Swords, bows, crossbows and flintlocks are great too, but they rarely tie into the lore of a given setting as well as magic usually does. Besides, through study and willpower magic users can make reality itself obey them. That’s just badass. No bulging bicep is veiny enough to stop a fireball to the face!

Through magic games can enable players to do stuff that would be hard to justify otherwise. Not even far-future nanobots can accomplish stuff some spells make look easy!

There are many games with magic, but how many games are there with COOL magic? With good systems for creating spells and/or spectacular displays of power? Quite a few, it turns out, and seemingly new ones pop up every now and then, because really, why wouldn’t you make magic happen in a medium where so much can be done?

With that in mind let’s take a look at a whole bunch of games which, in one way or another, made using magic a real blast!

Notice: As of January 10, 2023, we’ve removed Spellbreak from our list due to its discontinuation.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed

Release:2009-11-03
Genre:Action & Shooter
Developer:LucasArts

Galen-force winds

Some might argue that the Force isn’t magic, but that’s nonsense: it provides telekinesis, mind control, lightning generation, healing, precognition and more. It’s totally magic and the game that lets you use to probably the greatest extent is The Force Unleashed. It gives you not only staggeringly incredible Force powers, but also a physics engine which makes using them a ton of fun.

Galen Marek’s Force Pushes don’t just push items and people around; they deform walls and crush glass windows. When he grabs an enemy, he can flail them around and the victim will do their best to grab onto something before being flung far, far away. It’s not a complex magic system, by any means, but it features some progression and makes you feel like a real force of nature.

Key features
  • Using Force powers is a raw kinetic joy
  • Surprisingly cool story
  • Great physics engine, especially for its time
  • Two endings, and an interesting DLC based on one of them

Dragon Age: Origins & Inquisition

Release:2010-09-29
Genre:RPG
Developer:BioWare

Dragon Mage

Mages in Dragon Age: Origins were devastating. Their top-tier spells could cover the entire room in elemental destruction, provide useful healing, generate buffs, and, most importantly, interact with each other in interesting ways. You could, for instance, cast Stone Fist at a petrified enemy and have good chance of shattering them. You could also conjure a storm by mixing Blizzard, Tempest, and Spell Might.

Discovering new combos was exciting, but sometimes a bit chaotic in execution. The opposite end of the combo spectrum came with DA Inquisition. It features a system based on disablers inflicting statuses on the enemy, and detonators, which exploit them for extra damage or several different potential effects, such as terrifying the enemy, or extra elemental effects.

Key features
  • Playing mages in Dragon Age is never a bad idea
  • Cool combos to discover and exploit for maximum effectiveness
  • Rich, detailed world and engaging stories to experience
  • Fantastic role-playing games in their own right

Black & White

Release:2001-03-25
Genre:God Game & RTS
Developer:Lionhead Studios

Divine intervention

Black & White puts you in the role of a brand new god, represented in the world as a disembodied hand. It’s not a cursor: you are literally a hand, capable of picking stuff up, petting your divine Creature, and drawing glyphs which summon miracles. There are many spells, both benevolent and destructive, and you’ll need to be quite precise when you draw some of them.

Your creature can cast your spells too, if you spend some time teaching them. Once that’s done, you’ll often see your faithful beast trace the same shapes you do, and casting smaller versions of your huge miracles. The trick is to teach the Creature how to use the miracles properly. Black & White was unique, charming, and using magic always got the feedback from your worshippers.

Key features
  • Many different Creatures for you to choose from
  • Immersive god game
  • Cool, useful, and powerful miracles
  • A good sense of humor

Final Fantasy VII & Remake

Release:1997-01-31 / 2021-04-10
Genre:RPG
Developer:Square Enix

Magic amber

Final Fantasy VII, what a game. Seeing how excellent this game is, it should be no surprise to see it also pop up on a list of games with cool magic systems. In this case, it’s all based on small balls of crystallized magic, called Materia. To use Materia in battle you have to put it in slots in your gear, and if you have linked slots, there are some interesting things you can do with the spheres.

