cyberpunk 2077 2.1 update

Image source: CD Projekt Red

Role with it.

Role-Playing Games (RPGs) continue to be one of the most popular video game genres. And for good reason. There’s nothing quite like becoming a character in an expansive world that beckons to be explored and choosing how to approach your adventuring. Fortunately, there are myriad fantastic RPGs to scratch that role-playing itch. In this list, we’ll be focusing on more recent ones, not the classics like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (which is also a must-play). With that in mind, here are 10 of the best RPGs to play in 2024 (if you haven’t already) and what makes them so special.

Cyberpunk 2077

cyberpunk 2077 title banner
Image source: CD Projekt Red

Three years ago, Cyberpunk 2077 appearing on a best-of list would’ve raised more than a few eyebrows. And rightly so. As I explored last year, developers CD Projekt Red have somewhat redeemed themselves by fixing many of Cyberpunk 2077‘s many problems, but it was a hot mess at launch. With Update 2.0 and the release of the insanely popular Phantom Liberty DLC, however, the game is one of the best RPGs you can play.

A big part of why Cyberpunk 2077 is so good is its world. Night City is, without doubt, one of the most vibrant, immerse urban open-world environments we’ve ever seen. Gleaming chrome megastructures and grungy slums coexist in a searing comment on unbridled capitalism and post-humanity. Further, memorable NPCs complement an excellent main story, and Cyberpunk 2077 boasts the kind of subversive quests that only CD Projekt Red seem able to do. In short, Night City is well worth dozens of hours of your time.

Disco Elysium

Image source: ZA/UM

Do you like reading? If your answer is a resounding “No!”, then Disco Elysium may not be for you. Consider skipping to our next recommendation! But if you love deep, immersive RPGs and the idea of reams of text doesn’t make you break out in a cold sweat, then ZA/UM’s 2019 masterpiece may be for you. 

With a script running to over 1 million words, Disco Elysium does ask that you pay attention. It’s certainly not an action-filled romp to blast through after a hard day’s work. In fact, there isn’t really any traditional combat at all. Where Disco Elysium shines, though, is in its strong writing, compelling, nuanced characters and fantastic unparalleled storytelling. By far its best feature, however, is the staggering level of choice it affords. As washed-up detective Harry Du Bois, you need to solve the case of a grim lynching. How you go about that, though, is entirely up to you.  Disco Elysium is without doubt one of the best RPGs to play in 2024 if you’re after a more measured, cerebral RPG experience.

Elden Ring

Image source: FromSoftware

What do you get when you take the infamous “Souls” formula and transport it into an open-world setting? Elden Ring is what you get. From the twisted mind of Hidetaka Miyazaki, who created the now-legendary Dark Souls series, Elden Ring is everything you’d expect from a FromSoftware game. Brutal, stamina-based combat? Check. Genre-defining but often vindictive level design? Check. Obtuse, scattered lore? Check. A veritable army of intimidating creatures all desperate to gut you? Check.

Where Elden Ring differs from its peers, however, and truly feels like an advancement of the genre, is its vast, beautiful open world. The Last Between have been masterfully crafted to encourage and reward exploration. It’s almost akin to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild in that regard, if Zelda’s Hyrule was covered in razor wire. 

Make no mistake: in Elden Ring you will die many, many times before you “git gud”. Or give up. Persevere, however, and you’ll find an immensely rewarding experience unlike any of the other RPGs on this list. And, unlike in other Dark Souls games, if you’re getting your head repeatedly caved in by an oversized boss, you can always just say, “Screw it” and go somewhere else.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Complete Edition

Image source: CD Projekt Red

The second CD Projekt Red RPG on this list, if you’re into RPGs and haven’t played The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt by now, I’m not sure what to say to you. Playing as monster-hunter Geralt, in this action-RPG you explore a huge, diverse open world teeming with monsters both human and mythical. 

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt isn’t just one of the best modern RPGs, but one of the best RPGs ever made. The vast, hand-crafted world is so incredibly detailed and brimming with life that it’s a joy to explore. Geralt’s adventure in search of his adopted daughter, Ciri, is compelling and excellently written, and the combat is fast, fluid and surprisingly deep, meaning it’s always exciting to take on the monstrous creatures you’ll encounter.

But where The Witcher 3 truly stands out is with its quest structure. In fact, we’d argue it’s yet to be surpassed. Eschewing the predictable filler side-quests that dominate so many open-world RPGs, every quest in The Witcher 3 subverts your expectations. There’s always more than meets the eye, and this surprise element makes for the most compelling quests we’ve ever experienced.   

Baldur’s Gate 3

Baldur's Gate 3 title screen
Image source: Larian Studios

You knew it was coming. No list of the 10 best RPGs to play in 2024 would be complete without the best RPG, and arguably the best overall game, of 2023. Following on over 20 years from its predecessor, Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn, Baldur’s Gate 3 achieves something miraculous. It near-flawlessly translates the famous tabletop RPG Dungeons and Dragons systems to video game format, opening it up to a new legion of players. 

