The best RPG games 2021

The best RPGs for PlayStation, Xbox, Switch and PC

Final Fantasy VII Remake

by William Lobley |

Once perceived as a thoroughly nerdy subsection of the gaming world, the RPG is now a mainstream and popular genre, catering to people of all ages and interests. The reason for this popularity is that many role-playing mechanics have absorbed and entwined into near-enough every other video game genre, from action adventures to first-person shooters.

Related: The best gaming PC under £1,000 | The best video game console

What started as an exploration of the Dungeons and Dragons fandom is now one of the industry's most significant genres. Whether you’re looking for an epic adventure through a fantasy realm or sci-fi galaxy, we’ve rounded up the best RPG games below, offering rewarding exploration and player freedom.

The best games on: PS5 | Xbox | PC | Switch

The list demonstrates the diversity of RPGs. Below you'll find fantasy romps with dragons, dungeons and drama aplenty, sitting alongside sci-fi epics bursting with space, science and speculation. Other titles, such as MGSV: The Phantom Pain and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, pick essential RPG ingredients and scatter them intriguingly throughout their series instalments. There’s also a healthy selection of Japanese RPGs to be found below. Known as JRPGs, these games are increasingly finding themselves increasingly popular in Western markets, not least because of their perceived idiosyncrasies, eccentric and freewheeling narratives and bombastic soundtracks.

Keep reading for our picks of the best RPG games for PlayStation, Xbox, Switch and PC.

Disco Elysium: Final Cut (PC)

Disco Elysium: Final Cut (PC)

Disco Elysium: Final Cut (PC)

Disco Elysium: Final Cut (PC)

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Developer: ZA/UM | Publisher: ZA/UM | Released: 2021 | Age Rating: 18

Disco Elysium is a detective RPG with sprawling potential and is probably one of the best games ever made. The main thrust is that you’re an amnesiac detective investigating an unusual death. From here, what happens is anyone’s guess - there are dozens of skills, tools and psychoactive cocktails to delve into as you develop your ultimate character. This flexibility carries into an expansive dialogue and narrative tree, and a fictional world with a rich and heated political history. While the original release is highly recommended, Final Cut fleshes the game out with full voice acting and new political side quests.

Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4, PS5)

Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4, PS5)

Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4, PS5)

Final Fantasy VII Remake (PS4, PS5)
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Developer: Square Enix | Publisher: Square Enix | Released: 2020 | Age Rating: 16

Rebuilding one of the most highly regarded games of all time is a gamble, and Square Enix rolled the dice. It paid off, successfully bringing together the atmospheres of 1997's journey through Midgar and fusing them with new mechanics, beautiful artistry and a little narrative twist. This instalment focuses on the first portion of the original game and promises great things for what is to come. Fans of the classic rejoice, newcomers, prepare to fall in love. If you’re one of the lucky few to have access to a PS5, then aim for FFVII Remake Intergrade - this enhanced version has improved graphics and load times, and an extra bit of story, called Episode Intermission. Yes - all the names are very confusing.

Persona 5 Royal (Multi)

Persona 5 Royal (Multi)

Persona 5 Royal (Multi)

Persona 5 Royal (Multi)
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Developer: Atlus | Publisher: SEGA | Released: 2019 | Age Rating: 16

To Western eyes, JRPGs appear notably weird and wonderful. The Persona series is very, very JRPG. But behind all of the awesome-yet-bonkers parallel universes, demonology and pseudo-psychology, sits a brilliantly constructed title that rewards exploration, experimentation, and dedication. This one is all about character growth and building meaningful relationships (and letting you live out your fantasies of being a painfully cool teenager in Shinjuku, Tokyo).

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Multi)

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Multi)

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Multi)

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Multi)
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Developer: Kojima Productions | Publisher: Konami | Released: 2015 | Age Rating: 18

Kojima’s last outing with the legendary Metal Gear Solid sees the eccentric series merge well-defined stealth gameplay with open-world maps, huge upgrade trees, and base and resource management. MGSV is home to free-form main missions and many, many side missions which help you develop new gear, unlock base developments and new mercenary recruits. The story is pretty weird and confusing, but ultimately this sits secondary to the core mechanical excellence offered.

Demon’s Souls (PS5)

Demon’s Souls (PS5)

Demonu2019s Souls (PS5)

Demonu2019s Souls (PS5)

Developer: Bluepoint Games | Publisher: SIE | Released: 2020 | Age Rating: 18

Bluepoint Game's remake of this PS3 cult classic is a triumph - it remains true to the 2009 original's unforgiving RPG mechanics while reinvigorating the sound and visuals. Players will adventure through realms of grimdark mirth, battle sneaky environments and tough foes. And die - a lot. It's a hard game to master, but Demon's Souls is a legendary title worthy of your time.

