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Best RPGs Of Every Year In The 2000s

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Timeless PS2 RPGs

Highlights

  • RPGs in the 2000s took advantage of new technology, allowing for bigger worlds, improved graphics, and character voices.
  • Final Fantasy 9 is a remarkable RPG that pays homage to the franchise’s roots with charming characters and a fantastic battle system.
  • Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Fable: The Lost Chapters are some of the best RPGs of their time, offering engaging stories and unique gameplay mechanics.

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As the 2000s began in earnest, the video game industry was taking advantage of new hardware in both the home console space and the PC. The sixth generation of game consoles brought an upgrade in resolution and gave developers more room to expand on what was possible with games. And perhaps no genre was able to benefit more than the role-playing game.

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Thanks to the arrival of brand-new consoles and a PC market that was getting more powerful by the day, RPGs were able to use this newfound technology in order to create worlds that felt more alive than usual. World maps became bigger, characters got voices, and the games looked better than ever. The entirety of the 2000s was a great time for gaming, but RPGs were easily some of the best experiences one could find in the industry.

10 (2000) Final Fantasy 9

garnet from final fantasy 9

Final Fantasy 9

Released
July 7, 2000

Genre(s)
JRPG

Final Fantasy took a bit of a detour in the 1990s. The RPG series had done away with the fantasy elements, replacing them with a harsh, science fiction-influenced edge for FF7 and FF8. It was then that series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi opted to make a title that hearkened back to the franchise’s roots, crafting a title that paid beautiful homage to the beginning of Final Fantasy.

Initially, Final Fantasy 9 wasn’t even going to be a mainline title, but by the year 1999, it was firmly established as such. The end result was worth it, as FF9 was a lovely send-off to the PS1 era of the franchise and one of the absolute best RPGs ever made. The combination of charming characters, a fantastic battle system, and one of Nobuo Uematsu’s finest soundtracks is an A-plus on every level.

9 (2001) Shadow Hearts

This Occult-Influenced RPG Is One Of PS2’s Best

yuri in combat in shadow hearts

Shadow Hearts

Released
December 12, 2001

Developer
Sacnoth

Genre(s)
JRPG

Set in the years 1913 and 1914, Shadow Hearts is the tale of a party of characters led by Yuri Hyuga and Alice Elliot. Acting as a sequel to 1999’s Koudelka, this fascinating turn-based RPG continued some plot threads from the PS1 RPG while expanding on some new ones. It even featured some returning characters, including Koudelka herself.

But the best part of Shadow Hearts was its unique battle mechanics, one which used a system called the Judgment Ring. This occult-influenced symbol acts as a mini-game during battles, where stopping it in certain places can increase attack and magic power. It’s one of the PS2’s most interesting, yet oft-forgotten masterpieces.

8 (2002) Neverwinter Nights

One Of The Greatest CRPGs Ever Made

a group of characters in neverwinter nights

CRPGs were on the rise in the late 1990s but began to surge in popularity during the early 2000s thanks in no small part to developers like BioWare and Obsidian. Thus, it was hard for any RPG in the year 2002 to compete with Neverwinter Nights.

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Developed by BioWare with a team of 65 people, Neverwinter Nights used the Dungeons and Dragons third-edition rules and is easily one of the best CRPGs ever made. The tone of the world and story is rather dark, as it deals with the player character confronting a nefarious cult. The dialogue is some of the best written in an RPG of this style, too. It’s a truly magnificent package.

7 (2003) Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic

A Huge Star Wars RPG With Fun Lightsaber Combat

bastila fighting enemies in kotor

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Star Wars was certainly not hurting for games during this time period, as the multiple prequel film tie-ins were everywhere, and the titles unrelated to the films were also coming rather frequently. But none of the RPGs or Star Wars games released in 2003 could hold a candle to Knights of the Old Republic, a game that felt like one that fans of the series had wanted since 1977. The ability to create one’s own character within this iconic space fantasy world and then set off on a planet-hopping adventure seems quaint now with games like the Jedi franchise.

But in 2003, a Star Wars RPG with phenomenal turn-based lightsaber combat was an incredibly enticing offer. Knights of the Old Republic also features one of the best stories in Star Wars history, as the intriguing tale of Revan and the conflicts that arise within the party is fantastic to watch unfold. Add in some amazing side content and the ability to choose a light or dark side path, and gamers have one of the greatest Star Wars games and 2003’s best RPG.

6 (2004) X-Men Legends

An Expansive X-Men RPG With A Huge Roster

wolverine fighting enemies in x-men legends

X-Men Legends

Released
September 21, 2004

Genre(s)
Action RPG

Although Raven Software is closely associated with the Call of Duty franchise these days, the 1990s and early 2000s saw them consistently producing some of the best games on the market. And among their many licensed titles, which ranged from Star Wars to Star Trek games, one of their best efforts ended up being 2004’s best RPG in X-Men Legends.

