Role-playing video game

Role-playing video game
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Role-playing video games (commonly referred to as role-playing games or RPGs) are a video game genre with origins in pen-and-paper role-playing games[1] such as Dungeons & Dragons, using much of the same terminology, settings and game mechanics. The player in RPGs controls one character, or several adventuring party members, fulfilling one or many quests. The major similarities with pen-and-paper games involve developed story-telling and narrative elements, player character development, complexity, as well as replayability and immersion. Electronic medium removes the necessity for a gamemaster and increases combat resolution speed. RPGs have evolved from simple text-based console-window games into visually rich 3D experiences.



Role-playing video games use much of the same terminology, settings and game mechanics as early pen-and-paper role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons.[2] Generally, the player controls a small number of game characters, usually called a party, and achieves victory by completing a series of quests and reaching the conclusion of a central storyline. Players explore a game world, while solving puzzles and engaging in tactical combat. A key feature of the genre is that characters grow in power and abilities, and characters are typically designed by the player.[1] RPGs rarely challenge a player's physical coordination, with the exception of action role-playing games.[3]

Role-playing video games typically rely on a highly developed story and setting,[4] which is divided into a number of quests. Players control one or several characters by issuing commands, which is performed by the character at an effectiveness determined by that character's numeric attributes. Often these attributes increase each time a character gains a level, and a character's level goes up each time the player accumulates a certain amount of experience.[5]

Role-playing video games also typically attempt to offer more complex and dynamic character interaction than what is found in other video game genres. This usually involves additional focus on the artificial intelligence and scripted behavior of computer-controlled non-player characters.[3][6]

Story and setting

The premise of most-roleplaying games tasks the player with saving the world, or whichever level of society is threatened. There are often twists and turns as the story progresses, such as the surprise appearance of estranged relatives, or enemies who become friends or vice versa.[3] The game world tends to be set in a fantasy or science fiction universe,[7] which allows players to do things they cannot do in real life and helps players suspend their disbelief about the rapid character growth. To a lesser extent, settings closer to the present day or near future are possible.[3]

A strong story often provides half the entertainment in the game.[3] Because these games have strong storylines, they can often make effective use of recorded dialog and voiceover narration.[3] Players of these games tend to appreciate long cut scenes more than players of faster action games.[3] While most games advance the plot when the player defeats an enemy or completes a level, role-playing games often progress the plot based on other important decisions. For example, a player may make the decision to join a guild, thus triggering a progression in the storyline that is usually irreversible.[3] New elements in the story may also be triggered by mere arrival in an area, rather than completing a specific challenge.[3] The plot is usually divided so that each game location is an opportunity to reveal a new chapter in the story.[3]

Pen-and-paper role-playing games typically involve a player called the gamemaster who can dynamically create the story, setting, and rules, and react to a player's choices. In role-playing video games, the computer performs the function of the gamemaster. This offers the player a smaller set of possible actions, since computers do not yet have the power to engage in imaginative acting comparable to a skilled human gamemaster. Characterization of non-player characters in video games is often handled using a dialog tree. Saying the right things to the right non-player characters will elicit useful information for the player, and may even result in other rewards such as experience. Multiplayer online role-playing games can offer an exception to this contrast by allowing human interaction among multiple players and in some cases enabling a player to perform the role of a gamemaster.[3][8]

Exploration and quests

Exploring the world is an important aspect of all RPGs.[3] Players will walk through, talking to non-player characters, picking up objects, and avoiding traps.[3] Some games such as NetHack, Diablo, and the FATE series randomize the structure of individual levels, increasing the game's variety and replayability.[3] Role-playing games where players complete quests by exploring randomly generated dungeons are sometimes called roguelikes, named after the 1980 computer game Rogue.[9]

The game's story is often mapped onto exploration, where each chapter of the story is mapped onto a different location. Unlike other linear games, RPGs usually allow players to return to previously visited locations. Usually, there is nothing left to do there, although some locations change throughout the story and offer the player new things to do in response. Players must acquire enough power to overcome a major challenge in order to progress to the next area, and this structure can be compared to the boss characters at the end of levels in action games.[3]

The player typically must complete a linear sequence of certain quests in order to reach the end of the game's story. However, RPGs also often allow the player to seek out optional side-quests and character interactions. Quests of this sort can be found by talking to a non-player character, and there is no penalty for abandoning or ignoring these quests other than a missed opportunity.[3] There is usually a reward for completing a side-quest, although quests in some games such as Arcanum or Geneforge can limit or enable certain choices later in the game.[citation needed] Quests may involve defeating one or many enemies, rescuing a non-player character, item fetch quests, or locational puzzles such as mysteriously locked doors.[citation needed]

Items and inventory

Players can find loot throughout the game world and collect it, such as clothing, weapons, and armor.[3] Players can trade items for currency and better equipment. Trade takes place while interacting with certain friendly non-player characters, such as shopkeepers, and often uses a specialized trading screen. Purchased items go into the player's inventory. Some games turn inventory management into a logistical challenge by limiting the size of the player's inventory, thus forcing the player to decide what they must carry at the time.[10] This can be done by limiting the maximum weight that a player can carry, by employing a system of arranging items in a virtual space, or by simply limiting the number of items that can be held.[3]

Character actions and abilities

Most of the actions in an RPG are performed indirectly, with the player selecting an action and the character performing it by their own accord.[3] Success at that action depends on the character's numeric attributes. Role-playing video games often simulate die-rolling mechanics from non-electronic role-playing games, to determine success or failure. As a character's attributes improve, their chances of succeeding at a particular action will increase.[3]

Many role-playing games allow players to play as an evil character. Although robbing and murdering indiscriminately may make it easier to get money, there are usually consequences in that other characters will become uncooperative or even hostile towards the player. Thus, these games allow players to make moral choices, but force players to live with the consequences of their actions.[3] Games often let the player control an entire party of characters. However, if winning is contingent upon the survival of a single character, then that character effectively becomes the player's avatar.[3] An example of this would be in Baldur's Gate, where if the character created by the player dies, the game ends and a previous save needs to be loaded.[11]

