According to Duden, role play is understood to be a playful imitation of role behavior. So we slip into a role in an artificial environment and then behave accordingly. Long before the triumph of video games, this form of play emerged in the 1960s and 1970s in the form of tabletop and pen & paper. This enthusiasm quickly spilled over to the new medium, and role-playing games are still one of the most popular genres of video games. After we have already given the Action RPGs their own buying guide, this time it is about the genre representatives, who are more concerned with the inner values. Gripping stories with outstanding characters, profound role-play systems or tactically demanding combat systems characterize our selection. In the following, we present the ten best RPGs currently in our opinion.
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Release: October 15, 2014
Legend of Grimrock 2 looks a bit out of date. The sub-genre of dungeon crawlers helped role-playing games make their leap into the 3D age, but these days this form of game design is hardly common. So the game by the indie developers at Almost Human Games is a rare, but all the more gratifying exception. Because in any case it is a first-class role-playing game. It inspires with tricky and intelligent puzzles, a motivating item system and a detailed game world in which there is a lot to discover. With a party of four, which you put together from a wide range of races and classes, you go step by step from one tile of the level to the next in the first person perspective and only with 90 degree rotations through a fantastic fantasy world. However, Grimrock 2 is no longer limited to dungeons like its predecessor, but also offers a large and freely explorable upper world. The plot about the island on which you are stranded with your heroes, and the Master of the Island is not in the foreground and is only told in passing in the form of a few texts. Instead, the game scores with its great retro feel and a successful atmosphere. If the already very tricky puzzles are not difficult enough for you, you can also try a hardcore mode.
Source: PC Games
Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Release: November 21, 2014
The third part of the Dark Fantasy series by Bioware was created under the premise of being bigger, more bombastic, more epic – and it is very successful. The move to larger, very open areas was met with controversy, also because the developers did not understand how to harmonize their narrative style with the open game world as well as The Witcher 3 succeeded a little later in an impressive way. Nevertheless, Inquisition is a paradise for Dragon Age fans, with countless connections to predecessors and the universe expanded by comics and novels. Great new and known characters inspire in numerous dialogues and intensive conversations. Each companion has its own story. The dynamics and chemistry between the characters are unparalleled in the genre. Despite their shortcomings, the open quest areas are peppered with interesting locations and reward explorers with hiding places and secrets. The fights exude enormous force, but thanks to the block-barrier health system and tactical camera, they still have a certain tactical demand, especially on the higher levels of difficulty. Graphically, the Frostbite engine flexes its muscles, which makes the game look good even today. If you want to immerse yourself in a richly designed fantasy universe over many, many hours of play, this is the right place for you.
Source: PC Games
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, PS4, PC, Switch, Xbox One
Release: September 4th, 2018 (PC, PS4)
For more than 30 years Dragon Quest has been one of the big names in the role-playing game sector and one of the well-known JRPGs in the western world. Dragon Quest 11 is the newest and also one of the best installments in the series. In our test, we attested to the developers that they had succeeded in a user-friendly and exciting adventure that is overflowing with charm and wit. The gripping story comes up with all kinds of interesting twists and turns and ends in several endings. During the adventure you will meet a wide variety of characters who provide a lot of entertainment with their different character traits. Some of them join you as companions, who you can then include in the group of up to four people. As usual for many JRPGs, the fights take place in turn-based mode. With special AI settings, individual heroes or even the whole group can be automated. An all-round successful overall package that manages to be classic JRPG and still be modern.
Source: Square Enix
The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Switch
Release: November 11, 2011 (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
When Skyrim was released on November 11th, 2011, it carried countless players into the fantastic world of Skyrim, where total freedom and the incomparable Bethesda gaming experience awaited. With over 30 million copies sold, The Elder Scrolls 5 became one of the most successful role-playing games ever. The fact that the developers have repeatedly released the game on new platforms over the years certainly contributed to this success. Compared to many other representatives of the genre, Skyrim does not shine with an outshining story and memorable characters. Instead, the gigantic game world with its countless possibilities to discover exciting adventures is the central star of the game. At the time of publication, the visual representation of the game world was considered beautiful and was among the best that open-world games had to offer. With day and night changes, effects like fog and weather, the living fauna and the NPCs who go about their day's work, Himmelsrand creates a wonderful atmosphere in which you could simply lose yourself. The open character development made it up to us how we play our hero. But no matter whether with magic, bow or melee weapon, the fights are powerful and fun. Due to the complete openness to mods, the game is still alive today and can also be made a lot nicer than it looked nine years ago.
Platforms: PS3, PS4
Release: April 4, 2017
Even in its original form from 2017, Persona 5 would be a worthy candidate for this shopping guide. With its stylish, extraordinary and charming design, the JRPG was one of the big highlights of the year. A lovingly implemented and highly atmospheric play world invites you to marvel and linger. An exciting story is told, which is carried by its multitude of likeable characters. All of this takes place in an extremely stylish presentation that is unparalleled in the genre. Battles take place in a classic turn-based manner. With up to four fighters it is turn to turn with melee attacks, firearms or magic against well-designed monsters and other opponents. With the royal version of the role-playing game, released in 2020, the developers of Atlus put the already great game a step further. In addition to graphical improvements, there is also a whole range of new content. Kasumi joins as a new character and party member, a completely new school semester has been added and the new area Kichijoji significantly expands the game world. So fans of JRPGs get loads of RPG for their money here.
