2023 games: Upcoming releases
Best PC games: All-time favorites
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Best MMOs: Massive worlds
Best RPGs: Grand adventures
Whether it's an action-packed combat and intricate buildcrafting, or a massive, branching story that responds to your actions, the best RPGs can be found on PC. But in a genre known for games that can take hundreds of hours to complete, how do you know which are worth your time?
In this list, we're running through the best RPGs you can play today—our recommendations for those enduring classics and newer favourites that reward the time you invest in them. And, because RPG systems are continually evolving, there's a wealth of variety to enjoy. From fantasy to sci-fi, from JRPG to ARPG, from dialogue trees to dice rolls, there's something here no matter your preference.
The best first and third-person RPGs
Release date: 2022 | Developer: FromSoft | Steam
With the Souls series, FromSoft has perfected the art of creating irresistibly hostile worlds. Elden Ring is the studios' largest yet, a massive map packed full of danger and mystery. An epic journey full of potential, where exploration is rewarded by stunning boss encounters. But in addition to being larger and more sprawling than its predecessors, it's also arguably the most accessible FromSoft game to date—its open-world structure giving you more control over the challenge and pace.
Worry not, though. Like Dark Souls before it, Elden Ring is a game about overcoming bosses through trial, error and eventual mastery. And, despite leaning into more traditional fantasy, it's as weird and distinct as the studio has ever been—shining a light on the horrors of its world, rather than hiding them away in a poisonous swamp. As an RPG, too, it's some of FromSoft's best work, with extensive buildcrafting options that let you tailor your character and combat style in many different ways.
Read more: The best builds in Elden Ring
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Release date: 2015 | Developer: CD Projekt Red | GOG, Steam
Many of the best RPGs focus on tales of lone, wandering adventurers, but few if any pull it off with such artistry as The Witcher 3. That artistry is most apparent in the setting itself, which is so packed with breathtaking sunsets and wind-tossed groves of trees that, years later, I still find myself opting to go to destinations on foot rather than taking the fast travel points.
But the true strength of The Witcher 3 is that it populates these memorable landscapes with NPCs doling out humble but memorable quests (by the dozen) that help create one of the most human RPG experiences on the market. In decaying wayside towns, the witcher Geralt might find impoverished elves struggling in the face of local racism; elsewhere, he might help a self-styled baron reunite with his long-estranged daughter. These quests deftly navigate moral issues without being heavy-handed or offering obvious solutions.
Read more: How The Witcher 3's best quest was made
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Release date: 2012 | Developer: Bethesda Softworks | Steam, GOG
Pick a direction and run. You’re almost guaranteed to discover some small adventure, some small chunk of world that will engage you. It’s that density of things to do that makes Skyrim so constantly rewarding. A visit to the Mage’s Guild will turn into an area-spanning search for knowledge. A random chat with an NPC will lead you to a far-off dungeon, hunting for a legendary relic. You could be picking berries on the side of a mountain and discover a dragon.
And if you somehow run out of things to do, rest assured that modders have more waiting for you (check out our guide to the best Skyrim mods). That lively community has kept Skyrim in the Steam top 100 since its release, and given us endless ways to adventure through a great world. Some on the PC Gamer team keep a modded-up Skyrim install handy, just in case they feel like adventure. That’s some high praise.
Read more: Auto-installing over 600 mods makes Skyrim beautiful and confusing
Mass Effect: Legendary Edition
Release date: 2021 | Developer: BioWare | EA, Steam
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Mass Effect 2 is the standout here, streamlining the clunky systems of its predecessor to focus on the action, and the consequences of the choices that you—as no-nonsense space captain Shepherd—make along the way. As a result it's a good third-person cover shooter, and an even better inter-office relationship simulator, tasking you with building a crew that will survive what seems destined to be a suicide mission.
Really, though, you'll want to play through the whole series, making the Legendary Edition a joy to work through. The thrill of Mass Effect is seeing the choices you made pay off tens, even hundreds of hours later. And across the three games, you'll form lasting bonds with your ragtag crew. Don't let Mass Effect 3's ending controversy put you off: the finale is a game full of endings, most of which do justice to your crew, and all of which pay off beautifully in its Citadel DLC.
Read more: Why I love Mass Effect 3's endings
Fallout: New Vegas
Release date: 2010 | Developer: Obsidian Entertainment | Steam, GOG
While Fallout 3 was successful, it was a different beast entirely from Interplay’s classics. Obsidian’s take on the franchise moves the action back to the West Coast, and reintroduces elements such as reputation and faction power struggles. Obsidian expands on nearly every aspect of Bethesda’s take, making the game less about good or evil, and more about who you should trust. It also adds much of the humour that we loved from the classic games: How can you not appreciate a game that gives you a nuclear grenade launcher?
New Vegas' "Hardcore" mode makes survival in the wasteland more interesting, limiting the power of RadAway and Health Stims. It makes the game harder, but also more rewarding. If that’s not your thing, there are plenty of additional mods and tweaks available, including game director Josh Sawyer’s own balance-tweak mod. What we love the most about New Vegas is how it adds the Fallout feeling back into Bethesda's first-person RPG framework.
Read more: How to have the best Fallout New Vegas experience in 2022
Monster Hunter Rise
Release date: 2022 | Developer: Capcom | Steam
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With Monster Hunter: World, Capcom brought us a grand, open-world adventure. It retained much of the series monster hunting fundamentals, but across large-scale maps that necessitated a greater focus on exploration and traversal. Rise, instead, scales things back. With smaller maps, the action hones in on what makes the series great: battling overpowered beasties. Each mission pits you against one of the game's showcase monsters, forcing you to learn its attacks, and use a new suite of tools and tricks to bring it down.
It's especially good in matchmade multiplayer, working with others to take on even tougher foes. And there's a hugely satisfying crafting loop that sees you turn monster parts into new armours and upgraded weapons with which to tackle even tougher challenges. The maps may be smaller, but with its more accessible multiplayer, expanded combat techniques, and core focus on what really matters, Monster Hunter Rise is arguably the best version of the series that you can play today.
Read more: 7 tips to get you started in Monster Hunter Rise
Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord
Release date: 2020 | Developer: TaleWorlds Entertainment | Steam (Early Access)
A true RPG sandbox, giving you full freedom to make your mark upon the world. There's no big story campaign to follow; instead you're left to set your own goals, and work towards achieving them in whatever way you wish. Fight wars, smuggle goods, compete in gladiatorial combat, recruit followers, invest in trade caravans, or pick up a quest or two from a local lord. And then betray that lord, kill him, and take ownership of his land.
Bannerlord is still in Early Access, and still regularly receiving new updates with new features and fixes. But even without a full v1.0