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Top 30 Best CRPGs Ever

Joseph has always loved computer games, which was a springboard for their ongoing love-hate relationship with computer hardware.

These RPGs all play smoothly on the PC.

These RPGs all play smoothly on the PC.

I don't take much pride in being a lifelong CRPG (Computer Role-Playing Game) 'enthusiast'. It's more of a vice than an addiction that, once you're hooked, a game will consume at least 30 hours of your life.

Speaking of which, here are a few of my personal favorites from the past decades. I started out in the late '80s, so I'll sort them chronologically instead of by overall greatness (but don't worry, they are all superb).

To further narrow the list down, all of them are single-player games and for the PC, though most of them have appeared on other consoles.

1. Bard's Tale (1985)

If you remember the original Bard's Tale, then you may also fondly remember the days when monitors had a fully-adequate 320x200 pixel resolution and you didn't need glasses to see the contours.

In any event, this game was originally released for the Apple II, but was ported to all—and I do mean all—other platforms eventually. With its revolutionary grid-based 3D dungeoneering, the game looked quite amazing at the time. By the way: the 2004 Bard's Tale is neither a sequel or remake of the original series, although it's a somewhat amusing parody of classic RPGs.

"Pool of Radiance" In-Game Screens

"Pool of Radiance" In-Game Screens

2. Pool of Radiance (1988)

Pool of Radiance was the first CRPG to make use of actual Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) rules. It also introduced computer gamers to the popular Forgotten Realms setting—a fantasy world created by Ed Greenwood in the '60s, which has since been polished to perfection in fantasy novels by authors such as R.A Salvatore.

The game was, of course, a rather simplistic experience by today's standards, but compared to what was available at the time it took PC gaming to a new level. Pool of Radiance was followed by the equally great Curse of the Azure Bonds, among others.

There's also a rather uninspiring sequel of sorts, from a much later date (2001) called Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor.

"Eye of the Beholder"

"Eye of the Beholder"

3. Eye of the Beholder (1990)

A "beholder" is a classic Dungeons & Dragons monster composed of a disgusting heap of flesh and floating tentacle eyes. It is also the antagonist of Eye of the Beholder—a classic that made its debut on the PC, which was still a low-profile gaming platform in 1990.

It's a classic grid-based dungeon crawl, based on 2nd Edition D&D rules, in which the lords of Waterdeep (a city in the Forgotten Realms) hire you to investigate some strange ongoings beneath the city. Once you enter the sewers to take a look, the walls collapse behind you and the only way forward is down.

Trivia: Westwood, the developer of Eye of the Beholder I & II, later left SSI, D&D and the Forgotten Realms to create the abominable Lands of Lore series.

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"Ultima VII: The Black Gate"

"Ultima VII: The Black Gate"

4. Ultima VII: The Black Gate (1992)

The Ultima series' creator, Richard Garriott—aka Lord British—is perhaps a more interesting character than any of those he created. And although the series concluded with the bug-ridden mess known as Ultima IX: Ascension, earlier games were superb—and perhaps mostly so Ultima VII. It was divided into two parts: The Black Gate and The Serpent Isle, each of them with their own expansion packs. It's an amazingly well-balanced RPG for its time, with an equal emphasis on storytelling and exploration.

"Betrayal at Krondor"

"Betrayal at Krondor"

5. Betrayal at Krondor (1993)

Unlike most RPGs from the same period, Betrayal at Krondor doesn't rely on leveling up or reaching the next dungeon to spur players on. It's divided into chapters much like a book, and as a matter of fact, it is based on Raymond E. Feist's Riftwar novels. The 1998 sequel Return to Krondor was also well received and is probably worth a look.

War, war never changes . . .

War, war never changes . . .

6. Fallout (1997)

Fallout isn't just one of the best RPGs, it's one of the best games ever made in any category. Sure, the graphics in the original are very simplistic compared to Bethesda's later instalments, but the heaps of gore and melting bodies are easy enough to distinguish.

And like any true masterpiece, this one stands the test of time. The game is presented in the tried-and-tested isometric perspective, and the combat is fully turn-based (those were the days). Just like all the later games, the first Fallout centers around a Vault Dweller who has to leave the safety of Vault 101 and head out into the untamed post-nuclear wasteland of the early (alternate-history) 22nd century.

"Might & Magic 6" Gameplay

"Might & Magic 6" Gameplay

7. Might & Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven (1998)

The Might & Magic series was an RPG staple for a long time, with the first game appearing in the late '80s for 8-bit platforms, including the NES. Except for some of the later outcroppings—such as the rather mediocre Dark Messiah and the horrible Crusaders of Might & Magic—all of the games have been turn-based and all of them presented in 3D.