Grand stories, lush landscapes and gripping character development – These are the three real key components for a successful Role Playing Game, of which all of our choices this week have in abundance. It’s time to equip the best gear, check our stats and see if we will get that legendary drop we’ve been grinding for hours for – So stick around and check out Timlah and Joel’s Top 10 Role Playing Games!
10) Chrono Trigger
Reaching number 10 on our list is a pretty old title; 23 years old, in fact – it’s Chrono Trigger! It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what makes this game so special, however there are many different elements which makes up the overall experience. The fight mechanic isn’t too unlike that of a normal RPG, but the layout is pretty different. The enemies walk around the open world, as opposed to random encounters, similar to other titles on this list.
Created by Square Enix, of Final Fantasy fame, Chrono Trigger was a huge success. Perhaps not quite as successful as Final Fantasy, however it is often cited as one of the best video games of all time – Not just for an RPG. Chrono Trigger then went on to get a sequel, Chrono Cross, which is also considered to be amongst the greatest RPGs ever released. Hugely ambitious, Chrono Trigger will always stick out as one of the most creative RPGs of its time (and indeed, perhaps all time?)
9) Vampire: the Masquerade Bloodlines
Recently, with talk of Vampyr coming out this year, we’ve been mentioning Vampire: the Masquerade Bloodlines. Both Joel and I agreed that actually, we god damn love this game and it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. So much so, I will be buying this on Steam sometime soon, just to replay it. Perhaps we’ll do a full review of Vampire: the Masquerade Bloodlines sometime down the line? Nevertheless, both Joel and I really love it.
In Vampire, you play as, you guessed it – A vampire! You are a freshly turned vampire, meaning you’ve got to find your feet as a vampire. You must feed on humans, you must enjoy the glamour of being a vampire – and this game makes you feel like an absolute rockstar. It’s a very gritty game, certainly not one you’d play with a little one around – But hey, it’s genuinely an excellent RPG.
What can I say about Earthbound that hasn’t been said before? The title is one of the funniest games ever released, with a unique combat system, including that incredible rolling hit point counter. From PSI Rockin, through to Paula’s Prayers, all of the moves and abilities feel unique and genuinely worth learning. You feel grinding isn’t so bad, but it can take a while if you want that legendary Sword of Kings!
Now, Earthbound is a strange title. From Retro New Age Hippies as enemies, who like to use rulers in the middle of battle to figure out the size of things, through to the actual surreal plot of the game, Earthbound makes you question everything an RPG should be. It’s genuinely great fun, with some highly memorable characters. I’d recommend you go out there and play it as soon as possible.
7) South Park: The Stick of Truth
Step into the shoes of a blank, generic, cardboard cutout… well craft paper. You are the new kid in South Park, and you appear to have arrived just in time of witness a game of make believe get way out of hand. It doesn’t take too long before you’re setting fires, beating up hobos, facing off against the secret service, and getting abducted by aliens.
Stick of Truth not only captures the very essence of the series, but somehow manages to be an excellent game to boot, with low-strategy combat that’s challenging without being burdensome, puzzles and challenges, collectables, side-quests, and a story that embraces the irreverent humour, childlike imagination, and shameless crassness of South Park.
6) The Bard’s Tale
Bringing up the middle is a masterful parody of the genre that also manages to be a good example of it.
“Rats you say? In the cellar… how cliche of you love.”
Turns out the rat in question is a leviathan that can only be bested by using potent magic, and the kind of bravery that only greed, hunger, and womanising can induce. The Bard is every bit the hackneyed hero, taking to a life of adventure for the money, the fame, and the “perks” of being the saviour. He’s here to hang a rather substantial lampshade on every trope and cliche of the genre, and also show you a good time.
No, hang on, not like that… well maybe like that… how much are you paying?
