BEST VIEWED IN LANDSCAPE MODE ON MOBILE DEVICES
Welcome to the 2017-2018 edition of NeoGAF's essential RPG list.
The purpose of the essential RPG thread is to help people find great games that they might not have heard of previously, and to remind people of the classics they never got around to playing. It's not a secret that review aggregates like Metacritic or Gamerankings do a poor job at assessing roleplaying games, as mainstream review scores (and overall coverage) correlate heavily with marketing budgets that RPGs often lack. Word of mouth consensus from GAF can be better, but you have to do more digging and (again) most discussion tends to be about the big franchises. These voting threads are a great place to collect a diverse array of opinions from a large number of GAFers.
This thread began with a voting stage that took place over roughly a month, from September 17th to October 13th, 2017. During that time over 240 NeoGAF members contributed lists of RPGs that they considered to be essential to the genre. In some cases these lists were games that the writer felt best illustrated the diversity of the RPG genre. In some cases, these lists were just a poster's top 10 favourite titles. If you have the time, you should read through the nomination lists. There are some really great recommendations in there!
The second stage of the Essential RPG thread was the creation of the Top 50 aggregate list that you see below. This lists the 50 most recommended games games by points earned during the nomination stage. The rankings are largely for fun, and out of tradition. Due to the aggregate nature of the list, the #1 game shouldn't necessarily be taken to be the best RPG of all time. Again, read the individual user lists below!
Aside from the artwork for each game, there are four major sections of the game banner:
- The Information Box (including the 4 game mechanic icons): New for this version of the list. This box gives you extended information for each title at a glance.
- The Title Bar: Some version of this has been present in my past three Essential RPG thread. you get some basic information about each title here.
- The Rank Box: This section has been updated from past thread versions. You now get best and worst ranks for the title across all 7 essential RPG threads, along with the current rank and change from the last thread.
- The System Icons: Back from the 2015 version of the thread, these icons list every platform that the title has been available for. No distinction is made between ports and remakes, so you will have to do some research. Some additional notes: Systems supporting an officially emulated version of a classic game (PS Classics, Virtual Console, etc) are included in the platform list. Unofficial emulation is not. Ditto for backwards compatibility for physical games. For PC, I have Steam and GOG icons for titles that can be purchased on those systems. Icons are generally listed in the order of release.
MORE ABOUT THE INFORMATION BOX AND GAME MECHANICS ICONS
The sample information box below contains an explanation of the various pieces of info contained in this section of the banner, including a description of each of the game mechanic icons. The icons are meant to give you a rough idea of how each game plays. By referring to the icon legends below, you will be about to tell if a game is real-time or turn-based and how party control works. You will also get a rough idea of how much choice is present in each title.
MORE DETAILS ON THE TITLE BAR
Most of the information on the title bar is pretty straight-forward. However, since I am lumping together late ports, remasters, remakes, and expansion packs with the original version of a title, I thought that it would be useful to give some notes on how the title bar information was gathered/determined.
Developer/Publisher: The original developer and publisher are listed for each title. The current publisher may differ (as is the case for the Interplay titles). Ports, remakes, and remasters are also often handled by different companies than the original developer.
Release Date: The year that the game was first published in. Japanese titles with delayed western localizations are listed with their original Japanese release year. So Trails in the Sky FC is listed as a 2004 release (the year that the original PC version debuted), even though it first arrived in the west on PSP in 2011.
Cost: This gives you a rough idea of how much the cheapest (US when available) version of the game can be purchased for currently. In many cases, the cheapest version is a legacy digital release on Virtual Console, PSN, or GOG/Steam. However, I went with the typical Ebay price in the US for games that have never been released digitally. Newer games are listed under their digital/retail price or their used game price. Whichever was cheapest. Used prices were gathered from Gamestop and Amazon. In all cases, regular, non-sale prices are listed.
The 5 cost ratings are as follows:
Please note that original physical versions of many of the older titles are quite expensive. While you can play Earthbound on Wii U for about $10, a cart version on SNES is closer to $200.
