Top 10 Best Retro RPGs on the PC

These days, games are quickly judged on their graphics, their physx effects and all the other bells and whistles. RPGs have always been a special genre, where real fans care more about the story and gameplay than any other aspect of the game. It almost goes without saying then, that RPGs would stand the test of time much better than other genres would. But which RPGs are the true classics? Which are even today still highly recommended and praised? Here’s our take on it. (We’ve put them in reverse order!)

Final Fantasy 7

Stunning art work and absolutely beautiful music. The gamplay obviously follows the jRPG format and isn’t for everyone, but the story, immersion and emotion in this game are fantastic. A true work of art.

Deus Ex

A cyberpunk RPG, Deus Ex is a cross between an RPG, First Person Shooter and a stealth action game. A strong story filled with conspiracy and terrorism creates a truly immersive environment. One of PC gaming’s finest moments!

Ultima Online

It’s odd to find an MMORPG among this list – but Ultima Online was in many respects the first really succesful MMORPG. On top of that, the original UO was one of the most awesome and immersive RPG experiences that you could find on the PC. The game is only a shadow of its former self now, ripped apart by corporate mistakes and changes meant to appeal to a more mass market. Still – the original experience is unmatched even in any MMORPG today.

Fallout

Fallout has it all. It’s unique, with a setting completely unlike any other RPG that came out at the time. It has huge amounts of humor, an excellent story and completely unexpected twists everywhere in the game. If you’ve entered the series in the extremely popular Fallout 3 or Fallout: New Vegas, you absolutely must play this to see where the series began. Only then will you truly appreciate the series for what it is.

Baldur’s Gate (Review)

You must gather your party before venturing forth… If you have not played Baldur’s Gate and enjoy RPGs, you owe it to yourself to do so. Really, there is no other way around it – it’s that good. Baldur’s Gate really did (re-)start the modern RPG genre, and for good reason. Either play it to see where it all came from, or just because it’s worth it. It deserves your attention.

Morrowind

Morrowind is in many respects a much better game than Oblivion was. Sure, the graphics are less polished and the combat engine is far less sophisticated. But the gameplay, enchant system, layered clothing, factions and pretty much anything else in the game was just done so much better. I must have played Morrowind for hundreds of hours, exploring the huge open world. This game is still fantastic even today, especially if you use the numerous mods available to retexture the game and bring it closer to modern standards!

Knights of the old Republic

Do you like RPGs? (If no, why the hell are you reading this anyway?) Do you like Star Wars? Then why are you not playing this right now? On a serious note – KotoR is one of the best RPGs ever made – the story is interesting, the gameplay is awesome – and on top of all that, it has lightsabers. This is a fantastic RPG experience and you owe it to yourself to experience it.

Baldur’s Gate 2 (Review)

Baldur’s Gate 2 takes the strengths of the original Baldur’s Gate and improves upon them, making it a very solid RPG and a worthy investment for any fan of RPGs. It takes the original concept and improves upon it in every way, and is one of these rare examples where a sequel is even better than the original!

Fallout 2

Fallout 2 is another shining example of a sequel really outshining the original release in the series. Fallout 2 came out just over a year after Fallout 1, and for me is the most memorable Fallout game in the entire series. It’s well worth playing this as soon as you’ve finished Fallout 1 as the two go really well together. Fallout 2 takes you to some unique and unforgettable locations and introduces some fantastic characters. It’s really an excellent example to modern developers of what a good RPG looks like!

Planescape: Torment (Review)

Planescape: Torment is probably the most immersive and rich game with the best story ever made. Ever made. Its setting is Planescape, a confusing multiverse of devils, demons, angels, burning men, talking boxes, floating skulls and people created from the power of imagination. I have immense sympathy for those people who did not play it at the time. Whilst now an old game, Planescape: Torment remains a cult classic. You absolutely must play this.

Conclusion

It goes without saying that top-10 lists are extremely subjective and that people tend to have different opinions. We’d love to hear yours – so please drop a comment and let us know what games you feel are missing!

the author

Managing Editor of ManaPool, Peter lives in York, UK and is a great fan and master of turn-based strategy games. If he isn't playing one of those, you'll probably find him in a role-playing game instead. He's definitely not afraid to provide a straight up opinion on any game and has a strong like for indie developers. We all start small, after all.

  • Teronfel

    I see no point in having both fallout 1-2 and BG1-2 in the list and i’m not sure about FF

    Instead of the above you could put into the list games such as Dungeon Master,one game of the Wizardry series,Gothic 1or 2(Top rpg’s without Gothic?:o),Icewind Dale and Divine Divinity.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    Good suggestions Teronfel – but I haven’t played some of those unfortunately. Icewind Dale was “ok” – I found the dungeon bits far too long and couldn’t at all get through the games. They were not as good as BG 1+2 in my opinion.

    I actually very recently tried playing Gothic 2 (and 3 I might add) again but the controls are so… clunky? It’s really a shame as I would love to get into that series – it seems they do some things quite well at least. It’s what’s putting me off getting into Gothic 4 as well – just so many other good alternatives available atm… (And we haven’t covered anywhere near all good RPGs yet! Luxury of being a relatively new site :-) )

  • trebs

    Slow news day it seems.

