RPGs have been prevalent within gaming since the dawn of the medium. They continue to evolve with the passing of time, with elements of the genre often making their way into other types of games.
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The momentum from the genre's explosion in the '90s did not slow down after the new millennium arrived, with many classic RPGs coming out at the turn of the century. The following ten RPGs from the 2000s are not just great games; they broke barriers and did things that would only become the standard years later. Some might say modern games have yet to catch up to these all-time greats.
Updated on November 8, by Jason Wojnar: It is too easy to forget just how groundbreaking some older games were when they first came out. RPGs from 2000 to 2010 often get the short end of the stick. Not only is it difficult to grapple with the lack of modern conveniences the genre has given gamers, but the games are also usually incredibly long, making them not seem worth the effort to play.
This is why lists like this are important to shine a light on important RPGs some younger gamers might have forgotten about. If players are not going to explore these titles themselves, they should at least be aware of them and show these RPGs the respect they deserve.
17/17 The Witcher
CD Projekt Red has had some incredible ups and downs throughout its history as a developer. After the massive success of The Witcher 3, they stumbled big time with the release of Cyberpunk 2077. If gamers are still sour about them, they should perhaps look back to the company's past and try out the first Witcher game.
It is not easy to get into these days after playing the third entry in the franchise, but it showcases an ambition that would be better fulfilled later on in their catalog. Released in 2007, The Witcher introduced moral ambiguity into action RPGs when the choice was still very much between being evil and a paragon of virtue. The gameplay does not hold up, but the story is still top-notch. Fortunately, CD Projekt Red recently announced a remake of the title.
16/17 Valkyria Chronicles
Valkyria Chronicles introduced a unique take on the turn-based strategy genre long before it became more popular. Instead of moving characters around on a grid and having an infinite amount of time to make decisions, players moved freely on the play area for a certain distance.
If players moved in the way of enemy fire, the adversaries would automatically reign bullets on the character. The same goes for enemies walking into the player's team. With games like Mario + Rabbids introducing their own spin on the genre, it makes one wonder if Valkyria Chronicles would be more popular today if it came out ten years later. As it stands now, the series is only for the biggest fans of the niche genre.
15/17 Final Fantasy 10
In an age where players still expected very specific features from a JRPG, Final Fantasy X changed up the formula in a big way. The game features no world map and is surprisingly linear until the endgame where players are free to roam around more freely.
Additionally, traditional levels are replaced by the Sphere Grid which gives the party more freedom on how each character progresses. Anyone skeptical of these changes immediately had their worries put to rest when they started playing.
14/17 Mega Man Legends 2
The first Mega Man Legends made all the big steps, and the sequel is a continuation of the same mechanics. All the same, Mega Man Legends 2 is endlessly impressive for how lively the game world feels on the original PlayStation.
The side quests, dungeons, and story are all things that would only be matched by adventure games in the next generation. It is just a shame its cliffhanger ending has yet to be resolved. Mega Man Legends 3 was announced for the Nintendo 3DS but it was ultimately cancelled.
13/17 Mass Effect
Released in 2007, Mass Effect was one of the more ambitious projects any studio had undertaken. The idea of a trilogy of games where players' decisions echoed throughout sequels was pretty much unheard of at the time. BioWare pulled it off, however.
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The Mass Effect series was in a dark place for a while after the release of Andromeda, but the trilogy's re-release and the upcoming continuation have put it back in fans' good graces. Going back to the original entry reveals some limitations that would be fixed, but it is surprisingly tight for such an old RPG.
12/17 Vagrant Story
Square has always had graphically impressive games, and Vagrant Story represents the technological apex of what the company was able to do with the original PlayStation.
It is a dungeon crawler, opting to focus purely on combat and dungeons rather than shops and towns. With this concentrated design, it was able to do things other action games couldn't, such as including an in-depth weapon and armor crafting system.
11/17 Paper Mario
Fans cannot complain about never receiving a Super Mario RPG 2 if they never played Paper Mario. While not an official sequel, it is the second RPG in which the plumber starred, and it absolutely lives up to the standards of the SNES Super Mario RPG.
The writing in particular deserves praise, especially since few games had witty dialogue and humor back in 2001 (2000 in Japan). TheThousand-Year Door for the GameCube is a similarly beloved Paper Mario title.
