Role-playing games have remained a staple in video games since almost its inception. Early RPG games were heavily influenced by Dungeons and Dragons, which is why franchises like Final Fantasy would re-use similar terminology. RPGs general revolve on leveling up your characters and equipping the best gear as you can. Turn-based combat is also a common attribute within more traditional RPGs. It is a simple concept that has birthed generations of generations of iconic games.
While RPGs aren’t as popular in the west as it is in Japan, it is still one of the most popular genres in all of gaming. Some of the most influential games of all time are RPGs, and they are still talk to this day. Where would the world be without the Final Fantasy or Witcher series? It would be a less exciting world.
The Top 10 Best RPGs of All Time
Many of the greatest RPGs came out around the time of the SNES and PlayStation era, yet there have been several modern classics that are worth placing on the list of the greatest RPGs of all time. This list will have a mixture of new and old RPGs. If any of the older ones don’t catch your fancy or are too hard to find, then there are still plenty of new ones for you to get your hands on.
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes Of An Elusive Age
Every RPG fan should at least play one Dragon Quest game, and the latest version in the prestige franchise is the best choice. Dragon Quest XI: Echoes Of An Elusive Age is the newest title in the esteemed series, and is one of the best in the franchise’s long history. The breathtaking visuals and addicting gameplay make this a hard to resist game to enjoy. It plays wonderfully; Dragon Quest XI is one of those RPGs that you don’t mind the long run time. Even by hour forty, you’re still having the same amount of fun.
Super Mario RPG
When you have Square, the company that owns Final Fantasy, create a Mario game, the results are just as beautiful as you imagine. Super Mario RPG uses the characters of the Mario franchise and injects them with RPG elements that you usually find in Final Fantasy. The outcome is a game full of charm, solid gameplay, and a plethora of memorable moments. Super Mario RPG showed the world that Mario can work in a Final Fantasy-like setting, and sets the stage for future Mario RPGs and other spin-offs. Though not successful at the time, the game’s cult status has allowed it to endure throughout the years.
The whimsical aspects of Earthbound, AKA Mother 2 in Japan, hide the dark truth of the game. Earthbound may be filled with childish humor and outlandish characters; the fact is the game is all about growing up in a scary world. From fighting against a cult that wants to turn everything blue, to facing against an alien with no physical form, there’s a lot to be scared of in the world of Earthbound.
Throughout it all, the main protagonist Ness needs to call his mom to fight off his homesickness. If it wasn’t for the absurdist humor, and the constant optimism present in the game, the darker elements would have been more noticeable. You end up succeeding and saving the world, taking the necessary first steps into adulthood. That is Earthbound’s greatest strength; it’s a game all about childhood’s end, while never being cynical about it.
Pokémon Sun and Moon
Of course, a Pokémon game will be on this. You don’t always sell millions of copies and not have at least some level of quality games. Most of the older Pokémon games are pretty hard to play through, while the more modern games are just too easy for older gamers. Eventually, I settled on Pokémon Sun and Moon for this list. Any of the Pokémon games could have made it on this list honesty, but Sun and Moon has the most polish gameplay and gimmicks within the series to date. The world of Alola in Sun and Moon is diverse and exciting, one of the best parts in any of the games. It is still too easy, unfortunately, yet doesn’t detract from how fun it is overall.
Secret of Mana
The recent 3D remake of Secret of Mana may have tainted the legacy of the original SNES classic; it still shouldn’t persuade you from checking out the original version. The Secret of Mana has the traditional fantasy setting that was evident in early RPGs, with some charming characters and a fairly interesting plotline. What was so groundbreaking for Mana is that it had co-op, meaning you and a friend can take control of one of the three playable characters, and play the game together. It was a pretty revolutionary thing to see back in the day, and heck, you still don’t see that in today’s games.
The Witcher 3
A game series that only got better and better, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt further perfects what was established in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings. Based on Polish fantasy novels, The Witcher series is filled with mythological references to old stories like King Arthur. The world of The Witcher 3 is so very vast and has so many things to do. The gameplay is super polished, and the graphics are breathtaking. This is not even mentioning the steamy romance options that are present in the game. Witcher 3 is a modern RPG for the modern fan.
A strange little indie game that was released back in 2015, Undertale took the gaming scene by storm. Taking inspiration from similar RPGs with wacky humor like Earthbound, Undertale is just as much a morality tale as it is bizarre. Taking place in an underground civilization filled with many different monsters, the player has to make their way back to the surface. You come across many different monsters on your quest, including wacky skeletons and a killer flower. It is up to you to decide if you want to spare the beasts, or if you want to save and befriend them.
The game isn’t very difficult, or very long. However, it is full of replayability. Your decisions in the game have an actual effect on the story. Many of the creatures you come across are peaceful creatures, which begs the question of who is the true monsters in the game. If you choose to perish these monsters, you end becoming something worse than a monster.
Chrono Trigger is often cited as one of the greatest video games of all time, let alone one of the greatest RPGs of all time. Developed by Square, Chrono Trigger is a crazy story about time travel, an ancient evil, and a sword-wielding frog. The story of Chrono Trigger is never dull, and the turn-based combat was intuitive for its time. Featuring art from the great Akira Toriyama, the creator of Dragon Ball, the aesthetic pops in the game. Due to the time traveling component, the setting is constantly changing. Something new and exciting is always happening. The game is a classic for a reason and should be played by everyone.
This one was difficult to decide. I needed to include a Persona game, deciding which Persona game was the hard part. Persona 5 is more recent, has a much more striking visual style compared to Persona 4. However, Persona 5 wouldn’t have existed in the way it is now if it wasn’t for Persona 4 laying out the groundwork. Persona 3 may have been the first to focus more on teenagers in high school, but it was Persona 4 that had the more realistic main characters and grounded story (ignoring the teleporting TV and talking bear).
In the end, Persona 5’s style won out in the end. Everything about five just pops. From the menus to the character designs, the game had a sense of style that has not been replicated before. Also considering that Persona 5’s characters and the story are just as great as the previous Persona games, it only made sense to include Persona 5 on this list.
Final Fantasy VII
Another problem I faced while making this list. Final Fantasy is probably the most famous RPG franchise in the world, and it is personally my favorite series. With fifteen main titles on its belt, plus a plethora of spin-offs and sequels, it was difficult to choose which one is the best. Final Fantasy VII is easily the most popular and famous, and my personal favorite, but has become increasingly more dated as time goes on. On a more objective scale, Final Fantasy VI, IX, and X may hold up a lot better than VII. I’ve also had a huge soft spot for Final Fantasy VIII, which was a pioneer for CGI cutscenes in video games.
Ultimately, I decided to go with Final Fantasy VII. Ignoring my own bias, Final Fantasy VII is so iconic that it is worth playing at least once. Final Fantasy VII merely is too essential, and recognizable, for people to ignore. Even the lame man will recognize Cloud Strife’s spiky hair and buster sword. If anything, even if you end up not liking it, it has historical significance. With the reboot coming eventually, gamers may have a more modern rendition of the game to play.