ARPGs are some of the most beloved games in the industry. They made video game battles much more exciting by forcing us to input commands that directly resulted in damaging an opponent. Such a format made action a lot more immediate and paved the way for more violent games, such as hack-n-slash adventures like Ninja Gaiden and Devil May Cry. It also brought video games to a much wider audience as they presented bigger worlds and gameplay that was more accessible.
10. Wonder Boy
- System: Arcade, Master System, Sega Genesis, PC, NS, PS4, XONE
- Publisher: Sega
- Developer: Westone Bit Entertainment
- Release Dates: 1986-2017
This is an older game that some of you younger readers might not be aware of. If you haven’t heard of it, then you definitely owe it to yourself to pick up the recent remakes that are available on the current consoles and PC. Anyways, the Wonder Boy series follows the adventures of Wonder Boy as he consistently travels across the land in order to save Wonder Land.
Wonder Boy helped set the stage for ARPGs. Though it must be admitted that the original game was actually a side-scrolling platformer, basically every other entry in the series focused on more RPG elements. In fact, the game really pushed the Metroidvania style of play, where you would unlock certain items later in the game that would allow you to access areas that were blocked off earlier in the game. Its focus on such gameplay and its critical praise paved the way for games to follow suit and expand.
9. Star Ocean
- System: Super Famicon, PSP, PS, PS2, PS3, PS4
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: tri-Ace
- Release Dates: 1996-2016
The Star Ocean series has constantly brought us into a massive world where we must travel the galaxy and interact with a bunch of unique races to complete our mission. Though each game shares a world that expands past the stars, each story is quite unique. From the hope of reuniting a family in Star Ocean: Till the End of Time to navigating the first interactions of an undeveloped planet with an alien race in Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness; the narrative is always a strong point of a Star Ocean game.
The Star Ocean series is one of the longest-running ARPGs out there and for good reason. The video game has always been at the forefront of combining a strong narrative, unique gameplay, and customization. Even in the earlier installments of this series, players had the option to choose their characters’ clothes, which many other RPGs at the time did not feature. That is a nice touch, but the real reason why this game has thrived for so long is that its gameplay is challenging and that each character you can play with is extremely likeable.
- System: PC, Sega Mega Drive, Sega Saturn,Famicom, NES,Nintendo DS,Windows, PS2, PSP, SNES, PlayStation Vita, PS4
- Publisher: Nihon Falcom
- Developer: Nihon Falcom
- Release Dates: 1987-2016
Falcom was at the top of its game in the 80s. That company produced some of the most genre defining video games in history and Ys is part of the reason why the company Nihon Falcom will never be forgotten. Ys follows the adventures of Adol Christin across several regions as we try to preserve humanity from demonic forces.
There are a few things to note about the ARPG series that is known as Ys. First off, if you are looking for a series that has incredible soundtracks from start to finish, then look no further. The music in Ys is dynamic and powerful in setting the mood and tone for the games. The second is that the earlier gameplay features some of the most accessible combat mechanics in any ARPG series. In fact, the first game merely had you run into your enemy and Adol would automatically attack. Finally, the series has one of the most intricate and complex stories out there with a lot of individual stories intertwining and thickening the plot.
- System: PC, iOS, PS2, PS3, PS4, Xbox, Xbox 360, XONE,
- Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
- Developer: Interplay Entertainment, Black Isle Studios, Micro Forte, Bethesda Game Studios, Obsidian Entertainment
- Release Dates: 1997-2015
The Fallout series has become one of the most popular series in the gaming industry. A large reason for this is the nuclear fallout setting that presents us with an open playground of sorts. Yes the world is dangerous, but it is also practically empty, which gives the aspect of exploration a unique feeling. However, it must be admitted that the video game took a drastic turn in its life. The earlier versions of the series were much more based on tactics, and then when Bethesda took over and brought us Fallout 3 in 2008, the series took a much more action-oriented direction.
Fallout 3 to Fallout 5 all presented a desolate world that we needed to fight our way through. To some these games might be more simply adventure games, but that would discredit two extremely important aspects of the game. The first is that you can easily put yourself into more dangerous situations and cause conflict and action to rise at the beginning. The second aspect is that by the end, you can literally become so overpowered that you can set up these absurd situations where everything starts to blow up.
6. Monster Hunter
- System: PC, PS2, PS3, PS4, PSP, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360, XONE, 3DS, NS
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Capcom
- Running: 2004-2017
The Monster Hunter series hasn’t been around for the longest, but it is exceptional. It powerfully combines exploration, community, and action as you romp through a massive world full of massive beasts. Its premise is simple, you are a hunter and the world is full of monsters. It’s your job, really your desire, to go out into the world, slay monsters, and create even more powerful equipment for yourself.
With Monster Hunter World coming out in a short bit, it is hard not to get hyped for the upcoming game. It is finally making its way onto larger consoles and the pool of players getting into the fray will be bigger than ever. Not only the players, but the world and monsters are also going to be larger than life. If you have played any of the past installments, then you know how addicting the game can get with its simple format. The battle mechanics have always been solid and the community-oriented gameplay pushes the enjoyment.
