Dragon Age: Origins
An instant BioWare classic, Dragon Age: Origins took what makes tactical fantasy games great and perfected the formula, providing a deep and intense party-based combat system that played out in real time and could be paused to grant the player some tactical advantage. On top of all that, the game featured an epic and thrilling fantasy story that was complemented by great attention to detail, both visually and otherwise.
The way your story unfolds depends on what kind of character you create and develop, how you interact with the people and world around, you and what paths you choose to follow, allowing you to tailor your own unique story experience. This lends Dragon Age: Origins an incredible sense of replayablity since no two playthroughs feel alike, which is what makes it the timeless gem fans claim it to be.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
Very few role playing games actually allow you to play the way you want, but Deus Ex: Human Revolution most definitely exceeds in that aspect among countless others. From a vast variety of dialogue options, side missions, and additional intel, to its swift and personalized gameplay, you truly feel like you are in control of Adam Jensen’s story. You can be a ruthless killer with a warm personality, or you can be a ghost that slips by unseen while making cocky comments whenever given the chance.
Whereas most role-playing games are set in a fantasy world filled with magical creatures, Deus Ex: Human Revolution likes to interpret a more or less realistic image of our future where physical augmentations continuously blur the line between human and robot. Its black-and-gold world is a joy to explore, but so is its surprisingly dark story that grabs hold of you from the start and beautifully develops as you play.
Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
Dragon’s Dogma is quite a recent title for the PC crowd, whereas last-gen players already had a chance to play this hidden gem a few years ago. This title comes to Steam as Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, which tosses you inside a brutal and captivating fantasy world with plenty of unique beasts for you to slay.
As soon as you fire up the game, it’s apparent that you could truly lose yourself in this title. Exploration is rewarding, combat is fast and incredibly fun, its world is gorgeous to behold, and the story it tells is enticing enough to keep you coming back. Not many people know about Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, but those who do truly swear by it, making it one of the most unrecognized treasures on this list.
Some may prefer the isometric turn-based entries, others may choose the more fast-paced shooters. No matter what kind of genre you like, chances are the Fallout series has at least one entry you’ll absolutely adore. I personally love the crafting and base-building in Fallout 4, yet most of my friends prefer the side quests in Fallout: New Vegas.
Few places are as iconic as Fallout’s vast and treacherous wastelands, with a wide variety of locations to explore, countless items to loot, and plentiful odd enemies to shoot. Nothing beats hearing classic 1950’s music play on your Pip-Boy while you’re scavenging a seemingly abandoned building, making even Fallout’s calmer moments an engrossing experience.
Mass Effect 2
When you think about sci-fi role playing games, both the aforementioned Deus Ex and the Mass Effect series come to mind. Mass Effect 2 was the pinnacle of the series however, blending intense third-person shooting with elements borrowed from BioWare’s Dragon Age: Origins where the player can pause the battle to issue commands, often creating devastating combos.
On top of that, Mass Effect 2 told a deeply personal story that was molded by the decisions you made, both inside and outside of dialogue, featuring many different planets to explore that were filled with interesting and complex characters. Few games will ever manage to come near Mass Effect 2’s perfect blend between emotional consequences and glorious science fiction.
Divinity: Original Sin
Larian Studios’ Divinity: Original Sin came out of nowhere and swept RPG fanatics off their feet with its deep and challenging turn-based combat, clever puzzles and intriguing mechanics that recalled nostalgic feelings of classic RPGs like Baldur’s Gate.
Its vibrant and colorful visuals further compliment its fantasy setting that tells a rather gritty, yet highly enjoyable story. There are tons of things to do and locations to explore, and with the addition of co-op, Divinity: Original Sin was one of the most unique and memorable role-playing experiences of the past few years.
Pillars of Eternity
Another return to the roots of the genre, Pillars of Eternity is an isometric role-playing game developed by the team behind Fallout: New Vegas and Star Wars: Knight of the Old Republic. Its simplistic and minimal art style may either draw you in or push you away, but regardless of that, Pillars of Eternity’s phenomenal writing and deeply engaging combat make it one of the best RPGs you can pick up.
Its price tag may be rather heavy, but with a fantasy world this dark and grounded in reality, it’s hard not to lose yourself in its vast world. It may not be for everyone but those who can appreciate a classic role-playing experience can easily sink dozens, if not hundreds, of hours into this title.
Unlike most role-playing fantasy games, Dark Souls puts its main focus on brutal yet rewarding combat, engaging the player in a way few games manage to do. Character creation is limited, but considering the large amount of weapons, armor, and other useful items you’ll come across, there’s plenty here to create your own unique experience.
Few experiences beat the satisfaction of finally defeating that one boss you’ve been battling for hours or uncovering some of the game’s many secret areas. You may die dozens of times, but the curiosity of finding out what lies ahead will keep you coming back. While Dark Souls II and Dark Souls III are phenomenal titles as well, it’s hard to forget the love fans have for the original that introduced a large chunk of the gaming population to a more harsh and punishing gameplay experience.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The conclusion to the story of Geralt of Rivia marked the series’ transition to a massive open world, filled to the brim with secrets to uncover, monsters to slay, and potions to craft. Not only is this game a visual treat, but it’s also the ideal mix between The Lord of the Rings’ higher fantasy setting and Game of Thrones’ brutality, dealing with mature issues like politics, sex, and even addiction.
You can easily spend hundreds of hours on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt without seeing it all in this beautifully detailled open world. Its story intrigues time after time, yet straying off the beaten path to uncover surprisingly deep side missions is what will have you coming back. Curiosity, and the fact that you will care for its world and the people in it, will have you launching this title long after you’ve completed the main missions, with additional DLC that raises the bar for downloadable content.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
While The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt sure is great, it’s hard to get over the love many have for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Once again, straying off the beaten path is the most rewarding experience the game offers, with a vast amount of interesting side quests to uncover that can take hours to complete.
From venturing into caves and slaying skeletons to uncover the treasures that lie within, to building your own mansion and starting your own family, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the ultimate role-playing experience. You can craft your own experience by choosing what missions you wish to complete, what skills you want to level up and what alliances or rivalries you start. If its massive 300 hours of content still aren’t enough for you, there’s still the ever-expanding Steam Workshop where you can download a vast variety of texture enhancements, additional quests or even entirely new regions.
One can be a Nord wielding two-handed weapons while donned in heavy armor, yet another can be a Dark Elf who prefers stealth and deals with enemies by utilizing magic. From the iron in the forge to the powers of what lies beyond, there’s an endless amount of personality one can create simply by playing the way you wish to play this game.