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The Best RPG Games Of 2021

Fans don't always agree about what defines an RPG, or Role Playing Game. Some describe RPGs as a recreation of tabletop games like "Dungeons & Dragons," which grew in pop culture cachet over the past few years with popular "let's play" series like "Critical Role" and "Fantasy High" cropped up online. Gamers might think of storied franchises like "Final Fantasy," or other entries that embrace Japanese RPG aesthetics when they ponder the definition of RPGs, but classification is pretty simple.

Ultimately, RPGs ask players to control a specific character or characters through an (often) immense story. Sometimes, these stories feature in depth character development, which could account for so many fans remembering the plots of their favorite games even years later.

RPGs come in all manner of flavors, like action-adventure or tactics, and the genre's fanbase remains strong. 2021 looks like a great year for RPGs, and several games have moved to the forefront. If you're the type of RPG player that tries to hide specific quirks that set you apart from the rest of the gaming world, or if you're always on the hunt for obscure RPG gems, this list of the top RPGs of 2021 most likely has something for you.

Loop Hero

Critics enjoyed "Loop Hero" when it first released in March 2021, commending it for its innovative structure that utilized, well, loops. The premise of "Loop Hero" is fairly simple: After a dastardly lich locks a town of innocents in a neverending time loop, one hero must journey forth to save the community. Their main weapon? Cards.

Most of the time, card games revolve around deck-building or battles, but "Loop Hero" puts a twist on the formula by making each card representative of a dungeon element, like a monster or trap. Players construct a path through the dungeon with their available cards, arranging obstacles in such a way to make the journey the least painful. "Loop Hero" borrows the tactical nature of many turn-based RPGs and repurposes the strategic planning found in them. Instead of trying to decimate an enemy, players are just getting through a dungeon as best they can.

PC Gamer's Evan Lahti said that part of the charm of "Loop Hero" was its absolute refusal to explain itself. Instead of forcing players through long tutorials, "Loop Hero" lets mysteries reveal themselves through actual play, which is more surprising and delightful than the alternative. "​​It's refreshing as hell to play a game that doesn't even hint at how to unlock some of its powerful effects," Lahti explained. Anyone looking for a card-based game that doesn't seem too much like a run of the mill card-based game should check out "Loop Hero."

  • Release Date: March 4, 2021
  • Available On: PC
  • Genre: Roguelike, Strategy RPG, Indie
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 82 (PC)

Persona 5 Strikers

Characters and writing are often big elements of what makes an RPG so great, and the "Persona" series has both in spades. "Persona 5" and "Persona 5 Royal" both won over fans with their lovable cast of characters and jazzy, cool style, but "Strikers" adds a new sort of experience to the "Persona" series. Instead of using a turn-based combat system, which allows players to take their time, "Strikers" is a real-time action experience.

"Persona 5 Strikers" fits into the "Persona" timeline seamlessly, taking place just a few months after the events of "Persona 5" (although "Strikers" does not mention the events of "Royal"). The gang reunites after what has to be the worst school year in history to face a new threat with a completely different combat style. Oh, and they're on a cross-country road trip, which gives players a chance to see more of Japan through the eyes of the Phantom Thieves.

Critics generally enjoyed "Persona 5 Strikers," even though some took issue with the simplicity of its puzzles. For most reviewers, the style "Strikers" brought to the Musou genre made it worth a play. And really, style is what "Persona 5" is all about in the first place, isn't it? One Steam reviewer commented, "Put the Phantom Thieves in damn near anything, and I'll show up. They're so well-written, realistic-sounding, and mature. And they've grown from when we last met them, showing empathy to their adversaries." That sort of character development is what the "Persona" games are known for, and it looks like a change of genre doesn't do anything to change that.

  • Release Date: Feb. 20, 2021
  • Available On: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4
  • Genre: Action-adventure RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 80 (Switch), 76 (PC), 84 (PS4)

The Nioh Collection

February 2021 saw a remaster of one of the most exciting action RPGs in recent history, "Nioh." "The Nioh Collection" for PS5 provided a next-gen facelift for the franchise. Fans had the choice to purchase the games separately or together, as well as to receive a free upgrade from the PS4 to PS5 version if they chose.

"Nioh" followed William, a masterless samurai journeying between warring nations in a historic, yet fantastical Japan. "Nioh 2" allowed players to create their own protagonist in an exhaustive character creator.It also served as a prequel to the first game, fleshing out the lore of the world. Both "Nioh" and "Nioh 2" allowed players to enter a historical Japan flavored with very real Yokai, or demons, and fight their way through the harsh levels.

"The Nioh Collection" received high scores on Metacritic, and impressed critics with its beautiful graphics and challenging gameplay. Game Informer compared "Nioh" to similar games like the "Dark Souls" franchise, but ultimately noted that "Nioh" has a flavor all its own — one that rewards players for being repeatedly destroyed.

