As of 12:01 AM on November 22, 2013 the current generation of consoles became last generation with the third and final next-generation console being launched; the Xbox One. While everyone will still call the next consoles next-gen until the previous ones have mostly phased out (along with other technical things in the industry happening before that term comes around) let’s take a step back and look at the top 10 RPGs of this generation (no particular order). These will include franchises and series as a whole. This includes Western RPGs, JRPGs, Strategy RPGs, and MMOs. There were some of the best RPGs ever made this generation cycle. If you missed any below, now’s your chance to catch up before you are overwhelmed with the new consoles.
1. The Elder Scrolls
Xbox 360 – PC: March 20, 2006
PS3: March 20, 2007
Game of the Year Edition
Xbox 360 – PC: September 10, 2007
PS3: December 10, 2007
5th Year Anniversary Edition
Xbox 360 – PC – PS3: July 12, 2011
Xbox 360 – PC – PS3: November 11, 2011
Xbox 360 – PC – PS3: June 4, 2013
The Elder Scrolls is this generation’s best RPG hands down. Oblivion was a real technical achievement on the Xbox 360 and showed us what the new generation of consoles was all about. Larger open worlds, more dynamic gameplay, and amazing graphics. While Oblivion hasn’t aged well on consoles, it continues to thrive on PC with mods that would blow your mind. It offered memorable characters, and one of the biggest open worlds ever created at the time.
Skyrim helped build onto that with an even bigger world, better graphics, and various other additions to The Elder Scrolls formula. The addition of fighting giant dragons was unheard of and felt organic and awesome at the same time. While the game looked dated and was buggy for years on consoles, it continues to thrive on PC with one of the largest modding communities in existence.
What I Remembered: Oblivion, at the time, was the only game I had ever spent over 100 hours in on Xbox 360. I actually remember doing a 12 hour marathon in Oblivion and just couldn’t put the game down. I was so sucked into the world with the lore and atmosphere. It’s still one of my favorite games to this day and I am actually replaying on PC.
Skyrim was even more addictive than Oblivion. It was bigger, better, and more surreal than ever before. It is the only game where I have logged over 200 hours in, doubling my play time from Oblivion. I loved the more organic and natural feeling of the open world, the quests seemed endless, and I loved the first person combat. I just can’t get enough. Thanks to the modding community the life span of Skyrim has extended tenfold and will probably be played well into the next generation cycle.
2. Mass Effect
Xbox 360: November 20, 2007
PC: May 28, 2008
PS3: December 4, 2012
Mass Effect 2
Xbox 360 – PC: January 26, 2010
PS3: January 18, 2011
Mass Effect 3
Xbox 360 – PC – PS3: March 6, 2012
Mass Effect Trilogy
Xbox 360 – PS3: December 4, 2012
Mass Effect was one of Microsoft’s first huge exclusives for the Xbox 360. It helped boosts sales and was a technical phenomenon back in the day. It had a fantastic animation system, a great choice based story line, and some of the best sci-fi lore since Star Wars. The mix of third person shooting and RPG elements were an excellent blend, but it did have its fair share of issues. Mass Effect eventually went multi-platform but not without hitches and problems abound. The series continued to evolve and was the only series this generation where your save could travel across all three games and effect the ending of the saga.
What I Remembered: When I rented Mass Effect back in 2007 I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The graphics blew me away and the facial animations looked so real. I remember reading all the lore and stories and exploring every nook and cranny. The shooting was solid (at the time) and the story was so addictive I couldn’t put the game down. As the I played through Mass Effect 2 I was just as stunned. There were so many improvements and the game was so much bigger. By Mass Effect 3 I couldn’t wait to see the finally, but I honestly didn’t see what the big hoopla was about the endings. I played through the Extended Cut DLC and thought the endings were just fine. Mass Effect is one of my favorite RPGs and sci-fi games of all time. Thanks to this series I actually read all the novels which are a must read for fans.
3. Dragon Age
Xbox 360 – PC – PS3: November 3, 2009
MAC: December 21, 2009
Dragon Age: Origins Ultimate Edition
Xbox 360 – PC – PS3: October 26, 2010
Dragon Age II
Xbox 360 – PC – MAC – PS3: March 8, 2011
Dragon Age is one of EA’s greatest original IPs for this generation. It brought back the old Baldur’s Gate style gameplay that PC gamers grew to love from the 90’s and early 2000’s. It had memorable characters, fantastic lore, fun combat, and an amazing and adventurous story. The only issued lied in that each version was completely different. The PC version was the best with the best graphics and the old school UI and an overhead camera option. The consoles were stuck with the rear camera and had clumsy controls. The PS3 version had lesser graphics than the PC and the Xbox 360 was just down right awful and suffered from frequent frame rate issues. With that aside, it was still highly enjoyable including its huge expansion Awakening.