Although some single-player role-playing games give the player an avatar that is largely predefined for the sake of telling a specific story, many role-playing games make use of a character creation screen. This allows players to choose their character's sex, their race or species, and their character class. Although many of theses traits are cosmetic, there are functional aspects as well. Character classes will have different abilities and strengths. Common classes include fighters, spellcasters, thieves with stealth abilities, and clerics with healing abilities, or a mixed class, such as a fighter who can cast simple spells. Characters will also have a range of physical attributes such as dexterity and strength, which affect a player's performance in combat. Mental attributes such as intelligence may affect a player's ability to perform and learn spells, while social attributes such as charisma may limit the player's choices while conversing with non-player characters. These attribute systems often strongly resemble the Dungeons & Dragons ruleset.[3][12]

Role-playing games frequently make use of magical powers, or equivelents such as psychic powers or advanced technology. These abilities are confined to specific characters such as mages, spellcasters, or magic-users. In games where the player controls multiple characters, these magic-users usually complement the physical strength of other classes. Magic can be used as an attack or defense, or to temporarily change an enemy or ally's attributes. While some games allow players to gradually consume a spell, as ammunition is consumed by a gun, most games offer players a finite amount of mana which can be spent on any spell. Mana is restored by resting, or by consuming potions. Characters can also gain other non-magical skills, which stay with the character as long as he lives.[3]

Experience and levels

Although the characterization of the game's avatar will develop through storytelling, characters may also become more functionally powerful by gaining new skills, weapons, and magic. This creates a positive-feedback cycle that is central to most role-playing games: The player grows in power, allowing them to overcome more difficult challenges, and gain even more power.[3] This is part of the appeal of the genre, where players experience growing from an ordinary person into a superhero with amazing powers. Whereas other games give the player these powers immediately, the player in a role-playing game will choose their powers and skills as they gain experience.[3]

Role-playing games usually measure progress by counting experience points and character levels. Experience is usually earned by defeating enemies in combat, with some games offering experience for completing certain quests or conversations. Experience becomes a form of score, and accumulating a certain amount of experience will cause the character's level to go up. This is called "levelling up", and gives the player an opportunity to raise one or more of his character's attributes. Many RPGs allow players to choose how to improve their character, by allocating a finite number of points into the attributes of their choice.[3] Gaining experience will also unlock new magic spells for characters that use magic.[3]

Some role-playing games also give the player specific skill points, which can be used to unlock a new skill or improve an existing one. This may sometimes be implemented as a skill tree. As with the technology trees seen in strategy video games, learning a particular skill in the tree will unlock more powerful skills deeper in the tree.[3]

Three different systems of rewarding the player characters for solving the tasks in the game can be set apart: the experience system (also known as the "level-based" system), the training system (also known as the "skill-based" system) and the skill-point system (also known as "level-free" system)

  • The experience system, by far the most common, was inherited from pen-and-paper role-playing games and emphasizes receiving "experience points" (often abbreviated "XP" or "EXP") by winning battles, performing class-specific activities, and completing quests. Once a certain amount of experience is gained, the character advances a level. In some games, level-up occurs automatically when the required amount of experience is reached; in others, the player can choose when and where to advance a level. Likewise, abilities and attributes may increase automatically or manually.[citation needed]
  • The training system is similar to the way the Basic Role-Playing system works. The first computer game to use this was Dungeon Master,[original research?] and emphasizes developing the character's skills by using them—meaning that if a character wields a sword for some time, he or she will become proficient with it.[citation needed]


Role-playing video games typically make available many kinds of magic and several characters, often in a full 3D world. Shown here is a battle in Final Fantasy III for the Nintendo DS.

Older games often separated combat into its own mode of gameplay, distinct from exploring the game world. More recent games tend to maintain a consistent perspective for exploration and combat.[3] Some games, especially earlier console games, generate battles from random encounters; more modern RPGs are more likely to have persistent wandering monsters that move about the game world independently of the player. Most RPGs also use stationary boss monsters in key positions, and automatically trigger battles with them when the PCs enter these locations or perform certain actions.[citation needed] Combat options typically involve positioning characters, selecting which enemy to attack, and exercising special skills such as casting spells.[3]

In a classical turn-based system, only one character may act at a time; all other characters remain still, with a few exceptions that may involve the use of special abilities. The order in which the characters act is usually dependent on their attributes, such as speed or agility. This system rewards strategic planning more than quickness. It also points to the fact that realism in games is a means to the end of immersion in the game world, not an end in itself. A turn-based system makes it possible, for example, to run within range of an opponent and kill him before he gets a chance to act, or duck out from behind hard cover, fire, and retreat back without an opponent being able to fire, which are of course both impossibilities. However, tactical possibilities have been created by this unreality that did not exist before; the player determines whether the loss of immersion in the reality of the game is worth the satisfaction gained from the development of the tactic and its successful execution. Fallout has been praised as being "the shining example of a good turn-based Combat System [sic]".[13]

Real-time combat can import features from action games, creating a hybrid action RPG game genre. But other RPG battle systems such as the Final Fantasy battle systems have imported real-time choices without emphasizing coordination or reflexes. Other systems combine real-time combat with the ability to pause the game and issue orders to all characters under his/her control; when the game is unpaused, all characters follow the orders they were given. This "real-time with pause" system (RTwP) has been particularly popular in games designed by BioWare. The most famous RTwP engine is the Infinity Engine. Other names for "real-time with pause" include "active pause", "semi real-time"[13] and "smart pause".[citation needed]

Early Ultima games featured a RTwP system: they were strictly turn-based, but if the player waited more than a second or so to issue a command, the game would automatically issue a pass command, allowing the monsters to take a turn while the PCs did nothing. Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel is another game which used this system.[13]

There is a further subdivision by the structure of the battle system; in many early games, such as Wizardry, monsters and the party are arrayed into ranks, and can only attack enemies in the front rank with melee weapons. Other games, such as most of the Ultima series, employed duplicates of the miniatures combat system traditionally used in the early role-playing games. Representations of the player characters and monsters would move around an arena modeled after the surrounding terrain, attacking any enemies that are sufficiently near.[citation needed]

Interface and graphics

Players typically navigate the game world from a first or third-person perspective in 3D RPGs. However, an isometric or aerial top-down perspective is common in party-based RPGs, in order to give the player a clear view of their entire party and their surroundings.[14] Role-playing games require the player to manage a large amount of information, and frequently make use of a windowed interface. For example, spell-casting characters will often have a menu of spells they can use. On the PC, players typically use the mouse to click on icons and menu options, while console games duplicate this functionality with the game controller. Older games often revealed calculations of the game as seen in Dungeons and Dragons games, although more recent games have removed this information to improve immersion.[3]