Even though "Nioh" is only a few years old, the graphical and quality of life improvements in the remastered edition make the game worth picking up all over again.

  • Release Date: Feb. 5, 2021
  • Available On: PS5
  • Genre: Action, RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Online co-op (Up to 3)
  • Metacritic Score: 88 (PS5)

Everhood

Despite its newness, "Everhood" has skyrocketed to the top of the Metacritic charts with an 81 from critics. "Everhood" bills itself as an "unconventional adventure RPG," and it certainly lives up to that title. The game's combat system is hard to describe, but could most closely be compared to "Undertale," which uses a similarly unconventional battle system.

The combat in "Everhood" relates to music, and players must hop, dodge, and maneuver around musical obstacles. The game's plot seems simple enough. Players take the roll of a wooden doll missing an arm. While pursuing the blue dwarf who stole the arm, players explore the strange landscape, filled with creatures and friends, all while engaging in musical battles. Made by a small team, the game's attention to detail and humor will impress even the most stoic RPG fan.

The fan community for "Everhood" is growing, too. The official "Everhood" Twitter account frequently posts fan-modded musical battles, like one that features a crossover with "Among Us." The crossover potential of "Everhood," along with its musical combat system, make it worth watching in 2021.

  • Release Date: March 4, 2021
  • Available On: PC
  • Genre: Action, RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 84 (PC)

Eastward

"Eastward" is a love letter to the Japanese RPGs of the 1990s, with its pixelated graphics and post apocalyptic storyline. Like "Chrono Trigger" and "Zelda: A Link to the Past" combined, "Eastward" takes an isometric view of its protagonists Sam and John as they battle across a treacherous world in search of a new life outside their mining community. John is a gruff, silent miner who wants nothing more than to protect his adopted daughter, Sam, who he found in a mysterious factory. The two help out in different towns as they travel, eventually seeking to find out more about Sam's origins.

In Polygon's review of "Eastward," Nicole Carpenter argued that even though the game is inspired by classic 1990s RPGs, it thrives because it carves out its own space within the genre. John doesn't fight with a sword like Link or wait his turn like in classic Japanese RPGs. Instead, he whacks enemies with a cast iron skillet, which players can upgrade throughout the game. Meanwhile, blasts enemies with powerful energy that can stun baddies, even if it can't hurt them. Players save their games by talking to conspicuous refrigerators. "Eastward" definitely has its own flavor, and it sets itself apart from other action RPGs on the market.

"Eastward" received great reviews from critics, who applauded its quirky dialogue and aesthetics, while players appreciated its careful design and atmosphere.

  • Release Date: Sept. 16, 2021
  • Available On: Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Genre: Action Adventure, RPG, Indie
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 79 (Switch), 83 (PC)

Garden Story

"Garden Story" was one of a handful of indie titles to receive a surprise launch on the Nintendo Switch on Aug. 11. It bills itself as a cross between sweet slice-of-life games like "Stardew Valley" or "Story of Seasons," complete with combat elements and an engaging story. In reality, "Garden Story" is more of a gentle adventure game, featuring a plot to rescue the world from imminent danger nestled between crafting quests and missions to help friends.

In CG Magazine's review of "Garden Story," Jordan Biordi explained that although the game doesn't quite deliver what it promised in some of its marketing, the experience is still well worth it. "Garden Story" focuses on Concord, who quickly gets promoted to the role of Guardian after their mentor, Plum, journeys abroad to help other towns. In an effort to help save the world — and the foods and frogs that populate it — Concord begins a journey of their own, following Plum throughout various seasonal settings and crafting items to help them on their way.

At its heart, "Garden Story" is a tried-and-true RPG; it encourages players to level up, acquire new skills and items, and work to become the best grape they can be. Don't let the sweet and cutesy nature of "Garden Story" lull you into a false sense of security; the game has a considerable amount of challenge to offer players.

  • Release Date: Aug. 11, 2021
  • Available On: Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Genre: Action Adventure, RPG, Indie
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 73 (Switch), 73 (PC)

Disco Elysium: The Final Cut

"Disco Elysium" originally released in 2019, but it received a major upgrade in 2021 that made it feel like a whole new game. Amongst all the new features added for the release of "Disco Elysium: The Final Cut" was fully voiced dialogues, including speeches from the protagonist's chatty inner monologue. While this may sound like a small addition, the voice acting from a wide cast of talented performers makes a difference in players' ability to become immersed in the game. In addition to voice acting, "The Final Cut" added four political "Vision Quests" to the game, giving players a chance to learn more about the world of the game and the intricately crafted relationships between characters.

