David is an avid gamer across multiple platforms such as consoles, handhelds, mobile phones, and PC.
Which ARPG Should You Pick?
There are so many Action Role-Playing Games (ARPG) that it can be hard to choose which one to play. The list below narrows down the top five ARPG games out there. Each offers something different so that you won't ever find yourself bored. While some ARPG games can be found on console systems, they play best on a PC. So stick with these PC games if you want a good ARPG to play.
1. Diablo II
- Released: 06/29/00
- Developed By: Blizzard North
- Published By: Blizzard Entertainment
- Metascore: Holds a 88% metascore on Metacritic.
All About Diablo II
There is a reason why so many games are referred to as a "Diablo clone." That's because Diablo practically invented the ARPG. While there have been a few Diablo games, the second one is considered the best. Here's why:
- Great gameplay. There are multiple classes that are vastly different, but work well together. There is flexibility in how you play each class, however. As you progress through each difficulty, you need to pick the best abilities in order to survive.
- The plethora of items. Never in any other game will you see so many random items drop with the most random of stats ever. Something that has totally different stats than what you are wearing could end up being the upgrade you were looking for. You will keep coming back for more.
- The secret cow level. If you are after loot, and a good time, then this is the place. One of the hardest fights you will have is against cows in the secret cow level. While it's been replicated in Diablo III, this level is considered to be a classic.
- The story could be better. Like most ARPG games, the story is just there to make you want to continue playing. It won't be remembered for the story, just for the gameplay.
- The expansion made the game even better. While some expansions don't add a lot, the expansion of this game did. Two new classes, another act, and a bunch more items can be had. If you buy the original, you have to get the expansion as well.
- It's the best of the three Diablo games. The first game is good, and can be fun to play, but it isn't quite like Diablo II. Diablo III tried too much to be like Diablo II, and while it is fun, the auction house and connection issues ruined it for a lot of people. Diablo III has improved, but it still doesn't rival Diablo II.
- Areas are randomized. For the most part, you won't play in the same area twice. You may come across some similar-looking areas, but the game does a good job of changing things up.
- The graphics aren't too bad. Compared to Diablo III, the graphics in this game are aged. However, they still don't detract from the game, and in some ways make it feel darker than its successor.
- Has been remastered. Diablo II has been remastered and it's a nice overhaul. In fact, it rivals Diablo III at this point as far as being one of the best modern ARPG games.
This game is a classic, and probably always will be. If you haven't played an ARPG before, I strongly suggest you start with this one. If you aren't sure which Diablo to get, then watch the gameplay video below showing a comparison between all three.
Why It's on This List
I spent a ton of time in this game. I played and enjoyed every class. I played through the acts and difficulties over and over again. To me, this is the pinnacle of the ARPG, so that's why it's on this list.
- Released: 01/31/00
- Developed By: Westwood Studios
- Published By: Electronic Arts
- Metascore: Formerly held a 81% rating on Game Rankings. No metascore on Metacritic.
All About Nox
Nox was released before the famous Diablo II, and is considered to be underrated. However, this was a favorite of mine, and despite its age, it has held up very well over the years. Below is a basic overview of what this APRG is about:
- The story isn't the greatest. Nox shouldn't be played for its story. While there is a story there and it's passable, the game is meant to be played and enjoyed purely via gameplay. It's a typical hero plucked out of his own life to save the world type story. Enjoy it for what it is.
- There are only three classes. The Warrior uses melee weapons to deal damage and uses the most armor. The Wizard has strong spells to use against enemies. The Conjurer summons creatures to aid in his defense. The Wizard tends to be the strongest, with the Warrior as its rival. Unfortunately, some of the pets the Conjurer summons aren't that useful at all.
- Of all of the ARPG's on this list, it has the best line of sight system. The creators of the line of sight system dubbed it "Truesight." This incredible system completely blacks out areas the character can not see from his own eyes. If he passes by a window, he can see somewhat inside that building through the window. Or if a door is cracked open, only a small amount can be seen outside the door. This adds an element to this game that is not found anywhere else and makes it that much more enjoyable.
