Top 10 Favorite RPGs
  • POSTED BY Joel Castro on May 21, 2016

    I love RPGs. The way they allow for so many choices in terms of gameplay, narrative, and world-building is just staggering. I’ve played a lot of them over the years, and I think it’s safe to say, it’s the genre I identify with and play the most overall. So, I thought I’d talk about some of my favorites in that genre.

     

    A few rules about this list: when I say RPG, I typically mean a game that involves any of the following:

    • stat-based character building
    • action or turn-based combat revolving around equipment
    • branching narrative choices (doesn’t need it though)
    • leveling systems based on experience or other methods
    • may or may not involve managing multiple party members

    There might be more to it than that at points, but that’s the gist. Also, I’m only including one game per franchise. That might seem odd given two choices that are on this list, but trust me when I say that the two headscratchers on the list are far, far different from each other than they let on. Also, keep in mind, this list is based off the games I have personally played, so if you suggest a different game, chances are I either didn’t like it as much, or (more likely) I haven’t played it yet. With that said, let’s get this show on the road.

     

    Honorable Mention: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – This game is only a year old at this point, and it is one hell of an RPG either way, but it’s still too early to tell whether this game will continue to astound me like it has so far. That, and I don’t only consider it a favorite RPG, but possibly my all-time favorite game, which is yet another list that I need to update soon. If you want my full thoughts on the game, read my review of it, but so far it’s becoming increasingly clear that this might just be my new favorite. Hopefully with the release of Blood & Wine, my opinion will become more solidified.

     

    10) Mass Effect 2 – Okay, I know this one might not seem like a “traditional” RPG, as its main mechanic of gameplay is more akin to a third-person shooter. But let’s be honest: it includes experience points, you use them to upgrade your characters’ abilities, and you also do the same to your weapons and armor with various obtainable resources. It’s an RPG; deal with it. With that said, it is leagues better than the original game in just about every single way. Tighter gameplay, better management of resources, a much more intriguing narrative (not to understate the original game’s great story), and it gives great character development to those old and new, while maintaining the series tradition of leading the story in whatever direction you feel is worth it.  It’s a great combination of two styles of play while keeping you invested in a hell of a great story. What could be better?

     

    9) Kingdom Hearts II – Admittedly, this is the game that took Kingdom Hearts into the “WTF is happening?” territory when it comes to the story, something the series has yet to fully recover from. That being said, it’s the same unique blend of Disney and Final Fantasy that made the first game so endearing that kept me coming back to this game. That, and the much improved combat mechanics with better weapons and abilities, the addition of reaction commands and drive forms to add more depth, and having some of the single best levels and boss fights the series has ever seen, at least on a console release. The characters, main and supporting, remain as memorable and quirky as ever, even when a few of them suffer from emo syndrome at points. It’s a charming, fun, and downright inspiring experience from beginning to end.

     

    8) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – This was the first Elder Scrolls game I ever played, and even after playing through Oblivion and a little of Morrowind, I can still say I prefer Skyrim overall. The leveling is much smoother and is less prone to screwing you over by doing things that you’re expected to be doing. The combat, while still having clunky and awkward animations, is much deeper overall and allows for a lot of customization in play styles as opposed to the previous entries. The world of Skyrim is still breathtaking to look at from any angle, even after graphics have gotten better in more recent RPG titles. Add in memorable stories, the ability to do pretty much whatever you want, and great characters and dungeons all over the place, and you have the recipe for one of the finest RPG experiences ever created.

     

    7) Final Fantasy XII – Yes, my favorite Final Fantasy title is the twelfth one. I can’t help it. The combat is deep and allows for an insane amount of customization in both tactics and play style. The characters are memorable and the most grounded of any the series have ever created. The plot is fascinating and much more nuanced than most people think at first glance (the blatant Star Wars expies and references don’t help much with that). The world and art design is just astounding for what the PS2 was capable of at the time. It also helps that it’s arguably the most open-ended Final Fantasy game to date, aside from the MMO titles, and has some of the most balanced gameplay of the series (give or take a few game breakers). It’s my favorite because it embraces the more grounded side of the series instead of trying to make things as over-the-top as possible to keep your attention. And that is worthy of great respect.

