First, for the purpose of this feature, we’re defining “modern” as any game released within the past 10 to 15 years – basically since the start of the PS3 and Xbox 360 era of consoles.Second, because RPG is such a broad genre, we did our best to try and keep this list to games that are purely – or, at least, mostly pure –RPGs; that is, games with a heavy focus on decision-making and story elements coupled with statistical progression. Meaning, if a game could be better described as being a genre other than RPG, we left it off the list – that’s why you won’t see games like X-Com or Fire Emblem, which are better described as tactics games, or any of the FromSoftware Soulsborne games, because… well… yeah, they’re basically their own genre at this point.
Check out the video above or click through the gallery below/scroll down for the full list!
The Best Modern RPGs
And with that said, let’s kick this list of off with:
10. Dragon Quest 11 S: Echoes of an Elusive Age
Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age harkens back to a time when JRPGs reigned supreme. Its colorful cast of characters, combined with the blend of overworld exploration and turn-based combat weave together into a warm, fuzzy blanket that captivates and comforts as you trek through this 80+ hour game.
It is the purest distillation of classic JRPGs – battles are streamlined enough to feel quick and satisfying, while still providing a real challenge, especially later on. For many, Dragon Quest has always been good “comfort food” gaming. Even 30 years later, it remains as such, bringing new fans with quite possibly the finest game in the franchise.
9. Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen
Dragon’s Dogma and its excellent expansion, Dark Arisen, is a very special – and often overlooked – RPG for a number of reasons. For one, it’s an excellent combination of exciting, action-centric combat and extraordinarily deep RPG mechanics.It’s many different classes offer an absurd level of variation when it comes to how you actually play the game, with melee classes feeling like they’re in an action game, ranged vocations feeling almost like a third person shooter, and magic-based classes feeling like they’re playing a game of “oh my god don’t touch me, don’t touch, don’t touch me, okay now you’re dead.” It may be built off the massive open world RPG foundation of games like The Elder Scrolls and The Witcher, but there’s still nothing quite like Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen.
Read our Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen review
8. Dragon Age: Origins
Dragon Age: Origins is a generation-defining RPG, dense with satisfying player-choices, great world-building, challenging battles, and memorable characters.
Creating a new character allowed you to select one of several unique origins that introduces players to the world of Thedas through the lens of race and class. Which helped in keeping the adventure personal and grounded and paved the way for your eventual membership in an elite council of warriors known as the Grey Wardens and set the stage for one of BioWare’s most beloved franchises ever.
Read our Dragon Age: Origins review
7. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an awe-inspiring journey where its classic fantasy world is your plaything. What its main story quest may lack in nuance, it more than makes up for with its invitation to go anywhere and do anything. Set out in any direction to explore a vast kingdom filled with people going about their daily lives, warring factions vying for control of an empire, and dangerous wildlife that ranges from wild dogs to imposing giants and monstrous dragons.
You’ll find no shortage of stellar side quests that allow you to become a vampire or werewolf, join the legendary Dark Brotherhood, and countless other unexpected opportunities as you level up and unlock satisfyingly powerful spells and Dragon Shouts. It’s one of the largest, most detailed RPG worlds out there, one that’s itching to have every inch explored, whether for the first time or the fifth.
Read our The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim review
6. Disco Elysium
Disco Elysium is grounded in the ancient pillars of RPGs, taking the dice-rolls and depth in dialogue of tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons, but implementing them in completely modern ways.It’s a unique blend of noir-detective fiction, traditional pen-and-paper games, and a big helping of existentialist theory that plays unlike anything else in the genre, really. A twisting plot, cast of memorable characters, and massive depth of choice all combine to create an experience that begs to be savoured as one of the finest – and most creative – RPGs of any era.
Read our Disco Elysium review
5. Persona 5 Royal
Persona 5 Royal, the deluxe edition of the already-fantastic Persona 5, proves that the latest entry in Atlus’ JRPG series is still one of the best around. Persona 5 already introduced an instantly memorable ensemble cast, exceptional turn-based combat, and a wild, epic story told with heart. Royal, somehow, manages to not just add new, great content to that story, but also improves upon some of the less-excellent aspects that made the original a bit of a slog. Dripping with style, backed by a real earworm of a soundtrack, and top-of-its-genre gameplay, Persona 5 Royal earns its place among some of the best RPGs of all time.
Read our Persona 5 Royal review
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is basically the best D&D video game we never got. Not only does it have a sprawling fantasy world to lose hundreds of hours in, but, perhaps most importantly, it encourages players to think creatively like few other games – and this is entirely by design. It’s liberating to play a huge RPG that rewards “cheating” the system, and encountering NPCs and opponents that acknowledge and react to it.
You have the freedom to steal, kill, or persuade your way through its campaign as one of several pre-made characters with unique storylines, or create your own, and can even have a friend (or three) join you for your entire adventure. Whether playing on an easy or hard difficulty setting, as an Elf Ranger or an Undead Conjurer, as a helpful adventurer or a murderous thief, DOS2 is an amazing fantasy world to get lost in no matter what.
Read our Divinity: Original Sin 2 review
3. Mass Effect 2
The Mass Effect series consists of three of the best sci-fi RPGs of all time, but even among those, Mass Effect 2 stands out. The franchise was built on the lofty promise of having your choices really matter – not in just some small, superficial way relevant only to that moment, but in a hugely impactful way that can affect the entire universe of the game. And while Mass Effect 3 may have dropped that ball on the ultimate payoff for some of those choices, the set ups that Mass Effect 2 offered, and the consequences of our actions in the first game absolutely delivered. It was no slouch in the gameplay department either, with a dramatically improved combat system that struck a good balance between tactical decision-making, and action-oriented third-person shooter mechanics. Add on to that the game’s unparalleled atmosphere, excellent cinematic direction, and some of the most memorable characters in gaming, and you’ve got one of the best modern RPGs of all time.
Read our Mass Effect 2 review
2. Fallout New Vegas
With its distinctive Old West-ey approach to the post-nuclear wasteland, game-changing decisions, and flexible ways to complete its quests, Fallout: New Vegas carved out a spot as not just the best game in the Fallout series, but as one of the best RPGs ever made.
Obsidian took the openness and flexibility of Bethesda’s Fallout 3 to a new level, with more dark humor, memorable characters, and interesting stat-dependant dialogue options that make each playthrough feel tailored to your character’s specific strengths and weaknesses. And the fact that you, a nameless nobody courier, can rise up from nothing and become the person who decides the fate of an entire region, gives you a real sense of control and power.
Read our Fallout New Vegas review
1. The Witcher 3
The Witcher 3 is a game with deep lore and world-building that you discover through action and exploration rather than through exposition. It’s a game where your choices actually matter, one that will leave you thinking about its characters and their stories well after you’ve finished the game and moved on. Where you can get lost for hundreds of hours and still not see everything there is to see – and that’s just in the base game.
Great Witcher 3 Mods For Returning Players
Its two DLC expansions are both bigger and more polished than many full games. Even the Gwent minigame stands as one of the best games-within-a-game of all time. The Witcher 3 might just be the best open-world RPG that we’ve seen in modern times, and it’s definitely our favorite – one that’s not likely to be surpassed anytime soon … at least until Cyberpunk 2077 is released.
Read our The Witcher 3 review
And those are our picks! What are some of your favorite modern RPGs? Let us know in the comments, and for more top 10 videos, make sure to check out our list of the best PlayStation 2 games of all time, or our favorite action games.