Yakuza: Like A Dragon (Multi)

Yakuza: Like A Dragon (Multi)

Yakuza: Like A Dragon (Multi)

Yakuza: Like A Dragon (Multi)
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Developer: Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio | Publisher: Sega | Released: 2020 | Age Rating: 18

Yakuza: Like A Dragon is a violent and bizarre JRPG that's serious and slapstick, satirical and optimistic. You take control of Ichiban Kasuga, a betrayed ex-Yakuza with a heart of gold, as he treads the neon-lit streets of Ijincho with a rag-tag band of equally charming characters. Like A Dragon is a notable deviation from the rest of the series in tone and gameplay and is the first to adopt a brilliant turn-based battle system and class system. It's also the most accessible instalment of the Yakuza series, as it doesn't rely on you having played any of the other games.

Got Xbox Game Pass? You can play Like A Dragon for free, today. To find out what you have access to, read our guide to the best games on Xbox Game Pass.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Multi)

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Multi)

Assassinu2019s Creed Valhalla (Multi)

Assassinu2019s Creed Valhalla (Multi)

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Developer: Ubisoft Montreal | Publisher: Ubisoft | Released: 2020 | Age Rating: 18

The latest instalment of the long-running Assassin's Creed sees Ubisoft bring gamers to Anglo-Saxon England. As the Viking warrior Eivor, players will pillage their way through countless main and side quests, landscapes stunning and developing towns. The combat is a real success here, feeling tactile and weighty. Fully loaded with content and a compelling spirit for adventure, Valhalla is a step forward for the franchise.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition (Multi)

Mass Effect Legendary Edition (Multi)

Mass Effect Legendary Edition (Multi)

Mass Effect Legendary Edition (Multi)
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Developer: BioWare | Publisher: EA | Released: 2021 | Age Rating: 18

In Mass Effect, you take up the role of Commander Shepard and embark on a struggle to save the galaxy from the wrath of the Reapers. It’s a series of epic sci-fi mastery and incredible world-building, full of tough decisions and meaningful consequences. You’ll forge close friendships, alliances and romances with crewmates, or the opposite, if you so choose. Previously the Mass Effect trilogy would’ve taken up three spots on this list -thanks to the new and polished Legendary Edition, that’s no longer the case. This new edition treats the original games to a shiny 4K remaster - great for old-timers, perfect for newcomers. It also includes 40 DLC packs from across the games, including missions and weapons.

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (Switch)

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (Switch)

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (Switch)

Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition (Switch)

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Developer: Monolith Soft | Publisher: Nintendo | Released: 2020 | Age Rating: 12

Xenoblade Chronicles first appeared on the Nintendo Wii way back in 2010. Thanks to its impressive scope and scale, it soon amassed a dedicated and loyal following. Deservedly, it's now been polished up for Switch. The game sees you adventure as Shulk and his companions, fighting your way across the plains of Bionis and Mechonis to unearth the origin of the Monado, a mythical and powerful sword. This is a true classic that will thrill newcomers and hardcore RPG fans alike.

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
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Developer: Nintendo | Publisher: Nintendo | Released: 2017 | Age Rating: 12

Breath of the Wild's map is huge. It's the first truly open-world Zelda map, and it doesn't hold back. You'll take control of Link and explore the vast and enchanting plains of Hyrule, fighting, gathering ingredients, uncovering secrets and solving puzzles. This game easily lasts beyond 100 hours of play. It’s geographically, mechanically and narratively open, meaning that you do have to play a role and carve out your freeform path.

Stardew Valley (Multi)

Stardew Valley (Multi)

Stardew Valley (Multi)

Stardew Valley (Multi)
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Developer: ConcernedApe | Publisher: ConcernedApe | Released: 2016 | Age Rating: 12

It’s time to take over your grandfather's farming plot in the rundown and sleepy town of Stardew Valley. With only a few coins and some sub-par gardening equipment, the player sets to cultivating both the land and friendships in the humble surroundings. It's charming, absorbing and rewarding, and mixes up its traditional framing simulator roots with the cave exploration and fights, marriages and fishing sprees. ConcernedApe is dedicated to the ongoing support of Stardew Valley too, with updates and quality of life improvements being frequent and significant. It’s a multi-format game, but our favourite place to play is the Switch - its graphics and pacing feel at home on the console.

Monster Hunter Rise (Switch)

Monster Hunter Rise (Switch)

Monster Hunter Rise (Switch)

Monster Hunter Rise (Switch)
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Developer: Capcom | Publisher: Capcom | Released: 2021 | Age Rating: 12

The ninja-laden Monster Hunter returns with Rise. Here, as always, you take up the role of a hunter and adventure through a fantastical world hunting increasingly outrageous monsters to slay. It's a deep game presented in an accessible form, boasting hours of immersive gameplay, tones of loot, and a robust combat system that conveys a hugely satisfying sense of weight and heft. This is also a great one to play with friends - players can team up to take down foes, taking advantage of different class skillsets and abilities.

Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition (Multi)

Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition (Multi)

Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition (Multi)

Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age Definitive Edition (Multi)

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Developer: Square Enix | Publisher: Square Enix | Released: 2019 | Age Rating: 12

Dragon Quest XI is a classic RPG adventure through and through, featuring a large world, epically long playtime and a finely tuned combat system. While the fantasy narrative beats are predictable, the gameplay, world design and OST are wholly excellent. The Definitive Edition certainly earns the name, adding new side missions and paying a meaningful homage to the series roots: players can switch between the 3D and 16-bit visuals, orchestral score and digital score, and English and Japanese voice acting.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Multi)

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Multi)

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Multi)

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Multi)
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Developer: Bethesda Game Studios | Publisher: Bethesda Software | Released: 2011 | Age Rating: 15

If it feels like Skyrim has been around forever and chances are you've played at least once – but it's never a game to underestimate or ignore. The role-playing elements of both the narrative and skill development mean that no two playthroughs are the same, and the DLC expansions only add to the hundred-plus hours of potential adventuring. Originally released way back in the halcyon days of 2011, it looks a little tired now (even with its endless rereleases and ports), but it’s still a masterpiece deserving of your time.

Red Dead Redemption 2 (Multi)

Red Dead Redemption 2 (Multi)

Red Dead Redemption 2 (Multi)

Red Dead Redemption 2 (Multi)
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Developer: Rockstar Studios | Publisher: Rockstar Games | Released: 2018 | Age Rating: 18

Taking place in the dying days of the Wild West, Red Dead Redemption 2 has players explore the era’s last hurrah in the face of impending modernisation. The world that Rockstar has made is painstakingly detailed and full of life, wonder and opportunity. There are cowboy moments aplenty as the player confronts gangs, governments, wild animals and local hicks in a game that’s nothing short of a cinematic open-world masterpiece.

Dragon Age: Inquisition (Multi)

Dragon Age: Inquisition (Multi)

Dragon Age: Inquisition (Multi)

Dragon Age: Inquisition (Multi)

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Developer: BioWare | Publisher: EA | Released: 2014 | Age Rating: 18

Dragon Age: Inquisition is an action RPG set within the vibrant and hostile world of Thedas. It’s pure fantasy to its very bones, with races, classes and missions all falling comfortably into traditional concepts of RPGing. This is by no means a slight - it’s a well-presented title with rewarding gameplay and development and an uncanny ability to catch newcomers up with the lore of previous titles. One of the most notable elements of the Inquisition experience is developing a strong party. There are many party members to choose from, each with a fleshed-out backstory and inter-team pros and cons.

World Of Warcraft: Shadowlands (PC)

World Of Warcraft: Shadowlands (PC)

World Of Warcraft: Shadowlands (PC)

World Of Warcraft: Shadowlands (PC)

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Developer: Blizzard Entertainment | Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment | Released: 2020 | Age Rating: 12

For a brief moment in 2020, World of Warcraft: Shadowlands was the fastest-selling PC game of all time - right before Cyberpunk 2077 blew it out of the water. This proves two things: one, there’s still an insatiable appetite for the Warcraft MMORPG world, and two, that Shadowlands is more than just another expansion. It’s a pack that’s exciting for the established player and accessible for the newcomer, taking place in WOW’s afterlife realm, which on its own is a pretty cool place to be, while also injecting a host of new quests, features and solo-play modes into proceedings.

NieR:Automata (Multi)

NieR:Automata (Multi)

NieR:Automata (Multi)

NieR:Automata (Multi)

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Developer: Quantic Dream | Publisher: SIE | Released: 2018 | Age Rating: 18

NieR:Automata is enviously confident in its weirdness. It follows the androids 2B, 9S and A2, as they fight on behalf of the human race to reclaim the earth from its mechanic overlords. Other than this, it’s got an open-world, RPG mechanics and hack-and-slash mechanics, not to mention mech battles. To top it all off, to fully unfold the story, it needs playing three times. Automata is weird, sure, but it earns its place as a certified cult classic.

The Outer Worlds (Multi)

The Outer Worlds (Multi)

The Outer Worlds (Multi)

The Outer Worlds (Multi)

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Developer: Obsidian Entertainment | Publisher: Private Division | Released: 2019 | Age Rating: 18

The Outer Worlds is a quirky space-galivanting FPS RPG from the creators of Fallout: New Vegas and its gameplay mechanics share much of the same DNA. Taking place in the Halcyon system, you must work your way through various worlds and colonies to uncover a nefarious conspiracy at the heart of the system. The universe has a nice retro-futuristic edge (yup, like Fallout), which is a joy to explore and behold and makes for some interesting tech to use and discover.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Multi)

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Multi)

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Multi)

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Multi)
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Developer: CD Projekt Red | Publisher: CD Projekt | Released: 2015 | Age Rating: 18

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is brimming with memorable characters, inventive lore and meaningful RPG progression. You take up the role of Geralt, the burly monster hunter and sword for hire, as he quests his way across the lush and sprawling Riva, fighting, magicking, bartering and card gaming his way to victory. The map is vast and world detailed, and the massive quest log will have players engrossed in this award-winning game for hundreds of hours.

Looking for something to play today, and for free? Read about the best games to download on Xbox Game Pass here.

William Lobley is a Content Writer and reviewer for WhatsTheBest, specialising in technology, gaming and outdoors. He also writes for Empire Online.

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