If you socketed a Support Materia in a linked slot, it would modify the effects of connected magic. For example, Sneak Attack would give a chance of using the linked Materia at the start of a battle, while Final Attack deploys the linked effect when the character die. There are many cool combos and exploits to discover, and you’ll need them if you hope to defeat the Weapons.

Key features
  • Many cool spells, summons, and effects you might even combo
  • One of the most beloved RPGs in history
  • Memorable story
  • A fantastic Remake with its own Materia shenanigans

Fictorum

Release:2017-08-09
Genre:Indie
Developer:Scraping Bottom Games

Customizable kabooms

Few games allow you to customize your spells on the fly the way Fictorum does, and fewer still bundle that flexibility with deeply destructible environments. While many games start magic at 1 and let you crank that up to 11, in Fictorum you are already at 6, and quickly go up from there as you figure out how things work. As it turns out, for all the flexibility, it’s not hard to grasp at all!

The secret ingredient are the runes which you can use to customize the spells you discover. They come with a whole variety of effects, and each spell can handle up to three, with possible type limitations. As you cast, you enter a sort of a Tactical/Magical Pause where you can decide how much influence each rune has over the spell’s behavior. It’s spectacular and needs less math than Lichdom.

Key features
  • Many runes to modify your spells with
  • Highly destructible environment
  • Randomly generated world map
  • Truly spectacular spell effects

Noita

Release:2020-10-15
Genre:Action
Developer:Nolla Games

A Noita one bites the pixie dust

In Noita you play as a witch let loose on an environment composed of pixels fully simulated through the game’s physics engine. Wood and vines burn, stone crumbles and falls, water flows and pools the way you would expect. This is important, because the gameplay of Noita is based on interacting with the said environment using a vast array of premade and custom spells.

Truly, few games have interactions and physics going as deep as they do in Noita. With a properly-configured wand or a custom spell designed by modding (explained well in the game’s wiki) anyone could unleash a wave of destruction cascading through the screen. Don’t be misled by Noita’s pixel aesthetic: the animations are smooth, the simulation is complex, and colours are vibrant.

Key features
  • Complex simulation thanks to a powerful physics engine
  • Customisable spells
  • Evocative pixel-art style
  • Procedurally created levels

Pillars of Eternity

Release:2015-03-26
Genre:RPG
Developer:

Columns of Transcendence

While the core ideas of spellcasting in Pillars of Eternity are very similar to the way Dungeons & Dragons currently does it, there are some classes which do interesting things with it. Take, for example, the chanter class, a local version of bards. They can combine ancient magical phrases into a chant providing a custom mix of effects, and after a few sung phrases they can unleash unique spells.

Priests have a power which gets stronger if the characters behave in a way their god favors. Be a contrarian and you won’t be doing quite as well with these powers as a devout follower would. Same goes for Paladins. There are also Ciphers who can’t target themselves or areas with their abilities because their abilities affect and are powered by souls. Even wizards must juggle their spell books.

Key features
  • Several spellcasting classes with cool twists and flavours of their spell mechanics
  • Reputation systems which enhance roleplaying possibilities
  • Old-school RPG inspired by the classic Infinity Engine games like Baldur’s Gate
  • The world is rich in lore

Path of Exile

Release:2013-10-23
Genre:Action role-playing
Developer:Grinding Gear Games

Gem session

Path of Exile is a fantastic free-to-play action role-playing game with a dark, gloomy atmosphere and gameplay which will certainly appeal to any fan of Diablo. And it has one of the best progression systems in the genre. It has two sides. One is the intricate web of passive abilities you explore by spending skill points. The other is the slot system letting you put various skill gems in your equipment.

