In the two-and-a-half years since launch, Nintendo Switch has collected a huge number of quality titles across almost every category, and the RPG genre is certainly no exception. The following is a selection of the console's essential role-playing games - in no particular order - which will evolve over time as Switch's library expands even further.
Perhaps more than any other type of game, there are debates to be had over stratified categories, sub-genres, side-genres, -likes, -lites, -like-lites, etc. Those granular discussions can be fun, but a difference of opinion is inevitable. There are a host of more action-oriented RPGs that we've excluded here - given Switch's ample library, spreading the genres out a little gives games across the spectrum more room to breathe.
So, this collection steps away from the 'action' prefixed branch, instead embracing a more traditional role-playing flavour. Rest assured, the big names that you might have otherwise expected will get their recognition elsewhere in due course, but the games below are a standout selection with more traditional RPG mechanics. Be sure to dive into our reviews via the appropriately titled 'OUR REVIEW' button for detailed breakdowns on each and every one.
So sit back, relax and get ready to enjoy some sweeping epics...
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Xenoblade Chronicles 2 is a massive, sprawling JRPG built by Monolith Soft, who developed the previous two entries and the Baten Kaitos games on the GameCube. The team also helped Nintendo design the world of Breath of the Wild, so there's no doubting the pedigree. You'll explore a massive open world made up of Titans – enormous living creatures that house entire civilisations on their bodies. Along the way you'll meet a wide variety of characters, solve a bunch of quests, and save the world. It's Monolith Soft doing what it does best, albeit without shaking off the occasional flaws of the series. This is another Xenoblade gem, though, and a must-have RPG.
Xenoblade Chronicles 2 has a massive standalone DLC, Torna: The Golden Country, that's also well worth playing through. It serves as a prequel to the events of 2, so you can play it before or after.
Undertale is a brilliant and smartly designed game that understands well what makes a good RPG work; so much so that it can upend expectations and deliver something that’s almost a satire of the genre. You fall into the underworld and explore a humour-tinged world full of fun things to do. You'll date a skeleton, dance with a robot, and cook delicious dishes with a woman who's part-fish. Or, you can do none of those things – Undertale delights in letting you decide what to do.
It manages to surprise you in so many unique ways, and even if it doesn’t look like much, Undertale has way more going for it under the surface. Excellently written characters, a genre-bending battle system and a solid soundtrack make this one an easy recommendation. Do yourself a favour and give this one a download.
While Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition doesn’t make any major changes to the original game, it does combine practically every piece of exclusive content into one wholesome package. With the benefit of some improved visuals in both cutscenes and gameplay, it’s very difficult to recommend this JRPG classic on any other system than Nintendo Switch thanks to how well it performs in both docked and handheld modes. If you’ve missed out on this classic, there’s never been a better way to rectify that error.
Despite a title that suggests it came out of a name generator, Battle Chasers: Nightwar is a satisfying slice of JRPG with visuals inspired by the likes of World of Warcraft, Divinity: Original Sin, and classic Diablo adventures. It forges a confident, colourful character of its own from formulaic ingredients. The approachable comic style, plus a couple of neat mechanics that encourage experimentation, give it a freshness that belies the age-old systems at its core, and it doesn’t waste your time with filler. Ultimately, it’s the same old story – numbers go up! – but it’s shot through with an infectious exuberance and attention to detail that reinvigorates old tropes.
Child of Light is an absolutely gorgeous RPG developed in the same UbiArt Framework that gifted us Rayman Origins and Legends. You play as Aurora, who's on a quest to save her ill father and former kingdom. It also features co-op, with one player taking on the role of Igniculus, the shiny little ball of light.
The ‘light’ in the title sums things up nicely – you get game mechanics usually reserved for massive RPG epics in a concise package that’s as beautifully refreshing as when it was first released. It’s a shame to see framerate hitches – however occasional they may be – but they’re not enough to cast a shadow on this delightful adventure.
Final Fantasy VII is the sort of game that speaks for itself, a touchstone of game design that played a large role in setting the standard of RPGs for years to come. It goes without saying that you should give Final Fantasy VII a shot if you consider yourself to be a fan of RPGs, as this is an experience unlike any other in many ways. With that being said, it’s also the sort of thing that has since been surpassed in almost every manner by games that took the concepts it introduced and expanded upon them in plenty of new and more interesting ways. Final Fantasy VII is a relic of its time, but that doesn’t mean it’s to be respected any less; if you can look past the obviously antiquated elements, this is a well-paced, engaging RPG that’s still fun to play today.
An indie adventure with a lush world, fun characters, and enjoyable battles, Earthlock brings the soul of PS1-era JRPGs to the Switch with excellent results. Inconsistent dialogue and notable load times are among its few missteps, but as a package, it captures the appeal of the epoch wonderfully. If you’re looking for a fresh-feeling JRPG that still calls back to the classics, this is a lovely choice.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole is a direct sequel to The Stick of Truth, and once again places you in the shoes of the New Kid. You'll fight alongside your favourite South Park characters in the superhero group Coon and Friends against the villainous Professor Chaos who is trying to eliminate them.
Don't be fooled by the cartoon visuals, as this is not one for the kids. The humour – while hilarious – is offensive and adult in nature. You'll create your own super hero, complete with costume, origin story, and superpowers as you explore South Park at night to save it from evil. While it’s no great leap from the mechanics of the first game, it still offers an ideal introduction for players looking to try out a turn-based RPG and would make a worthy addition to any genre fan's collection.
Pokémon: Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! are beautiful reimaginings of a video game classic, updating a 20-year-old game in ways which make it infinitely more accessible and user-friendly for a modern audience, while keeping the magic first discovered all those years ago. On the downside, the newly-introduced motion control mechanic is fun but flawed, forcing us to shift from one play style to another to get the best experience, and while efforts have been made to bring the game up to the standard of more recent entries when it comes to depth and complexity, hardcore fans may consider the whole experience too much of a cakewalk.
Still, the game does a superb job of striking a balance between being an easy route of entry for newcomers to the series and offering just enough post-game challenge and competitive play elements (and nostalgia, of course) to please series veterans; as a result, these new titles really do offer something for everyone, which can't always be said of the mainline Pokémon entries. They might not be an absolute masterpiece, but we’d urge any Poké-fans out there to give these ones a go – if a Let’s Go Johto sequel is on the cards, we’ll happily be there waiting in line.