History and classification

The role-playing video game genre began in the mid-1970s on mainframe computers, inspired by pen-and-paper role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons.[15] Several other sources of inspiration for early role-playing video games also included tabletop strategy wargames, sports simulation games, adventure games such as Colossal Cave Adventure, fantasy writings by authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien,[16] and ancient epic literature dating back to The Epic of Gilgamesh which followed the same basic structure of setting off in various quests in order to accomplish goals.[17]

After the success of console role-playing games such as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, the role-playing genre eventually diverged into two styles, Japanese role-playing games and Western role-playing games, due to cultural differences, though roughly mirroring the platform divide between consoles and computers, respectively.[18] Finally, while the first RPGs offered strictly a single player experience, the popularity of multiplayer modes rose sharply during the early to mid-1990s with action role-playing games such as Secret of Mana and Diablo. With the advent of the Internet, multiplayer games have grown to become massively multiplayer online role-playing games, including Final Fantasy XI and World of Warcraft.

Mainframe computers

The role-playing video game genre began in the mid-1970s, as an offshoot of early university mainframe text-based RPGs on PDP-10 and Unix-based computers, such as Dungeon, pedit5 and dnd. In 1980, a very popular dungeon crawler, Rogue was released. Featuring ASCII graphics where the setting, monsters and items were represented by letters and a deep system of gameplay, it inspired a whole genre of similar clones on mainframe and home computers called "roguelikes".

Personal computers

One of the earliest computer role-playing game (CRPG) on a microcomputer was Dungeon n Dragons, written by Peter Trefonas and published by CLOAD (1980). This early game, published for a TRS-80 Model 1, was just 16K long and included a limited word parser command line, character generation, a store to purchase equipment, combat, traps to solve, and a dungeon to explore.[19] Other contemporaneous CRPG's were Temple of Apshai and Akalabeth: World of Doom, the precursor to Ultima. Some early microcomputer RPGs (such as Telengard or Sword of Fargoal) were based on their mainframe counterparts, while others (such as Ultima or Wizardry, the most successful of the early CRPGs) were direct adaptations of D&D. They also included both first-person displays and overhead views, sometimes in the same game (Akalabeth, for example, used both perspectives). Most of the key features of RPGs were developed in this early period, prior to the release of Ultima III, one of the prime influences on both computer and console RPG development. For example, Wizardry featured menu-driven combat, Tunnels of Doom featured tactical combat on a special "combat screen", and Dungeons of Daggorath featured real-time combat which took place on the main dungeon map.[20]

Starting in 1984 with Questron and 50 Mission Crush, SSI produced many series of CRPGs. Their 1985 game Phantasie is notable for introducing automapping and in-game scrolls providing hints and background information. They also released Pool of Radiance in 1988, the first of several "Gold Box" CRPGs based on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules. These games featured a first-person display for movement, combined with an overhead tactical display for combat. One common feature of RPGs from this era, which Matt Barton calls the "Golden Age" of computer RPGs, is the use of numbered "paragraphs" printed in the manual or adjunct booklets, containing the game's lengthier texts; the player could be directed to read a certain paragraph, instead of being shown the text on screen. The ultimate exemplar of this approach was Sirtech's Star Saga trilogy (of which only two games were released); the first game contained 888 "textlets" (usually much longer than a single paragraph) spread across 13 booklets, while the second contained 50,000 paragraphs spread across 14 booklets. Most of the games from this era were turn-based, although Dungeon Master and its imitators had real-time combat. Other classic titles from this era include The Bard's Tale, Wasteland, the start of the Might and Magic series and the continuing Ultima series.[21]

Later, in the middle to late 1990s, isometric, sprite-based RPGs became commonplace, with video game publishers Interplay Entertainment and Blizzard North playing a lead role with such titles as Fallout, the Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale series, and Diablo. This era also saw a move toward 3D game engines with such games as Might and Magic VI: The Mandate of Heaven and The Elder Scrolls I: Arena. TSR, dissatisfied with SSI's later products, such as Dark Sun: Wake of the Ravager and Menzoberranzan, transferred the AD&D license to several different developers, and eventually gave it to BioWare, which used it in Baldur's Gate (1998) and several later games. By the 2000s, 3D engines had become dominant.[22]

Video game consoles

The earliest RPG on a console was Dragonstomper on the Atari 2600 in 1982.[23] Another early RPG on a console was Bokosuka Wars, originally released for the Sharp X1 computer in 1983[24] and later ported to the NES in 1985. The game laid the foundations for the tactical role-playing game genre, or "simulation RPG" genre as it is known in Japan.[25] It was also an early example of a real-time,[26] action role-playing game.[27][28] In 1986, Chunsoft created the NES title Dragon Quest (called Dragon Warrior in North America until the eighth game), which is regarded as the template for future console role-playing games released since then.[29]

In 1987, the genre came into its own with the release of several highly influential console RPGs distinguishing themselves from computer RPGs. Shigeru Miyamoto's Zelda II: The Adventure of Link for the Famicom Disk System was one of the earliest action role-playing games, combining the action-adventure game framework of its predecessor The Legend of Zelda with the statistical elements of turn-based RPGs.[30] Most RPGs at this time were turn-based.[31] Faxanadu was another early action RPG for the NES, released as a side-story to the computer action RPG Dragon Slayer II: Xanadu.[32] Square's Final Fantasy for the NES introduced side-view battles, with the player characters on the right and the enemies on the left, which soon became the norm for numerous console RPGs.[33] In 1988, Dragon Quest III introduced a character progression system allowing the player to change the party's character classes during the course of the game.[citation needed] Another "major innovation was the introduction of day/night cycles; certain items, characters, and quests are only accessible at certain times of day."[34] In 1989, Phantasy Star II for the Genesis established many conventions of the genre, including an epic, dramatic, character-driven storyline dealing with serious themes and subject matter, and a strategy-based battle system.[35]

