Best RPGs: top role-playing games for console and PC

Best RPGs: The Witcher 3's Geralt on an orange background
(Image credit: Future/CD Projekt Red)

Debating the best RPGs is a hotly-contested topic in the gaming world – and for good reason, with so many to choose from

Role-playing games have seen almost unrelenting popularity, with elements of their genetic makeup found in the best single-player games and action-adventure multiplayer titles alike. From crafting suits of armor to keeping yourself well-fed, it's a nebulous genre that has only grown in complexity over the years.

You may think of high-fantasy adventures inspired by tabletop games like Dungeons and Dragons, featuring all manner of knights, elves, dwarves, and the like. But this list also includes JRPGs, that unique flavor of roleplaying distinct to Japanese developers that can be appreciated anywhere in the world. 

This list has something for everyone, whether you like to do your game combat with swords or pistols. From intergalactic adventures to swashbuckling medieval times, everyone has their vice – and perhaps your latest one is features somewhere on this list.

If you’re looking for platform-specific game recommendations from a variety of genres, visit our list of the best PC games,  best PS5 games, best Xbox Series X games, or the best Nintendo Switch games.

Grabbed your swords and pitchforks? Let's take a look at the best RPGs ever.

Best RPGs

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best RPGs - the Skyrim protagonist looking traight at you, holding a sword in each hand

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Image credit: Bethesda)

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Get ready to lose sleep

Reasons to buy

+
Hundreds of hours of gameplay
+
Choice in how you play
+
Huge open world

Reasons to avoid

-
Bugs and glitches

Platforms available: PS5, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PS4, PC and Nintendo Switch

It may be old, but Skyrim remains one of the most vital RPGs out there, in part because of its incredible mod scene on PC. If you played this game back in 2011 and put it to bed, give it another go with some of the graphics and immersion mods. It's like playing Skyrim 1.5.

Bethesda has also released The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition, which includes all of the add-ons that have been released, along with some graphical overhauls. If you have a VR headset, then you can also get The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR for PC and PS4, which gives you an even more immersive experience.

If you've not played it all, where have you been? This open-world fantasy epic makes for hundreds of satisfying hours without even tackling the main story. Few games craft as rich a world as this, and there's enough content to play the game as a whole bunch of different characters without feeling like you're being funneled into a single "hero" mold.

We won't spoil the main storyline, but let's just say it features more dragons than Game of Thrones, and you even get to wield some dragon power yourself. Skyrim is one of the best RPGs of all time and well worth playing before The Elder Scrolls 6 releases.

best RPGs: Disco Elysium characters on oil painting background

Disco Elysium (Image credit: ZA/UM)

Disco Elysium

Disco Inferno, more like

Reasons to buy

+
Some of the best writing in all of gaming
+
Wonderful art and soundtrack
+
An incredible amount of choice

Reasons to avoid

-
Takes patience

Platforms available: Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and Google Stadia

One of 2019’s finest titles, Disco Elysium is a dialogue-driven RPG set in a sizable, dystopian city.

This is a game that works completely without combat. Problems are instead solved with the use of the protagonist using the ‘Thought Cabinet’, a manifestation of dialogue choices and thematic decisions that permeate every aspect and decision made throughout the story.

It’s a risky decision, but one that pays off in no small part due to personable, politically ambiguous writing that is almost entirely player-driven. It’s a must-play for RPG fans, especially now that its been upgraded to The Final Cut, a version that features even more content and full voice acting.

best RPGs: Yakuza 7's Ichiban sitting in a movie theatre surrounded by sheep in suits

Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Image credit: Sega)

Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Take a trip to Japan

Reasons to buy

+
Hilarious and unique
+
Fantastic side missions
+
can be enjoyed without knowledge of the previous games

Reasons to avoid

-
Turn-based combat is a little clunky

Platforms available: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PC

The Yakuza games have always mixed mature themes with utterly bonkers shenanigans, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon really lets loose in the latter regard. While you can still expect plenty of hard-hitting plot points during the game’s lengthy and turbulent story, the entire fighting system has been re-imagined as a turn-based JRPG – and it works surprisingly well. 

