Which are The Best Role-playing RPGs and MMORPGs of all time?
Hear, good people, and let yourself be told the great epic of role-playing games on PC and consoles! A true pillar of the video game pantheon, the genre has constantly mutated with technological advances. Still, it has preserved its essential value: the desire to immerse the player in fantastic stories populated by an impressive bestiary. Therefore, we will celebrate all these legendary storytellers and bewitching sagas to offer you our selection of the best RPGs and MMORPGs of all time.
Subjective, our choice is based on a relatively broad definition of the genre to illustrate the transition from Dungeon Master to The Witcher 3 or from Ultima to Dark Souls 3 . This list also demonstrates the rise of Japanese-style role-playing games and the recent resurgence of Western-style RPGs. Dive into our selection to rediscover the essential RPGs but also some lesser-known nuggets, and do not hesitate to let us know your favorites in this area via the comments.
Developed by FromSoftware and benefiting from the patronage of the legendary Hidetaka Miyazaki in the realization and George RR Martin in the co-screenplay, Elden Ring is indeed this announced bomb, reinventing on its own the genre of open-worlds and action-RPG games. With hardened difficulty. Like the Dark Souls series he naturally inherits, he deploys a dark fantasy universe in the kingdom of the Underworld, now in the hands of demigods corrupted by the shards of the destroyed Circle of Elden. Fortresses, vast plains devastated by ballistae and giants, and catacombs are swarming with demons or even villages annihilated by monsters: the epic is as phenomenal as promised, with a vast territory to explore and dozens of quests to accomplish from one infinite diversity.
Where Elden Ring marks a turning point in video games is rewriting all the open-world principles. Early on, you can cross on foot or endless horseback landscapes, around the World Tree, with an extraordinary diversity of scenery and challenges. No matter the destination, it’s the journey that counts: as you discover more, you’ll orient your character more towards magic or hand-to-hand combat, talent, or intelligence, with an equally spectacular bestiary. And a real sense of verticality in game design. An already cult title.
Pokémon Green & Red (1996), Red & Blue (1998), Yellow (1998), Gold & Silver (1999), Ruby & Sapphire (2002), Diamond & Pearl (2006), HeartGold & SoulSilver (2009), Black & White (2010), Black 2 & White 2 (2012), X & Y (2013), Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire (2014), Sun & Moon (2016), Ultra-Sun & Ultra-Moon (2017), Sword & Shield (2019), Pokémon Legends: Arceus (2022)
Pokemon Green & Red started Pokemon fever that took over the planet. The first title spawned a host of other games, and while some were very successful, none of them matched the first installment’s influence on the genre. The game was innovative and entertaining. It also represented a small revolution in the world of RPGs on portable consoles thanks to its multiplayer mode. The challenge of catching all 151 Pokémon in the game was so addictive that many players continued to play even after finishing the main quest. The game was also studied by the Columbia Business School, which showed that children gave more importance to the gameplay than to the visual and sound special effects.
In addition to the recent remakes of Pokemon Sparkling Diamond and Pokemon Sparkling Pearl on Switch, the franchise’s latest release, Pokemon Legends: Arceus, brings the saga’s universe to the open-world sauce by introducing a new battle system and exploration. The complete Pokédex today easily exceeds 900 entries, divided into eight generations.
The Witcher (2007), The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings (2011), The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)
The Witcher is an RPG series that began in 2007. Inspired by the writings of Andrzej Sapkowski, the three titles in the franchise tell us about the tribulations of Geralt de Riv, a Witcher. In the world of The Witcher, Witchers function as monster hunters and benefit from magical mutations to triumph over these formidable foes. In the first episode, Geralt, who has become amnesiac, must investigate the assassination of the vast majority of Witchers. In contrast, the second episode puts our hero in the grip of the political unrest shaking the kingdom of Temeria.
With The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, CD Projekt RED concludes its trilogy. Geralt is confronted by the Wild Hunt, a band of spectral riders who are after his adopted daughter. Unlike many open-world games, The Witcher doesn’t allow you to explore the entire world. You have to progress through the story to be able to visit the four corners of the map. For the rest, each of the three episodes benefits from a perfectly mastered writing and narration, which do not fail to seduce fans of a little dark fantasy. The third and final episode was particularly praised for the quality of its writing and its sumptuous artistic direction.
