Role-playing games (RPGs) are some of the most popular games released by video game developers. They tend to have elaborate stories, give players a sense of immersiveness that isn’t present in other genres, and give the player freedom in a digital world.
Also, RPGs are a great measurement of a video game console’s capabilities. These games push the limits of sound, graphics quality, and developer ingenuity.
I’ve written about the best RPGs on many retro systems over the last year or so. Now, it’s time to answer the question, what is the best console for RPGs?
I’ve come up with a few criteria to judge the consoles and come up with what I believe to be the best one. I’m looking at:
- Variety of RPGs available on the system
- Impact of the system on the genre
- The best games on the system
On one hand, I want you to know that I have agonized over this list. On the other hand, this is not scientific, so I am going to include hand-helds in this list, too.
I am going to do a countdown-style ranking until I reach the best console for RPGs. Okay, let’s get it going.
10. Game Boy
The Game Boy might seem like a weak hand-held console to start off the list, but have you ever considered how much of a beast this thing is?
Looking at my criteria, this thing has quite a few RPGs available on the system to play. Just check out this list of Game Boy RPGs. You have games like Final Fantasy: Legends III that used every bit of memory and every note of music available to make a great game.
Think about some of the best games on this system, too.
- Pokémon Red and Blue
- Dragon Warrior: Monsters
- Final Fantasy Legends
- Final Fantasy Adventure
For such a compact machine, the Game Boy did a ton of heavy lifting. Not only did it help start off the monster-collecting RPG craze that owned the video game market for half a decade, but it proved that hand-held systems were a viable source of entertainment.
9. Xbox One
Alright, time to leap into the future from that last entry. The Xbox One is similar to the PS4 in the sense that there is not a whole lot separating them from the pack. Sure, the Xbox One is pretty and it did a very good job making large, beautiful RPGs, but I have to ask what it did to define the genre.
The console delivered games like:
- Elder Scrolls Online
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition Remastered
- Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
- Divinity: Original Sin
I have no doubt that these games are very good, but they aren’t all unique to the system. Some of them push the boundaries of the genre as well, but it’s not like the games were specific to that console.
I know the system is good and has the power to make awesome games, but I can’t think of a reason to list it higher.
8. PlayStation 4
The PlayStation 4 was another one of the best consoles for RPGs. Unlike the PS3, this one managed to get some high-quality exclusive titles on the system that pushed the boundaries of graphics, music, and story-telling.
The PS4 brought us:
- Final Fantasy XV
- Horizon: Zero Dawn
- Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
- Final Fantasy VII: Remake
- Persona 5 Royal.
It’s an understatement to say that the console has tons of great titles.
The only thing keeping this console from reaching higher on the list is the impact of the system on the genre. We’re heading towards a point where fewer exclusives exist and it’s harder for a single system to stand out in that respect.
Still, the PS4 is a great console to play new RPGs and a bunch of remastered ones.
7. Original Xbox
The Original Xbox came out shortly after the PlayStation 2, so it needed to play catch-up at first. Of course, the system scored a lot of sales for Halo: CE, but the Xbox console did some great things with RPGs, too.
Just take a look at some of these titles:
- Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
- Jade Empire
- Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance
This console has absolute masterpieces for RPGs, and each of them took the genre to new heights. Morrowind could easily eat up a hundred hours of time and you won’t have traveled everywhere in the game.
The only reason this console is where it’s at on the list is the lack of really good RPGs once you get outside of the top ten or so.
If you want to look at it another, slightly criminal way, the original Xbox might be the best console for RPGs because of its amazing ability to be an emulator for all the other retro systems.
6. Sega Genesis
I started writing about video games with an article about how much of an absolute workhorse the Sega Genesis was for the RPG genre. I stand by that evaluation, too.
The Sega Genesis came out in the waning years of the NES, and carried the torch for RPGs for years until other systems got their feet under them. Among some of the best titles were:
- Phantasy Star IV
- Beyond Oasis
- Might and Magic II: Gates to Another World
- Shining Force II
These games wove great stories, improved the way the player could interact in the digital world, and had some great soundtracks for the era.
Even the horribly maligned Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom shook up the narrative of RPGs at the time and had branching timelines that the player could follow for multiple story outcomes.
The Sega Genesis was a great system because it kept the genre going and helped popularize several types of RPG.
5. Nintendo Switch
I’m not sure how I feel about the Nintendo Switch as a system, but I have to recognize its contributions to RPGs.