Code:1 Square $19.99 USD or less 2 Squares $20.00 - $39.99 USD 3 Squares $40.00 - $59.99 USD 4 Squares $60.00 - $79.99 USD 5 Squares $80.00 USD or more
Completion Time: This is meant to give you a rough idea of the time investment each title requires. Times are based on typical completion times as listed on howlongtobeat.com. The upper end is NOT indicative of the time to 100% or Platinum a title. The lower end is NOT indicative of speed runs or a rushed playthrough. It is possible for you to take more or less time on a title than advertized!
Difficulty: Some people requested a measure of how hard each title is. Difficulty is a bit subjective, so I'm basing these values on reviews from enthusiast sites like RPGamer.com. Generally, titles are classified as Easy, Moderate (or medium if I run out of room!), or Hard. Games that let the user pick a difficulty are listed as User Defined. At least one title will give you the option of making boss fights less difficult if you die a few times. I listed those titles as Adaptable.
This year, participants cast over 3800 nomination votes for 537 individual titles. Below are the 50 titles that received the most points. With one exception, all of these titles had at least 20 recommendations, with the top game getting just shy of 100 nominations.
NOTE 1: Votes for all versions of a game (including remasters, remakes, and enhanced editions) were lumped together with the original title. If you are looking to start a new game, and have several of the platforms listed on the banner in question, do a quick google search to read the pros and cons of each version!
NOTE 2: This year, we are going to count down from #50 to #1. This top 50 list is a work in progress! It will take me several days to finish it up and flesh out the features that I have planned for the final version of the OP. Space-permitting, I would like to include quotes from the individual voting lists, a list of the top titles by underrated vote, a list of the top series/franchises by vote, and more. Keep checking back for updates.
"I simply love its lore and setting - the mere inclusion of a highly detailed (and completely optional) Codex with so much information about the world simply blew my mind. It also has a lovable character cast along with a great synth soundtrack. Its aesthetic is unparalleled and it was clearly influenced by some of the best science fiction literature and cinema." - Theodoricos
"When it's firing on all cylinders, it's one of the greatest, most engaging stories in an RPG. Its setpiece moments are legendary, and at least one of them is arguably the best turn-based boss in all of JRPGs. Its a game that knows when its got good stuff up its sleeve, and when the time comes it sells those moments completely." - FiveSide
"Vampire RPG in a modern day setting! I'm always reminded of the Blade club scene whenever I play this game. It has some of my favorite character interactions in the genre and I like dynamic between the different clans and factions. The voice acting is also great which only helps bring out the great dialogue even more." - DrD
"There's something magical about TWEWY with it's incredibly complex mechanics which marry with the difficult to play dual screen mechanic....there's nothing quite like it at all! The plot gives us characters who change over the course of the story, the gameplay includes no random encounters, variable difficulty on the fly and incredible variety in terms of stat management." - xist
"But what makes Skyrim stand out? Its classic sword & sorcery & dragons theme combined with the northern locale with viking-like population is certainly part of the appeal, but what Skyrim (and Bethesda RPGs) really nail is the immersion. Countless times did I lose track of time while playing this game, staying up late..."one more dungeon..." - Mcdohl
"The father of a brand new genre. Much of what makes this game so special became apparent years after it's release. What seemed like at first an overly complicated gameplay system later became an object of study and inspiration." - Arion
"Original Sin was the game for me that took ideas from the Ultima games' high level of interactivity and the classic Black Isle CRPG style choice making freedom and modernized both in Larian's magical pot. The combat is some of the strongest I've played in a while, boasting both highly enjoyable mechanics and environment interaction, and generally great encounter design to take advantage of them." - Neoleo2143
"Oh man, I just love this game. The action combat is so good, and the pawn (AI) system is very neat and surprisingly deep, letting you experiment with lots of different party setups and making it feel like a single-player MMORPG. With 9 vocations and plenty of skills for each, there are many different ways you can approach combat, keeping it exciting and fresh for a long time." - Luap
