Are you tired of relying on your birth month to get insight into your life? Why not use something a little more reliable, like the best RPG that was released the year you were born? If that’s what you’re looking for, then I have just what you need. I have a list of RPGs that will fit most of our readers.
Disclaimer 1: I’m not using any real metrics for this since the best-selling RPG might not have necessarily been the best RPG released during that given year. I’m going by my personal feelings and the contributions I felt the game made to the genre. It’s videogame astrology, people.
Disclaimer 2: Some of the early years are a little harder since RPGs weren’t released all the time in the 1970s and some of the games were technically released in one year and then received some extra development and re-released later on. I’m not touching all that; what you see is what you get.
With that out of the way, get ready for a robust list of the best RPGs from the year you were born. I don’t know if it gives you any insight into your life, but you should definitely feel some pride for coming along at the same time as these games.
This is one of the RPGs that started it all! The game was the first adaptation of Dungeons and Dragons! It was written using the PLATO computer language in 1974 and early 1975, and then it was continuously worked on and improved over the years. The game is notable for being the first interactive video game to include “boss” monsters.
1976: Colossal Cave Adventure
Colossal Cave Adventure was one of the few RPGs to get released in 1976, so that makes people born in this year a rare gem, too. Or something.
Anyway, the text adventure game saw the player exploring a cave system to gather treasure and escape. The game designer, William Crowther, was a cave enthusiast and apparently a computer wiz. The game was worked on again with help from another creator, and it was re-released in 1977 with added depth!
Oubliette is a French word meaning “dungeon.” This RPG allowed you to build a party that included one to six people. You could make your characters into any of 8 existing races and 10 different classes. With all the dungeons and levels that you got in this game, it was a pretty impressive piece of work. There is still a bit of a fan base out there for this game!
1978: Beneath Apple Manor
Beneath Apple Manor is an RPG that featured some rudimentary gameplay graphics that allowed you to see what you were doing in battle. The goal might seem kind of silly (to get a golden apple on the lowest level of the manor) but this game is renowned for being the first computer game to be released commercially for a home computer.
That’s special enough to supersede all the other games released in 1978. Don’t worry; there were not many RPGs released that year.
No, there are neither blue cat people or flying bison in this game, but that doesn’t make it any less special. This game is famous for building upon the multiplayer interface and for being incredibly difficult to play on your own. That’s why it’s a good idea to look at this game as one of the fundamental building blocks that led to the development of MMORPGs.
Some other great things about this game were the use of more icons for characters and monsters along with the ability to trade items with other players and a good magic system!
Rogue is famous for its dungeons, procedurally generated loot, graphical displays, and the fact that when you died, you stayed dead. If you’re looking for the origin of the term roguelike video games, this is it. The only weird part is that this game came out after a similar game, Beneath Apple Manor.
However, Rogue has superior programming and is recognized as one of the best PC games ever for its contributions.
1981: Ultima 1: The First Age of Darkness
Alright, we’re starting to get into some familiar territory. Ultima I was released in 1981 and it had a lot of the features that we think about when looking at modern RPGs. It featured better graphics than many of its contemporaries, a top-down view of the map, character creation, and a fleshed-out story. Best of all, it was the start of one of the best RPG series!
1982: Wizardry II: The Knight of Diamonds
The Wizardry series might not be the most famous today, but it’s very good. This particular entry was famous for being a computer game that originally required that you load in your characters from the first scenario. While it pretty much only loaded stats and character names rather than entire storylines like modern games, this was a welcome stepping stone in the RPG community.
In this, you venture into a dungeon to collect pieces of a knight’s armor and enjoy some very basic graphics but deep gameplay along the way!
1983: Ultima III: Exodus
Ultima III is best known for the leap in graphics that came with this entry into the system. The game’s overworld features monsters that are tied to your level although the dungeons have set levels and they will eat you alive. This game allows you to communicate with NPC townspeople and gives you the chance to travel on foot, horseback, and boat.
It was very innovative for the time, and its impacts on the RPG genre were significant.
Shadowkeep was the first computer game to be novelized! Yeah, that wasn’t too impressive of a reveal for me, either. The game was somewhat complex, though. You started out by generating a party of 9 characters that would get random stats. Then, you would travel into the titular castle and try to rescue a wizard that was captured within.
The highpoint of this game was definitely the storytelling, but the graphics were also nice.