The console has many great games of its own like:
- Fire Emblem: Three Houses
- Xenoblade Chronicles 2
- Pokémon Sword and Shield
- Octopath Traveler
We might even see more ports to the system, too. Those are all fine games, but not as genre-transforming as we’ve seen with other consoles. However, the Switch has a few other things going for it.
First off, the system has ported so many old, amazing games. It’s gotten ahold of some of the best Final Fantasy games, ported TES V: Skyrim, and brought a ton of remasters.
That means this system has more top-tier RPGs on it than most others. And the console is portable. What the heck am I supposed to make of that?
The Switch would not be my first choice to play most ported games, so I knocked off some mental points for that. But all the games are there and available, so it deserves some credit. I’m leaving this one right where it is on the list.
4. Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3
The PS3 and the Xbox 360 shared so many of the same titles and came so close to balance on them that I feel like listing them separately would be a waste.
As you might imagine, I ran into a major problem here. The Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3 had so many overlapping titles that I am just sticking them together.
Some of the most famous titles include:
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
- Fable II
- Mass Effect Series
- Fallout 3
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- Dragon Age: Origins
Sure, we have some exclusives here and there, but not enough for me to separate the two.
Both systems brought beautiful graphics, amazing games, and more expansive worlds to the realm of RPGs. Action-RPGs are still trying to replicate the success of the Mass Effect series. Both systems did a lot for RPGs, but no one did more than the other.
3. PlayStation 2
The PlayStation 2 came out swinging in terms of the RPGs released on the system. I remember cutting out Final Fantasy X screenshots from my old Game Informer magazine to decorate my bedroom walls in anticipation of the new game. (It was Ifrit and the other summons, not characters, you weirdos).
The system had some really good titles on it such as:
- Final Fantasy
- Final Fantasy XII
- Final Fantasy XI (you know, the MMO)
- Star Ocean: Til the end of Time
- Dragon Quest VIII
This system is one of the best consoles for RPGs because it helped revive and re-popularize old series, pushed the boundaries with the addition of a successful MMO, and used as much of the system’s capabilities as possible to make the game a great experience.
The PS2 had tons of amazing RPGs (Ys, Suikoden, the .Hack games, and Dark Cloud) that go beyond the most popular and recognizable ones that I’ve tried to include in this list.
All in all, it was a very successful system for RPGs and many other genres, too.
2. Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)
The SNES RPGs are some of the most memorable ones ever made. Although the Sega Genesis had a few really, really special RPGs, the SNES standardized greatness.
Take a quick walk down memory lane with some of the best RPGs on the system, like:
- Final Fantasy VI
- Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen
- Chrono Trigger
- Super Mario RPG
- Secret of Mana
- Star Ocean (Japanese, but still great)
Many of these games did everything they could to push the limits of the system in terms of graphics, sound, and size. Games like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger are still considered some of the best RPGs ever made.
Sure, some of that is nostalgia talking, but the gameplay, stories, and contributions to the genre are simply incredible and exemplify everything that was great about the SNES.
1. PlayStation 1
The best console for RPGs is the PlayStation 1. The PS1 maxed out the ratings in terms of the best RPGs, helping the genre grow as a whole, and having a lot of variety in the types of RPGs.
Starting out with JRPGs, we saw absolute greatness in the form of games like Final Fantasy VII, The Legend of Dragoon, Star Ocean: The Second Story, and Xenogears.
That wasn’t enough for the PS1 RPGs, though.
Do you want amazing tactical turn-based RPGs? You got Final Fantasy Tactics. Want some action-adventure RPGs? Play Diablo or DarkStone. Want a shooter RPG? Parasite Eve I and II.
I’m not just throwing out random names of games, either. These are all highly regarded games that expanded the genre and went into new territory.
I made a list of the top 31 PlayStation 1 RPGs and I still had a ton of leftovers to leave off the list. The system was an absolute monster for producing RPGs, and many of the consoles today are continuing the amazing series started on this system.
No other system (in my opinion) has the diverse selection and great games as the PlayStation 1.
Final Thoughts on the Best Console for RPGs
Like I said at the start of this article, I’ve spent a lot of time writing about the best RPGs on each system. Based on my experiences writing those articles, the PlayStation 1 did everything right.
I know that I’m inherently biased because I grew up with all the old systems, but I think the criteria I used to make this list was fair and that I implemented it accurately.
Do you think otherwise? Cool, let me know in the comments. I love talking nerdy, especially with people that disagree.