In this Article we’ll take a look at the 10 best CRPGs to play in 2021. These are not the 10 top CRPGs of all time, but ones you should definitely play this year because they are some of the best available and they play well on modern systems and modern consoles.
Top 10 CRPGs You Should Play in 2021
CRPGs are some of the best RPGs in the RPG genre, not only because they usually have fantastic narratives and characters, but also because they have a high focus on character Building and Role Playing. Players can spend typically over a hundred or more hours on each of these games by playing different Builds, or by making different choices and seeing their different outcomes.
The CRPGs on our list are here because they encompass these things, they are new or newish, or they still hold up really well despite their age. Most of them are also on multiple platforms, making them available to a wide variety of players. In a somewhat linear fashion, let’s get on with the 10 Top CRPGs to play this year…
Dragon Age: Origins (November 2009)
Dragon Age: Origins is one of the greatest RPGs ever made, and is arguably the last of the great CRPGs before the modern resurgence. Lauded for having some of the best storytelling, best characters, and game full of tough decisions that heavily impacted outcomes, Dragon Age: Origins won many Game of the Year Awards, not just RPG of the Year.
Dragon Age: Origins also featured fantastic character progression and design, allowing for a variety of different Builds that was clearly inspired by Dungeons and Dragons. Much like Pillars of Eternity, many players consider the game to be a spiritual successor to the Baldur’s Gate franchise, though it does not use the same ruleset. Dragon Age: Origins is available on PC, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360.
Pillars of Eternity (March 2015)
The game that began the resurgence of CRPGs, Pillars of Eternity is a fan favorite in the genre, and with good reason. The storytelling and mechanics will remind you of the legendary Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale franchises, and many players consider it to be a spiritual successor of sorts to these games. This is also due to the style of the game being somewhat similar visually, not just mechanically.
Pillars of Eternity was a testament that the CRPG genre is still alive and that there is still a market for it, paving the way for Divinity Original Sin to move into the spotlight, and spurring Pathfinder: Kingmaker into development. If you enjoy great storytelling, decisions that have impact and meaning, and great characters, then odds are you will enjoy Pillars of Eternity. Presently you can enjoy the game on PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch.
Divinity: Original Sin (June 2014)
If Pillars of Eternity is the game that began the resurgence of CRPGs then Divinity: Original Sin is the game that carried the torch into the mainstream. DOS not only showed that CRPGs are still alive, but that they can be new and refreshing, adding things such as environmental effects to combat that completely changed turn-based combat forever.
DOS also showed us what freedom in gaming meant, allowing players to resolve quests and solve problems in many different ways, often in any manner possible by the player. In fact the freedom granted by the game was so much more than in previous RPGs, and games in general, that many players didn’t know what to make of it. To the point that some people actually wanted to go back to being told where to go and what to do, as if this newly found freedom was actually somehow worse. It wouldn’t be until DOS 2 that the gaming industry at large would recognize just how wonderful this aspect was, and DOS 2 would become Larian’s ticket to the big leagues.
DOS is currently playable on PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4, and can be Co-Oped on all platforms.
Tyranny (November 2016)
Tyranny was a game that flew under many people’s radars and didn’t sell particularly well, ultimately resulting in Obsidian deciding not to produce a sequel. This is extremely unfortunate because the ending of the game sets the stage for what could have been another fantastic one, that perhaps might even surpassed the original.
What made Tyranny unique was that you were playing from the side of the villain, which as an interesting take in the CRPG genre to say the least. It was certainly a risk, since many players like to play the “hero” of their story, and even though you still can in Tyranny, it is much harder to accomplish. Tyranny in many ways is as good as Pillars of Eternity, and I can’t help but feel that this game was released before the resurgence of CRPGs was in full swing, and thus suffered from a lack of brand awareness. However, it’s definitely one fans of the genre should play. Tyranny is available on PC.
Divinity: Original Sin II (September 2017)
Divinity: Original Sin II built upon the foundation laid by the first game, giving players more freedom and more creativity to play the way they wanted. While there were some questionable design choices, namely the Armour system, overall it was a better and more polished experience than its predecessor.
Additionally, the companions of the game really came to life and felt more fleshed out and involved than in DOS, leading to many memes around the internet as many became fan favorites. It also incorporated 4 player co-op, as well as a Dungeon Master mode that allowed players to build their own campaigns. In short, DOS 2 was everything DOS was, and then some. DOS 2 is available on PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch.
Pillars of Eternity 2 (May 2018)
Not long after the release of DOS 2, CRPG fans were treated to the release of Pillars of Eternity 2. And although the game got off to a rough start, Obsidian has since polished the game into a shiny product. One which includes turn-based as an option for those so inclined, becoming the first CRPG to have both turn-based and real time with pause options without some sort of mod.
