I’ve spent a good chunk of my life playing RPGs. JRPGs and Western RPGs are certainly my favorite game genres. Before you start complaining about the fact that Fallout 3 and Mass Effect are nowhere to be found on my list, you need to realize that neither game is really an RPG. Both are closer to action and FPS, so that is why I excluded them from my picks.
Before I start my list, I’d to take the time to explain what factors make a great RPG. Character customization is almost always something I look for from a great RPG. While it doesn’t necessarily have to be there for all RPGs, it’s almost always necessary as a tool to immerse you in the game. RPGs are about feeling like you are living out the character’s lives. An in-depth story that captivates the imagination is almost always necessary for an RPG to be considered great. Moral decisions should affect how the game carries out. In the end, there are many other factors that can make an RPG great. The ones I listed above are ones that are of personal importance to me. For an RPG to be truly successful, it absolutely needs to capture your imagination and make you feel like you are in control of the story.
#10 Final Fantasy VII
There was a point in time when Final Fantasy VII was my favorite all-time game, but that time has passed. While I still possess a great deal of nostalgia for the title, the game hasn’t aged very well at all. Before long, it will probably out of my “top ten”.
#09 Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Morrowind was a “game changer”. It changed how I felt RPGs should be. The game masterfully immersed you in a fantastic and large world where nearly every action had a reaction. This is one of the few RPGs that never gets old. It’s entirely possible that my admiration for this title will cause me to move it up on my list in the future.
#08 Knights of the Old Republic II
Despite being more linear than I’d like, KOTOR II met my expectations of a great game when it came out. It was fun, I felt like I was living the story and it continued the success of the original. It’s just a real shame that KOTOR III went the MMO route. We can always hope that KOTOR IV will go back to the roots of the series.
#07 Baldur’s Gate II
If you like games like Dragon Age: Origins and never played Baldur’s Gate II, you might want to revisit the title. While the game had “iffy” graphics even for its time, the game was simply an experience you shouldn’t skip.
#06 Secret of Mana
Secret of Mana was a masterpiece RPG. I sometimes think it came out during the “golden age” of RPG gaming. Despite my high ranking of this game, it may not last much longer. Secret of Mana was brilliant when it came out, but some may consider it shallow and short these days. Before long, it will probably work its way out of my “top 10″.
#05 Tales of Symphonia
This may be one of the most under-rated RPG games out there. The line between good and evil was very realistic and thin in this title. The story is what sold me on the game. I will never forget my experience with the game even though I only played through the title once. For those of you who still have a GameCube, there’s no excuse to skip this one.
#04 Phantasy Star IV
The Phantasy Star series may be one of the most under-rated RPG franchises out there. I simply loved the first two games, the third was just “ok” and Phantasy Star IV was a masterpiece of its time. PSIV was one of the best 16-bit games I ever got my hands on. The story starts out small and slow, but eventually explodes into an unforgettable experience. What made this one of my favorite all-time games was the pacing of the story.
#03 Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger will probably always remain in my “top ten”. Chrono Trigger changed the RPG genre and will probably never fade into obscurity like some titles eventually do. This was one of the few games I played where time did not matter. I could easily sink an entire day into this game without realizing it.
#02 Knights of the Old Republic
Knights of the Old Republic was simply an amazing game with an amazing story. This may be one of the first RPGs that truly legitimized the “Western RPG” genre. The game changed based on your moral decisions and I felt like I was living the story. I am a huge Star Wars fan, but you don’t even need to like Star Wars to realize how awesome this game was.
#01 Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Elder Scrolls IV is not only the greatest RPG ever made, I’d consider it the greatest game ever made. I’ve beaten it several times on every platform it was released on and I’m still not tired of it. If I had to estimate, I’d say I have invested somewhere around 1200+ hours playing Oblivion. That’s approximately the same as 50 consecutive 24-hour days of gaming. There is no other game that I have played this much of. Elder Scrolls IV had an amazing story, an amazing world, a fantastic leveling system and simply never gets old.