     

    6) Bloodborne – A very recent entry, I know, but really…this game is fantastic. If you took the excellent combat of Dark Souls, made it faster and more brutal, and slapped it into a Gothic Victorian era city, then you have Bloodborne. And honestly, it makes for the great game nonetheless. The combat, as stated, is much faster, and relies less on defense and more on being as aggressive as possible in order to progress through the brutal nightmarish streets of Yharnam. The city is a wonderful maze of creepy imagery, while keeping the same interconnected feeling that Dark Souls had, with a little of Demon’s Souls hub world mechanic added in. Simplify the stats, add horror elements, and the same cryptic narrative the Souls games are renown for, and you have the makings of a spiritual successor that, at points, can surpass the original. It’s definitely a good place to start for those who are weary of the Souls series’ daunting barrier of entry.

     

    5) Deus Ex: Human Revolution – This entry is by far the oddest one. It’s not quite a shooter, not quite a stealth game, and not quite an RPG. Rather, it’s a brilliant combination of the three that honestly works out well in the finished product. The controls are great no matter what your play style, being tight and response the entire way through. The augmentation system allows for great customization variety to fit your play style. The level design encourages multiple approaches at any given time, and the world is great to behold if you love cyberpunk aesthetics (and yellow…lots and lots of yellow). Add to it some great characters within a expertly crafted, paranoia-fueled narrative (that even branches at points), and you’ve just made the most surprisingly excellent prequel to one of the most beloved games ever created.

     

    4) Dragon Age: Inquisition – I was going to put Origins here, and with good reason, as Origins is one of the finest RPGs ever crafted. But honestly, I prefer Inquisition just that much more. The combat is much tighter and more intuitive than Origins, even though they decreased the tactical element a lot – not that I ever personally used tactics in Origins to begin with, but I digress. The weapon and armor customization is incredible and surprisingly deep, as are the class builds and combat skills. The narrative is great and well-written, revealing some surprising things about the world of Thedas, with your character being the deciding factor in a brutal civil war that was hinted at from the very beginning. The characters are all well-written and memorable, and the landscapes you find yourself in are nothing short of beautiful in their art direction. It’s my personal favorite of the series, even though Origins is close.

     

    3) Dark Souls – This is the game I spoke of earlier. Yes, it and Bloodborne are similar in their base mechanics, but how you utilize those mechanics are where they differ. Dark Souls requires patience and a defensive approach to its combat, as most enemy combatants are capable of defeating you easily if you don’t learn their patterns and pay attention to what’s around you. The stat building is much deeper, and serves as a great vehicle for creating your play style and what weapons you wish to wield. Finally, the world of Lordran is that of dark fantasy, with castles, ancient forests, and the very pits of hell serving as landscapes throughout this brutal, unforgiving world. Even with a lore that’s tougher to penetrate than the most ardent of foes, this game has still captured my attention from beginning to end, and remains a testament to what rewards await those with patience and skill.

     

    2) Xenogears – Going old school now with the PS1, and what a game this is. Xenogears is very much a unique game even in the wake of other more well-known PS1 RPGs. It has a sci-fi based story that utilizes mechs, philosophy, religion, and psychology all in one, and surprisingly makes it all work in a mostly coherent manner (just prepare for lots of text and even more confusing jargon). The combat is both a combo-driven turn-based JRPG system and a mecha combat game in the vein of Mech Warrior and Gundam. The characters are all memorable and unique, as are the landscapes you find yourself traveling through, which even years later still hold up as looking fantastic…even if the character sprites have aged rather poorly. One of the most compelling and entertaining games I’ve ever played, and hands-down among my favorite RPGs ever. Question is, which do I like more?