Console RPGs distinguished themselves from computer RPGs to a greater degree in the early 1990s. As console RPGs became more heavily story-based than their computer counterparts, one of the major differences that emerged during this time was in the portrayal of the characters. Console RPGs often featured intricately related characters who had distinctive personalities and traits, with many of them seeming to offer more of the traditional role-playing, with players assuming the roles of people who cared about each other, fell in love or even had families. Romance in particular was a theme that was common in most console RPGs at the time but absent from most computer RPGs.[36] During the 1990s, console RPGs had become increasingly dominant, exerting a greater influence on computer RPGs than the other way around.[37] Console RPGs had eclipsed computer RPGs for some time, though computer RPGs began making a comeback towards the end of the decade with interactive choice-filled adventures.[38]

The next major revolution came in the late 1990s, which saw the rise of optical disks in fifth generation consoles. The implications for RPGs were enormous—longer, more involved quests, better audio, and full-motion video. This was first clearly demonstrated in 1997 by the phenomenal success of Final Fantasy VII, which is considered one of the most influential games of all time,[39][40]. With a record-breaking production budget of around $45 million,[39] the ambitious scope of Final Fantasy VII raised the possibilities for the genre, with its more expansive world to explore,[41] much longer quest, more numerous sidequests,[39] dozens of minigames, and much higher production values. The latter includes innovations such as the use of 3D characters on pre-rendered backgrounds,[42] battles viewed from multiple different angles rather than a single angle, and for the first time full-motion CGI video seamlessly blended into the gameplay,[40] effectively integrated throughout the game.[39] The game was soon ported to the PC and gained much success there, as did several other originally console RPGs, blurring the line between the console and computer platforms.[37]

Cultural differences

Example of bishōnen art.

After the success of console role-playing games in Japan, the role-playing genre eventually began being classified into two fairly distinct styles since the early 2000s, Western role-playing games (previously known as computer RPGs) and Japanese role-playing games or JRPGs (previously known as console RPGs), due to stylistic, gameplay and/or cultural reasons; with the latter having become popularized and heavily influenced by early Japanese console games such as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy.[18][43][44][Note 1]

Though sharing fundamental premises, Western RPGs often tend to feature darker graphics, older characters, and focus more on roaming freedom and realism; whereas Eastern RPGs often tend to feature brighter, anime-like graphics, younger characters, and focus more on scripted linear storylines.[18][46][47][48][49][50] Japanese RPGs today are also more likely to feature turn-based battles; while Western RPGs today are more likely to feature real-time combat.[51][47][50] In the past, the reverse was often true: real-time action role-playing games were far more common among Japanese console RPGs than Western computer RPGs up until the late 1990s, due to gamepads usually being better suited to real-time action than the keyboard and mouse.[52] There are also a number of exceptions today, such as Final Fantasy XII (2006) and Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Summoner (1995 onwards), which feature real-time combat; and The Temple of Elemental Evil (2003), which features turn-based combat.

JRPGs often tend to feature tightly orchestrated, linear narratives that emphasize intricate plots and the development of player characters within the story,[50] but often lack the option to create or choose one's own playable characters or make decisions that affect the plot. This often gives an impression that JRPGs are similar to adventure games.[53] In contrast, Western RPGs often tend to focus more on open-ended, non-linear gameplay and extensive dialogue systems (from keywords to dialogue tree systems),[54] and traditionally gave comparatively less emphasis to tightly structured narratives, plot development, or character relationships;[55] they are also more likely to allow one to create and customize characters from scratch.[56] One reason given for this difference is that many early Japanese console RPGs can be seen as forms of interactive manga (Japanese comics) or anime wrapped around Western rule systems at the time.[57] As a result, Japanese console RPGs differentiated themselves with a stronger focus on scripted narratives and character drama,[55] alongside streamlined gameplay.[57] In recent years, these trends have in turn been adopted by Western RPGs, which have begun moving more towards tightly structured narratives, in addition to moving away from "numbers and rules" in favour of streamlined combat systems similar to action games.[58][57] In addition, a large number of Western independent games are modelled after Japanese RPGs,[59] especially those of the 16-bit era, partly due to the RPG Maker game development tools.[57]

Another oft-cited difference is the prominence or absence of kawaisa, or "cuteness", in Japanese culture, and different approaches with respect to character aesthetics.[18] Western RPGs tend to maintain a serious and gritty tone, with predominantly male protagonists exhibiting overtly masculine physical features and mannerisms. JRPG protagonsists tend to be designed with an emphasis on aesthetic beauty, and even male characters are often androgynous or bishōnen in appearance. JRPGs often have cute (and even comic-relief type) characters or animals, juxtaposed (or clashing) with more mature themes and situations; and many modern JRPGs feature characters designed in the same style as those in anime.[56] The stylistic differences are often due to differing target audiences: Western RPGs are usually geared primarily towards teenage to adult males, whereas Japanese RPGs are usually intended for a much larger demographic,[60] including female audiences.[47]


Within the RPG community, some have criticized action JRPGs for not being "true" RPGs due to heavy usage of scripted cut scenes and dialogue, and due to many of them having a lack of branching outcomes.[61][Turner][56] Likewise, some have criticized recent Western RPGs for "becoming less RPG-like and more [like] true action games" due to the "removal of numbers and rules" that make "the genre an RPG."[57] Japanese RPGs are also sometimes criticized for having relatively simple battle systems in which players are able to win by repetitively mashing buttons,[61][Turner] though it has been pointed out that Japanese RPG combat systems such as in Final Fantasy X and Xenosaga have become increasingly complex over the years, with more of an emphasis on strategy and timing, and with each new game often introducing their own rules and systems.[61][Nutt][62][Note 2] In contrast, Western RPGs' greater control over the development and customization of playable characters has, according to some, come at the expense of plot and gameplay, resulting in generic dialogue, lack of character development within the narrative, and poor battle systems.[61][Nutt] Lastly, it has been argued that Western RPGs tend to focus more on the underlying rules governing the battle system rather than on the experience itself, and that Western RPGs as a whole are generally not as finely tuned and polished as their Japanese counterparts.[61][Nutt]