Baldur’s Gate (1998), Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn (2000), Baldur’s Gate III (2020)
Iconic role-playing games of the late 20th century, Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn, established BioWare’s reputation in the RPG world. The missions were stunning, and instead of focusing on text or stats, the creators put the adventure front and center. The second opus surpassed the first to become one of the most excellent references in the genre. The series is often considered the best adaptation of tabletop role-playing game rules. The realistic characters and the game features hybrid real-time and active-pause gameplay. Mostly in real time, it allows you to pause via the space key to plan the following actions.
Developed by the Belgian studio Larian Studios, Baldur’s Gate III resumes the blazing saga twenty years after its last episode. It results from prolonged gestation, after a first project aborted by BioWare in the wake of the second episode, then a double by Obsidian ( Neverwinter Nights 2, Pillars of Eternity, Star Wars: KOTOR, Tyranny …) in 2008. The game universe is entirely 3D, and the dialogues are dubbed and animated in cinematics. The title was released in early access on October 6, 2020, and regularly benefits from patches to extend its content.
BioShock (2007), BioShock 2 (2010), BioShock Infinite (2013), BioShock: The Collection (2016)
Generally perceived as a first-person shooter (FPS) than a role-playing game, the BioShock franchise is halfway between the two genres. It is, in a way, the synthesis of purely RPG elements and others much more related to the shooter’s world. This is not a surprise since its main instigators worked on the Ultima Underworld franchises and even more System Shock before embarking on BioShock. Released in 2007, the first installment caused a stir with critics and gamers. Its universe was certainly relatively closed, but the freedom of action granted to the player was impressive. Not to spoil anything, the game was a pure aesthetic marvel, enhanced by a remarkable level of design.
Barely improved, the sequel – BioShock 2 – had disappointed even if the result remained very serious. On the other hand, with BioShock Infinite and the return to the business of Ken Levine, we were able to discover a title perhaps even more oriented towards the FPS but also endowed with an identity and capable of tackling resolutely adult themes.
Dark Souls (2011), Dark Souls II (2014), Dark Souls III (2016)
Dark Souls is one of the excellent references in the world of horror RPGs. It’s been compared to an adult Zelda with no princess to save. We get closer to the Saw movies, where you must avoid the traps of a deranged genius. It differs from traditional RPGs since it does not require traveling long distances to find objects or complete missions. It remains faithful to the genre and the intense gameplay, even if it means putting the story in the background. The fights are low, and the game revolves around upgrading weapons and armor. The level of difficulty is relatively high. Dark Souls takes this recipe, but it increases the problem, improves the atmosphere, and offers excellent graphics.
With Dark Souls 3, From Software delivers the epic conclusion to the adventure that began in 2009 with Demon’s Souls. Direct continuation of the previous one, this new episode plunges us once again into the twilight universe of the license, where we will have to fight step by step against ever more impressive monsters. On the gameplay side, the studio has not revolutionized the formula established over the episodes, and players will have to prepare, once again, to live a gaming experience that does not forgive and where each error is paid for at a high price. If you are a fan of hardcore games, this title should not disappoint you.
Deus Ex (2000), Deus Ex: Invisible War (2003), Deus Ex: Human Revolution (2011), Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (2016)
Deus Ex’s recipe for success is well known today. A futuristic and open world, a complex story revolving around conspiracies, and numerous available endings propelled this title to glory. There is no one path to follow or one to take, but multiple choices to be made influence the story. The highly varied gameplay revolves around the transhumanist enhancements made available to the protagonist. The graphics were average, and the animations were a bit too stiff. When it was released, the game was full of sometimes blocking bugs, but its innumerable qualities made it a reference to the genre.
