The 12 best epic fantasy games you can play right now
As we hit the home stretch of video game month, we wanted to take a look at some of the best fantasy games on the market. If you’re looking to scratch your fantasy itch, this dozen is a great place to start.
From exploring the worlds of Middle-earth, to solving mysteries with Mickey and the gang, to dusting off the old SNES to rediscover one of the best RPGs ever made — we try to run the gamut of fantasy classics.
So check out our recommendations below and let us know your favorite fantasy games:
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
This 2015, modern-gen console game is basically Lord of the Rings brought to life — and it is glorious. Technically, the story is set between the events of The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings, and follows a ranger who was killed by the Black Hand of Sauron. The ranger, Talion, has his spirit merged with the wraith of an Elf Lord, and the they strike out on a mission of vengeance. It’s epic, story-driven and filled with more than enough hacking and slashing to keep you entertained, and a plot worthy of taking place in Middle-earth.
Dragon Age: Origins
This BioWare fantasy RPG thrusts players into the role of either a warrior, mage or rogue, as they work to unite kingdoms and repel a pending invasion of a mysterious demonic force called Darkspawn. Released in 2009, the game was one of the most ambitious fantasy games at the time. Developers reportedly described it as a “dark heroic fantasy,” and the game felt like the spiritual successor to BioWare’s previous critical hits Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights. It spawned some solid sequels which are worth checking out, but it’s hard to beat the game that started it all.
This action RPG is largely built around the concept of exploration, as players take on the role of a cursed undead character making a pilgrimage to the Undead Asylum. The game play, level design and music created one heck of a unique world, leading Dark Souls to pull in numerous “Best Of” awards when it hit shelves in 2011. It creates a deep experience by being simple, which is a rare feat to pull off.
World of Warcraft
The granddaddy of them all. If you’re looking to put yourself in the shoes of a classic fantasy character, it’s hard to go wrong with the unstoppably huge MMORPG World of Warcraft. The game peaked with more than 12 million subscribers, and currently boasts a healthy 5.5 million users — which all pales in comparison to the mind-boggling total of 100 million player accounts that have been created over the game’s decade-long lifespan. It’s huge, it’s massive, and it can easily engulf your life. Proceed with caution.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
You could’ve gone with half a dozen different Zelda games (play ‘em all, you can’t go wrong), but this unique entry felt like a great way to shake things up. Originally released on the GameCube, this unique take on the classic Zelda formula takes advantage of cel-shaded graphics to create a truly gorgeous world for Link to explore. Even better? It was rereleased for WiiU in 2013, with a massive HD graphic upgrade that makes the game even more beautiful. Track it down, you won’t regret it.
Skies of Arcadia
This RPG was originally released on Sega’s ill-fated (but awesome) Dreamcast, and though it didn’t prove a massive commercial hit, it garnered more than a few RPG fans. The story focuses on Vyse, a young air pirate in a Jules Verne-inspired fantasy world, and his friends as they attempt to save the world from an evil empire. The game has one of the most unique settings out there, and the gameplay is top notch. It also got a port to the GameCube after the Dreamcast went kaput, though both versions will cost a chunk of change to track down on the secondary market. But, take the plunge on eBay, it’s totally worth it.
Shadow of the Colossus
Released in the mid-2000s by Sony’s Team Ico, this title pops up fairly frequently on “Best Game Ever” lists. Released at a time when video games were still working to gain respect as a viable piece of cultural art, Shadow of the Colossus pushed the boundaries of what people thought you could do with a video game. It’s essentially a giant puzzle game, as a young man explores a mysterious land. But, it doesn’t follow the usual video game formula, which makes it so refreshing (to this day). If you’re not up for finding a PS2 copy, the game was remastered and released on PS3 a few years ago.
Released by Square way back in 1995, there’s a contingent of gamers who would still argue this is the best video game ever made. Which, heck, they might be right. Chrono Trigger helped pioneer the modern day RPG genre, and pushed the boundaries to make it what it is today. The story followed a group of adventurers who travel through time to stop a global catastrophe, but it’s so much more than that logline. The game is also distinctly Japanese, and includes some fantastic music and art (especially considering we’re talking about the mid-1990s here).
Final Fantasy XII
It’s hard to pick just one Final Fantasy game, and even trying is almost certain to start a flame war. Most of them are great, and you can’t go wrong by just picking one up. But, this PS2 installment is among the best. It epitomizes this: a solid story that merges the personal with the universal; thoughtful and flexible gameplay; a world so immersive, detailed and cohesive that it occupies a real place in the mind; absolutely superior dialogue writing; delicate, humanizing character development; and a balanced marrying of story exposition and world immersion.
This Wii action RPG proved to be a critical hit, mixing elements of fantasy and science fiction to create a truly unique world. The log line can be a bit hard to follow, but we’ll give it a shot: The game takes place on the frozen bodies of two warring gods, and a great war that rages between the races there. The war hits home for the protagonist Shulk, who realizes he is capable of wielding a powerful weapon that could decide the fate of the world. It mixes an open world design with classic RPG elements for a perfect mix. It also won a ton of awards upon release, and deservedly so.
Valkyria Chronicles Remastered
Who doesn’t love a little bit of alt-history mixed in with their fantasy? This story is set in the Europa, which is loosely based on World War II-era Europe, and follows a great war over a valuable element called Ragnite ore. Players take on a militia tasked with repelling the invasion, which is no easy task. The gameplay and story are great, but the real standout for this title is the graphics. Valkyria Chronicles uses a unique graphical style that looks almost like a pencil sketching the events as they happen, which makes the game a true pleasure to play.
It sounds like a weird pitch: Put the worlds of Disney and Final Fantasy in a blender, and see what comes out. But, boy did it work. The PS2 original sold millions upon millions of copies, spawning a franchise that is beloved to this day. The original game puts the player in charge of a small party made up of Square and Disney characters, as they navigate a rich fantasy world populated with characters you know and love. It may sound silly on the surface, but the gameplay is fantastic and so is the story. Don’t let the Disney connection fool you — this is a fantastic work of fantasy.