Every year a glut of video game releases hit the market, making it hard to keep track of everything. RPG fans had a pretty good 2021, from fantastic indies to new games in popular franchises. Bandai Namco gave us two stellar RPGs in Tales of Arise and Scarlet Nexus. Remakes and remasters, like Nier: Replicant, Mass Effect Legendary Edition, and Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, provided plenty of nostalgia, while also bringing new fans into the fold. Longawaited entries finally debuted with Shin Megami Tensei V and Neo: The World Ends With You. And that’s only scratching the surface. Here are five RPGs worth your time that may have slipped past your radar.
If you enjoy RPGs with a nostalgic ’90s feel, Eastward is worth your time. Between the pixel art style, whimsical atmosphere, and endearing bond between protagonists John and Sam, there’s a lot to love. The quirky adventure is full of surprises as you unravel the secrets of this strange world, using frying pans to whack enemies out cold and bombs to blow past obstacles. It’s equal parts bizarre and heartwarming and pays homage to Earthbound with its own arcade game called Earth Born for you to play when you need a diversion from the main story. If you want an RPG with simple mechanics and a unique setting, look no further. Read our review for more.
The long-running Ys series continues to shine and proves it isn’t afraid to take some risks along the way with Ys IX: Monstrum Nox. The series still follows the iconic red-headed hero Adol, but he gains supernatural abilities and the power to exorcise monsters for this entry. During his adventure, he meets others gifted with these powers, and they all have their own specialties to help you traverse the city and take on baddies. The unique methods for traversal and increased verticality make exploration a blast, and the big bosses and fast-paced action don’t disappoint. Plus, the story goes to some wild places. Watch our New Gameplay Today for more.
With a beautiful aesthetic and intriguing concept, Cris Tales catches your attention and offers more than a few reasons to stick around. Ultimately a love letter to classic RPGs, Cris Tales takes well-worn genre tropes, such as time travel, and makes them more than a gimmick. For instance, Cris Tales’ time-hopping mechanic lets you simultaneously see the past, present, and future, which makes for not only fun exploration but interesting battle opportunities. Think: using a water spell on an enemy’s powerful shield and then moving to the future to make it rust, bringing down its defense. It’s fun seeing the impact of your actions through the different timelines, and if the game proves anything, it’s that no future is guaranteed. Read our review.
This character-driven, procedurally-generated tactical RPG has received its share of acclaim, but still managed to fly under many people’s radars. Its PC exclusivity could be part of the reason, but it’s worth finding a way to play it, especially if you enjoy table-top role-playing experiences. Just like running your own Dungeons & Dragons campaign, you gear up a team, make decisions that affect their story, and take on hordes of enemies in various turn-based combat setups. While each campaign is self-contained, the cool part of Wildermyth is that you can take characters you develop into subsequent campaigns, complete with all their stats. Our own Dan Tack said it best in his review: “If you’ve always wanted a fantasy Dungeons & Dragons stylized XCOM game, Wildermyth might be exactly what you’re looking for. Designing a game around randomized storytelling is tricky, but Worldwalker pulls this off with gusto and gravitas.” Read the full review here.
If you like strategy/RPGs but prefer a little zaniness and over-the-top antics, a new entry in the long-running Disgaea series came out this past summer. This entry is a bit more streamlined, but still retains its humorous bent and fun strategy combat that lets you chain ridiculous damage numbers. This time you play as a lowly zombie named Zed who uses the power of Super Reincarnation to come back to life every time he dies. Zed’s persistence to get better every time and improve those around him makes for one of the better storylines in the series. Graphical upgrades and a new, though divisive, auto-play feature add some paint to the series. If you’ve played other entries, you’ll probably enjoy this one. And if it’s your first Disgaea rodeo, this is also a great place to begin.