Dragon Age II was hated by many fans do to the more dumbed and faster paced combat, and the fact that it was tailored for a controller. The game was more linear and reused many areas. Thankfully the story was great and the characters were expanded, but this didn’t deter fans’ hate for the sequel.
What I Remembered: I spent countless hours questing away and looking in every nook and cranny for loot. Sure it was overwhelming at first and can be really difficult, but the lore was so memorable and didn’t feel forced. I had the Xbox 360 version which did look down right ugly. The textures were so low res some looked like blobs and the frame rate was horrible. After a while I overlooked it and just got used to it. Dragon Age stands as one of my favorite RPGs next to The Elder Scrolls.
Xbox 360 – PC – PS3: October 28, 2008
Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition
Xbox 360 – PC – PS3: October 29, 2009
Xbox 360 – PC – PS3: October 19, 2010
Fallout: New Vegas: Ultimate Edition
Xbox 360 – PC – PS3: February 18, 2012
Fallout is probably my second favorite RPG series this year next to The Elder Scrolls. Fallout 3 was revolutionary for its time thanks to the huge open world and fantastic atmosphere. The world was the main character which was unheard of for its time. While the game suffered numerous game breaking bugs for a long time, it was still very enjoyable and had some awesome collector’s editions to go with it. The first person RPG elements along with the classic Fallout style was the perfect recipe for an amazing game.
New Vegas was great, but was way too similar to Fallout 3 to be considered revolutionary. It got a lot of harsh criticism for having a lackluster story, not so memorable characters, and was so buggy at launch it was nearly unplayable. While the DLC for both games was touch and go it helped that it was expanded for quite a while.
What I Remembered: When I stepped out of Vault 101 I was blown away — I will never forget it. The graphics were incredible at the time and the place was so huge I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t put the game down and did almost every single quest that was in the game. My favorite DLC was The Pitt since it felt so different from the main game. I spent a good 70 hours in this game in total.
New Vegas was the first Fallout game for PC I played. It was fantastic and I spent well over 100 hours in the game. I modded it like crazy until I finally broke the game and eventually my save. The DLC was okay, but none were very memorable. Old World Blues was probably the best out of them all. I have so many amazing memories with this series. You’re really missing out if you haven’t played either.
5. Dark Souls/Demon’s Souls
PS3: February 5, 2009
Xbox 360 – PS3: October 4, 2011
PC: August 24, 2012
The Souls series is probably one of the toughest RPGs ever created. This series was for the hardest of core. If you die, you lose everything — gathered XP and you restart the entire level. A lot of people (including myself) just couldn’t play it. The game was very good and a lot of fun, but you had to like an extreme challenge. Demon’s Souls was plagued with bad controls and stiff animations, but the revolutionary online play helped bring fans together. I honestly played the game for 3 days and sent it back to the game store. It was just too hard and frustrating for me, but it wasn’t a bad game.
Dark Souls toned the difficulty done a bit and refined the controls a tad, but it was still really hard. The PC version was an utter disaster with graphics so bad is made the consoles look amazing and more bugs than you can imagine. Thankfully mods have helped curve this, but it shouldn’t be that way. If you want a true to heart challenge where your every ounce of skill is tested: This is your game.
What I Remembered: I remember not knowing what was going on for about 3 hours and then finally dying and realizing I restarted the level. I kind of shook it off and continued and died in the same spot and didn’t receive my XP that was laying there to retrieve. I stopped and realized what kind of game this was. Running across the bridge in the second level and having milliseconds to dodge roll away from the dragon’s fire was infuriating. While the online features helped a bit, they weren’t enough. I finally sent the game back and never looked at it again.
