Final Fantasy I – XIV (1987-2013)
No list like this is complete without the Final Fantasy series. There are 14 titles in its main line, as well as a large number of spinoffs across a many different platforms.
The series is known for its unique visual style that incorporates steam and cyberpunk elements, ambivalent and interestingly-written characters, and monumental orchestral soundtracks.
The most notable titles are Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy IX. The former was the first game in the series to feature 3D graphics and sold approximately 10 million copies worldwide. The latter was the first MMORPG in the series, which is now being continued with Final Fantasy XIV.
Gothic (2001), Gothic II (2002), Gothic 3 (2006), Arcania – Gothic 4 (2010)
If you want a game that’s a bit less polite in its interactions (loaded with profanity, that is), then Gothic is for you. The developer Piranha Bytes is located in Essen, Germany, an old blue-collar worker's city, and it shows.
Gothic and Gothic II are the two most popular parts of the series, since they best embody the family's strengths (faction choice, island exploration and a heavy atmosphere with coarse characters).
Unfortunately, Gothic 3 was a disappointment when it was released in 2006 due to massive bugs. Even a wild boar could kill you if it hit first. The game was markedly improved by a patch made by its community. The initial bad quality was due to difficulties between Piranha Bytes and the game’s publisher JoWooD.
Because of this, JoWooD contracted Spellbound to create the next installment. Arcania – Gothic 4 wasn’t received well at all by the game series’ early fans.
Piranha Bytes focused its efforts on the Risen series instead.
Guild Wars (2005), Guild Wars 2 (2012)
The MMORPG Guild Wars scored a lot of points simply by forgoing the monthly subscription fee its competitors charged. And the game still provided many hours of online role-playing fun. It’s great to be able to combine classes and play as a fighter and healer, for instance.
The first game in the series had three expansions with new areas. The second part was even larger and offered a personal origin story and more playable races and classes.
Hellgate: London (2007)
Hellgate: London was a better game than its reputation would imply. The game combined action RPG elements in the style of Diablo with first-person shooter sections. You could choose from different classes, such as melee fighters, magicians and gun-toting soldiers.
The story took place in 2038 London after earth was overrun by demons from hell. After starting in this abysmal place, the game mostly consisted of fighting your way through an endless number of subway tunnels and improving your hero with experience and gear.
There was an online element in addition to the single-player mode, which was shut down in 2009.
Icewind Dale (2000), Icewind Dale II (2002)
Icewind Dale was very similar to the Baldur’s Gate series, but it put a lot more emphasis on battles and a higher difficulty level. It was set in the icy north of the Forgotten Realms. You created a party of six heroes and then proceeded to fight your way through long dungeons and a linear plot for many hours.
The second installment didn’t really break new ground, except for being based on the 3rd edition of the Dungeons & Dragons rules.
Jade Empire (2007)
Jade Empire is another BioWare game, but it’s set in medieval China with steampunk elements. As usual for BioWare’s projects, the characters, the intelligent story and the atmosphere are big highlights.
The combat system is more direct than the Canadian game developer’s other titles; it feels more like an action game.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (2012)
Unfortunately, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning is one of the lesser-known examples of the genre. This is too bad, since the game offered some traditional fun RPG-oriented entertainment.
The story is set in the Faelands, in the world of Amalur. Its universe was conceived by the famous fantasy author R.A. Salvatore. As usual for RPGs, you fight and complete quests in a colorful realm. The highlight is the game’s fast combat system that’s just simply enjoyable.
Lands Of Lore: The Throne Of Chaos (1993), Lands Of Lore: Guardians Of Destiny (1997), Lands Of Lore 3 (1999)
The original Lands of Lore RPG came out in 1993 and was made by Westwood Studios, better known for its Command & Conquer series of real-time strategy games. Back then, the game followed in Dungeon Master’s footsteps.
The second installment in the series, Guardians of Destiny, added 3D graphics and a real-time combat system. Fans certainly like to think back to the video sequences, which featured real actors. These might look trashy today, but they were awesome to behold back then.
Mass Effect (2007), Mass Effect 2 (2010), Mass Effect 3 (2012)
The Mass Effect trilogy is a first-rate space opera. BioWare created a complex universe filled with strange inhabitants and planets.
You take the role of Commander Shepard, needing to save the galaxy from destruction at the hands of the Reapers. On the way, you meet interesting characters and have to make far-reaching decisions that can decide the fate of entire species.
A lot of fans were unsatisfied with the end of the trilogy, which prompted BioWare to publish an “extended cut” of the third installment’s end.
Might & Magic I – X (1986 – 2014)
Might & Magic is one of the most beloved franchises in the world of RPGs. There are 10 installments, as well as a number of popular spinoffs like Heroes of Might and Magic and Dark Messiah of Might and Magic.
The original Might & Magic series stands for round-based dungeon crawlers placing an emphasis on slower, tactical and challenging action. The player travels the world with a group of heroes, block by block, fighting monsters.
In 2014, Might & Magic X resurrected the genre that many had written off, and did surprisingly well during a time when action spectacles like Call of Duty dominated the market.