From the original tabletop play using many-sided dice to roll up character stats to the modern video games of today, RPGs have exploded into the public consciousness.
RPGs run the genre gamut with fantasy, sci-fi, horror, romance, and dozens of other stories pushing the action all the way to the last scene. With so many options, it can be challenging to find a good RPG in the genre you’re looking for.
So, what makes a great RPG? The story. A role-playing game centers around the characters and the story.
The biggest differentiator is the overarching story that drives your characters from the opening sequence to the final boss. While an RPG might have elements of a first-person shooter or side-scrolling adventure, in the end, the story is key to finishing the game.
RPGs on Steam represent some of the best of the category, and this is a list of the best of the best. If you’re looking for a game that offers endless hours of immersive fun, these are the titles you want, in no particular order.
1. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
Released in 2015, this third edition stands the test of time. The lone wanderer turned hero is a trope familiar to every RPG player on Steam, but few games deliver with such panache and seamless interactivity with the in-game world.
Geralt, the witcher, wanders through a digital landscape that is beautiful and rich in detail, and the NPCs are just as well-drawn.
Quests are just as likely to be a helping hand in battling racism or mending a broken family as they are an epic battle scene.
Not your traditional RPG, Terraria features a sandbox-style of play where you tell the story through your actions. As the player, you control the adventure, bringing an element of choice and fun to gameplay that is virtually unmatched.
Whether you want to build the best gear and stomp over enemies or explore and fight to gain combat, glory is all up to you. You can even build your own city.
This game lets players build and enhance the story, so while it is not a traditional RPG, it offers the interactivity with the surrounding world that many players enjoy, all in a side-scrolling action interface.
3. Planetscape: Torment
Sometimes a game breaks the mold. When it does the job well enough, it makes it on to top 10 lists like these, and that’s Planetscape: Torment.
This dark and twisted tale spirals around one character’s regrets.
It is practically a novel in video game form — at least you do enough reading to feel like it’s a book — but this game discards all traditional tropes, making it a standout addition that delights and surprises players.
It doesn’t have the options and control often delivered in an RPG, but that is because it is telling a story, not giving you the tools to write your own.
Get ready for some post-apocalyptic fun while playing Fallout. The nukes have all dropped, and the mushroom clouds dispersed, but the devastation continues.
The main character in this game is tagged with the unhappy task of locating the Water Chip to save other survivors from a water shortage.
Mutants, not-so-nice inhabitants, and an environment that is out to get you come together in a dark story that still showcases the resilience of the human spirit.
Oh, and the ability to build some pretty cool weapons.
5. Stardew Valley
You might live in the city, but the main character in Stardew Valley just inherited a nearly derelict farm in the valley.
With just a few tools and pocket change, your goal is to build a thriving agrarian business.
Whether you focus on growing crops, caring for animals, or mining deep in the caves, there’s plenty to keep you busy in this open world. You can even delve into a romance with one of 12 villager NPCs.
Welcome to the RPG shooter with BioShock. It’s all about the weapons, but that may not mean what you think it means.
In BioShock, everything is a weapon, especially you.
The main character alters his DNA to become a more effective fighter, gaining strange powers like the ability to shoot killer hornets from his veins.
Experiment with weapons creation and tear your way through this underwater dystopia.
7. NieR: Automata
With 50 hours of story to play through in an open world that encourages expansion, NieR: Automata lives and dies on the game system and storyline.
It’s a post-apocalyptic world ruled by machines, where humans are fighting back with the only tools they have — more machines.
Two human-made mechs head out to combat the mechanical overlords and learn more than a little bit about the planet along the way.
Fluid fight systems, customizable skill trees, great gear options, and plenty of player-driven decision-making give this game all the elements of an outstanding RPG.
8. Divinity: Original Sin 2
When everyone is fighting to become a god, Divinity: Original Sin 2 still makes it plausible that groups might work together.
Wildly different motivations may have you and other characters battling the bosses, but the result is a massively interconnected web of quests and stories — along with the ability to play cooperatively.
Just watch out for your cat. One player was so upset that a guard offed his feline friend, he now makes it a point to kill the NPC as early as possible.
That fuzzy feline is sacrosanct for some gamers.
If detailed graphics and incredible art are what make a game playable for you, avoid Undertale at all costs. Not only is it not pretty, but it’s deliberately modeled after old school 8- and 16-bit games.
It looks like the first Final Fantasy game to release on cartridge in the US, and even has the same simple list of combat options — fight, use item, or flee. But, the game doesn’t end there.
You can complement your enemies, flirt with them, or try and pet them. This game’s got jokes. Lots of jokes.
If you want a throwback that doesn’t take itself too seriously (or with any seriousness at all), Undertale is a wink and a nod to classic RPGs.
10. Balder’s Gate: Shadows of Amn
Love it or hate it, the classic styling of Balder’s Gate: Shadows of Amn comes directly from Dungeons & Dragons, the grandfather of all modern RPGs.
Baldur’s Gate is D&D in a digital world. From the character creation to the classic art styles and the dark, single-player storyline, this game is one of the last great examples of the types of tabletop games that led to the digital explosion for role-playing.