Each character can take on various classes, such as becoming a crooning musician or cutesy J-Pop idol, and each has their own abilities in battle. It’s certainly a different approach, but seeing as you're fighting nudists and cult members, it's only right that your magical summon should be a giant lobster. This is one of the best RPGs for players who enjoy a bit (or a lot) of the ridiculous.

best RPGs: Persona 5 protagonist Joker and a collage of his friends

Persona 5 Royal (Image credit: Atlus/SEGA)

Persona 5 Royal

Transform to save the world

Reasons to buy

+
Lovable characters
+
Really cool summons
+
Unique art design

Reasons to avoid

-
Very long

Platforms available: PS4

Persona 5 might be the most stylish JRPG you’ll ever play. Everything from its animation, character design, acid-jazz-inspired soundtrack, and even its menus, screams cool.

This JRPG tells the story of a group of jaded teens who quite literally change the hearts of evildoers, uncovering stories of abuse, breaking free from societal norms, group thinks, and much more. There’s depth to Persona 5’s story and its characters learn and grow throughout the game's 100+hr plot. This is a game that belongs on any list of best RPGs, both for how engrossing it is and how well it introduces you to all that makes JRPGs great.

Persona 5 exists both in the base version and as Persona 5 Royal – if you haven't played either, we suggest going with Royal right away, as it features new characters, more activities, and even more plot developments.

best RPGs: Witcher Geralt turns away from a group of men sitting at a tavern table

The Witcher 3  (Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

The definitive RPG that many still herald as the best

Reasons to buy

+
Memorable characters
+
A huge and varied open-world
+
Plenty to do outside main quests

Reasons to avoid

-
Long loading times
-
Combat can feel clunky

Platforms available: PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch (PS5 and Xbox Series X|S tba)

If you're after a classic western RPG with a great story, look no further than The Witcher 3. This game has more quality storytelling in some of its fetch side quests than some other games have in their main storylines.

You are Geralt, a gruff and grey-haired monster hunter chap; sort of heroic land pirate type, if you will. This is a deep-dive adventure you'll want to set a few months aside for, a bit like Skyrim.

These two duke it out as fan-favorite medieval RPGs, but they both belong among the best RPGs equally. The Witcher 3 definitely won us over with its writing and detailed world-building, including offering some of the best and most sprawling sidequests of any game. 

If you like the game series, then you should definitely check out The Witcher on Netflix, with Henry Cavill taking on the role of Geralt - soon to be overtaken by one Liam Hemsworth, to the dismay of many.

best RPGs: a group of characters standing near an altar on a cliff

Divinity: Original Sin 2 (Image credit: Larian Studios)

Divinity: Original Sin 2

A modern RPG classic

Reasons to buy

+
Flexible and freeing systems
+
Classic RPG foundation
+
Multiple ways to progress

Reasons to avoid

-
Difficult combat

Platforms available: Xbox One, PC, PS4 and Nintendo Switch

An isometric RPG with incredible lore and world-building, Divinity: Original Sin II is a game that completely commits to the idea of player choice.

From character classes that play entirely differently to one another (like the undead character that can only speak to others with a disguise) to the ability to interact with NPCs in whichever way you choose, you can play through much of the game without getting your hands dirty with combat.

If you do decide to swing your sword, combat is a turn-based treat that takes a lot of strategic thinking. Playing with the environment and the elements is vital – you can destroy an explosive barrel to deal huge damage to an enemy, for example, or electrify a puddle to fry them.

Then there’s the cast of characters, each memorable personalities stuffed full of charisma. If you enjoy RPGs that make use of tabletop roleplaying systems, Divinity: OS 2 is one of the best RPGs in that category.

best RPGs: Cloud Strife grimacing due to an explosion

Final Fantasy 7 Remake (Image credit: Square Enix)
An old favorite, made brand new

Reasons to buy

+
Gorgeous visuals
+
New combat that rewards experimentation
+
Beautiful soundtrack

Reasons to avoid

-
The story additions are contentious

Platforms available: PS4, PS5 and PC

We still can’t quite believe that Final Fantasy 7 Remake exists. It had to be made, of course – the original was and is one of the best RPGs and introduced many people to the Final Fantasy series.

