Role-playing video games, better known as RPGs, have been a popular video game genre ever since their they first hit the game scene thirty-plus years ago.
Making the leap from physical games like Dungeons and Dragons to video games helped the RPG genre rise in prominence as early Atari and NES games would lay the foundation of what is now a huge category inside the video game world. Whether it’s on the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, or the Xbox 360, there are quite literally hundreds and hundreds of RPG games to choose from.
Instead of trying all of those games to find your favorite, this list has done the heavy lifting for you, so here are the best RPGs of all time, regardless of consoles.
What is an RPG?
Role-playing games are among the oldest video game genres, having been around since the early 1970s when games like Dungeons and Dragons first hit the scene.
RPGs often center around a single character or group of characters that continue to develop as the game progresses. There are usually a number of quests or objectives involved including exploring a game world, participating in different types of combat and solving a lot of puzzles. As the character progresses throughout the game, they will find new ways to increase their power or abilities so they can defeat more powerful enemies in later game stages.
#7: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
One of the best-known names in the RPG genre, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt first released to the world in 2015 and is as popular now as it was back then.
Having sold more than 40 million copies and growing, it’s no surprise to see this title has earned a 94 Metascore. Taking place over 50 plus hours of gameplay, the focus of the game is on Geralt of Rivia who is a powerful monster slayer known as a Witcher. Taking place in a fictional fantasy world, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is played from the third-person perspective and is home to many RPG elements that make the genre popular.
Just a few of the RPG elements include being able to use different types of mutagens to increase Geralt’s power or the dual use of swords for killing humans and monsters. Geralt also has five different magical signature moves which give him the ability to send out a telekinetic blast, burn his enemies, or give himself a temporary shield.
The game’s popularity has been boosted by the Netflix series starring Henry Cavill in the titular role of The Witcher.
#6: Chrono Cross
Developed by the same team that made the hugely popular RPG title, Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross takes place in the same universe.
With its release on the original PlayStation in 1999, the game received critical acclaim and would ship more than 1.5 million copies by 2003. Later, Chrono Cross would earn itself a place inside the PlayStation’s greatest hits catalog.
Players take up the role of Serge, the main protagonist who explores the world around him either by boat or on foot. By using an overworld map, players can help Serge navigate different villages and dungeons before entering into turn-based battles. Within each turn, Serge or his opponent can take an unlimited amount of time to select one of the different available actions from the Chrono Cross menu. If the player loses all of their hit points, they lose the battle.
Throughout the game, Serge will be able to increase his magic abilities by purchasing new items from shops or discovering them hidden in one of the game’s many treasure chests. Earning a 94 Metascore, Chrono Cross remains one of the best RPG titles ever to land on the original PlayStation.
#5: Final Fantasy IX
- Four separate governing nations, some blinded by their short-sighted greed.
- The kingdom of Lindblum, headed by the honorable Regent Cid, decides to take a stand against the horrific massacres by the troops of Alexandria
- Help Lidane as he heroically navigates Gaia
Taking place over a 39-hour campaign, Final Fantasy IX is the ninth game in the Final Fantasy series.
This installment introduced players to a war between rival nations and drew enough players in to sell more than 5.5 million copies on the original PlayStation. Players take up the protagonist mantle of Zidane Tribal who kidnaps the princess of one of the two nations at war in an attempt to put an end to the fighting.
Throughout the game, players will help Zidane through the expansive game world known as Gaia. As players explore the world, they will run into plenty of NPCs on the journey between two locations on the world map. Gameplay enables the player to move Zidane around freely or use boats or airships to navigate around territory that is impassable on foot.
Combat is every bit RPG as the use of magic is abundant as is taking your winnings from every battle and giving your character additional ability or experience points. There is no question Final Fantasy IX pushed the original PlayStation console to its technological limits, and by doing so, delivered one of the best RPG games of all time.
#4: Persona 5 Royal
- Based in the universe of the award-winning series, Persona!
- Don the mask of Joker and join the Phantom Thieves of Hearts
- Packed with new characters, confidants, story depth, locations to explore, and a new grappling hook mechanic for stealthy access
- With a new semester at Shujin Academy, you'll strengthen your abilities in the metaverse and in daily life
- Even for the most seasoned Phantom Thieves among us, this game is a new challenge to defy conventions, discover the power within, and fight for justice
One of the absolute best RPG games ever to be played on the PlayStation 4, Persona 5 Royal continues to shine as an RPG title.
Originally released as Persona 5 in 2016, Persona 5 Royal was an updated release that was made available for the PlayStation 4 in March 2020. Earning a 95 Metascore, Persona 5 Royal is often regarded as one of the best RPG games of all time thanks to its combination of fighting, story, and music.