1985: The Bard’s Tale I
The Bard’s Tale I was known for its amazing story and the good-looking graphics of the time. You were part of a ragtag group that was the only people left to fight back and reclaim your town of Skara Brae after a wizard cut it off from the rest of the town. It’s a pretty straightforward dungeon crawler, but the inclusion of different magical abilities, such as the bard’s songs, really made the game stand out. The game got universal acclaim at the time, too.
1986: Dragon Quest AKA Dragon Warrior
No matter which name you know the series by, this was the game that started it all. One of the major goals of this game was to garner interest in the JRPG style around the world. It tried to simplify a lot of the commands that went into making the characters interact with the world and focused on allowing the player to pay attention more to the story than trying to navigate.
It was a rough game, though. It was a bit grindy and a tad unpolished, but it was the start of a great thing. It came out and contributed to the growing console RPG market in a very significant way, and that’s part of the reason it’s the best RPG from this year.
1987: Phantasy Star
Sega managed to get involved in the RPG rush by releasing Phantasy Star on the SMS. This game was a true departure from a lot of games that came out before. Instead of focusing on medieval worlds, this game combined a futuristic setting with medieval battles. So, you could use a sword and shield but also witness a developed society.
The game employed nice graphics, beautiful colors, and a system of interacting with the world that relied less on time-wasting inputs from the player.
1988: Might and Magic II: Gates to Another World
Although it would later come out for the Sega Genesis, Might and Magic II: Gates to Another World first premiered on PC. The game was such an improvement over the first entry in the series that the game managed to garner massive support in the RPG community. It’s a dungeon crawler, but it’s one that made the development of your party and exploration of the world very simple.
For that reason, gamers were able to focus more on exploration, story, and combat instead of wasting time figuring out the way the world works.
Mother was a cool game because it took a lot of inspiration from Dragon Quest, but it was also not afraid to do its own thing. You had random encounters, but the story was based in the present. You had a somewhat serious quest, but you also had some storylines that were solely introduced to make you laugh.
The graphics, music, and storyline all set this game apart, and it set the ground for the sequel, Earthbound, which is horribly overrated.
1990: Dragon Quest IV
Dragon Quest IV was a great game for a whole lot of reasons. From the vastly improved graphics from the previous game to the unique “tactics” system that let you delegate some of your combat to “AI”, there was a lot to love. Another great element of this game was the story.
It’s relayed in a series of chapters that let you have experiences with many different characters to get a lot of perspectives on the overall story.
1991: Shining in the Darkness
Shining in the Darkness was the first RPG released for Sega Genesis, but that’s not the only reason it belongs on the list. It represented a culmination of all the best parts of dungeon crawlers to that point. The graphics and icons were nice, the turn-based combat lets you be strategic to win battles, and the story was crafted with thought and purpose.
It’s not my favorite game in the Shining series, but it was a great way to start off the RPG genre on Sega Genesis.
1992: Lunar: The Silver Star
Released on the Sega CD, Lunar: The Silver Star came with the benefit of having CD-ROMs as the storage format. That allowed the game to include many voice-overs, FMVs, and a ton of content. At that point in time, this game might have been the largest, deepest RPG on the market.
The story is fleshed-out, there are numerous characters to play, and the music will rock your world. 1992 was a heck of a year to come into the world.
1993: Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium
PSIV was one heck of a game. The story was solid from start to finish, it tied up old plots from previous games, and it had a sweet combat system. Another high point for me was the music in this game. Another thing that I loved was how big the scope was on the game. Seriously, you visited different planets and moons.
It fixed everything that was wrong with PSIII and created a very cohesive and fun game. Sadly, this was the final main entry into the Phantasy Star series.
1994: Final Fantasy VI
Final Fantasy VI did everything right in my book. Story, music, pacing, combat, characters— it was as perfect of a game that you could make on the SNES. Also, Kefka might just be the best villain along with the most successful.
I wish they could remake this game so it could be realized in better graphics, but then again I am not sure that I want to risk it turning out bad. Like some other games that have been remade. You know the ones.
1995: Chrono Trigger
Chrono Trigger was another SNES RPG masterpiece that helped fortify the system’s legacy. Taking on the role of Chrono, you start out on a small journey that expands into an amazing time traveling story. Some of the particular high points of this game include the combat, story, and music.
While the protagonist isn’t particularly memorable owing to the fact that he doesn’t speak, the rest of the cast carries the story for you!
