As an avid RolePlaying Game fan I’m always looking out for my next fix, and who can blame me? Good RPG’s usually come with a solid story, great characters, a sense of accomplishment every time you level up and a feeling of immersion many other game genre’s struggle to emulate. And indeed, the RPG is often emulated. Levelling systems have found their way into games we never would have expected like Call of Duty while a good story and strong characterisation is something the games industry has been paying more attention to across the board. But still, nothing feels quite so good like kicking back with a pure RPG, safe in the knowledge that while some games only offer you a skimpy light-weight single player campaign this epic saga you are embarking on will give you plenty of playtime per game.
And so I, wonderful altruist that I am, have decided to recommend to you some of my favourite RPG series. Yes, series! These all hold more than one entrant, so if you like the first one you know where to find more, because nothing makes me more sad than drawing to the end of a game without a sequel. I’ll try to suggest series for you that you may not have heard of, or perhaps haven’t considered as your next RPG experience. Most importantly though, all of these games will be Worth Your Time! I promise lots to do and see. So, first up?
You’ve probably already heard of Pokemon, and know of the games simply as Pokemon Games, as though this were a genre in and of itself. But the Pokemon games are RPG’s in their purest form. You play as an inexperienced adventurer setting out on an epic quest, forming your party as you go and battling evil on the way. We have a party based combat system, we have levelling up, and we have evil to defeat in the form of the villainous Teams. And these games will last you if you can get into them, my average playtime on a single game is well over the hundred hour mark. With five generations of games to play, and the sixth generation debuting in October, now is the perfect time to embark on your Pokemon Journey.
4. Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga
The Shin Megami Tensei games have been growing in popularity in the western world, thanks in large part to the fantastic Persona series. Persona isn’t on this list purely because it’s a little more well known, but is also well Worth Your Time. My tip here is to check out Digital Devil Saga for the Playstation 2, one of my all time favourite PS2 RPG’s. The story is absolutely bonkers (in a good way!) and the combat system is as strong as you’d expect from a Shin Megami Tensei game. It has New Game Plus (Oh, how I love thee) and a sequel which reads your save data from the first game to provide you with stat bonuses and story changes based on what it finds. Both games are in the 5-10 pound range to order online and are truly fantastic.
The Suikoden series seems to be somewhat forgotten about these days, but with the main series spanning five games along with a number of spin-offs, sequels and prequels (oh my!) there really is lots of play to be had here. The story and combat systems are reasonably straight forward and usually won’t surprise you too much, but they’re solid games nonetheless. The really interesting thing here is that each game has 108 party members for you to recruit. Let me write that out properly for more gravitas. One hundred and eight party members! Not all of these are usable for combat but instead provide other benefits such as a portable shop or new benefits for your base but they’re all distinct individuals and lots of fun to recruit. Unlike the Final Fantasy games all of the Suikoden games take place in the same world and feature some common characters and themes. If you’re looking for an awesome RPG time sink then Suikoden might be what you need.
2. Shadow Hearts
I LOVE these games. They’re dark, gritty, funny, sexy and just a blast to play. They comprise three main games – Shadow Hearts, Shadow Hearts: Covenant and the slightly weaker third entry, Shadow Hearts From The New World. There’s also a prequel, Koudelka, that has some ties to the story of the first game, but the gameplay is very different and not essential to your enjoyment. All three main games are for the PS2 and I cannot tell you how many times I’ve played through them. The combat system is classically turn based but with lots of fun twists. The Judgement Wheel measures your reactions, having a direct impact on your performance. The enemies your party faces and the horrific experience of fighting them is so stressful your party members can go insane if a battle drags on too long the main character, total badass Yuri, can transform into a wide variety of demons. With three games, and each game holding a host of secret missions and even multiple endings, there is so much to do here it’s insane.
1. Planescape Torment
Planescape Torment is a PC RPG that asks you one question; What can change the nature of a man? The game begins as you wake up on a mortuary slab, horrifically scarred and with no memories whatsoever. Oh, and by the way? You’re immortal. The reason this game is so incredibly rich is that it’s a study on philosophy at heart, it asks some deep questions about who we are, what we believe and how we deal with problems. You can play the whole game as a thuggish brute, smashing people in the face with a sledgehammer until you get the answers about yourself you seek. Far more rewarding however is to be subtle, persuasive and just a little bit ruthless. The game is a good length, but you’ll find yourself coming back every year or two to play it again and I promise, you’ll find or learn something new every time. Maybe even about yourself.
So there you go. I’m not saying these are my top five RPG’s of all time, just the ones I think you’ll get the best ratio of playtime to enjoyment out of that you may be less familiar with. Are there any you think I should have included? Leave a comment below.