Based on the best-selling comic book, X-Men Legends is an action RPG where the player controls up to four of the mutants and can switch between them with the D-Pad. Considering the number of X-Men characters that have existed over the years, Legends isn’t shy about throwing in a huge number of playable characters and Marvel cameos. It’s a brilliantly designed RPG with a huge variety of environments and is a treat for any fans of Marvel’s mutants.

5 (2005) Fable: The Lost Chapters

An Upgraded Version Of The Iconic 2004 RPG

the player character in oakvale in fable

Fable: The Lost Chapters

Released
September 20, 2005

Genre(s)
Action RPG

The original version of Fable was released in 2004 and was easily one of the year’s best RPGs, but a year later, Microsoft would release an expanded version that added new content, missions, and weapons and even expanded on some of the original’s fan-favorite characters. Fable: The Lost Chapters takes one of the finest RPGs ever made and improves on it in every way.

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In terms of content, it adds some fantastic new quests that feature Briar Rose and re-introduces Scythe, a character that was cut from the original game. It also features some new endgame missions and alters the voice of the main antagonist, Jack of Blades. The original Fable was already one of the best RPGs produced during that time, but this upgraded version handily takes the crown as 2005’s greatest.

An Enormous World In One Of The Best RPGs Ever Made

the player fighting a zombie in elder scrolls 4

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

In the four-year gap between the release of The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion and its predecessor Morrowind, Bethesda Game Studios was well on its way to establishing itself as one of the premiere RPG developers in the world. And with Oblivion, Bethesda did what it does best and created a huge, sprawling world for the player’s character to explore and survive.

Oblivion also features one of the franchise’s best stories, as players are sent out on a quest by the amazing voice of Patrick Stewart as Uriel Septim to stop a cult known as the Mythic Dawn from unleashing a Daedra invasion on the land of Tamriel. It’s an RPG that one can sink thousands of hours into, and with a still active modding community, The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion is still a terrific game to this day.

3 (2007) Mass Effect

The First Chapter Of The Iconic Trilogy Is Still A Fantastic Experience

shephard in combat in mass effect 1

Mass Effect

Released
November 20, 2007

Genre(s)
Action RPG

Despite the runaway success of Knights of the Old Republic in 2003, developer BioWare opted to hand the sequel duties over to Obsidian and pursued an original IP for their next project. Taking influence from classic sci-fi stories from the past, Mass Effect set out to tell an epic journey over the course of a trilogy. This commitment to branching storylines and decisions was impressive for a new IP.

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With the ability to create a custom character known as Shepard, who could be male or female, BioWare was determined to send players on an incredible journey with a singular character. Shephard felt unique to each player, as they could position their avatar to either be relentlessly cruel, a brash hero, or somewhere in between. With a tremendous cast of characters and a fabulous sense of discovery, Mass Effect is now easier to play than ever thanks to the trilogy remaster from 2021.

2 (2008) Fallout 3

The First 3D Fallout Game Elevated The Franchise To Superstar Status

a ghoul attacking the player in fallout 3

Fallout 3

Released
October 28, 2008

Attempts to produce a third game in the Fallout series date back to the franchise’s previous ownership under Interplay Entertainment, where it languished as a title called Van Buren. When the IP came up for sale, Bethesda purchased it and set the third game in the heart of Washington, D.C. Moving away from the top-down isometric view, they put the player right in the middle of the action by switching to a first-person perspective.

The apocalyptic wasteland of Fallout was bigger than ever thanks to Bethesda’s open-world prowess, featuring all the franchise’s trademark creatures and enemies from previous entries. And thanks to the new VATS system, combat was able to feel closer to the originals than may have been expected, echoing the turn-based systems from Fallout 1 and 2.

1 (2009) Demon’s Souls

The Precursor To Dark Souls Is One Of The PS3’s Toughest Challenges

Demon's Souls-sage-freke-logo

Demon’s Souls

Released
October 6, 2009

Genre(s)
Soulslike , Action RPG

Developers FromSoftware spent the previous two console generations creating games in the King’s Field series, a line of titles renowned for their harsh difficulty and obtuse design. So, with the arrival of the PS3, they were looking to extend their design philosophy of challenging the player even further and launched Demon’s Souls on the platform in late 2009. As a precursor to the contemporary Soulsborne games that players know, Demon’s Souls was a punishing, extremely difficult challenge and is still quite hard even for vets of the series today.

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Set in the ominous world of Boletaria, this dark fantasy action RPG features a unique game feel that is almost unmatched even by current FromSoftware standards. The action feels raw and physical, as sword swings have a certain weight to them that makes everything more playable. It’s a wonderful game that got a deserved remake courtesy of Bluepoint Games, proving that this influential title still has a bit of juice left in it even over a decade later.

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