Reference, which unfortunately was forced to compose with a second opus – Invisible War – botched. Early fans had to wait almost ten years for a sequel worthy of the name to reach them. With Human Revolution and then Mankind Divided, the developers offer two preludes to the franchise’s first episode. We embody Adam Jensen, an augmented human, and work as a secret agent specializing in undercover operations. Following the events of the Human Revolution, the Augmented are massively rejected by the population, who treat them as pariahs. Bathed in a climate of fear and violence, Mankind Divided drives the point home by dealing openly with racism and oppression.
Diablo (1996), Diablo II (2000), Diablo III (2012), Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (2014)
The second installment, Diablo II, surpassed the first (and for some, the third) thanks to longer campaigns and very different protagonists influencing the story and the game. The story was kept simple, but the game became the most extensive reference in hack & slash. As you encounter demons, your role is to kill them with greater violence and energy. Diablo quickly became a drug thanks to highly well-crafted gameplay that skillfully mixes real-time combat and character development. It also generated a community around lost and found bartering in the game.
Diablo III remains faithful to what made the success of the previous titles and even brings improvements in the level of the management of experience points. Its connection problems nevertheless remain the black spot of its launch… Logically resolved over time and the release of multiple updates to enrich the content again and again. Blizzard is currently working on Diablo IV without committing to a release date more precise than “2023”.
Dragon Age: Origins (2009), Dragon Age II (2011), Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014)
In our opinion, the Dragon Age series of games is a reference, but only the first installment deserves a place in this ranking. The game offers multiple scenarios and remains attractive even after 50 hours. He manages to provide a modern interface while retaining the fundamentals of many references, thus appealing to veterans who were calling for a kind of return to basics. The game also requires a high level of personal investment due to the many aspects to manage and monitor, which is not always made accessible due to an impractical interface on the console versions.
Thanks to the success of the first opus, two sequels were born. Unfortunately, they are very far from the quality of Origins and suffer from a badly assumed action orientation. But BioWare is actively working on a fourth part after having tried several projects oriented towards massively multiplayer games. But with the failure of Anthem and, on the contrary, the success of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, the publisher has changed its mind and is again focusing the project around a single-player campaign.
Dragon Quest (1986), Dragon Quest VII (1987), Dragon Quest III (1988), Dragon Quest IV (1989), Dragon Quest V (1992), Dragon Quest VI (1995), Dragon Quest VII (2000), Dragon Quest VIII (2004), Dragon Quest IX (2009), Dragon Quest X (2012), Dragon Quest XI (2017), Dragon Quest XII (?)
Dragon Quest V is undoubtedly the first title of the series to have had an important place on the international scene thanks to its port on the Nintendo DS, which was marketed outside Japan in 2009. It uses the same protagonist of the series, which started with Dragon Quest first name and Dragon Warrior in the United States. It is possible to recruit the monsters one encounters as one goes along in one’s adventures. The series is a kind of homecoming with a well-presented story and characters that we quickly learn to love. The game also brought a new camera system.
Dragon Quest VIII is nevertheless the most impressive title in the series. It’s the first game to bring a 3D world, its soundtrack is superb, and the story is fascinating. Its gameplay takes up the basics of the series and offers a simple and very addictive game. A twelfth episode, subtitled The Flames of Fate, was revealed to mark the series’ 35th anniversary. According to Yuji Horii, the iconic creator of the series, it should bring a darker tone to the story.
Dungeon Master (1987), Chaos Strikes Back (1989)
Dungeon Master is one of the most excellent references in the genre. It is one of those titles that shaped the following RPGs. Impressive 3D graphics for the time, gripping sound effects that were unusual in late 80s RPGs, and a compelling storyline made for a must-play game. It was also one of the first to offer successful real-time gameplay, which meant you had to watch out for anything that moved to survive constantly. The details gave the impression of being in a dungeon. He knew, two years after the original game’s release, a sort of sequel/extension called Chaos Strikes Backand whose main innovation lies in absolutely more linear levels making the task of the player cartographer particularly complex.
