What makes an RPG an RPG? I’ve heard this debated countless times on countless forums for countless games and no one seems to be able to come up with an answer that everyone agrees on. For some it’s the story that’s most important, to others the game play and for some others it’s the ability to customize your character. (And for some its the presence or absence of the words "Final Fantasy" in the title)The one thing I think RPG fans can agree on is that it takes more than just being able to pretend you’re the character your playing as, because if that were the case pretty much every game would have to be called an RPG. To me it takes three things to make a game an RPG. One: the ability to create your character. Two: the ability to gain experience to upgrade (level up) that character. Three: an engrossing story that’s at least a bit non-linear and has some side-quests. Keep in mind this is only my opinion of what makes up an RPG and that every game on this list with the exception of one will fill that criteria. I’ll get into why that one game will stand out when I reach it on the list.

If I made a list of the Top Ten Greatest Vampire games this would be near or at the top. However since it's on this list and considering the competition it's with a heavy heart that I give it the number 10 spot. I love this game, I really do. Ever since I played Vampire: The Masquerade - Redemption I've been hooked on the "World of Darkness". When I first heard about this game I was seven different kinds of excited, and this game didn't disappoint.....much. However the create a character system was a lot less than I expected, each clan gets only one character model. And you can't buy clothes, only a few different kinds of "armor" but at least the "armor" looks different for each clan. But once you get past those (and a few other) minor flaws you find yourself with a really great game. You have dozens of opportunities to make decisions that effect what happens later on in the game and the way the story is written you really feel like a vampire. One of the things that disappointed me though were the endings, the three main ones are basically the same and the other two aren't that fulfilling. It's a shame that this game wasn't more popular because I really would love to see a sequel.

Ah Fable, the "Snakes on a Plane" of video games. It's a shame that this game was so over hyped because it really was a pretty good game. However this game is probably one of the best examples of how over hyping something can make people overlook the positive points of the game and focus only on what it didn't have. I think that if The Lost Chapters had never been released you wouldn't be seeing the name "Fable" on this list. But The Lost Chapters was released, and it added a whole new dimension to the "Little Game that Couldn't". Not only did it add more weapons and armor but it added a whole new story that expended on the original one. Not only that but the second boss battle with Jack of Blades is a thing of beauty and the choice you have to make after the battle was one of the hardest in game choices I ever had to make. I just hope this didn't make me raise my expectations for Fable 2 too much.

I almost never played this game. The first time I ever heard of Jade Empire my mind for some reason thought of Jade Cocoon. As I hated Jade Cocoon and had no desire to play an X-Box version I pretty much ignored this game. One day though I was messing around on GameStop.com and I clicked on it just to see what it was like, if only to make fun of it later. Man am I glad I did. After reading the description I immediately put this on my "must buy" list and I was not disappointed. An RPG set in a world modeled after feudal Japan? How could I not love it. The story was great and the characters were usually interesting. And two of the characters was even voiced by Cam Clarke and John Cleese! The big drawback to this game though was it's similarity to Knights of the Old Republic; the party system, the conversation system and even the "Good and Evil bar" are just a few of the things that seemed to be stolen from KOTOR, in fact at times the similarities were so prevalent that I half expected Carth to run out from behind a tree and start whining about his loser son again. Despite this this game is still really great; with an engrossing story, interesting romance options and one of the coolest bad guys this side of Darth Vader.

At last we come to the only game which doesn't meet my criteria for an RPG. Normally I can't stand "Japanese RPG's", the lack of the create a character function and the fact that you're usually stuck wearing the same crappy outfit for the entire game don't appeal to me at all. However this game (and Final Fantasy 7 and 8) are worth playing no matter your views on Western vs. Japanese RPG's. The story, while starting out as the usual "underage kid must unlock his secret power to save the world" plot, developers into an engrossing and well thought out epic. I won't spoil anything, but the whole concept of "4D beings" was pretty damn clever. Not to mention the massive amount of playable characters and the complete originality of each of them. Every character has moves, weapons and armor that only they can use. And while it eats up a good chunk of your memory card, the battle trophy system will have you playing boss fights over and over again to get the elusive "Defeat boss with no damage" battle trophy and the bragging rights that come with it. This game also puts a whole new twist on item creation. In most games with item creation you can level up your skills and create items that you can either use or sell, but in Star Ocean, you create the items and get them ranked in a (game) world-wide scoreboard. Not only that, but during your travels you can find and recruit various craftsmen to work for you and boost your creation skills.

This game has the most replay value out of any game on this list. But strangely enough 90 percent of it's replay value comes from user created modules. Everyone who has ever played this game knows about the disappointing Main Campaign. Weather it's the constant "search and retrieve" quests, the complete lack of animated cut scenes or just the characters pretty much everyone has something about the Main Campaign that they dislike. The expansion packs however more than make up for this. (Especially "Hordes of the Underdark) But where this game really shines is it's toolset, which allows regular people to create games of their own. And a lot of these games are good, really good. In fact some are so good that Bioware has hired the people that made them. If you have this game sitting on a shelf somewhere collecting dust I beg you to pop it in and give it another try. Just download one module and I guarantee you'll be hooked.

