The year is wrapping up, so it’s time to look back on 2014’s best games. There are plenty of genres gamers enjoy: first-person shooters, real-time strategies, puzzle games, platformers, action-adventures and, of course, the classic role-playing game. Yes, RPGs allow gamers to dive into a universe not their own and fill the shoes of some fantastical hero capable of saving the world. Truly RPGs are one of the greatest escapist genres for video games.
Throughout 2014 we’ve seen plenty of great role-playing games, but which ones stand above the rest? We’ve gathered a convenient list to help you discover the best role-playing games of 2014.
1. Dark Souls II
One of the most challenging games ever created made its debut in 2014. Dark Souls II, the sequel to the original beloved game Dark Souls of 2011, returned to infuriate players once again with its hardcore combat and gameplay where even one wrong move spells death. You’ll make mistakes, you’ll die and you’ll get back up to try again thanks to Dark Souls II‘s rewarding leveling system and gigantic, 60-hour campaign. Nothing feels better than besting a difficult boss after spending hours dying dozens of times trying to slay it. Ragers beware: Dark Souls II has caused the death of many controllers, but those with patience and skill can come out a true champion in the end.
- Ridiculous bosses
- Genuinely challenging
- Deep customization
- Cooperative and competitive multiplayer
- Lost max health with each death
- You’ll die — a lot
2. Bravely Default
This JRPG takes the classic turn-based combat system and gives it a much-needed tune up to make battles far more interesting. In Bravely Default, you can “Brave” (attack or use a move) or “Default” (pocket a turn and defend). Through strategic use, players can empty their pool of turns by Braving multiple times in a row or build their pool to high levels for an all-out assault by Defaulting, leading to far more strategic battles than the genre is known for. As complicated as it sounds, it’s incredibly simple and intuitive in practice, and it makes grinding against low-level enemies a quick and easy process. The unique combat system adds some spice to an otherwise staling genre. The story may not be anything special, but with Bravely Default, you’re there for the classes and combat and not much more.
Price: $33.24 (17 percent off MSRP)
- Unique combat system
- Funny dialogue
- Pretty aesthetics
- Tons of classes
- Lackluster story
3. Dragon Age: Inquisition
BioWare is known for its ability to craft deep, intricate, personal stories. Just look at the best-selling Mass Effect series, which, in this humble editor’s opinion, is the best sci-fi universe to be created in any medium ever. The original Dragon Age was a critical and commercial success, with its long and detailed campaign where choices mattered. Dragon Age II didn’t hold up as well, though it’s still a great game. With Dragon Age: Inquisition, BioWare is going all out in an effort to create one of the greatest fantasy RPGs ever. The developer’s track record proves they’re capable of handling the task, giving players a sprawling world to explore, a brilliant story where player choice matters and a fun combat system players can tailor to their play style.
- In-game choices matter
- Style combat your way
- Customize your party and hero
- It’s not Dragon Age II
- Weak story
- Say goodbye to hundreds of hours of freetime
4. Child of Light
The first thing you’ll notice while playing Child of Light is undoubtedly its amazing graphics. The game’s watercolor-like visuals look like they were painted right onto your screen. Child of Light features unconventional characters and a unique story that defy genre standards while still paying them tribute, which is no easy feat. All of this aside, Child of Light still features robust and interesting combat mechanics that mix real-time and turn-based strategy into one fluid system that’s nothing short of satisfying. If you can get past the rhyming pentameter characters are forced to speak in, you’ll find an excellent game, even if its RPG elements aren’t as deep as they could be.
- Hand-painted art
- Great combat
- Trope-defying story
- Forced rhyming
- Shallow RPG elements
5. Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII
Not everyone loved Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, the conclusion to Square’s most recent trilogy, but it has all the bullet points for a solid RPG: deep customization, an excellent battle system and an interesting and explorable world. Sure, the story might be subpar and disappointing for the faithful fans who’ve been following Lightning’s tale since the beginning, but rich combat and a fully realized play space make up for those shortcomings. Final Fantasy games are the definitive RPGs of our time, and although not every one is a masterpiece, Square knows how to create role-playing games.
Price: $24.99 (50 percent off MSRP)
- Awesome combat
- Slick graphics
- Intriguing world
- Lackluster conclusion to Lightning’s tale
- Weak story