RPG games, or role-playing games, have come a long way since their humble beginnings as pen-and-paper adventures. From classic tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons to immersive virtual reality experiences, RPG games have captivated players with their rich storytelling, character development, and strategic gameplay.
Some of the first computer games were RPGs. Initially, they were entirely text-based; then, from Dunjonquest: Temple of Apshai, they began incorporating simple graphics. Richard Garriot’s Akalabeth: World of Doom was the first first-person RPG, but Lord British real masterpiece was the Ultima series, one of the most important franchises in the RPG genre, along with Wizardry, Might and Magic, and others. Traditional computer RPGs feature turn-based combat, as seen in The Bard’s Tale, but also in other titles such as SSI’s Dark Sun: Shattered Lands.
The dungeon crawler sub-genre was made popular by Dungeon Master in 1987 and later by Eye of the Beholder and many other titles like Ishar: Legend of the Fortress. These titles featured a first-person view, in pseudo-3D, with real-time combat.
The Immortal and Darkmere: The Nightmare’s Begun are examples of isometric RPGs, and also, the masterpiece Ultima VII: The Black Gate uses a kind of isometric top-down perspective.
To see a full 3D graphical implementation but also a more faithful roleplaying experience, we need to wait for The Elder Scrolls: Arena and The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall. These games included gameplay that involved exploring vast, detailed landscapes and interacting with lifelike characters.
The RPG genre doesn’t end here because we also have Japanese RPGs, like Sweet Home, or tactical RPGs like Jagged Alliance.
Finally, we cannot forget the legendary action-rpg Diablo, the first chapter of the popular series, probably the most iconic name in all the computer role-playing games genre, a title that redefined the genre with randomly generated levels and frenetic hack-and-slash combat.
Diablo is a famous “hack and slash” role-playing game created by Blizzard and released at the end of 1996 for Windows. Two years later, it was released to Macintosh.
It is not only one of the most popular RPGs ever created; it’s the title that redefined the concept of “action RPG” and “hack & slash.” It is so influential that today we still see clones or games inspired by it. When it was released, Diablo was elected Game of the Year, but 30 years later, you can always find its name in many lists of the Greatest Games of All Time.
Initially conceived as a turn-based game by its designer, David Brevik, Diablo was instead changed into a real-time action RPG, where you control the player with the mouse, and clicking is required to move and attack. A fantastic set of skills and spells, computer-generated levels, and tons of items to find and collect add depth to the gameplay. Maybe only its successor, Diablo II, released in 2000, was able to surpass the awesomeness of Diablo.
Diablo I is no longer available for sale, and it isn’t effortless to run it on modern OSes; anyway, we could pack a working version. Unfortunately, we cannot host the full version, so the music is missing (but you can find it on YouTube, or you can buy it on iTunes).
Princess Maker 2
Princess Maker 2 is the second chapter of the life simulation series Princess Maker, developed by the Japanese company Gainax. In the game, you are a father that has to grow a child received by a god and make her a princess. Released initially in 1993 in Japan, it was released for the FM Towns and TurboGrafx CD in 1995. It was later translated to English and it was supposed to be released in the US but this never happened.
Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss
Ultima Underworld: The Stygian Abyss is a fantasy action RPG developed by Blue Sky Productions (Looking Glass Studios) and published by Origin Systems in 1992 for DOS. It was later ported to FM Towns, Playstation and other platforms.
The game was directed by the creator of the Ultima universe, Richard Garriott, produced by Warren Spector (System Shock, Wing Commander, Deus Ex and more) and designed by Paul Neurath.
This was one of the first RPG games to feature a truly 3D environment where your character can look up and down, swim, and jump, among other things. Unlike most similar games, this was the first to break away from completely square areas, allowing for quite a bit of environmental variety (bridges, slopes, etc.).
The game takes place in the land of Britannia featured in the previous Ultima games and you play as the Avatar still. Falsely accused of kidnapping the Baron’s daughter, the Avatar is cast into the Stygian Abyss as punishment. The Avatar must now embark on a quest to find the missing girl and stop her true captor. Stygian Abyss features real-time combat, using the cursor’s position to determine the type of attack (center=slash, and so on). Spells can also be used in combat by choosing the correct runestones for each spell. Stygian Abyss has open gameplay, so feel free to wander around and do as you please.