My Top-5 RPGs

Alright, in relation to my previous blog, I’m now presenting five RPGs which I also happen to think are really good games in their own right. A running theme with this blog, which you’ll notice, is that I tend to like RPGs that dispense with a lot of the crap I hate about the genre.

Without any further ado, here’s the list…

PaperMario5. Paper Mario

The Mario RPG titles were never really my cup of tea, but I do have to admit that I enjoyed the first Paper Mario on the Nintendo 64. I hadn’t become completely turned off by the genre at the time when I played it, but it was more the novel concept behind this instalment that made it so interesting. Not to mention the rich plethora of supporting characters.

Paper Mario seems like a terribly typical Mario game on the off-set, but the comedy used with the paper-thin sprites (which also play into a number of puzzles in the game) already impressed me. Also, the fact that you run into such a wide cast of characters also impressed me and the various mini story-lines were also interesting. Ultimately, maybe perhaps more interesting than the main storyline. Other nifty features I enjoyed was being able to make the first strike in battles on the over-world view, which gave you head-start into battles, and I also recall that this game went very light on menus and such.

However, Paper Mario was definitely one of those games which I didn’t revisit heavily after beating it, since there was no real incentive to do so. However, the game is plenty long on its own, so if you want to play a simple and fun RPG starring everyone’s favourite plumber, I do recommend this title.

kotor1and24. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 1 + 2

Knights of the Old Republic was a really cool game, a Star Wars RPG where  you travelled the galaxy, centuries before the events of the movies, encountered interesting characters, battled with your jedi powers and ultimately tried to stop the evil designs of Darth Malak. The feature of KOTOR which I always enjoyed was the semi-real time/semi-turn based battle system, where the characters fight independently but you can stop time and influence their actions to make the battle go a lot smoother. This at least alleviated my gripes with battle systems which annoy me about most RPGs. Also, KOTOR featured one of the coolest plot twists in video games.

Ultimately though, KOTOR 1 was a very traditional Star Wars adventure dressed up as an RPG. Though you had multiple alternate endings, your choices of going either light or dark side by the end was handled a bit weakly. KOTOR 2: Sith Lords caused a ruckus when it came out, but I think in certain ways it was actually a much better game that the first KOTOR. The game just a had a much darker atmosphere, more interesting supporting characters and stood apart much better than its predecessor. Ultimately, the game does have a sucky finale as a result of the game being rushed for its release. Never the less, while it lasted, KOTOR 2 was a more visceral experience than KOTOR 1.

But in any case, I actually love both games quite a bit. They’re interesting, well-written and compelling titles and easily a cut above most Star Wars related video games. Even if you’re not a fan of the franchise, I would seriously recommend these games.

Earthbound3. EarthBound

The presence of this game on the list may seem really odd if you read my “10 things I hate about RPGs” list, since this game seems to feature a lot of the things on the list. Let’s get the annoying things out of the way. Yes, there is turn-based battle, some tiresome menu management, lots of arbitrary numbers and even a little bit of level grinding required. So what gives?

EarthBound really is an experience more than a video-game. The storyline is pretty straight-forward, but the game is imbued with a strangely hypnotic atmosphere which just keeps you playing. The goofy, cartoony appearance betrays what actually begins to turn into a pretty dark and twisted game. The environments get steadily more creepy as you travel further into the game world, into caverns of giant rodents and bizarre creatures. And the music creeps you the fuck out as you find locations which serve as breadcrumbs on your quest for a malicious spirit of a dead alien creature. That and the fact that the game just throws the characters into the strangest locations without warning might give you a severe case of anxiety.

But aside that, the game also has loads of comedy and goofy supporting characters and this equally balances out the creepiness of the game’s latter half. Whether you’re helping a jazz band, a love-sick archaeologist or the brainwashed mayor of a city, you run into a lot memorable people on your journey. So yeah, EarthBound does have a lot of traditional JRPG elements which I’m not a fan of, but its unique atmosphere and story kept me invested and playing right to the very end.

DarksidersII2. Darksiders 2

This has been one of my favourite gaming experiences on the Wii U. Darksiders is an action-RPG title, where as a Horseman of the Apocalypse, Death, you try to clear the name of your brother War (protagonist of the first game) and have to travel to bizarre and creepy worlds in order to do so. Darksiders 2 is just a great game, because it incorporates so many types of gameplay and doesn’t strictly adhere simply to RPG traditions.

Apart from battling monsters in real-time, which is a lot of fun, you get to climb all around the dungeons, looking for paths to the next room as well as solve Zelda-style puzzles where you have to observe your surroundings. Some of the boss-fights are also pretty clever, though alternately some are just huge grinds. Never the less, the game doesn’t lose momentum at any point and the varying locations, over-dramatic voice-acting and the gameplay variety kept this game fresh and interesting all the way through.

The only thing Darksiders 2 did a bit poorly were some of its design choices. Though luckily levelling up and level grinding aren’t huge parts of the game, you do have to run to the menu periodically simply because Death collects so much crap from the dungeons. Also, the menu system isn’t very intuitive with way too many pages of useless crap (and no one-touch map button either *groan*). Also, the shooter-section of the game was easily the worst designed and least fun part of the experience, though thankfully it’s over pretty quickly.

So yes, Darksiders 2 has some faults, but its strengths more than make up for them. I highly recommend this title, even if or perhaps, especially if you’re not a fan of RPGs.

Fallout_31. Fallout 3

You’ll remember this game from my Top-10 Xbox 360 games, so it shouldn’t surprise you that the game is this high on the list. I’ve always greatly admired the Fallout-series, even if the first two instalments were a lot of work and not that much fun as gaming experiences. Fallout 3 changed that by putting you in the point-of-view of the hero and still containing all the dread and charm of the previous instalments while fixing the steep learning curve which prevented me from enjoying the first two games so much.

The story-line of Fallout 3 is also much better and more personal. Your trek through the post-apocalyptic wasteland is filled with peril and excellent plot-twists upon plot-twists. I also find the game world to be surprisingly rich and interesting, as well as desolate, dark and at times just flat-out creepy. Sure, there’s some monotony in running around in the wastes, but it makes the towns feel all the more interesting once you get there. Plus, there’s no shortage of creepy creatures, from the traditional zombies and mutant flies, to the hulking Super Mutants, Giant Ants, Cannibals and those super-scary Deathclaws.

Also the battling in this game is great. You can actually play the game somewhat like a shooter, but you can also use the V.A.T.S. system to stop time and think about your actions (as well as attack specific body-parts) if you’re not especially good with more action-oriented gameplay. I like the fact that the game gives you a choice to use either and this ultimately makes Fallout 3 a more varied gameplay experience. There is some feverish menu management, but as I recall, it didn’t halt my progress unnecessarily. Only the inventory system was a bit of a pain (especially becoming over-encumbered, something which shouldn’t be a thing in a video game).

Also, Fallout 3 was one of the few RPGs where I was actually curious about exploring the world just as much as I was invested in the storyline and that’s very rare for me. Ultimately, once you complete Fallout 3’s story once, there isn’t a huge incentive to do it again, but this is a game that definitely offers a lot to do. Still easily the best designed and most fun RPG I’ve ever played.