Best Fantasy Games
This page will look into what I believe to be the best computer and/ or console games ever made in the genre of fantasy.
Many, many games have some form of fantasy elements. Game characters are likely to have special abilities, like being able to fly, having super strength or other powers. Also, games are often set in imaginary worlds with creatures such zombies, orcs, elves and vampires that either are playable characters or enemies.
While not all games have a strict link with fantasy as we know it from books and movies, several clearly are based on the classical form of fantasy with elves, goblins and the lot. I do have a preference for this type of fantasy but important to note is that, when creating this top 10, I didn’t make distinctions between different types of fantasy games.
1. Final Fantasy
Created by Hironobu Sakaguchi in 1987, Final Fantasy is one of the longest running and most popular video games ever made. All combined, about 100 million copies of games have been sold. The games are RPG’s (role playing games) and have a distinct Japanese style but also outside Japan they are very popular. Especially Final Fantasy VII, X and XII are seen as masterpieces.
The games have great story lines, both fantasy and science fiction elements and each new version raises the gameplay and graphics bar for the entire industry.
Made by Blizzard Entertainment, each of the Warcraft games are extremely good. The theme of the Warcraft games is the struggle between mainly humans, orcs, dwarves and elves on several continents of the planet Azeroth.
Warcraft I, II en III were real-time strategy games on the PC, all very popular and critically acclaimed. The biggest hit has been and still is World of Warcraft (often referred to as WoW), the most popular and most successful MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) around. With millions of players and regular expansion packs, it is the pinnacle of online gaming and a goldmine for Blizzard. There is competition, e.g. from The Lord of the Rings Online, EverQuest and Age of Conan, but WoW is easily the game to beat in this genre and will be for a long time to come.
A movie adaptation of Warcraft, directed by Sam Raimi (director of Army of Darkness and Hercules & Xena), has been in the pipeline for some time but when it will be made and what the story will be like is still unclear.
Created in 1986 and having sold about 60 million copies since, Zelda is one of the major game series of Nintendo. The setting is classical high fantasy with a storyline revolving around magic, gods and artifacts.
The main character Link is an elf-like character who, throughout the games, is continuously trying to save Princess Zelda and/ or looking for pieces of the Triforce in order to prevent evil forces from taking over the world.
The games are best described as action-adventures but puzzle/ riddle solving also plays a fair part. Many Zelda games have been made over the last 15 years and many of these games, especially The Legend of Zelda, are considered to be among the best games ever made. The latest Zelda game “The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword” is expected for 2011.
The Diablo games are action-RPGs with a dark fantasy style. Like Warcraft, Diablo is also made by Blizzard Entertainment. The player is a warrior who has to face monsters, undead beings and demons from Hell, eventually facing the three Prime Evils from Hell (the end-bosses of the game): Mephisto, Baal and of course Diablo. The games are of the “hack and slash” type in a setting often described as “dungeon roaming” as the player travels through several levels often taking place in dungeons.
Released in 1997, Diablo I was a very good game but Diablo II even surpassed it. Diablo III (watch the trailers) is currently in development. When it will be released has not yet been made public but it will most likely be somewhere in 2011.
5. Baldur’s Gate
Baldur’s Gate is an RPG made by BioWare. It is comparable to Diablo but somewhat less action-orientated. The game has a license to make use of the Dungeons and Dragons rules-set and also uses some of the Forgotten Realms characters.
The story of the game revolves around the main character fighting demons, evil gods, vampires and the like in and around the city of Baldur’s Gate with as the ultimate goal to stop the followers of Bhaal, the Lord of Murder.
Baldur´s Gate I and II were made in 1998 and 2000 and with over 5 million copies sold, these games have been very successful. It is unclear if a third game will be made.
6. The Elder Scrolls
The first The Elder Scrolls (TES) game, called Arena, was released in 1994 by Bethesda Softworks. It was an open first-person RPG. The setting for this game, and the Elder Scrolls games that would follow, is a large, open and very detailed world.
With Arena being moderately successful, a second game called The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall was released in 1996. Parts III (Morrowind, released in 2002) and IV (Oblivion, released in 2006) have been highly acclaimed and very successful. Several related games and expansion pack were made between 1994 and this day. Currently, Bethesda is working on a fifth game, called Skyrim.
First released in 2004, Fable is a high profile role playing game series on the XBOX, Windows and MAC PC. They are among the best fantasy games made. Fable is best know for the choices between good and evil the player will have to make continuously throughout the game. These choices will determine the storyline of the game and the development of the character.
Fable was one of the best sellers of 2004 and by 2007 had sold more than two million copies (including the extension The Lost Chapters). The two sequels, Fable II in 2008, and Fable III in 2010, were also received well and successful. However, both games also have quite a few bugs and glitches giving them a bad reputation on this end.
8. The Lord of the Rings
Several games have been made based the Lord of the Rings series (or more specifically, based on the movie trilogy). Each of the movies was also made into a role playing game which was action-orientated but not that good. Luckily, some good games were also made based on the franchise.
The Battle for Middle-earth (1 and 2) were very decent and successful real-time strategy games. Even better is The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar. This is a MMORPG released in 2007 and is seen as a serious World of Warcraft competitor. The game was received well and with several expansion packs became quite popular in a short time. In June 2010 it was announced that LotRO would adopt a free-to-play model. So far, this seems to be a success as the number of players and the revenue have increased after this change.
After it’s release, EverQuest quickly became the most popular MMORPG around which it stayed till about the time when Word of Warcraft arrived.
Many expansion packs have been added since 1999 and in 2004 Sony released EverQuest 2 with improved gameplay and graphics. A third edition is in the making and there are also plans for a movie based on the game.
10. Dragon Age: Origins
It is the latest game series in this list: Dragon Age. The first game in the series, Dragon Age: Origins was released in 2009. It is a dark fantasy game with sword & sorcery elements made by Bioware, the creators of Baldur’s Gate. The player is one of the Grey Wardens fighting the demonic Darkspawn, preventing them from annihilating the entire human race.
Dragon Age is seen by many as the successor of Baldur’s Gate. Bioware has stated that it intends to extent the series with several projects. The expansion pack Awakenings was released in spring 2010 and Dragon Age 2 was released in March 2011. It remains to be seen if Dragon Age can live up to the expectations.
11. Age of Conan
Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures is a relatively new MMORPG, launched in 2008, based on the legendary Conan the Barbarian story created by Robert E. Howard. The gameplay is battle-orientated as it should be if it is to be in line with the Conan books. Also, the game is quite graphic and clearly adult-orientated (classic sword & sorcery).
The game was pretty well received and has a relatively large group of players. The expansion pack Rise of the Godslayer was released in March 2010. It remains to be seen if Age of Conan will be able to compete on the long run with the MMORPG big guys like World of Warcraft and The Lord of the Rings Online.
Age of Conan became free-to-play in 2011.
New games with fantasy element are continuously coming out with recent examples as Dante’s Inferno and the Prince of Persia game based on the movie. The genre is still popular which promises a good flow of new fantasy games in the near future as well as extensions for the current MMORPGs. That being said, the list as I created it so far is far from complete and is just my view on the games that are or have been around. If you have any additions or criticism, let me know!