10/17 Deus Ex
The immersion present in this cyberpunk opus was unprecedented back in 2000. Every level was an intricately detailed sandbox where players could approach a situation in any variety of ways depending on their imagination and the character's abilities.
Directed by Warren Spector, it is exactly the evolution one would have expected from the mind who brought gamers Thief and System Shock. Even after a sequel and a reboot, many consider the debut entry the best of the series.
9/17 Knights Of The Old Republic
BioWare had already made a name for itself with the Baldur's Gate franchise and Neverwinter Nights, but Knights of the Old Republic brought this extensive RPG experience to a whole new audience thanks to its existence on consoles and the usage of the Star Wars license. Good Star Wars games already came out, but none were this expansive, making gamers truly feel like they were living in the galaxy far, far away.
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After years of rumors, a remake of this classic RPG is finally confirmed to be in development. Details about it are currently scarce, other than timed console exclusivity on the PS5. For those interested in the original, they can play the port for Ios and the Nintendo Switch.
8/17 World Of Warcraft
MMOs were pretty niche in the 90s and hard to access. With the increased ubiquity and accessibility of the Internet, it was only a matter of time before World of Warcraft came along and swept up a large chunk of gaming culture along with it.
One could not go to a gaming website or open up a magazine without reading something new about the game in the first several years of its release. Sixteen years later and the MMO is still a titan among the now-crowded genre.
7/17 Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
Some games are too ambitious for their own health. Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines is brimming with innovative ideas, but without fan patches, the game barely works.
This is the price one pays for trying such an ambitious 3D RPG in 2004. The character players create and their actions affect multiple aspects of the world. Hopefully, the sequel can create the same experience, only with fewer technical issues.
6/17 EVE Online
First released in 2003, EVE Online is an MMO unlike any other. Instead of using multiple servers, the game essentially takes place in a single, persistent world where gamers affect the environment and economy more heavily than almost any other game in existence.
This also means griefing is more acceptable in the cosmos. It is difficult to imagine any other game ever coming close to a similar level of depth.
Fable is definitely not the first game to include a morality system, but it still did it long before every RPG was including them in some form.
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The Xbox RPG is surprisingly brief for the genre, but the multiple ways to approach every quest and the way the main character changes depending on how virtuous or vicious the player makes several play-throughs almost mandatory in order to see everything it has to offer.
4/17 Final Fantasy 11
Two years before World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XI broke ground by not only being the first MMORPG in the franchise, but also the first to include cross-platform play. PlayStation 2 players could interact with PC players on the same server.
By today's standards, it is extremely hard to get into, but it managed to be extremely popular in its day. While still playable on PC, most have moved on to Final Fantasy XIV.
3/17 Diablo 2
The dungeon crawler series from Blizzard removes most of the superfluous story and boils the genre down to combat and loot collection. Not only was it endlessly entertaining, but the game saw regular updates for years, making the long wait for Diablo III more tolerable.
Other dungeon crawlers like Borderlands would follow a similar structure. Currently, a fourth game in the franchise is in the works, though no one can tell when Diablo IV will come out. While waiting for the fourth game, there is always the remake of Diablo II players can sink their teeth into.
The recent acquisition of Bethesda by Microsoft was extremely surprising, but it made more sense upon deeper thought. After all, Microsoft helped bring Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind to the original Xbox.
At the time, such a grand RPG on a console was nearly unheard of, and the game itself brings the Xbox to its knees. Now, few RPGs are PC exclusives, and Morrowind helped make this a reality.
1/17 Demon's Souls
The game that put FromSoftware on the map and made Hidetaka Miyazaki a household name among gamers, Demon's Souls introduced numerous innovative ideas into modern games. The extreme difficulty and ambiguity came at a time when many big-budget games were becoming easier and more forgiving. While it certainly has its quirks and future games from the studio improved upon the style, the foundation laid by Demon's Souls is still solid, as evidenced by the recent remake by Bluepoint Games on the PlayStation 5.
Bluepoint Games, the developer of the remake, was recently purchased by Sony and is working on an original game. While this might mean no new quality remakes in the future, plenty of people are excited to see what the studio can do with an original idea.
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