The Best RPGs Of 2019 By Score
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There's something so magical about playing a well-executed RPG. By nature, they demand both your attention and intellect. Alongside engaging mechanics and battle systems, you'll often find some of the medium's most compelling stories. This year offered some phenomenal RPGs that expertly iterated upon the genre's well-established conventions. Others even redefined what the genre could be like and how it can play. No matter where you looked in 2019, there was quality content to be found.
Below you can find a full list of all the RPGs that scored an 8 or above on GameSpot's review scale in 2019 across all platforms. If you think that sounds limiting, you might be surprised by the variety of amazing RPGs that came out.
If you're curious about the games we've highlighted in our annual Best Of awards, be sure to jump over to our Best Of 2019 hub. And while you're there, keep your eyes peeled for our most anticipated games coming in 2020.
80 Days -- 8/10
What is certain is that no matter your objective or playtime, you'll have an adventure worth writing home about. It's the stories you' uncover that makes 80 Days a joy to play. There's a constant sense of wonder in visiting these glorious cities and meeting interesting characters, and I'm eager to jump back in and see what kind of trouble I can get Passepartout into. Phileas Fogg is just going to have to damn well like it. -- Hope Corrigan [Full Review]
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night -- 8/10
It’s that sense of comfort in its own skin that makes Bloodstained such a treat. This isn’t a bold modernization of the genre or a departure from its roots. It is exactly what it set out to be: a return to the style of a bygone era, with a few modern improvements. Its perception was always going to be affected by how well it invoked the feeling of a classic Castlevania game, but Bloodstained does that and better. With more flexible combat and level design that always beckons to check just one more room, Bloodstained shows that a modern Metroidvania can stand alongside its predecessors as an equal. -- Steve Watts [Full Review]
Borderlands 3 -- 8/10
Borderlands 3 has a few stumbling blocks when it comes to bosses, but these fights are overshadowed by the game's rewarding gunplay and over-the-top humor. The game's character-driven narrative acts as a satisfying finale for the loot-shooter franchise, and the new mechanics and features--especially the reworked skill trees and weapon manufacturer effects--give you plenty of agency in how you want to play through it. If you've never been a fan of the franchise, it's unlikely Borderlands 3 does enough things differently to change your mind, as the game best excels at continuing what the series has always done: deliver a humorous tall tale of misfits looting and shooting their way to heroism. -- Jordan Ramee [Full Review]
Cadence of Hyrule -- 8/10
Cadence of Hyrule is a fantastic Zelda game in its own right, even though it adopts the gameplay mechanics of another series. Beyond the aesthetics, it nails the satisfying sense of exploration and increasing power, and it revels in the joy of discovery, as all the best Zelda games do. It's an extremely successful melding of two great game series and an experience that makes you feel eager for Nintendo to do more interesting things with their major licenses. -- James O'Connor [Full Review]
Children of Morta -- 8/10
Children of Morta's fantastic art style and enjoyable storytelling take what would have been an otherwise fun roguelike dungeon-crawler and elevate it a great deal. Taking down enemies and eventually triumphing over bosses is enjoyable, but what kept bringing me back was the connection I felt to the Bergsons, and my sincere desire to help them push back against the Corruption. After all, it's a lot easier dealing with dungeons full of monsters when you have a family to come home to. -- James O'Connor [Full Review]
Sid Meier's Civilization VI: Gathering Storm (Expansion) -- 9/10
Gathering Storm is overall a great expansion, ushering in two significant new systems that work hand in hand to deepen the experience. The embellished diplomatic options extend the range of interactions with other leaders, allowing you to work cooperatively towards common goals or pull the strings to your advantage behind the scenes. While the introduction of climate change delivers new strategic choices whose consequences resonate ever-more-loudly as you advance throughout the eras. It isn't simply more Civ, it's a whole new way to play Civ. -- David Wildgoose [Full Review]
Destiny 2: Shadowkeep (Expansion) -- 8/10
Shadowkeep represents a shift in the fundamentals of Destiny 2, and that has only improved the game. Returning to the moon is full of spooky fun, and while Shadowkeep might not be as huge as Forsaken, it still provides some impressive additions to the world that will take time to fully explore. More meaningful choices in Shadowkeep are pushing me to think beyond just packing my most powerful guns and shooting everything in my path. These are improvements that represent a giant leap forward for Destiny 2. -- Phil Hornshaw [Full Review]
Disco Elysium -- 10/10
Disco Elysium is a mad, sprawling detective story where the real case you've got to crack isn't who killed the man strung up on a tree in the middle of town--though that in itself, replete with dozens of unexpected yet intertwined mysteries and wild excursions into the ridiculous, is engrossing enough to sustain the game. Rather, it’s an investigation of ideas, of the way we think, of power and privilege, and of how all of us are shaped, with varying degrees of autonomy, by the society we find ourselves in. -- David Wildgoose [Full Review]
Available digitally on PC via Steam.
