Game Informer’s Top 100 RPGs

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In the 1980s, role-playing games, or RPGs, were my favorite genres of computer and video games. The hours of character development and narrative created a much richer fictional world than the era’s action games. Perhaps due to their inability to translate to arcades, RPGs were a niche genre, and so I hungrily played any I could get my hands on.

The decades since have seen an explosion in the popularity of RPGs, or at least the willingness to serve that niche — so much, that the cover story of issue #290 of Game Informer is the staff’s picks for the top hundred RPGs of all time. To have had that many to choose from in the 1980s would’ve been staggering, though Game Informer admits that the definition of RPG has become nebulous, now encompassing such modern titles as Mass Effect 3, Destiny, Horizon Zero Dawn, and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Fortunately, Game Informer acknowledges the genre’s roots by including several Apple II games on their list:

The criteria for the staff’s selection were not disclosed, so it’s hard to say whether these games were acknowledged because they were fun to play then, are still fun to play, or are important to the evolution of gaming. Wasteland, for example, is noted as being the pre-cursor to Fallout; Wizardry is "often cited as the first party-based RPG"; and for The Bard’s Tale, "Some players may still have their hand-drawn graph paper maps tucked away in an old box."

Regardless, with so many franchises, platforms, publishers, and developers at play, it’s impressive that the Apple II got so many mentions. But any listicle is bound to be contentious, and no one will fully agree with the choices or order of games. For example, Game Informer has probably never played one of my favorite Apple II games: The Magic Candle. With a jobs system in which player characters could learn crafts and trades, earn money from town jobs, and even split the party, it was an innovative and ahead of its time, being released three years before Final Fantasy V, which is often hailed for its job system.

What Apple II RPGs would you have included on this list, and why?

  1. Of the four games mentioned, being the first in an influential series seems to be the overriding factor for two of the games. (Wizardy I, Bard’s Tale I) even if later episodes in those series on the Apple II might have been better. For instance, Bard’s Tale III achieves all of being bigger, more reasonable, more fun, and prettier than its predecessors. But the newness factor of the first one and the mania of everyone playing it at the same time is one of those phenomena that stick.

    Ultima IV, with its introduction of existential concerns, is a pretty easy pick of the early Ultimas. You can read the Digital Antiquarian’s articles about it at length for thorough elaborations on that.

    Wasteland owes plenty to the Wizardries and Bard’s Tales, but introduced a new post-apocalyptic aesthetic. Having a recent sequel on modern machines undoubtedly helps reinforce/remind of that aesthetic.