Shane's been gaming for nearly 40 years and loves a broad array of games in addition to being one-quarter of the Assorted Meeples group.
Are RPGs the King of All Video Game Genres?
RPGs are one of the most popular genres of video games out there, and it's not hard to see why. This is a genre known for good writing, interesting characters, and epic storylines. This is a genre that has mostly been associated with high fantasy, but developers have created some amazing RPGs with zombies, post apocalyptic settings, and other unconventional settings.
This genre has had so many great releases that it can be easy to miss multiple must-play games. The following games are some of my favorite RPGs. They're all available on Steam, and they have flown under the radar of even avid gamers.
So let's jump in!
1. West of Loathing
Type of RPG: Strange Western open-world RPG
West of Loathing was a game that I fell in love with, and I would have missed completely had it not been bundled in a Steam sale. Seeing stick figures on basic black and white sketch drawings might not seem like the basis for an incredible RPG, but if you hold those thoughts (like I did for a long time), you're missing out!
West of Loathing has an incredibly unique art style that is so basic and yet finds ways to be extraordinary and look good at the same time. You control stick figures in a black and white Western world as you choose between classes like Snake Oil Salesman, Bean Slinger, or the mighty Cow Puncher.
The humor and writing for this game is out of this world. The options are hilarious (funny walking is a setting I never turn off), and the narrator breaking the fourth wall just adds to the craziness.
Amidst all the incredible humor and stunningly clever writing is a legitimately great RPG. You will navigate an increasingly strange and terrifying world where you punch demon cows and fight dancing skeletons in a weird version of the Wild West that will stick in your head long after you put the controls down.
Don't let the simple art fool you—this is one of the all-time great RPGs. It is worth multiple playthroughs.
2. Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Type of RPG: Open-world medieval RPG
This isn't a game that has gone completely under the radar, but considering how remarkable and amazing it is, it should have gotten more attention.
Featuring a Very Positive rating on Steam, Kingdom Come is an open-world RPG that has a very strong dash of medieval realism to the game. This isn't Skyrim, and you're not a superhero. A crossbow bolt that hits you in the head will put you down.
Leveling up skills is satisfying because it takes training and work. The alchemy table is outstanding as you discover medical and herbal remedies, but you will need to learn how to use the mortar and pestle to create a potion that you drink to save your game.
Kingdom Come is all about immersion and shows off an incredibly beautiful, interactive, and a developed world where your decisions matter. You always have to balance going on solo adventures and supporting local militias and armed groups to push your goals forward.
This is an outstanding game that has been forgotten on too many wish lists.
3. The Banner Saga (1, 2, and 3)
Type of RPG: Story-driven tactical RPG
The original Banner Saga was one of the first games I purchased on Steam, and it was enchanting. Using an old grid-style and turn-based system for combat, the combination of Norse mythology, unique art style, and fantastic story-based writing created a mood that few games have matched.
This is a three-part series, and every single part is heavy on story and focuses on decisions the player must make. The game will change based on the decisions you make.
A very Norse-like version of Armageddon has come, and the north is being consumed by creatures that swallow mountains in the distance. Meanwhile, alien-like metal automatons threaten your people.
While the graphics aren't considered high end, the art style is like a painting. It's fascinating how the art, setting, and writing creates a truly unique masterpiece of a story-based tactical RPG.
This trilogy is an incredible series of games. I waited four years for the second title to be released, and it was worth every day of waiting.
4. Grim Dawn
Type of RPG: Post-apocalyptic competitive action RPG
Released in 2016, Grim Dawn flew under the radar for a long time, although it is finally gaining some of the recognition that it deserves. Blending high fantasy, Western, and post-apocalyptic themes into an incredibly unique action-packed RPG, this is a dark game that starts with a struggle for survival from the beginning.
Weapons are more valuable than gold, humanity is on the verge of dying off, and you will find heavy action in a struggle to survive. This game combines RPG, tactics, and hack and slash. It feels like the best of an MMORPG, hack and slash, and dark RPG in one.
You won't be bored at any point as this game offers a great combination of gun fighting, spell casting, and melee as you fight for every breath.
5. Dead Age 2
Type of RPG: Turn-based tactical zombie-based RPG
Dead Age 2 is more well-known among zombie and horror game enthusiasts. This is due to its zombie apocalypse setting. You have to find allies, decide on how to manage relations with other factions, scour for supplies, go on missions, explore new regions, and get enough people at base to fend off attacks from the undead and other factions.
