The RPG genre can be a vast one, but there are always a few things at the heart of it: the constant growth and progression of your character or party driven by a focus on story – be that a story that is down to earth or entirely fantastical.
2021 was packed full of epic RPGs, some set in warped versions of our own world and others in entirely new fantasy locations. Despite there being exciting options across western RPGs, JRPGs, and beyond, a few have risen above the undoubtedly impressive pack. IGN’s winner for best RPG of 2021 is…
Tales of Arise
The Tales of series has been comfort food JRPG goodness for years, and Arise keeps that warm familiarity while making a number of overdue changes to the Tales of formula. It amps up the formerly linear motion battle system to almost full-blown character action RPG intensity, all while retaining the jubilant anime franticness of everyone yelling attack names at once. Its story tackles hefty topics like the horrors of war, slavery, colonization, and the challenges of rebuilding after all that, and mostly manages to handle the difficult intricacies with care. But it also is still a Tales story, peppered with humor and light-hearted interactions between its complex and fascinating cast of heroes. With them at the helm of an adventure across a beautiful, intriguing new world, Arise comes together to give the Tales of series a much-needed reinvigoration while still feeling, thankfully, like a Tales game. – Rebekah Valentine
For more, check out IGN’s Tales of Arise review.
The Best RPG of 2021
Deltarune: Chapter 2
The thought of a demo somehow becoming one of 2021’s best RPGs is a strange one, but even three years after the release of its first installment, Deltarune: Chapter 2 is full of surprises. It may not even be fair to call it a demo at this point, as the Chapter 1 & 2 bundle provides hours of story content and adventure tied together by a mysterious and alluring thread. The second chapter expands upon the themes and mechanics of its previous offering in almost every way, providing new opportunities for its delightful cast of party members to not just win battles in humorous and inventive ways, but express themselves in ways both big and small. Featuring some truly over-the-top intense boss battles and secrets hidden within its depths, Deltarune’s first two chapters alone absolutely deserve your attention. – Brendan Graeber
Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin
Don’t let the familiar franchise name or the “2” in the title dissuade you – Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin stands up on its own two legs, like an energetic, freshly hatched Rathalos. This turn-based RPG puts a spotlight on the stars of the beloved Monster Hunter series – the monsters themselves. Hatch, ride, and battle alongside a team of “Monsties” of your choice as you uncover the dramatic mystery of the titular Wings of Ruin. The built-in gacha-like monster collecting system and wild customization features are almost too easy to get lost in for hours, and the stimulating battle mechanics make it worthwhile, especially in the sprawling post-game and (free!) DLC event quests. Ultimately, Monster Hunter Stories 2 is an incredibly fun ride that provides a beautiful and unique take on the monster-taming genre. – Casey DeFreitas
For more, check out IGN’s Monster Hunter Stories 2: Wings of Ruin review.
Shin Megami Tensei V
Shin Megami Tensei V is one of 2021’s richest RPGs. The latest entry in the long-running SMT series, it matches an apocalyptic style with its standard array of quirky and memorable demons. Taking a cue from Zelda: Breath of the Wild, it largely shuns dungeons for a more open-world approach, giving it a refreshing and modern feel without sacrificing its depth. The crux of its gameplay involves capturing and raising demons, then combining them with other demons to create still more powerful monsters. SMT V’s demons can be vicious, eccentric, cheerful, or outright crazy, each one demanding a slightly different approach depending on the circumstances. Mixing and matching demons remains compelling as ever, especially in light of SMT V’s fairly unforgiving challenge. Few RPGs are as dense as Shin Megami Tensei V, and exploring its apocalyptic world is all the more fascinating thanks to its embrace of a more sandbox-like approach. – Kat Bailey
For more, check out IGN’s Shin Megami Tensei V review.
All IGN Best Of 2021 Gaming Categories
IGN’s Best of 2021 Awards were designed by:
Lead Design + Art Direction: Julia Rago
Motion Graphics: Will Batchelor