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: 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.
- Release: 2005
- Developer: BioWare, LTI Gray Matter
- Platform: Xbox, OS X, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
- Photo: Overworks
Metacritic Score: 93
Skies of Arcadia is a JRPG that was originally released on the Sega Dreamcast in 2000 and was later released on the Nintendo GameCube in 2002 (where it featured slightly better graphics and extra content). Its gameplay is centered around exploration and features classic RPG mechanics such as turn-based battles and experience points.
While it was one of the best-reviewed Dreamcast games, it ultimately underperformed commercially (as did the GameCube version), although it has since garnered something of a cult following. Developers have attempted to create a sequel multiple times, but, unfortunately, none of those projects ever came to fruition. Still, it remains one of the most beloved JRPGs ever made — at least in smaller circles.
- Release: 2000
- Developer: Sega Wow, Overworks
- Platform: GameCube, Dreamcast
- 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.
- Release: 1998
- Developer: tri-Ace, Tose Co., Ltd.
- Platform: PlayStation
- Photo: Radical Fish Games
Metacritic Score: 86
A blatantly retro JRPG that takes place in the future? Yup, that’s basically CrossCode. While the game received favorable reviews, it wasn’t a huge seller, which is a shame considering how well-executed it is. It combines tons of different gameplay elements and pulls them off with style to spare.
It's one of those games that becomes increasingly more enjoyable the longer you play. Originally released on Mac and Microsoft Windows, ports have been announced for the PS4, Switch, and Xbox One, though exact dates are still tentative.
- Release: 2018
- Developer: Radical Fish Games
- Platform: Linux, macOS, Windows