Pillars of Eternity 2 is known more for its Build diversity and multiclassing mechanics, and less for its storytelling and plot, though these are still good, if not quite as good as the original. Pillars of Eternity 2 was two steps forward and two steps back in some ways, but it still a fantastic game, and one that should not be missed by fans of the genre. Pillars of Eternity 2 is available on PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker (September 2018)
Another game that had a notoriously bad launch, riddled with bugs and issues, Pathfinder: Kingmaker has come a long way since then. The game has only gained in popularity over the past few years, and Owlcat (the game’s developer) have seen enough success to begin another Pathfinder game (Wrath of the Righteous) which launches later this year.
Fans love the mechanics of Pathfinder which are extremely similar to Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. In other words Pathfinder: Kingmaker is the closest experience you can have to games like Neverwinter Nights, and Neverwinter Knights 2, or even Baldur’s Gate I & 2 to some extent, since Pillars of Eternity is not based on the D&D ruleset, although it was clearly inspired by it. Many old school gamers love the complexity this brings, while some prefer CRPGs with simpler mechanics. Pathfinder: Kingmaker is available on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.
Disco Elysium (October 2019)
One of the biggest surprises of 2019, and a game that won multiple Game of the Year Awards (including our Best Indie Game) was Disco Elysium. Disco Elysium is a game that combines superb writing with dark humor to make for one of the most hilarious and interesting experiences you may ever had.
What really set Disco Elysium apart, in my opinion, besides these things, was the fact that failure didn’t mean reload the game. Instead, the game was formatted in such a way that often failure was just as or more entertaining than success. This took a lot of the stress out of the game, and instead put the emphasis on immersion and just never knowing what could happen, but having a certainty that no matter what happened you would enjoy it, and that it would likely be funny. Disco Elysium is available on PC, Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo Switch.
Wasteland 3 (August 2020)
Wasteland 3 is in many ways what I had hoped Fallout 3 would be, and is considered by many players to be the spiritual successor to the Fallout franchise if it had remained an isometric CRPG. Ripe with dark humor in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, Wasteland 3 is not only fun to play, but it’s hard to put to down. Troubled by a somewhat rocky launch, due to mostly technical issues, the game has since had many patches addressing these things.
Wasteland 3 is one of those games that you didn’t know you needed in your life until you play it, and even though it doesn’t have the fantasy setting that most CRPGs have, it still manages to create a game world that is fun to explore. If you’re a fan of CRPGs and can’t seem to find another game to play, I strongly urge you to try Wasteland 3 and see what you think. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Wasteland 3 is available on PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.
Solasta: Crown of the Magister (May 2021)
Solasta: Crown of the Magister is a modern CRPG using the 5th edition ruleset and will be one of the first video games ever made to release using this version of Dungeons and Dragons. Solasta: Crown of the Magister was not granted a full license, however, so many of the Subclasses and Races you’ll see in the game are “Homebrew”, meaning they don’t follow the 5th Edition Players Handbook (unlike Baldur’s Gate 3 which does).
The game is currently in Early Access, and it feels like a much more faithful adaption of D&D so far than Baldur’s Gate 3 does, though the budget and production value are clearly not as high. Solasta is made by a much smaller development team, and that really shows in the lack of polish the game has. However, Solasta is coming out of Early Access into full release on May 27th of this year, so that is very good news for CRPG fans who are looking to whet their appetites. Solasta: Crown of the Magister is available on PC.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous (Summer 2021)
The last game on our list is Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, which is not a direct sequel to Pathfinder: Kingmaker, but instead another game in the Pathfinder universe that follows the same ruleset. What sets Wrath of the Righteous apart from Kingmaker is the inclusion of 10 more Classes, complete with their Archetypes to the game, as well as brand new mechanics that define your character as a whole, such as your “Mythic Path”.
If you were a fan of the original title, Kingmaker, then you should be looking forward to Wrath of the Righteous as well. My one concern here is how the game will be at launch, since Kingmaker had a ton of issues, and what kind of state WotR will be in. It’s been a relatively short amount of time since the launch of Kingmaker, and Wrath of the Righteous promises to add only more complexity and mechanics. How will this all work together? Hopefully we’ll have a better answer for you, as the Beta should not be too far away! Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous will be available on PC in Summer of 2021.
Well that’s our list of CRPGs to play in 2021, and there are some fantastic names on there. Did you catch that 3 studios made 7 of the games on our list, and that 3 studios are now owned by Microsoft. The future of RPGs on Xbox looks bright to say the least, but there’s no telling exactly what the future holds. Stay tuned for our video covering the 10 best ARPGs to play this year, as well as the 10 best Souls-likes!