Discussion of the Week: The Most Revolutionary RPGs Of All Time

The most revolutionary RPGs of all time.

There are some RPGs that changed the way that all of the rest were made after their creation. These games may not be the best of all time, although some of them are, but they all changed how RPGs are and what they will be in the future. They either set the bar, mixed up the game, or completely changed the game. These games are the most revolutionary RPGs of all time according to us.

10. Shadow of the Colossus

In 2005 a video game was released for the Playstation 2 that changed how we saw this form of media. Shadow of the Colossus which was developed by Team Ico and is an action role playing game that puts the player in the role of Wander whose mission to take down massive beasts known as the Colossi.

Revolutionary RPGs -shadow-of-the-colossus

While Shadow of the Colossus was a fantastic game, and one of the best RPGs of all time, that is not the reason it has made it on to this list. The reason this game was chosen for this list was for its sheer scale, and its art. Shadow of the Colossus took a form of media, video games, and transformed it into a real art form. From the designs of the Colossi to the way the sun shines off of your sword. Everything about this game was art and for that reason this game is one of the most revolutionary RPGs of all time.

9. League of Legends

If I told you ten years ago that more people would be watching a video game championship event than the Super Bowl you would have thought that I was crazy. What if I then told you that the game they were watching was based on a Warcraft III custom map? You would think that I was insane. Well this is no longer the vision of some madman, it is a reality. That game is League of Legends, an multiplayer online battle arena aka a MOBA.

Revolutionary RPGs -league-of-legends

While League of Legends and other MOBAs are not RPGs in the traditional sense, they do posses heavy RPG elements which the gameplay is centered around. In League of Legends the players take control of one of the many heroes available and then fight in teams with the goal of destroying the other teams base. While League of Legends is currently the most popular video game in existence, and the most lucrative, that is not the reason it has been chosen for this list. The reason League of Legends is one of the most revolutionary RPGs of all time is that opened the door for esports and made this insane proposal a reality.

8. Pokemon

Very few RPGs become so popular that they transcend their original form and become something more. One of those such RPGs is the original Pokemon for the original Nintendo Game Boy. Pokemon is a turn based RPG where the player collects different monsters and then creates a team that they use to battle other monsters and other monster trainers. While in essence Pokemon is very simple, it has over time become more than just a game, it has become the most popular video game franchise ever to exist.

Revolutionary RPGs -pokemon-red

The success of Pokemon and the reason for it is hard to pin down. Is it the collectible aspect to the game? The easy to understand and hard to master battle mechanics? Or was it simply the brilliant marketing? We may never know. What we do know is that Pokemon was a success that spawned countless other products related to the game which only continued to make the series ever more popular. Pokemon may not be the best game ever created, it may not be the most complex, it may not be the most balanced, but what it is for sure is the most successful game ever created, and for that reason it is one of the most revolutionary RPGs ever to have existed.

7. The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time

Flashback to the mid 90s, 3D games in their true form have just started to become popular. Super Mario 64 had just been released and people were looking for a new RPG to take advantage of all the breakthroughs that game had made. That wish came in the form of The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time which was released for the Nintendo 64 in late 1998.

Revolutionary RPGs -the-legend-of-zelda-ocarina-of-time

Before The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time RPGs were limited to primitive top down or side scrolling games with little to no interactions between the player and the environment. This game changed that. It had a vast “open world” where the player could run around as everyone’s favorite hero, Link, and explore to their hearts content. It had a more “sophisticated” combat system where the player could jump back and forth and approach different situations as they saw fit. On top of that this game had a great story that kept the gamer waiting to see what was next. While all of these aspects of the game were just fine and dandy the reason The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time is on the list of the most revolutionary RPGs of all time was because it was the first fully realized 3D RPG to work, and work well at that.

6. Ultima Online

Before 1997 if you wanted to play a video game with your friends they had to come over and then you needed a game console and multiple controllers. Then one game around that changed multiplayer gaming forever. That game was Ultima Online, and while it was technically the first MMORPG it was the first truly successful one.

