling and asset loading. These innovations can be felt across the industry as well, regardless of genres. World of Warcraft earns the 23rd spot on our list, as it is truly an RPG that is constantly innovating.

RPG Oblivion

22 – The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

Anthony Dennis: Where to start… Oblivion is the best Elder Scrolls game on the market today. Now hold on there, cowboy, don’t lose it yet! Oblivion for me was the first introduction to the Elder Scrolls series. I remember sitting in my brother’s bedroom as he slowly snuck through the catacombs under the imperial city or explored a cave out in the wilderness of Tamriel for that legendary piece of armor.

Oblivion captured my imagination. It made me see just how beautiful a video game world can be. The atmosphere is intoxicating and does a wonderful job at drawing the player into the world of Oblivion. In this Elder Scrolls title, the Daedra are invading and have opened Oblivion gates all over Tamriel. It is your task to rescue the prince, equip him and fight for a world.

Overall, Oblivion does a wonderful job at combining just the right elements of music, atmosphere, beauty, story, and, of course, RPG elements. I would even argue that this entry into the ESO series is better than Skyrim. But that’s a debate for another day.

RPG Dragon Age Origins

21 – Dragon Age: Origins

Aidan Simonds: Every good series needs to start somewhere, and what a way to start. Dragon Age: Origins is epic in ways many other games aren’t. For starters, you not only can pick what race you play as, but you can also determine what origin story your character has. Options vary depending not only your race, but also your class. Soon after your origin story has ended, the world truly opens up. Faced with an intimidating (and that’s putting it lightly) threat, you must travel all corners of the nation of Ferelden, and unite its varying factions.

Origins is a little dated, especially compared to modern-day Bioware games. Your character isn’t voiced, and it’s very much an old-school Dungeons & Dragons-style RPG. However, it more than makes up for it with the wonderful character writing, truly expansive storytelling, and engaging combat mechanics. You must rise up and be the hero of the Grey Wardens, or else the Darkspawn may end things, for good.

RPG Diablo 2

20 – Diablo 2

Michael Solseth: Nowadays, people usually associate Blizzard for a few things. Whether if it is for the real time strategy games, their take on the MOBA genre, a massive hero shooter, the online card game or a certain MMO, Blizzard holds a special place in our hearts. With all these games, some may not realize that there is another pillar that helped to elevate them higher during the turn of the millennia.

The original Diablo was revolutionary at the time for its approach to action RPGs. 16 floors to traverse through to make your way to Diablo and put an end to his terror. For as nice as it would have been for the story to end there, your character fell into corruption and the adventure continues in Diablo 2.

Just about everything in the game saw improvements to make the overall experience amazing. From the selection of five new heroes (seven if we consider the expansion), updates to the gameplay mechanics, and new locations to explore, Diablo 2’s presentation was unmatched. The challenges were plentiful and you could also team up with fellow adventurers to take down Diablo and the other Prime Evils. Another special inclusion in Diablo 2 was the Horadric Cube, which let you combine items to great more powerful gems, potions and runes.

Also, what other game do you get to fight an evil army of axe-wielding cows? There may not be no cow level in the original Diablo, but Blizzard added that easter egg in Diablo 2, and it was glorious.

RPG Divinity: Original Sin 2

19 – Divinity: Original Sin 2

Joel Yap: Published by Larian Studios, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is the sequel to the original Divinity: Original Sin. It implements turned based combat, reminiscent of Dungeons and Dragons in terms of combat. But outside from the tactical combat, is a deep and fulfilling story, where all your choices ultimately decide the outcome of the game.

There are preset characters in the game, ranging from the dwarf Beast, to the undead wizard Fane. It’s also possible to play as other characters, but the game is notorious for its customization. The player can create their own character with their own perks and abilities.

The gameplay in general is extremely rewarding for tactical decisions. There is no overlevelling or being stronger with stats, instead the game is entirely based on using your environment and making smart decisions. You can have up to four characters or players if you play multiplayer, coming up with team synergies or strategies to get you through the game. Overall, Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a must play in my books, and I really recommend it to those that especially like Dungeons and Dragons, or just an overall challenge.

