Expect spending lots of time fighting monsters, looting valuable artifacts and making your characters even more powerful. That’s right: these games are all about gaining experience, learning new skills and braving various worlds.
Simply put, action RPGs are a sub-genre of role-playing games that maintains pretty much every aspect of RPGs, but blends them with segments and combat that are more like action-adventure titles. All the classic stuff is there: creating your character (or an entire party), managing your equipment and stats, exploring the world and making various choices that have an impact on the outcome of your playthrough. So, you might have a game that is pretty much like Baldur’s Gate, but plays like a first-person shooter or a slasher, for example.
Still, action RPGs often offer you moments of respite during tense combat. A lot of these feature a mode called “active pause” (or something along these lines) during which you can review the battleground, issue orders, change your tactics accordingly and simply catch a breath.
There’s also the still ongoing debate whether hack and slashes are RPGs or not. Some say that despite their simplicity, yes, they are role-playing games. Others say they’re just glorified action games that are all about mass murdering monsters and there’s very little of RPG stuff in them. As you can see, there is a division here, but we decided to include some of the best hack and slash titles on this list, anyway.
And now, without further ado, let us dive straight in, shall we? This list has some of the best action RPG games on the market. Be sure to check them out!
|Fable Anniversary||2014-09-12||Lionhead Studios||78%||Read more|
|The Elder Scrolls III||2002-04-29||Bethesda Game Studios||75%||Read more|
|Middle Earth Shadow Of Mordor||2014-09-30||Feral Interactive (Linux)||81%||Read more|
|Borderlands 2||2012-09-20||Gearbox Software||89%||Read more|
|The Witcher 3 Wild Hun||2015-05-18||CD PROJEKT RED||67%||Read more|
|Torchlight 2||2012-10-02||Runic Games||86%||Read more|
|Titan Quest Anniversary Edition||2016-08-31||Iron Lore Entertainment||85%||Read more|
|The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim||2016-10-27||Bethesda Game Studios||71%||Read more|
|Grim Dawn||2016-02-25||Crate Entertainment||67%||Read more|
|Diablo II: Resurrected (Xbox Series X/S)||2021-09-23||Blizzard Entertainment||29%||Read more|
|Dark Souls III||2016-04-11||FromSoftware, Inc.||33%||Read more|
|Mass Effect 2||2010-01-27||BioWare||81%||Read more|
|Mass Effect Legendary Edition||2021-05-14||BioWare||79%||Read more|
|The Elder Scrolls V Skyrim Anniversary Edition||2021-11-11||Bethesda Game Studios||68%||Read more|
|Kingdoms Of Amalur Reckoning||2012-02-08||38 Studios||65%||Read more|
|Fallout 3||2008-10-28||Bethesda Game Studios||72%||Read more|
|Bastion||2011-08-16||Supergiant Games||72%||Read more|
|Nier Automata||2017-03-17||SQUARE ENIX||64%||Read more|
|Tales Of Berseria||2017-01-26||BANDAI NAMCO Studios Inc.||89%||Read more|
|Monster Hunter World||2018-08-09||CAPCOM CO., LTD.||82%||Read more|
|Elden Ring||2022-02-25||FromSoftware||28%||Read more|
|Assassins Creed Odyssey||2018-10-05||Ubisoft Quebec||82%||Read more|
|The Outer Worlds||2020-10-23||Obsidian Entertainment||57%||Read more|
|Horizon Zero Dawn||2020-08-07||Guerrilla||71%||Read more|
|Middle Earth Shadow Of War||2017-10-10||Monolith Productions||93%||Read more|
|Fallout 4||2017-09-26||Bethesda Game Studios||84%||Read more|
|Fallout New Vegas||2010-10-21||Obsidian Entertainment||78%||Read more|
This one is an underrated and unjustly forgotten gem. Fable offers high-quality gameplay and plenty of meaningful moral choices that have an impact on how other characters perceive the protagonist.
Yes, the morality system that constantly judges your decisions is one of the game’s more memorable features. Good deeds will bring you closer to the Light Side of the Force, while bad ones will in turn make your character more evil (duh).
This system has an impact not only on the NPCs’ reactions, but also the looks of our character. Good guys will be adorned with a shiny halo reflecting their moral purity, while evildoers will grow a nice pair of terrifying horns that’ll simply scream “I’m a baaad guy.” Duh.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
|Developer:||Bethesda Game Studios|
This one’s a class of its own. A huge, open world full of artifacts and hostile creatures beckons. Are you ready to unravel the biggest mysteries that the land of Morrowind jealously hides?