The highlight of the game is its Confidant system through which the main protagonists interact with other NPCs. As these interactions lead to stronger relationships between two characters, the protagonist gains an edge in battle.
The release of Persona 5 Royal took the Persona 5 story and expanded it in a big way. An entirely new section of the game with a dungeon was released alongside new villains. Perhaps one of the best aspects of Persona 5 Royal is that you can look forward to more than 100 hours of gameplay or about the minimum amount of time required to beat the game.
Worldwide sales have already topped more than 3.3 million of Persona 5 Royal and close to 6.5 million copies of Persona 5 and Persona 5 Royal combined.
#3: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Reimagines the open-world fantasy epic, pushing the gameplay to new heights
- Play any type of character you can imagine, and do whatever you want
- Skyrim's new game engine brings to life a complete virtual world
- Choose from hundreds of weapons, spells, and abilities
While The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim might only require around 35 hours to beat the game, there is no question you can easily pass 100 hours — it’s just that good.
Scoring a 96 Metascore with its Xbox 360 release, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the latest release in The Elder Scrolls series, taking place more than 200 years after its predecessor.
The focus of the game is on the main protagonist who is simply known as the Dragonborn. As soon as you take control of the Dragonborn, you begin a quest to help improve his skills as you discover the open world that makes up The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The world of Skyrim will take you into various environments including villages, dungeons, caves, towns, and more as you find different jobs you need to undertake in order to progress the story forward.
Selling more than 30 million copies worldwide, there’s something magical about the combination of the game’s RPG elements and its open-world that have helped it launch on just about every platform. Releases for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S as well as PlayStation 4, and PlayStation VR have all helped introduce The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to a whole new generation.
#2: Mass Effect 2
- Improved NPC conversation system
- Integration with the original Mass Effect game allows players to import saved files and contiue play with those files in Mass Effect 2
- 19 different weapons to choose from
- All new location-based damage system
Considered more of an action RPG than a dedicated RPG title, Mass Effect 2 was a huge hit for the Xbox 360, earning itself a 96 Metascore.
Taking place in the Milky Way galaxy in a fictional 22nd-century environment, humanity is under attack by an alien race. As you take up the role of the main protagonist, Commander Shepard, you must stop the alien army from killing any more of what’s left of humanity. As an action RPG, there is a strong blend of third-party shooting as well as RPG elements though the former is definitely the stronger of the two.
Giving a boost to the RPG side of gameplay is that Mass Effect 2 isn’t your typical RPG fantasy title packed with dungeons, dragons, and turn-based battles. Instead, the RPG elements come out in the storytelling and development of the player’s character as there are more than 546 characters with more than 25,000 lines of dialogue sprinkled throughout the game.
Mass Effect 2 is widely considered to be one of the best video games of all time, winning numerous game of the year awards and selling more than 7 million copies worldwide.
#1: Elden Ring
- Xbox Series X
- Fantasy action-RPG adventure set within a world created by Hidetaka Miyazaki, creator of the influential DARK SOULS video game series, and Game of Thrones writer, George R.R. Martin
- Collector's Edition available
- PlayStation version available
- Xbox Digital Code available
For as many incredible RPG titles that all deserve the top spot on this list, it’s one of the most recent RPG games that takes the honor. Elden Ring was released in February 2022 for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S and immediately rocketed to the top of the RPG ladder.
Between its open-world environment, third-person perspective, and six different areas of travel, there is truly something magical about Elden Ring. It has already sold more than 20 million copies in one year and has earned a 96 Metascore which is all the math you need to see to get why it takes the top spot on this list.
Even Game of Thrones author, George R. R. Martin, had a hand in the game’s storyline, which is quite massive. As part of this world-building, you’ll quickly find that gameplay focuses heavily on combat as well as navigating around the open-world environment. Players have free reign to move around any of the six main areas of the game after they choose a character class at the beginning. Depending on which character class you choose, you start the game with a small set of attributes, including equipment and available spells and grow these skills as the game continues.
Crafting mechanics play a big part in the game as it can help give you additional skills and attributes needed to defeat more powerful enemies.
The RPG video game genre may not be for everyone, but there is no question it still has a massive audience. Releases of games like Elden Ring continue to show its popularity as one of the highest-selling games of 2022.
Of course, don’t forget to look at some alternate platforms as well for some excellent games like iOS where Divinity: Original Sin II – Definitive Edition is the only RPG game to score higher than Elden Ring.
As you can play an RPG game pretty much anywhere, anytime, there is no shortage of excellent games available — many of which can take more than 50 hours to complete, something few video game genres can match.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Zivica Kerkez/Shutterstock.com.