The definition of a role-playing game has morphed so that it is difficult to determine what is and isn’t considered role-playing. Should there be an element of leveling up, or does a game’s particular style make it role-playing? No matter how one defines the genre, there is little doubt that the Nintendo Switch has become a popular home for games that fall into the category. The following are the top 20 RPGs sold on the Nintendo Switch.
The 20 Best RPGs on Switch
20. 'The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim'
Kicking off the list is the latest addition to the Elder Scrolls franchise. When the Nintendo Switch was first announced back in 2016, it featured gameplay from Bethesda’s 2011 juggernaut. Many weren’t quite sure of the implications, having Skyrim on Nintendo’s mobile system. It didn’t take long for fans to realize Skyrim on the go was one of those things no one knew they wanted but was happy to have. The Switch breathed new life in the aging game, and legions of fans, old and new, found themselves playing the role of Dragonborn while not tethered to their living rooms.
19. 'The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt'
The Witcher 3’s relationship to the Switch is very similar to Skyrim’s. Released in 2015 to massive critical and commercial success, the game was yet another unexpected addition to the Switch’s roster. While the port is a bit rough around the address, the magic that originally appealed to fans years prior was still there. Players take on the role of Geralt of Rivia, a surly yet ultimately kind-hearted warrior in search of his missing ward Ciri. It’s a simple premise that unfolds into a massive adventure that features interdimensional wraiths, flying ships, and a host of other fantasy wonders. Like Skyrim, The Witcher is getting a bit long in the tooth, but it’s still worth a playthrough in 2021 and beyond.
18. 'Pokemon Sword and Shield'
I vaguely remember a childhood argument in which friends disagreed with my assertion that Pokemon Yellow was, in fact, a role-playing game. While they argued RPGs must have a fantasy setting, I maintained that Pokemon had everything else, from character level to the strategic elements, that made an RPG an RPG.
I suppose you could argue whether or not Pokemon belongs on this list of role-playing games but what you can’t deny is the game’s sustained success, despite a bit of controversy. Released in 2019, Sword and Shield is quite the evolution from past Pokemon games but still manages to stay true to the original titles. This is despite complaints from players that the game doesn’t feature a wide enough array of Pokemon to choose from. Even if true, this is a single stain in an otherwise polished title.
17. 'Xenoblade Chronicles 2'
The followup to the original Xenoblade Chronicles, which pushed the envelope in regards to fantasy worldbuilding, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 continues that tradition with an amazing world to get lost in. Released in 2017, the game takes inspiration from titles like Final Fantasy as it weaves together a complex story. While some tropes, such as the unlikely hero, are pushed into a conflict involving a mysterious character they recently befriended, it doesn’t take away from one of the Nintendo Switch’s most beloved titles.
16. 'Dragon Quest 11'
For a game to be on its 11th installment, something has to be going right. Dragon Quest, released in 2017, Dragon Quest 11 has seen some critical success, with its perfect score on Steam and high marks in other places. The game is more like the original title in the series, thanks to both its complexity and emphasis on RPG elements. Western audiences tended to steer clear of this title due to its somewhat cartoony aesthetics but an increasing number of people are learning that Dragon Quest is one of the purest RPG experiences in modern gaming.
15. 'Monster Hunter'
Despite a threadbare story, the Monster Hunter series has managed to garner quite the massive fanbase. The latest installment, Monster Hunter Rise, was released in March of this year and boasts almost all of the gameplay aspects that made the franchise popular in the first place. If the title isn’t clear, the player is tasked with hunting down monsters, each one stronger, larger, and more powerful than the one that came before it. The action is tempered by moments of brevity, but the game’s bread and butter are without question the mechanics around hunting and eliminating monsters. For a straightforward experience, feel free to check this game out.
14. 'Fire Emblem Three Houses'
The Fire Emblem series has always been your go-to source for high-stakes melodrama, and Three Houses is no exception. Released in 2019, this recent installment is all about feuds as much as it’s about the combat.
Fire Emblem Three Houses wears its tactical heart on its sleeve. The game has players choose from three houses, each with its strengths and weaknesses. The game expects players to exploit those strengths and weaknesses as players make their way through this epic installment. For those who have never played Fire Emblem, this title is a perfect one to get started. For those well-versed in the Fire Emblem universe, this game won’t disappoint.
13. 'Final Fantasy 7'
A classic. Final Fantasy 7 has asserted itself as the top game in a massive franchise, and it managed to do so simply by telling a compelling story. Originally released in 1997, Final Fantasy 7 is experiencing a bit of a resurgence, thanks in large part to last year’s remake of the title. While the Switch may not have the remake, what it does have is the original title, which remains popular among fans. For those wanting to experience the original fantasy themselves, the Switch is the ultimate console to do just that.
12. 'Final Fantasy 8'
The lesser-sung young brother to Final Fantasy 7. Final Fantasy 8, while not as massive as a hit as its immediate predecessor, has garnered quite the cult following of gamers who believe this game is criminally underrated. Released in 1999, this game balances an epic story with near-perfect pacing and in-depth mechanics. Technically speaking, this is Final Fantasy at its absolute best, at least until Final Fantasy 10-2 makes its debut. The game introduces you to its various mechanics in a straightforward way that doesn’t overwhelm players, which is a welcome change of pace from its predecessor and other entries in the series. While overshadowed by the previous game in the series, Final Fantasy 8 stands on its own merits.