The Elder Scrolls
The Elder Scrolls: Arena (1994), Daggerfall (1996), Morrowind (2002), Oblivion (2006), Skyrim (2011)
We no longer present The Elder Scrolls. The Arena is the first game in this long series that marked the genre. The title Arena (ArenaArena, in French) comes from the fact that the game contained combat arenas which eventually disappeared as the creators gave more importance to the RPG aspect of the title. The creators were fans of role-playing games on paper, which is felt when venturing into Tamriel. The beginnings of the game were tough. Bethesda was a small company at the time, ArenaArena had missed the end-of-year celebrations, and the eye-catching packaging put off the distributors. Nevertheless, word of mouth got the better of their reluctance, and the title gained in popularity. The many sequels have only further increased this popularity.
Daggerfall is still a reference today because of the extent of the world available to the player. Morrowind was a graphic and technical revolution. Despite multiple bugs, Oblivion innovated significantly with its dialogue system and NPC intelligence. Finally, Skyrim is, in a way, the culmination of the franchise by taking up all the qualities of its predecessors and pushing the concept even further. A Special Edition was also released in 2016 to renew the technical aspect of the game a little, thanks in particular to the transition to a 64-bit architecture allowing to cross a graphic course, then a version in virtual reality for PS4. The following year, before the anniversary Edition, compiles many expansions and mods for the tenth anniversary of the episode.
EverQuest (1999), EverQuest II (2004)
EverQuest is one of the most influential MMORPGs in the genre. He is now a pioneer and has already offered most of the genre’s standards four years before the release of World of Warcraft. The release of a sequel, called EverQuest II, has made it possible to erase certain shortcomings. Still, it is above all the marketing of multiple modules and extensions that ensures a rarely equaled longevity. If it is today in the shadow of the game of Blizzard and a few others, it still has a dynamic community that has also benefited from its transition to free-to-play .in 2012 to celebrate 13 years since its launch. In addition to being a reference to the genre, it has been at the center of debates around video game addictions. It has received the nickname EverCrack given by certain psychologists. The suicide of one of the EverQuest players gave rise to the creation of the association of online players anonymous.
Eye Of The Beholder
Eye Of The Beholder (1991), Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon (1991), Eye of the Beholder III: Assault on Myth Drannor (1993)
Long before the release of Eye of the Beholder, Strategic Simultions Inc. was already a well-known publisher among role-playing game fans. Developed by a promising young studio – Westwood Studios – Eye of the Beholder was an opportunity to overhaul the publisher’s archaic game system completely. Although it is still based on the rules of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, it is played in real time and incorporates all the innovations made by the excellent Dungeon Master four years earlier. More beautiful, prosperous, and successful than its reference, Eye of the Beholder does not take long to get noticed.
Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon opens the adventure further with remarkable exteriors and a much more complex storyline. Alas, the third opus – designed in-house at SSI – is disappointing. Westwood Studios left on its own to develop Lands of Lore. It is, however, its direct sequel – moreover released the same year – which allows the franchise to reach reference status.
Fable (2004), Fable 2 (2008), Fable 3 (2010)
With Fable, Peter Molyneux intended to revolutionize the world of role-playing games by offering a very organic universe, which had to react almost in real time to the player’s actions. During development, Mr. Molyneux promised mountains and wonders, insisting on the freedom offered to the player and the possibility of changing the face of the world. However, the result was quite far from these promises. The first Fable is mainly remembered as Fable 2’s predecessor, F. Still far from the initial deposits, leaving an extensive latitude to the player. It drives the point home with a particularly gripping scenario, rich in twists and turns.
In the last main episode, before various family variations, Fable 3 modifies the formula a little to give more importance to the player’s choices while offering an extremely well-crafted adventure. Another interesting point to note about this series: each game takes place in the same universe, Albion, decades apart. It is therefore interesting to travel the world to discover its evolution.
Fallout (1997), Fallout 2 (1998), Fallout 3 (2008), Fallout: New Vegas (2010), Fallout 4 (2015), Fallout 76 (2018)
The Fallout series is a reference. Its apocalyptic world, its harsh environments, and its stories with adult accents have influenced the genre. Initially, Fallout is an isometric perspective game, while the latest episodes offer a first-person view. It stands out from other games in the genre with its post-apocalyptic sci-fi influences, quirky style, and sense of humor. It is considered the spiritual sequel to Electronic Arts’ Wasteland, released in 1988.
