Among the many things that video games are good at, telling a good story is definitely one of them. Often the stories are so good that they leave a lasting impression on us, much like after reading a book or watching a movie. Role-playing games are especially good at this, as they give us the opportunity to step into the shoes of a character and make decisions that can change the course of the story.
If you’re in the mood for a role-playing game with a good story, you’ve come to the right place. We give you a list of fantastic role-playing games, from old to new, which will delight you with their stories.
Rarely do role-playing games manage to defy the tide of time as well as they do Chrono Trigger. The JRPG was released in 1995 and is still absolutely worth playing. Besides the timeless gameplay, it is especially Chrono Trigger’s story that is so enchanting. You take on the role of the mute protagonist Chrono, who finds himself in a time machine after a random event and travels through time. As Chrono, you’ll experience different eras, events and meet new friends who will help you on your journey through time and the fight against evil.
Chrono Trigger’s story is absolutely unique in many ways, as it sends you on an emotional journey even without much dialogue. Also, there are twists and turns throughout the game that you will have to react to and that will significantly affect the further course of the game and the ending.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3 has become the poster child for role-playing games with great storylines. The game, based on the short stories and novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, has conquered the gaming world since its release in 2015. You play Geralt, who has returned to his work as a monster hunter after the events of Witcher 2 (don’t worry, you don’t need to know the plot) and is on a quest to find his partner Yennefer. After he finds them, the action really starts and a race against time to save the world from destruction begins. Political intrigue, a war and a lot of monsters make your life difficult in the process.
What really makes The Witcher 3 stand out is the way each and every quest, whether it’s connected to the main storyline or not, has a depth that puts other games to shame. Besides moral dilemmas, topics like xenophobia or even philosophical questions are also dealt with in the side quests. Often you have the free decision how to solve the quests and these have an influence on the further course of events. In our review of season two of The Witcher series, we have the feeling that they were increasingly inspired by the game as well.
Persona 5 Royal
No list about role-playing games can really be without Persona 5 get along. The remake of the original, released in 2017, goes one better and adds another exciting story to the already fantastic plot.
You take on the role of the nameless protagonist who has been expelled from school for a crime he did not commit. With a friend of the family he is now supposed to attend a new school in Tokyo, where he is already labeled a criminal on his first day. Immediately on the first day, you get into trouble when a mysterious app appears on your smartphone that allows you to enter the "Metaverse". In this dimension, people’s desires manifest as palaces. Together with your new friends you have to steal the treasures from the palaces, but can he force a change of heart.
Although you take on the role of a high school student, the story is very adult and through the metaverse addresses serious issues such as depression, the moral dilemma of vigilante justice and corrupt politicos. Besides this parallel world, you’ll also have to cope with the everyday life of a student. That means, among other things, learning and making new friends. Due to the somewhat limited time, the time management demands and does not let you experience everything in the first playthrough yet. If you want to know how Persona 5 Royal differs from the original version, you can look here.
Horizon Zero Dawn
In the Playstation community Horizon Zero Dawn already become a cult classic. Horizon Zero Dawn has also made a big name for itself in the world of role-playing games in other ways. The reason for this, besides the breathtaking world, is the fantastic storyline and the great protagonist you accompany on the journey.
The story is set in a post-apocalyptic future where the world is populated by machine creatures and humans who live as if in the Stone Age. The humans and machines lived in coexistence for a long time until a few years before the game’s action. A change occurs, called "machine malfunction" by the humans. This infects the robots, which have thus become more and more of a threat to life in the new world. You take on the role of Aloy, who descends from the Nora tribe. Right at birth, however, young Aloy was banished from her tribe because her origins were unknown. Years later, Aloy sets out to find answers about her origins, her parents and why the world has become the way it is.
Horizon Zero Dawn’s story is especially convincing with the great lore. You learn bit by bit the secrets of the new world and also why the "old" world disappeared.
Final Fantasy 7
Whether it’s the original version from 1997 or the remake from 2020, Final Fantasy 7 is a great game and simply cult in the world of Japanese role-playing games. Especially the long and varied story is what made Final Fantasy 7 so popular.
You take on the role of Cloud Strife, a former member of SOLDIER, which is a group of elite warriors from the Shinra Electric Power Company. The Shinra Electric Power Company uses Mako, a refined form of the planet’s spiritual energy harvested from massive reactors, to power the Midgar metropolis and develop cutting-edge technology. Disillusioned with working for Shinra, Cloud takes a job as a mercenary for Avalanch, an eco-terrorist organization led by Barret Wallace, at the request of his childhood friend Tifa. Barret believes that harvesting Mako is harming the planet and, with Cloud’s help, leads a bombing raid on a Mako reactor.
From there the story really starts. You have to face the Shinra organization as Cloud and protect your friends. Along the way you will have to face the ghosts of Cloud’s past, but also the present.
Baldur’s Gate III
The storyline of Baldur’s Gate III takes place almost 100 years after the events of Baldur’s Gate II. Don’t worry, you don’t need to know the story of the previous Baldur’s Gate games. The Thoughtflayers have begun an invasion of the continent of Faerûn. You’ve been captured by the Thoughtflayers, and you’ve been injected with a parasite that will turn you into a Thoughtflayer yourself. During a transport flight of the Mind Flayers, there is a crash and you and five other characters survive the crash. You set out to find a cure for the parasites and stop the invasion of the mind flayers.
Baldur’s Gate III is a real one-of-a-kind in the modern world of role-playing games, since it is based on the Pen&-Paper role-playing game Dungeons& Dragons based. This gives you a gaming experience with a ton of extra lore that gives you a huge world to explore. Baldur’s Gate III can also be played in co-op with up to four players. So you can give the roleplaying game a twist of its own. You can find our preview of Baldur’s Gate III here.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition
The Mass Effect trilogy has become the poster child for great trilogies in role-playing games. You take on the role of Commander Shepard and in the three parts you experience his/her story. In the first part, Shepard is sent on a secret mission to recover an artifact on behalf of the Council. However, after unexpected things happen, you learn of an impending invasion by an unknown enemy and are tasked with gathering more information and averting the possible threat.
The second part of the series takes place shortly after the end of the first part. Commander Shepard is on a mission in space and suddenly becomes the victim of an attack. You will lose your ship, your crew and even your life. However, the Cerberus Syndicate revives him and sends him to fight a new threat with a new ship. In order not to spoil the second part we will spare you the description of the plot of Mass Effect 3. That much being said, it’s all about the line for Shepard and it’s a fantastic finale for the trilogy.
But also the subplots are what make Mass Effect a special gaming experience in the world of role-playing games. The side characters you meet as Commander Shepard on your journey all have great stories for you to experience. Many of them can be recruited into Shepard’s crew, which once again builds a real bond with the characters. If your interest is piqued, you can find our buying guide for the Mass Effect Legendary Edition here.
Cover image by Guerrilla Games via igdb.com
Study information management at the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg, Germany. With a healthy dose of half-knowledge in the fields of gaming, online media, music and technology, he now wants to start out as an editor at Netzpiloten.