This is an excellent RPG that is incredibly well-designed with a unique (and graphic) art style. It has unique enemies and a smart turn-based tactical system that requires good planning.
One thing I especially appreciate is how challenging it is to balance factions. They all tend to hate each other, and while it might have felt like an obvious starting mission to kill the raiders demanding tribute, you can try talking to the leader of the raider faction.
There are always alternative options to getting many quests done, but some are much harder than others. It's a great balancing act between base management, diplomacy, and good old-fashioned turn-based RPG adventuring.
6. Sunless Sea
Type of RPG: Gothic horror open-world RPG
What do you get when you cross Lovecraftian terror, rogue-lite sea exploration, and a world set completely underground? You get Sunless Sea, an incredible game that randomly generates many of its island locations in each map. This means you'll never know if you're about to find a great trading partner or run right into a glowing warship.
Encroaching madness comes with the darkness, but your lights will drain fuel and attract the attention of gigantic underwater leviathans. This is a challenging game filled with interesting characters, many decisions to be made, and sometimes even the blessings (or curses) of unseen gods.
This is a wonderfully unique game that captures the feel of Lovecraftian mythos better than any other game I've played.
Type of RPG: Open-world RPG
Kenshi is a rewardingly brutal RPG where you train your own militia to become strong enough to survive in a world that is willing to murder the crap out of you with no mercy. There is no linear story here. You can be a trader, a rebel, a bandit, a warlord with an entire squad, or even a slave if you're unlucky.
If you can survive and build a group of followers, keep them alive, strengthen them into a group that others actually respect, then the world of Kenshi is your oyster.
This is a truly unforgiving world with so many active factions. A little bit of overconfidence in your group can spell doom. You will die a lot. This game can be comparable to Dark Souls.
However, this world will keep you coming back. Kenshi has been getting some attention from streamers, but this cult RPG really is one of the best gaming experiences out there.
8. Waste Walkers
Type of RPG: Old school SNES-style post-apocalyptic RPG
I pretty much guarantee that 99.9% of readers have never heard of this game. This is understandable since Waste Walkers was clearly made with RPG Maker all the way back in 2015.
However, the story and writing in this game is really excellent and above expectations. Although the limitations of RPG Maker sets a ceiling, the old SNES-style graphics do bring back memories.
The world feels very real. The apocalypse is very visceral in every battle, interaction, and community found in this game. Parts of the early story are truly emotional, and the combination of weapons, inventory, and quests are very good.
There's enough gameplay here for dozens of hours. Older RPG players will truly enjoy this title.
9. Terra Randoma
Type of RPG: Turn-based rogue-lite RPG
Terra Randoma is an homage to the old school RPGs from the early days of PC gaming. This game is set in a classic high fantasy setting. You are a hero that must fight a thousand-year-old evil.
You can build your character and skills, travel across the map, buy spell stones and better weapons, gain fame and reputation from completing quests, and prepare for the showdown against the looming evil.
This is a game that thrives in its simplicity. There's clear love for those classic grid-based tactical RPGs. Simplicity is embraced here to deliver a truly retro RPG experience.
10. Suits: A Business RPG
Type of RPG: Surreal JRPG (Earthbound-inspired)
This is a wild card of sorts. Suits throws some good humor and bare bones graphics to portray office drone life to create an RPG that sticks out. The presentation won't blow you away like West of Loathing does, but it's still a unique RPG experience in a unique setting.
This is a 7/10 in most ways as the game does nothing spectacular. However, it is enjoyable, and it's very rarely tedious. The humor could be hit or miss, but the unique office setting and the use of a stapler as a weapon is something that plenty of gamers will appreciate.
This title is an interesting and fun take on the weirdest parts of JRPG games; it is clearly inspired by Earthbound. It can be a bit slow at the start, but it's worth diving into to see what this game has to offer.
Thousands of Hours of Gaming
These RPGs may have flown under the radar compared to the Elder Scrolls, Fallouts, and Fables of the world, but they are incredible video games that will provide unique experiences. It's definitely worth it to invest in these titles.
A player who buys all the RPGs on this list will find themselves with literally thousands of hours of gameplay to explore different worlds. They will be able to tackle so many different game styles and experience the best of what the genre has to offer.
© 2022 Shane Dayton