Top Ten Fantasy RPG Video Games to Inspire Your Game Night
Updated: Dec 8, 2022
I think if one were to draw a Venn Diagram of people who play TTRPGs and people who play video games, in most cases it would be a complete circle with not that many outliers. Over the years, I have been the "forever GM" and I've run so many TTRPG games that sometimes the content can kind of feel like a rehash when I do it too often. I try to sort of spice up my way of thinking by immersing myself in books or watching lots of movies to get myself into a creative headspace when it comes to designing a new homebrew world or injecting my usual narratives with twists and turns that will surprise even the most experienced player. RPG video games can give your creative energies a recharge, so I'm here to tell you about my top ten RPG video games* that I think will help out your TTRPG game nights. * This is a list of CURRENT RPG games you can play on various consoles, not a list of past games on consoles that might not be around anymore. Depending on what system you own, you may or may not be able to play them. And I'm not including PC, since I haven't owned one for years. These may be available through Steam on PC but for the purposes of this blog entry, these are all console games.
Want a free adventure you can play tonight with 30 minutes of prep? Have one on us! https://headlesshydrapress.ck.page/d3b48c4324
I feel like Dragon's Crown belongs on this list because while it is not fully fleshed out in the way a traditional RPG is, this style of game harkens back to the days of the old D&D or Golden Axe games. Traversing its 2D linear levels is sometimes enough for me to think about how I want to lay out a dungeon or may give me inspiration on my adventure's tone, or aesthetics. The art is beautiful, and it's a super fun way to spend an afternoon while you're recharging your GM batteries.
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: DARK ALLIANCE
PC/PS4/PS5/XBox One/XBox Series S/X
So, in the same vein as Dragon's Crown, Dark Alliance is another beat-'em-up, but unlike Dragon's Crown this one is related to D&D and also has more RPG elements. I love gaming in a D&D environment, and in this game, you actually take control of characters who are well-known in D&D lore from the Forgotten Realms setting; Drizzt Do'Urden, Bruenor Battlehammer, Catti-Brie, and Wulfgar whom you level up as you go, outfitting the characters with new weapons, armor, and skills as you progress. This game gets me pumped up to play actual D&D with friends, and I will often play it a little bit before our TTRPG session just to get myself in the mood. But there's lots to mine here for your own TTRPG sessions, such as tone, ideas for adventure settings, and even ways in which to portray various D&D monsters you may not have thought of.
PS3/PS4/XBox 360/XBox One/Nintendo Switch/PC
Just ahead of the other two action/RPG hybrids comes Diablo III. As opposed to the other two games, this game lets you create and name your own character providing an even deeper RPG element. Since you're able to team up with friends online, and since it's basically just a dungeon crawl with a heavy focus on treasure, it can really help inform your own dungeon layouts. What's interesting in Diablo III is that the dungeons may be able to be translated into your own TTRPG dungeons. The game also has an interesting tone, cool character classes, and lots of creepy monsters to take inspiration from.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD
Nintendo Switch/Wii U
You may not be able to create your own character with this game like you can in Diablo III, but it is the first of the games I've listed that let you explore a vast swath of game world that lets you truly feel like you're experiencing a homebrew TTRPG experience. With Link as your avatar, there's a lot to take in. Seeing Hyrule open up as you wander can help inform your own traveling experiences as you guide your players through your map, or make you think differently about how your monsters would appear to the PCs in your game.
DRAGON QUEST 11
PC/PS4/PS5/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch
Dragon Quest is a long and beloved series, and Dragon Quest 11 is arguably the best game in its history. The graphics for an RPG of this style are pretty nice, and the characters are all pretty interesting with their own quirks and traits which make them stand out. This is what I like to call an "ensemble" game, and half the enjoyment in these types of games is how the characters interact with each other. While you can't create your own characters, you can progress the skill trees of the individual characters to better fit your own style. The way the party interacts and the NPCs you meet in your travels and the beautiful dungeon maps are all potential inspiration fodder for your TTRPG game nights.
DIVINITY: ORIGINAL SIN II
PC/PS4/XBox One/ Nintendo Switch
Like Dragon Quest II, Divinity is a progression-based RPG but like Diablo III, there is more of an action-based element to it for a great blend of action and RPG. And, unlike Dragon Quest you can actually create your own character. The character creation is a bit more involved than Diablo III so it feels more like your own character rather than a template. The story is text-based with the option to drive your own responses, so it feels more like a traditional TTRPG than some of the entries before this do. However, the game world isn't as open as some of the other entries ahead of this one. As with other entries on this list, you can find lots to mine here for your TTRPG purposes such as spell effects, story mechanics, and even the way that towns are put together.
MONSTER HUNTER WORLD
Monster Hunter World is a very interesting game in that it does blend character creation and action and some story into a great package but also that it treats the monsters you fight as a resource management game. This particular mechanic and the way that the world is constructed could be great fodder for homebrew TTRPG settings in which the players must collect resources from the monsters they hunt in order to create better or more magical items. The world is pretty open but can still sort of feel kind of linear, which to me is one of the only drawbacks.
THE WITCHER III: WILD HUNT
PC/PS4/PS5/XBox One/XBox Series X/S/Nintendo Switch
While not a game in which you can create your own character, The Witcher III has some of the best and most complex storylines you can find in an RPG. The graphics are great, the gameplay is fun, and you can even play an original card game WITHIN The Witcher that is super addictive. When I play this game, as a GM I give all my attention to the story lines and how each choice you make affects what happens later on in the game. Also, there are some really interesting monsters from which to draw inspiration from.
Elden Ring is one of the best RPGs out there, with a deep lore system written in part by George R R Martin and lots and lots of hidden areas and NPCs to find. The character creation isn't terribly complex but there's just enough variety to keep it interesting. The boss fights are what set this game apart and is something you should really pay attention to as a GM. How the dragons compare in size to the characters, what sorts of weapons are available to use (magical or not), and the different motivations of each boss and demi-boss can all inspire you to elevate your own TTRPG experience.
THE ELDER SCROLLS V: SKYRIM
PC/PS3/PS4/XBox One/Nintendo Switch
Probably the ultimate game you could hope to play to inspire your TTRPG nights is one of the most classic, despite it being for current gen systems. Skyrim is the absolute culmination of action, RPG, character creation, and exploration. The landscapes are genuinely beautiful and immersive, the NPCs are often interesting, the game world has a ton of lore to explore inside and outside the game (you can even open books within the game and read short stories written by NPCs), and there are some beautiful questlines, magic weapons, and monsters to draw inspiration from. Anytime I want to get pumped up to play with my TTRPG group I think about popping in my copy of Skyrim and giving it another whirl.
Anyway, thanks for reading. These are my choices but if you've got any more ideas, feel free to let me know in the comments! - Joe