Everybody knows that there is something called Skyrim. Not everyone knows that it had its predecessors, though, including the legendary Morrowind. It is a bit dated, so it might not be as visually appealing as the latest game, but don’t let this discourage you from trying it out.
In fact, Morrowind did some things a lot better than Skyrim. It’s much more immersive and there’s more emphasis on role-playing. For example, it’s impossible to achieve mastery in every single thing. You have to make choices here and focus on what matters to you and your strategy the most.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
|Developer:||Bethesda Game Studios|
Speaking of Skyrim, here it is! then this is arguably the best entry in the entire franchise for you to try. And it’s not just because of a simpler, more accessible gameplay, but also because it still looks gorgeous. Oh, and one more thing: MODS!
Skyrim takes place in the titular land where Nords live and bad things started happening all at once: the dragons mysteriously returned, plus there is a conflict between the locals and the Imperials.
As a Dragonborn, a mortal with a dragon soul, capable of yelling FUS RO DAH to blast enemies with immense power, your task is to clean up this mess, of course. Your task it not just to choose a side in this conflict, but also investigate what caused the fire-breathing reptiles to re-emerge. And so you explore the world, join renowned guilds, hunt down the most powerful creatures that roam Skyrim, and weave your own tale. Plus, you get to mod things.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
|Developer:||CD PROJEKT RED|
A list of the best action RPGs without The Witcher would certainly be a bad one. The final installment in the acclaimed series offers tons of improvements here and there, making this one a must-play.
The Witcher tells the story of a genetically-enhanced mutant bounty hunter who excels at hunting down deadly monsters and breaking curses, all thanks to his superhuman strength and impeccable swordsmanship. Too bad he’s one of them monsters to the common folk. People see him as nothing more than a freaky thug for hire.
The game draws plenty of inspiration from Slavic and Scandinavian folklores, as well as other cultures. It’s bound to suck you in for dozens of hours. You’ve been warned!
Hack and slash titles share quite a lot of traits with the action RPG genre, so let’s take a look at some of these games, shall we? We’ll start with the incredibly fun Torchlight II.
It’s undeniably a cartoony take on the formula introduced with Diablo, but it has its own flavor.
First off, its visual style, rather cutesy and more on the low-poly side, not only makes this game run more smoothly even on older machines, but also look great even to this day, courtesy of an art style that doesn’t age that easily.
Second, the game features a day and night cycle, a weather system, four unique character classes, tons of valuable loot and equipment pieces, and lots of hidden secrets for you to discover.
|Developer:||Iron Lore Entertainment|
While we’re at it, it’s worth mentioning a couple other great hack and slash games that totally have the right to appear on such a list. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Titan Quest!
This one draws a lot of inspiration from Greek, Egyptian and Asian mythologies. Expect to see some of ancient architecture’s most recognizable wonders, legendary monsters you know from myths and some historical characters as well.
What makes this game stand out from the hack and slash crowd, though, is its physics engine. Hardly anything can beat the feeling of punching a satyr in the guts and sending him flying and then watching him fall of a cliff or a bridge. Another interesting thing about Titan Quest is that creatures usually drop items they use themselves. So, if you see a skeleton wielding a glowing sword, kill the sucker and you’ll probably grab some legendary gear.
Titan Quest is undoubtedly fun, but not without its flaws.
Still, its developers learned a lot and the experience they gained helped them make their next hack and slash, Grim Dawn, one better suited for the modern audience.
Grim Dawn is not just Titan Quest dressed up as a “dark fantasy meets the Victorian era” game, but it does borrow a lot from its revered predecessor, improving a lot of things in the process. This also made it more accessible.
Naturally, it’d be rather dumb to redesign the mechanics that worked just fine, so what we’ve got instead was a much bigger stash for your hard-earned goods, several factions that you could either ally with or become an enemy of, and the possibility to create a seemingly infinite number of character builds thanks to a highly complex skill tree.
Path of Exile
|Developer:||Grinding Gear Games|
If you haven’t heard of this free-to-play game dubbed the “Diablo killer,” then you must’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of years. Is it possible that such a title can be the fiercest competitor of Blizzard’s classic?
There’s lots of blood and gore, there’s a dark atmosphere, there’s engaging gameplay, hordes of enemies, several classes to choose from, as well as a massive passive skill tree that should be called a skill forest instead, as well as a unique active skill system with skills represented as gems that can be inserted into the slots in your items – your armor, for example.
To think it’s entirely free to play and doesn’t have any intrusive pay-to-win mechanics is mind-blowing. It doesn’t mean, however, that the game doesn’t offer anything to make the game more enjoyable. There are some paid quality of life additions, notably extra stash tabs that can be used to safely store more of your valuable items, which is a huge convenience.