- There is very little variety in items. This is where the game falters. If you like massive item drops, comparing stats, etc., then you will be disappointed by this game. While there are item drops, there isn't much variety. In some ways, this can be a good thing, as you don't have to worry about searching for constant upgrades for your character.
- Multiplayer is no longer available. One of the best ways to play this game was online with others; either co-op or in PvP. Unfortunately, the servers were taken down some time ago. The only way to play Nox online is through a LAN connection.
- Very linear gameplay. There are no randomly generated maps in this game. Regardless of the game mode, you will always see the same maps. However, the maps are massive and I found myself always missing something despite how many times I played through a level. Fortunately, the game is nice to look at, so you won't mind seeing the same maps multiple times.
Despite how linear it is, and that the item drops are something to be desired, I definitely recommend this game if you are looking for something casual and different to play. The game has aged very well and still has quite the following.
Why It's on This List
I really enjoyed the story (despite how thin it was) and the PvP combat when it was still at its height. What really struck me was the line of sight system. Not knowing what was around the corner, slowly creaking a door open. No ARPG has been able to reproduce that.
3. Torchlight II
- Released: 09/20/12
- Developed By: Runic Games
- Published By: Perfect World, Runic Games, Steam
- Metascore: Holds a 88% metascore on Metacritic.
All About Torchlight II
Torchlight II is the sequel to the game Torchlight, which was a direct competitor of Diablo. It is considered to be just as good, and in some ways, better. This could be the closest to Diablo that you could get. Here is what this game is all about:
- The plot is all filler. The plot isn't that deep or interesting. Like other ARPGs, the goal is to kill monsters and get loot. Don't buy this game if you want a story.
- Loot is just as epic as that in Diablo. Loot with random stats and combinations are just as plentiful as they are in Diablo. You will consistently get upgrades, and with the enchanting and gem system, you can turn an average item into a great item. There are lots of ways to get items in this game.
- A lot of variety in how you can play the classes. I took my Embermage and made him just use wands while causing all sorts of effects. My Engineer used primarily shields to push his way through any situation. There is a lot of ways you can play each class, so you can find your own unique style.
- Randomized dungeons. This game probably does this the best out of any other ARPG games I have played. The areas are incredibly randomized each time you play, so you will never play the same map twice.
- Pet companion. Other games do this, but Torchlight was the first to get it right. Your pet attacks and can take loot back to town to sell. You can even equip your pet with spells to aid you during the fight.
- Sometimes it's too easy. The game can be easy to get through, which is why you have a variety in how it can be played. On harder difficulties, it can be more of a challenge. But you won't die on a boss over and over.
- Graphics are colorful. The game doesn't take itself seriously with the graphics, and that isn't a bad thing. It's colorful, almost cartoony. It won't look like Diablo.
Hands down I would choose Torchlight II over Diablo III. While Diablo III is darker, Torchlight II is much more fun to play. Plus, Torchlight II was much cheaper than Diablo III when it was released. You will log hundreds of hours in this game. I strongly recommend you avoid Torchlight III and subsequent sequels. They are just a bad cash grab.
Why It's on This List
It felt like a much more relaxed ARPG, but had layers to it as well. The fishing, a companion that could change its looks, all of that. I also enjoyed having a character that had the ability to cast random spells with the wand. I love random things happening in games like this.
4. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing
- Released: 02/22/13
- Developed By: NeocoreGames
- Published By: NeocoreGames
- Metascore: Holds a 79% metascore on Metacritic.
All About The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is the newest game on this list. The highlights of this game are:
- It's not based on the movie Van Helsing. This is the first point I am making because a lot of people believe it's based on the movie—it's not. Some people love the movie, some hate it. But it's definitely not based on the movie.
- One of the best game worlds of any ARPG. The dialog between Van Helsing and your ghost partner is funny from beginning to end. The story is interesting and doesn't feel tacked on just so that there is an excuse to play the game. The world looks incredible and the music fits right along with the scenery. This makes the game unique when compared to the other ARPGs on this list.
