The role-playing genre has been home to some of the best games ever made over the years, boasting titles like Fallout: New Vegas, Mass Effect 2, and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, just to name a few. However, some truly excellent RPGs haven't been as universally played, although they are just as strong as these titles when it comes to story, gameplay, or both. Whether they were panned upon their initial run or were released under unfortunate circumstances, this list ranks some of the most underrated RPGs of all time. (Note that none of the games or series listed below were ranked within the top 100 spots on our Greatest RPGs Of All Time list at the time of publication, which was part of the initial criteria when choosing these titles).
One of the great things about RPGs is the fact that even older games often hold up. That's because, unlike other genres, role-playing games place a particularly heavy emphasis on plot and thematic elements, which means graphics and gameplay mechanics sometimes take a backseat to a good old-fashioned story.
Sure, there are hundreds of underrated role-playing games that deserve more attention, but the ones listed below are known for having dedicated fan bases — regardless of how old (or new) they are. From overlooked RPGs to underrated JRPGs to hack-and-slash hybrids, and more, vote up all your favorite underrated RPG games and downvote the titles you consider overrated.
- Photo: tri-Ace
Metacritic Score: 80 (Star Ocean: The Second Story)
Originally released for the Super Famicom in 1996, Star Ocean was a technical marvel of its time. The game cartridge featured a special compression chip so as to fit all of the game's impressive graphics data, and it was also one of the only games on its platform to feature full voice acting during its intro and battle sequences.
The story follows three friends who, in an attempt to find the cure for a disease, find themselves pulled into an intergalactic war full of intrigue and time-travel. It's a shame this hidden gem often doesn't get the recognition it deserves, especially when the four entries that followed it were just as strong. While there have been numerous installments in the series, Second Story often receives the most praise.3714Hidden gem?
- Photo: Game Arts
Metacritic Score: 90 (Grandia II)
Every Grandia game is great but Grandia II is arguably the most well-executed. Originally released for the Dreamcast, it's all been lost to the sands of time. One of the greatest features of Grandia II is its unique battle system: while fights are still somewhat turn-based, players have full control of their characters' movements.
While the game was ported to the PlayStation 2 and PC shortly after it was released on the Dreamcast, the quality of the graphics and design were somewhat altered. Still, as a great RPG epic that's both engaging and intuitive, it remains a must-play.255Hidden gem?
- Photo: Iron Tower Studio
Metacritic Score: 81
If you have a thing for alternate histories, The Age of Decadence is a must-play. Set in a low-magic, post-apocalyptic world inspired by the fall of the Roman Empire, this turn-based RPG allows the player a great deal of control over its non-linear story.
According to the developer, The Age of Decadence attempts to return to the "golden era" of role-playing games, which focuses on choices and consequences, provides multiple solutions to various problems, and offers extensive dialogue trees. With 23 unique skills and robust crafting and alchemy systems, players have an incredible amount of freedom and must use a great deal of strategy while playing this RPG.222Hidden gem?
- Photo: Media.Vision
Metacritic Score: 73 (Wild Arms 3)
Wild Arms is an often forgotten RPG series that tends to have it all — engaging storylines, fun battles, complex puzzles, and a cool dystopian feel. While the games were pretty popular during the late '90s and early '00s, the series hit a dead end during the PSP days, although a smartphone release did see the light of day in 2018 (although it was only released in Japan).
While it may not have taken off in the West, the Wild Arms series was pretty big in Japan. The series even had its own anime, which likely help solidify its cult status.278Hidden gem?