Role playing video games have been around since the early days of Wizardry, Ultima, and Final Fantasy. Most of these original games were set in nebulous, undefined worlds filled with fantasy elements. As the genre grew more popular, new settings were explored. Science fiction elements started to appear in fantasy settings relatively early and eventually some games fully embraced science fiction settings. The following are the top five best science fiction role playing video games.
5. Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura – Arcanum is something of a science fiction and fantasy hybrid, but the science fiction elements are dominant enough to deserve the title of science fiction RPG. The game has a major steampunk feel, with buildings, equipment, and character outfits all reflecting that technology. The conflict between magic and science is actually a big theme of the game. It is an older game, but still available on retro sites like Good Old Games and despite some clunky mechanics, the high level of character customization gives the game a good deal of replay value.
4. Borderlands 2 – There is no question about the science fiction elements of this hybrid RPG and first person shooter. The game is set on a fictional world of Pandora that is ruled by high technology. Even the most basic pistols usually have the look of future technology and the eventual laser rifles you find just make it perfectly clear. You play as a vault hunter, tricked into coming to this world, and seeking revenge against the cruel leader of Pandora, Handsome Jack. The hybrid nature of the game means it won’t appeal to hardcore RPG players, but if you prefer modern RPGs, this is a great game that gains added replay value from multiplayer options.
3. Phantasy Star II – Years before Aeris died in Final Fantasy VII, this was one of the first games to kill off a main character before the conclusion of the game. This was just one of many ways the game stood out from its competition. An alien world with clearly futuristic buildings and equipment was another. Also the use of character profiles during conversations truly helped to make you feel attached to your characters in a way that other RPGs at the time simply didn’t. The game has not aged well, both in terms of graphics and game play, but if you enjoy retro RPGs, this is one of the best there is and it is available on both the Wii Virtual Console and XBLA.
2. Knights of the Old Republic – Knights of the Old Republic helped redefine the genre when it was released. It was one of the action RPGs that helped convince fans of the genre that turn based mechanics were a thing of the past. The first foray of the Star Wars series in role playing games was a massive success. Set thousands of years before the movies, the game had nearly unlimited ability to define canon, yet still made you feel like you were in the Star Wars universe. From memorable characters to a plot twist that is still mentioned today as one of the most shocking in video game history, the game sucked you in and kept you enthralled until the last second.
1. Mass Effect 2 – Mass Effect 2 is a game defined by the concept that player choice matters. It doesn’t offer meaningless choice like the Fable series where decisions simply amounted to a cosmetic change in your character. Instead, the story actually flowed with your decisions. The choice of a science fiction setting was inspired because it allowed the story to easily span multiple worlds and offered a wide array of alien characters to meet and try to understand. This is often listed as one of the best RPGs ever made and if you can forgive the transgressions of its successor, it is easily justification to play through the entire Mass Effect series.