10 best RPG games of the 2010s (one for each year)
Getting into RPGs is like starting a new adventure, where players feel like they’re writing a new epic journey through a protagonist. These games provide a lot of agency for the players to affect the story through in-game choices at crucial points in the narrative. They also allow the game to be played in a number of different ways, by picking and choosing their skills and abilities.
RPGs have been some of the most played titles over the course of the nearly five decades of video game history, and they generally require hours of dedication and gameplay to beat.
They usually offer far more immersive experiences than most other video game genres, and fans are constantly on the lookout to try new ones or revisit titles from the past. This list takes a look at some of the best RPGs that were released in the last decade, from 2010-2019, with one from each year.
Note: This article reflects the writer's opinion
10 RPGs that made the 2010s memorable for players
1) Fallout: New Vegas - 2010
Bethesda thrived in the RPG genre during the last decade, and at the very start, it released Fallout: New Vegas in October 19, 2010. Set in the post-nuclear-apocalypse world of the series, the game took the story to the U.S. state of Nevada.
Set in the distant future — the year 2281 — the areas around the city of Las Vegas, known as New Vegas in the game, are caught up in a civil war between three major factions. The protagonist and player character is a courier working for the Mojave Express postal service, and gets embroiled in this larger conflict.
Players get to customize their character by using attribute points, and go out into the open lands of the Mojave desert that serves as this RPG’s open world. As a shooter, the game is meant to be played from a first-person perspective, but a third-person over-the-shoulder camera option is available as well.
2) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - 2011
As previously stated, Bethesda was in its prime around this time, and in 2011, merely a year after enjoying the success of Fallout: New Vegas, they released the fifth game in the Elder Scrolls series - Skyrim. Unlike Fallout, Skyrim was a fantasy RPG set in the fictional medieval world of Tamriel.
Players assumed the role of a captured prisoner en route to being executed. But when a dragon interrupts this grim ceremony, they are able to escape, and must decide to warn the nearby kingdom of this new threat. It is later revealed that the player is a Dragonborn, a warrior gifted with the power to speak and use the dragon’s voice. It falls to the Dragonborn now to protect the world and kill the evil dragon Alduin, once and for all.
As with previous Elder Scrolls games, players can go about the open-world at their leisure, ignoring the main story for as long as they wish. Side quests and storylines can be played, completing which grants experience, which can be used to increase attributes. The game can be played in third or first-person, and a recent mod which allows it to be played in co-op multiplayer with another person.
3) Mass Effect 3 - 2012
Mass Effect is BioWare’s space RPG trilogy. The final game, Mass Effect 3, was released in 2012, finished out the story of the Spectre from the Systems Alliance Navy. A new game is currently in development, although it is yet unclear if the story will follow this series or chart a new course.
In Mass Effect 3, Commander Shepard and his allies faced off against the alien race of the Reapers, whose mission was to wipe out all organic sentient life in the galaxy. Shepard and Co. head to different planets where the Reaper threat is the most active, and the final battle occurs on Earth, where the game also begins.
This RPG is a third-person shooter, where players can customize Shepard with their own preferred looks and skillsets. The series’ iconic conversation wheel gives players the choice to pick and choose different options as responses during dialogue, as well as acting like a rogue or conscientious individual by using the Renegade or Paragon options.
4) Bioshock: Infinite - 2013
While not strictly an RPG, Bioshock: Infinite is a linear first-person shooter with RPG elements. Developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K Games, the third title in the Bioshock series was released on March 26, 2013 for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC.
The game follows protagonist Booker Dewitt as he is sent on a mission to rescue a little girl from the clutches of a dictator. The girl in question, known as Elizabeth, is held in a tower in the floating city of Columbia, ruled by one Zachary Hale Comstock. Once free, Elizabeth and Booker must evade Comstock’s forces by traveling to other alternate universes to try and shake them off.
Players have a number of weapons to choose from as they navigate the streets of Columbia. Additionally, items known as Vigors, Gears, and Infusions can give the player temporary powers, with varying effects. The power-ups, as well as other weapons and ammunition, can be found across the city to pick up and use later.
5) Dragon Age: Inquisition - 2014
Another RPG series by BioWare, Dragon Age has been running since 2009. Dragon Age: Inquisition is the third major entry into this RPG series, and was released on November 18, 2014.
The player character is known as The Inquisitor and they arrive on the continent of Thedas to settle civil unrest following a magical breach of the land. Things soon take a decidedly unexpected turn, as the Inquisitor survives an explosion where the breach occurred. They are inextricably linked to it, represented by a mark on their hand, and are then assigned to close smaller rifts across the land to find out why the breach appeared there in the first place.