There’s not much I can say about Baldur’s Gate 3 that hasn’t already been covered. Suffice to say, though, that it truly is a must-play RPG. Showing that turn-based combat is far from dead, Baldur’s Gate 3 gives you a wealth of options on how you deal with the Forgotten Realms’ hostile denizens. The quest system is astonishing, too, tracking a mind-boggling number of variables, resulting in an adventure with more branches than an ancient oak tree. Add to that beautifully-detailed environments, a truly memorable cast of nuanced characters, and a compelling central storyline, and Baldur’s Gate 3 truly is one of the best RPGs you can play right now.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Image source: Nintendo

Although Nintendo Switch is stuffed full of fantastic platformers and action-adventure games, it isn’t with a killer roster of RPGs, too. We’d recommend Xenoblade Chronicles 3 and Super Mario RPG, in particular, but our favorite has to be Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Although Fire Emblem: Three Houses doesn’t feature the fast-paced, real-time combat that characterizes many of the other RPGs on this list, it doesn’t need to. It has a lot else going for it. For starters, the blend of time-based social simulation with turn-based battling against the backdrop of three distinct warring factions never fails to be compelling. What truly stands it apart from other RPGs and makes it worthy of being played right now in 2024, however, is how it makes you truly care for your characters. Because you’re taking your own students into battle, the sense of responsibility is unrivaled. When things go wrong, you have nobody else to blame but yourself. Who’d be a teacher, huh?

Final Fantasy VII Remake

Image source: Square Enix

Last year, our editor, Matt, was deeply skeptical about Final Fantasy VII Remake. He’d refused to play it, citing understandable concerns that, by breaking apart the original Final Fantasy VII, it would be spread too thin with excessive filler. And then he played Remake and admitted he was wrong. In fact, he believes that, to date, it’s one of the best examples of a pure AAA game that exists. It’s undoubtedly one of the best and most comprehensive remakes that we’ve ever seen, changing not just the gameplay fundamentals but key plot points and characterisation from the original.

Although it’s a few years old now, there are a few reasons why Final Fantasy VII Remake is one of the best RPGs to play in 2024. For starters, it’s simply a superb action-RPG from start to finish. It arguably doesn’t do any one thing in particular better than other RPGs on this list. The combat is fluid and solid but occasionally too frenetic; the story has periods of escalating and diminishing tension but drags on a little too long; and the presentation is fantastic but not industry-leading. But every one of Final Fantasy VII Remake‘s components are so solid that it elevates the whole. 

The other good reason to play Final Fantasy VII Remake is that Rebirth is just around the corner. Unsurprisingly, it’s looking superb. We can’t wait.

Octopath Traveler II

Image source: Square Enix

The original Octopath Traveler, first released on Nintendo Switch in 2018, immediately seized our attention with its gorgeous aesthetic. Its combination of cute pixel sprites and detailed, polygonal environments was a visual delight, and it had a stunning soundtrack to boot. With eight characters to choose from when deciding on your protagonist, there was a lot of traditional RPG goodness to enjoy.

 Where Octopath Traveler fell a little short in our eyes, however, was with the interactions between its main characters. Their journeys were interesting enough, but they didn’t fully interlink in a satisfying way. Octopath Traveler II isn’t a marked departure from its prequel’s formula, but it does improve on it in significant ways. For instance, there’s more interconnectivity between the eight main characters this time around. It also has a number of quality of life updates, while retaining the engaging combat, to make it one of the best “traditional” RPGs to play in 2024 if you want to scratch that itch.

Persona 5 Royal

Image source: Sega

We make no apologies for putting Persona 5 Royal on a list of the best RPGs to play in 2024. Sure, it’s not a particularly recent game. It’s not even the most recent Persona entry, with the excellent Persona 3 Reload taking that spot. But, for our money, Persona 5 Royal is the best of the series.

Many would probably disagree with that statement, perhaps arguing that Persona 4 Golden is the better game. That’s understandable. Most of the Persona games are fantastic. You could argue that any of them are the best. We just love Persona 5 Royal because, on top of the typical Persona Social Links systems and dungeon-crawling, it looks so darn cool. The UI presentation is unlike anything else seen in other RPGs – a work of art in its own right. Combine that with its deep characterization, incredible soundtrack and ridiculous amount of content, and Persona 5 Royal remains an RPG you could be playing in 2024… even if you started when it was released!

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Image source: Namco Bandai Entertainment

I admit, this last pick is a personal one. Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch Remastered is far from the best RPG on this list. It’s not a particularly recent game, either. Heck, it’s not even the most recent Ni no Kuni console game, although this Remastered version came out slightly later than Ni no Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom. But, for my money, it remains one of the most charming, enchanting and feel-good RPGs out there. And with all the global turmoil that continues to rage in 2024, not least in the creaking games industry, perhaps that’s what we need right now.

A collaboration between RPG veterans Level-5 and the renowned Studio Ghibli should have created something special, and Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch doesn’t disappoint. While its combat is admittedly lacking, it makes up for it with oodles of charm and whimsy. To this day, Drippy remains one of the best video game companions of all time, and that’s a hill I’ll gladly die on. 

It’s just such a shame that there’s no sign of Ni no Kuni III. Wrath of the White Witch‘s sequel, Revenant Kingdom, fixed the combat deficiencies, but lacked in the story department. We need another entry to finally nail both aspects and hopefully give us one of the best RPGs of all time.

So, that’s our list of 10 of the best RPGs to play in 2024 and what makes them so special. It’s heartening that the RPG genre is still going strong in this era of “live-service” games and increasingly-fierce competition for our time. Let’s hope that 2024 continues to bring more stellar RPGs. We’ll keep updating this list as new entries emerge.

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