RPG KH

18 – Kingdom Hearts

Diamond Kelley: The game that began the entire beautiful journey of friendship, fighting for what’s right, and never giving up. It’s hard not to remember switching up between that sunny, tropical island with cheery eyed kids to mysterious dark places full of mischievous creatures to be slain. Some of the greatest classics of Disney lie here, from Hercules to Aladdin, infusing integral Disney childhood memories into my soul. The keyblade still remains one of my favorite weapons of all time as it inspires hope for a better future and happy ending for such courageous friends. Kingdom Hearts with its unforgettable soundtrack and Disney-infused elements will timelessly age with grace as one of the best games of all time.

RPG Dragon Age: Inquisition

17 – Dragon Age: Inquisition

Aidan Simonds: You are the Inquisitor, and all of Thedas depends on you. After a catastrophic event leaves a tear in the sky and the religious leader dead, you are the sole survivor. Now left with a strange marking on your hand, you are suddenly pushed into the role of savior. Of course, you can’t do it alone. You’ll have to make allies and form relationships from all over Thedas.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is truly a fantasy epic. Set across two continents, Inquisition is easily the biggest Dragon Age game. Each map is essentially its own mini-open world, filled with quests to accomplish. Of course, as a Bioware game, the writing is top-notch, with some of the most memorable characters in the series. Faces like Solas, Dorian, and Vivienne are among the series’ most iconic, and all of your companions play an integral part in the Inquisition. As they say, “lead them, or fall.”

RPG FFX

16 – Final Fantasy X

Omar Banat: When Final Fantasy made the jump to PS2 it was clear how much more powerful the system was. Yet, it was the leveling system and story that stole the show.

Final Fantasy X benefited greatly from this increase in power from PS1 to PS2. Square always seemed to get the most out of any console they release games for. Monsters, characters, and environments all had beautiful, intricate detail. Attack animations and summons looked incredible. The set pieces were breathtaking. There’s no doubt it was one of the best-looking games at the time.

When it comes to the RPG elements, it was also unmatched.  The sphere grid was a unique way to visualize your character growth. You could see your literal path towards certain spells and power-ups. It was a clear and creative way to show the player what they need to do to get stronger.

Very few games can match FFX when it comes to the story. Like most JRPGs it was a coming of age story. However, the backstories of the supporting cast made me care about who lived and who died. Every character in FFX had an origin worth looking into. They also had distinctive personalities that made each one a delight to bring along in your party.

FFX is one of the best RPGs on the PS2 and has aged incredibly well. It’s a classic that will continue to live on as one of the greatest games of the genre.

RPG Bloodborne

15 – Bloodborne

Matthew Garcia: Bloodborne is the son of From Software’s holy trinity, with Dark Souls being the father, and Demon Souls as the holy spirit. And being the third I.P. from them with this formula, they had to change it up a bit to make it stand out from the others. To do so, they sped up the tempo of fight, introducing new mechanics. Parrying is now done with a gun, you have no shield, and you can sidestep your enemy’s attack. Just a small list of some of the tweaks From Software made between the properties.

There is also a story that is perfectly fitting for both the name and setting. I am not going to tell it because: a) you probably already know it, or b) if you don’t, go play the game and discover it.  Hell, even if you have already played through it, go back through that old Victorian bloodfest.  Just because it is that good.

RPG SOTN

14 – Castlevania: Symphony of The Night

Mike Nigrelli: Many games on this list were responsible for introducing new mechanics or ideas to video games. Fewer have had an entire genre of games named after it. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one such game.

SotN is what is known as a “Metroidvania” or a nonlinear 2D platformer. A game that takes place on one map. And as you discover new abilities for your main character, you gain the ability to explore more of the map. Though, considered a platformer, SotN is also an RPG through and through. Unlike Super Metroid (the other half of what popularized the Metroidvania), Symphony of the Night involves the mechanics of any great role playing game. Enemies you defeat have a certain percentage chance to drop items, including rare armor or weapons. You must then equip them on the pause menu or they don’t do anything. And the more enemies you defeat, the more your main character, Alucard, levels up.

