Fighting games are fun, MOBAs are mad, and strategy games are sublime, but sometimes you want to dive into something deeper. To step into someone else’s shoes and into another world. For those times, there are RPGs. What’s your favorite.
Thomas: One of my firm favorites that really came out of nowhere was Etrian Odyssey. A first person dungeon crawler? With turn-based movement? And random battles? The concept doesn’t exactly sell itself very well to someone who is too young to remember Wizardry or Ultima. But after a friend persuaded me to try, it wasn’t long before I was hooked.
The series has slowly grown in popularity, with the fourth in the series being a strong success on the 3DS. It’s no longer as niche as it once was, due to improvements to the interface and UI over each subsequent installment. Now a lot more people have discovered what I have about the series: the depth and freedom in the character creation and customization systems. The feeling of exploration you get as you fight or figure out your way through the labyrinth. The quiet relief that comes with a minimalistic narrative in an age when too many JRPGs would rather shove thousands of poorly-written lines at you to get their bad plot across.
Etrian Odyssey is a series that knew what parts of JRPGs are worth keeping, which needed refinement, and which needed throwing out with the garbage. In an age when JRPGs are known for bloated narratives, tedious grinds, and shallow mechanics, the series is a blessing.
Rishi: Yes, I liked Mass Effect. It was awesome. Quite possibly the best thing modern-day Bioware’s done. Sure, the story was reminiscent of Babylon 5, and the way the trilogy ended was a perversion of justice, but that doesn’t mean the first game was the cause. No, far from it. Delve past the clunky combat and even clunkier Mako driving and you have one of the better RPGs around. It sports a rich atmosphere and fantastic characters, there’s a sense of nuance to the proceedings that very few games can match. From your opening mission all the way to the 24-esque endgame, it’s an absolute blast. It wasn’t just a great game, it was a great universe to hang around in. After all, how many games let you punch a reporter in the face in the name of saving the galaxy?
Jing: After all these years of gaming, it’s hard to pick a favorite. More recent titles like South Park: The Stick Of Truth have been very entertaining, and I also had tons of fun with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim back in 2011. But if you ask me which RPG game will stick in my mind forever, it has to be Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars on the SNES.
Not only was it the first game that allowed us to we explore the franchise’s universe, it also did a spectacular job of giving life to its characters. Our mute hero, Mario, would communicate through gestures, which added to the many layers of humor in the game. Our damsel in distress, Princess Toadstool, continued to play her part, but even acts as a playable character later, complete with a wacky list of skills. Bowser joins the player’s party as well, but not before we see a more gentle and vulnerable side to the misunderstood fireball-breathing reptile. Of course, a cast of other unique characters were introduced as well; who could forget Frogfucius?
But aside from the loveable game world and cast of characters, Super Mario RPG also amazed me with its innovative battle system, which put Final Fantasy games at the time to shame. You definitely won’t survive if you just keep pressing the attack button, but why would you want to when each character’s moves and skills look so cool?
All in all, 10/10.
Xairylle: Overall, I would say Final Fantasy VII because it basically swept me off my feet in my awe and enjoyment. However, I played that game alone, so for this week’s question, I’ll go with an RPG I played and enjoyed with another person—Diablo II.
My father’s side of the family is very religious and my dad in particular was adamant about not letting me play any games that “seemed to be spawned from hell.” So there was no Diablo (among other games) for me. Some years later when I had enough guts to do what I wanted, I chanced upon an old Diablo II CD installer on sale. I wanted to buy it, but didn’t have enough money on me. One of the friends I was with offered to pay half of the price so we could buy it together. In exchange, I’d let him play at my place and have a save file on my PC, because he didn’t have his own computer.
It was disappointing at first because the CD didn’t work, but after hours of scouring the internet, my friend found the solution and we were eventually able to play the game. He spent a lot of time hanging out at my place until one day he was able to buy his own computer and play the game in the comfort of his own home. I was a little sad that he wouldn’t be coming over more often, but thankfully that story has a happy ending, because now I’m his wife.
Mary-Anne: I’m bored of saying Final Fantasy IX or Pokemon each time we have an RPG-related question, so this round, my answer is Skyrim. I had always loved the Elder Scrolls universe but never found the guts to properly play through one of the games. Skyrim was the first one that I delved headlong into and lost track of time.
Right from the start, when I stumbled out of that cavern and into the crisp, fresh air and bright sunlight of the region, I was hooked. And it wasn’t as if I cared very deeply for pillaging tombs or looking for Dwemer relics. I was happy simply looking at the land, picking flowers, wading through streams, and marvelling at a life and age I thought I’d never have the chance to experience in this lifetime.
Truthfully, Skyrim’s plot has little significance to me. I don’t care for saving the world, and “fus ro dah” is more hilarious than prophetic. What makes Skyrim such an amazing RPG is the detail that went into the game, the different songs you’d hear sung by the bards, the way you could imagine the wind smelled when you stood just outside the Jarl’s hall in Whiterun.
And it helped that it had dragons.
Iain: This took me a while because I decided to go with something other than [Planescape: Torment]. After much deliberation I settled on Bioware’s classic Knights of the Old Republic which was recently re-released for iOS.
This awesome Star Wars spinoff was the reason I bought an original Xbox and was one of the only games worth having on that console. Knights of the Old Republic is the game that paved the way for the awesome Mass Effect series and cemented Bioware as one of my all time favorite developers.
It has got one of the best plots of any video game ever, and one of my favorite (if highly telegraphed) plot twists–you will see it coming, but it’s still awesome. Also it has the coolest lightsaber battles of any game ever. Force Unleashed can go suck an egg.
Charlie: I’m not always a big fan of RPGs, and the JRPG has never held any appeal for me at all. If I am going to play an RPG, I want real-time action and immersive graphics, but since Skyrim and Mass Effect have already been mentioned above, I’ll choose another of my favorites: Fallout 3.
Fallout 3 is an open-world RPG, much like Skyrim in that there’s a main quest to explore but there’s also heaps and heaps of crazy stuff to discover in the post-apocalyptic wastelands if wandering is more your style. I really liked Fallout 3’s targeting system in combat, too, but if I’m honest there’s really one reason I’ve picked it here, and that’s Vault 112. I don’t want to give away anything about it in case you haven’t played the game, but stumbling on and experiencing the contents of that vault is one of my most memorable moments in any game ever. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of doing that, and if exploring a post-apocalypse Washington D.C. sounds like your idea of a good time, I highly suggest you check the game out.
(Side note: I’ve heard good things about New Vegas too. When it first came out, it was full of so many game-breaking bugs that I wrote it off as unplayable after a bug destroyed one of my saves. But if the bugs have since been fixed, that’s probably worth checking out, too.)
How about you?