"Disco Elysium" follows an initially unnamed protagonist who wakes up with total amnesia. Players must slowly unravel the secrets of the protagonist's identity while also helping in a murder investigation. The dual mysteries of the murder and the protagonists' memory loss are all wrapped up in a well-developed and richly populated world.

In his review for The Verge, Jay Peters noted that the prose of "Disco Elysium" went "a little over [his] head" at times, mostly because the game gives players a wide variety of details to keep up with. Even so, Peters found himself enjoying the story quite a bit. With plenty of options for character customization, the game has a high replayability factor. Each playthrough could grant players new perspectives, interaction options, and information, making "Disco Elysium" one of the most in-depth RPGs available in 2021.

  • Release Date: March 30, 2021
  • Available On: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
  • Genre: RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 97 (PC), 86 (PS4), 89 (PS5)

Ocean's Heart

"Ocean's Heart" is a warm, nostalgic hug of a game. It takes the aesthetics of 1990s action games and weaves in a heartwarming tale about a young women, Tillia, who wants nothing more than to find her best friend and father, who disappeared after a band of pirates attacked her hometown. "Ocean's Heart" is a top-down action-adventure RPG that focuses on exploration. The game doesn't give players much information about the world or Tillia's mission. Instead, the progress is made through the age-old methods of walking around and attacking things.

In his review of "Ocean's Heart" for RPGamer, Ryan Costa praised the title's simple but fun combat. Costa also noted that the tone of the game is amusing. Most of the time, Tillia doesn't seem too excited to participate in side quests and help out locals, and she responds with quick barbs and comments about the mundanity of the tasks at hand. In comparison to silent heroes like Link from the "Zelda" series, Tillia packs a rhetorical punch with her sometimes-cynical personality.

In its looks, "Ocean's Heart" resembles "The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past." Some of the buildings even look like near-recreations of the classic "Zelda" title. While "Ocean's Heart" may look like many other top-down RPGs, it has a flavor of its own. Its world is also rather large, so most players will be too busy exploring to do much criticizing.

  • Release Date: Jan. 21, 2021
  • Available On: PC
  • Genre: Action-adventure, RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 79 (PC)

Scarlet Nexus

"Scarlet Nexus" is already one of the best games of 2021, but it's also notably one of the best RPGs. Critics gave the game favorable reviews, commending its combat system and departure from previous Bandai Namco titles like "Code Vein." Players enjoyed "Scarlet Nexus" for its interesting cast of characters and its thoughtful storytelling, but above all else, the action-RPG is fun. Considering that much of the combat system involves throwing huge objects into enemies, there's no way that "Scarlet Nexus" could be anything but delightful.

That's right; the main combat mechanics of "Scarlet Nexus" focus on using psychic abilities to heave giant objects at enemies, effectively crushing them. While that sounds simple in practice, fights offer significant opportunities for strategy. Each character has different skillsets and special abilities, making team composition something to consider before launching into battle. Additionally, players have to actually remain aware of their surroundings, as pushing the same button over and over again isn't what the combat system in "Scarlet Nexus" is all about. Players must focus on individual items to throw.

One of the most interesting features in "Scarlet Nexus" is its inclusion of a dual storyline. Players can choose to play the game as Yuito or Kasane, with each character having their own unique plot and dialogue. Yuito and Kasane also have a wide cast of teammates to interact with, and they can get to know each character through special cutscenes. These types of contained, well-written moments provide players a chance to get to know each character on a more individual level.

  • Release Date: June 25, 2021
  • Available On: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 79 (PC), 80 (PS4), 80 (PS5), 77 (Xbox Series X)

Biomutant

"Biomutant" has its problems, and it's best to say that upfront. Developed by THQ Nordic, "Biomutant" was originally one of the most bizarre games meant to release in 2018 — but then it got delayed, debuting in 2021 instead. The game has some issues stemming from clunky controls and a few annoying characters, but that doesn't mean that it's not worth examining closer. In fact, "Biomutant" is still one of the best (and weirdest) RPGs of the year, even though it has its faults.

"Biomutant" takes place in a post-apocalyptic open world and follows a young mutant as they journey to unite various tribes or drive them further apart. Along the way there are several monsters terrorizing the land, each of which must be defeated with special tools or assistance from locals. What sets "Biomutant" apart from other RPGs is that none of its characters ever say a word. Instead of characters directly speaking, an omniscient narrator speaks for them, translating their chirps and gurgles into understandable language. Critics noted that the narrator proved annoying for some players — and the devs responded by releasing a patch that lets players turn the narrator off.

Apart from its unique storytelling, "Biomutant" is simply gorgeous. The sprawling, lushly appointed world is full of different biomes to explore, each with remnants of the world before whatever apocalyptic event wiped out human kind. It's almost haunting to wander through destroyed buildings and wonder what might have stood there before, and what strange cataclysmic event led to so much ruin.

