Gaming

The 20 greatest role playing games of all time

By Kate Gray

The platforming genre has always been dependable. First-person shooters have their high points. But it's the genre of role playing games that's spoilt us more consistently than any other during our years of obsessing over video games. 

From last year’s Witcher 3 to the timeless Chrono Trigger, we’ve had decades of excellent game design, superb story telling and a limitless choice of haircuts to pick for our characters. It's the little things that matter.

So here are our 20 best RPGs of all time - and if your favourite isn’t in here, it was probably our 21st best RPG. We had to stop at some point...

The Witcher 3

This is, potentially, the best RPG of all time. There, we've said it.

From its beautiful vistas to its completely compelling main character, Geralt, The Witcher 3 is so much fun to play, right down to its fantastic DLC. It's a way of life.

The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion

A slightly contentious choice, as all Elder Scrolls fans have a different favourite they'll defend to the end, but ours is Oblivion: the most exciting, expansive and experimental game of its day when it launched in 2006, it still holds secrets to this day.

Fallout 3

Another difficult pick, as all Fallout games are wildly different and attract diverse array of gamers, but we think Fallout 3 has the best story (or stories) of the lot. Liam Neeson was your dad! 

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Wonderfully crafted stories and characters made the world feel intricate and detailed, with missions ranging from infiltrating a masquerade ball to finding out that your very angry, stern Right Hand Woman secretly loves romance novels. Get it, play it, love it.

Fable II

Yes, Fable II is a little bit janky in places, but it had such a unique sense of humour (if you can call endless fart jokes unique) that it’s hard not to love it. Plus, it’s remarkable for having one of the best dogs ever to appear in a video game - a constant companion that you could train to dig up condoms for you. It was also really handy in a fight.

South Park: Stick of Truth

Most RPGs rely on a serious story, with serious detail.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, South Park takes quite a different path. With all the offensive jokes, attacks and character classes you could ever dream of, a story that sort of basically makes sense but also doesn’t and a cast of “lovable” characters from the show, Stick of Truth offers something a little weirder than your usual RPG fare.

Earthbound

Some games manage to entirely capture certain parts of our life, and Earthbound is one of them. If you lived in a small town as a child, there’s something about Earthbound’s setting that will get you all nostalgic - though your upbringing probably didn’t involve collecting magical melodies to save the world.

It did? Well bully for you...

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Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

The greatest Star Wars game to ever exist - yes, even better than the Battlefront series - Knights of the Old Republic offered Star Wars fans a chance to explore some of the lesser-known parts of Jedi lore - or Sith lore, depending on how evil you were in the game. One of the best stories you'll ever experience in a game, it's even available on mobile devices these days.

Dark Souls

The wonderful, yet incredibly difficult Dark Souls has become a cultural touchstone over the past five years. Games are constantly called “The Dark Souls of [insert genre here]” for a reason: because Dark Souls is so easily identifiable as its own unique thing. It’s brilliant, if you can get past how punishingly hard it is.

Undertale

Every now and again something weird and surprising takes the gaming world by storm.

The sweet, charming and silly Undertale was one of those such moments. It’s totally unexpected in how it approaches your typical RPG things like combat, with the game focusing instead on defeating opponents with flirting and clever dialogue.

System Shock 2

Bioshock and all its sequels were absolutely brilliant (yes, even Bioshock Infinite, it’s a great game) but System Shock 2 is where it all began, the source of that brilliant DNA.

All the Bioshock hallmarks are there: disgusting body horror, isolation, terror and an all-seeing evil antagonist. If you like Bioshock, you’ll love System Shock 2.

Mass Effect 2

Before all that controversy about Mass Effect 3 and its ending (seriously, what the heck was all that about?), there was Mass Effect 2 - a game that perfected the BioWare format of “save the world, kiss the girls/boys” that we love so much. Here's hoping the next one rekindles the magic.

Xenoblade Chronicles X

The Wii U may be a fairly unloved platform, but with epic games like Xenoblade Chronicles (alongside a fair few other games worth playing), you're justified in investing in Nintendo again. Xenoblade gives you the opportunity to fight dinosaurs in a giant mech suit, and if that isn’t your life’s dream… dream bigger.

Fire Emblem Awakening

If you’ve always wondered why your strategy games aren’t more romantic, then Fire Emblem is for you.

Combining tactical, turn-based warfare and a pretty good story involving time-travel, betrayal and dragons, Fire Emblem will also let you romance any opposite-sex character of your choosing. It’s like Mills and Boon meets Dungeons and Dragons. A combination we never knew we needed.

Persona 4

Though it takes a while to get used to the complicated JRPG combat and levelling-up systems, Persona 4 rewards you with a murder mystery story that you’ll really want to solve and characters that you’ll really want to befriend.

Yes, it's weird as hell. But that's part of the charm.

Pokemon HeartGold

Pokemon Gold was the best Pokemon game, and Pokemon HeartGold only improves on it by tweaking the original formula. That's science that is.

With vibrant colours, sweet design and revamped battle arenas, HeartGold is the most perfect Poke-experience you can possibly have.

The World Ends With You

This game is a cult favourite, and everyone who's picked up a controller to play it ends up loving it - it’s just a shame that more people haven’t.

It takes place half in the afterlife and half in the real world, where the dead are pitted against the reborn dead in an ultimate contest to save themselves and prove the worth of humanity. Track it down - it's worth the effort. 

Dragon's Dogma

Though not many people have played Dragon’s Dogma, it’s a must-have for anyone who enjoys Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, Oblivion and Dragon Quest - in short, anyone who enjoys a gripping RPG with epic boss battles and the feeling of having an actual impact on the world they inhabit.

Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Paper Mario games are a genre-perfect blend of unique style, offbeat humour and fantastic level and story design. Really. They might look super cute, but there's gold under that kid-friendly aesthetic.

In Thousand-Year Door, the best of the series by far, the chapters include a wrestling ring conspiracy, a murder mystery on a train and a boss battle on the moon. It’s like eight games in one.

Chrono Trigger

If you were expecting to find Final Fantasy VII on this list - you won't. Because Chrono Trigger is the best Final Fantasy (as controversial as that may be).

Though it comes in short for the genre at only 20-35 hours playtime, Chrono Trigger is, and probably always will be, a masterclass in how to make the perfect RPG, with one of the best soundtracks of the past 25 years. Stop shouting at us, buy the Nintendo DS version and believe the hype.