Diablo II + LoD
|Release:||2000-06-29 / 2001-06-27|
You didn’t think we would forget to put this retro classic on the list, did you? Fat chance. It’s a genre-defining title. Most modern hack and slashes look the way they do just because of this one particular game.
Diablo II was influential on several levels. Although the majority of its game mechanics wasn’t necessarily new, it was the combination of all of them that made the game unique and popular.
With Diablo II developers tried a different approach to H&S and RPG genres. The core idea was to make every character class equally strong, complex, and fun to play, so no player would ever feel like they’re left behind. This made the game enjoyable not only for those playing with friends, but also those who prefer going solo and tackling all the challenges on their own.
Dark Souls III
Let’s take a break from the hack and slash genre and return to a more immersive third-person action. If you’re a hardcore gamer, then Dark Souls III is just the thing.
Although not as difficult as the first two entries in the Dark Souls franchise, Dark Souls III will still surprise you on several occasions and force you to watch the famous YOU DIED screen over and over again until you either give up or finally beat a problematic sequence.
It can be frustrating at times, of course, but it makes it much more enjoyable and exciting when you finally complete a difficult challenge, be it a powerful boss or a series of jumps where quick reflexes and precision are required. The game focuses on the single-player mode, but it does allow for online multiplayer – you can, for example, call other players to help you or invade and disturb others as they play.
Bloodborne is quite similar to Dark Souls, but it’s different enough to earn its own place on the list of the best action RPG games. So, what makes it so special?
Its fans often mention a smooth combat system and a memorable cast of characters and say these two traits make Bloodborne far superior to Dark Souls.
The game was also often commended for its level design and plot. Bloodborne’s lore is considered to be the best among FromSoftware’s works. High difficulty and demanding bosses are still presentm so all of your hardcore needs should be satisfied when you’re busy figuring out how to beat the next seemingly untouchable baddie. Still, the game does have its flaws. Bloodborne’s biggest issue is the fact that it’s a PlayStation 4 exclusive, so you need to grab a console to enjoy this gem, but this is money well spent!
Mass Effect 2
Some third-person shooters can also be found among the best action role-playing games, and Mass Effect 2 is an example of this.
Mass Effect 2 is more of a shooter mixed with light role-playing elements, but it’s a more balanced combination as opposed to the first ME game which was more focused on the RPG part instead.
Some of the most important features of the game include the choices you make in preparation for the final mission (dubbed a suicide one), memorable characters that inhabit the planets you explore, quite a variety of landscapes and missions constructed akin to typical tactical shooters of the modern times. It’s a fun game, though it might get a little bit samey halfway through.
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning
If you love epic adventures in fantasy worlds that are full of might and magic, dangerous wildlife, and valuable treasures hidden in the most inaccessible places, this is the right title for you
Kingdoms of Amalur is an oft-overlooked action RPG, but it fully deserves to becounted among the genre’s best. It does everything you would expect from this kind of game – it has an open world environment that you can freely explore, it has lots of skills for you to master, it even has a crafting system, but most importantly, it gives you a lot of freedom when it comes to character progression.
The game’s huge world might be overwhelming for some at first. This is due to the fact that the game was originally planned to be an MMORPG, but developers changed their minds during production and turned KoA into a single-player experience. If you want to try the game, check out the recently released Re-Reckoning version, also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
|Developer:||Bethesda Game Studios|
Everybody knows Fallout, that’s for sure. It’s hard to say which one of these games is the best, but we chose Fallout 3 for the purposes of this list, as it shaped the future of the cult classic series.
The third major entry in the franchise does quite a lot of things differently compared to its revered predecessors. Most notably, it shifts from 2D to 3D and is presented from a first-person perspective. This significantly improves immersion and arguably allows you to sink deeper into this post-apocalyptic universe.
Fallout 3’s defining gameplay feature is its combat system. It lets you to shoot your guns in real time, but you can also handle each encounter tactically and use a special system to choose which part of an enemy you want to shoot at, which feels closer to the series’ original turn-based spirit.
This award-winning game shows that unique story presentation surely is important. The game’s dynamic voiceover is its most recognizable feature, but gameplay-wise it’s also incredibly addictive.
Bastion is an isometric game where you play as the Kid, a silent protagonist tasked with investigating and, hopefully, reversing the destructive and catastrophic effects of certain events that occurred lately. The gameplay revolves around exploring the floating islands, fighting hostile creatures, and upgrading the titular Bastion, where players can construct new buildings, each serving a different purpose.