Many people will probably disagree with me putting this so high up on the list but hear me out before you flame me. Despite the limited character creation options, the way too low level cap and the fact that the story really doesn't get interesting for about 3 hours I feel that this game was an overall success. Once you're finally able to get into the story the game really takes off, and the Stronghold was so well done that it could have been a separate game altogether and it would have made money. And while the character creation system may be a bit bland the fact that the NPC's actually comment on your subrace more than makes up for it. Even though I was less than pleased with the ending I still feel that this game was solid enough to shake off the cloud of doom that had been following Obsidian around since KOTOR 2. I also eagerly await the first full length user created module.

Ah, Morrowind, the first real RPG I've ever played. I can honestly say I have no idea where my life would be if it weren't for this game. I'd probably still be wasting all my time with First Person Shooters and Mario Party. The sheer open ended ness of this game amazed the crap out of me and left me with completely unrealistic expectations of what an RPG should be. (Some of which I haven't quite shaken yet) Weather it's working your way up threw the many, many guilds and factions you can join, or gallivanting around as a vampire, this game never stops being fun. And once Bethesda released the Game of the Year Edition, which includes all the expansion packs, the game gets taken to a whole new level. However, frequent freezing and annoying load times do take a lot away from this game. The first time I played Morrowind I lost 3 hours of my game because of freezing. That taught me one of the most important lesson when playing console RPG's, save and save often.

This game took everything that made KOTOR great, and improved on it. A great story, awesome dialogue, deep characters and the new influence system just blew me away. You'll never know when your choices in a conversation will come back to bite you in the ass. Even a seemingly pointless discussion about Darth Revan in the beginning of the game has replications later on. However, this game does have some serious problems which keep it from getting a higher spot. Like the rushed and incomplete endings, and the hours of cut content. But the wonderful folks over at Team Gizka are working hard to restore as much of the cut content as possible, so I fully expect to be playing a fully restored and extremely awesome version of KOTOR 2 within the next year, or "when it's done".

I can still remember when I first heard about Knights of the Old Republic. I had just started to really get into RPG’s and I’ve been a huge Star Wars nut since I was 7 so I immediately began building the game up in my mind. The day before the game finally came out was like the night before Christmas, I couldn’t sleep or think about anything else. By the time I got the game home and put it in my X-Box I was almost shaking with excitement. Let me tell you this game didn’t for a second disappoint me. The character creation was a bit basic but the game more than made up for it with its story and game play. I usually hate turn based combat with a passion but this game actually did it well. I was shocked at how well done the battle system was done, the way you could actually see the characters dueling instead of just Final Fantasy-like attacking was one of the highlights of the game. Especially when you finally got your lightsaber. The story was excellent if a little typical for an RPG and had one if the biggest plot twists I’ve ever encountered in a game. If you've played the game you know what I'm talking about. Being able to choose light or dark side with different endings and choices throughout the game made the replay value very high. The graphics however weren’t the best they could be, and that combined with the few glitches and freezing problems along with a flawed auto-save system kept this from earning the top spot in the list. Even with those problems this game should still be mandatory playing for any Star Wars or RPG fan.

Finally, here it is. Number one, arguably the best RPG ever made by mere mortals. This is the epitome of what an RPG should be. It has extremely in-depth character creation. I spent almost an hour creating and fine tuning my character and when I finally got into the game world I was actually proud as I watched him tear into giant rats and villainous assassins. I suspect I felt much like a father watching his little boy all grown up. Anyway, that wasn’t the only part of this game that blew me away. Like its predecessor it has almost unlimited options of what you want to do when you finally get out into the game world. I didn’t even start the main quest until over a week after I got the game. The guild quests were just as beautifully done as the main quest and in some cases more fun. Also the ways that you join some of the guilds are very unique. For anyone who hasn’t played this game before I wont spoil what you have to do but for most of the guilds you don’t just walk in and ask to join, you have to do certain things to get the guilds to notice you, then they send a representative to recruit you. When I first met Lucien Lachance I actually got goose bumps. Almost everything you do in this game makes you feel as if you have actually gone out and done it, weather its assassinating someone, saving a kingdom of stealing one of the famed Elder Scrolls. The graphics are simply breathtaking and the interactivity of the environment still amazes me. You almost never walk through things that are hanging like lanterns or vines, they move when you run into them and create their own shadows. And come on, how can you go wrong with a game where both Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean do voice work?

Well, that's my list. Remember that this is only my opinion (a word that some people on this site seem a tad unfamiliar with) and you can feel free to disagree with it. That said I hope you will agree with some of it and I hope that you will give at least some of those games you do disagree with another chance.

List by cyhort182 (02/14/2007)

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