Some items have linked sockets for the gems. When you put in an Active Skill Gem and add a compatible support gem, you’ll modify the way the given skill works, for example adding an AoE effect, or increasing the number of times an attack bounces between enemies. These magical gems are just as useful to warrior-type characters as to primary spellcasters, and some combos can be devastating.

Path of Exile is a free-to-play game.

Key features
  • Excellent free-to-play Diablo-like
  • Incredible number of passive skills
  • Discovering new combinations of active and support skill gems is exciting
  • Fantastic support from the developers

Avencast: Rise of the Mage

Release:2010-03-17
Genre:RPG
Developer:ClockStone Studios

Blast’em-up

Avencast: Rise of the Mage is a little-known game from 2007 which had some cool ideas about spellcasting in an action RPG. Instead of a hotkey bar filled with spell icons, you unleash abilities by putting in specific combinations as if you were playing a fighting game. There are two leading types of abilities: soul magic for traditional spells, and blood magic for melee powers.

It’s always fun when casting spells requires a more conscious effort than just tapping a hotkey (although it IS an option in Avencast), so playing as a battle mage using button combinations from fighting games to cast devastating abilities feels right and is quite enjoyable, too. There is even a story involving forgotten legacies and unfulfilled prophesies.

Key features
  • Summoning as a third school of magic
  • Cast spells with button combinations
  • The story is pretty cool
  • Many different spells and plenty of useful items

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic

Release:2006-10-25
Genre:Fighting
Developer:Arkane Studios

Slapstick with magic

Dark Messiah of Might and Magic doesn’t necessarily come to mind when one thinks about cool magic; there are spikes to kick people onto, after all. But, in fact, it does have a magic system that’s fun to use because of how it interacts with the world. It shouldn’t be surprising: the game came from the makers of Arx Fatalis and future makers of Dishonored, Arkane Studios. No wonder spells are fun here.

As a caster you can blast an orc with a firebolt, sure, but it’s more fun to set up some oil and set it ablaze. You can freeze someone, but it’s more fun to coat the ground with ice and have them slide into some spikes or off a ledge. The arsenal of spells isn’t huge, but quite a few of them can be used in interesting ways and the maps are built in a way that encourages experiments.

Key features
  • Magic has very interesting interactions with the environment
  • Great Adrenaline system unlocking extra-powerful moves, both magical and weapon-based
  • Set in the world familiar to fans of the Might & Magic franchise
  • Several endings

Wizard of Legend

Release:2018-05-15
Genre:Indie
Developer:Contingent99

Mage-like

Casting the spells in Wizard of Legend isn’t particularly complicated: you press a button and it just happens. The art lies in being clever about when you use them and where you aim them. See, many of them have cooldowns and being unable to cast a spell when you need to dodge, dash, and zap might cost you your life.

WoL is a pixel-art rogue-like, and every skill at your disposal is a spell. The fights can get quite intense, especially if your build is based around quickly refreshing spells. The screen then becomes covered in nice pixel-based special effects, and your enemies fall in battle like they should. It’s fast, it’s satisfying, and it demands good reflexes. Definitely a recommended title.

Key features
  • Fast and tense magical confrontations
  • Plenty of ways to customise your loadout
  • Pixel-art aesthetic
  • The story is simple, but provides a good pretext to go adventuring

Outward

Release:2019-03-26
Genre:RPG
Developer:Nine Dots Studio

The world is open, but your stats are too weak

Outward is a fantasy survival RPG, which isn’t something one gets to type often. It has all the survival game features, like hunger, exhaustion, or warmth, but it also has distinctly RPG-like quests and several storylines going on at the same time. You even begin with a time-sensitive task, assuming you want to keep your house. More importantly, Outward also has a magic system which makes you work for it.

Outward’s magic it more ritualistic in nature than in most games. For example, to cast a basic fire spell as anything more than just an equivalent of a match, you have to set up a magic circle using enchanted materials. Or you could play with rune magic, which will require you to learn several combinations to cast spells.

