Just about every single role playing video game ever released has either been set in an earlier or later era of human technology. Even when the setting is a fantasy game, the level of technology in the game is usually almost non-existent and rarely surpasses steam technology. But a handful of RPGs are actually set in the modern era. Rather than eschewing modern technology, these games feature it, as well as modern conventions of dialogue and everyday life. The following are the top five best role playing games set in the modern day.
5. Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne – This game is interesting because it starts in modern day Japan in a rather pedestrian setting: a high school. Almost immediately, the world is beset by a cataclysm which transforms the main character into a half-fiend with strange powers. The apocalyptic landscape is ravaged, but shows all of the signs of the modern world. Billboards line the broken down highway and the school still has desks, blackboards, and educational posters. Unlike a game like Fallout where the apocalypse is generations past, there has only been moments since the world was completely normal and all of that present day feel bleeds through into the darker parts of the game.
4. Marvel: Ultimate Alliance – Because the game is set in the Marvel universe, present day is a little more technologically impressive than the actual modern world. Despite that, the game is definitely set in present day. Basic enemies attack with simple guns and the less unusual settings look entirely modern. The game itself is a rather basic action RPG, but the ability to play as almost any Marvel hero gives it tons of appeal, especially to comic book fans.
3. Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines – The year 2004 will eventually be the distant past, but for now, this is definitely a modern day game. The World of Darkness is a much more dystopian world than the one we live in, but not so obviously as to feel out of place. From the outfits that characters to wear, to speech patterns, to the weapons and equipment you find throughout the game, it is definitely familiar fare. Due to the various clans you can choose at the start of the game, Bloodlines has remarkable replay value in terms of the multiple different ways you can resolve many of the quests. It feels a bit like a modern day Quest for Glory.
2. Earthbound – This campy SNES RPG is not only set in the present, but starts off in the middle of suburbia. You play a bunch of kids who have yo-yos and slingshots and baseball bats and ride around on bicycles in completely normal city streets. Everything is so disturbingly prosaic that the game almost feels like a world simulator at first. It isn’t. In fact, it is one of the most spellbinding RPGs ever released, delving into amazingly deep psychological and metaphysical issues, which are even more powerful because the game is set in present day.
1. Parasite Eve – While the game is a little dated, it is still clearly set in modern times. The main character Aya is a police officer and the game itself takes place in familiar settings in New York City, including Carnegie Hall, the Museum of Natural History, and Central Park. All of the weapons and gear you acquire throughout the game are commonplace in the 21st century. The premise of the game assumes a technological breakthrough in biological sciences, but nothing beyond what is reasonable today. Overall, it combines modern sensibilities with pseudo-scientific abilities in a way that works well and keeps the game play constantly interesting.