For any gamer who enjoys RPGs for their atmosphere and sprawling histories, "Biomutant" is worth picking up. Who knows, you might even learn to love that pesky narrator.

  • Release Date: May 25, 2021
  • Available On: PC, PS4, Xbox One
  • Genre: Action-adventure RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 67 (PC), 64 (PS4), 68 (Xbox One)

Gamedec

If you're into the dense lore of adventure RPGs like "Disco Elysium," look no further than the seedy underworld of "Gamedec." As noted by the official website for "Gamedec," the game's title refers to a "game detective," who is tasked in this dystopian world with solving crimes committed in virtual reality. That's already a pretty hefty concept for a point-and-click title, and "Gamedec" spends a good amount of time exploring it in as many weird and unexpected ways as possible.

Every decision you make in "Gamedec" holds weight, whether it's the dialogue choices you pick when speaking to suspects or the deductions you make as you gather all of the clues. Rock Paper Shotgun noted that some of the dialogue can be a bit hard to follow, mainly because of a healthy dose of futuristic slang, but that the game's unique concepts still made it compelling. "Gamedec" is suited for players who have an eye for details and a brain for trippy plot twists.

  • Release Date: Sept. 16, 2021
  • Available On: PC
  • Genre: Adventure, RPG, Point-and-click
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 73 (PC)

Ys 9: Monstrum Nox

RPG fans in North America and Europe sat patiently for two long years for localizations of "Ys 9: Monstrum Nox" to be released, and it looks like it was definitely worth the wait. As noted by Wccftech, the latest installment in the "Ys" series takes everything that worked about the previous entry and cranks it up a notch, giving hero Adol Christin his greatest adventure yet. 

Critics have praised the ambitious story of "Ys 9," which sees Adol being arrested and cursed (isn't that always the way?). Now bearing the powers of the enigmatic Crimson King, Adol must battle his way through demonic forces and uncover the mysteries of the prison city known as Balduq. Players are able to switch between multiple characters, each with their own incredible abilities and sense of style.

IGN praised the game's story and character development, but recommended that seasoned fans of the Musou genre might want to adjust the difficulty if they really wanted to enjoy the hectic combat.

  • Release Date: Feb. 2, 2021
  • Available On: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Stadia
  • Genre: Action, RPG, Musou
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 80 (PS4), 76 (Switch)

The Ascent

While "The Ascent" may not match the continually disappointing "Cyberpunk 2077" in scale, its cyberpunk-inspired setting is a welcome alternative. On the whole, "The Ascent" isn't breaking new ground in the cyberpunk genre so much as it incorporates hallmarks of the popular cyberpunk aesthetic. So, fans of, say, the visuals of "Blade Runner" or the corporate politics of "Snow Crash" should find "The Ascent" to be familiar (albeit well-crafted) territory. 

The game begins with the player character starting a new life on a planet called Veles. The ticket for their ride there, however, lands them in a near-insurmountable debt to the monolithic Ascent Group, requiring entering into a life of indentured servitude shortly after landing in order to pay it off. That's just start of a story that features its fair share of twists and turns.

Gameplay-wise, "The Ascent" adapts the isometric, top-down point-of-view of the "Diablo" series to a twin-stick cover shooter. Also like "Diablo," enemies are abundant in "The Ascent," and players can continually find new ways to dispatch them over the course of their playthrough, thanks to a robust loot system and a variety of abilities. While moment-to-moment gameplay in "The Ascent" is predominately action-oriented, the large amount of customization available to players provides ample opportunity for style expression within its otherwise linear story and stylish world.

  • Release Date: July 29, 2021
  • Available On: PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
  • Genre: Action, Twin-stick shooter, RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Local co-op (Up to 4), Online co-op (Up to 4)
  • Metacritic Score: 73 (PC), 68 (Xbox Series X|S)

Fantasian

"Fantasian" is the flagship release by Mistwalker Corporation, a game studio headed by "Final Fantasy" creator Hironobu Sakaguchi. In addition to Sakaguchi's involvement, one key component of "Fantasian" spotlighted on Mistwalker's website is the process through which many of its in-game environments were designed. Essentially, locations in "Fantasian" were constructed with real-life materials, and then digitized to be used in-game. The special effects designers who worked on those dioramas have also worked on well-known media properties like "Godzilla," "Attack on Titan," and "Ultraman."

Of course, the process of making a game is typically less important than the quality of its gameplay. Thankfully, "Fantasian" delivers on that front as well, amounting to one of the best iOS games of the year. Like the very first "Final Fantasy" and countless other games before it, "Fantasian" is an RPG designed around a turn-based battle system. While combat in "Fantasian" is fairly by-the-books, some classic JRPG mechanics are adapted to better suit touch controls. Arguably its hallmark innovation is an item called the Dimengeon, which is a tool that allows players to opt out of random encounters, storing the enemies they would have fought within it instead. Then, all of those enemies can be fought at once.