As a result, Japanese-style role-playing games are held in disdain by some Western gamers, leading to the term "JRPG" being held in the pejorative.[64][51] Likewise, it is not uncommon for Western RPGs to be called "crap games" by Japanese players,[48] where the vast majority of console role-playing games originate,[65] and where Western RPGs remain largely unknown.[66] Further, there is a belief among some—particularly in the West—that Japanese RPGs are stagnating or declining in both quality and popularity, including remarks by BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk and writing director Daniel Erickson that JRPGs are stagnating—and that Final Fantasy XIII is not even really an RPG;[67][68][69] criticisms regarding seemingly nebulous justifications by some Japanese designers for newly changed (or, alternately, newly un-changed) features of recent titles;[70] calls among some gaming journalists to "fix" JRPGs' problems;[71][72][73][74] as well as claims that some recent titles such as Front Mission Evolved are beginning to attempt—and failing to—imitate Western titles.[75] Finally, one recent advertisement by Obsidian Entertainment in Japan openly mocked Japanese RPGs' traditional characteristics in favor of their own Western title, Fallout: New Vegas.[76]

This has produced responses such as ones by Japanese video game developers, Shinji Mikami and Yuji Horii, to the effect that JRPGs were never popular in the West to begin with, and that Western reviewers are biased against turn-based systems;[77][78][79][80] as well as "overly agitated responses" from among members of the sizable Japanese Internet discussion forum, 2channel.[73][81] The developer Motomu Toriyama also criticized Western RPGs, stating that they "dump you in a big open world, and let you do whatever you like [which makes it] difficult to tell a compelling story."[82] In response to criticisms, reviewer Tom Battey of Edge Magazine noted that the cited problems are not limited to Japanese RPGs, but also apply to many Western RPGs as well as games outside of the RPG genre.[73] Jeff Fleming of Gamasutra has pointed out that, while Japanese RPGs on home consoles are generally showing signs of staleness (though with exceptions such as the Megami Tensei series and Demon's Souls), this has not been the case for the Nintendo DS handheld, which has had a wave of original and experimental Japanese RPGs released in recent years.[83] Finally, in an interview held at the American Electronic Entertainment Expo, Japanese video game developer Tetsuya Nomura emphasized that role-playing games should not be classified by country-of-origin, but rather described simply for what they are: RPGs.[84] And despite criticisms, Japanese RPGs have continued to maintain a large fanbase,[51] and remain a popular source of inspiration for independent developers worldwide.[57]

Finally, the largely secular nature of Japanese culture results in heavy usage of themes, symbols, and characters taken from a variety of religions, including Christianity and Japanese Shinto. This tends to be problematic when JRPGs are exported to Western countries where the topics of religion and blasphemy remain sensitive, such as the United States. It is not unusual for a JRPG to exhibit elements that would be controversial in the West, such as Xenogears or Final Fantasy Tactics featuring antagonists that bear similarities to the Abrahamic God and the Roman Catholic Church, respectively;[85] and Nintendo has made efforts in the past to remove references such as these prior to introducing their games into the North American market.[18]

Relationship to other genres

Unlike action games, RPGs seldom test a player's physical skill. Combat is typically a tactical challenge rather than a physical one, and games involve other non-action gameplay such as choosing dialog options, inventory management, or buying and selling items.[3]

Although RPGs share some combat rules with wargames, RPGs are about a small group of individual characters. Wargames tend to have large groups of identical units, as well as non-humanoid units such as tanks and airplanes. Role-playing games do not normally allow the player to produce more units. However, the Heroes of Might and Magic series crosses these genres by combining individual heroes with large amounts of troops in large battles.[3]

RPGs rival adventure games in terms of their rich storylines, in contrast to genres that do not rely upon storytelling such as sports games or puzzle games.[3] Both genres also feature highly detailed characters, and a great deal of exploration. However, adventure games usually have a well-defined character, whereas while RPGs may do so, many allow the player to design their characters. Adventure games usually focus on one character, whereas RPGs often feature an entire party. RPGs also feature a combat system, which adventure games usually lack. Whereas both adventure games and RPGs may focus on the personal or psychological growth of characters, RPGs tend to emphasize a complex eternal economy where characters are defined by increasing numerical attributes.

Gameplay elements strongly associated with this genre, such as statistical character development, have been widely adapted to other video game genres. For example, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, an action game, uses resource statistics (abbreviated as "stats") to define a wide range of attributes including stamina, weapon proficiency, driving, lung capacity, and muscle tone, and uses numerous cutscenes and quests to advance the story. Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, a real-time strategy game, features heroes that can complete quests, obtain new equipment, and "learn" new abilities as they advance in level.

According to Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo, turn-based RPGs have been unfairly criticized as being outdated. According to Yuji Horii, creator of the popular Dragon Quest series and Ryutaro Ichimura, producer of Square Enix, turn-based RPGs allow the player time to make decisions without feeling rushed or worry about real-life distractions. According to Iwata, action-based RPGs can frustrate players if they are unable to keep up with the battles.[31]

Action RPGs

Typically action RPGs feature each player directly controlling a single character in real time, and feature a strong focus on combat and action with plot and character interaction kept to a minimum. Early action RPGs tended to follow the template set by 1980s Nihon Falcom titles such as the Dragon Slayer and Ys series, which feature hack and slash combat where the player character's movements and actions are controlled directly, using a keyboard or game controller, rather than using menus.[86] This formula was refined by the action-adventure game, The Legend of Zelda (1986), which set the template used by many subsequent action RPGs, including innovations such as an open world, nonlinear gameplay, battery backup saving,[87] and an attack button that animates a sword swing or projectile attack on the screen.[88][89] The game was largely responsible for the surge of action-oriented RPGs released since the late 1980s, both in Japan and North America.[90] The Legend of Zelda series would continue to exert an influence on the transition of both console and computer RPGs from stat-heavy, turn-based combat towards real-time action combat in the following decades.[91]

A different variation of the action RPG formula was popularized by Diablo (1996), where the majority of commands—such as moving and attacking—are executed using mouse clicks rather than via menus, though learned spells can also be assigned to hotkeys. In many action RPGs, non-player characters serve only one purpose, be it to buy or sell items or upgrade the player's abilities, or issue them with combat-centric quests. Problems players face also often have an action-based solution, such as breaking a wooden door open with an axe rather than finding the key needed to unlock it, though some games place greater emphasis on character attributes such as a "lockpicking" skill and puzzle-solving.[citation needed]

One common challenge in developing action RPGs is including content beyond that of killing enemies. With the sheer number of items, locations and monsters found in many such games, it can be difficult to create the needed depth to offer players a unique experience tailored to his or her beliefs, choices or actions.[86] This is doubly true if a game makes use of randomization, as is common. One notable example of a game which went beyond this is Deus Ex (2000) which offered multiple solutions to problems using intricately layered story options and individually constructed environments.[86] Instead of simply bashing their way through levels, players were challenged to act in character by choosing dialog options appropriately, and by using the surrounding environment intelligently. This produced an experience that was unique and tailored to each situation as opposed to one that repeated itself endlessly.[86]

