History shouldn't be repeated, but there’s certainly no harm in recreating some iconic and dramatic historical events that shaped the world in which we live today in an RPG format.
While plenty of RPGs base their story around certain historical settings and locations, only a few have gone the extra mile to represent history as accurately as possible and give us the actual taste of a bygone era.
This list handpicks some action RPGs that have put in an incredible amount of effort in collecting relevant information from available sources and subject matter specialists to represent certain historical eras with as much accuracy as possible.
Note: This article reflects the writer’s personal choices and views.
Red Dead Redemption 2, The Mafia Series, and 8 other RPGs with history as their core
1) Ghost of Tsushima
- Platforms: PS5 and PS4
Ghost of Tsushima is a graphically stunning-looking open-world action RPG title that depicts Japan on the eve of the Mongol invasion. The backdrop is deeply rooted in history, as players take on the role of a lone Samurai named Tsushima and follow some of his courageous lone exploits that thwarted the Mongol invasion.
Ghost of Tsushima utilizes elements from Japanese folk tales in its character-building aspects, such as different styles of Samurai that existed then, and so on. Beyond the brilliant fusion of Japanese folklore and culture, the game has one of the smoothest combat mechanics and animations that look gorgeous. Upon reflection, Ghost of Tsushima can easily be regarded as one of the revelations when it was released in 2020.
2) Assassin’s Creed Syndicate
- Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, and Stadia
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, released in 2015, is one of the most visually impressive RPG titles within the AC series, which accurately depicts the architectural grandeur of Victorian-age London.
At Syndicate, players can immerse themselves in the politics surrounding London's Victorian era. Players will come across interesting political figures of that time, such as Karl Marx, who will also be handing over certain missions during the storyline. Some of the chilling issues of the time, such as the prevalence of Child Labor, are well reflected in this game. The story is about hunting down the members of a secret society that has existed from the 12th century onwards.
If you want to learn more about the Victorian age and re-live the torrid industrial times, then Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is the perfect option.
3) Kingdom Come: Deliverance
- Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows
Kingdom Come: Deliverance takes gamers into an interesting era in Medieval Europe right into the Holy Empire's lands back in the 1400s. It was an era when the Holy Roman Empire was just a shadow empire built upon a loose-knit idea of unity. In reality, Europe had already been broken down into several squabbling fiefdoms.
The overarching story in this enthralling RPG is about the player character’s journey across Bohemia (now in Germany) to take revenge for the death of his parents.
But Kingdom: Deliverance has much more to offer regarding open-world exploration and smooth combat. The game forces players to take care of everything, right from maintaining food provisions to water for survival. All of these gameplay features put together to make Kingdom Come: Deliverance a thrilling RPG where players will also get to witness some historical buildings and landmarks that existed during Medieval Europe.
4) Mount and Blade: Warband
- Platforms: PS4, Android, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Mac operating systems, Classic Mac OS
Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the most charismatic generals that history had ever produced. And it’s sad to see the wars he fought, also known as the Napoleonic Wars, poorly represented in the RPG genre.
As a standalone expansion of the Mount and Blade series, Warband is perhaps the only RPG title that brings alive the Napoleonic wars into a well-organized sequence of events.
This title depicts firearms and weapons of the era with incredible accuracy, be it in terms of weapon loading time to weapon inaccuracy. Furthermore, players can also choose to play the role of non-combatant support staff on the battlefield, such as Drummers, to boost the morale of nearby allies and take on the role of combat troops.
5) Red Dead Redemption 2
- Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Google Stadia
Red Dead Redemption 2 is a humongous open-world action-adventure RPG title developed by Rockstar Games that accurately depicts 19th-century America.
While the town names and character names shown in Red Dead Redemption 2 are fictionalized, several characters are based on real people and their stories from that era.
Moreover, the socio-political climate that prevailed during 19th century America is accurately depicted in this gamr, and so are the firearms of the era.
6) L.A Noire
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
Rockstar Games and their fetish to depict a bygone era of American history in their open-world RPG titles have no limits. 2011 launched L. A Noire is yet another prime example. This game is a notable specimen of an RPG title that depicts a bygone locale with sublime accuracy.
The crime adventure depicted in the game may be a work of fiction, but when it comes to accurately depicting the streets of Los Angeles that existed back in 1947, developers have nailed it. Rockstar Games took queues from hundreds of era-specific black-and-white photographs and data to accurately re-build the City of Los Angeles back to life.
7) Assassin’s Creed Unity
- Platforms: Microsoft Windows, PS4, Xbox One, and Stadia
Released in 2014, Assassin’s Creed Unity is the sequel to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, a brilliant pirate-themed RPG adventure in its own right. Unity, on the other hand, depicts 18th-century Paris with incredible accuracy.
The main story takes place in Paris during the French Revolution between 1789 to 1794 as players take on the role of an Assassin named Arno Dorian. Some of the accurate re-creations of buildings in this title, such as The Notre Dame, are a sight to behold.
During the French Revolution, the revolutionaries used Notre Dame in Paris as a wine storehouse, which was also depicted in the storyline. Besides Notre Dame, developers also successfully managed to recreate several other buildings that existed in Paris back in the 18th century.
8) Brothers in Arms Series
- Platforms: Xbox, Microsoft Windows, PS2, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS, N-Gage, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, OS X, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone
There are plenty of games based on the events of World War II, but few have accurately depicted the locales that existed during the war, like the Brother in Arms series. Credit must be given to the developers for attempting to recreate the battlefields of World War II by taking consultation from several historians and queues from several photographs of the era.
The developers also visited certain World War II battle sites to show what real soldiers saw back in the 1940s. The result is a series of accurate tactical shooters down to the foundation and stone-work patterns of certain buildings and streets. So, next time you pick up a Brother in Arms title, remember that you are re-enacting history itself.
9) The Mafia Series
- Platforms: macOS, Microsoft Windows, PS2, PS3; PS4, Stadia, Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One
The Mafia series is well-adored for the wonderful heist mission that the trilogy provides. However, when it comes to accurately depicting the atmosphere of 1930s America, all the way up to the civil rights era, The Mafia Trilogy stands out as a unique crime adventure.
Players should opt for the Definitive Edition for each Mafia Series entry. While the first Mafia title depicts the Depression era in Chicago, the second title takes players into New York after World War II, and the third iteration depicts New Orleans during the Civil Rights movement era of the 1960s.
If you are into American history and would like to re-live and understand the growth of American cities throughout the 20th century, then picking up the Mafia Trilogy would be a great investment.
10) Medal of Honor: Frontline
- Platforms: PS3, PS2, GameCube, and Xbox
The Medal of Honor franchise may have diverted from their original concept of depicting historically accurate events, but one of their earlier titles, the Medal of Honor: Frontline, absolutely nailed the depiction of the horrific situation of the Western frontlines during World War II, with as much historical accuracy as possible.
Steven Spielberg, the director behind Saving Private Ryan, was behind the developmental journey of this title, and right from the authentic weapon sounds to the firing patterns of each specific gun are taken care of in the game.
The RPG title also accurately depicts the infamous invasion of the Normandy coast better than any other video game. If you want to dive right into the atmosphere of World War II, then Medal of Honor: Frontline should be on your bucket list.