All in all, "Fantasian" is an RPG that both wears its influences on its sleeve and attempts to push the genre forward, with the potential to appeal to many different types of players as a result.

  • Release Date: April 2, 2021 (Part 1), Aug. 13, 2021 (Part 2)
  • Available On: iOS
  • Genre: RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 80 (iOS)

Boyfriend Dungeon

Prior to its release, "Boyfriend Dungeon" looked like it was set to be one of the weirder gameplay experiences in recent years. The core idea around which the entire game is designed is that the player character wields a variety of swords in combat and subsequently dates personifications of those swords. Prospective players likely already know to what extent the game will appeal to them based on this information alone, given how much of the game is driven by its core concept.

Gameplay in "Boyfriend Dungeon" is essentially divided into two distinct categories. In its action segments, players navigate dungeons — referred to colloquially in-game as "the dunj" — using the weapons they've collected/befriended, each of which offer a unique style of attack. Then, in segments that take place in less fantastical environments, players can increase their relationship levels with those weapons turned into human form, through dating sim segments.

Critics praised the dating elements in "Boyfriend Dungeon," its confident approach to its premise, and the inclusivity in its range of romance options. While "Boyfriend Dungeon" isn't breaking too much new ground mechanically, its unique story and mashup of genres makes it worth seeking out.

  • Release Date: Aug. 11, 2021
  • Available On: Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
  • Genre: Action, Dating sim, RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 72 (Switch), 71 (PC), 74 (Xbox One), 70 (Xbox Series X|S)

Cris Tales

Old-meets-new is the name of the game in "Cris Tales." On its official website, developer Modus Games describes "Cris Tales" as "inspired by timeless JRPGs like 'Chrono Trigger,' 'Final Fantasy VI,' 'Valkyrie Profile,' and modern classics like 'Bravely Default' and 'Persona 5.'" Accordingly, the game's turn-based combat in particular should feel largely familiar to existing JRPG fans, mainly due to its resemblance to similar systems of landmark games from throughout the genre's history.

Its influences aren't the only way "Cris Tales" unites the past and present, however. Its core gameplay mechanic, around which many of the game's innovations are based, is the ability of protagonist Crisbell to view her past and future, sometimes simultaneously. Overworld puzzles, then, oftentimes require learning information in past to influence the present and change the future, among other time travel shenanigans. Crisbell's time manipulation powers notably also apply in combat, which in practice means that enemies can be strategically sent forward or backward in time — and altered as a result.

The cherry on top of all of this is the unique and lavish art style in which "Cris Tales" is presented, lacking outlines for its shapes, rendering its colorful characters and environments akin to stained glass art. While "Cris Tales" is wholly a JRPG-style adventure in the most classic sense of the term, its time travel mechanics and idiosyncratic art style set the game apart from many of its genre peers.

  • Release Date: July 20, 2021
  • Available On: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Google Stadia
  • Genre: Turn-based RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 72 (Switch), 73 (PC), 70 (PS4), 69 (PS5), 79 (Xbox Series X|S)

Griftlands

Like a number of fellow recent indie roguelikes — 2020 standout "Monster Train," for example — "Griftlands" takes its fair share of cues from the underrated "Slay the Spire," combining roguelike progression with card-based combat. Like "Slay the Spire," players will select from one of a few different character archetypes at the start of a new run. That said, whereas the fantasy setting of "Slay the Spire" is largely set dressing for its gameplay, story is paramount in "Griftlands." The game takes place in a fantastic sci-fi universe, and gameplay stems directly from the chosen player character's journey through and relationship to its world.

Card-based encounters in "Griftlands" are divided into two different styles, each wholly unique from one another. In traditional combat, players are required to strategically deploy cards from a prebuilt deck to defeat enemies in combat. Sometimes, however, a conversation with an NPC will result in a verbal negotiation, rather a fight. In these instances, players wield an entirely separate deck of cards unique to this game mode, similar nevertheless in that resource management and strategic play are paramount to winning.

Individual playthroughs in "Griftlands" can differ significantly from one another, due to its procedurally-generated challenges and the player choices which impact each character's story. Choosing not to kill an enemy at the end of battle, for example, might result in that enemy returning later on in that particular run. "Griftlands," then, is an RPG for modern audiences, adapting gameplay trends inspired by popular recent releases to strengthen a story-focused sci-fi adventure.

