11 Of The Best RPGs From The Past 15 Years Source:

Gone are the days when the term ‘RPG’ was confined to small groups of nerds gathered around candlelit tables in their parents’ basements. Now that computers and consoles have developed the technical capabilities to immerse players in stunning 3D fantasy worlds, the genre has become a driving force in video games as people of all ages are drawn to the thought of heroic adventures and epic battles.

Since 2000, RPGs have exploded with games like World of Warcraft, Elder Scrolls, and Fallout being among some of the most popular and best selling titles of any gaming genre. But now that RPGs have been fully integrated into mainstream gaming, there are more choices than ever for someone looking to take their first tentative steps into a spellbinding realm of novel gameplay experiences.

So to help ensure you’re not wasting hours of your precious leisure time on mediocre gameplay and unfulfilling quests, we’ve put together this list of 10 of the best RPGs from the past 15 years.

11. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

For BioWare’s first RPG foray into a realm that wasn’t high-fantasy, they couldn’t have asked for a better setting than a galaxy far, far away. While the Knights of the Old Republic still maintains many of the trademarks BioWare has become known for—branching narratives, captivating dialogue, and ambitious battle systems—they made the combat mechanics more fluent and less like a traditional tabletop RPG so the game would be more accessible to a wider audience. This was also one of first games to give players party companions with unique, well-defined personalities who would spontaneously engage you in conversations that you could respond to in various ways—an aspect BioWare would develop much further in later games.

When Knights of the Old Republic was announced, many people feared it would inevitably degrade to a pandering piece of cheesy Star Wars fan service, however, the reality turned out to be just the opposite. The story and characters were so outstanding that everyone was wishing they had used the game’s storyline as the basis for the Star Wars movie prequels. Source:

10. Fallout 3

With the hugely-anticipated release of Fallout 4, it’s tough to imagine that it might have never seen the light of day if it weren’t for Bethesda picking up the rights when original developer Black Isle was shut down. Thankfully, the franchised perservered—not unlike the vault-dwelling post-apocalyptic survivors that make up the game’s premise.

Fallout 3 is an excellent example to developers of how to honor a game’s legacy. It maintains much of the story, aesthetics and mechanics from first two games, but Bethesda left their mark by choosing to forgo turn-based combat in favor of the action-oriented, first/third-person play style that they developed earlier with Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. The result was a smash hit that enthralled players and completely rejuvenated the Fallout franchise through compelling storytelling and a wasteland full of memorable quests. Source:

9. Golden Sun

You might find it hard to believe that one of the titles on this list is a Game Boy Advanced exclusive, but Golden Sun is an absolute gem. It echoes the golden age of RPGs while, at the same time, adding a lot of delightful elements and tweaks to the formula. The exciting turn-based combat and fun elemental puzzles combine to make a game that plays a lot like like Final Fantasy crossed with Zelda. This is the crowning jewel of the GBA and one of the best RPGs on any platform. Source:

8. Skies of Arcadia

The Sega Dreamcast is a system that had far too brief a time in the spotlight, but, while it was relevant, it managed to squeak out a few exquisite RPGs. Most notably, Skies of Arcadia. This game, set in a colorful world filled with sky pirates, combined traditional gameplay elements like random encounters and dungeon crawling with a unique travel system that involved cool airship battles. The game is fondly remembered by fans for its vibrant characters, fetching style, and excellent use of camera angles, but the thing that really makes the game shine is the way it perfectly balances story with exploration. If you’re one of the few people who still has access to a Dreamcast, you owe it to yourself to play this game.–21123 Source:

7. Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King

Many would argue that this is the game that perfected the Japanese RPG. Superb character design, challenging encounters, and amazing voice acting helped make it the best selling Playstation 2 game ever released in Japan. When it comes down to it, Dragon Quest VIII is just a beautiful, playful adventure that pairs satisfying, classic-style gameplay with a whole lot of charm. Source:

6. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

The Elder Scrolls series has produced some amazing RPGs over the years, but the most distinctive and groundbreaking entry would have to be Morrowind. When this game was released in 2002, it was the most detailed and open RPG to date, thrusting players into the game’s compelling story and visceral environments. More so than its successors Oblivion and Skyrim, Morrowind felt like a completely new RPG experience. It was the first 3D world that felt completely organic and immersive by forcing players to explore and interact, rather than giving them all sorts of guided beacons and fast travel options like so many current RPGs do today.