- The skill system is unique, but limited. There is a large variety of skills to choose from, and ways to affect those skills. You only have two choices on which skills to use as your primary skills, but you can use the function keys to use other skills. Your companion also has skills to choose from. It's also easy to undo spent skill points.
- Variety of ways to play. There is only one class—Van Helsing himself. But there are multiple ways the game can be played. You can be ranged while your companion tanks. Or you can have your companion give you a resistance bonus while you take all of the damage.
- Item drops are average. There is an average amount of item drops, but eventually, the upgrades stop coming. I spent most of my time combining items I wasn't using in an attempt to get an upgrade.
- Limited replayability. The maps are pre-designed and won't change, and once you clear an area you can't go back and fight monsters for more loot and experience. There are multiple difficulties, which help, as well as multiplayer. Plus the developers are adding more content to the game. Just a week after release, high-level dungeons were added so players could farm for gear.
- The challenge is perfect. I found myself dying sometimes, but not too much. I would learn and adjust my tactics, but I wasn't dependent on my gear. Overall the game always felt like a challenge. I actually felt accomplished when I beat the game on the normal setting.
- Multiplayer hasn't gained ground. There are very few people playing online, partially because it doesn't seem necessary to enjoy the game. If you plan to play online, I recommend bringing a friend along with you so you can enjoy the game online without having to wait for a game.
The best part about this game is that it's very cheap, so it's definitely worth the buy. It has a low rating because the UI is a bit clunky and you can't replay previous areas. But the developers are working on that. So you may not play it as long as you would Diablo or Torchlight, but you will enjoy it thoroughly for its story and challenge.
There is also a sequel to this game which is pretty good. It offers more variety with more classes to play. So I recommend that one as well.
Why It's on This List
The banter between the two main characters really sold it for me. I felt like it had a real story, unlike most other ARPGs. I wanted to see what would happen next and I cared about the game world.
5. Path of Exile
- Released: 10/23/13
- Developed By: Grinding Gear Games
- Published By: Grinding Gear Games
- Metascore: Holds a 86% metascore on Metacritic.
All About Path of Exile
Path of Exile wasn't added to this list until June 2018. I felt like a lot of the issues and problems with the game have been resolved, and now it's one of my favorite games.
- It's free. Of all of the games on this list, it's the only one that is and has always been free. You can access all of the content without having to pay a dime. You can hit the max level with max skills without imputing your credit card information.
- There are micro-transactions. There are cosmetic micro-transactions that affect your character's look, pets, portals, etc. There are also storage micro-transactions to store your items. Now it may not seem like that isn't necessary, but it is. There are so many different types of items, and the game is crafted to ensure you have so much you need and want to store it all someplace. So you will buy more storage, guaranteed.
- It's a bit of a scam. When you buy points to use on in-game micro-transactions, it can make it feel like you are spending less than what you are. Want to buy a loot box for 30 points? That doesn't sound bad, until you find out 30 points is $3.00 (US). The last zero is dropped off, so it makes it feel like a deal when it may not be at all.
- Biggest skill system of any game. There are dozens of skills and dozens of ways to customize those skills to do different things. There is a skill tree with hundreds of points to place into it. It's a vast system that takes hundreds of hours to comprehend and master.
- You will fail, a lot. The max level is 100. My first character probably made it up to level 60, then the next higher than that, and so on. I've yet to have one character reach level 100. Some ideas will work, and some won't. While there are ways to refund points on the skill tree, it still is costly with in-game currency. The game is designed for you to have multiple characters and start over a lot.
- A lot of content. There have been so many free expansions that have added so much content. It's hard to take it all in. I'm still finding new stuff that is fun and exciting. There is variety in everything, it's almost overwhelming.
- Fully online. You can play with other players, some of whom will carry you so you don't have to do a thing, or you can play alone. There is a general chat for you to talk to others, and a way to trade items for whatever currency you want.
- Hideouts. This is the one thing that really got me into Path of Exile. A hideout is basically your base. You can decorate it with items you buy in-game or with real money. While you don't have to, you will probably spend a lot of time there unless you stay in some of the more social areas. A lot of trading happens in hideouts as well. There is a video below showing off my first hideout.