  • Release Date: June 1, 2021
  • Available On: iOS, Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One
  • Genre: Deck-building, Roguelike, RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 84 (PC)

Bravely Default 2

Presentation-wise, "Bravely Default 2" is about as traditional an RPG as they come. Its central group of characters are known as the Heroes of Light, and consist of a sailor, a princess, a scholar, and a mercenary. Together they set off on a journey to recover four elemental crystals. "Bravely Default 2," will ultimately feel very familiar to fans of the genre.

Fortunately, story is secondary to gameplay in "Bravely Default 2," which is what really drew in the game's critics. Two core systems ultimately provide players with ample opportunities for experimentation within otherwise by-the-books turn-based combat. The first of these is a robust job system, which allows players to equip any of the game's four protagonists with virtually any job they've unlocked. Each character, then, is equally customizable based on which jobs the player chooses to level up, and combinations of character classes as a result feel limitless. Second, returning from prior games is the series' namesake, a system through which players can select proprietary "Default" and "Brave" commands in battle. "Default" stores a turn, and "Brave" unleashes all stored turns, adding complexity to each combat encounter.

"Bravely Default 2" is graphically impressive, too. In spite of its middle-of-the-road story, players can thus expect top-notch RPG combat within an opulently-designed game world. While many of the game's elements may feel familiar, "Bravely Default 2" does them better than most.

  • Release Date: Feb. 26, 2021
  • Available On: Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Genre: RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 76 (Switch), 84 (PC)

Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin

In the mainline "Monster Hunter" games, players battle giant monsters in real-time while wielding one of a variety of weapons, each of which requires precise inputs and strategic use of combos akin to a fighting game character. The "Monster Hunter Stories" series forgoes that gameplay style and instead foregrounds "Pokemon"-adjacent turn-based combat centered around collecting Monsties, which are smaller versions of its iconic monster.

While "Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin" may be comparatively less hardcore than 2021's "Monster Hunter Rise," a beefier storyline than its mainline counterpart should help keep players entertained. Furthermore, its story and game world are self-contained. "Wings of Ruin" requires no knowledge of the "Monster Hunter" universe to enjoy, but it also rewards seasoned fans of the franchise with plenty of familiar elements, from the return of plenty of monsters from past entires to the ability to craft gear out of their harvested parts.

"Monster Hunter Stories 2," then, is perfectly primed to appeal to wide variety of players. At its center is an easy-to-understand (but still pretty deep) through which monsters with different proficiencies can be raised and strengthened, amounting to a wholly worthwhile and unique approach to RPG gameplay.

  • Release Date: July 9, 2021
  • Available On: Nintendo Switch, PC
  • Genre: Turn-based RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 81 (Switch), 82 (PC)

Lost Judgement

"Lost Judgement" is the second game in the "Judgement" series, which stars mega-popular Japanese actor Takuya Kimura as a detective named Yagami Takayuki. On a macro level, "Judgement" is quite obviously a spinoff of the "Yakuza" franchise, retaining many of its signature elements, from the brawler-style combat of "Yakuza" entries 0-6 to its staggering volume of side content. Simply for being the shiniest and newest game in the "Yakuza" lineage, then, "Lost Judgement" is essential for existing fans of the franchise.

While the first "Judgement" game takes place entirely in Kamurocho, Yagami ends up in the Yokohama neighborhood of Isezaki Ijincho early on in the story of "Lost Judgement." The map's layout is largely the same as the Ijincho that debuted in "Yakuza: Like A Dragon," but the focus on detective work makes "Lost Judgement" feel very different from "Like A Dragon" protagonist Ichiban Kasuga's journey through the grimy Ijincho underworld.

In addition its main story, which wrestles with some serious and weighty subject matter, "Lost Judgment" includes a series of interrelated subquests called School Stories. While entirely unnecessary to advance the main plot, the School Stories almost amount to a secondary campaign, requiring upwards of 10-15 hours and mastery of eight-or-so robust mini-games to complete. Whether players simply mainline its central story or opt to hunt for trophies amidst its seemingly bottomless side content, "Lost Judgment" remains well-written, funny, action-packed and surprising throughout.

  • Release Date: Sept. 24, 2021
  • Available On: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
  • Genre: Action, RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 83 (PS5), 82 (Xbox Series X|S)

Wildermyth

"Wildermyth" is the first game from Texas indie studio Worldwalker Games. The game uses a unique 2D paper cutout-looking style of animation to give it a nostalgic yet fresh feel. Taking mechanics from tabletop RPG paper and pen games like "Dungeons & Dragons," "Wildermyth" is — at its core — a storytelling game that relies upon the player to dictate how the world will revolve around them.