5) Planescape: Torment
In many cases, the bleak and depressing world of Planescape: Torment is a huge step away from the other games on this list; but honestly, it had to make it onto our list. Considered one of the greatest RPGs ever written, for good reason, Planescape: Torment takes place in Sigil, known as the ‘City of Doors’. You wander about the town with the intent of finding out about “What can change the nature of a man?”
In Planescape: Torment, you make great friends, but they’re not the quirky adventurers accustomed to. Instead, one of them is a sassy skull called Morte. The main objective the game set out for was to challenge all preconceived notions of what makes an RPG, what makes an adventure – and can we do it in the ugliest, grittiest, darkest way. If you’ve never played it, you’re doing yourself a disservice by having not.
Coming in at the halfway mark on this list, as this game will be Marmite in today’s climate. The game is notorious for being ugly; but that makes it all the more beautiful to me.
4) Shadowrun Returns
There’s not many games that can proudly claim to have moved from tabletop to computer and kept so much of the personality. Maybe it’s the unsubtle blend of cyberpunk futurism and epic fantasy, it could be the rich storytelling and excellent gameplay, the only thing removed is the presence of other people.
Hurl yourself into the warped reality of Seattle as a decker, rigger, street samurai, shaman, mage or physical adept, assemble a party of expendables, some of whom you accidentally end up caring about, crack your knuckles and get into fights, solve some puzzles, think your way around obstacles like the strangely over-friendly cults, and flee desperately from the weirdo summoning wave after wave of demon at you. Every quest is a new experience, and at some point I will get round to playing the other titles in the series. Promise.
3) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Let the record show that we considered Morrowind hard for this spot. In many ways it still exceeds Skyrim as a role play in the wider variety of dialogue options and variety of quests. But Morrowind is laden with flaws that make it hard to put above the action packed and glorious landscapes of Skyrim. You certainly feel more immersed in the role of the Dragonborn than the Nerevarine.
Perhaps it’s the pinnacle of Bethesda’s world building prowess, even as trimmed down as Skyrim is from the lore upon which it is based, you are still plunged into a world that you cannot help but believe in wholeheartedly, and feel as much a part of its lore and history as the mountains. The way NPCs interact with you – while still laughable at times – is still outstanding for a game of its age. It’s going to be a long and taxing wait for Elder Scrolls VI, but whatever comes next has big shoes to equip.
=1) World of Warcraft (Timlah) vs Dungeons & Dragons 5e (Joel)
Starting 2018 off with a bang, our Top RPG could only be one… Yet both Timlah and Joel put up a hard fight for their choice of number 1 RPG. Who do you side with more?
World of Warcraft – Timlah
Let me set the record straight; as of 2018, I’ve not played World of Warcraft for between 9-10 years now! With this said, I couldn’t go in this list without mentioning the epic MMORPG that really shaped the genre. Just because it’s an MMO doesn’t make it an RPG all the same; if anything, it just drives the epic nature of the title much further.
Whilst Joel has picked the more logical approach, indeed World of Warcraft itself would have taken inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons, I feel that in the grander scheme of things, the humongous impact that the Blizzard franchise giant has had on the gaming industry has been truly wonderful. For a game that was first released in 2004, it’s still going strong 14 years later. There aren’t many video games that can boast the same.
The strongest argument I have for World of Warcraft over Dungeons & Dragons, however, is the consistency of quality. See, even whilst some people didn’t enjoy the way the story progressed, the whole way through it was consistent in quality. Meanwhile, in a Dungeons & Dragons game, you have people who bicker over rules, just to figure out who gets an extra point or two of damage in. You get DMs who are new, who only think of linear stories to tell – These are all things that can happen and although it’s not exclusively this way, it happens far too often.
As a final point to consider, the characters, the friendships, the stories that the MMO giant has produced over its expansive timeline has been immense. From the intense rivalry between the Alliance and Horde, to the conclusion of the Lich King, right to present day conflicts, the stories have always been immense and the game just keeps getting more expansive – and thus, more impressive.