As Alucard, son of Dracula, you must explore Dracula’s Castle that mysteriously still stands after Dracula’s death in Rondo of Blood. More disturbingly, the vampire hunter who killed Dracula, Richter Belmont, has gone missing. It is up to you to rescue Richter and destroy the evil that still gives the castle power.

The fact that Symphony of the Night gets ported so often is a testament to how revolutionary the game was. And it still holds up today. Everything from the classic gothic horror aesthetic to the magnificent soundtrack. And with so many choices in armor and weapons, the game is as easy or as difficult as you want it to be. If you want to research where the Metroidvania got its start, or if you just want a great game, Symphony of the Night is a great place to look.

RPG Mass Effect

13 – Mass Effect

Aidan Simonds: To this day, what Bioware did with the Mass Effect series is unparalleled in the video game industry. And none of it would happen if not for this first game in the series. Mass Effect lays the essential groundwork for what would follow, introducing you to the characters and the central conflicts at play. As a game, it hasn’t necessarily aged as well as the other two in the trilogy. Of the three, it has the heaviest RPG mechanics, although that leads to some clunkiness when revisiting it today. But, what a story this game holds. The tale of the rogue Spectre Saren and his Geth army is still one of the greatest in any video game. Full of twists and shocking revelations, it more than makes up for some tiresome mechanics. If you want to see what kinds of storytelling video games are capable of, you cannot miss the Mass Effect trilogy. And this is where it all started.

RPG EVE

12 – EVE Online

Matthew Garcia: Out of all the games on this list, there is not one here I believe has a more hardcore RPG system than EVE Online. A system so profound, your character is not the one writing the lore, YOU are. Every enemy killed, all the minerals mined,each purchase made, these  are all actions that is written down in the history of the game.  And with a sandbox environment that is considered one of the most complex and free in gaming, anything is possible.

Empires have been built, wars have been raged, people have been scammed, you name it, it has been done. Any job you can think of as well, everything from spelunker to truck driver. There just seems to be no limit.  And with such freedom, there is only one drawback.  A learning curve so steep, the joke goes “you can hang yourself from it”.

Despite that single fact, it is still loved by all who dare to play it.

RPG P5

11 – Persona 5

Omar Banat: I am so happy that I get to write about this wonderful game. Persona 5 is the best RPG this generation and one of the best I have ever played.

The story and characters are well written and relatable. They tackle some incredibly serious topics like rape, prostitution, and depression extremely well. The way Persona 5 deals with these issues is completely believable. Traveling into someone’s mind to break their will and forcing them to admit their crimes is admittedly not based in any reality. However, the character’s reactions to the world around them and their motivations are always consistent and firmly set in reality.

Persona 5 is the most stylish game I have ever played. From the anime art style to the acid jazz soundtrack – even the menus – everything melds together to form a gorgeous masterpiece.

The depth and interconnected nature of the confidant system with your own stats is what seals the deal. While it may just seem like a dating sim or visual novel mini game, these social links are a crucial part of succeeding in Persona 5. You can unlock certain battle abilities that you couldn’t get otherwise with the social links. At a certain point you realize that you can’t move forward with certain confidants unless you bolster your own stats. They manage to perfectly balance these two systems. This forces you to formulate a plan to max everything out.

“Take your time.” This message on the loading screens is a constant reminder to go with the flow and enjoy your time in the world Atlus created. Whether it takes you 80, 90, or 100 hours to complete, Persona 5 is worth every second.

RPG Mass Effect 3

10 – Mass Effect 2

Anthony Dennis: Mass Effect is one of those series that remained with me for many years to come and a series that you constantly want to go back and play. I find myself on Google searching for titles similar to the Mass Effect series. That’s how good it is. Today, I will be predominantly focusing on Mass Effect 2.

ME2 is one of the solidest RPGs I have ever played, It blends sci-fi shooter with an enthralling story and great gameplay. For me, this is the best Mass Effect game to date. The story is captivating and is heartfelt, giving the player a sense of desperation to save the known universe. The Collectors are coming and there’s nowhere to hide!

