Community Picks: Best RPGs
RPGs have been around since before PC gaming was a thing. Previously the domain of tabletop role-players who used polyhedral dice, increasingly complex rulebooks, and the power of their imagination to conjure up fantastic worlds, PC gaming allowed RPGs to become sprawling adventures with which you interacted directly instead of by proxy. Now the RPG genre is broader than ever--it covers everything from turn-based games to action-packed titles--and chances are good that your favorite game either is an RPG or was inspired by them.
We asked the Tom’s Hardware community to rank the best RPGs of all time--these are the results. From 16-bit classics to modern AAA titles, the community managed to come up with a definitive list for a genre that includes many contenders for “best game of all time.” Once you’re done checking out that list, remember that you can meet other members of the Tom's Hardware gaming community by joining our Steam group, as well as by contributing to the Curator feed.
25. 'Way of the Samurai 4'
Way of the Samurai 4 debuted on the PlayStation 3 in 2013. It headed to Steam two years later to give PC gamers the chance to experience its blend of action-packed combat, open-world exploration, and deep character customization. The game features multiple endings decided by the choices you make as a master-less samurai looking to start life in the port town of Amihama in the 19th century. Finally you can be the katana-wielding badass you always wanted to be.
24. 'Enderal: The Shards of Order'
We’re only two entries into this list and things are already starting to get weird. Enderal: The Shards of Order isn’t technically its own game--it’s an extensive mod for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn't be on this list. Enderal features a brand new world, storyline, skill system, and suite of gameplay mechanics that make it all but unrecognizable as a Skyrim mod. The developers essentially used Bethesda’s legendary RPG as a foundation for their own title and its “unconventional story with psychological and philosophical undercurrents.”
23. 'Secret World Legends'
Who hunts the things that go bump in the night? In Secret World Legends, the answer is “you.” The game tasks you with fighting “sinister evils that are threatening humanity’s existence” in London, New York, Seoul, and other real-world locations now tainted by evil forces. The game is free, and you can either play it alone or with friends who can drop in to your game whenever you like. Considering the vile forces at work here, it might be a good idea to play with a buddy, so long as you trust them to have your back when supernatural hijinks suddenly get deadly.
22. 'Dungeons of Moria'
Now we’re kicking it old school. Dungeons of Moria is a DOS game set in JRR Tolkien’s Middle-earth that originally debuted in 1983. (You can emulate it via the Internet Archive.) The game is one of the original Roguelikes--it came out just three years after the genre’s namesake--in that it features permanent death and randomized encounters. You’re able to build your own character. Want to be a half-elf ranger? Done. Dwarf warrior? You bet. After the character customization screen, though, don’t expect Dungeons of Moria to explain anything to you. Either read the outside documentation or get ready to die a lot while you adventure.
21. 'Tales of Symphonia'
Tales of Symphonia is a JRPG released on the Nintendo GameCube in 2003, ported to the PlayStation 2, remastered for the PlayStation 3, and then finally ported to Steam in 2016. Sound convoluted? Welcome to the Tales series. Tales of Symphonia boasts an 80-hour story involving mana, parallel worlds, angels, and legendary weapons. In between all those shenanigans, you’ll have to master a real-time battle system that features hundreds of spells and abilities. It’s the epitome of “epic,” and that’s why Tales of Symphonia’s winding legacy persists to this day.
20. 'Vampire: The Masquerade -- Bloodlines'
Vampire: The Masquerade -- Bloodlines is a direct descendant of the Vampire: The Masquerade pen-and-paper RPG series. The game uses a first-person perspective to elicit the most horror possible, but it also features RPG staples like quests, a large variety of vampiric abilities and weapons, and numerous characters with whom you can interact. If you’ve ever wondered what Los Angeles would be like if vampires roamed the streets, well, Vampire: The Masquerade -- Bloodlines is ready to answer. Just be thankful you’re a vampire and not some measly human.
19. 'Ultima Online'
Before there was EverQuest, World of Warcraft, or any of the other popular MMORPGs, there was Ultima Online. The game, which is set in the same universe as the largely single-player Ultima series, debuted in 1997. It quickly amassed hundreds of thousands of players who explored its world and in many cases did their best to kill each other’s in-game avatars thanks to its player-versus-player component. Ultima Online has received nine expansions, seen numerous re-releases, and can still be played today, 21 years after it first debuted.
18. 'S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat'
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat might be the unlikeliest entry on this list. Although other games have used first-person perspectives or featured action-packed combat, none have fully strayed into the first-person shooter genre the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series occupies. It found its way onto this list, however, thanks to the depth of its equipment system as well as the freedom with which you can explore its world. You have to carefully manage your equipment, manage different factions, and find artifacts that enhance your abilities. It’s an FPS, sure, but it has lots of RPG elements.
17. 'Secret of Mana'
Now we’re back to our standard fare. Originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) by Square in 1993, Secret of Mana features the grand story, gorgeous pixel art, and standout character design that defined Square’s early games. Unlike its counterparts, however, Secret of Mana featured a real-time combat system that also let one or two friends drop in to assume control of your party members whenever they wished. (Assuming you had enough controllers, of course.) Secret of Mana is a classic--just make sure you play the original version, not the 3D remake for PlayStation 4 and PC, which has had a… mixed reception.
16. 'System Shock 2'
System Shock 2 is one of the forefathers of the “immersive sim” genre, which emphasizes interconnected systems and player choice over bombast or narrative. That isn’t to say the game doesn’t have an interesting world or story--it does--but as its name implies, the point is how each system interacts with the other. You can pick up all kinds of weapons, upgrade your skills with “cyber-modules.” enhance your character with “operating system units,” and more. All this while you try to stop an infection from spreading beyond a spaceship called the Von Braun in the year 2114. That might sound like a lot, but like we’ve said before, space is scary.