Worth noting are the game’s stylish visuals and dynamic voice-over. The narrator speaks as you travel, which makes you develop a natural bond with him.
Some games focus on the story, some favor gameplay, some prefer to dazzle you with breathtaking visuals.
Others try to strike a balance between all these and NieR does just that. It’s definitely a “jack of all trades,” but luckily without the “master of none” part.
At first, it appears to be simply an anime-meets-realistic-art-style type of game, but there’s so much more to it than meets the eye.
Set in a distant future, the game tells a story of a pair of man-made androids who participate in a war against mysterious machines that invaded the world. There’s lots of melee action and numbers floating over enemies’ heads as you damage them (which can be oddly satisfying). An interesting thing about the game is that it has over 20 possible endings, one for each letter of the alphabet. Sure, some of the are silly, such as killing yourself in a certain way or just refusing to complete a particular mission, which results in the GAME OVER screen appearing shortly after, but it’s still quite a number.
Speaking of floating numbers, you must give Borderlands a try if you if you haven’t already.
If you’re new to the franchise, you can totally start with Borderlands 2, probably the best game in the franchise, but don’t quote us on that, because other games in the series are also awesome.
Borderlands 2 takes place five years after the events of its predecessor and focuses on a new team of Vault Hunters. There are 4 playable hunters, each with their own unique skills, allowing players to choose a character that fits their taste and playstyle best.
Gameplay-wise you can expect to spend a lot of time shooting some highly advanced firearms that have randomized stats – some guns excel at long distances, while the others can be better suited for close combat. The game is most recognizable for its unique stylized graphics. Borderlands looks like a living comic book, except that there are no speech bubbles or all those silly SPLONK onomatopoeias.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
|Developer:||Feral Interactive (Linux)|
Fans of Tolkien’s works also have a reason to rejoice, as one of the games based on his works found its way onto the list.
Shadow of Mordor’s most notable feature is its Nemesis System that allows players to invigilate enemy ranks. Sauron’s army is led by several powerful orc creatures such as warchiefs and grunts. Your task is to hunt down and interrogate the weakest links in the chain of command in order to learn more about the orcs that have a higher position in the hierarchy, allowing you to weaken the enemy forces.
Generic orcs met during the game can advance in the hierarchy if they perform a notable action, such as killing your character. The title combines dynamic action with stealth sequences – most of the time you will be able to explore the open world freely and choose either silent or a less subtle approach to taking down the enemy generals. You will be even able to turn them against each other and finish off whoever remains, which opens up some interesting possibilities.
Tales of Berseria
|Developer:||BANDAI NAMCO Studios Inc.|
We’ve already had an anime-style game on the list, but there is one more action RPG title that is worth mentioning here.
Tales of Berseria is a story-driven, emotional game that allows you to embark on a journey in an anime-inspired world. It’s played from a third-person perspective and shares some similarities with the JRPG genre, but it’s not a typical gather-your-party turn-based game.
It does have some difficult encounters that will require you to focus on the fight, but they shouldn’t be too hard to stop you from unraveling the story. If you’re looking for some casual gameplay that serves more as an addition to the narrative, then Tales of Berseria is exactly what you’re looking for.
Monster Hunter: World
|Developer:||CAPCOM CO., LTD.|
If you’re itching for some kaiju-hunting, we’ve got something special for you. Monster Hunter is, as the title suggests, a game focused on fighting
Every battle here is an epic adventure. Each encounter is different and handling each monster requires a different approach.
One of the core gameplay mechanics here is obtaining carvings from beasts: collectibles that can be used to craft weapons and armor to make your character stronger. What makes this system so cool cool is the fact that it’s deterministic to a certain degree. For example, if you want to get a monster’s tail, you can significantly increase your chances of getting one if you manage to cut off the tail during the fight. Although it’s a single-player game, it does have online features, allowing parties of up to 4 players to hunt together and tackle the most difficult challenges.
FromSoftware did it again, there is no doubt of that.
Their latest Souls-like offering is pretty much the crown jewel of what the company released over the last ten years, a very successful tribute to the Souls series, Bloodborne and Sekiro, as well as a competent remix of the themes and gameplay mechanics found in the previous games.
It’s essentially a punishing open-world action role-playing game that certainly doesn’t care what you think or feel. Combat requires you to be patient, careful and observant. You’re, of course, required to master the blocking and dodging mechanics as well, otherwise you’re going to fail miserably.
The game’s world lets you explore it freely, roaming the Lands Between on your trusty mount, but it won’t help you in any way. If you want a map, you need to find it first. If you want all sorts of markers placed on it, you have to discover the said places beforehand, etc. The story and lore are both really murky and they are not going to be spoon-fed to you, either, so you’ll need to talk to characters inhabiting the game’s realm, read flavor text and infer stuff from your own observations.
