Picking my top 3 MMORPGs wasn’t that hard. While there are a number of good to great MMORPGs the number to choose from isn’t a staggering amount. However, there are literally hundreds of great RPGs to choose from. That made creating this list infinitely more difficult than the last one. Before I went about making my selections I also set ground rules to make it even more of a challenge. First, I could only choose 1 game from a franchise. No filling the list up with Final Fantasy games. Second, no honorable mention cheats like last week. This list is my personal best of the best.
Number 3: Planescape: Torment
All of the Black Isle games are memorable, from Baldur’s gate to Icewind Dale. Those were epic adventures that really captured the spirit of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. However, the pinnacle of those style of games in my opinion was Torment. This game took place in a lesser known campaign setting than the Forgotten Realms. Planescape focuses on the intersection of planes and their different factions that are represented in the city of Sigil. This game wasn’t overly reliant on combat and is narrative heavy. There is nothing saying that a D&D campaign has to be all about the hack and slash, and for a good part they aren’t. That was represented well here.
Planescape also had a range of characters that fell outside the norm of high fantasy present in the other games during this time. The most notable of which was your friend Morte the flying skull that followed you around and tried to help you because he felt bad that he had gotten you killed. Turns out he had gotten you killed more than once. Morte probably would have been more helpful if he just left you alone. Morte wasn’t the only player character that could join your party that was animated either. There was Vhailor a suit of armor. Another outlier was the tiefling that could join your group. This was before tieflings became as prominent as they are now in the books and pen and paper materials produced by Wizards of the Coast.
One item that stands out to me to this day is the idea of tattoos empowering you instead of armor. I really thought this was great. Bottom line is Planescape was an offbeat, and engaging RPG that allowed you to have a choice in how you played it. If you wanted to be good you could do that. If you wanted to be a murder hobo well you could do that too. The choice was yours and that’s what any great RPG should be about.
Number 2: The Legend of Zelda: The Adventure of Link
I go back and forth on what is my favorite Zelda. Typically it is either The Adventure of Link or a Link to the Past followed up by the original Legend of Zelda and then, A link Between Worlds as a strong fourth. That said this one suits this list the best.
I’m willing to wager that this is probably the most divisive game I have on the list. Some would argue that the Zelda franchise is more of an adventure game series than an RPG series and for the most part they would be right. However, the Adventure of Link proves to be the exception. This is the only Zelda to be released where Link earned experience as he defeated enemies and completed dungeons. Once a certain threshold of experience was reached you could either elect to take the next available power up, either more life, spell points, or attack power, or you could pass it and focus on the next one experience milestone. While not optimal it could be possible to boost your attack all the way to level 8, the max, and still have level 1 for your life and spell points. Another similarity to RPGs at the time was the two different styles of map. There was an open world overworld map that you could traverse and explore and then there were combat maps that had Link fighting enemies in a side scrolling adventure game. I remember receiving this game as a present when I was a child and disappearing for the remainder of the day trying to break the spell cast on Princess Zelda.
Number 1: Final Fantasy VII
This was the hardest choice to make. Choosing a Final Fantasy game for my number 1 was the easy part. Picking which Final Fantasy title was the difficult part. For me it came down to VI or VII.
I went with VII because of the story and the use of 3d graphics. It could be argued that you can permanently lose characters in VI but if you play the game in a certain way Shadow my disappear when the world changes but you can get him back. In VII, is this a spoiler alert 19 years later? Aeries just flat out gets murdered by Sephiroth. Speaking of which Kefka from VI was a maniac but Sephiroth just turned into pure evil. I never before and have never since had a game elicit the emotional reactions that VII was able to provoke. I spent days and nights farming mobs, gathering and leveling material, and searching for the different weapons (ultima, ruby, etc..). I was sad, because I was a Nintendo fan, to see the franchise move from the N64 to the Playstation but after I played the game I realized it had to be done. This game was phenomenal and probably my favorite game of all time.
That’s it. Those are my top 3 personal RPGs. I’m not arguing they are the greatest by any objective measure other than I like them. Thanks for all the responses to the MMO list, and yes for those wondering I have heard of Wurm, and I look forward to reading your top 3 RPGs.