Dragon Quest Builders 2 -- 8/10
Dragon Quest Builders 2 is a great game, combining exploration, sandbox-building, questing, and town-management into a delightful package that will gladly suck up your time and put a big smile on your face. It's the sort of game that you'll intend to play for a little while, only to find that hours have flown by once you manage to actually put it down. Don't dismiss this one when you see big square blocks on the box--you'll be missing out on a very fun twist on an excellent gaming foundation. -- Heidi Kemps [Full Review]
Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers (Expansion) -- 9/10
Some of its changes to the player experience are still causing a little discomfort during this teething phase, but Shadowbringers makes a strong case for itself as the game's most engaging expansion. It's not just the sheer scale and strength of the narrative weaving in years of old lore without cheapening the experience for new players, or the immaculately designed boss fights replete with spectacular music and thematic touches. It's also the implementation of the Trust system and the chance to truly feel the impact of the Warrior of Light's decisions over the past expansions through exploring the stories of your companions. For a story that starts with a laser focus on your character's motivations and misgivings, it tells a tale that ends up being the biggest and the best that Final Fantasy XIV has ever told. Equal parts redemption, vengeance, cruelty, and sassy Elezen, Shadowbringers promises a hell of a lot when you take your first steps into Norvrandt and delivers a truly spectacular finish even if it stumbles a little along the way. -- Ginny Woo [Full Review]
Fire Emblem: Three Houses -- 9/10
When all was said and done, all I could think about was starting another playthrough. I was curious about the mysteries left unsolved, of course, but I also hoped to undo my mistakes. There were characters I didn't talk to enough, students I didn't recruit, and far more effective ways to train my units. A second playthrough treads familiar ground in the beginning, but after learning and growing so much in the first, it feels fresh, too. That speaks to Three Houses' mechanical complexity and depth as well as the connections it fosters with its characters--and whether you're managing inventories or battlefields, it's the kind of game that's hard to put down, even when it's over. -- Kallie Plagge [Full Review]
John Wick Hex -- 8/10
It’s a disappointing thread that ties together the exceptional gameplay, which faithfully captures the feeling of being John Wick in a strategic and pulsating formula. John Wick Hex has turn-based gameplay at a pace you’ve likely not experienced before, and it intricately balances its systems to give you a sense of being an expert hitman while also making it feel earned. It’s a slick and well-oiled game that succeeds in giving you a new, engrossing way to experience John Wick and its signature brand of chaotic action. -- Alessandro Barbosa [Full Review]
Available digitally on PS4, Xbox One, and PC via the Epic Games Store.
Kingdom Hearts III -- 8/10
But the story of Keyblade wars, time-travelling villains, body-hopping also-rans, and world-ending darkness isn't what I'll remember about Kingdom Hearts 3 or the series as a whole. What sticks with me is the exciting battle against elemental titans with Hercules, taking Rapunzel out into the unfamiliar wide world for the first time, snapping selfies with Winnie the Pooh, and going toe to toe with Davy Jones. In 2002, as Sora, I left Destiny Islands to travel across the universe and make new friends. In 2019 I brought old ones home, and I had so much fun doing it. -- Tamoor Hussain [Full Review]
Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story + Bowser Jr.'s Journey -- 8/10
It’s not every day a hero gets a chance to literally walk around in their mortal enemy’s shoes, which is what made Bowser’s Inside Story such a bizarre but wildly unique concept back in 2009. Even though not much has changed since its original DS release, it's still one of the stronger Mario RPGs, and its innovative gimmick remains exciting on 3DS. The setup here is that a mysterious affliction called the Blorps is spreading across the Mushroom Kingdom thanks to Fawful, an obnoxious trickster who's been handing out poisoned mushrooms. Naturally, Mario and Luigi are on the job, but after Bowser gets suckered into eating one of the mushrooms, he ends up with a surprising side effect: accidentally swallowing everything in his current field of vision, including the Mario Brothers. As Fawful makes a play to take over the kingdom, Bowser heads out to get some fiery payback with some unexpected help from the Mario Bros. -- Justin Clark [Full Review]
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order -- 8/10
More so than its predecessors, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order excels because of its character diversity and the ways its disparate heroes work together. For this reason alone it's an ideal co-op game, whether you're playing with another friend in the same room or with three friends online, but the AI more than holds its own if you're playing alone, too. It falters in places, but there's still nothing quite like the Ultimate Alliance series, and this long-awaited third entry makes it a triumphant return for a superhero brawler that feels more relevant than ever. -- Richard Wakeling [Full Review]
Monster Hunter: World - Iceborne (Expansion) -- 9/10
This expansion is rife with moments like that; all of the tweaking and the improvements feel like they were done with the excellent building blocks of Monster Hunter World in mind, which means that getting to the meat of the matter is quicker and more satisfying than ever. There’s no more fussing about with new systems or worrying about ruffling the feathers of hardcore fans with a direction change in the series; those teething problems have already come and gone. Iceborne is a confident step into the future of the franchise, and it's hard not to think about what might come next. -- Ginny Woo [Full Review]
Operencia: The Stolen Sun Review -- 8/10
Operencia tells a wonderful story derived from Central European folklore, mythology, and history, and it does so with unwavering confidence in its makeup. Companion characters are funny, and the banter between them makes for a fun experience that's not without its heartfelt moments. In terms of combat, the strategizing is so engaging that you'll likely end up charging rat warriors headfirst instead of hopelessly attempting to avoid bumping into them. Best of all, though, this world is so stunning that you'll just look at the trees, the water, the rocks--everything. It’s a shame that some of the puzzle solutions are needlessly frustrating and present significant obstacles in getting through the story, but aside from that Operencia provides a truly special experience.