"Aged like fine wine. Engaging quests, crazy potion brewing, weird creatures, charming NPCs and interesting dungeons. Huge distinctive world with things to do and see at every corner. The combat is not the best, but everything else more than makes up for it's shortcomings." - Mike Bison
"Two things made this game great, the variety of ways you can approach any quest, there were so many moments where I discovered a way to resolve a quest and couldn't believe the developer put it in. The second thing was it's blend of apocalypse and it's sense of humor." - solo220
"The best aspects from VIII come from it's gorgeous world and character design and of course it's massive and fantastic soundtrack. Each town is memorable with it's own unique structure and mood. The music for each location creates a perfect setting. " - Wazzy
"What makes Deus Ex great however, is the way you can complete missions and solve problems. Want to be a mass murdering psychopath who butchers enemy soldiers? Go ahead. Prefer stealth? Be stealthy. The game seems to react to almost every choice you make, even the tiniest ones." - Uriah
"Mother 3 is the most perfect closure to a series, with wonderful writing, music, and very fun and ingenious combat. Fantastic art direction and scenario writing that makes the most out of a relatively simple art style." - Opa-Pa
"The game's poor critical reception is absolutely baffling, consdering how many other games fail when they try to mix things up like this one. Other than that, what stands out are the memorable characters, the smart use of its medium for the narrative it tells and the best soundtrack of its generation. There is just so much that's going to stick with you, even with some of its rough edges." - Spieler Eins
"Dragonfall has a gripping overall narrative, but it's main strength lies in it's character interactions. A noir mystery at heart, SR: DF really gives you the sense that you're living in some sort of retro Neo Berlin -- one where the 80's never ended... but then it did, and it's 2025." - Miletius
"I absolutely love the fact that Nintendo let Squaresoft run wild and turn the Mario universe into this completely nuts, hilarious, constantly inventive RPG." - StrangeRoboMemory
"It's just a joy to play. The movement is amazing for an RPG. You run so fast and jump so high. The mechs are incredibly well designed and the transformation aspect is also incredible. This allows for unbridled exploration of the massive and varied environment." - SatoAilDarko
“One of the last games I played on my PS2, at the time Final Fantasy XII felt to me like it ought to be what future games in the series strive toward. The narrative with its political undertones and brilliant voice acting. The vast world full of optional gameplay and beautiful scenery. And the distinctive combat system which removed much of the tedium from rpg random battles.” - PensivePen
“I truly think this game has some of the most gorgeous visuals in a roleplaying game despite it being a Playstation title. The team that made this game really pushed the tech to it's limits considering how great it still looks to this day (not even mentioning the all time excellence that is the soundtrack).” - Meowster
“I didn’t expect to throw 50 hours into a game I’d played through twice before in a packed 2017, but playing VIII again on the 3DS this summer hooked me right back into its world with ease… It’s a world driven by visual charm and warm characterization, allowing the story to unfurl through its environments as much as its events.” - 6:10:50
“The worldbuilding in this game is exceptionally well done, this is probably the first game where i was sometimes looking forward to talking to NPC characters more than to advancing the story and seeing what it has to offer.” - PaulSane
"Still probably the finest loot driven game out there, Diablo 2 offers extremely satisfying gameplay, a variety of classes that play very differently from each other, and built in support for multiplayer options." - ThoseDeafMutes
“My first experience with this game was the mobile port in 2012 and its fair to say it blew me away. I could wax hyperbolic about everything i love about this game, the atmosphere, music, tweaks on Star Wars lore, that Twist.” - jdstorm
“My personal favorite WRPG, just due to the fact that you hardly ever get to play as a spy in an RPG setting. Yes, it's not perfect - it has bugs and the gameplay takes getting used to. But it more than makes up for it with a choice/dialogue system that is still unmatched in terms of how it affects your game as you progress.” - Incendiary
“The closest we've ever gotten to a true Phantasy Star 5... Massive world with lots to explore, a great upbeat cast, giant airships to pilot, it was one of the first truly 3D RPGs I've ever played and the sense of scale was awesome.” - djtiesto