Overall, Mass Effect 2 gives gamers everything they could want in an RPG. From gameplay to atmosphere, Mass Effect 2 is a welcome addition on any RPG list.

RPG The Witcher 3

9 – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Ahmed Lulat: After several years of delays, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt finally hit shelves in mid-2015. A year that saw hugely anticipated releases such as Batman: Arkham Knight, Metal Gear Solid 5 and Fallout 4. And yet this was still one of the games I was looking forward to the most after seeing in-game gameplay. It was strange to be hyped about this game as I hadn’t even heard of the first two or the books. But, by god did this game live up to the hype.

The basic plot of the story revolves around Geralt of Rivier being tasked with finding Ciri within the Continent. A fantasy world surrounded by parallel and extra-dimensional worlds, with all the usual Tolkien-esque creatures but with unique quirky traits. From here, follow Geralt’s journey as he slays all kinds of beasts to find Ciri as well as meeting friends and allies and finding love. The story has many significant endings depending on your choices when interacting with key historical events of Continent.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt doesn’t have the usual “create your avatar” selection found in many an RPG. Instead you assume the role of Geralt of Rivier, the dry wit, brooding contract monster slayer. This is a brilliant choice as you are set in a world that is very much aware of your existence from the start. Geralt has many complex relationships and rich backstories with the characters you encounter. Seeing the story unfold and unravelling the history between characters is an interesting take on the genre. One that you will want to see right until the very end.

The typical RPG mechanics are simplified even further, with no turn-based combat. Instead combat is achieved through fighting through weapons and 5 magical abilities. This makes the game extremely friendly to those, like myself, who don’t play a whole load of RPGs. You can very easily wander the Continent aimlessly just to come across and fight a new set of creatures.

On top of this the world is fleshed out from corner to corner without being filled with the same quests repeated a thousand times over. The game offers so much variety in terms of quests and gives us a lot of interesting content. There is literally a quest for finding a pan and a quest for trying to scare a mute person. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has a great balance of serious story quests and more comedic side stories. It is unbelievably funny and sarcastic throughout, sometimes even in serious situations.

More and more games are adopting the ideas and gameplay features explored in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, especially after CD Projekt Red’s success. The Witcher 3 is not only a game you have to play but one you must experience to appreciate it as one of the best games ever made. 

RPG Morrowind

8 – The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

Diamond Kelley: There’s nothing more refreshing than arriving fresh off the chunky graphic boat to Seyda Neen to finally begin life as a free person. Back when the Argonians teetered around on their long, bent legs and most of the dialogue had to be solely read. This enormous game world full of medieval, Egyptian, and early Japanese architect relentlessly added challenges or activities to do with all the focused quests and dungeons to explore. Daedric princes, vicious foes, and long winding roads allowed each and every one of us to spend countless hours on the masterpiece that is Morrowind.

RPG Pokemon G/S

7 – Pokémon Gold/Silver

Mike Nigrelli: Video games are an often iterative medium. While the first game in a series lays the groundwork, the second game is often where everything is refined to create a superior experience. Pokémon Gold and Silver are the perfect examples of this. They don’t deviate from the formula established in Red and Blue at all, yet the team at Game Freak took what work, and improved on it.

A lot of what made Gold and Silver the superior experience were the little changes that changed the game in meaningful ways. Things like adding two new types (Dark and Steel), and splitting up the Special stat into two (Special Attack and Special Defense) to help counteract the dominance of Psychic type. This was also the first appearance of Pokémon breeding, which would quickly become one of the most important elements of competitive play. Add to that a post-game campaign that let you revisit the entire Kanto region, and you have the definitive Pokémon experience.

RPG KOTOR

6 – Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic

Anthony Dennis: Knights of The Old Republic was the birth of the RPG world as we know it. Implementing 120 hour campaigns, captivating worlds and a game that will go down in the history books for ever.