Although the combat style is familiar to those who have played TTRPGs before, "Wildermyth" has its own unique lore and enemies that won't be found anywhere else. By far the best aspect of "Wildermyth" is its writing, which increases the game's replayability — decisions can have immense consequences for the whole game. Not only can the player hold on to a character after death, they can eventually turn their characters into a legendary pantheon, allowing their "myths" to affect future gameplay. The subtle differences of a character trait in response to an in-world event is a breath of fresh air in the RPG world. As the characters grow and mature, their interactions (and their appearance) change along with them, making this 2D game truly immersive.

The game has several planned DLC in the pipeline, so the future of "Wildermyth" and Worldwalker Games looks bright.

  • Release Date: June 15, 2021
  • Available On: PC
  • Genre: RPG, Adventure, Strategy
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Online co-op multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 88 (PC)

Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous

"Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous" is the second "Pathfinder" title from Owlcat Games. The game, based on beloved tabletop RPG "Pathfinder," occupies the same world as Owlcat's "Pathfinder: Kingmaker," but is not a direct story sequel. In "Wrath of the Righteous," the player can choose from brand-new character classes, like Cavaliers and Shamans, and can explore a whole new world filled with new enemies and companions. A massive game that could take hundreds of hours to complete, "Wrath of the Righteous" is nevertheless a great new entry into the RPG pantheon of games.

One of the most unique aspects of the game is how it treats combat. "Wrath of the Righteous" takes things pretty easy on players who may be unfamiliar with the rules of "Pathfinder," adding the ability to utilize turn-based combat from the start of the game. While the combat is great and much more intuitive than its predecessor, IGN noted that the storytelling is where "Wrath of the Righteous" really seems to shine. The companions actually add significant details to the plot, and the player's choices can greatly affect the outcome of the game. Judging from the game's large following on Twitch, "Pathfinder: Wrath of Righteousness" appears to indicate the studio is heading in the right direction with this IP.

  • Release Date: Sept. 2, 2021
  • Available On: PC
  • Genre: RPG, Adventure, Strategy
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 83 (PC)

Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy

Although the 22nd entry in the "Atelier" series, "Atelier Ryza 2: Lost Legends & the Secret Fairy" is actually only the second game in the "Secret" series of "Atelier" games, and is the first "Atelier" game to feature a returning protagonist, the titular Ryza. 

"Atelier Ryza 2" also features much-improved gameplay, and has implemented many new ways the player can interact with the world. In "Atelier Ryza 2," Ryza can now jump, swim, and even climb ropes to explore the environment in a more open-world concept. But these changes don't overshadow what makes "Atelier" such a great series: wonderful characters, a great storyline, and gorgeous settings. The game also introduces a new combat mechanic that features some real-time elements alongside the more traditional turn-based mechanics.

The sub-series has proven to already be incredibly popular, with the two Ryza games having sold 1 million copies. And the developers don't seem to be showing any signs of slowing down, having already released numerous DLC skins for the game, as well as a ton of other goodies as part of the game's battle pass. The game's Legendary mode was also added after the game's initial release, giving players another way to replay the game with even more difficult combat. 

  • Release Date: Jan. 26, 2021
  • Available On: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
  • Genre: RPG, Adventure
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 80 (Switch), 84 (PC), 81 (PS4), 78 (PS5)

Eldest Souls

If you're looking for deep lore and challenging fantasy battles, look no further than "Eldest Souls," the first effort from indie game studio Fallen Flag. With a permanent staff of only three people, "Eldest Souls" is a successful and ambitious effort from the rookie team. The game itself is more battle-heavy than some of the more gentle RPGs on this list, but it nevertheless crafts a fantastic story à la "Dark Souls." And the combat is just as brutal, with more of an in-your-face style like "Bloodborne" than anything else. The player controls a single warrior on a quest to save humanity from the terrible Old Gods, the focus being to enter into 10 different regions and defeat the incredibly difficult, bosses.

The buffs (and debuffs) of each boss lends itself to multiple replays, as does the existence of a New Game+ mode and an Arena mode. Meanwhile, the simple but well-crafted gameplay is perfect for any RPGer who loves the nitty gritty of combat. The 2D pixel style is gorgeous, and the music by composer Sergio Ronchetti (which Goomba Stomp called "haunting and hype-inducing") is a perfect addition to the epic battles and short story sections.

  • Release Date: July 29, 2021
  • Available On: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Xbox One
  • Genre: RPG, Adventure
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 76 (Switch), 76 (PC), 78 (PS4), 79 (PS5), 80 (Xbox Series X)

Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance

A spiritual successor to "Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance" and its sequel, "Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance 2," "Dungeons & Dragons: Dark Alliance" is the newest video game effort by Tuque Games, the video game production studio owned by "Dungeons & Dragons" creator and producer Wizards of the Coast. While the game itself has received some negative reviews (like one from IGN), most of the early complaints were about the buggy gameplay, much of which has been fixed with recent patches. The game actually showcases a fantastic balance between intense D&D lore and attributes for the hardcore gamers, while still keeping the story moving forward without getting bogged down in the details. The combat is also extremely fluid, with encounters feeling very natural and well-oiled during gameplay.