     

    1) Chrono Trigger – Well, either you were surprised or you weren’t. Either way, Chrono Trigger is not only my favorite RPG, it’s one of my all-time favorite games period. It has amazingly balanced turn-based combat that allows party members to combine attacks in unique ways (as well as eliminating those pesky random battles). It has amazing and charming characters all throughout, with not a single one seeming out of place or poorly written. The story is a romp through time that handles adventure, comedy, and drama with polish and finesse, allowing even for grinding to become an important factor. The landscapes are beautiful to behold, and the music is downright amazing. If you haven’t played this game, do it…like, right now. You owe it to yourself to experience one of the finest games in existence.

    POSTED BY elheber on May 24, 2016

    I loved DX:HR. My list would include Borderlands 2, Undertale and Pokemon. I’m pretty much 100% sure Witcher 3 will break into my top 10 as soon as I finish the game, but the problem with me and RPGs at the moment is that I don’t get enough time to sink my teeth in for the most part.

    Also, I’m sure I’d have a separate list for JRPGs and WRPGs. The things that attract me to one aren’t the same that attract me to the other.

     

    "A closet intellectual, he acts dumb to impress women."

    "A closet intellectual, he acts dumb to impress women."

    POSTED BY xsuicidesn0wmanx on May 24, 2016

    I’m not sure what my top 10 would look like either, and I’m sure it would change quite often as I have a lot of RPG’s I need to play that are sitting on the shelf. Rather than list the top 10, I’ll just list games I know would be competing to be in that top 10. Final Fantasy IV & VI, Suikoden, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Golden Sun, Fallout 3, and Lost Odyssey are definitely up there. Games I own that could join the list include Suikoden II, Pandora’s Tower, The Last Story, Xenoblade Chronicles, all 3 Xenosaga games, and Chronotrigger. I did enjoy The Witcher 3, but not enough to crack my top 10, same for Skyrim and Fallout 4. The one type of RPG that probably won’t crack my top 10, or even top 20, are Tactics style games, not a fan of those, pacing is too damn slow for me.

    You're all zombie thigh-fat people brought into animation by some evil force of forceful evil!!! - Happy Noodle Boy.

    You're all zombie thigh-fat people brought into animation by some evil force of forceful evil!!! - Happy Noodle Boy.

    POSTED BY Joel Castro on May 24, 2016

    I would have split my choices between Western and Japanese style RPGs, but I haven’t played too many examples in either category, unless you want half my JRPG list to be Final Fantasy and/or Squaresoft games. As for Western RPGs, I’ve only really played the Mass Effect trilogy, Skyrim, Dragon Age, and The Witcher 3. Not even sure what to call Dark Souls, but it falls into a more Western style. Which is why I lumped both styles together for this list; no matter the style, they all fit a very similar mold of stats, gameplay styles, and story.

    POSTED BY elheber on May 24, 2016

    …no matter the style, they all fit a very similar mold of stats, gameplay styles, and story.

    To me, there’s substantially different. On the surface, JRPGs are about a party of heroes (usually 4 for some reason) that set out on a classical hero’s journey. And by “classical”, I mean “structurally” and also literally since Journey to the West came out in 16th century China, a story which coincidentally (but not really) is about 4 rag-tag heroes that party up for an epic quest. These games are about narrative. There’s a story to be told and the game wants you to move through it beat by beat. In this sense, it’s “Role Playing” in the same sense that Dungeons & Dragons is about 4 different heroes, each with their own origin, that band together to set out on an epic journey.

    WRPGs, on the other hand, is about about player agency. You pick his/her stats, class, name, default loadout, and sometimes even their backstory. Since the games are more about choice than plot, the game has to deliver story through setting and lore more than narrative delivery. It’s why those games are filled to the brim with environmental storytelling and lore told through NPC dialogue; cutscenes just aren’t that feasible. But the coolest bit is the role playing. You are encouraged to play your character the way that character would himself. You act it out. In this sense, it’s “Role Playing in the same way that Dungeons & Dragons is about picking a character and filling his role to the point you’re making up his accent and doing decisions you wouldn’t just because your character would.

    I like both genres about equally, but for different reasons.

    • This reply was modified 5 years, 8 months ago by elheber.

    "A closet intellectual, he acts dumb to impress women."

    "A closet intellectual, he acts dumb to impress women."
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