Revolutionary RPGs -ultima-online

Ultima Online was a top down RPG that had players create their very own characters and then enter a vast world where they could do, well, whatever they wanted. This game did not have traditional RPG “leveling up” mechanics, and instead had a complex skill system where abilities would get better the more they used them. This game was also beautiful for its time, and worked flawlessly over the internet. It was Ultima Online that paved the way for MMORPGs to come, and for that reason it is one of the most revolutionary RPGs ever to be created.

5. Final Fantasy VII

Some games you remember for their story lines, some for their combat system, and some for the characters. Very few RPGs you remember for all of these reasons. One of these such games is Final Fantasy VII. When this game first came out no other RPG had combined all of these aspects successfully and had full motion video to boot!

Revolutionary RPGs -final-fantasy-vii

When Final Fantasy VII was first released on the Playstation 1 no other game was able to have an engaging story, interesting characters, fun combat, AND full motion video. Final Fantasy VII accomplished all of these goals with what could be considered very simple mechanics. What made the success of this game possible? Great writing that’s what. For these reasons Final Fantasy VII is one of the most revolutionary RPGs of all time.

4. Ultima III: Exodus

While by today’s standards having NPCs in RPGs that provide you with useful hints and tips to get through the game are standard, this was not always the case. In 1983 one game came along that changed all that, and that game was Ultima III: Exodus.

Revolutionary RPGs -ultima-iii-exodus

While Ultima III: Exodus may not be the best RPG that has ever been made it was indeed revolutionary, and that is the purpose of this list. Before this game was released in the early 1980’s NPCs were either just a reason to add more text to a game, or simply just eye candy. After this game was released NPCs were an important part of almost every RPG, either giving hints as to what to do next, or they were used for world building. Again Ultima III: Exodus may not be the best RPG ever made, but its use of NPCs was revolutionary and set the bar for RPGs to come.

3. Final Fantasy IV (Final Fantasy II)

When RPGs were first released for home consoles they usually took the form of grind-fests where you would need to over level in order to not die on the next boss. These games became rather repetitive and the player knew what to expect when they started a new game. This changed with the release of Final Fantasy IV for the Super Nintendo, or Final Fantasy II if you live in the States.

Revolutionary RPGs -final-fantasy-IV

Final Fantasy IV changed the way that RPGs on home consoles worked. It changed RPGs from grind-fests to logical games that flow as they should. In Final Fantasy IV, and pretty much every RPG that released after it the player first goes to a town, then to a dungeon, then fights a boss. This sounds logical and simple, but before this game came out this was not standard in all RPGs. While Final Fantasy IV is a great game that everyone should play sometime during their lifetime, the reason this game made the list of the most revolutionary RPGs of all time was because of this formula.

2. Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior)

While Final Fantasy IV pioneered the town, dungeon, boss formula, Dragon Quest pioneered the previous grind based formula. In actuality Dragon Quest pioneered RPGs as being a popular game type in Japan.

Revolutionary RPGs -dragon-quest-i

Dragon Quest put players in a magical world where they were able to fight monsters, level up and improve their characters, and fight powerful bosses. While this sounds very standard, it was not before Dragon Quest came about. For these reasons Dragon Quest, also known as Dragon Warrior in the States, is number two on our list of the most revolutionary RPGs of all time.

1. The Legend of Zelda

That leaves us with number one, the big kahuna, and that title goes to the “legendary” Legend of Zelda for the NES.

Revolutionary RPGs -the-legend-of-zelda

Before The Legend of Zelda came out for the NES games had the player do very specific tasks in order to play. The Legend of Zelda changed all of that. This game allowed the players to aimless explore the game’s world, and on top of that it let them do it in four dimensional movements. It was the world’s first “open world” game, it was the world’s first game that allowed multi-directional movement, and it was the world’s first Zelda game. For all of these reasons The Legend of Zelda was on the top of our list of the most revolutionary RPGs of all time.


How did our list compare to yours? Did you think of any revolutionary games that we didn’t? Let us know in the comment section below, and make sure to stay tuned for our next podcast this week where will be discussing this topic in great length.

  • I have spent countless hours playing Ultima Online. For some reason I still go back to it even today, 18 years after it was released. Are any of these games one of your favorites? Did you know all these facts about these games?

  • william gregg

    3 of these games aren’t rpg games.