Source: Deep Silver
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Release: August 28, 2020
Wasteland once provided the thematic basis from which the legendary Fallout series would emerge almost a decade later. Brian Fargo's masterpiece itself was not a big series story except for the debut in 1988. That only changed in 2014 when Fargo and the developers of inXile Entertainment finally released a successor to the classic. This was still very rough on some rough edges, but with Wasteland 3 the makers eliminated many of these problems and landed another RPG hit. In the test, we attested the title's greatest strengths to its lively and exciting game world, the crazy characters, the lovingly implemented ideas, a gripping, turn-based combat system and tough decisions. So the game shines across the board in many aspects that are important for a good role-playing game. It is also very pleasant that the developers have significantly improved the user experience compared to the bulky predecessor. We just have to warn that the German translation has a few weaknesses. If that doesn't bother you, or if you can get by with the English version, you can expect an extensive role-playing game with 100 hours of fun.
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S, Switch
Release: May 19, 2015 (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
For a long time it seemed hardly possible to combine epic open game worlds in an RPG with a gripping story and outstanding characters. But then CD Projekt Red came around the corner with The Witcher 3 and set a new standard. Here players get a wonderful medieval fantasy world with lots of playful freedom and at the same time fantastically written quests, characters and decisions. In particular, the intelligent interweaving of main and secondary tasks generated enthusiasm. It is not for nothing, for example, that the notorious Baron quest series is still used as a prime example of excellently implemented side quests that are integrated into the overall experience. At the center is Geralt von Rivia, a charismatic protagonist with whom we assert ourselves in fun and fair battles against monsters and other opponents. There are different play styles with a focus on sword arts, magic symbols and alchemy to choose from, which can be individualized via perks and crafts. After the release, the developers gave the game two major expansions. Heart of Stone and especially the brilliant Blood and Wine bring even more great stories, environments and adventures into play. It all adds up to a tremendous amount that can easily keep you busy for more than 100 hours and, above all, is always well entertained.
Source: PC Games
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Stadia, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S
Release: October 15, 2019 (PC)
In 2019, the developers of the Estonian studio ZA / UM proved that it doesn't always take large studios with a big budget to create unique and outstanding role-playing experiences. Disco Elysium became a celebrated indie hit and won numerous awards. Based on classics like Baldur's Gate and Planescape Torment, garnished with a good shot of point & click adventure, a very special kind of detective adventure awaits you. Depicted in a style reminiscent of oil paintings, you puzzles and quests your way through the dark city of Revachol. The highly complex and multi-layered game world is the setting for an exciting plot that captivates the monitor from beginning to end. The story is told mainly through the great written dialogues between the many great characters. The creative skill system with a lot of freedom also contributes to this, as many values can also affect the course of conversations. However, the game is not for readers who don't like reading, because there is a limited amount of setting. In addition, the game is only available in English, but a fan translation is already being worked on. Nonetheless, Disco Elysium is one of the narrative most impressive RPGs of the last few years that no genre fan should miss.
Source: ZA / UM
Platforms: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Release: September 14, 2017 (PC)
It is often a question of faith among RPG fans: 3D shoulder perspective or classic iso view, real-time battles or turn-based. At the moment, however, there is no doubt that the classic ISO role-playing games hold up the flag of profound RPG adventures in the spirit of their pen & paper origins much more energetically. The best example of this in recent years has been Divinity: Original Sin 2, which is still considered to be one of the best role-playing games on the market, even of all time. A game in which playful freedom is at the top of the developer's agenda and also implements this in an excellent way. This is also served by the excellently designed game world, in which a lot of optional content such as dungeons and secrets can be discovered. There are various possible solutions for every quest and task. What the player decides on, be it in dialogues or in the general approach, often has far-reaching effects on the outcome of certain actions. The excellently written Origin characters, who can be used as the main character and companion, quickly grow on your heart. While the adventure as a single player is a real pleasure, there is a whole different dynamic in the co-op with up to four players. The enormous scope and the high contrast value ensure countless hours of perfect role-play entertainment.
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S
Release: December 10, 2020 (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Of course, Cyberpunk 2077 is also a clear recommendation in our buying guide, but with one important restriction: this currently only applies to the PC version. Since the console sockets technically do not meet the standards in all respects, we cannot recommend them. But if you own a well-equipped gaming PC, you will hardly find a better role-playing game in the SciFi genre at the moment. Cyberpunk 2077 impresses with its atmospherically outstanding implementation of the dystopian pen & paper template. The city of Night City with its huge corporate buildings and the run-down quarters of the poor average population is wonderfully staged and looks very lively thanks to numerous and quadruple NPCs. In this setting you will experience an exciting story about the mercenary V, whose pursuit of fame and prestige turns into a gripping struggle for life and death. Along the way you get to know a lot of interesting characters, many of whom tell their own well-written storylines through very neatly elaborated side quests. To defend yourself in the harsh world of Night City, there are numerous options available to you. Attributes, skills, perks and cybernetics offer a wide range of possibilities to shape your character according to your ideas. Corresponding freedom of action is right at the top of the agenda in the individual missions. The game still has a few flaws, but they hardly interfere with the enjoyment of this all-round successful role-playing adventure. PC gamers should definitely access it.
Source: CD project
Role-playing games are a very large genre that has been producing excellent titles for many years, even decades. We could easily name ten completely different titles and still cover outstanding representatives of the genre. So it is in the nature of things that we will probably not meet with approval from all of you in our selection. Games like Pillars of Eternity, Mass Effect, Kotor and many others also come to mind more easily than some of our titles. So if your favorite is not there or you have further recommendations, please write us in the comments. We are excited to hear your opinions.
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