5. Elder Scrolls
- System: PC, Xbox, Xbox 360, XONE, PS3, PS4, NS
- Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
- Developer: Bethesda Softworks
- Release Dates: 1994-2017
Elder Scrolls acts as the epitome of the action/fantasy genre. Each addition to the series brings us into a bigger world where there is an endless amount of conflict that must be handled. Each installment presents us with a wider array of choices to really create our own story in a world that is filled with lore and adventure. From the first of the series to the latest game, Elder Scrolls has proven itself as one of the top 10 ARPG series out there.
Though exploration and adventure play a large role in Elder Scrolls, it cannot be denied that a large part of the fun is running around and causing havoc. Whether by becoming a criminal in town or facing off against hordes of beasts outside, you can easily find yourself swamped by enemies. Things can get quite dicey if you are not careful, but that is what let’s this type of game become so addicting and fun. Rare will be the moment that you won’t enjoy the game when it becomes a massive hack-n-slash mosh pit of bodies.
4. God of War
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- Developer: Ready at Dawn, SCE Santa Monica Studio
- Release Dates: 2005-2013
God of War is the youngest ARPG series on this list, but it would be quite a disgrace to not have God of War on a list about action games. If you are unfamiliar with the series, it follows the chaotic adventure of Kratos, as he takes on the Greek pantheon. In the first game, he’s mainly after Ares, because Ares drove him insane with bloodlust to the point that he murdered his wife and daughter. It’s through the events of the first game that Kratos becomes the God of War, and then the next two series are basically the gods trying to take him out and him destroying them.
In terms of action, this game outdoes the rest on the list. It is a gory game that borders on hack-n-slash as you literally tear through the enemies before you. However, there are enough puzzles and exploration involved to put it into the category of ARPG. To be quite frank, despite the absurd amount of gore, the story is actually good and worth a playthrough. Also, the series is clearly going to be around for a while longer if the gorgeous peeks at the upcoming game are any indicator of what the future of this series will be.
3. Dragon Slayer
- System: PC, NES, Game Boy, PS, Sega Saturn, Dreamcast
- Publisher: Nihon Falcom, Square, Hudson Soft, Nintendo, Sierra On-Line
- Developer: Nihon Falcom, Hudson Soft
- Release Dates: 1984-2005
A list about ARPGs cannot be complete without Dragon Slayer on that list. The original Dragon Slayer was the first video game to be graced with the title of an ARPG and its predecessor followed closely in its footsteps in terms of gameplay. Though the other installments are definitely great games, the gameplay varies from platform adventure to turn-based strategy to real-time strategy.
Nonetheless, Dragon Slayer is the game that led the way for games like Legend of Zelda and God of War. It showed the world what games could be like when abandoning turn-based combat. It proved how enjoyable it was to run around in real time and hack at your opponent’s health. It also provided puzzles interspersed throughout to give your brain a little work out between the mindless killing. This type of formula has proven itself invaluable to countless video games.
- System: PC, PS, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, XONE
- Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
- Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
- Release Dates: 1996-2014
The Diablo series brings us into a world where the ultimate evil is constantly trying to overrun mankind with the forces of hell. The first game had us take on Diablo face-to-face. The second has us preventing Diablo from uniting with other Prime Evils. The third has us trying to make sure that the heavens don’t fall to the onslaught of demonic forces. Though Diablo tends to be the biggest threat, there are a lot of demons that will put fear into you.
There are few series that can match the legacy of the Diablo series. Even though each installment is powerful, Diablo II is legendary. It is Diablo II that made the series essentially the bar that any other ARPG/hack-n-slash will be compared to. Its story, gameplay, equipment set-up, and enemies are just simply perfect. Learning how to progress through the countless maze-like maps is always enjoyable as you level up and find more powerful weapons and armor.
1. The Legend of Zelda
- System: Game Boy, N64, Gamecube, Wii, Wii U, NS, DS, 3DS
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Nintendo, Capcom, Vanpool, Grezzo
- Release Dates: 1986-2017
Legend of Zelda has taken us into world upon world of adventure as we journey across amazing lands with the Hero of Time: Zelda. JUST KIDDING. It was too hard to resist. Link is our Hero of Time, and Nintendo has done a great job keeping this series alive and strong over the years with many unique premises, wonderful side quests. Admittedly, many here will probably argue that Legend of Zelda is more of an adventure game than an ARPG. It is a fair argument, but to deny it a spot on this list simply because it has large worlds and a lot of exploration interspersed with the action would be a disservice to the series.
Let’s be frank, Legend of Zelda is simply one of the best video game series out there and it captures so many different genres that it is hard to truly categorize. You can explore the world and commit yourself to dozens of side quests to get unique items. Or you can focus on the main mission, taking on monsters and figuring out puzzles. One of the most beautiful aspects of this series is how diverse each game has been over the years, both artistically and play style. Though some games can be grouped together in terms of style (Ocarina of Time with Majora’s Mask; Wind Waker with Spirit Tracks), each game possesses a truly unique story. Overall, it is simply a powerhouse of a series, with the latest game bringing us more of everything we could have wanted in terms of style, battle, exploration, and so on.
Time to give an honorable mention to one epic game that just doesn’t have the legacy as the rest of these games. The Souls series (Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls) is simply one of the best ARPG experiences that you can have in this day and age. This series brought old school difficulty back into the mainstream, and built its legacy off of that difficulty. With that honorable mention given, are there any games that you think should be on this list?