What is the best RPG of all time? That is an immensely tough question to answer with so many excellent candidates, but nonetheless it’s the question we posed to you, the Just About Video Games community, last month. From complex, enigmatic characters to memorable quests, satisfying combat, and stunning vistas, the best role-playing games have it all.
We received three excellent entries, all from different series, pitching reasons why these games should be considered as the cream of the crop. Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list, and we will likely run this bounty again in the near future to add some more choices, but for now, we hereby present your picks for the best RPGs of all time.
It was the third game in the series, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, that took the series and its developer, CD Projekt Red, to new heights of commercial and critical success - and undoubtedly launched the Netflix series - but @lanah_tyra is here to nominate the game that started it all. The Witcher released in 2007, which was a stacked year for new releases - including Pokémon Diamond & Pearl, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Assassin’s Creed, Halo 3, BioShock, and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune - so it’s no surprise The Witcher didn’t make the same splash as its successors. It was also a PC exclusive, though the upcoming remake will bring the original to consoles for the first time.
The thing that hooked Lanah was the impact of your choices on the story, even to the point that siding with one character would mean other quests may be locked off. This is generally expected in RPGs of this ilk these days, but back in 2007, games this immersive and dynamic were few. And then there’s the combat, which threw two swords and Geralt’s signs into a frenetic mix:
“The combat is interesting, with the two different swords as main weapons, while the Witcher signs gave a new twist on the usual magic spells. I loved crafting different potions and spent a lot of time in meditation, thinking how best to assign the ability points towards my preferred combat style. I played through the game multiple times as I wanted to try different ways of fighting, but not everything had to be solved by brute force. Often there was a choice to buy a drink for someone in hopes of loosening their tongue, or try to beat them in a dice game.”
Lanah rounds off her thoughts with a line about the sequels. “The choices you made through the game would even carry over to the next one if you decided to use your save file when starting The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings. Of course, The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt is more appealing to someone playing these games for the first time now, but I think credit has to be given to the first instalment in the franchise as it was a unique game on release.”
Monster Hunter World
From one monster-slaying game to another, @Ross has picked Monster Hunter World as his choice for the best RPG of all time. Launched in 2018, World is widely considered to be the best entry in the series, and is also the best-selling, with 18.8 million units sold as of March 2023. It was the first game in the series to introduce a true open world, rather than just connected zones, and the process of taking down the huge, roaming monsters was the most developed it has ever been. Ross puts it best in his review:
“Combat is fast, fluid, and fun. The game offers 14 different weapons, all with multiple playstyles. For each weapon category there are loads of different variations of that weapon, all with different capabilities. Want to fire poison arrows from a giant bow constructed of monster carapace? Want to swing dual blades around in a fiery inferno, burning everything in sight? The possibilities are endless. But what makes it so fun is the ability to tailor it to your specific tastes based on what suits you. If you want to master all of the weapons on offer then you’re in for a long ride, but as a die-hard player I’ve managed to try all of them at one point or another and they’re all completely viable.”
Then there are the armour and cosmetic options. Ross explains there are multiple sets of armour for every monster in the game, each of which has unique properties and stats, they all have specific perks, and they all look phenomenally stylish. Monster Hunter World is also one of the toughest games in the series, he reckons, as it focuses on “combat and gear progression” as opposed to story beats like some other Monster Hunter games do.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Finally, we have @tyrannosaur with a true classic in the form of Skyrim. Todd Howard revealed earlier this year that Skyrim has sold over 60 million copies which, according to Wikipedia, would make it the seventh-best-selling game of all time. Initially launched in 2011, it has since been re-released on countless other platforms, including a “Very Special Edition” on the Amazon Alexa.
It’s tough to know where to begin with Skyrim because of how vast it is, but it’s safe to say Bethesda smashed it out of the park with the tough challenge in front of them to match the previous game in the series, Oblivion. We’ll let Philip take it away:
“Skyrim lets you choose whether to be one of a few types of humans, elves, a catperson (known as a Khajiit) or lizardperson (known as an Argonian). You also get to choose what to put in your hands too, whether you want a sword, an axe, a mace, a shield, a bow, a fireball, a snowball or a lightning bolt. You get to play with whatever toys you like and the more time you spend on your weapon of choice, the more skilled you become, dealing more damage.”
Skyrim - named after the region of The Elder Scrolls’ fictional world of Tamriel in which the game is set - is also chock full of locations to explore, from bustling towns and cities to mountains, valleys, dungeons, crypts, farms, and more. You can side with various factions, dictate the outcome of quests based on your choices, slay dragons, buy a house… it’s one of the few RPGs that truly lets you go wherever you like and do (almost) whatever you like. As the famous Todd Howard quote goes; “see that mountain? You can climb it.”
Philip ends his thoughts with a personal memory of his time in Skyrim. “I played as a Khajiit and leveled up my sneaking skills to pickpocket NPCs and exchange stuff in their inventory, taking something of theirs and giving them something random in exchange, like furniture.” Only in a Bethesda game. Or possibly a Larian one.
What do you think is the best RPG of all time? There have been a few contenders in 2023 - whatever your choice, sit on the answer until we run this bounty again in the future!