25 Overlooked & Underrated RPGs That Deserve Way More Recognition
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.
- 1237 VOTES
Dragon's Dogma Dark ArisenPhoto: Capcom
Metacritic Score: 80
Dragon’s Dogma was already a great RPG that was criminally overlooked, but the Dark Arisen expansion made it even better. The story’s your typical run-of-the-mill hero epic, but the gameplay and the fighting mechanics are what really make it memorable.
It’s one of the few RPGs where your protagonist is entirely customizable. It’s also beautifully visualized and features a range of different warrior classes to choose from, including Fighters, Mages, Assassins, Sorcerers, and more. With such glowing reviews, it’s surprising it hasn’t been more of a hit on modern consoles.
- Released: 2013
- Developer: Capcom
- Platform: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
- 2181 VOTESPhoto: BioWare
Metacritic Score: 89
A lesser-known title from beloved developer BioWare, Jade Empire was initially released as an Xbox exclusive in 2005 and was the studio's first game based on a completely original intellectual property. The game reused the morality system from BioWare's previous title Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, but incorporated a new, real-time combat system.
Chinese folklore, culture, and history were a huge inspiration for Jade Empire, which even incorporated a fictional language created specifically for the game that borrowed heavily from Chinese. After receiving near-universal critical acclaim, the game was then ported to PC so as to reach a wider audience of players.
- Released: 2005
- Developer: BioWare, LTI Gray Matter
- Platform: Xbox, OS X, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
- 3121 VOTES
Metacritic Score: 78
As close to a Final Fantasy game you can get without, you know, actually being a Final Fantasy game, Lost Odyssey was a visually stunning JRPG released during the Xbox 360 era. The game centers around Kaim, a powerful immortal who's lost his memory.
In addition to looking and sounding the part, Lost Odyssey also features an incredibly engaging storyline that's sure to keep gamers old and new hooked.
- Released: 2007
- Developer: Feelplus Inc., Mistwalker
- Platform: Xbox 360
- 485 VOTES
Metacritic score: 73 (Shadow Hearts)
Often credited as some of the most underrated RPGs of all time, the Shadow Hearts series is definitely worth checking out. For starters, the games are set during (and after) the events of World War I, which is already a daft departure from traditional RPGs. They also feature incredibly unique characters, plots, and gameplay mechanics. But what truly makes these games so great is how each installment actually improves upon the last. Shadow Hearts Covenant is an amazing sequel and takes place directly after the ending of the first game. It's also the highest-rated in the series, with an 85% on Metacritic.
While the series still holds a special place in many gamers' hearts, initial reviews were somewhat mixed. Still after nearly 20 years, these games still hold up and have arguably aged better than many of the other PS2-era role-playing titles.
- Released: 2001
- Developer: Sacnoth
- Platform: PlayStation 2
- 584 VOTES
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.
- Released: 2000
- Developer: Game Arts
- Platform: Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation Network, Nintendo Switch
- 688 VOTES
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.
- Released: 1998
- Developer: tri-Ace, Tose Co., Ltd.
- Platform: PlayStation