11. 'Disgaea 5'
The Disgaea series has taught a generation of videogame enthusiasts not to pre-judge a game by its cartoonish appearance. While Disgaea may lean heavily on its cartoonish aesthetic, the game itself provides the kind of challenge not seen since Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicle. While many say that Fire Emblem is Crystal Chronicle’s spiritual successor, I believe Disgaea was a solid contender for that honor.
10. 'Dark Souls'
One of the few games on this list that managed to maintain its popularity despite years separating it from its 2011 release. It would seem with each new release of a game within the Souls series, or even each new release of a Souls-like game, this game’s popularity only increases. Switch players jumped on the port when it was released in 2018 and while it isn’t as smooth as the original 2011 release, it still gives that quintessential Souls experience, i.e. unrelenting difficulty. Many games have come along and tried to capture the Dark Souls magic but few are able to compete.
9. 'I Am Setsuna'
One of the Switch’s earlier installments, released with the system in 2017. The game has managed to garner a large player base, mostly out of sheer curiosity. Players knew of this title but weren’t quite sure what it was about. What players expected was a light-hearted indy game and what they got was an RPG that could go toe-to-toe with the heavy hitters of the genre. I am Setsuna is best described as an amalgamation of different JRPGs. It takes the best of turn-based combat and random encounters with enemies to construct a fascinating if not a bit tedious game. It more than makes up for it with a cast of characters that keep the game interesting.
8. 'The Outer Worlds'
Released in 2019, The Outer Worlds is a science-fiction role-playing game that has players explore a cosmos that is as absurd as it is dangerous. Widely compared to Fallout due to similar mechanics, The Outer Worlds plays like a Bethesda game but is actually the work of Take-Two Interactive. The game’s brand of humor is largely based on the setting and the characters who inhabit it, yet it still manages to be believable and grounded. The Outer Worlds is an all-around solid addition to any game library.
7. 'Bravely Default II'
One of the most successful RPGs in the DS’s massive library of games. Its sequel Bravely Default 2 came out in February and managed to meet all its expectations. Players wanted a game that picks up where the original left off, gameplay-wise and Bravely Default 2 manages to do that. Players wanted a game that wasn’t as needlessly long as the original and Bravely Default manages to do that by keeping the gameplay and story fresh and exciting. Just about everything is a marked improvement over the already popular original making this game a much buy for RPG fans and casual players alike.
6. 'Persona 5 Strikers'
I can’t exactly say when it happened but modern-day RPGs, at least the big ones, have made the transition from turn-based combat of Final Fantasy 7 to real-time hack-n-slash gameplay seen in Final Fantasy 15. Some players welcome the change, while others don’t, but there is little question this kind of combat seems to work better for some games relative to others. Persona 5 Strikers is one such game. Released last year, Persona 5 Strikers combines a frenzied story with even more frenzied gameplay. The package just seems to work, especially considering it is a Persona game.
5. 'Neverwinter Nights'
Neverwinter Nights is one of a number of legendary RPG that have either been ported or in the process of being ported to the Nintendo Switch. Originally released in 2002, Neverwinter Nights tells an epic story that got legions of players hooked when it originally came out. The folks at Nintendo hope that the enhanced edition, released in 2018 will have a similar effect on a new generation of gamers.
4. 'Call of Cthulhu'
Arguably one of H.P. Lovecraft’s most popular titles, Call of Cthulu is one of Lovecraft’s most remade and explored works of fiction. Call of Cthulu the game tries its best to stay true to the original sourcework, and in many respects, it manages to accomplish that. Released in 2018, Call of Cthulu puts you in the shoes of a detective hired to investigate the strange goings-on stemming from the death of a prominent artist. The player quickly finds themselves in a, well, a Lovecraftian horror. While the game manages to nail the atmosphere, it is somewhat short on scares. To navigate the game, players must manage their skills, including strength, knowledge of the arcane, and everything in between. While the game didn’t make as large of a splash as the developers at Cyanide had hoped, it’s still well worth a playthrough.
3. 'The Banner Saga'
A fantasy game that introduces you to its world by throwing you in headfirst. The Banner Saga, originally released in 2014 by the developers at Stoic Studio, is sold alongside its equally excellent sequels for a massive story inspired by Nordic folklore and mythology. The Banner Saga stays true to its RPG inspiration by implementing a turn-based fighting system that manages to be unlike any turn-based system seen in other RPGs. Everything from the gameplay to the hand-drawn art style adds to the uniqueness of the game.
2. 'DC Universe Online'
A game that has probably appeared on more consoles than any other game on this list, DC Universe Online has been around since its release in 2011. DC Universe Online allows players to create their own superhero persona and stand with the greatest heroes or villains in the DC universe. The game has managed to maintain a player base large enough to justify regular content releases, even after an entire decade. Players aren’t likely to get bored going through everything this game has to offer.
1. 'Octopath Traveler'
Another one of the Switch’s early RPG offerings, Octopath Traveler puts you in the shoes of eight characters whose journeys coincide with each other in interesting ways. The combat and gameplay might be reminiscent of your standard JRPG but that hardly matters since most players will be engrossed in the excellent narrative. Octopath Traveler, released in 2018, rounds off this list as the best RPG in the Switch’s library.