Role-playing games are a beloved staple of the industry. Ever since they moved from tabletop to desktop, they’ve captivated the hearts and minds of gamers of all ages. There’s something about the RPG genre that provides for a more immersive experience and satisfying narrative.
Of course, there are plenty of bad RPGs that sully the genre’s reputation, and it’s unfortunate that many of these titles happen to be free. Conversely, the RPGs worth playing often come with a price tag — one that isn’t always cheap.
But if you know where to look, you’ll find that there are the occasional free, high-quality titles that deserve to sit alongside those other games that ask for payment.
In terms of production quality, Path of Exile is the absolute king of this list by a long shot. It’s an action RPG in line with titles like Diablo III and Torchlight II, but despite the fact that it’s free, it still manages to offer stylish aesthetics and deep gameplay that rival the best paid games.
In fact, depending on who you ask, there are those who even prefer Path of Exile to the rest. That’s how good it is.
The main draw is its multi-layered and strategic approach to character progression — “skill tree” would be a huge understatement. Combine that with well-balanced itemization, ability design, and economy, and you’ve got the recipe for a winner.
While Path of Exile is technically an online RPG, only the central hub is globally multiplayer. The remainder of the world is instanced in such a way that you could play it entirely solo if you want, or you could bring a few friends along if you prefer that instead.
Let’s take a moment to explore a subgenre of RPGs called roguelikes. Long story short, these are RPGs that are notable for two reasons: procedurally generated worlds and permanent death. If that sounds undesirable to you, I ask that you give it a chance.
UnReal World will blow you away. The premise is survival in a harsh environment. The world is brand new every time you play, your character is brand new each time, and the goal is to last as long as you can. When you die, you die for good, but that’s okay because dying is part of the game.
Quick descriptions for this game will always sound shallow, but the world is incredibly deep and there are so many things to do. You’ll never get bored. The challenges are tough but surmountable, and you’ll have a blast living in this world (once you get past the primitive graphics). Few AAA games can match its complexity.
What’s amazing about UnReal World is that it’s been in development since 1992 and still receives regular updates to this day. That’s over 23 years of blood, sweat, and tears that have been put into this game — and it shows in the gameplay.
If you’re intrigued by the roguelike concept but are turned off because it sounds too hardcore for you, rest assured that you aren’t alone. Pixel Dungeon is a lightweight roguelike for Android that was made for people like you. But don’t confuse “lightweight” for “shallow” or “boring”, because Pixel Dungeon is great.
It’s simple enough. You explore the eponymous Pixel Dungeon floor by floor in search of the Amulet of Yendor. Along the way you kill monsters, collect loot, and advance your character. Each of the four classes presents an opportunity for a different gameplay style.
Pixel Dungeon is straightforward but challenging — a combination that makes for a highly addictive experience. If you want more like it, check out these other roguelikes for Android.
RPGs on the Play Store tend to fall into one of two categories: paid and interesting, or free and crappy. The occasional paid RPG will be sucky and worthy of refund, but it’s almost impossible to find a free RPG that’s good enough to sink some time into. There are a few, however, and Inotia 4 is one of them.
It sports a cast of six character classes, a party-based mercenary system, an active combat system, and a fantasy adventure story that feels like a callback to traditional RPGs of the past. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of a Game Boy-era RPG. (Possibly because it’s mobile, but still…)
It’s free to play, but you can make in-app purchases for extra items. If you like Inotia 4, go ahead and check out the prequel. It’s available on the Play Store, fittingly titled Inotia 3. Want even more? Check out these other Android RPGs that rock.
So, you’ve played Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim, have you? Or even if you haven’t, you’ve surely heard about this ground-breaking open-world RPG series? The franchise has one of the largest fanbases in RPG history, culminating in a massive modding community for Skyrim and a big following for The Elder Scrolls Online.
But most have never gone back to the true root of the series, and that’s The Elder Scrolls: Arena. It predates even Daggerfall, the semi-successful game that eventually led to Morrowind. Fortunately, since 2004, Arena has been 100% free to download.
Now, a word of warning: this game debuted in 1994. A lot has changed in the 20+ years since then. Arena has a pseudo-3D perspective that feels a lot like the original Doom. The interface is clunky and the graphics are the exact opposite of high-definition. But give it thirty minutes and none of that will matter.
Arena was revolutionary for its time, raising the bar for RPGs to come. There’s very much a “cult success” feel to the game, but it’s fun to play and uniquely captivating. Plus, isn’t it awesome to see the humble beginnings of what would later evolve into the smash hit Skyrim?
Free RPGs Can Be Good!
Do note that the RPGs on this list are all single-player, which means that there’s still an entire world of free-to-play MMORPGs for you to enjoy. If you have an abundance of time on your hands, these will fit into your schedule nicely.
What other free single-play RPGs are out there? Let us know what your favorites are by sharing with us in the comments below!