The game is generally played from a third-person perspective, but can be switched to a more traditional top-down perspective as well. BioWare’s conversion wheel returns, and players can unlock various perks and powers by performing deeds across different maps.
As of this writing, a new Dragon Age game is currently in development under BioWare.
6) The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt - 2015
One of the most famous RPG games ever to be released, CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was the third entry in the Witcher video game series. Continuing the tale of Geralt, the white-haired witcher, after the events of the books, this game sees him seeking his once lost adoptive daughter, Ciri.
With an open-world set in the lands of the fictional Continent, players can explore various lands, complete side missions and take up monster-hunting contracts in addition to the main story. During conversations as well as in combat, the game is played from a third-person perspective. Completing assignments earns experience points to level up, following which players can increase various stats for the Witcher.
In the main story, Geralt goes looking for Ciri, along with his long-time lover Yennefer, as they realize that the Wild Hunt, a group of specters, is also after her. Various important choices scattered about the main narrative influence the final ending, as well as Ciri’s fate. A new Witcher game is currently in development that might see the continuation of Ciri’s story.
7) Dark Souls 3 - 2016
FromSoftware launched the Dark Souls franchise after their critical success with Demon’s Souls on the PlayStation. The series originally launched in 2011, and concluded with Dark Souls III, which was released on March 24, 2016. This action RPG saw players step into a world similar to the first game yet also starkly different.
Like most FromSoftware games, role-playing elements are key here, and players are required to create a certain build for their character and play to its strengths. Killing enemies, even the smallest ones, will grant souls. These can be used to level up and increase points in their attributes, which is crucial for tackling harder enemies later on in the game.
The overarching narrative speaks of a dying age where the life force of the fire, that keeps the light of the world alive, is slowly petering out. The lords of Cinder, keepers of the flame, have deserted their thrones. The player character, known as the Ashen One, is tasked with bringing them back to their thrones, and ultimately head to the Kiln of the First Flame to either link or finish the flame, once and for all.
8) Horizon Zero Dawn - 2017
Horizon Zero Dawn is an action RPG developed by Guerilla Games and published by Sony on February 28, 2017. It was originally available exclusively for the PlayStation 4 but was ported to PC later on. This game was set in a post-apocalyptic future where robots, humans, and nature had found a way to flourish once more.
Players step into the shoes of Aloy, a young girl, as they explore and venture out into this new land, where flora and fauna have established a life atop the ruins of the once technologically advanced old world. Aloy uses a bow and spear as her primary weapons, and can unlock additional skills and abilities as she levels up.
In terms of the story, Aloy seems to have a connection with old-world technology, which seems to respond to her touch. She sets out on a coming-of-age journey and self-discovery, and along the way, she must find a way to save her tribe and others from a larger threat. Aloy’s story was further explored in the sequel, Horizon Forbidden West.
9) Monster Hunter: World - 2018
Developed and published by Capcom, Monster Hunter: World is the fifth major installment in the Monster Hunter game series. It was released in January 2018 for PS4 and Xbox One, while a PC version came in August of the same year. This action RPG allowed players to create their own Hunter, whose job it was to track and hunt down monsters across the open-world.
As part of the game’s story, the sentient races of this fictional world have traveled to the lands across the sea known as the New World. This untamed region is teeming with different monsters, some of which are familiar and others new, and various research teams have already established bases there. The player’s Hunter is a part of the fifth fleet, which has been called to this land to provide more support to the research team.
The premise of the entire gameplay loop is quite simple, and can be described as being similar to Pokemon but more violent. Players are given tasks to hunt down different types of monsters, battle, and defeat them to harvest their scales and bones for parts. These parts can be used to create new gear for the player, which can help them in future assignments.
10) Disco Elysium - 2019
Hailed as one of the best video games ever created, Disco Elysium was developed and published by ZA/UM, and originally released for Windows in October 2019. The RPG was later released as an expanded version, now featuring full voice acting and additional content, with the tagline The Final Cut, for consoles and PCs in 2021.
In this game, the player starts off by generating the protagonist’s character, assigning their stats across various attributes through a discussion with their inner voice about their psyche. Once complete, it is revealed to the player that the protagonist is a detective suffering from amnesia. Soon, they are tasked with solving a murder mystery along with their partner, Kim Kitsuragi.
The game world is depicted isometrically and split into various sections. Gameplay revolves around finding and interacting with different environmental cues and objects. This RPG features no combat, as the player’s stats govern their actions, whose success or failure are determined by skill checks. As players level up, they may increase certain skills to improve their chances of clearing the checks.