Key features
  • Casting spells is really engaging and requires some work
  • Detailed RPG open world survival
  • Presents a challenge, but success is more rewarding this way
  • No manual saving: live with your choices

Mages of Mystralia

Release:2017-05-18
Genre:Action & Shooter
Developer:Borealys Games

Forgotten Spells

This game was suggested by a user, and upon inspection, it definitely should be on this list. With a story devised by one of the creators of the Forgotten Realms setting, Ed Greenwood, Mages of Mystralia was bound to be something special. And it truly is. It looks very friendly, in a cute cartoon kind of way, but don’t let it fool you. Its magic system is mighty and allows for a lot of customization.

Spells are built on a special board on which spell factors are arranged. If you want your fireball to curve to the left for whatever reason, you can do it. Curve to the left and bounce off the wall? Easy. If you want your magical shield to reflect arrows at your foes and create a burst of three fireballs from the point of impact, that’s doable too. You’re pretty much only limited by your ability to connect spell aspects and your mana supply.

Key features
  • Spellcrafting is complex, logical, and rewarding
  • The story is written by Ed Greenwood, the creator of Forgotten Realms
  • Explore your aberrant magical powers
  • Prevent a war and uncover dark mysteries of the world

Citadel: Forged with Fire

Release:2017-07-26
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Blue Isle Studios, Virtual Basement

Massively Multiplayer Mages

Citadel: Forged with Fire is an MMO which isn’t exceptionally popular, but has some interesting ideas. Its spell crafting system is closely related to the weapons you want to imbue with magic, with different effects possible for different weapon types. For example a gauntlet will have “blast” and “beam” shapes, in addition to “Self” and “Utility” common to all weapon types.

You can also add ingredients to enhance certain spell factors, like range or life leeching. There are several Essences you can build your spells around, like Arcana (raw magic), Nature, or Storm, and each of them has unique effects for each spell shape, like self-targeting effects, beams, or utilities. Available shapes are defined by the weapon you use for casting.

Key features
  • A large open-world MMO
  • Interesting magic options
  • Your clan (House) can establish its own castle
  • Tons of loot you can imbue with your magic

CodeSpells

Release:2015-09-18
Genre:Indie & Action
Developer:ThoughtSTEM, LLC

Pull the strings of reality

Despite being an Early Access game, CodeSpells kind of goes meta in terms of its magic system. Usually, capturing the mystic side of a fireball – the elements going into casting, the way reality reshapes to accommodate it – is something we…don’t really do. All of it happens in the mind and soul of characters we play. CodeSpells changes it.

While our character draws on the mystic layer of the universe or something, we are coding the game itself to make fireballs happen. It’s quite ingenious, really. Teaching people how to code simple functions is also a nice bonus, reminiscent of an old game called Colobot. It’s probably the closest thing we’ll ever get to a video game magic system capturing what it would feel like to be a wizard.

Key features
  • You can design your spells
  • It can teach you the basics of coding
  • Features local and online multiplayer
  • Useful tutorial

Dragon's Dogma

Release:2016-01-15
Genre:Adventure
Developer:

Calamity at your fingertips

OK, so while most other games on this list have spell systems which invite some measure of creativity, Dragon’s Dogma has a rigid ability system overall. What nets it the place on this list, however, is the joy and feeling of power you get out of casting the big spells. You know, the ones you need to channel for half a minute while your NPC followers (Pawns) protect your physically wimpy wizard.

Once the spell drops, it’s cataclysmic and awe-inspiring. Meteors fall from the sky. Icicles twist through the air. Tornadoes descend upon your foes. When the staves come out, just run away.

