Once upon a time, video games that used a high fantasy setting as its backdrop were some of the most common in the industry. It’s easy to see why, as game developers could look Dungeons & Dragons and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings for inspiration for stories and settings.
However, in recent years, high fantasy Tolkienesque settings have become less commonplace with more developers preferring to use post-apocalyptic or even modern-day settings. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an abundance of great games that use a high fantasy concept. In fact, some of the greatest games of the last two generations are still happy to use worlds steeped in swords, sorcery, elves, and witchcraft.
10 The Dragon Age Series
Dragon Age: Origins was the first entry in the series and was also BioWare’s first fantasy RPG since the incredible Baldur’s Gate series. Unlike Baldur’s Gate, the Dragon Age series wasn’t set in the already established Forgotten Realms - Dungeons & Dragons universe.
BioWare had to create their own universe from scratch and it was good enough to expand well beyond the video games into novels, board games, comics, and an anime movie. The universe is very Tolkienesque, but has the dark tone of the Game of Thrones novels.
9 Dragon Quest XI
The Dragon Quest series is a Japanese RPG that made its first appearance on the Nintendo in 1986. The series is a colorful and whimsical fantasy that’s accessible to players of all ages. The most recent entry, Dragon Quest XI, may be the best entry in the series yet.
The game can last a player up to a hundred hours and has arguably the best story next to Dragon Quest V, with enough twists to surprise even the most hardened of RPG fans. Dragon Quest XI S is an updated ultimate edition of the game released on the Nintendo Switch, featuring new cutscenes, orchestral music, a classic 2D mode, and all the DLC that was released on the PS4.
8 The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild
The Legend of Zelda series is a Nintendo exclusive action-adventure game that saw its first entry on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1986. Since then, nearly every game in the series has become one of the most influential fantasy games ever created.
Games like The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening inspired games like Alundra, and even the most recent entry Breath of the Wild was a clear inspiration for Ubisoft’s upcoming Gods and Monsters. This is for good reason, though, because Breath of the Wild is one of the best fantasy adventure games in any generation. However, it is very easy to recommend just about any Zelda game from The Ocarina of Time to The Wind Waker.
7 The Pillars Of Eternity Series
The Pillars of Eternity series was a crowd-funded RPG series designed to pay tribute to the old school computer RPGs like Baldur’s Gate. It was developed by Obsidian, who worked on games like Fallout: New Vegas, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, and the soon-to-be-released The Outer Worlds.
Not only is Pillars of Eternity an incredible RPG experience, but it features some of the absolute best writing ever seen in a video game. Furthermore, despite being a game using an old school isometric viewpoint, the art and visuals are stunning to look at. Pillars of Eternity was originally a PC game, but it is now available on the PS4, Xbox One, and the Switch. Its sequel, Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, is listed as coming soon on the official website.
6 The Dark Souls Trilogy
Even though the Dark Souls series is a trilogy, the first game was a spiritual successor to PS3 exclusive, Demon's Souls. All three games in the trilogy have now been released on current generation systems with the first two games getting remastered with improved visuals and frame rates. The Souls series, along with Bloodborne, have spawned their own subgenre of difficult but fair action RPGs, such as Soulslike or Soulsborne.
The game’s dark medieval fantasy setting is like nothing else in the gaming industry, as the player is tasked to explore and fight through post-apocalyptic lands of once-great kingdoms. Unlike most RPGs, the Souls series relies on indirect environmental storytelling, allowing the player to puzzle together the game’s lore by themselves.
5 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was originally released on the PC, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 in 2011. The game was later remastered and ported to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and even got a PSVR release in 2017. Despite its many ports, the game’s quality and depth are as strong today as they were eight years ago.
Skyrim’s influence can still be seen in games released in the current generation, with medieval simulator/RPG Kingdom Come Deliverance being the most recent. The game’s main story campaign is quite straight forward, but it can be deep as the one wants it to be. The world is scattered with lore that can be discovered and read in history books all over the land, and the side-quests are praised by many fans as being better than the main quest for giving the player more layers to discover on their own.
4 The Suikoden Series
The Suikoden series first began on the PlayStation in 1995 and a sequel Suikoden II came out in 1998. The series eventually made the move to the PlayStation 2 and as a whole is one of the most expensive video game collections available. However, the first few games can be purchased digitally on the PS3 store at a significantly reduced price.
The games are a high fantasy adaptation of the Chinese novel Outlaws of the Marsh and have some of the deepest stories ever seen in a JRPG. The tragedies of war and loss are the series' main themes and are delivered with the kind of maturity that would put most modern games to shame.
3 The Baldur’s Gate Series
The first game in the Baldur’s Gate series was developed by BioWare and released in 1998 with the sequel Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn following in 2000. Both games have been bundled together and enhanced for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Nintendo Switch.
The games are set in the Forgotten Realms universe using the Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition rules and have the same amount of freedom and flexibility. Baldur’s Gate II, in particular, is still praised for having one of the most in-depth and well-written stories ever seen in a video game.
2 The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt was released on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One X, PC, and more recently, the Nintendo Switch. It was based on the fantasy book series of the same name by Andrzej Sapkowski. Furthermore, thanks to the popularity of the video game, Netflix is adapting The Witcher for its own dark fantasy series starring Henry Cavill in the titular role.
The Witcher 3 is an incredible achievement. Not only does it possess one of the most detailed game worlds ever seen, but the story and the characters that inhabit it are as layered as the novels. Additionally, the side-quests aren't just throwaway distractions; they present the player with several moral choices that can and will have an effect on the world around them. Gamers looking to get even further into the game's lore and history should definitely check The Witcher II on PC or Xbox backward compatibility.
1 Divinity: Original Sin II
Divinity: Original Sin II is available for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and the PC. It is already hailed as one of the most interactive RPGs ever released and one where every player choice makes a difference, with realistic outcomes.
Just like The Witcher 3, the game presents players with incredibly tough moral decisions throughout and they’ll encounter characters that very rarely fall into good and evil categories. Only every single decision made will have some kind of impact on the world and how it reacts to the characters. Furthermore, players are given so much choice that it feels like a Dungeons & Dragons tabletop game even more so than the classic CRPGs that inspired it. It is fitting that the Divinity developer, Larian, is working on Baldur’s Gate III for release on the PC and Google Stadia.