Action RPGs were far more common on consoles rather than computers, due to gamepads being better suited to real-time action than the keyboard and mouse. Though there had been attempts at creating action-oriented computer RPGs during the late 1980s and early 1990s, often in the vein of Zelda, very few saw any success, with the 1992 game Ultima VII being one of the more successful attempts in North America.[92] On the PC, Diablo's effect on the market was significant from the late 1990s. It had many imitators and its style of combat went on to be used by many games that came after. For many years afterwards, games that closely mimicked the Diablo formula were referred to as "Diablo clones";[93] and three of the four titles in the series are still sold together as part of the Diablo Battle Chest over a decade later. Other examples of action RPGs for the PC include Dungeon Siege (2002), Sacred (2004), Torchlight (2009), Din's Curse (2011) and Hellgate: London (2007)—the last of which was developed by a team headed by former Blizzard employees, some of whom had participated in the creation of the Diablo series;[93][94] and like Diablo and Rogue before it, Torchlight, Din's Curse, Hellgate: London and Fate (2005) all made use of procedural generation to generate game levels.[95][96][97][98] Lastly, there is debate over whether games like BioWare's Mass Effect (2007) constitute action RPGs as opposed to more traditional RPGs (though the game's sequel pushed more in that direction).[86][99]

Also included within this sub-genre are role-playing shooters, games which incorporate elements of role-playing games and shooter games (including first-person and third-person). Recent examples include Borderlands (2009) and The 3rd Birthday (2010).

Tactical RPGs

A number of early Western computer role-playing games used a highly tactical form of combat, including parts of the Ultima series, which introduced party-based, tiled combat in Ultima III: Exodus (1983),[100] Ultima III would go on to be ported to many other platforms and influence the development of later titles,[101] as did Japan's Bokosuka Wars[102] released that same year.[103] Conventionally, however, the term tactical RPG (known as simulation RPG in Japan) refers to the distinct subgenre that was born in Japan; the early origins of tactical RPGs are difficult to trace from the American side of the Pacific where much of the early RPG genre developed.[104] Tactical RPGs are descendents of traditional strategy games, such as chess,[105] and table-top role-playing and strategic war games, such as Chainmail, which were mainly tactical in their original form.[104][106] The format of a tactical CRPG is also like a traditional RPG in its appearance, pacing and rule structure.

Typical tile-based, overhead gameplay of tactical RPGs from the 1990s. Some full-fledged CRPGs also featured a highly tactical form of combat reminiscent of RPGs' pen-and-paper origins. Pictured here is Langrisser II (1994).

Many tactical RPGs can be both extremely time-consuming and extremely difficult. Hence, the appeal of most tactical RPGs is to the hardcore, not casual, computer and video game player.[107] Traditionally, tactical RPGs have been quite popular in Japan but have not enjoyed the same degree of success in North America and elsewhere.[108][109] However, the audience for Japanese tactical RPGs has grown substantially since the mid-90s, with PS1 and PS2 titles such as Final Fantasy Tactics, Suikoden Tactics, Vanguard Bandits, and Disgaea enjoying a surprising measure of popularity, as well as hand-held war games like Fire Emblem.[110] (Final Fantasy Tactics for the PS1 is often considered the breakthrough title outside of Japan.[111][112]) Older TRPGs are also being re-released via software emulation—such as on the Wii's Virtual Console—and hand-held systems, giving games a new lease on life and exposure to new audiences.[113] Japanese console games such as these are as a result no longer nearly as rare a commodity in North America as they were during the 1990s.

Examples of tactical RPGs for 8-bit and 16-bit Japanese systems include: Bokosuka Wars (1983), considered the progenitor of the strategy/simulation RPG genre with its blend of RPG and strategy video game elements, originally a Sharp X1 computer game later ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985;[102] Nobunaga's Ambition (1983), an early strategy RPG that featured a blend of role-playing, turn-based grand strategy and management simulation elements, originally an MSX computer game that was later ported to the NES in 1987;[114] Fire Emblem: Ankoku Ryu to Hikari no Tsurugi (1990), released and published by Nintendo for the NES, and generally accepted as the first tactical RPG made for consoles, with a highly tactical turn-based combat system that resembles those of the later 3rd and 4th editions of Dungeons & Dragons;[115] Master of Monsters (1991), originally released by SystemSoft for the MSX and PC-8801 and later ported to a variety of other platforms; Sega's Shining Force (1992) for the Sega Genesis (among the first TRPG played among Western audiences[116]); and Tactics Ogre (1995), originally released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and later ported to the PlayStation. Examples for fifth- and sixth-generation consoles consoles include Konami's Vandal Hearts (1996), Square's Final Fantasy Tactics (1997), and Square's Front Mission 3 (1999)—all released for the PlayStation. Even more recent examples include Sega's Valkyria Chronicles (2008), a quasi-turn-based/real-time game for the PlayStation 3.

Western PC games have utilized similar mechanics for years, as well, and were largely defined by X-COM: UFO Defense (1994) in much the same way as Eastern console games were by Fire Emblem.[117] Western titles such as the X-COM series have generally allowed greater freedom of movement when interacting with the surrounding environment.[118][119] Other notable examples include the Jagged Alliance[120][121] (1994–2009) and Silent Storm[121][122] (2003–2005) series, with many other titles owing considerably to X-COM[117][120][118] and its sequels (1994–1997).[119] Other examples for the PC include: Incubation: Time Is Running Out[120] (1997), part of the Battle Isle series, and one of the first strategy titles to use fully 3D graphics and support hardware acceleration on the 3dfx Voodoo; Fallout Tactics: Brotherhood of Steel[123][124] (2001) a spin-off of the Fallout series of CRPGs; Irrational Games' super hero comic games, Freedom Force[125][126] (2002) and Freedom Force vs. the Third Reich[127][128] (2005); and Russian developer Apeiron's Brigade E5: New Jagged Union[129] (2006) and 7.62 (2008), a real-time tactical series that evokes Jagged Alliance in setting, mechanics and tone.[129][130] Examples of Western-style tactical RPGs for video game consoles include: Dungeons & Dragons Tactics (2007) for the PlayStation Portable, Gladius (2003) by LucasArts, and Rebelstar: Tactical Command (2005) by X-COM developers, Julian and Nick Gollop, for the Game Boy Advance.