Fallout and Fallout 2 gave life to an intense survival RPG. Fallout 3 marks a turning point in the genre’s history because it allowed Westerners to take an advantage over the Japanese, who have long had a monopoly on quality RPGs thanks to a thriving open world and a good story. After Obsidian’s Fallout: New Vegas, Bethesda is taking over the franchise for this Fallout 4 . Boston is the setting for the most famous post-apocalyptic role-playing game. As always, this Falloutgives pride of place to exploration and combat thanks to the Pip-Boy and the SPECIAL system. However, some new features have been implemented in this episode, such as the possibility of piloting combat armor or even building colonies capable of accommodating survivors of the nuclear holocaust.
Final Fantasy (1987), FFII (1988), FFIII (1990), FFIV (1991), FFV (1992), FFVI (1994), FFVII (1997), FFVIII (1999), FFIX (2000), FFX (2001) , FFXI (2002), FF X-2 (2003), FF Tactics Advance (2003), FFXII (2006), FF Type-0 (2011), FFXIV: A Realm Reborn (2013), FFXV (2016)
The Final Fantasy series is undoubtedly the one that has influenced the world of RPGs the most, at least in the Japanese way. The first installment saved Square from bankruptcy and laid the foundation for the franchise. Among the most exciting titles, Final Fantasy IV is one of the founding titles of the genre on console, Final Fantasy VI, whose even the iOS port is attractive, and Final Fantasy VII, which brought a new culture of more punk, breathtaking cinematographic scenes, a story fascinating and updated gameplay. Final Fantasy VIII will have marked the spirits with its romantic story and the summoning scenes worthy of the big screen. Final Fantasy X showed what the PS2 was capable of, and its gameplay offered new optimizations bringing more flexible fights. The story was also fascinating and very different from Final Fantasy IX, which was more childish but just as successful, except on the Xbox 360 version.
Final Fantasy X-2 had an original and very well-crafted story, and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance showed what an excellent RPG on GameBoy was. Final Fantasy XII is probably the best title of the lot. In contrast, Final Fantasy Type-0 brings new fast and original gameplay, and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is the MMORPG that fans of the series can be proud of. Announced in 2006 as part of the Fabula Nova Crystallis project, what was still called Final Fantasy Versus XIII was delivered to gamers ten years later as Final Fantasy XV. Highly anticipated, his arrival has violently divided the gaming community.
On the one hand, we find those who strongly condemn each game’s problems, inherent in its complicated development and multiple reboots suffered over the years. On the other, those who salute the game’s qualities and the pleasure it has brought them. The sixteenth episode of the saga is currently being developed on PS5. It should take place in the lands of Valisthea, a continent of six factions on the verge of going to war because of a strange evil that is eating away at the country.
Neverwinter Nights (1991), NN (2002), NN: Kingmaker (2005), NN: Darkness over Daggerford (2006), NN2 (2006)
Produced in 1991 by AOL, Neverwinter Nights is often seen as one of the first MMORPGs in video game history. Its remake, released in 2002, uses the third edition Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) rules. It was accompanied by the Aurora kit, the objective of which was to allow the creation of its content to take on the role of master of the game in a way: it was a small revolution. Its multiplayer mode accepting up to 96 players, contributed a lot to the title’s success, as well as its vibrant history and technical realization: excellent graphics and fascinating soundtrack. It remains one of Bioware’s most outstanding titles today. For their writing quality, let us also retain the extensionsNeverwinter Nights: Kingmaker and Neverwinter Nights: Darkness over Daggerford. Less revolutionary in principle, the sequel – logically called Neverwinter Nights 2 – has primarily benefited from the success of the first opus: it is, however, based on the 3.5 rules of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D).
