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The final 20 titles that IGN considers to be the best of the best when it comes to RPGs have been unveiled. By now, their editors' fondness for Japanese games should be quite apparent, so the top picks aren't that shocking. Have a look:
Deus Ex - 16
Nearly two decades later, Ion Storm’s Deus Ex is remembered for showing how even a large and detailed world full of well-written characters could be intuitively interactive and responsive to our actions. It throws you into a near-future world of conspiracy and espionage and gives you the freedom to fight, sneak, talk, or hack your way out of every situation – if you’ve chosen the right upgrades. Multiple paths to every objective reveal themselves through experimentation and clever, oftentimes hilarious manipulation of the AI. It’s an early example of how great level design and complex gameplay systems can come together to create some amazing experiences that feel unique to your playthrough.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - 14
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic was not only one of the first to let you truly explore the vast untapped universe of Star Wars before the events of the films, but let everyone play out the ultimate fantasy of becoming a Jedi Knight (or a Sith Lord!) in what is probably the best and most satisfying execution of a binary good/evil choice system in a game. Knights of the Old Republic also offered up a great cast of side characters with intriguing and complex relationships (not to mention the best snarky assassin droid this meatbag could ever ask for), and set up one of the greatest player character twists in an RPG.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - 10
You can spend hundreds of hours exploring The Witcher 3's expansive continent and surrounding isles and still not have seen even a fraction of what this world has to offer. The saga of Geralt comes to a supremely satisfying conclusion in what's absolutely the best game in CD Projekt Reds' acclaimed RPG series. What begins as a quest to find your lost love becomes an engrossing tale full of unforgettable characters, terrifying enemies, and genuine heart. Even the smallest side quests are thoughtful affairs and many of the main story arcs feature some of the most poignant narrative beats we've encountered in any game. Couple its stellar storytelling with deep character customization and a challenging and rewarding combat system and it's easy to see why IGN gave The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt our Game of the Year award for 2015.
Planescape: Torment - 06
The creators of Planescape: Torment aimed to subvert RPG clichés from the start, and the result is what several critics have called one of the best-written and most imaginative video games ever created. Despite being rooted in a Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting and adhering to Advanced D&D 2nd Edition rules, so much of Planescape: Torment is driven by sharp and engaging dialogue instead of combat. It takes the static alignment system of Dungeons & Dragons — a framework that has inspired RPGs from the beginning — and flips it on its head, daring to ask bigger questions about the nature of “right” and “wrong,” and making every single decision one to remember. Planescape: Torment’s experimental approach to RPG norms, twisted sense of humor, strikingly dark, but fresh setting, and tendency to elevate even the most minor conversations with weighty philosophical questions combine to create a unique personality unsurpassed in the last two decades.
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn - 03
In a medium that sees regular and massive advances in graphics and processing power, the relative low-fi appearance of Baldur’s Gate II might seem insufficient. But it’s a testament to the power of the storytelling and mechanics of Baldur’s Gate that the series still delivers a roleplaying experience that’s as good or better than games released 15 years later. Following on the success of Baldur’s Gate in 1998, BioWare surpassed gamers’ expectations with the sequel. In addition to the robust implementation of the current D&D rules, Baldur’s Gate II included massive environments, thrilling turn-based tactical combat, and enough side quests to fill any fantasy lover’s bookshelf. But the real stars of the game were the characters and the story. From the terrifying and complicated villain to the lovable, and lovably hilarious Minsc, Baldur’s Gate II was a fantasy epic as big and wonderful as the genre could hold. If you haven’t played it, you should. And remember, go for the eyes!
Final Fantasy VI - 02
Compared to its cheerfully optimistic brethren, Final Fantasy VI is a breath of fresh (albeit bleak) air. It dares to answer the question “what if the bad guy wins?” by actually letting the bad guy win halfway through the story. It isn’t shy about tackling uncomfortable subjects like war, genocide, forbidden love, and suicide. It eschews the myopic viewpoint of a single, designated protagonist in order to tell a larger, more emotionally-charged tale. This willingness to explore heavy themes and unthinkable outcomes — made all the more poignant when set against dramatic set pieces and a soaring score — is one of the biggest reasons why Squaresoft’s 1994 magnum opus is so very special. Its unconventional gameplay is another reason: FFVI casts off the rigid class system of previous Final Fantasies and allows any one of the 14 heroes to use magic so long as they equip magical shards. Its mini tower-defense games break up the monotony of random battles, while each character’s unique combat abilities means everyone serves a purpose. Nothing feels redundant or wasted in Final Fantasy VI. It’s truly like no other RPG.
Chrono Trigger - 01
Creating a Top 100 RPGs list was quite the challenge, but placing Chrono Trigger at the very top of it was surprisingly easy. Over 20 years after Square's epoch-making epic launched on the SNES, we’re still gobsmacked by its originality and ingenuity. The seamless transition between the world map full of visible, avoidable enemies and combat was a revelation in a time where most RPGs featured jarring random battles, and even today makes monster encounters a joy instead of a chore. The plucky courage and determination of its adolescent heroes (combined with the memorable art style of Akira Toriyama) makes for instantly memorable characters. And its brilliant introduction of time travel as both a storytelling vessel and gameplay mechanic is proof that story and gameplay don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Couple all this with multiple endings and one of the greatest game soundtracks ever made, and it’s easy to see why Chrono Trigger is our top-ranking RPG of all time.