Top 10 RPGs Of The Generation

by Kimberley Wallace on Jul 24, 2014 at 01:35 PM

We spent our time celebrating the best PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii games of the generation. Now we're diving into the best of various genres.

Today, we're taking a look at the best role-playing games of the last console generation. Developers got more creative during the cycle, attempting to take the genre in new directions by giving gamers more choices in gameplay and narrative. They created bigger worlds, and implemented unique battle systems. Western RPGs thrived on consoles, while Japanese RPGs struggled to find their place as development costs rose, causing those publishers to turn to handheld systems. Despite that transition, some console JRPGs still made an impact, proving they still have a place in the console market. 

Coming up with a top 10 RPGs list was one of our biggest debates in the office. Everyone looks for different things when it comes to this style of game. Some prize the story, others prefer the exploration, and gameplay can make or break the experience. We also took various types of subgenres into account, including strategy/RPGs and action/RPGs. For the sake of diversity, we only included one game from each franchise. In our opinion, the following games are the cream of the crop. We're sure you have your own opinions, so be sure to discuss your favorites in the comments below.

10.   Final Fantasy XIII

Final Fantasy is one of the most powerful role-playing franchises, leading to great anticipation every time a new entry launches. Final Fantasy XIII wows with its absolutely stunning visuals. Thanks to the new console power and the Crystal Tools engine, Square Enix brings Cocoon and Gran Pulse to life, creating wonderment the moment you load up the game. While Final Fantasy XIII may not have pleased everyone with its story or linear environments, it introduces one of the series' best battle systems, letting you coach your characters from the sidelines by creating paradigm shifts. It also has one cool character in Lightning, who became so popular Square Enix decided to extend her saga into follow-up titles, Final Fantasy XIII-2 and Lightning Returns. Final Fantasy XIII had a lot of expectations, making it impossible to satisfy everyone, but that doesn't detract from it being one of the more memorable RPGs of the generation.

(Read our full review here)

9. Valkyria Chronicles

Sega's Valkyria Chronicles is a unique beast, thanks to its combination of quasi-shooter, strategy, and role-playing elements. The alternate history World War II and distinct art style give the game a unique flavor, making it stand out as one of the PS3's biggest exclusive surprises. Sadly, Valkyria Chronicles didn't see great sales success, and while the PSP-based sequel came to North America, the third title remains Japan-only. It's a shame we never saw another console iteration, but thankfully we have this one to cherish.

(Read our full review here)

8. Dragon Age: Origins

BioWare intricately crafted every detail of Dragon Age: Origins. The result? It introduces us to one hell of a world filled with conflicts. Magic has always been a part of fantasy games, but Dragon Age questions what it would actually be like to live in a world with it, leading to a divisive system where mages have checks and balances. Origins explores different worldviews wonderfully, thanks to the varied personalities in your party. They aren't afraid to argue and stand for what they believe in, and involve you in some pretty hefty choices. As the Warden, you serve as the glue that holds the fragile alliance together long enough to stop the Archdemon and its darkspawn from taking over the world. Dragon Age: Origins lets you be a hero, but it also gives you the means to understand what it takes to be one. The console version doesn't retain the harsh pause-and-play strategy of its PC counterpart, but combat is fun in a different way, and all of the story content remains the same.

(Read our full review here)

7. Xenoblade Chronicles

North American fans fought hard for Xenoblade Chronicles' localization, and for good reason. In a time when the genre was going through growing pains, this Wii game proved that the JRPG experience could still be exciting and fresh. Xenoblade Chronicles lets you explore two vast and interesting continents, and the real-time battle system is akin to what you see in an MMORPG. Xenoblade's scope is massive, with depth for simple things like the social network and relationship charts. Xenoblade Chronicles showed gamers that the JRPG is far from dead. More importantly, it didn't rely on nostalgia to do it. It used big ideas that culminated in an extremely thrilling journey.

(Read our full review here)

6. Diablo III

When Diablo III launched on PC, gamers lamented its always-online requirement and the botched implementation of the auction house. When it hit PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, not only were those issues nowhere to be found, but console gamers also have direct control over their characters' movements for the first time in the series - along with a handy new dodge ability. Blizzard provides some of the best hacking-and-slashing around, and Diablo III is no exception. It also marks Blizzard's return to consoles after more than a decade of focusing exclusively on PC development. The company scores points for not merely porting the game to console, but including many enhancements to make the long wait worth it.

(Read our full review here)

[Up next: Our top 5, which includes plenty of choice-driven games....]

5. The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition

The Witcher 2 stands as one of the strongest RPG offerings of the generation. CD Projekt RED experiments with choice and consequence in new ways by giving plenty of shades of gray to every choice. It was especially exciting when the team announced that console gamers would finally get to experience the mature series, letting them see their choices resurface and shape the story. The Witcher's Geralt de Rivia is a memorable antihero in a grim world. The deep combat is satisfying, especially in boss battles, which force you to prepare and proceed with caution.

(Read our full review here)

4. Dark Souls II

The Souls series made an impact this past generation for bringing back old-school challenge in games. In these games, death isn't something to fear, but rather embrace as a way to learn from your mistakes. Gamers appreciate not having their hands held and proving that they are up to the task. Dark Souls II improves on its predecessors, while still providing the satisfying gameplay and exploration the franchise is known for. People can't resist sharing their war stories and triumphs, and that's a big part of what gaming is all about.

(Read our full review here)

3. Fallout 3

Some hardcore Fallout fans were hesitant when Bethesda took over the classic series, and while things certainly changed during the transition (notably the introduction of the first-person perspective), the essence of the franchise comes through. As soon as players step out of Vault 101, they are transported to a massive and dangerous post-apocalyptic world, and it is up to them to decide which locations to explore, characters to help (or harm), and which of the myriad skills and items to invest in. With memorable locations like the Republic of Dave and the strategic V.A.T.S. combat system, there's a lot to love in the Capital Wasteland.

(Read our full review here)

2. Mass Effect 2

A big part of the Mass Effect experience is the people you met along the way. No game in the trilogy lets you get to know them more intimately than Mass Effect 2. Commander Shepard must recruit a team, but the insight you gain into their personalities during the process is the exciting part. Gaining your squadmates' loyalty also means better results in the final suicide mission - a mission that the game builds up to wonderfully and ends leaving you wondering. Mass Effect 2 isn't as divisive as its successor, provides a more refined experience than its predecessor, and proves why Shepard is the leader the world needs.

(Read our full review here)

1. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Bethesda's venture into the land of the Nords has all of the hallmarks the company is known for; it's addictive, expansive, and entertaining. Skyrim gives players an unmatched continent to explore full of dungeons, towns, and mystic ruins that make you want to look into every nook and cranny. Whether you focus on crafting the ultimate set of armor or stealing every book and cheese wedge from unsuspecting townsfolk, there is no shortage of distractions above and beyond the main quest and guild missions. Character progression is also staggeringly deep and accommodates virtually any kind of approach to combat. Then you have dragon shouts, which give you the ability to literally scream a dragon out of the air to slay it in melee combat. There's a reason your friends did nothing but yell "Fus Ro Dah" for months.

(Read our full review here)