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Top 10 Classic Western RPGs

VO: Dan Paradis
Script Written by Kurt Hvorup Bring forth the swords, shields and magic – it's time for some old-fashioned role-playing. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Classic Western RPGs. Here we'll be taking a look at games from the 80s and 90s that best embody the tropes and style of Western role-playing fiction, Games that were released in 2000 and onward will be getting a list of their own. We're not including MMORPGs, as they have their own list, and we are placing a limit of one game per franchise. Special thanks to our user mac121mr0 for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script Written by Kurt Hvorup

Top 10 Classic Western RPGs


Bring forth the swords, shields and magic – it's time for some old-fashioned role-playing. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 Classic Western RPGs.

Here we'll be taking a look at games from the 80s and 90s that best embody the tropes and style of Western role-playing fiction, Games that were released in 2000 and onward will be getting a list of their own. We're not including MMORPGs, as they have their own list, and we are placing a limit of one game per franchise.

#10: “The Bard's Tale” (1985)


With a song to be sung and a tale to be told, there's more than a few reasons to give this game a look. “The Bard's Tale” follows a group of adventurers venturing through the town of Skara Brae, battling monsters in its dungeons and catacombs. Though its narrative is certainly respectable, the game is more remembered for its openness in role-playing options and high quality visuals – and that's without bringing up how bard party members can both provide helpful buffs and play songs that solve in-game puzzles. Now that's dedication to theme.

#9: “Dungeon Master II: The Legend of Skullkeep” (1995)


Familiar yet distinct would be a fitting term here. “Dungeon Master II” commences in an underground cavern, where the player selects their party from a variety of cryogenically frozen warriors, magic users, and assorted adventurers. From there, it's a noble quest to siege the fortress of Skullkeep, in order to prevent the arrival of an invasion force. The game's focus on exploration and experimentation is pivotal; magic spells are created through mixing items, there are secrets and hidden areas to uncover, and the world is packed with risks and rewards in equal measure.

#8: “Shadowrun” (1994)


Cyberpunk and role-playing – a match made in heaven. Thus we have the setup for the Sega Genesis and SNES game “Shadowrun”. Players take on the role of Joshua, a man investigating his brother's death in a technologically-advanced Seattle, all the while being drawn into a grander mystery. “Shadowrun” smartly divides into three story branches, matching with the game's sandbox design to create an open-ended experience. Factor in a karma system in place of experience points and the ability to change Joshua's skills over time, and you have a game that stands out from the pack.

#7: “The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall” (1996)


Scope is key here, with ambition as a close second. “Daggerfall”, the sequel to 1994's “The Elder Scrolls: Arena”, certainly begins with an interesting hook: the player is asked to assist an Emperor with two tasks, freeing a king's ghost and investigating a letter's disappearance. However, the game then opens up... and its scope is awe-inspiring. There's a spell creation system, a complex political system, equipment enchantment and variable melee combat, all viable options in a game world said to be 161'600 square kilometers in size. Wow.

#6: “System Shock 2” (1999)


It might not be the deepest RPG on this list, but it’s definitely the scariest. Basically writing the book on creepy spaceships, chilling audio-logs and sci-fi horror games in general, the atmosphere that oozed out of every pore of this game just barely concealed it’s hardcore RPG roots. Although at first it appears to be a just another shooter, just underneath the surface you’ll find a punishingly restrictive RPG, one where you have limited inventory space and a constant need to upgrade your skills and abilities in order have even the faintest hope of getting out alive.

#5: “Wasteland” (1988)


Venture into the post-nuclear wastes if you dare. “Wasteland” puts gamers in the role of a party of Desert Rangers exploring the radioactive ruins of America as part of an investigation. Said premise gives way to a non-linear and persistent game world, wherein challenges could be deadly and problems can be solved through a variety of skills. Though remembered for its impressive difficulty, “Wasteland” also stood out with its statistics-based experience system, permitting the player to develop whatever skills they desired.

#4: “Ultima VII: The Black Gate” (1991)


Developed by Origin Systems, this remarkable RPG stands the test of time. As the seventh instalment of the “Ultima” series, “The Black Gate” served to inject the games' formula with new features – ranging from real-time gameplay, to party members being controlled by AI, to the introduction of a dialogue tree. Matched by a darker take on the land of Britannia, a vast number of objects with which to interact, and a subtle morality system, “Ultima VII” was something to respect and adore in equal measure.

#3: “Planescape: Torment” (1999)


The multiverse can be a sick and twisted place... but here it seems really awesome. That's the odd charm of “Planescape: Torment”, an isometric RPG based on the Planescape campaign setting of “Dungeons & Dragons”. Like its source material, the game focuses on strategic combat and a dense collection of quirky characters and locales – all of which circulate around the Nameless One, the player's avatar and a fascinating anti-hero driven to find his lost identity. Truly, this is role-playing at some of its finest.

#2: “Fallout 2” (1998)


As much love as we have for the original “Fallout”, its follow-up brings more to the table. Eighty years after “Fallout”, our fabled hero The Chosen One ventures into the post-nuclear wastes in search of the means to save their village. “Fallout 2” takes the skill system and action point-based combat of the first game, meshing both with a large open world setting and a narrative rich with engaging characters and quests to create a role-playing game that balances scope and depth. War may not change, but the “Fallout” series does... and for the better.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“Pool of Radiance” (1988)

“Betrayal at Krondor” (1993)

“Times of Lore” (1988)

“Might and Magic Book One: The Secret of the Inner Sanctum” (1986)

“Eye of the Beholder” (1991)

#1: “Diablo” (1996)


Stay a while and listen. Developed by Blizzard North, “Diablo” is the resulting brilliance that came of fusing real-time action, a 3D isometric style, and precious loot. Its narrative is relatively simple – you are a lone hero, sent to save a small town from the unspeakable evil that plagues them – but it’s really the gameplay that’s so key here. The game finds a healthy balance between hack-and-slash combat and classic role-playing item management, creating an incredibly addictive gameplay loop with remarkably punchy, satisfying combat. It's dark, intense, atmospheric, and an absolute classic through and through.

Do you agree with our list? What are your favorite classic Western RPGs? For more nostalgic Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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