Old School PC RPGs Are Coming Back And These 4 Games Lead The Charge

Robert Wiesehan 03-07-2014

Baldur’s Gate. Planescape: Torment. Fallout. It’s been more than 10 years since these revolutionary PC RPGs graced our bulky CRT monitors. If you’re old enough to have played these classics (or curious enough to have picked them up on Steam or GOG), you know that the hardware constraints of the late 90s and early 2000s didn’t keep them from introducing memorable characters, sprawling worlds, and flexible quests that invited us to solve our problems with our wits or silver tongues as readily as we could with our weapons.

If you miss adventures like these, you’re in luck! A number of developers are making games that will remind you of everything you loved about the classics, but with modern presentation and design ideas that can pique the interest of a new generation of gamers. These RPGs, from the fully released, to early access, to still on the horizon, will show you the fun of adventuring the old school way.

Expeditions: Conquistador $19.99

If you totally missed Conquistador, you’re in good company. This 2013 release slipped out quietly and didn’t get widely reviewed by games press outlets, but it’s an underappreciated gem that’s worth a look if you love tactical RPGs. You’ll play a Spanish explorer of your own making, accompanied by a full crew of scouts, doctors, scholars, and more. As a 16th century conquistador, your mission to explore and colonize the new world will be full of challenges. Natives don’t take kindly to your invasion, and even the basic task of exploring the wilderness demands that you hunt for food, make safe campsites, and assign crew members to watch for danger.

Expect Conquistador to be a tough game if you don’t dial the difficulty back, but the cool part is, losing a single encounter isn’t just a game over that forces you to reload your save. Crew members may sustain major injuries if you suffer a defeat, but life goes on. When the only way to advance is by winning every encounter, winning is nothing special. In Conquistador, your victories are meaningful because failure has lasting consequences.

Wasteland 2 $59.99

It’s been over 25 years since the original Wasteland came out, but the game’s creator, Brian Fargo, was convinced that PC gamers would eagerly fund a sequel. Nearly $3 million in Kickstarter funding later, he had the financing he needed to make his dream a reality. In Wasteland 2, you’ll explore a vast, gorgeously rendered post-apocalyptic America with a squad of rugged survivors. The game will be filled with choices that have real impact on how its story plays out, and promises to offer players many ways to overcome their obstacles. Held back by a locked door? There’s no need to go scrounging for the key when you can blow it open with a rocket launcher.

Wasteland 2 is in Steam’s early access program I Promise Steam Early Access Isn't Ruining Gaming [Opinion] Steam's Early Access program allows developers to sell Alpha versions of games currently in development. The system gives players the opportunity to speak with their wallets if they want to support a work in progress... Read More , so you can play it in an unfinished state right now if you like. Be aware though that you’ll pay more now than you would for the game’s final release. Paying the early access premium price gets you two eBook novellas, the game’s soundtrack, and a digital art book.

Divinity: Original Sin $39.99

Original Sin is the latest in Larian Studios long running Divinity series. It’s another Kickstarter-to-early-access title that’s expected to be ready for a full release at the end of June, and it’s clear why the game is making a great impression on RPG fans. Just look at all the variety in the trailer above! Spells interact with the landscape to create bonus effects like electrified water. Environments are lively and filled with interactive objects. Conversations have many options and, according to the developer, lasting consequences. On top of all of that, you can play the whole campaign alongside a friend if you like. It’s a welcome option in a genre crowded with solitary experiences.

Torment: Tides of Numenera

Another RPG called Torment? It isn’t an accident. Though Tides of Numenera isn’t a sequel to the Planescape title mentioned in the intro, it’s intended to be a spiritual successor, and its Kickstarter excited fans to the tune of over 4 million dollars. inXile Entertainment, the studio behind Wasteland 2, has teamed up with Dungeons & Dragons design alum Monte Cook to bring his unique science fantasy world of Numenera to life. The game will set you loose on Earth one billion years in the future, and so transformed by the species that lived on it after humanity as to make it unrecognizable to us. What kind of adventures will we have in a world of lost technology so advanced it’s indistinguishable from magic? We’ll find out in late 2015, but you can learn more about the setting at the game’s Kickstarter page, or by checking out the Numenera tabletop RPG.

Better still, you can watch me run the Numenera tabletop RPG for the Technophilia Podcast right here!


The return of the old style PC RPG definitely benefits from the nostalgia of PC gamers who remember the great games from the turn of the millennium, but it’s no empty manipulative tactic. Odds are, many of the developers working on these new titles fondly remember the classics that drove them to join the industry in the first place. Their passion for the adventures that inspired them as young gamers will push them to make the next must-play hits of their favorite genre.

Alright, time to talk shop. What’s that one game that absolutely hooked you on this style of PC RPG? Mine is Fallout 2. Tell me yours in the comments!

Looking for a new MMORPG? Maybe Wildstar is right for you Is Wildstar The Next Great MMORPG? Is Wildstar the right game for you? Learn about the game's unique features here, and decide for yourself! Read More .

Explore more about: Retro Gaming, Role-Playing Games.

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  1. gshuford
    March 7, 2016 at 1:50 am

    This is one of the most appropriate lists I've seen. Great suggestions. I'd like to add that there's a company called Spiderweb Software (Avernum and Geneforge series) which makes GREAT (albeit low-end graphics) Isometric party-designed turn-based RPGs with huge worlds and plenty of quests, sidequests, and general pen-and-paper style games.

  2. Angst
    July 10, 2014 at 11:50 am

    Picked up Blackguards on steam, because it looked reminiscent of older hex-based RPG's; found it rather enjoyable, actually. Would have missed it completely if not for a random sighting.

  3. Scott M
    July 3, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    Anyone play Arcanum? There was another in a long line of great RPGs of that era.

  4. Josh W
    July 3, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    If you don't mind, but I think you're missing a few others. First of all, there's Pillars of Eternity (which used to be called Project Eternity). I know that one is still a ways out, but it should be considered part this retro revival. And then there is every game by Spiderweb Software, most notably the Avadon series.

    And if you really want to talk about old-school PC RPG revival games, then you should also talk about The Legend of Grimrock and the Might & Magic X: Legacy, going all the way back to first-person, grid based, Eye of the Beholder kind of gameplay. Now if we can just get someone to bring back something that resembles the old SSI, Gold Box Engine RPGs, but with better UI, then we'd be talking!

    Thanks to the internet, it turns out that there is no such thing as a dead genre, just old ones that still have audiences waiting for new installments of their favorite styles.

    • Robert W
      July 7, 2014 at 8:25 pm

      Pillars of Eternity should have made it in. Sorry I missed it!

      As for Legend of Grimrock and M&M: Legacy, I was specifically going for the isometrics here. The first person grids are seeing some new titles too though, and those are some solid recent picks.

      Thanks for adding those titles to the conversation!