Role-playing games were once considered the preserve of the nerd, closeted away pretending to be an Elven Mage, rolling lumps of plastic and wielding a deadly pencil.
Now though, RPGs are digital, and therefore much much cooler. I think that’s how it works anyway. Here’s a list of ten of the best – feel free to have a good old argue in the comments.
Final Fantasy VII
Maybe it’s not the best JRPG out there, but no one can deny the effect that FF7 had on its release over 14 years ago. The game showed the world how videogames had grown up, how they could tell epic stories and how they could make bucket loads of money. A worldwide release notched up more than seven million sales, and some might say that the Final Fantasy series stills dines out on the success of VII. Still, it’s a wonderful game, massive, occasionally poignant and fondly remembered by any who invested some time in it.Mass Effect 2
Some people might have journeyed through Mass Effect 2, BioWare’s space faring epic, and not realised they were playing an RPG. They were, though. Mass Effect 2 doesn’t hide its RPG-ness as such, but if you know where to look, you’ll find it.
Mixing breathtaking action with a race against time narrative and a disparate cast of characters, all with their own motivations and secrets, Mass Effect 2 learns from the mistakes of its predecessor, and in doing so creates one of the best action RPG experiences out there.Neverwinter Nights
It’s Dungeons & Dragons, the ultimate pen and paper RPG, except translated digitally. If you hear a rattle while you’re playing Neverwinter Nights, that’s because your processor is rolling a D20. At least, I expect that’s what it is – it might be your fan mangling your graphics card. Maybe you should check.
Alongside a fantastic story mode, Neverwinter Nights also gives you all the tools you’ll need to create your own adventures to share with your friends. Few games so accurately capture the essence of the table top games that videogame RPGs owe their existence to. Add to that a swathe of expansion packs, and you’ve got yourself a top-notch experience.PokémonPokémon shouldn’t be a good game. It should be a childish mess that you eventually grow out of, graduating instead to writing sniping comments about idiots who still like it, but it’s not. It’s the videogame equivalent of a brightly coloured crack addiction, forever dragging you back into its cycle of hunting, capturing and training.
A wonderful mix of the casual and the brain sappingly hardcore, Pokémon is a simple premise, simply presented, that is impossibly difficult to stop playing. I still remember the day all of my Pokémon in Pokémon Blue were accidentally deleted. It was not my best day ever.
The Elder Scrolls IV: OblivionOblivion is a master class in how to create an immersive, traditional fantasy RPG. A huge cast of characters played by respected actors, a world so utterly enormous that it’s difficult not to get lost at least eight times while you’re wandering around its vast expanse, and an epic story that can be utterly ignored in favour of any number of diverting side quests, Oblivion has everything that an RPG needs to make it a classic.
The winner of about a billion game of the year awards, it’s entirely possible to start a play through of Oblivion and never stop. That’s some hardcore role playing right there.
First-person perspective be damned, isometric viewpoints are where it’s at and anyone with an ounce of nous knows that. Fallout sets its scene spectacularly well, and from there sets about as taut an RPG experience as you’re likely to experience. Sure, the world may not be as vast as it is in the recent first-person reboot, but Fallout has a distinct charm about it that’s hard to place and difficult to dislike.
The whole package is wrapped in a sumptuously detailed world, full of references and in-jokes. Fallout 3 may be the big hitter, but Fallout set the scene with such aplomb that it earned its place on this list.
Nine words is all it took for Zork to become a classic, destined to be remembered long after its contemporaries were consigned to dustbins and quoted by people who wouldn’t know the game if you hit them with it. Those nine words? “You are likely to be eaten by a grue.” Zork is a text based adventure from back in the day when the word “graphics” meant “what you do if you can’t do woodwork”, but it weaved a rich story, ripe with humour, and for its time, showed some pretty impressive tech. It even understood some prepositions, which is more than can be said for a lot of people nowadays.Chrono Trigger
If you only play one JRPG, then it has to be Chrono Trigger. A masterpiece of multi strand story telling, with multiple endings, a gloriously simple battle system and a cast of characters that almost set the template for the swathes of JRPGs that followed in its wake, Chrono Trigger single handedly defined its genre.
There are twists, turns and tragedies along the way, but Chrono Trigger deals with everything with such a deftness of touch that it’s almost impossible not to love it. Plus, you can get it on the DS now, so there’s no need to dig the SNES out of the attic and there’s no excuse not to play it.
Dragon Age: Origins
Murder, intrigue, ravenous hell beasts raping and pillaging and generally being the sort of visitor you wouldn’t invite back, Dragon Age: Origins has it all. A mature RPG from the masters of the genre, BioWare, Dragon Age mixes the guts and gusto of Mass Effect with a more traditional fantasy setting and adds a nuanced, multi-layered combat system to boot.
Full of humour, warmth and an expertly crafted and diverting narrative, Dragon Age is every bit a next generation game, but one that celebrates the past, always with a knowing wink to the classics that came before it.
Dragon Age 2 is released on 11th Match 2011, on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3