Key features
  • High-level spells take incredibly impressive forms
  • Melee combat is excellent, and each strike feels impactful
  • Open world full of monsters to hunt
  • Your nemesis is a huge red dragon who ate your heart

Arx Fatalis

Release:2002-11-12
Genre:RPG
Developer:Arkane Studios

Casting the runes

One of the reasons this game shouldn’t be forgotten is its approach to magic. Throughout the world (or through a rather silly cheat early on) you discover runestones from which you assemble spells. The trick is that you need to draw individual sigils by hand every time you want to cast a spell. You technically have an instant casting menu, but it can hold only three spells at a time, and they are spent upon casting.

As a bonus the rune phrases actually do make sense. A classic Fireball, for instance, uses a sigil-phrase “Aarn Yok Tar”, which means “Create Fire Missile”. Switch Yok for Fridd, and you get an ice projectile. After a while of playing a caster in AF you realize why wizards need time to cast their spells. Aarn Mega Yok!

Key features
  • Spellcasting requires drawing a sequence of runes in real time
  • An immersive sim set in a fantasy world
  • Created by the future developers of Dishonored and Prey
  • Logical approach to crafting

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

Release:2002-04-29
Genre:RPG
Developer:Bethesda Game Studios

Create-a-Spell

Before Skyrim, spellcasting was something…more. It required studying and devotion, and it gave you more freedom than the Nords will ever understand. Morrowind, for instance, actually allows you to create your own spells out of all the formulas you learned. The only thing you have to pay attention to is the price and what you’re realistically able to cast, as your mana isn’t a bottomless wellspring.

The system allowed for some crazy combinations, and provided ample room to tweak the specific numbers as well. It was a spellcrafting paradise. Sure, much like Arx Fatalis, Morrowind looks pretty dated today, but it’s not something mods can’t solve, and in turn you get a truly magnificent game, free of modern fillers and nuisances and filled with engagingly bizarre world and layered story.

Key features
  • You get to create your own spells out of effects you’ve discovered
  • Digs into the weird lore of the Elder Scrolls series
  • A huge island is yours to explore and discover every cave and dungeon
  • Unique approach to conversations

Two Worlds II

Release:2017-07-13
Genre:Adventure
Developer:

Pick a card

You probably never heard of it, and that’s fine, but despite its obscurity and certain “jankiness,” Two Worlds II takes magic in an interesting direction. It’s based around cards you mix to create spells. You have effect cards, split between five schools (Air, Fire, etc.) with three branches each. Then you have carrier cards which define how the spell manifests: as an enchantment, a missile, maybe a summon.

Finally, modifier cards increase certain numbers or change how projectiles work (ricochet, spray, or maybe a homing missile?). The number of possible effects is huge, and it includes things like an anvil tornado (how often do you get to type such a phrase?) or projectiles which summon creatures upon a hit. Testing new combinations is a ton of fun and encourages looking for new cards.

Key features
  • Unique system in which you build spells out of cards you collect
  • A large world composed of multiple areas
  • Free-form character progression
  • Supports various playstyles

Lichdom: Battlemage

Release:2014-08-26
Genre:Indie
Developer:Xaviant

Gym wizards do number crunches

Lichdom: Battlemage mixes a first-person shooter, an Excel spreadsheet, and powerful magic. At any given moment you have access to three (out of eight total) sigils granting you control over elements, and each of them lets you setup three spells. Depending on how you craft them you have your usual projectiles, powerful beams, AoEs, traps, shields… the game has it all, and all of it looks great.

Underneath it all there is a complex spellcrafting system which requires number crunching and memorising the interactions. Do you set up a Mastery-Destruction combo to maximise the damage, or grab a Mastery-Control combo to give yourself some breathing room? The math and synergies are complex, and the fights are frantic, but when it works, the ludicrous gibs fall like it’s a rainy season.

Key features
  • A first-person perspective approach to spellcasting
  • Extensive and intricate spellcrafting
  • Takes a lot of practice to master its systems
  • Physics and graphics make the spells look great

Divinity: Original Sin 1&2

Release:2015-10-27
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Larian Studios

Outsourcing your magic

Magic in the first game was incredibly entertaining, with spectacular spell combinations. There’s nothing quite like watching a fiery bolt causing a poison cloud to explode. The sequel blows it out of the water completely, however, with some certifiably devastating combos discovered by creative players. With enough creativity even an infinite damage loop isn’t out of the picture.

