We’re here to talk about some good old-school RPG games for PC. Our list will be split into two main sections: RPGs that are actually retro and modern RPG releases for PC that are styled after retro RPGs.
Pretty straightforward, so no use letting the intro section drag on. Let’s just get to the games.
Actual Retro RPGs
Let’s kick things off with some games that are actually old-school, through and through, released quite a long time ago.
We’ve also made a point of choosing games that can still be purchased and played on modern PC systems.
These days, the Fallout games are known for providing huge 3D open worlds ripe for exploration and customization, but the series got started with two isometric RPGs. In fact, the full title of this one is Fallout: A Post-Nuclear R.P.G.
The first game, just called Fallout, is surprisingly grim even in comparison to some of the darker 3D entries.
With lots of dialogue and some brutal combat executed via an early version of the V.A.T.S. system, the first Fallout game is definitely still worth checking out, especially if you’re in the mood to dive into something that feels unabashedly old-school.
You can buy this game on Steam.
This list is going to have a good number of action RPGS, or A-RPGs, as well, so just prepare yourself for that.
The first Diablo game is a classic A-RPG originally released in 1997. There’s some lore to dig into, but the basic premise is easy enough to grasp. You need to kill off the Lord of Terror and live long enough to get to him in the first place.
Buy and collect weapons, spells, and items to help you with your journey. And if you want, go for an OP character build that makes you feel like a god.
While some youngsters might scoff at these visuals, the first Diablo actually holds up really well, outside of how the controls feel.
Also, and this is a pretty important point of discussion when talking about old games, you can easily buy the game for modern systems, via GOG, and for relatively little cash as well.
Final Fantasy VII
Well, here it is, one of the most well-regarded old-school RPGs, and it’s turn-based to boot.
The Final Fantasy series eventually just got too big to continue in this style, making the move to full 3D worlds and real-time combat, but if you’re looking to travel back to the good old days, here’s your portal.
Even if you’re not super familiar with the Final Fantasy franchise, the seventh mainline entry is just a delightful trip, and the story still holds some great twists for the uninitiated.
You can buy this game for modern PCs on Steam, and of course there’s also the full remake if you want something that doesn’t feel old-school whatsoever.
Ultima VII: The Black Gate
Ok, this is probably the oldest-school of anything on our list. Released in 1992 for PC/DOS systems, Ultima VII, nowadays just formatted as Ultima 7, is a classic C-RPG (computer RPG), and the series creator feels that it’s one of the best in the series, if not the best.
Yes, it’s pretty stiff when compared to modern standards, and you need to be ready to engage in a lot of dialogue with NPCs, but there’s always going to be something really satisfying about this kind of outdated C-RPG gameplay.
You can pick this one up on GOG for just a few bucks.
Modern Retro-Style RPGs
Ok, now it’s time to talk about some modern RPGs that borrow either their look or gameplay or both from the kinds of classic RPGs we were just talking about.
It goes without saying that all these games can be purchased and played on modern systems, and we hope that stays true for many years to come.
With relatively simple pixel art and some genuinely goofy ideas, Lisa, otherwise known as Lisa: The Painful RPG, might trick you into thinking that it’s actually very similar to the games in the Mother series that clearly inspired it, but that’s not really the case.
Yes, the Mother games could be quite dark at times, but Lisa takes dark concepts and cynicism to a whole other level.
The game is constantly forcing you to make difficult moral decisions, and it rarely rewards you for treating other characters well.
Also, as you might have picked up on by now, this is a difficult game. The combat is turn-based, and you’ll need to use a fair amount of actual strategy to get through many encounters. The game also doesn’t give you convenient save points, so expect to repeat many encounters a good few times before you actually make it to the next save point.
The game also tends to sabotage you and your party without warning, so a party member may go missing, or you might realize that one of your recent choices is definitely going to make the game more difficult for you.
But if you’re willing to stick it out, you’ll be rewarded with some goofy elements, weirdo characters, and humor that’s actually, ya know, funny.
Oh yeah, and you can buy the game right here.
Undertale is one of the most famous indie games of all time, and it also happens to be a kind of RPG, featuring turn-based combat and creative encounters that force you to question video game norms.
Taking some clear influence from the likes of Earthbound (Mother 2) and Moon, Undertale is an accessible and thoroughly entertaining pixel art experience that will let you explore a fascinating world while serenading you with some excellent music.
If we talk about too many details of the gameplay and story progression, there will be a real risk of spoiling some really fun stuff, so we’ll have to leave it here for now, but if, for some reason, you haven’t played Undertale yet, here’s your final push across the starting line.
You can buy the Steam version here.
If what you want most from your RPGs is creativity and density, then Disco Elysium will be a match made in heaven.
Throughout the game, you’re facing down bad guys both in the real world and inside your own brain.
Different parts of your consciousness will pipe in at different times, offering what seem like insights, and it’s up to you to decide which of these insights are genuine and helpful and which will send you into a spiral of terminal self-doubt.
It’s a tough game at times, but thankfully the art and the writing help keep your real-life brain afloat as you carve your way through this tangled post-apocalyptic world.
You can buy the game here.