The first Diablo game took the world by storm with its ability to play with other people online. You could venture into the cathedral in Tristram and kill memorable characters like The Butcher with three other people. The game had one of the best atmospheres of any RPG of the age.
It could make you feel completely alone and paranoid, leaving you afraid to open a dungeon’s door because you didn’t know what the hell was on the other side. The game was amazing, and the sequel was even better. Right now, I am looking forward to seeing what Diablo IV brings to the table.
1997: Final Fantasy VII
Is it enough to say that Final Fantasy VII was genre-defining? The game had an amazing story, managed to neatly fit in a message about environmentalism, and it was the first 3D Final Fantasy game. The RPG didn’t innovate too much in the combat department, but the story, world-building, characters, and bosses were amazing.
Also, you had a hundred hours of side quests, mini-games, and exploring to do. People immediately wanted a sequel to this game, and they only had to whine about it for 23 years to get it. That kind of devotion shows you how much people enjoyed this title. As far as video games go, it was good to be born in ‘97.
1998: Star Ocean: The Second Story
Star Ocean II came to the shores of the U.S. without ever having the original game released in English. That didn’t stop us from having an incredible time with this game. Now, a lot of people might disagree with this one and that’s okay. I think that the game had a very cohesive story and it came with two perspectives on the action of the game—you could choose a man or woman to start off with.
The world felt very full, too, and that was difficult to do around this time. The combat was also a lot of fun as you could set your characters’ AI to do specific things and then run around as one person and wreak havoc. I covered the game a bit more here, but you really should just play it.
I have it as #6 on the list of top PlayStation 1 RPGs, and that’s saying something!
1999: Planetscape: Torment
Black Isle Studios came out with a wrecking ball of an RPG with Planetscape: Torment. This isometric world was a single-player RPG that put you in the role of The Nameless One, an immortal that comes with some hefty baggage. Pretty interesting perspective, in my opinion.
The story is simply incredible and the world is highly detailed. You could lose yourself in this game for a long, long time. The music and ambiance of this game seem to have picked up where Diablo left off, putting you in a dark, moody world. Check this game out if you were born at the end of the millennium.
2000: Diablo II
Diablo II took everything that we loved about Diablo, improved upon it, and gave it back to us in a terrifying way. As it turns out, you didn’t so much as stop the Prime Evil in the first game as you did give him a hell of a strong body to use. Oops. The game brought some kinda blocky graphics to the familiar isometric view.
The game’s combat was wonderful, and the expanded story from the first drew you in. The game could be painfully difficult, fun for groups of people, and relied a lot on luck and grinding to reach the top of the ladder. If you know what that means, you’re probably a nerd. This game did so much right in terms of gameplay, story, and even music.
2001: Final Fantasy X
Aside from the forced laughing scene, this was a very, very good game. Final Fantasy X used the brand new Playstation 2 to give the game some fantastic graphics, something the series really needed. Although I hated Blitzball (because I sucked at it), the game had a lot of side quests to complement a very unusual and sad story.
Those who have played it know that there are a few times you get gut-punched while playing. The cutscenes were memorable, the voice acting was a welcome change (though not always perfect), and the skills system kept you involved in your leveling process.
2002: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
TES III: Morrowind brought the series into the mainstream and changed the lives of many growing nerds like me. The game was very pretty to look at by 2002 standards. It was also massive, and I mean it. The cities were populated by tons of people, you could talk to everyone, and it could take you a long time just to walk around the entire map.
Then, you had to take into consideration the huge number of caves and buildings— promise me, it’s big. The combat was the low point because it used a behind-the-scenes system to determine if you hit a monster, and that went over badly. Still, the real magic of the game was how immersive it was.
Although you felt alien from the moment you were turned over to the Imperials in Seyda Neen, the game sucked you in and never let go. The local politics could fill a book. In fact, there are many of those to read in the game. There is no amount of praise that I have that is too much for this game, but I am biased.
It might have aged badly, but I gave this game a lot of time as a youngster.
2003: Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
KOTOR was a very entertaining game that sent you back to the glory days of the Jedi order. Kinda. Things weren’t all that great, and you get sucked up in the politics of the Sith and Jedi. The game had a very deep story, engaging combat and gameplay, and one of the greatest twists in a video game. It’s also a lot of fun to choose the light or dark side through your actions.