The music and graphics are also great and spending hours exploring the Dale can be an incredibly immersive experience. The game is popular on Twitch, and some fans have even taken the time to positively promote the game on their streams. In a great bit of news for fans, Tuque is also far from done with the game, with multiple DLCs already being announced. Two free DLCs are also planned to be released in the future (per Game Informer), though they have been delayed. One of those DLCs will add in local co-op, which will bring the game even closer to the "Baldur's Gate" glory days. At the moment, "Dark Alliance" is a pretty okay game with some kinks — but it's poised to get much better.

  • Release Date: June 21, 2021
  • Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, Xbox One
  • Genre: RPG, Action, Adventure
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Online multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 53 (PC), 57 (PS5), 58 (Xbox Series X)

Tribes of Midgard

"Tribes of Midgard" is the first entry into the gaming world by indie studio Norsfell Games. The game has been nominated for a few awards, and won the Ubisoft Indie Series award and the Best of E3 in 2021 award by PC Gamer. The game is also incredibly popular among Twitch users, with many streamers showcasing it on their own channels, and it's easy to see why.

Although the game can be played as a single player, it's much more enjoyable playing with others. "Tribes of Midgard" can support up to 10 players on a board at once, and having help is almost essential in the later parts of the story if the player wants to succeed. Combat is fast-paced and can easily overwhelm the single player. Nevertheless, the story is compelling and the characters have unique characteristics that help increase the game's replayability. The graphics are beautiful, and the drastic change from day to night is a unique and somewhat challenging aspect of the game.

"Tribes of Midgard" is constantly being updated as well, and the creators have a "roadmap" detailing the new "sagas" that will be unleashed every three months. These sagas also add great replayability for the game and give new goals for even the most seasoned players. There are also purchasable cosmetic DLCs, which seem to also be updated on a regular basis.

  • Release Date: July 27, 2021
  • Available On: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
  • Genre: RPG, Survival, Action
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Online multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 73 (PC), 73 (PS5)

King of Seas

The newest game from 3DClouds is "King of Seas," the indie game studio's first foray into RPGs. The game is a great addition to any gaming library, but will be of particular interest to those who love nautical adventuring games — even more so if they love ones of the pirate variety. "King of Seas" allows the player to experience life on the high seas in a graphically interesting way: the player isn't ever an individual person, rather they control a ship. The fast-paced and diverse combat mechanics enliven a storyline that is sometimes missing memorable characters. The overall sandbox nature of the game allows for intuitive exploration of the large world presented to the player. As touched by PC Gamer's review, the delivery of quests also allows the player to experience the game as casually as they would like to, without forcing a specific narrative.

While some of the controls can be a bit clunky, overall the game offers an immersive procedural environment that really helps the player feel like they can become a monarch of the high seas. The original soundtrack can be purchased either as part of a Deluxe Edition or independently, and it's worth a listen. The "swashbuckling" music of the game is one of its best features (as noted by GameSkinny), really transporting the player into the world of "King of Seas."

  • Release Date: May 25, 2021
  • Available On: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • Genre: RPG, Action
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 65 (Switch), 68 (PC), 63 (PS4), 70 (Xbox One)

Monster Hunter Rise

Initially only available on the Nintendo Switch, "Monster Hunter Rise" will come to Steam in early 2022. The incredibly popular franchise received a great addition with "Rise," a game that definitely improved upon the achievements of its predecessor, "Monster Hunter World." "Rise" keeps the 14 weapons available to players, allowing for incredibly diverse playstyles and immense replayability. The game also added a new "Rampage" mode, which allows players to focus on combat only, as they need to defeat enemies in order to craft new weapons to use during the challenge. 

Like "World" before it, "Rise" is lacking a bit in a developed story, but the new movement and combat mechanics, along with the incredible visual style of the new monsters, more than makes up for it. There are still cutscenes that explain a bit more about the specific setting of "Rise," but the story is definitely on the light side.

Regardless of some story problems, "Monster Hunter Rise" is still an incredible game to play, especially for those players looking for fluid and fun combat with great graphics. In addition to solid critical reviews, the game has a fantastic presence on Twitch and YouTube, which only shows that the hype for "Rise" isn't going to slow down anytime soon. Those who can't get enough of the game will be excited to know an expansion pack, "Monster Hunter Rise: Sunbreak," is set to release in mid-2022. In the meantime, there are numerous cosmetic DLC packs that can be purchased to further customize gameplay.

  • Release Date: March 26, 2021
  • Available On: Nintendo Switch
  • Genre: RPG, Action, Adventure
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Online and Local Multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: 88 (Switch)

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