IGN's Top 100 RPGs of All Time, Part 1

The only thing harder than defining what an RPG is, is creating a 'Best of' list without angering anyone in the process. To prevent some of the inevitable grumbling, IGN's new list contains a full 100 of titles, and outlines the criteria for choosing which games go there. Have a look:

The main elements we examined:
  • Story (Is it compelling, well-written, or uniquely told?)
  • Presentation (Is its sound, music, and/or visual style particularly strong?)
  • Character progression (Is there satisfying decision-making when it comes to building a character, choosing a combat style, or making other decisions in the game world?)
  • Combat (Is it fun? Innovative? Does it ask the player to make interesting choices?)
  • Systems (Is there an interesting dynamic between its various meta systems?)
Because the RPG is a particularly diverse and hard-to-define genre, it was important for us to nail down exactly what qualifies as an “RPG.”

For the purposes of this list, we defined an RPG as a game that includes:
  • Persistent character progression (including player-exposed stats)
  • Combat that is a significant part of the experience
  • Choices and consequences
  • Story
  • Exploration
  • Character building and customization

What we have as a result is a neatly arranged list with some pictures, descriptions, and a 'did you know?' section. The first part of the list contains entries 81-100, with others promised to be released in the coming days. A few examples:

EverQuest - 100

It wasn’t the first MMO, but EverQuest was the first to bring the genre to widespread popularity and become a household name. Featuring a gorgeous open world, populated with fantasy creatures and real-life players alike, it gave gamers an expansive chunk of real estate to explore for days, months, and years on end. And once you reached the level cap, you could roll a new kind of character with a different play style to tide yourself over until the next expansion arrived. The MMO genre eventually evolved and branched off in many directions, leaving EverQuest feeling rooted in the past. But that doesn’t take away from the memories EverQuest created, or the impact it had on the industry.

Wizardry 8 - 99

RPG franchises don’t get much older than Wizardry, a series that kicked off back in 1981. The final game, Wizardry 8, launched 20 years later. It mixes sci-fi trappings with traditional fantasy fare, so you have a smattering of guns and aliens alongside swords and spells. One of the best things about Wizardry 8 is its robust character creation tools. You can choose among 11 different races, ranging from Humans and Elves to Faeries, Mooks, and Hobbits. Layer on a choice of 15 classes, and you end up with a stunning number of combinations to try in your party. Unlike The Elder Scrolls, which offers similar character options, Wizardry 8 lets you customize six party members instead of just one.

Pillars of Eternity - 95

Pillars of Eternity excels on any number of fronts, but its dialog and vocal performances are among its strongest suits. That’s a good thing, too, because one adventure through this Baldur’s Gate-like RPG spans dozens of hours. And many of those hours are spent chatting with a variety of compelling characters. Making things even more interesting is that your dialog options depend on your character’s stats. If you’ve pumped points into Might, for instance, you may be able to get vital information by using aggressive posturing. Then again, it could backfire, leaving you worse off than before. Throw in an deep tactical battle system, and you’re looking at a game that satisfies on multiple levels.

Betrayal at Krondor - 92

Set in the world of the Riftwar novels by Raymond E. Feist, Betrayal at Krondor is a first-person RPG that’s surprisingly open-world for a game of its vintage. You control three adventurers as you make your way through nine chapters of a fantasy story, fighting enemies, picking locks, maintaining degradable gear, and solving riddles to open Moredhel wordlock chests. Combat plays out like a turn-based strategy game, with combatants moving around on a grid to deliver strategic strikes. Make sure you bring your reading glasses, because Krondor is dense with text, which should come as no surprise considering its literary origins.

Final Fantasy - 83

When it comes to influential JRPG franchises, Final Fantasy sits near the very top of the list. Not only did the first game offer one of the most ambitious adventures available on the NES at the time, but it also spawned a series that now comprises dozens of sequels and spinoffs. With its relatively robust class system, its four-character party, and steady injection of new gameplay ideas throughout the adventure, Final Fantasy helped cement a whole host of RPG tropes that would remain for decades to come. Without this game, many of the RPGs on this list would probably be very different games — if they’d even exist at all.