Dungeons & Dragons (5th Edition) – Joel
My esteemed colleague makes a fair case, because if he didn’t I would never have conceded to putting this up to vote. He had to topple the grandfather of role playing games, the first real RP to be spawned from the tabletop wargaming days and take the exploits of metal and plastic soldiers and make them real people with names and lives to live.
Gygax and Arneson took the works of J.R.R Tolkein and built upon them by pulling across worlds of mythology and their own smattering of creations that remain stalwarts of fantasy even now, and Warcraft draws massively from the same sources if not from D&D directly to populate it’s world. D&D creates thousands of worlds for millions of people, and has done for decades, inspiring some of the greatest artists, actors, and musicians of our time. It is impossible to measure how many people have played and love D&D across it’s fifty years of uninterrupted dominance of the tabletop market, and it’s only getting stronger.
Admittedly the new blood has had its impact, 4th edition D&D drew a great deal from the format, feel, and yes, the popularity of Warcraft, but 5th edition is best edition, and today dominates conventions world wide as a popular event, especially the enormously popular celebrity game at PAX, the all star Critical Role, and D&D based streams, podcasts and YouTube channels beyond number.
WoW has been in decline for sure, and kudos to them for maintaining, recovering, and even rebuilding their player base over nearly fifteen years of play, it’s unmatched by any MMORPG. But it owes everything to Dungeons & Dragons, as both of them were born from Citadel miniatures. Both have spawned countless imitations, but sorry Tim, I don’t think there’s a question who takes the roleplaying biscuit.
So when we came up with our Top 10 lists, we did it on an absolute value of which games we thought deserved to be mentioned. However, sometimes, you get a franchise which is so big and so important to a genre – It sorta becomes that genre. The following entries are two prime examples of this, when a game becomes its genre!
The Witcher Franchise
CD Projekt Red made one hell of a splash in 2007 when they introduced us to a newer, grittier RPG than what we’d come to expect, far removed from the Fables and Legend of Zeldas that many of us had grown used to. Geralt of Rivia stepped straight from obscurity and into gaming legend. Why dump one of the giants of the decade into the honourables?
The trilogy is renowned for having an incredible narrative with meaningful decision making, real characters, and a protagonist who bears the weight of his cliches (amnesia dude? Really?) and earns a place in gaming halls of fame. What it is not renowned for is the ability to wander off and make your own story, or play a unique variation of Geralt, you are always playing Geralt of Rivia, and even then it’s only in between the protracted hack and slash periods where you are an emotionless blade hurricane. Great games, sure, but there are better role-plays.
Final Fantasy Franchise
Relegated down to honourable mentions feels rather harsh, however you need to understand that I couldn’t bring it upon myself to pick a Final Fantasy title… Because I personally default to Final Fantasy IX – I’m unashamed about my bias towards that title, as to me, it epitomises the true meaning of a Final Fantasy. To me, it’s a perfect title – Even though so many people prefer Final Fantasy VII. I also really didn’t enjoy Final Fantasy XV, but many people did.
It’s so subjective! From Final Fantasy I through to the current Final Fantasy XV, there are so many good titles to pick from, but there seems to be a “Final Fantasy for everyone”. It’s a seriously worthwhile franchise, which has done amazing things. However, in a Top 10 when you’re trying to determine the top of the top, when you have a series which as legendary as Final Fantasy – How are you going to make me choose just one?
This was the only way to slot them all on the list.
We’ve grinded our way through this list, as we needed more experience before we could get to the next level. But similar to how we grinded through this list, we’ll be back before you know it, once again on that grindfest, as we’ll be giving out another Top 10, selected by yourselves. So get to it, as next week, we’re offering you ships vs ships vs … myths?
As ever, we thank you for joining us for another Top 10! We absolutely love making these lists and our discussion between World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons was a hugely important one for us – We feel these two RPGs are the most important for all of RPG history – So let us know which you think wins and tell us if we forgot any, or if we didn’t order our list correctly! Share your thoughts in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.