Operencia transports you somewhere far, far away, and once you get there, you'll probably want to stay a while. -- Cian Maher [Full Review]
Available digitally on Xbox One PC via the Epic Games Store.
Overland -- 8/10
All that matters is getting your survivors to the West Coast and making it through seven different biomes filled with an increasingly distressing variety of threats and hardships with whatever tools you can scrounge together. Overland perfectly captures a feeling of being helpless, of only just getting by, and of being afraid to venture too far away from your car into the pitch-black dark of night. Every movement you commit, every action you command, and every item or character you sacrifice for another will be an apprehensive decision. But taking each of those tough steps makes you even more grateful to hear the soft chime of your car's open-door alarm when you make it back, and the rev of the motor when you escape down the highway, relieved to leave another pack of abnormal creatures behind. -- Edmond Tran [Full Review]
Phoenix Point -- 8/10
Phoenix Point has plenty of bold new ideas for the XCOM genre, but not all of them have the same level of shine. It can feel a bit unwieldy at times, a bit less user-friendly than you'd hope. But it's a game that feels more concerned with experimentation than perfection, that's more interested in discovering new paths to take than walking one that's already well-trodden. As a hybrid tactical/strategy game, it's dynamic and deep with the occasionally disorientating misfire along the way. As a contribution to the genre XCOM first defined, it's a well-aimed shot. -- David Wildgoose [Full Review]
Pokemon Sword and Shield -- 9/10
In collecting, battling, and exploring, Sword and Shield cut out the bloat and focus on what makes these pillars of the Pokemon games so captivating in the first place. You're not held back by overly complicated back-end systems or hoops to jump through; from the outset, you can start wandering the Galar region, seeing its new Pokemon, and trying out its new battle strategies with very little in your way. This leaves you free to enjoy what Pokemon is all about, and that makes for an incredibly strong showing for the series' proper debut on Switch. -- Kallie Plagge [Full Review]
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice -- 9/10
The orchestration of intense one-on-one boss encounters that truly test your mettle, and slower-paced stealth sections that let you take on battles at your own pace, is masterful. More so than in previous games, From Software has honed in on the inherent tension found in the challenging nature of its games, and uses it to incredible effect. Sekiro marries the developer's unique brand of gameplay with stealth action to deliver an experience that is as challenging as it is gratifying. -- Tamoor Hussain [Full Review]
Tom Clancy's The Division 2 -- 9/10
The setting of The Division 2 is ripe for potential, and it's a shame the game doesn't use it to say anything. I have absolutely no clue why I'm here, what anyone's motivations are, and I wish I had a strong narrative driver to fuel a purpose behind my endless hunger for progression. This letdown is hard to ignore for the game's initial hours, but the strength of the systems and design that fuel The Division 2 as a game are compelling enough to keep you captivated for dozens more. The range of enemy types continues to keep combat encounters challenging, the equipment I earn and pick up continues to feel different, valuable, and asks me to consider new ways of play. The ravaged environments continue to intrigue, and sometimes they're so stunning I find myself needing to take screenshots before I move on. It might not have much to say, but The Division 2 is a perpetual cycle of tension, relief, and reward that's difficult to stay away from. -- Edmond Tran [Full Review]
The Outer Worlds -- 9/10
I finished The Outer Worlds wanting more, eager to jump back into the world to see extra things. It's not a short game, but it's one packed with such a steady stream of wonderful characters to meet, interesting places to explore, and meaningful, multi-layered quests to solve, that it didn't feel like there was any room to get tired of it. I wanted to rewind the clock and do everything in a completely different way. The Outer Worlds is consistently compelling throughout, and it's a superb example of how to promote traditional RPG sensibilities in a sharp, modern experience. -- Edmond Tran [Full Review]
The Surge 2 -- 8/10
Story and sidequests aside, however, The Surge 2 is absolutely worth the effort when the combat is taken in isolation. Not only does it pack a punch, but it also channels plenty of depth in its limb targeting and deflection systems, and is ably supported by a genuinely varied collection of weapons and potential character builds. -- David Wildgoose [Full Review]