- There's a story. One of the best changes was to have ten full acts. At first, the game had only a few acts and difficulties, which repeated those same acts. That's gone now in favor of increasing difficulty in each act. The story isn't bad, but for the most part, you won't go back to play it again until you make another character.
- Lag can be an issue. One of the big reasons I quit Path of Exile in the past was the lag. For the most part that is a thing of the past. I still hit bits of lag here or there, but nothing near as bad as it used to be.
The best part about this game to me is "theory-crafting," which means trying to plan out a character that you would like to play. This involves planning skills, gear, and so on. I've spent hours theory-crafting my character, only to watch it fail. The best part is going back and trying to craft a better character from the ashes of the old one.
Why It's on This List
It's one of the few video games I have sunk over 1,500 hours in. That's really good for me since I switch games a lot. While I may take a break sometimes, I always go back to sink even more time into the game.
There is one honorable mention:
This game isn't known for its story, but the game is great with a huge variety of items, great graphics, and solid gameplay. However, it's easy to make a bad character to the point where you need to start over.
Why It's Not in the Top Five: It would never hook me enough to make me want to keep going. While there was a huge variety of items, I would hold on to an item so I could keep its on-hit effect or for one stat. The other downside was that stats played a huge role in what a player could wear, so I would find a great upgrade only to find I couldn't wear it.
Removed From This List
There is one game that I removed from this list completely:
I think this game is still a good game, but it's showing its age (graphics, gameplay, etc.). I like to go back and play old games, but I have trouble trying to play this game. If you never played it and always wanted to try a group-based action RPG, then give it a go. It's really cheap and available on Steam.
© 2013 David Livermore
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on August 20, 2020:
The list is in no particular order, so I tend to shift it around in my own head as I bounce between games.
PoE is a great game, but I'm unsure if it deserve the top spot. It's really bloated right now with content. Content is good, but it's almost becoming too much. Plus some of the content ends up being no good, such as Harvest. Though I admit I probably spent more time in PoE than any other game I have played.
Henryetha on August 19, 2020:
"It's a bit of a scam" Seriously? Converting ingame currency/points to real money and vice versa should be selfunderstood.. you can't blame the game for that.
I see why not everyone would agree with PoE being on #1. But #5 is ridiculous. There is simply not any other arpg that is so much in depth like PoE.
I am not a fan of Diablo 3, but I still think it deserves a place in the top 5, as it is very easy-going and suitable for just everyone. Besides its sounds and graphics are high quality and it is one with the better stories.
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a pretty bad game compaired with others. If you like Vampire Hunters, then I'd rather recommend Victor Vran. Its story is much more entertaining and about the gameplay, it's not really that special in van helsing.
I havent played Nox. But seeing you put it on #2 I will sure take a look on it and probably try it.
As others said, Grim Dawn is a great game. If you havent done so yet, you should give it a try. It deserves to be under the top 5.
My personal top 5:
1. Path of Exile
2. Grim Dawn
3. Victor Vran
4. Torchlight II
5. Diablo III
I havent included D2, simply because when I started playing Arpgs, D3 was alread yout and I never tried it (I still plan to, tho!)
Worth mentioning might also be Titan Quest.
Dexter on June 16, 2020:
Diablo 3 is the best IMO. Its easy to play, not too complicated, the graphics is polished, the action is the best in the genre. Diablo 2 is 2nd placer, but the only constrain was it has no real endgame. 3rd and 4th placer is Grim Dawn and PoE, but it feels like an acquired taste, it took me some time to like it eventho im a fan of ARPGs, it somehow gives me a bad aftertaste when i started playing it so i get back playing D3 to flush that taste
Stosky on July 20, 2019:
Grim dawn hands down bruv
Linkg on December 11, 2018:
Khyra on November 06, 2018:
Dungeon Siege !
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on November 03, 2018:
Care to explain why?
Nyfaria on November 02, 2018:
the sheer fact that diablo 3 isnt on this list is pure bullshit
MammothChomper on July 25, 2018:
LOVE me some Grim Dawn. The lore is great, the factions that fight in game, You don't just have one bbg, but two factional bbgs. I also love the challenge of making a good build. It takes some time and forethought.