By taking elements from many of the Final Fantasy titles that followed the 1997 original, Square Enix has crafted arguably the finest combat system the series has ever seen, allowing players to switch from one iconic party member to the next.

Final Fantasy 7 Remake fills in story blanks that we didn’t know needed filling back in the original, bringing characters to life in a way we couldn’t have dreamed possible. It’s a love letter to the franchise’s past while giving a glimpse into what’s coming in the future. 

Excited for the next part? Then check out everything we know so far about Final Fantasy Remake Part 2.

best RPGs: Link about to throw a bomb at a goblin camp

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Image credit: Nintendo)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Nintendo goes open-world

Reasons to buy

+
Great mix of puzzling, combat and exploration
+
Plenty of secrets to find
+
Engaging narrative

Reasons to avoid

-
Can be overwhelming in size

Platforms available: Nintendo Switch

The Legend of Zelda franchise has long been known for quality, but in leaning into Western sensibilities and taking inspiration from the likes of Skyrim, it has reached its zenith.

Breath of the Wild led many to pick up the Nintendo Switch, and for good reason – it’s an open-world game that doesn’t feel crowded with side-quests and icons to unlock. Every quest is given as a suggestion, an open-ended question that doesn’t need an answer.

From dozens of puzzle-focused shrines, chances to experiment with a robust physics system, or tough but rewarding combat, few games reward exploration like Breath of the Wild. Even years on from launch, players are finding fresh ways to play in this version of Hyrule. It's definitely worth playing before the release of the sequel, Breath of the Wild 2.

best RPGs: A group of Pokemon trainers at a picnic with their Pokemon

Pokémon Sword and Shield (Image credit: Nintendo)
Close to being the very best

Reasons to buy

+
Fantastic Pokémon designs
+
Immersive new region
+
Effective gameplay improvements

Reasons to avoid

-
Dynamaxing doesn't quite hit the mark
-
Not very graphically accomplished

Platforms available: Nintendo Switch

Pokémon Sword and Shield are essentially RPG comfort food. Players can spend hours catching monsters like it’s the mid-nineties, grinding levels and aiming to breed competitive Pokémon – or you can just enjoy its campaign.

In the franchise’s first mainline jump to HD, the new Galar Region is stuffed full of detail that couldn’t be found on the handheld-only versions. Pokémon wander the world freely, grass sways in the wind, and the new free-camera Wild Area allows for raids that can be enjoyed with friends.

It might not be the quantum leap forward many were hoping for, but the series is still among the very best that gaming has to offer. If you want to know more, check our list of best Pokémon games ranked by generation.

best RPGs: several Mass Effect characters in front of a picture of earth and a large sideview of Shephard's helmet

Mass Effect Legendary Edition (Image credit: EA)

Mass Effect Legendary Edition

A beautifully remastered collection of Bioware's best

Reasons to buy

+
The entire Mass Effect saga in one package
+
Explore new planets and defend earth

Reasons to avoid

-
Not for cover shooter haters

Platforms available:  PS5, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PC

The Mass Effect trilogy that released during the Xbox 360 era is beloved by gamers the world over thanks to its immersive role-playing gameplay and deep science fiction lore. And the romanceable aliens. Let's be real.

That's exactly what we've gotten with Mass Effect Legendary Edition – a collection that significantly cleans up all three classic games with a number of visual, audio and gameplay enhancements, bringing the series into the modern age while keeping our rose-colored memories of it completely intact.

Along with improved controls (especially when it comes to aiming in the first Mass Effect), this Legendary Edition also brings two graphical modes: a resolution mode that allows you to play at 4K/60fps on PS5 and Xbox Series X, and a performance mode that runs at 1440p/120fps on Xbox Series X. Additionally, you get full HDR support, improved lighting and textures, and enhanced audio resolution across the whole trilogy. 

Vic Hood
Associate Editor, TechRadar Gaming

Vic is TechRadar Gaming's Associate Editor. An award-winning games journalist, Vic brings experience from IGN, Eurogamer and more to the TechRadar table. You may have even heard her on the radio or speaking on a panel. Not only is Vic passionate about games, but she's also an avid mental health advocate who has appeared on both panels and podcasts to discuss mental health awareness. Make sure to follow her on Twitter for more.

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