6. The Witcher
PC – MAC: October 26, 2007
The Witcher: Enhanced Edition
PC – MAC: September 16, 2008
The Witcher 2: Assassin’s of Kings
PC – MAC: May 17, 2011
The Witcher 2: Assassin’s of Kings Enhanced Edition
Xbox 360 – PC: April 12, 2012
The Witcher is the starting trend of turning novels into video games. Geralt of Rivia is one of the greatest game characters ever made. The lore and story are fantastic despite The Witcher having many issues. The game was overly difficult and had many bugs and glitches as well as sub-par combat. However, the world was huge and the story was amazing as well as the characters. The Enhanced Edition fixed a lot of issues and made it very playable.
The Witcher 2 is one of the best RPGs this generation period. The graphics were astounding, the world was full of detail, and the combat was fun and engaging. While it was a bit short, it had some tough fights in a fun way. Geralt continued his journey to save himself from peril in the end and the romance between him and Triss Merigold is very heart warming. The Enhanced Edition added 10GB of extra content and ironed out all the bugs and glitches. The Xbox 360 version looked surprisingly good as well and handled well on a controller.
What I Remembered: I remember never finishing the first Witcher. It was way too hard and really frustrated me, but I loved the story and characters. I felt lost often and just couldn’t bring myself to finish it. The Witcher 2 was much better and I was blown away by the visuals. There was so much detail in the world and I loved the characters, they were very memorable. I would actually play through The Witcher 2 again, it was that damn good.
PC: October 27, 2009
MAC: May 12, 2010
Xbox 360: March 9, 2011
Linux: September 18, 2012
PC: September 20, 2012
Torchlight II was a direct competitor with Diablo III and some regarded Torchlight II was the superior dungeon crawler. This is a huge feat coming from a small indie team. Torchlight featured fast paced and fun looting and dungeon crawling while being able to run on anything PC including netbooks. The game has a wonderful art style, but was technically very dated. That didn’t stop people from exploring the many dungeons full of loot and many great enemies. Torchlight II continued this with an actual journey through various lands and was very challenging and offered more content than the original.
What I Remembered: I remember playing Torchlight on my girlfriend’s crappy Acer Netbook with Windows XP. I remember seeing the Netbook setting under the graphics options and was surprised I could get 60 FPS on that thing. After that I realized how addictive and fun this dungeon crawler was after years of everyone doing it wrong. Torchlight II came around and it was overwhelmingly difficult towards the end but I enjoyed more than Diablo III. It was fast paced, had satisfying loot, and had a decent length and the co-op was a blast.
Xbox 360: September 17, 2007
PS3: October 21, 2008
Eternal Sonata featured fast faced real time combat and amazing characters and a fun story. It was one of the irst Xbox 360 JRPGs to have the Japanese voice tracks on the disc. The art was gorgeous and it had a decent length (about 20 hours). The puzzles were obscure and very confusing, but the game itself garnered a small fan base, but sadly never saw a sequel.
What I Remembered: It was the cover that got me. Honestly the characters were so memorable that I named pets after them. It was a truly inspiring JRPG and one of the few I have ever beaten. The fight system was a lot of fun and the game never really required much grinding until the very end which was tolerable. I was happy about the short length since most JRPGs can go on forever until you don’t care anymore.
9. Legend of Grimrock
PC: April 11, 2012
MAC – Linux: December 19, 2012
Grimrock is a throwback to the old 80’s and 90’s first person dungeon crawlers. Going from square to square and not knowing what lies ahead is exciting and challenging. Grimrock has you escaping and underground prison and you can take several characters with you. Finding loot, healing, creating potions, and finding secrets hidden in walls is a blast. The game looks fantastic and the large Steam Community helps add new content all the time. This is similar to Demon’s Souls — for the hardcore RPG fans only. While it isn’t nearly as difficult some people may feel lost or think the game is too simple when it really isn’t.
What I Remembered: Being nostalgically thrown back to my childhood with those terrible looking first person RPGs. I was surprised how great Grimrock looked and how addictive it can be. Sure I got lost all the time and needed a FAQ pretty often, but for some reason trying to figure it out was still fun because I always found new secrets. The Steam Community continues to keep me coming back to see what new exciting dungeons people have created.
10. Xenoblade Chronicles
Wii: April 6, 2012
Xenoblade Chronicles blew everyone away with how well it looked on the very dated Wii hardware and just how fun and refreshing it was for a JRPG. The combat was fun and the characters and story were very memorable. It’s sad that it came out so late in the Wii’s life cycle and could have benefitted from being on the Wii U. Hopefully it can go multi-platform, but right now the game is selling for nearly $100 even at GameStop.