Further, there are a number of "full-fledged" CRPGs which could be described as having "tactical" combat.[131][132] Examples from the classic era of CRPGs include parts of the aforementioned Ultima series;[133] SSI's Wizard's Crown (1985) and The Eternal Dagger (1987); the Gold Box games of the late '80s and early '90s (many of which were later ported to Japanese video game systems); and Sierra's Betrayal at Krondor (1993) and Return to Krondor (1998) based on Raymond Feist's Midkemia setting. More recent examples include Troika Games' The Temple of Elemental Evil (2003), which featured an accurate implementation of the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition ruleset;[131] Knights of the Chalice (2009), which implements the D20 Open Game License;[132] and Pyrrhic Tales: Prelude to Darkness (2002).[134] According to some developers, it is becoming increasingly difficult in recent years to develop games of this type for the PC (though several have been developed in Eastern Europe with mixed results);[130][135] and even Japanese RPG developers are beginning to complain about a supposed bias against turn-based systems.[79][80] Reasons cited include Western developers' focus on developing real-time and action-oriented games instead.[135]


Though many of the original RPGs for the PLATO mainframe system in the late 1970s also supported multiple, simultaneous players,[136] the popularity of multiplayer modes in mainstream RPGs did not begin to rise sharply until the early-to-mid 1990s.[citation needed] For instance, Secret of Mana (1993), an early action role-playing game by Square, was one of the first commercial RPGs to feature cooperative multiplayer gameplay, offering two-player and three-player action once the main character had acquired his party members.[137][138] Later, Diablo (1996) would combine CRPG and action game elements with an Internet multiplayer mode that allowed up to four players to enter the same world and fight monsters, trade items, or fight against each other.

Multiple players conversing in Final Fantasy XI (2003).

Also during this time period, the MUD genre that had been spawned by MUD1 in 1978 was undergoing a tremendous expansion phase due to the release and spread of LPMud (1989) and DikuMUD (1991). Soon, driven by the mainstream adoption of the Internet, these parallel trends merged in the popularization of graphical MUDs, which would soon become known as massively multiplayer online role-playing games or MMORPGs,[139][140] beginning with games like Meridian 59 (1995), Ultima Online (1997) and EverQuest (1999) and leading to modern phenomena such as Final Fantasy XI (2003), EVE online (2003) and World of Warcraft (2004).

Though superficially similar, MMORPGs lend their appeal more to the socializing influences of being online with hundreds or even thousands of other players at a time, and trace their origins more from MUDs than from CRPGs like Ultima and Wizardry. Rather than focusing on the "old school" considerations of memorizing huge numbers of stats and esoterica and battling it out in complex, tactical environments, players instead spend much of their time forming and maintaining guilds and clans. The distinction between CRPGs and MMORPGs and MUDs can as a result be very sharp, likenable to the difference between "attending a renaissance fair and reading a good fantasy novel".[141]

Further, MMORPGs have been criticized for diluting the "epic" feeling of single-player RPGs and related media among thousands of concurrent adventurers. Stated simply: every player wants to be "The Hero", slay "The Monster", rescue "The Princess", or obtain "The Magic Sword". But when there are thousands of players all playing the same game, clearly not everyone can be the hero.[142] This problem became obvious to some in the game EverQuest, where groups of players would compete and sometimes harass each other in order to get monsters in the same dungeon to drop valuable items, leading to several undesirable behaviors such as kill stealing, spawn camping, and ninja looting.[143][144][145] In response—for instance by Richard Garriott in Tabula Rasa[142]—developers began turning to instance dungeons as a means of reducing competition over limited resources, as well as preserving the gaming experience—though this mechanic has its own set of detractors.[146]

Single-player games are great, and I love them. They have a great feature. Your life is very special. You are the hero and you get to save the whole world. (...) [Tabula Rasa] is like Disney World... You can go to shops and get food, but when you get on the boat for the pirate ride, you're in your own version of reality. Once the ride starts, you are blissfully unaware of the boats in front of you and behind you.

Richard Garriott, regarding the use of instancing in Tabula Rasa[142]

Lastly, there exist markets such as Korea and China that, while saturated with MMORPGs, have so far proved relatively unreceptive to single-player RPGs.[58] For instance, Internet-connected personal computers are relatively common in Korea when compared to other regions—particularly in the numerous "PC bangs" scattered around the country where patrons are able to pay to play multiplayer computer games—possibly due to historical bans on Japanese imports, as well as a culture that traditionally sees video games as "frivolous toys" and computers as educational.[147] As a result, some wonder whether the stand-alone, single-player RPG is still viable commercially—especially on the personal computer—when there are competing pressures such as big-name publishers' marketing needs, video game piracy, a change in culture, and the competitive price-point-to-processing-power ratio (at least initially) of modern console systems.[148][141][58][Note 3]

Hybrid genres

Finally, a steadily increasing number of other non-RPG video games have adopted aspects traditionally seen in RPGs, such as experience point systems, equipment management, and choices in dialogue, as developers push to fill the demand for role-playing elements in non-RPGs.[58][149] The blending of these elements with a number of different game engines and gameplay styles have created a myriad of hybrid game categories formed by mixing popular gameplay elements featured in other genres such as first-person shooters, platformers, and turn-based and real-time strategy games. Examples include first-person shooters such as parts of the Deus Ex (starting in 2000) and S.T.A.L.K.E.R. (starting in 2007) series;[150][151][152][153] real-time strategy games such as SpellForce: The Order of Dawn (2003) and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II (2009);[154][155] puzzle video games such as Castlevania Puzzle (2010) and Puzzle Quest (2007);[156][157] and turn-based strategy games like the Steel Panthers (1995–2006) series, which combined tactical military combat with RPG-derived unit advancement. As a group, hybrid games have been both praised and criticized; being referred to by one critic as the "poor man's" RPG for omitting the dialogue choices and story-driven character development of major AAA titles in order to cut costs,[149] and by another critic as "promising" for shedding the tired conventions of more established franchises in an attempt to innovate.[158]