The first experience that I had with KOTOR was playing it on the original Xbox… well, watching someone play it on the original Xbox. Back then, KOTOR looked kind of boring to 11 year old me and I had my sights set on the Ratchet and Clanks of the period. But 4 years later I decided to pick it up for myself. And boy was I surprised by what I found. The game was deep, probably the deepest I have ever played and I will never forget the feeling of starting one of my first Star Wars adventures of the time.

The impact that KOTOR was to have on the industry when it was released was unknown. But, where would the RPG genre be without it? That’s why, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic deserves a spot on our Top 50 RPG list.

RPG Earthbound

5 – Earthbound

Ethan Braun: Earthbound is freaking weird.

I could stop my summary right there (and I probably would), except I don’t want you to misinterpret it. So let me put it this way: Earthbound is the weirdest, quirkiest, and funniest video game I have ever played (maybe aside from Undertale).

From the moment Ness sets out from his home in Onett, the NPC’s, villains, and even descriptions hit you with non-stop dry humor that subverts your expectations of typical video game dialogue. Every single NPC has some unusual remark to commentate on Ness’s adventure, and I guarantee you’ll crack a grin every time you read a dialogue prompt.

Onett, Twoson, Threed, Fourside – I could tell you a little detail about every one of these wonderful wacky towns. I could recount to you like a grandfather my “adventures of yore”, carelessly wandering the streets of Summers and trotting through the snowy fields of Winters. The other-worldly soundtrack and vibrant color pallets cemented these places in my head as I explored them with genuine child-like curiosity. I don’t think I could shake these areas from my memory if I tried – I have an awful memory, so that’s saying a lot.

At the end of Earthbound, there’s this moment where you look back on all of the places you visited and all the people you met. After all my adventures, I remember being particularly affected by this moment. I didn’t realize it was possible to feel nostalgia for the beginning of a game that I had started just a few weeks prior. But lo and behold, if you could take a way-back machine to the credit-roll of my first playthrough, you’d catch me shedding a few tears.

Earthbound knows when to pull your leg, and when to be dead serious. It knows when to be heartfelt, melodramatic, anxious, or nostalgic. It sets you on an unforgettable adventure through the eyes of a young boy, and reminds you what an amazing time you had when it’s all over.

Like I said, Earthbound is freaking weird.

RPG KH2

4 – Kingdom Hearts 2

Diamond Kelley: Remember the days of sea salt ice cream atop a sunset lit Twilight Town Tower without a care in the world? The soothing music in such a peaceful world surrounding young Roxas and his kiddy troubles still holds a significant place in my heart. The emotional, silly cartoonish adventure effortlessly ceases to engage our thoughts and feelings. Not only a game but a story so perfectly written to portray loss, hidden identities, confusion, exhilarating action, and perseverance throughout a rag tag band of friends in their upside down world. Kingdom Hearts 2 is a tale worth remembrance and brings us back down to reality by showing us the importance in finding ourselves and fighting for those you care about.

RPG FFVII

3 – Final Fantasy VII

Ramy Abou-Setta: Final Fantasy VII was the first game to break me into the immersive world of gaming, as well as my introduction to JRPGs. I remember watching my older cousins play this on their PlayStation 1, fighting Sephiroth for the first time – in my young eyes it was the most immersive thing in existence. I couldn’t stop watching, asking about how the unique battle system worked with the new Limit Break system which built up with each attack to unleash an all-powerful technique. A few years later, I got a PlayStation 2 for Christmas, and the only game I wanted was FFVII. I got to experience this for the first time with my own actions and decisions. I got to unravel the story, connecting with the unique heroes. Cloud’s back-story made me want to continue and push through the end no matter how difficult this journey got. I will never forget playing this game.

To me this is one of the greatest role-playing games that has ever been made, and I am looking forward to playing the remake.

RPG Final Fantasy VI

2 – Final Fantasy VI

Mike Nigrelli: When Final Fantasy hit the original NES, Square focused on customization to give the player the best possible experience. Each character was a blank slate for you to customize each job class, armor, and weapon to your liking. In the SNES era, that customization was still there, but with a greater focus put on who the characters that wish to save the world actually are. And while Final Fantasy IV established this, it was Final Fantasy VI that perfected it.

