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The best RPGs of all time

The role-playing game is the cornerstone of PC gaming. Long before shooters or real-time strategy, the earliest PC developers replicated their tabletop RPGs on the PC, building sprawling adventures filled with orcs and wizards and foul dungeons. Those early games slowly built on their tabletop origins, and RPGs eventually became so popular, their elements spread to other genres. Here are our favorites: the RPGs we’d tell anyone to play right now.
Our Criteria

Whenever we sit down to argue our way through a list of the best games, our first step is deciding what “best” even means. In this case, we’re identifying which RPGs are fun right now. Games age; they’re products of the technology they were built on, and the technology that seemed cutting edge 25 years ago may be junk today.

We value fun more than the historical significance of a game, and doing so helps us build a list that recommends what’s great today rather than publishing a popularity contest, just like with our top 100 best PC games. But we don’t ignore a game’s impact completely—innovation and influence just has a lesser weight under our criteria.

The RPG genre is tough to boil down: by the most literal definition, every game is a role-playing game. This list represents our best definition of the canonical RPG—games that emphasize story; that let you inhabit a customizable character through skill points, inventory, and dialogue decisions; that include complex, controllable relationships with companions or non-playable characters. That leaves flexibility in how the game is controlled, what perspective it uses, or what setting it takes place in. Drawing these kinds of lines helps us provide a better service to you, we hope—though we've made some exceptions where we think it's worth it.