You get to go to memorable planets like Kashyyyk and Tatooine along with all-new locations. Although it takes a little while to get your lightsaber, it’s worth the adventure.
Fable was supposed to be the game that would compete with The Elder Scrolls series. While it managed to be a deep, fun, and engaging game in its own right, it didn’t touch the length, depth, or overall experience of Morrowind. Still, the action-oriented combat was interesting and the game’s overall tone was a relief from the super-serious titles that we’d gotten used to.
In this game, you could also choose to be good or evil. Whether you want a halo or horns, the game had plenty of content to provide!
2005: Jade Empire
Alright, this game was sold to me as KOTOR but with an eastern vibe. And that’s about right. You got an amazing story, very good music, and a better version of the combat that we’d seen in previous Bioware games. Now, a lot of people didn’t like the game’s relatively short story, but the tight pacing let you stay engaged with the plot without feeling like you were wasting time.
2006: The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
The Xbox 360 allowed Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion to completely change up the approach to the series. The combat was a lot more streamlined, skills were cut out of the game to make it easier to master, and the art style went in a completely different direction. Personally, I didn’t like the cartoonish faces, but the game had a lot to love so I could overlook it.
We got some good voice actors for this one, including Sean Bean. The main storyline was strong, there were plenty of side quests, and you could finally ride a horse. This was a very good RPG and certainly the best of the year.
2007: Mass Effect
Mass Effect kicked off one of the best video game series of all time. While I think the series may have lasted a little too long now, the main trilogy was absolutely fascinating and it all started here. You take on the role of Commander Shephard and delve into the world of galactic politics at a point in the future where humans are the up-and-comers trying to find their place in the midst of civilizations that are far superior to ours.
The game has a ton to explore and a combat system that is very intriguing but far from perfect. Gameplay, music, story— they’re all gems. The elevators, though….whew.
2008: Fallout 3
What would you do if you lived in a nuclear bomb shelter your whole life and then got unleashed upon the world? If you answered “whatever the f*** I want”, then this is the game for you. You are the Lone Wanderer, and you’re trying to find your dad by whatever means possible. It’s a shooting game that lets you deliberately aim at an opponent to maximize damage or achieve certain effects.
You can explore as a stealthy rogue-type and use melee weapons, or you can stroll up with the biggest stick and slam your enemies over the head. There is a lot of land to explore and a great story to go with it. The graphics and music were two other high points for the game.
2009: Dragon Age: Origins
Dragon Age: Origins was a very engaging RPG that put you in the role of one of the Grey Wardens, beings that can sense the presence of the Archdemon. Well, things go pretty awry early in the game, and you’re stuck trying to put together a team to save the world.
The combat was like that of KOTOR and Jade Empire where you would choose a skill and your character would execute it. The game’s music and story were very good, and the party system was intriguing because it was hard to be friends with everyone—you had to take some firm stances.
2010: Mass Effect 2
The sequel to Mass Effect has you continuing as Commander Shephard as you try to put a team together to infiltrate a base of beings known as Collectors and find out what the Reapers have planned for you. The only downside about this game is the insistence on bringing up the fact that you’re on a suicide mission the whole time.
The game’s story is great and filled with twists and side quests. The combat is vastly improved from the first outing, too. The music, characters, and voice acting will have you dumping hours into this game and then coming back to try to go through with a Renegade playthrough. It’s so hard to be mean to your teammates, man.
2011: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
I’m ending the list here because I don’t think I have any 9-year-old readers. What is there to say about Skyrim? It has incredibly high high-points and some deep issues that make it less than perfect. Still, when you’re immersed in the world and fighting dragons, you can’t help but get caught up in the majesty of it all.
The game isn’t as populated as the others, but it gave players the chance to finally go up north and hang out with the xenophobic, singing, mage-fearing Nords. The gameplay is very good, the combat could use some work, the story was fantastic, and the music is hard to beat. We even got a series of arrow-related memes from this game. Simply wonderful.
2012- Present: Skyrim Remakes
Final Thoughts on The Best RPGs from the Year You Were Born
And there you have it. If you’re under 10 years old at this time, just rest knowing that we’ve had a remake of TES V: Skyrim every year since then and that has you covered. There are a lot of games that I struggled with on this list; I chose some because they were better to me or they were more meaningful for what they brought to the genre. Others were just my personal bias.
Tell me if you have a better idea for a game for your birth year. If you give me a really compelling case, I might just go back and put yours in there.