Role-playing games have to be the most addictive genre in the gaming industry. After all, with the vast amount of places to discover and unique battle systems, these titles do have a ton of replay value. The influence of this genre has ventured into other games as well, with many genres now featuring RPG elements.
An icon in the RPG genre is Mass Effect, an action-RPG game set in space with a dedicated fanbase. This series has brought in interest for space-related media and the role-playing landscape in general. In this list, while some games aren’t exactly in the same setting as Mass Effect, the thematic quality from this series can be felt in all of these titles.
Updated on December 17th, 2020 by Juliet Childers: Bioware is known for making games where choices matter and players can have storybook romances. Despite some challenging studio departures, fans remain ecstatic about the possibilities for the franchise. While waiting for the trilogy remaster, fans should pick up these games to scratch their itch for gunplay, romance, and moral quandaries.
15 The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)
This one doesn’t have a setting in space or the future, but it might give Mass Effect a run for its money where RPG elements are concerned. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is packed with content in a huge world fit for the taking and thousands of choices to make.
The action aspect is far from toned-down, as enemies are increasingly difficult to combat which brings in a great challenge for fans. Also featured is a surprisingly deep story that draws in the player from the get-go.
14 Final Fantasy XV (2016)
Those who like the role-playing part more than the action aspect need to get their hands on Final Fantasy XV. The combat here is far from simple and might even be frustrating in places. However, the game makes up for that through the exploration factor.
The number of different choices the player has can take the story to a wholly different place. The game’s variety of new locations also helps in keeping the interest afloat. It even manages to combine the magical setting with technological elements.
13 BioShock Infinite (2013)
Unlike most RPGs, this is a first-person shooter rather than a third-person offering. And yet, BioShock Infinite manages to retain much of the thematic quality of an RPG. It does so by handing out important choices for the player at crucial moments. In fact, even small decisions can change the course of the story.
While not a fully open-world game, BioShock Infinite uses its reduced world size to carry significant meaning. The action is far from mindless shooting, as players are encouraged to contemplate between violence and pacifism. Along with that, the backdrop of the game is too interesting for one not to immerse themselves in.
12 Borderlands 3 (2019)
Here’s another first-person shooter that has a closer likeness to RPG games such as Mass Effect. Borderlands 3 has the added benefit of allowing multiple players to join in, making it a collaborative effort. As is customary in RPGs, it’s the quirky non-playable characters who hand out the missions. Like any game in the franchise, Borderlands 3 has quirky NPCs in spades.
While blasting away monsters is part of the fun, those looking for diversity will enjoy collecting items and weapons while upgrading the character’s skill tree. Borderlands 3 is a well-rounded effort whose enjoyment is delivered in several ways upon the player’s decision.
11 Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic (2003)
Before Mass Effect made gaming in space a thing, Star Wars was what set the platform for it. Knights of the Old Republic will delight any RPG enthusiast whether they’re familiar with Star Wars or not. It sends the player on a galactic quest filled with all of the galaxy’s unique elements.
With the choice of starting out from different character classes, the player is meant to rise up the ranks and choose whether they want to fall in the light or dark side of the Force. The game brings traditional gameplay elements of the genre and combines them with the kind of action Star Wars excels in.
10 Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (2016)
The Deus Ex series has always represented a creative turn in the gaming landscape. The latest entry, Mankind Divided, is worth a mention despite its sometimes buggy gameplay. Due to the first-person narrative here, the game makes it appear as if the players have landed in Prague itself.
A focus on stealth supplement the hundreds of side quests and NPC missions. This brings in an interesting take on the RPG genre with the action balanced out by sequences where the player has to skirt around combat. There are boatloads of customization options available and the XP received from completing quests keeps the player’s economy moving.
9 Dead Space (2008)
Games set in space almost exclusively focused on the action genre until Dead Space came to revolutionize things. Like Mass Effect, the events take place in the future. However, Dead Space falls under the horror side of things - something very few space games had portrayed at the time of its release apart from titles like Half-Life.