Popularity and notable developers

Notable RPG developers include Don Daglow for creating the first computer role-playing game, Dungeon, in 1975; Yuji Horii for creating the Dragon Quest series; Hironobu Sakaguchi for creating the Final Fantasy series; Richard Garriott for creating the Ultima series; and Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk for founding BioWare.[46] Ryozo Tsujimoto (Monster Hunter series) and Katsura Hashino (Persona series) were also cited as "Japanese Game Developers You Should Know" by in 2010.[159]

The best-selling RPG series worldwide is Pokémon, which has sold over 200 million units as of May 2010.[46][160][161] The second and third best-selling RPG series worldwide are Square Enix's Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series, with over 92 million units and over 50 million units sold as of December 2009 and July 2009, respectively.[162][163] Pokémon Red, Blue, and Green alone sold approximately 20.08 million copies (10.23 million in Japan,[164] 9.85 million in US[165]); and all the games in the main Dragon Quest series (as well as many of the spin-off games) have sold over a million copies each, with some games totaling over four million copies.[164]

Among the best-selling PC RPGs overall is World of Warcraft with 11.5 million subscribers as of May 2010.[166] Among single player PC RPGs, Diablo II has sold the largest amount,[167] with the most recently cited number being over 4 million copies as of 2001.[168] However, copies of the Diablo: Battle Chest continue to be sold in retail stores, with the compilation appearing on the NPD Group's top 10 PC games sales list as recently as 2010.[169] Further, Diablo: Battle Chest was the 19th best selling PC game of 2008—a full seven years after the game's initial release;[170] and 11 million users still play Diablo II and StarCraft over[171] As a franchise, the Diablo series has sold over 20 million copies.[172]

The Dragon Quest series was awarded with six world records in the 2008 Gamer's Edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, including "Best Selling Role Playing Game on the Super Famicom", "Fastest Selling Game in Japan", and "First Video Game Series to Inspire a Ballet".[173] Likewise, the Pokémon series received eight records, including "Most Successful RPG Series of All Time", "Game Series With the Most Spin-Off Movies" and "Most Photosensitive Epileptic Seizures Caused by a TV Show".[174] Diablo II was recognized in the 2000 standard edition for being the fastest selling computer game ever sold, with more than 1 million units sold in the first two weeks of availability;[175] though this number has been surpassed several times since.[176][177] A number of RPGs are also being exhibited in the Barbican Art Gallery's "Game On" exhibition (starting in 2002) and the Smithsonian's "The Art of Video Games" exhibit (starting in 2012); and video game developers are now finally able to apply for grants from the US National Endowment of the Arts.[178]

According to GameStats and Metacritic, respectively, the highest-rated RPGs of all time are Final Fantasy VII (as of January 2011), with an average GameStats score of 9.4 out of 10,[179] and an average press score of 10.0 out of 10;[180] and the Xbox 360 version of Mass Effect 2 (as of May 2011) with an average metascore of 96 out of 100.[181][Note 4] According to GameRankings, the four top-rated video game RPGs (as of May 2010) are Mass Effect 2 with an average rating of 95.70% for the Xbox 360 version and 94.24% for the PC version; Fallout 3: Game of the Year Edition with an average rating of 95.40% for the PlayStation 3 version; Chrono Trigger with an average rating of 95.10%; and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic with an average rating of 94.18% for the Xbox version.[46] Sales numbers for these five titles are 10 million units sold for Final Fantasy VII as of May 2010;[182] 1.6 million units for Mass Effect 2 as of March 2010, just three months after release;[183] 4.7 million units for Fallout 3 on all three platforms as of November 2008, also only a few months after publication;[184] 3 million units for both the Xbox and PC versions of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic as of November 2004;[185] and more than 2.65 million units for the SNES and PlayStation versions of Chrono Trigger as of March 2003,[186] along with 790,000 copies for the Nintendo DS version as of March 31, 2009.[187] Of these five titles, none were PC-exclusives, three were Western multi-platform titles released for consoles like the Xbox and Xbox 360 within the past decade, and two were Japanese titles released by Square for consoles like the SNES and PlayStation in the 1990s.

Final Fantasy VII also topped GamePro's "26 Best RPGs of All Time" list,[188] as well as the GameFAQs "Best Game Ever" audience polls in 2004 and 2005.[189][190] On IGN's Top 100 Games Of All Time list in 2007, the highest ranking RPG is Final Fantasy VI at 9th place;[191] and in both the 2006 and 2008 IGN Readers' Choice polls Chrono Trigger is the top ranked RPG, in 2nd place.[192][193] Final Fantasy VI is also the top ranked RPG in Game Informer's list of its 200 best games of all time list, in 8th place; and is also one of the eight games to get a cover for the magazine's 200th issue.[194] The 2006 Famitsu readers' poll is dominated by RPGs, with nearly a dozen titles appearing in the top twenty;[195] while most were Japanese, a few Western titles also made a showing.[196] For the past decade, the Megami Tensei series topped several "RPGs of the Decade" lists. RPGFan's "Top 20 RPGs of the Past Decade" list was topped by Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga & Digital Devil Saga 2 followed by Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3,[197] while RPGamer's "Top RPGs of the Decade" list was topped by Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3.[198]

Lastly, in recent years, Western RPGs have consistently been released on consoles such as the Xbox and Xbox 360.[199][200] However, systems like the Xbox and Xbox 360 have not shown as much market dominance in Eastern markets such as Japan,[200][201][202] and only a few Western RPG titles have been localized to Japanese.[203][Note 5] Further, RPGs are not the dominant genre on the most popular of the current-generation video consoles, the Nintendo Wii,[204] although their presence among handheld systems such as the Nintendo DS is considerably greater.[205]


  1. ^ The original Dragon Quest game is often cited as the first console role-playing game, though it borrows heavily from the Wizardry and Ultima series. Also, in spite of coming after it, Western audiences consider Final Fantasy "more important".[45]
  2. ^ Though some argue this has not been the case outside of tactical RPGs,[63] while others argue that combat systems in Japanese RPGs are too complex or lack accessibility.[62]
  3. ^ Though things like downloadable content can stem piracy to some degree, and MMO and single-player RPGs may to some degree attract different audiences—and thus not interfere with each other financially.[148][141][58]
  4. ^ It should be noted, however, that review aggregation sites like GameRankings and Metacritic lack many reviews from older print magazines.
  5. ^ For instance, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, which is the only Western RPG to have been awarded a near-perfect score by Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu.[203]


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