Bill Sir on March 26, 2018:
1. Diablo 2
2. Grim Dawn
3. Diablo 1
Grim Dawn is a masterpiece.
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on March 15, 2018:
And why is that funny?
Sss on March 15, 2018:
Diablo, really? LOL
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on March 13, 2018:
Please keep it civil. You can disagree but this isn't a forum to call other people names.
Sarge on March 13, 2018:
I've been playing Path of Exile since closed beta and you are talking utter rubbish.
DyeDye on March 06, 2018:
I like the game a lot, its my favorite. But I eventually got tired of them making fun of me. I hope with this new league there will be no more funny deaths.
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on February 28, 2018:
I personally haven't had that happened, but the game has had some bug/lag issues which made it frustrating to play, especially when you die because of it.
DyeDye on February 28, 2018:
Path of Exile is an unethical game where you can be banned or killed by the devs server-side just because they do not like you, your opinions, your character name, religion, race, language, country and so on. The economy is not stable, the devs themselves scan your accounts for items and sell currency to RMT sites then ban whoever purchases from them. Get ready for losing your all your gameplay on full HP laggy/buggy/dev instakills. Not recommended at all.
Edit: Forgot to mention the caustic community.
Lufo on February 26, 2018:
Grim dawn my friend
tf on February 11, 2018:
PoE has an extremely steep learning curve, which is the true beauty of the game. I didn't really understand what you meant by "he RNG is a bit off, and the economy can be ridiculous at times." RNG is RNG, it can't be off, it's literally a 'RANDOM number generator'. The economy is super stable and only changed with a big patch introducing new builds and/or during leagues, where the economy is fresh so it takes some time to settle down. PoE is also (purely my opinion) one of the only ARPGs that require a lot of micro control, the bosses actually feel like bosses. Having played 3/5 of the ARPGs on the list, I'm unsure as to how you do not include PoE? Regarding the "If your character isn't going well, you have no choice but to start over"; That's what happens in every game you play. Usually there's a reason e.g you don't have enough resists on your equipment. The process of going through and learning what you've done wrong is evident in not only ARPGs but every game to exist e.g current top games on steam: CS:GO, PUBG, DoTA 2. You lose your matches because you don't understand the mechanics/ equipment available. It's always been an integral part of gaming to "restart" something if you mess up. You also talk about doing a "full respec" - It's completely unnecessary unless you decide to go from a caster to a melee bruiser and so on. The tree curves and intertwines into similar directions and are generally quite easy to redo e.g. I made a huge change from a life character to a pure energy shield character at level 90 and yet it only cost me 42 regret orbs. Now imagine if you had to respec a similar build.
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on September 28, 2017:
But you still need a ton of them in order to do a full respec.
meh on September 28, 2017:
start all over? what about quest-reward respecc points + regrets? economy is one of the most stable and predictable i ever came across.
PoE is THE aRPG only competed by d2
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on June 26, 2017:
For the most part it's worth starting over unless it's a high level character (and if it's high level the skills you pick should be working anyways). But yes, if they do resets or you use a bunch of Orbs of Regret, it can be done.
jeff on June 25, 2017:
Path of Exile " if your character isn't going well, you have no choice but to start over" total lie... the game has a feature to rebuild your skill tree....at a cost
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on February 23, 2017:
Oh I have a ton of hours in PoE, however, that doesn't mean it's considered to be a top ARPG. While it's great, it does have many faults. The RNG is a bit off, and the economy can be ridiculous at times.
zach on February 23, 2017:
you forgot path of exile
David Livermore (author) from Bakersfield, California, United States on February 07, 2014:
A sequel is coming out for Van Helsing, so I suggest picking it up before then. It's a solid game.
Sarah Forester from Australia on February 07, 2014:
Great article covering action RPGs. I voted for Diablo 2 on the poll and definitely agree with what you said about the game.
I'm also a big fan of Torchlight and Dungeon Siege 2, I've never heard of The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing before so that's going to be something I check out soon.