The idea of „classes” in gaming is older than video games themselves, but thanks to its extreme usefulness has made the jump to the digital medium seamlessly and smoothly. In fact, it works so well that it found home in several different genres, not only in role-playing games.
The nitty-gritty of what a class is changes from game to game, but, generally speaking, it’s a specific role your character can fill during gameplay. In some games classes are quite rigid, a locked set of tools and abilities you can’t tweak at all, while in other games each class features a pool of options you can gradually unlock as you progress. Some games don’t feature classes at all, and instead feature flexible progression and specialization, but that falls outside of this article’s theme.
|XCOM 2: War of the Chosen DLC||2017-08-28||-88%|
|XCOM 2 Collection||2016-02-04||-88%|
|Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous||2021-09-02||-89%|
|Diablo II: Resurrected||2021-09-23||-67%|
|Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls DLC||2014-03-25||-24%|
|Diablo 3 Battlechest||2016-11-28||-|
|Diablo 2 B||2000-06-29||-56%|
|Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen||2016-01-15||-86%|
|Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire||2018-05-08||-90%|
|Mass Effect Legendary Edition||2021-05-15||-|
|Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn Final Fantasy||2014-02-18||-9%|
|Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward Final Fantasy Code||2015-06-23||-35%|
|Final Fantasy XIV - Stormblood Final Fantasy||2017-06-20||-|
|Deep Rock Galactic||2018-02-28||-46%|
|Warhammer: Vermintide 2||2018-03-08||-85%|
|Warhammer: Vermintide 2 - Grail Knight Career||2020-06-23||-|
With the basics established, let’s move to the games themselves.
|Genre:||Action & Shooter|
|Developer:||Feral Interactive (Linux)|
XCOM 2 is a game about fighting back against alien occupation of Earth mostly through sending your troops on turn-based tactical missions and scanning the world for resources and crises. Incidentally, your soldiers come in four basic classes: Ranger, Specialist, Grenadier, and Sharpshooter, plus a Psionic class unlocked with research, and each class has a unique role to play on the battlefield.
Given the number of robotic units in the game especially the Specialist built for hacking (instead of healing) can be a godsend. Every core class lets you specialize into one of two roles, but you can also pick from a different track each time. DLC War of the Chosen brought three more classes, all very mobile, and a way for your soldiers to get extra abilities semi-randomly drawn from other classes.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous
There are layers of legacy to this game. Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous is based on a tabletop RPG Pathfinder, which, in turn, is based on evergreen tabletop RPG Dungeons and Dragons. The resulting video game is complex, filled with numbers, and features whopping 25 classes right away and then adds nine more which turn you into a creature of mythic power, like a lich or a dragon.
In addition to plentiful classes and absurd number of character build possibilities, Wrath of the Righteous is also a robust, epic-scale roleplaying game putting you in control of a vast military operation trying to push back against a demonic incursion. You’ll delve dungeons and interact with your companions on one level, on another you’ll direct armies and fight for your world.
Usually, it’s the RPG-adjacent games that are associated with distinct classed, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t any class-based shooters. One of the best examples is the Battlefield series, including its recent entries. Battlefield 1, the entry which brought the series back to the World War settings. BF1 classes are divided between infantry, vehicles, and elite classes.
While the infantry classes are the core, available anytime, the latter two types require either choosing to spawn in a vehicle, if available, or finding a token during a game. The game itself is set during World War I and features a highly engaging Operations multiplayer mode which can play over several maps if the defending team can’t push back the attackers’ offensive.
The Diablo series
The Diablo games are about picking one of several classes and unleashing untold mayhem on malevolent legions serving demonic overlords. Diablo III, for example, features a total of 7 seven classes (two of which come in the Reaper of Souls expansion), each catering to a different playstyle. Within each class there’s a multitude of possible builds thanks to skill trees and plenty of equipment.
Whether the class you pick is a mighty Barbarian leaping into the fray with reckless abandon or a Necromancer protected by minions and skeletal armor, each class can carve through hordes of enemies in their own way. If the style of Diablo III doesn’t appeal to you, you can check the remaster of Diablo II, a game still widely considered the best in the genre.
