With the next generation of gaming consoles right around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot about both the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 game libraries. There have been countless great titles released for both systems that have made owning either (or both) consoles a gamer’s blessing. Among all of the great games, RPGs – my genre of choice – have seen some great entries hit store shelves. In the list below, I will take a look at my top ten choices for the best Role Playing Games of the last genre.
10 – The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (2006):
With the birth of the new consoles came the first Elder Scrolls release since 2002’s Morrowind. Bethesda came into the new generation swinging with Oblivion, offering Tamriel and all of its dungeons and monsters to the gaming masses. While in many ways, Oblivion felt like Morrowind-lite, the addictive nature of the game made gamers everywhere spend hundreds of hours collecting treasure, sneaking about castles, and doing essentially anything except the game’s main quest line. Oblivion hit the shelves bursting at the seams with content, but the game’s full potential was realized with the Shivering Isles expansion. Shivering Isles offered an entirely new continent to explore – complete with strange creatures and foliage unlike virtually anything ever seen in a video game
9 – Tales of Graces: f (2012):
A Playstation 3 rerelease of the Wii’s Tales of Graces, ToG:f is the only game in Namco Bandai’s storied Tales of series. ToG:f was earns serious praise for its enjoyable and intuitive battle system that refines the combat that has made long been one of the Tales series hallmark. Battle system aside, Tales of Graces: f is notable for its robust alchemy system and engaging story. While some may be turned off by the game’s prologue chapter, continuing on past the opening handful of hours treats gamers to an entertaining narrative filled with interesting characters and the return of Tales’ signature skits.
8- Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen (2013):
At times both a remarkably rewarding and frustrating role playing experience, Dragon’s Dogma stands out among other games of the genre for its unique fusion of combat, exploration, and choice. Of note within the game is the difficulty – while Dragon’s Dogma is never unfairly hard it is a game that requires tact and trial. The games Western folklore inspired monsters can and will kill you, which is cause for players to experiment with their party. Switching between summoned Pawns, who are essentially user-created party members, and finding the right mix to tackle your foes is a wholly rewarding experience. Compounding that with entertaining combat that encourages climbing a top gigantic foes a la Shadow of the Colossus, a huge world in which to explore and a great ending Dragon’s Dogma should find itself on any RPG fan’s must-play list.
7- Nier (2010):
Nier has previously been included in my Three Underrated Games You Should Be Playing article and I stand by that to this day. Nier might lack some of the polish and funding of many of this generation’s blockbuster hits but the quirky title delivers more atmosphere and emotion than almost any other game on the market. Nier is arguably one of modern gaming’s best written tales that has the ability to tug at the player’s heartstrings. While the game is enjoyable through its conclusion, a second playthrough is mandatory to get the most out of the game. In what might be one of the best New Game + features of all time, Nier takes everything players learned through the course of the game and flips it around. Saying anymore would be unfair and take away from the experience.
6- Dragon Age: Origins (2009):
In many ways a modern role playing experience that feels right at home with the greats of years past, Dragon Age: Origins is a fantasy journey for the ages. Set in a world at the brink of chaos, Dragon Age earned major praise for its perfect blend of old-school combat and interactive storytelling. No conversation or action was without consequence in DA:O, which made careful thought and patience par for the course. Combat was a deep turn-based affair that encouraged players to assemble a party that would be prepared for anything – be it monsters, deadly traps, or marauding bandits. Perhaps the greatest strength of DA:O however is the Origin story features. Choosing a race at the start of the game allowed players to pick from various Origins, which were essentially detailed (and playable) backgrounds for their characters. Each Origin felt fully realized and allowed for a deep connection to a character as far as roleplaying goes.
5- Fallout: New Vegas (2010):
Fallout: New Vegas brought roleplaying fans a whole bunch of enjoyment with its harsh Mojave Wasteland. Bethesda took note of the successful Fallout 3 and expanded upon the core gameplay features while adding more aspects of the series’ signature RPG elements. Dialogue and quests as a whole received a much-needed tune up and for those who were more ballistically inclined, the addition of functioning iron sites and gun mods were more than welcome. Exploring New Vegas and the surrounding desert is a blast as the post-nuclear world has bred more than its fair share of deadly mutants and kooky individuals.
4- Mass Effect (2007):
Mass Effect blasted its way into the hearts of gamers everywhere thanks to its blend of sci-fi roleplaying and third-person shooter combat. Featuring some of this generation’s most recognizable faces, Mass Effect is the start to one of gaming’s most memorable tales. With the fate of the galaxy in the hands of the player, interactions with the various alien species often led to difficult choices, forcing the player to make a choice and ultimately stand by it through the course of the narrative. Divergent conversation paths and an explosive conclusion, all mixed in with a refreshing setting for an RPG have made Mass Effect the hit that it is today.
3- Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch (2013):
Ni No Kuni is one of the only games released in this generation that truly captures the essence of the golden-era of RPGs. This is largely in part due to the perfect combination of Leve-5 and Studio Ghibli teaming up to create a game that feels like a love letter to RPGs. With striking visuals and an unforgettable soundtrack, the story of young Oliver as he journeys through a strange and vibrant land in search of a cure for deceased mother captures the pain of losing a loved one as well as youthful exploration in a way that no other game in recent memory has. Narrative and themes aside, the combat in Ni No Kuni is another major draw. Featuring a battle system that feels like a masterful blend of Pokémon and the Tales of games, Oliver and his party battle enemies using summoned familiars as well as their own weapons. Each familiar has its own unique stats that can be leveled up as well as various forms that it can evolve in to. The sheer amount of familiars that can be collected will surely be a turn-on to any obsessive amasser that can add hours upon hours to the game’s already lengthy main story.
2- The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (2012):
The Witcher 2 is what most other RPGs should strive to emulate. For its amazing visuals and mature narrative, Geralt’s adventure is widely regarded as one of this generation’s crowning jewels. The Witcher 2 took the groundwork of its predecessor and made serious improvements without losing the game’s traditional role-playing feel. Combat can be brutal and feels designed similarly to the game’s narrative in that it is geared for the mature. The world of The Witcher is not one to take lightly and features dire situations that call for Geralt to make serious choices that have long lasting repercussions. Geralt’s quest is filled with brilliant characters, tons of sidequests, and some of the best looking locations ever seen in a video game, allowing for The Witcher 2 to create an atmosphere that will draw in and wholly engross anyone who invests time with the game.
1-Dark Souls (2011):
Dark Souls is undoubtedly my pick for the best RPG of this generation for any number of reasons. Quite simply, there is no game like it (except, of course Demon’s Souls). Dark Souls is one of the most challenging experiences many gamers will ever undertake, but it is almost one of the most rewarding. No game manages to punish its players as hard as Dark Souls does, while keeping them hooked and focused on defeating whatever lies in their path. Not only does Dark Souls provide a welcome challenge that so often feels lacking in gaming, but it also contains what is easily some of the greatest storytelling ever seen. In the same way that combat doesn’t hold players hands, so too does the narrative of Dark Souls. The story may seem sparse – even nonexistent – to those who are not willing to stray from the beaten path, but those who take hold of their surroundings and dare to read item descriptions are treated to the tale of a world that is slowly dying. The terrible curse that has afflicted the population of Lordran and the player’s journey to put an end to it are intertwined with a haunting land that has seen its gods forsake it. Dark Souls features some of the most memorable bosses in gaming as well as a brilliant take on the multiplayer experience, all while building atmosphere and tension in a way that few games have every been able to, earning it the honor of being known as the best RPG of this generation.
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