It doesn’t hurt that the game is designed specifically to let you play around with its systems, providing alternative routes to success should you go overboard and destroy a seemingly vital part of a quest. And then there’s skill crafting, which provides yet ANOTHER layer of complexity and flexibility to the mix. This way you can, for instance, make BLOOD RAIN FROM THE SKY.

Key features
  • Spellcasting based on creating magical surfaces and inflicting statuses
  • A lot of explosively powerful effect combos
  • Great support for multiplayer: 2-player in DOS1, 4-player in DOS2
  • A lot of freedom in solving the game’s challenges

Tyranny

Release:2016-11-10
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Obsidian Entertainment

Lore is power

Obsidian’s unfortunately low-key production flew completely under the radar of many people. Which is a shame for many reasons, one of them is its spellcrafting. In Tyranny you create spells using Core sigils defining the school of magic, Expression sigils controlling how it manifests, Accents improving its individual parameters, and Enhancements applying a single additional modifier.

Each of these sigils requires a different level of the Lore skill, so a bookworm mage with Lore 200 can build stronger spells than a petty dabbler with Lore 40. The effects range from short-range bursts and long-range projectiles to auras, devastating multi-hit AoE strikes, and large-scale debuffs. Tyranny’s magic system is also rooted in the lore: Sigil are derived from studying the mighty Archons.

Key features
  • You can compose your own spells from three types of symbols
  • The world is inspired by the Bronze Age, rather than being faux-Medieval
  • Classless progression
  • Encourages multiple playthroughs

Magicka 1 & 2

Release:2015-05-26
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Pieces Interactive

From your powers combined

Magicka (and its sequel too, of course) has a pretty nifty magic system. There are eight basic effects, and a few more you can get by combining the basic ones, and you mix and match the to create powerful effects. The fanbase has created some devastating combinations over the years, in a way turning spellcasting into a community-sourced QTE, but you can go far with a big ol’ blazing boulder too.

There’s also logic to the game world, so you can use your frost element to freeze a narrow and somewhat slippery path across a river or launch yourself into the air with a mine. And please, make sure you dry yourself with fire before you cast any lightning-based spells. Unless you want to get zapped, of course. There’s also a co-op segment, where the resurrection spell will be used a lot.

Key features
  • Easy to learn and fast to use spellcasting system
  • A loving satire of common fantasy motifs and tropes
  • A huge number of possible spell variants and combinations
  • As excellent in multiplayer as it is offline

In Verbis Virtus

Release:2015-04-03
Genre:Adventure
Developer:Indomitus Games

Your voice matters!

Oddly enough, this list has two games capturing in real-life some fragment of what it must feel to be a reality-shaping sorcerer. CodeSpells was about rewriting the world, while In Verbis Virtus lets us actually speak the words of power in real life to cast spells in the game. How cool is that? When was the last time you spoke to your PC to make something happen, not because something happened?

There is a fair bit of lore to explore in the game, especially the arcane language you use to call forth your spells: Maha’ki, the language of the gods. It’s easy to recall the right words when you’re calm, but can you recite the formulas when a monster is bearing down on you? Can you do it precisely, so the game can understand you? Hopefully yes, if you want to compete your journey.

Key features
  • You cast spells by speaking to your microphone
  • Discover the secrets of a forgotten temple
  • Learn new spells as you progress
  • Puzzles and battles await you

The magic’s gone

Sorry, we only had twenty five spell slots today and need to finish a long rest before we can do anything more here. Either way, as you can see there are many, many games where you can be a wizard you should check out if you’re interested in this kind of thing. Let’s bring magic back into the world!