Top ten non-traditional RPGs

Bungie has a long history of high quality titles, so when they announced their newest IP was going to be a first-person RPG, the gaming world started buzzing and still hasn't stopped. RPGs, like every other genre, have evolved in amazing ways in the years since D&D invented the concept, and Bungie's foray into the genre looks to be the next great step for it. While GameSpot works on their review, check out my top non-traditional RPGs that have changed the landscape of the genre.

Rank Game Release Date GameSpot Score Pyreofkol's Score

Final Fantasy

Yes, there were others before this, but Final Fantasy founded video game RPGs as we know them. A combination of a D&D-like class system, the unique aesthetic (that would later become iconic) and the equally iconic soundtrack all came together to spawn this powerhouse franchise.


Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness

Just like Final Fantasy laid the foundation for console RPGs, Ultima opened the door on PCs. The graphics and controls were simple, but the experience was so rich that it spawned 8 more sequels and countless spinoffs.

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Ultima Online

Ah, MMOs. Love 'em or hate 'em, they're here to stay, and they changed the face of the entire industry dramatically. Ultima Online, Ultima's most successful spinoff franchise, is responsible for this craze and the success of MMOs like World of Warcraft and Everquest.


Chrono Trigger

JRPGs are a tired, heavily cliched genre, but once upon a time they were the very best RPGs in the world. Chrono Trigger is the pinnacle of the JRPG. The iconic art, great story, deep combat and numerous endings and secrets add up to one unforgettable experience.


Tales of Phantasia

The Tales series is iconic for its unique combat system. Like with most RPGs of the day, battles were randomly triggered while walking around a dungeon, world map, etc. Rather than the traditional, static turn-based combat normally seen in video game RPGs, Tales of Phantasia put the player in a side-scrolling arena that facilitated fighter-like action combat. Each character had basic attacks, special attacks that could be customized, and your AI teammates could even be customized to fight in different ways. This paved way for great action RPGs such as Kingdom Hearts.


Baldur's Gate

Ultima may have paved the way for role playing games on PCs, but Baldur's Gate created and defined the CRPG as we know it. The unique isometric camera, hybrid turn-based/action combat, and unprecedented ability to customize your party and whole gameplay experience are just a drop in the bucket. Baldur's Gate also boasted the ability to create unique campaigns, cooperative multiplayer and, of course, one of the best uses of the Dungeons & Dragons license in video game history. The icing on the cake is that his game landed top-tier RPG developer BioWare in the spotlight, and laid the foundation for other great D&D RPGs such as Icewind Dale, Planescape Torment and Neverwinter Nights and other great table RPG based games like Shadowrun Returns and the legendary Knights of the Old Republic.


Mass Effect

BioWare's Mass Effect put a decidedly Western spin on action RPGs by adding a visceral, if somewhat clunky, shooter element. When the gunplay worked, it was electrifying, especially when combined with the different powers of the different classes. The excellent sci-fi story didn't hurt either.


The Elder Scrolls: Arena

Many early video game RPGs were first person affairs, but the movement was very restrictive and the pace stopped-dead for turn-based combat encounters. The Elder Scrolls changed all that. An enormous, vibrant open world combined with slick, smooth FPS movement and combat, and the result was the birth of a legendary RPG franchise and an excellent framework to hang an RPG on.

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Fire Emblem

Turn-based strategy games have been around for centuries, going all the way back to the classic gentleman's game of chess. TBS titles have been a staple of the gaming genre, particularly in the world of PC gaming, and were given a new level of depth thanks to Nintendos' Fire Emblem franchise. The grid-based map and tactical placement of units was combined with the ability to level up those units, as well as change their classes and build up a number of different stats. Fire Emblem was the inspiration for great franchises like Shining Force, Ogre Tactics, Final Fantasy Tactics and many others.



I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Diablo in a list like this. Diablo utilized the isometric camera unique to CRPGs of the day but, rather than using a strategic, turn-based style like Baldur's Gate or the original Fallout games, Diablo was an action game. The action element was refreshing, but the game's true shining point was its loot system. Not only were there thousands of items with endless combinations of abilities, but Diablo also had systems for crafting and augmenting gear. This, combined with great co-op, makes this one of the most addictive RPGs ever made, and the inspiration for great cooperative loot fests such as the excellent Borderlands series.