There was a time where action-RPGs were considered to be a dumbed-down combat system for the genre. This was especially so when compared to the complexities found in a turn-based system like the Divinity: Original Sin series or a point and click system in the Baldur’s Gate series. However, as gaming machines are getting more advanced action RPGs are proving to be just as complex as their old-school counterparts but more accessible for modern gamers.
The best games in the genre like Skyrim or Dark Souls are easy to pick up for players that are happy with just fighting with weapons and not ever really getting a grasp on deeper magic systems that can found in the genre. It's systems like this that make the sub-genre so popular and it’s interesting to see where some of the best games in the genre sit on the Metacritic scoring system and whether or not they deserve their position at the top of the genre as the critics choice.
10 Mass Effect 3 - Metascore 93
Mass Effect 3 was released for the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC, and the Nintendo Wii U in 2012. The game was the final part of the Commander Shepard trilogy a series of games that many critics consider to be one of the greatest space-based science fiction sagas ever released in gaming.
Despite still scoring very highly on Metacritic Mass Effect 3 was heavily criticized by fans for its unsatisfying ending. However, the gameplay and production values are still fantastic and the developers BioWare released DLC that helped expand upon the game’s conclusion.
9 Fallout 3 - Metascore 93
Post-apocalyptic RPG Fallout 3 was the third mainline entry for the series but the first to be developed by The Elder Scrolls developers Bethesda Game Studios. The game was released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC in 2008.
Fallout 3 was the first in the series to move away from its predecessor’s isometric view with pre-rendered backdrops and replaced it in a fully 3D world. In addition, the game dropped the turn-based battle system for real-time combat with the inclusion of the V.A.T.S system which allowed players to pause the action and target the enemy's body parts.
8 Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir - Metascore 93
Odin Sphere: Leifthrasir was released on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and the Vita in 2015 and it is a remake of the original Odin Sphere which was first released on the PlayStation 2 in 2008. It’s a 2D side-scrolling action RPG that played like an old school beat-em-up and its visuals and art-style are still considered among the most beautiful ever made.
Leifthrasir was praised for its updated and crisp visuals on the PlayStation 4 which had to be reworked from its original 4:3 aspect ratio to widescreen at 16:9 forcing the developers to reposition the characters during story sequences.
7 Bastion IOS - Metascore 94
Bastion is an action RPG developed indie team Supergiant Games. It was originally released on the Xbox 360 in 2011 but was later released on other platforms including IOS in 2012. It is on the IOS that the game scores so highly and still remains one of the best games available on the platform.
Despite being a small independently made title in the year of its release Bastion won awards for its narrative from 1Up and took the prize for the game of the year on RPGamer beating the likes of Radiant Historia and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. In addition to the IOS, Bastion is also available for modern consoles on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
6 Diablo Metascore 94
Diablo is an isometric action-RPG that was originally released on the PC in 1996 and the PlayStation in 1997. The PlayStation version worked surprisingly well in its transfer from a point and click to a hack and slash action RPG.
The hack and slash mechanics are still some of the most influential in gaming with games like Torchlight, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance using similar mechanics and lovingly referred to as Diablo clones. The series’ success continues with Diablo 3 on PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and the Xbox One and there are rumors of an imminent Diablo 4 announcement.
5 The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt - Metascore 94
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt was released on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC in 2015 and was later released on the Nintendo Switch in 2019. Nearly five years later the game is still considered to be the best RPG of a generation.
The game has been a huge influence on games like Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, and Horizon Zero Dawn. The world of The Witcher is dark, gritty, and incredibly deep and filled with so much lore for players to discover. Fans should definitely try and The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings and The Witcher: Thronebreaker.
4 The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Metascore 94
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was released on the PC and Xbox 360 in 2006 and the PlayStation 3 in 2007. It was the second game in the series to be released on consoles after its predecessor The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind on the original Xbox.
Oblivion was one of the first games to truly show what consoles at the time were capable of compared to previous generations. Even today, the game looks surprisingly good and has a great voice cast featuring the likes of Sean Bean, Patrick Stewart, Terence Stamp, and Lynda Carter.
3 The World Ends With You: Solo Remix - Metascore 95
The World Ends With You was originally released on the Nintendo DS in 2008 and was later ported to mobile devices in 2012. Upon its original release, the game was praised as being one of the best games released that year and won the best overall Nintendo DS game of the year from IGN.
The World Ends With You: Solo Mix was an enhanced port for the iPad featuring better visuals and sound. The controls on the iPad were an improvement over the DS original and the larger screen allowed for a larger and more intuitive battlefield. In addition to the IOS, the Nintendo Switch also got an enhanced port of the game in 2018.
2 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Metascore 96
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released in 2011 on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and the PC. Since then the game has seen enhanced ports arrive on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and even the PlayStation VR.
Skyrim remains a favorite among fans of the RPG genre because of the scope of its world. Its world feels alive and dynamic with so much going and tons of breathtaking sights. Furthermore, many of the game’s side quests which focus on the Dark Brotherhood, The Wolf Queen, and the war between Vampire and Werewolves in the Dawnguard DLC were actually better than the main quest.
1 Mass Effect 2 - Metascore 96
Mass Effect 2 was released on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and the PC in 2010 and has a well-deserved spot at the top of the action RPG genre list on Metacritic. For fans of the Mass Effect trilogy, the second game in the series is what The Empire Strikes Back is the original Star Wars trilogy.
Everything about the game was a huge step up from its already-great predecessor and proved that BioWare were some of the most talented developers in the world. Despite being a videogame, it helped cement Mass Effect as a space opera and that can stand with the likes of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Battlestar Galactica.