From 20 to 1. Before starting, it’s important to state that any such list is subjective to the writer. The odds of a majority of people agreeing are slim. Still, the general idea should be good and everything 1-10 should be worth playing a few times over.
EverQuest (20) – My 2nd MMORPG and the one I sunk a ridiculous amount of time into. Still going on but the magic has left this one. A good example of a time capsule game. Most modern RPGs owe their foundation to this game.
Earthbound (17). A decent RPG with a rather unique story and game mechanics. Ness has become a Nintendo mascot now. I wouldn’t have put it this high but I can understand the nostalgia factor.
Diablo (16). This game plays the same today as it did over 15 years ago – minus the small graphics. A near perfect storm of elements, I remember passing hours after school at the local network shop playing this with friends. I died a LOT.
Secret of Mana (15). I guess you could call this Square’s first take on a western RPG since it was all live combat. The story was amazing, the magic system pretty deep and you could play co-op. I played it again recently and it is still amazingly fun.
Final Fantasy Tactics (14). An update to the Ogre Battle system with FF characters. Since this style of game best fits the Square model, it came to be something quite interesting. The Job system combined with the bounty board was a rather unique twist on the grinding.
Planescape: Torment (13). One of the best non-fantasy RPGs to ever come out. Built on the same engine as the Baldur’s Gate series, P:T was too far ahead of it’s time when it launched. You can only really appreciate what it did today, which is a shame.
KOTOR (12). The mother of Star Wars RPGs, KOTOR simply raised the bar for western RPGs (and perhaps all that ventured here). A complex story, detailed character development and a somewhat robust combat system. Like all BioWare games, the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts. Well worth playing today. Really makes the movies (1-3) look like garbage.
FF7 (11). I expected this higher due to the fans but it’s appropriate here too. This game launched the 3d RPG, movies-in-game and the 12 minute boss fight. I think people attach so many good memories to this game not so much because of the quality (which is still pretty high) but of the simple timing of the launch. I mean, Sony has admitted that it’s the primary reason they sold the PS2 in the US.
Fallout 3 (10). When this game launched, I was hesitant. I loved my old Fallout games. This one took that idea, broke it down to basics and blew it up to a million wild pieces. There is just so much to do in this game, and all of it is related. Win a mayorship up north, find the old mayor down south with some ants. Superheroes, giant robots, deadly children, vampires, nukes…everything. Simply amazing. Just don’t go into melee.
Mass Effect 1 (9). This above the sequel is both odd and somewhat appropriate. The first game was a unique take on a unique IP. While the individual systems were weak (Mako anyone?) the whole of it was a fun story with a great pace and amazing music. Think about it, this game is why EA bought BioWare.
WoW (8). I would have put this higher if only because 1/3 of PC game players seem to have played this at one time. No game, any time, has had more social impact than WoW. It is not the game that launched (EQ-lite) or the carebear game that it is today that puts it this high. It’s simply that this one game blew up a market that had yet to break a million per game in the west. That it still holds sway over 10 million players and has TV ads in the middle of a football game is a testament to its power.
Skyrim (7). Take Fallout 3’s systems, refine them a bit into the Oblivion model and you get Skyrim. This is a sandbox dream game, just at the cusp of true AI. Shooting dragons out of the air with giant fireballs does not get old. Killing 3 at one doesn’t either! You can do what you want, when you want, how you want. Refreshing.
Diablo 2 (6). Interesting that both Diablo games are so close to the top. D2 took the first model, refined it to a double diamond and set it out on the masses. People are still playing this game today online, the balance is just so spot on. D3 has a near impossible measure to reach to even come close to being compared with D2. The team that built this game understood gaming and we are lucky for it.
FF4 (5). You know, most people don’t remember this game. This was the first FF game with the ATB gauge. It had great characters, a decent story, challenging combat and just a solid overall gameplay. I would not have put it this high in the list personally, but it’s still a game that every RPG player must try at least once. This is the true birth of the Square RPG as we know them today.
Pokemon Red/Blue (4). I figured they would be higher on the list! Who hasn’t played these games or a variant? For a rock-paper-scissors game, this game spawned a multi billion dollar franchise An extremely basic but complex game that took hundreds of hours to complete to perfection. You really wanted to catch them all!
Baldur’s Gate 2 (3). I figured 1-3 are a toss-up in rank. BG2 is a seminal RPG that changed the entire landscape from that point forward. Conversation trees that mattered, complex and satisfying combat, a solid leveling curve of power, great music and dragons. There simply has never been another RPG that comes close to giving you the experience this game does. It is practically perfect.
Chrono Trigger (2). Oddly I was playing this the other day, the game just calls to me from time to time. Kooky characters, interesting combat, great time travelling storytelling, CT is a masterpiece of gaming. You could play this a hundred times and still find something new or something to smile about. Add to that the fact that there are dozens of endings, some quite hard to find makes it well worth replaying, again and again.
FF6 (1). When this game came out, I bought it for 100$. So like 175$ today. It was worth every penny. From the start in the winter steppes, to flying around as an esper, to using a chainsaw or suplex on an enemy, I can’t remember a better time playing an RPG. Unique playstyles for every character (draw an enemy?) made the team of 12 (14 really) players a pile of fun every time. And really, Kefka is the best villain I have ever seen.
So that’s the list. Do I agree with them all? No, but in batches I do. Pretty much every game from 1-20 is worth playing at least once. 1-10 should be in your gaming library. IGN did a pretty decent job here and that’s comparing to other lists they’ve built in the past. Hats off!