5. 'Dragon Age: Origins'
Seriously, BioWare, at this point it’s just not fair to the other studios. Dragon Age: Origins is a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights, with combat similar to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. This time it had the backing of Electronic Arts, though, and wasn’t constricted by an existing campaign setting (Baldur’s Gate, Neverwinter Nights) or universe (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic). BioWare was allowed to do its own thing, and based on its spot on this list, it’s clear that it did a lot of things right with Dragon Age: Origins.
4. Mass Effect 2
BioWare’s winning streak didn’t end there. Next came the Mass Effect series, and Mass Effect 2 specifically claims one of the top spots on this list. That’s because it refined what BioWare made with the first game, gave its characters even more depth, and didn’t have to deliver on a trilogy’s worth of storytelling in its closing act like Mass Effect 3 did. If you want to follow Commander Shepard’s journey with the cleanest possible package, Mass Effect 2 is the way to go.
3. 'Diablo II'
Many of the games on this list have featured epic stories, deep world building, intricate systems, and memorable characters. But some people don’t play RPGs for any of those reasons. No, they play RPGs because they like grinding for loot, and no series does loot grinding better than Diablo. Your main goal in Diablo II was ostensibly to investigate evil forces, but we all know you wanted to collect gold from your fallen enemies and use it to get bigger and better equipment.
2. 'The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim'
You knew Bethesda’s poster child was going to appear somewhere on this list. At this point it’s hard to imagine not knowing about Skyrim--the game has been a constant presence on seemingly every gaming platform since it originally debuted in 2011. Skyrim often seems just as grandiose as it did all those years ago, thanks to the expansive fantasy playground it dropped you in with little direction. The PC version is also particularly mod-friendly, as highlighted by Enderal’s presence at the beginning of this list, and those mods allow Skyrim to become much more than Bethesda imagined when it released the base game nearly seven years ago.
1. 'The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt'
Much of what we said about Skyrim can also be said about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The game is expansive, with a huge world and plenty of freedom to explore it. But it’s arguable that The Witcher 3 is simply more than Skyrim. It looks better, its gameplay is more engaging, the voice acting is a cut above, and the story, especially in the side quests, is much deeper. It also has massive expansions--Hearts of Stone and Blood and Wine--that almost could’ve been full games. CD Projekt Red set the gold standard for RPGs with The Witcher 3, and it remains to be seen if any developer will be able to put out a more compelling or complete experience.