Phantasy Star (1987), PS2 (1989), PS3: Generations of Doom (1990), PS4: The End of the Millenium (1993), PS Online (2000), PS Universe (2006), PS Zero (2008), PS Portable (2008), PS Portable 2 (2009), PS Online 2 (2012), PS Nova (2014)
Phantasy Star is a series that started in 1987 and is based on the alliance of magic and technology. The game takes place in the Algol solar system, which includes four planets, Palma (the green world), Motavia (the desert world), Dezoris (the ice world), and Rykos, which is visible once every thousand years. The first opus marked the genre with its high-quality graphics and quality of writing. It also brought one of the first female protagonists of the genre. Phantasy Star II was one of the first 16-bit console RPGs. He was also the first to kill the main hero. Phantasy Star IV marks a return to basics after several gameplay evolutions. Things have simplified the game to make it more accessible than in the 2nd and 3rd installments. He also significantly influenced the massively multiplayer versions of the series, Phantasy Star Online and Phantasy Star 2. The latter is also one of the few MMORPGs to be played on PC, Vita, iOS, and Android.
Secret of Mana
Final Fantasy Adventure (1991), Secret of Mana (1993), Seiken Densetsu 3 (1995), Secret of Mana Remake (2018)
The presence of Final Fantasy Adventure on this page may come as a surprise, but since it is the founding title of the series called Mana, we believe it is more appropriate to place it with this franchise. The title is now considered one of the best action-adventure RPGs in history and provides a solid foundation for the series. The secret of Mana represents an intense journey against the forces of evil to prevent the end of the world. The custom battle system and the hunt for orbs and spirits have made this genre a must-have title. It includes some of the best designs and features of the genre, like a three-player simultaneous action mode. The gameplay is a reference in the world of RPGs. The story revolves around a hero, a girl, and a spirit, each with advantages and flaws. It has now been ported to iOS. We only regret that its successor, Seiken Densetsu 3, was only released in Japan because its graphics were superb, and its gameplay was among the best of its kind. It is now a cult title.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003), SW KOTOR 2: The Sith Lords (2004)
Two episodes and then go. While Japanese franchises can stretch over ten, fifteen, or twenty years, KOTOR fans have to make do with two opuses. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic – KOTOR for friends – has yet to conquer fans of the franchise imagined by George Lucas. Lightsaber fights, Force powers, exciting dialogues, successful scenarios: its qualities are numerous and taken up for an even more successful opus, only a year later: The Sith Lords. Unfortunately, if the games are still references today, Electronic Arts wanted to see the BioWare studio turn to an MMORPG, which is fascinating on many points. Still, too ambitious and too complex to manage – Star Wars The Old Republic– and never agreed to a third real KOTOR.
Wizardry: Proving Grounds Of The Mad Overlord (1981), W2: The Knight of Diamond (1982), W3: Legacy of Llylgamyn (1983), W4: The Return of Werdna (1987), W5: Heart of the Maelstrom (1988), W6: Bane of the Cosmic Forge (1990), W7: Crusaders of the Dark Savant (1992), W8 (2001)
Along with the Ultima saga, the Wizardry franchise laid the groundwork for role-playing games on computers and consoles. From the first opus – Proving Grounds Of The Mad Overlord – the player controls a group of characters and adopts a style more oriented towards the dungeon crawler: prisoner of a dungeon, the players must get out of it by eliminating monsters, recovering treasures, and advancing its adventurers. A little less popular than its longtime competitor – Ultima, therefore – the Wizardry saga has had a little more trouble keeping up a regular publication rate.
For many players, and despite apparent qualities, the series has often lacked audacity. Moreover, at this level, Wizardry VI: Bane of the Cosmic Forge somehow breaks the tradition by considerably renewing the gameplay. The latest opus, Wizardry 8, continues on this path by integrating more science fiction elements that offer a successful contrast with the fantasy of the origins.
World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft (2004) and eight expansions, including the latest Shadowlands (2020)
Suppose it is no longer as essential as in the past. In that case, World of Warcraft remains the benchmark for massively multiplayer role-playing games, a genre that it did not create but has primarily contributed to democratizing. It has wowed millions of gamers with an exciting open world, deft sense of humor, and graphics that retain a certain charm despite the weight of years. Upon its release, it effectively redesigned the gameplay of MMORPGs to make them more accessible and intuitive. Over time, the game has been greatly enriched thanks to the contributions of eight expansions. The last of them, Shadowlands, breaks some limits to captivate even more subscribers who still number in the millions and introduces a level squish (level 120 characters are reduced to level 50).