Ultimately, Elden Ring is a fantastic game that revitalizes the decade-old formula with all sorts of refinements and additions that make it a perfect starting point for newcomers to the series.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Speaking of refreshing stuff, AC Odyssey is essentially refining the formula previously introduced with Assassin’s Creed Origins: a game with a large open world that is more of a role-playing than an action game (although you’ll find plenty of the latter in here).
Odyssey changes the setting from ancient Egypt to equally dated Greece and gives you two protagonists to choose for your playthrough, either Alexios or Kassandra. And so you explore the world, complete all sorts of quests, participate in attacking or defending various regions, help out the faction of your choosing and hunt down the members of the evil Cult of Kosmos.
You also have various dialogue options to pick from. There are also moments where you get to make choices that have an impact on the storyline. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey looks and feels wonderful. It’s just super fun to play, so if you’re interested in a fantasy/alternate-history tinged storyline set in the ancient days of mankind, you should be in for a real treat.
The Outer Worlds
Here is a yet another “alternate history” fantasy, set in space this time around.
Stylistically, this game looks like a mixture of the modern Fallout games and, say, Borderlands or No Man’s Sky, perhaps? There’s also quite a lot of Mass Effect thrown in, it seems.
Anyway, it’s an open-world action role-playing game set in a small star system of Halcyon that consists of six planets in total. You get to explore different areas, interact with tons of NPCs in lots of ways, make moral choices and tough decisions, as well as participate in combat using both melee and ranged weapons, gain better skills and abilities, etc.
The game features quite an interesting mechanic dubbed flaws. You gain these if you repeatedly fail in certain segments of The Outer Worlds. There are drawbacks to these, of course, but you also gain certain bonuses through them. It’s basically a trade-off.
Obsidian’s latest magnum opus is a great sci-fi game with fun characters voiced by the best talents in the industry and fun gameplay mechanisms. If you’re done with either Fallout or Mass Effect, this one’s a good choice.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Forbidden West might be bigger and perhaps better, but we went with the original instead, since it’s now available on a wider array of platforms, including personal computers.
And it’s still an amazing and beautiful game. As Aloy, an outcast skilled in hunting, archery and everything else outcasts do, you explore a vast open world full of wonders and beauty, complete all sorts of quests and – first and foremost – fight the game’s most prominent characters, animal-like machines that range from small beasts that can be killed in seconds with ease, especially when your character levels up enough, to giant creatures that are insanely deadly and take a long time and effort to take down.
These battles are truly memorable and complex. You can utilize stealth, traps and explosives, as well as bows and other weapons to eliminate your foes. Each beast has its strengths and weaknesses, as well as weak points that can help you kill it faster.
Horizon: Zero Dawn is a fantastic game. While its plot, writing, side quests and climbing segments are nothing special, the rest is simply a masterpiece. There’s also an expansion pack, The Frozen Wilds, that lets you explore the titular, well, Frozen Wilds and battle some new monsters. It’s a fun DLC that should give you from ten to fifteen hours of extra gameplay. It’s actually better and more beautiful than the base game, for the most part, even if its story isn’t exactly the most captivating thing there is.
Middle-earth: Shadow of War
The first game, Shadow of Mordor, was an interesting title. Expanding upon the legendary lore crafted by Tolkien, it served as a sort of an interquel between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
The main character, a Gondorian Ranger named Talion, embarked on a journey to the land of Mordor in order to avenge his loved ones. Bonded with Celebrimbor, a wraith of an Elf Lord, he was able to use special powers to fight and manipulate his foes populating the dark realm ruled by Sauron.
Released three years later, in 2017, Shadow of War is your typical sequel that does pretty much the same things the predecessor did, but better. It’s also a shift from hack and slash to action RPG.
One of the things that received a major upgrade was the famous Nemesis System. It lets you gain allies, such as Ologs and Uruks, but also make some powerful enemies in the process, depending on your interactions with them. The races inhabiting Mordor have also been made funnier. It’s hard not to root for your favorite orcs, that’s for sure.
In general, this seems a much better game than the previous one, however, fans were disappointed with some disputable changes to the official Tolkien lore, as well as microtransactions and loot boxes that were unfortunately included here as well. Still, you can ignore these and just have fun.
There are tons of interesting action role-playing games to play right now. Some of them can be found on Steam, some are available exclusively on consoles, and some may be even distributed elsewhere. We tried to pick only the best action role-playing games. We hope we saved you some time, so that you can go straight after the titles that received the most favorable reviews.