Even though Morrowind had its fair share of glitches, and the combat system could be a little sketchy at times, these minor problems were easily overlooked since it achieved what is now considered one of the biggest technological milestones in RPG gameplay history. Source:

5. Demon’s Souls

When Demon’s Souls crashed onto the RPG scene in 2009 it got a lot of attention for its punishing difficulty and lack of hand-holding. This is a no-nonsense, combat-centric game that throws you blindly into a dark fantasy kingdom with scarcely a shred of information as to why you’re there in the first place. Although the story is definitely a little on the thin side, especially when compared to JRPGs, the gameplay is extremely robust with a combat system that favors skillful positioning and timely button presses. Every survived encounter feels like a massive achievement and boss battles leave you physically and mentally drained. On top of all that, it’s got an integrated multi-player system where other players can force their way into your game and kill you.

Demon’s Souls was a game that wasn’t afraid to push players to their limit, and, by doing so, proved there was a vast untapped market for challenging, unforgiving gameplay. Source:

4. Mass Effect

Starting out as an Xbox 360 exclusive before expanding to every other available platform, Mass Effect quickly grew to become one of the most acclaimed and innovative RPGs to date. With a focus on plot, dialogue, and squad-based combat, Mass Effect marked the evolution of the system that BioWare created for Knights of the Old Republic.

The narrative in this game is among some of the best interactive storytelling, with characters that are so well-defined and believable you actually find yourself becoming emotionally attached to them. Although the developers had yet to smooth out some of the awkwardness with the romance scenes, they still deserve the highest praise for affording gamers the opportunity to dabble in inter-species sexual relationships.

By combining well-thought-out lore and backstories with impressive visuals and inventive combat, BioWare managed to conceive the ultimate video game space opera with Mass Effect. Source:

3. Diablo II

One sure way to measure a game’s success is by looking at how later games try to emulate it. By this token, Diablo II is undoubtedly one of the greatest games of all time. It spawned countless other hack and slash titles, and people are still playing it just as fervently now as they were 15 years ago. Back in 2000, the game set the bar insanely high for RPGs, since, up until then, the genre was mainly associated with more complex game mechanics and a text-based storyline. By offering up a fast-paced, gorgeously-violent fantasy experience, Diablo II popularized and then later came to define the genre we now refer to as the action-RPG.

Although it was adored for its online play, even those who prefer a single-player experience could sink countless hours hoarding loot and trying out different builds for their favorite character classes. It proved to the world that RPGs weren’t solely meant for nerds with 20-sided dice, but could be enjoyed by pretty much anyone. Source:

2. Final Fantasy IX

Still riding high on the success of Final Fantasy VII and VIII, Square took things in a decidedly different direction for Final Fantasy IX and brought the series back to its roots. The entire game is almost like an homage to old school RPG design with a four character party system and quintessential classes like the thief, knight and black mage. But trying to pinpoint exactly what makes this game so great is somewhat strenuous. Maybe its the oddly-proportioned retro-looking characters, or the high-spirited plot, or the absolutely fabulous writing, but Final Fantasy IX just seems to be dripping with a sort of inexplicable charm. Which is probably why it’s remained one of the most beloved games in a franchise that many people still think defines the RPG genre. Source:

1. Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn

For many, Baldur’s Gate forms the foundation for everything that Western RPGs have become today. The game is set in the established Dungeons & Dragons world of the Forgotten Realms and upholds many classic tabletop RPG rules, including the somewhat convoluted combat system. But anyone who played the game and took the time to learn the strategy-heavy system quickly came to the realization that they were experiencing one of the greatest story-driven games ever, with a lore so rich it could form the basis for an entire scriptural belief structure.

The sprawling universe focused more on interaction with the environment and making difficult moral decisions, rather than just mindlessly killing every living thing you encounter. Sure this type of gameplay now seems commonplace, but Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn was the first game that demonstrated this sort of scope, and, by doing so, it forever changed our perception of what makes a truly great RPG. Source:
Wes Walcott

Wes Walcott

Wes is a devourer of media. He ravenously consumes podcasts, books, and TV shows with seemingly no regard for review scores or subject matter. If encountered in the wild, Wes is said to respond positively to verbal cues relating to X-Men or the SNES. The subject can be easily captured and tamed using Transformers or Gundam models.