The thief was no longer just a thief, but a man desperate to revive his dead love. The samurai introduced in V was now a man broken by the murder of his wife and son. The mage was now a disgraced general experimented on to use black magic. And the summons were now dead Espers, echoing their hope from the past that you can save the world for the future.

The Active Time Battle system makes sure that each fight keeps moving, even if you don’t. And each character has their own specialty that makes them unique. One character draws a copy of an enemy that then fights on your behalf. Another puts on a Jason mask to chainsaw his enemies. And the best one of all is the geomancing Moogle the dances his enemies to death. It’s all up to you, but the attachments you feel to these people will decide who is in your party and when. You may even get additional backstory for them as you play.

In Final Fantasy VI, anything is possible. A monk can suplex a train. Enemies become friends. And a dorky clown can become a god, putting you through an epic battle through hell, purgatory, and heaven. And all of this set to one of the best music scores of all time. The question is, are you ready for it?

RPG Chrono Trigger

1 – Chrono Trigger

David White: In 1992, a legendary group of designers got together, dubbed the “Dream Team” by famous Japanese developer, Squaresoft. They were Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi, Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii and Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama. Together, they wanted to create something “no one had done before.” What they eventually created is a ‘How-to’ of RPG design.

For over a year they bounced ideas back and forth, eventually sitting down with producer Kazuhiko Aoki for four days of uninterrupted brainstorming. Eventually the team would grow to over 50 developers. For the first year of development, Toriyama and Horii put together a plot, centered around time-travel. The game was dubbed Maru Island (initially an entry in Final Fantasy spin-off series Seiken Densetsu aka the Mana series) with the goal of releasing it for the planned Super Famicom Disk Drive. When plans for the SFDD fell through, the project was moved to the standard Famicom cartridge, and renamed Chrono Trigger.

Chrono Trigger is a twisting, fun and captivating adventure across seven eras of time. Its spiraling storyline takes the player from 1000AD to 600AD to 2300AD, all the way back to 65,000,000 BC. Each era functions as a new world, with their own individual stories, environments, characters, villains and events drawing the player in to explore. Each world is beautifully designed, nicely detailed, colorful and unique. CT has six playable characters including fearless silent hero Crono, Princess Marle, wild energetic inventor Lucca, and the aptly named Frog, all are well fleshed out, well designed and full of personality.

On top of excellent worlds and fun characters, Chrono Trigger has an excellent battle system. The Active-Time Battle 2.0,  is a new version of ATB introduced in Final Fantasy IV (1991). While some may call it simplistic, even shallow, it’s designed to be accessible. This enables a wide range of gamers to enjoy Chrono Trigger. Battles are fun, taking place directly in the game field, with enemies freely roaming around characters. This gives players the option to choose their battles as they see fit. The world is full of characters with which to engage, new allies, villains and side quests to discover. It’s also full of conclusions with 13 possible endings depending on your actions throughout time, adding immense replay value. There’s even the now classic New Game+, a term coined by Chrono Trigger.

As the player explores these wonderful worlds, they are accompanied by a magical soundtrack composed by the great Yasunori Mitsuda. Sakaguchi suggested that Mitsuda compose the score for Chrono Trigger. With some assistance from legendary Nobuo Uematsu, what an experimental, excellent, almost jazzy, eclectic score he created. It’s arguably one of the finest most captivating RPG soundtracks ever made. Everyone knows the triumphant ‘Chrono’s Theme’, the hypnotic ‘Corridors of Time’, the beautiful ‘Memories of Green’, the dark and chilling ‘Ruined World’ and the deep ‘Undersea Palace’, I could list almost every track.

A refined sci-fi drama with great adventure, an epic story, wonderful music, interesting characters, fascinating worlds and brilliant gameplay makes Chrono Trigger arguably a perfect console RPG, it ticks every single box and is a game that rightfully belongs atop our list.

Chrono Trigger is the greatest RPG of all time.

And that’s our list! But do you agree? Probably not! Let us know what we should have changed down in the comments, and we will gladly debate you. Just be civil, alright?

For more on RPGs and everything else in the video game, stay tuned to Culture of Gaming.

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