The Witcher III: Wild Hunt (Switch Port) -- 9/10
Although the Nintendo Switch might not be the best platform to play The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, it's still a fantastic experience that shouldn't be missed. If you are looking to replay The Witcher 3 and bask in its detail and beauty, the Switch port may not quite scratch that itch. However, what makes this game excellent isn't its graphics, but the powerful stories it tells, and those are as vivid as ever on Switch. -- Jake Dekker [Full Review]
They Are Billions Review -- 8/10
At its best, though, in both the original survival mode, across the bulk of the campaign and in the one-off challenge of the week maps, They Are Billions remains a tight and compelling strategy game. The knowledge that you're always just one misstep away from disaster creates a gripping, tense atmosphere that's unusual for the genre. And the cycle from defense to offense and back again as you progress from one wave to the next offers both well-paced urgency and the ability to set clear short-term goals. It's a smartly designed game at its core, despite the distractions. Just like a lone zombie can bring about your demise, sometimes one strong idea is enough. -- David Wildgoose [Full Review]
Available digitally on Ps4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam and GOG.
Total War: Three Kingdoms -- 8/10
Three Kingdoms feels like a breath of fresh air. By harkening back to the intricacies of older titles and builds on some of the foundations laid by Thrones of Britannia, it offers a distinctly contemporary and thorough experience. This is the most ambitious that Total War has ever been, from the variety of different ways that you can enjoy the game to the sheer scope of the stories that they've weaved around each unique character's playable experience. Three Kingdoms feels like the rightful evolution of the series, pulling from its roots in historical military tactics to come up with an engrossing modern strategy game that is always a delight, even in its less well-oiled moments. -- Ginny Woo [Full Review]
Available digitally on PC via Steam.
Tropico 6 -- 8/10
Even so, you have more than enough tools to control just about everything that happens in Tropico. Failure and success, then, can feel quite a bit like a referendum not just on your policies, but on your rendition of El Presidente. The notion of dictatorship as a role that you play for yucks is still there, if that's a hat you want to wear--though it's harder to indulge your own selfish impulses when you can see how your actions are condemning Lydia the lumberjack to a lifetime of poverty. -- Daniel Starkey [Full Review]
Void Bastards -- 8/10
This delicate balance highlights the assortment of randomized levels, enemy compilations and uniquely designed weaponry that all make Void Bastards an absolute delight. It's wildly entertaining to go from ship to ship and eradicate enemies with constantly shifting strategies, and equally engaging to use your scavenging gains to make yourself feel increasingly powerful. It's a satisfyingly stylish shooter that manages to play as well as, if not better than, it looks. -- Alessandro Barbosa [Full Review]
Available digitally on Xbox One and PC via Steam and the Microsoft Store.
Warframe (2019) -- 8/10
Thinking back to GameSpot's original review, it's interesting how much the game has improved, yet also how much has stayed the same. The game still has issues with repetition and lack of explanations for its more complex systems, but it's managed to overcome their severity by introducing so many events and revisions that continue to elevate it. While there are inevitable bouts of frustration here and there, I always manage to center myself once I move on to other opportunities. In a lot of ways, that's what Warframe manages to do best. One moment you're taking part in a random spy mission on Saturn, and the next, you're partnered up with a powerful squad of players that help you through several void fissures. Just when you feel like you've hit a lull, a better, and more fulfilling opportunity will likely present itself. Perhaps most importantly, Warframe makes sure that the time spent in its world is almost always well rewarded. -- Alessandro Fillari [Full Review]
Available digitally on PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC via Steam.
Wargroove -- 8/10
That's good news, because Wargroove is a delight to play, and the possibility of an endless supply of content for it is a tantalizing prospect. Chucklefish could have offered up a prettied-up take on Advance Wars with online multiplayer and called it a day. Instead, it's made meaningful improvements that make this both a satisfying answer to starved Advance Wars fans' wishes and a genuinely great experience on its own merits. -- Chris Pereira [Full Review]