  • Bhaal

    Icewind Dales were just hack and slash games,they were good but nowhere close to the 2 Baldurs Gates(IwDs focus is on the combat and BGs focus is on the RP/story/big world),they are not in the same league.

    I dont know a lot about Gothics but I played Risen(the unofficial real gothic 4) and if the previous games were similar they are playable but not very impressive(not for an old BG veteran:))

    If something is missing from the list thats 1 of the Elder Scrolls games.

  • Bhaal

    Looks like Morrowind is there so forget the comment about the missing TeS games.

  • bfgod

    Also you man consider puting one of Might and Magic series.
    But i vote with two hands for fallout 1 and 2, Baldur’s gate 1 and 2.

  • Darth Angel

    None of this games I will consider as “retro”, They are not so fresh, but a retro… not yet.

  • Dree

    Definitely agree with Ultima Online. It’s still my favourite MMORPG to this date, and I’ve yet to see anyone match it. How I miss it!

  • suckmy12″

    Those games are only retro if you’re 14.

  • JS

    KoTOR is retro? Excuse me?

  • Kaanyrvhok

    No Pool of Radiance? For its time Pool trump the Baldur’s Gate games.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    I really liked Pool of Radiance, at least when it comes to the combat mechanics but god that game was unpolished. I wouldn’t rate it higher than the BG games, personally – despite being good fun in co-op.

  • trebs

    these games have alot of buzzwords in them.

  • Relican

    Cmon guys, lets list the most mainstream wellknown games which barely qualify as an RPG so it looks like we know what we are doing.

    None of these games are retro, even remotely. Some of them are pretty good games but not retro in any way. Also no Wizardry, Might And Magic, Ultimas? Where the hell is Wasteland?
    This list is a joke.

  • Vibalist

    just echoing the sentiment that these games aren’t really retro.

  • Yazmal

    LOL RETRO!?!?!?!?!?!?!? year 2000 was like decades ago am i right?? so ancient.

  • http://blogovania.blogspot.com Captain Rufus

    September 1997 is when the oldest game on that list came out.

    97 isn’t really retro. Since when is PS1 retro unless you are like, 20?

    I mean, most of those games are really damned good, but… not retro.

  • Mauchlin

    Retro? I remember working on a Christmas eve (night shift) in the mid 1980s. Customer service call center with no one around and no business calling in that night. I brought my Atari ST into the office and hooked it up to the 25″ TV and speakers we had for doing demonstrations and training.

    I kicked back for 10 hours of gaming and loaded up Dungeon Master which had arrived earlier that day. I still remember almost jumping out of my skin when a portcullis grate came down and a skeleton jumped out at me. At a time when wire frame and 4 color games were the norm, this first person 16 (was it more?) color game with digitized sounds and, what was for the time, amazing game play was the first real glimpse I got of what future games might be able to do.

    For its time, Dungeon Master was way ahead of its time. Yes, it was missing lots of conversation and didn’t have tons of what we might think of as role playing elements that we see today, but that is a game that will always be on my top 10. And it truly is a “retro” game!

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  • Anonymoose

    Final Fantasy 7 is way overrated and most of these games are not really “retro”.

  • sinnerman

    Depends on your age. I’m 36 so I agree with you and would’ve when you posted this 5 years ago. But to someone 20 or younger they might be.

    • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

      I’m the same age as you and I would definitely consider these games classics / retro.

      Some of them defined their genres.

      • sinnerman

        Of course you would. This is your article, so you’re biased. Most people my age wouldn’t though since we played video games during DOS, Apple IIe, NES, SNES era.

        • http://www.manapool.co.uk/ Evil Tactician

          “Most people my age” – e.g. so exactly my age, and I don’t know anyone who agrees with you. Just because there are older games, doesn’t mean that some of these aren’t retro.

          It’s all in how you define retro anyway. I could quote Master of Orion 1 – but since the 2nd game was much better, I never would.
          Equally, I could quote something like Angband (or Zangband), but most people wouldn’t have a clue, thus making it a pointless discussion.

          • sinnerman

            “and I don’t know anyone who agrees with you”

            You’re lying because…..your comments section.

            My
            point is retro is relative. For the vast majority people that played
            the games of your list when they were 16 or older, this isn’t retro.
            Retro for that same vast majority is 1995 and older, the majority being
            SNES level graphics, pixels, gameplay pre PS1/GC, not 3D, etc . If you’re really 36, then you are the exception. If you weren’t then at least one person in your comments section would agree with you and literally no one does. If you were aged 0-7 in 1997 then maybe, MAYBE, these are retro.

            “Some of them defined their genres.”

            Agreed. That is not the same as retro, though. Look, I’m glad anyone can make a website and you’re brave and hardworking to put yourself out there. Just…..maybe you should know the definition of words if you want to be taken seriously. But hey, a least you got clicks, right? Ad revenue! Cha-ching!