This has been a huge year for video and computer games, from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain to Super Mario Maker garnering . But one genre of gaming really stood out this year: the roleplaying game. Whether we're talking big budget, 80-hour games to quirky indie titles, 2015 was a good year for the RPG. Build your character, level up, collect loot, and follow along as I present (in no particular order) the ten best of the year. Have you tried them all?
Successfully funded on Kickstarter, Darkest Dungeon is a side-scrolling roleplaying game where the other members of your party contribute more than just extra attacks. Aside from crawling through dungeons, you'll also have to manage the stress levels of your fellow party members. Do they drink too much? Are they afraid of a certain type of monster? How will you deal with these party dynamics while trying to steal all the treasure you can from ancient crypts?
Fallout 4 is one of the biggest names of the year. And while it does have a fair amount of bugs in it, the core gameplay is still deeply satisfying. There's no setting quite like Fallout's post-apocalyptic retro-futurism, where the gleam of a Cadillac-esque hover car's been rusted away by nuclear waste. How will you specialize your hero as you search for a missing loved one? Will you be strong, smart, tough, charismatic? The choices in this game, mixed with its sheer size, make Fallout 4 one of the biggest and most in-depth games I've ever played.
There's a lot to say about this relatively short indie roleplaying game, because the game's trying to say a lot itself. But here are the basics: inspired by games like Earthbound, Undertale tasks the player with really thinking about the way they play an RPG. Will you fight every monster you come across? Maybe, but you can also choose to be kind to them, to show them mercy, to run away and hide. One of the biggest shocks of the year, Undertale asks the right questions, tells the right jokes, and entertains in a way that can only come from the indie world. Try it out, you'll probably love it.
This underground gam made a splash when it hit Steam's "Early Access" storefront. Caves of Qud takes place in a world full of talking plants, mutants, abandoned machinery, genetic modification, and goatmen. Inspired by old ASCII games, Caves is gleefully retro—which means it's pretty damn hard, too. Qud is a roguelike game, meaning most of the world around you is procedurally generated and if you die, you have to start all over. If you want to play a game that feels both tiny and impossibly huge at the same time, try Caves of Qud.
A love letter to the D&D computer RPGs of the '90s, Pillars of Eternity came out this year from Obsidian Entertainment (the people who made said D&D RPGs). While Pillars is a relatively straight-forward RPG, it still remains charming to play in the middle of all these massive games turning the genre on its head. Choose a race, choose a class, battle across a big world, and gather a party of adventurers to help you along the way. Good, clean fun.
I'm obsessed with the TV show Steven Universe because it's so sweet. It's such a bright, optimistic cartoon about a boy with powers he doesn't quite understand, and the kick-ass ladies who help him find himself. So I was extremely pleased to find Steven Universe: Attack the Light, a simple turn-based RPG, out on iOS platforms. Play as Steven and the rest of the Crystal Gems as you struggle against the forces of evil. It's no wonder that such a kind show begets such a pleasant little game.
This might be one of the largest roleplaying games I've ever played. But the real draw here—and what really sets it apart from its wasteland-counterpart Fallout 4—is the story. Well-written dialogue, murky ethical choices, and a strong dose of romance all carry you along as you wander through a harsh medival world. There are pages upon pages of things to read, people to visit, quests to complete, monsters to hunt—it can be quite overwhelming at times, like an ocean of a game. But the Eastern European-inspired setting will keep you coming back, consumed by the plotlines you've yet to uncover.
Computer RPGs can be a tough on newcomers, particularly those who grew up playing console RPGs. The top-down aesthetic and keying up of actions can leave a newbie confused and feeling more like an administrator than a gamer. But Sword Coast Legends the smooths down the learning curve and allows anyone to join in on the fun. The game, based on the newest iteration of the Dungeons & Dragon rules (5th edition), features a "Dungeon Master Mode" where one player can create storylines, monsters, and dungeons to pit their friends' heroes against. It all invites a level of interactivity seldom seen in computer RPGs.
How's this for a game concept? You're a bunch of adults playing a tabletop roleplaying game, (complete with dungeon master, rulebooks, table, and chairs), and the battles play out above your game. This turn-based app-store series is known for its humor, self-reference, and reverence for games like Dungeons & Dragons. Knights of Pen & Paper 2's trailer explains it best: "The game where you pretend to be adults, pretending to be wizards... Like nature intended!"
This open-world RPG that came out exclusively for the Wii U has something for almost every type of RPG fan. It's a very big game, with battles that feel much more like a MMORPG than the type of Final Fantasy game it looks like. You're a new arrival to an Earth-like planet, and with a team of adventurers you set out to explore, settle, and carve out a life in this world. Oh, and there are giant mechs, too. Japanese art style, massive robots, open world exploration, a futuristic setting, and MMO-style combat? It's a mish-mash that adds up to a winning combo.