Dragon's Dogma: Dark Arisen
At the beginning of the game a dragon eats your heart, and all kinds of weird things start happening. Dragon’s Dogma features a simple, but satisfying and impactful class system. There are three basic, three advanced, and three hybrid vocations to choose from, and while you can’t exactly multiclass, you CAN switch classes more or less freely and share certain passive abilities (augments) between them.
Each vocation has a different combination of available weapons, armor, and/or magic spells, making each class feel very different from others, even on the same axis. Warrior is an advanced Vocation of a Fighter, but with a hefty two-handed weapon has an entirely different playstyle to its sword-and-board predecessor. Importantly: each class is effective, and core ones can easily compete with others.
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
Although it’s not directly related to Dungeons & Dragons, the Pillars of Eternity series takes clear inspiration from the classic tabletop RPG. Its classes are either taken straight from D&D or visibly inspired. In the sequel, PoE2: Deadfire, in addition to the already familiar selection of classes we also got a unique approach to multiclassing, including unique titles and a special level progression.
Although not ALL classes can be mixed, the mixes that are available have a unique title, such as “Sage” for a Wizard/Monk combo. Since classes also have ability trees this time around, a multiclass affects the skill point distribution. Each class also has several optional subclasses, tweaking some fundamental mechanic of the class for extra mechanical and narrative flavor.
Mass Effect Legendary Edition
|Genre:||Action role-playing, third-person shooter|
Classes available to Commander Shepard come in three basic specializations: combat, tech, and biotics. This in practice gives us three pure-focus classes (Soldier, Engineer, and Biotic, respectively), and three hybrids, such as the Infiltrator dipping into both tech and combat. In ME2 and ME3 each class also has access to a unique power, even the hybrids which didn’t have any unique skills in ME1.
Your companions have their own classes and abilities, some of them unique, some drawn from the same combat/tech/biotic pools as your own. While you can’t decide which class they follow, you still can control their progression, shaping them to your tastes. The system as a whole works perfectly: gives your Shepard cool abilities, but doesn’t distract you from the epic-scale, story-heavy experience.
Final Fantasy XIV
|Developer:||Square Enix Business Division 5|
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a MMORPG that has been on a rise for quite some time, on no small part thanks to substantial, well-received expansions, such as Heavensward or Stormblood. There are nine base classes, all of which can develop into advanced Jobs. There’s also a number of Jobs independent from Classes, unlocked by reaching a specific level and having a relevant expansion.
FFXIV’s class system Is interesting, because not only can you advance in all the classes and jobs as a single character, but you can also change your class simply by swapping one weapon for another. While you wouldn’t switch mid-combat if you have the necessary equipment at hand, you can change freely between encounters. It feels nice to be able to check out other classes without generating alts.
Deep Rock Galactic
|Developer:||Ghost Ship Games|
Deep Rock Galactic is a class-based, cooperative shooter exploring caves, mining minerals, and eradicating deadly monsters. DRG features four classes, Gunner, Driller, Scout and Engineer, each with a very specific role to play of course. The game puts a lot of emphasis on letting players create paths through the levels, be it with new tunnels and deployed platforms, or ziplines and grappling hooks.
Even the Gunner, the most heavily combat-oriented class, can aid mobility and deploy energy shields, extremely useful against the monsters dwelling in the caves. There’s little progression and most of it is cosmetic, but the narrow focus of each class is satisfying and requires good cooperation to complete each excursion into the dark caverns in good health and with a good haul.
Warhammer: Vermintide 2
The first Vermintide could arguably be described as a hero-based game, because you played as specific people and you just decided on their equipment. Vermintide 2, however, is very much a class-based game, because each of the five characters comes in at least three variants. There are also prestige classes available through DLC, at the time of writing available to three out of five characters.
Each class is naturally geared towards a specific role by a different selection of compatible weapon types as well as by unique passives and perks. For example, Marcus Kruber can be a ranged-first Huntsman, versatile Mercenary, tanky Foot Soldier with a mighty charge ability, or a melee-only, divinely empowered Grail Knight. Each class also has unique appearance and cosmetics, which is nice.
And so our list of the best games with class systems, and against all odds it’s not even limited to just role-playing games! Hopefully you’ve found a game, or a class system that sounds interesting. All of these games are solid and worth checking out, so you can just decide what sounds cool and jump in!