This makes things far more thrilling, though, since gamers don’t know what to expect and just what kind of danger is lurking around the corners. With things going in real-time, there’s never a dull moment as enemies can pop up at any time. After so many similar galactic-based games, Dead Space will feel like a breath of fresh air.
8 Jade Empire (2005)
While pretty much every RPG provides a world to explore, Jade Empire seems to present a more polished interpretation. This Bioware game delivers a real-time fighting experience (meaning there are no shortcuts to take) and the player must perfect the combat system.
Mastering one’s Chi is vital for progression along with collecting experience from exploring the world. Jade Empire’s morality system wasn’t the first one seen in gaming, but it definitely had the most impact as the player’s choices shape their character and the foes they come across.
7 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
Its popularity has refused to wane over the years mainly due to the many memes poking fun at the series. But The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim remains a solid game to play. The appeal here is the total freedom provided to players (to the point where the story becomes secondary).
This has allowed Skyrim to have an evergreen quality with seemingly endless role-playing features due to the many characters encountered and the abundance of side missions. The game’s influence is such that it ended up becoming a template for future RPGs to follow.
6 Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014)
Coming from the same developers that created Mass Effect, Dragon Age is something of a fantasy take on the former game series. Similar to other RPGs, this one also has an immense focus on building up the protagonist based on traveling the in-game world, winning battles, and accruing companions.
What most will find unique here is the epic quality of the game’s presentation. The level design and story execution earned the title Game of the Year in 2014. Like Mass Effect, this one also provides a hook for players to continue their playthrough. Fans can utilize Dragon Age Keep to chart choices from previous games in the series.
5 Hades (2020)
Supergiant Games debuted their Greek-inspired hack and slash title officially in 2020. The game had been in Early Access for some time, but fans are thrilled with the semi-final product. Not only does the game have beautiful graphics, but the combat is also addictive, fast-paced, and yet casual.
The reason why Mass Effect fans will like Hades relates to the story and romance options. The setting could not be more different, but players will fall in love with the unique takes on Greek and Chthonic gods like Nyx and Athena, as well as heroes like Achilles and the Fates. Also, and this is vitally important, players can pet the dog.
4 No Man's Sky (2016)
This game has had some serious growing pains since it first launched. Thanks to long-term developer support, the game is in absolutely fantastic shape. No Man's Sky is relaxing while still engaging and captures that child-like wonder that is oh so fleeting these days. The combat is solid, the ship variety is S tier, and Hello Games continues to improve the gameplay.
New and old fans alike agree that it is super fun to bop around the universe with friends discovering random monoliths, alien species, and traversing various galaxies. Though it is less narrative-focused than the Mass Effect titles, it scratches the itch of exploring a vast, wide-open universe full of unique life.
3 Prey (2017)
This might share the same name as a quirky title released in 2006, but it is more of a spiritual successor to System Shock. The player takes on the role of Morgan Yu who seems to be one of the last survivors on a spaceship with experiments gone terribly wrong.
Prey captures the eeriness that Mass Effect fans might recall when exploring those bizarre Cerberus labs in the first game. Or the slight jump-scares as they trudged through the creepy Collector base. The game also allows players to play one of two genders similarly to how Shepard is played.
2 Tom Clancy's The Division 2 (2019)
The first game has been hailed as more of a success than The Division 2. But this game still tops many lists for co-op shooters. What's more: the graphics are insanely good thanks to the game's custom Snowdrop engine.
The cover system is very similar to the one in Mass Effect games and it's a third-person shooter. The gunplay is also quite tight with a focus on abilities and team synergy. The game also received a new mode in September and is getting a big graphical update for next-gen consoles.
1 Outer Worlds (2019 - 2020)
This cheeky space narrative from Obsidian Entertainment takes another look at "what if corporations controlled everything" in space. But this title differs from the like of Borderlands in that the creature design is more diverse, the narrative is much deeper, and the humor is actually better, kind of?
Mass Effect fans will appreciate that choices have consequences in The Outer Worlds. The weapons are especially fun in this game, as well. However, there are no romance options in the game. But companions do still come with their own quests.
Trying to decide whether to play in Offline or Play Mode in Icarus? Here's what you need to know.