Do you love tactical gameplay and min-maxing the best builds? If so, you’ve probably dropped hundreds of hours into some classic RPGs. From old-school dungeon crawlers like Final Fantasy to action RPGs like Diablo, there are countless contenders for the best RPGs to ever grace the PlayStation. Today, we’re counting down the ten best PlayStation role-playing games. Only one can be the best!
Many of the entries on this list come from Square Enix, a company best-known for its PlayStation-exclusive RPGs. Others are multiplatform entries that become synonymous with Sony’s home console. They all share one thing in common though: they’re all-time great RPGs.
Skyrim is the fifth entry in Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series. It was originally released on November 11, 2011, for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. In-game, players take the role of the Dragonborn — a legendary hero with the voice of a dragon. The game is considered one of the best RPGs ever made due to its sprawling world and countless decisions left up to the player.
Bethesda has rereleased Skyrim a comical number of times. It was most recently ported to Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 systems as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Anniversary Edition on the tenth anniversary of its original launch. Even ten years later, exploring the northern wastelands of Skyrim is as fun as it’s ever been.
9. Diablo III
Blizzard’s storied Diablo franchise works so well because it’s so simple. Players control one of a handful of adventurers as they navigate through dungeons and brawl with the forces of evil. The gameplay is presented in a top-down, isometric view that makes the game feel like a tabletop RPG.
Diablo’s perfect pacing is evident in its loot system. Battling monsters rewards players with ever greater armor, weapons, and accessories to tackle new challenges. Watching the numbers go up is a simple pleasure, but it’s effective at hooking players. If you’re looking for mindless dungeon-crawling fun, Diablo is the game for you.
8. Dark Souls
Dark Souls is hardly the most difficult game ever made, despite its reputation. It’s not easy, to be sure, but it gives you all the tools you need to take on demons and gods. Unlike most RPGs, Dark Souls doesn’t expect you to grind for experience points to make your avatar an unkillable master of war. Instead, the game teaches you, the player, how to get better at its unique brand of stamina-based combat.
The game’s steep learning curve and moody atmosphere have cemented its position as a cult favorite. Fans of dark fantasy and old-school RPG world-building adore the Souls franchise. The game’s spiritual successor, Elden Ring, is one of the most highly anticipated titles of 2022.
7. Neo: The World Ends With You
The 2006 game The World Ends With You is one of the finest RPGs that Square released on the Nintendo DS. Its sequel, Neo: The World Ends With You, came out fifteen years later, in 2021, for the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4. It lives up to its predecessor, introducing a new generation of players to the Reaper’s Game.
The protagonist, Rindo, is a quiet, indecisive teenager who lives in Tokyo with his best friend, Fret. The two are typical slacker kids who love eating ramen and listening to hip hop. Their lives are upended suddenly when they’re pulled into the deadly Reaper’s Game, a cruel contest arranged by Shinigami, the gods of death.
Fans of Tetsuya Nomura’s brand of stylized anime character designs and over-the-top storylines adore The World Ends With You. It’s easily one of the best RPGs on the PlayStation 4.
6. Final Fantasy X
The Final Fantasy series is synonymous with the PlayStation brand. The tenth numbered entry in the legendary RPG franchise was released for the PlayStation 2 in 2001 and quickly became a fan favorite. The game’s colorful world and smooth graphics represented a seismic shift for Final Fantasy games, impressing newcomers and longtime fans alike.
The game is beloved for its deep, engaging storyline and its thoughtful additions to the tried-and-true Final Fantasy combat system. Fans have praised the game for avoiding typical RPG tropes. For instance, the protagonist, Tidus, is a down-to-earth and likable character instead of a stoic swordsman.
5. Dragon Quest 11
RPG fans in the West are less familiar with Dragon Quest than Final Fantasy. Dragon Quest is the flagship series of the Enix half of Square Enix, and it’s among the longest-running RPG franchises to still get regular entries. The latest installment, Dragon Quest 11, is one of the best RPGs ever made, and easily one of the best on a PlayStation system.
Dragon Quest relies on more Western-themed mythology than most Japanese RPGs do. Knights in plate armor and winged dragons are commonplace. The games’ storylines are more akin to fairy tales and bedtime stories than the world-shaking epics on display in more traditional JRPGs. Fans of classic turn-based RPG combat and laid-back exploration will find plenty to love in Dragon Quest 11.
The game features a refreshingly straightforward story and old-school RPG sensibilities. If you’re looking for an RPG that’s breezy and playable, DQ11 is the game you want.
4. Persona 5
Persona 5 finally cracked through Western fans’ resistance to Persona and Shin Megami Tensei. The game was released in 2016 in the West, exclusively for the PlayStation 4, and quickly became one of the most beloved RPGs on the system. Persona 5 uses the series’ trademark time-based progression system. Players can complete only a limited number of actions in a single day, pushing their stats up or deepening their relationships with their allies.
The player characters dive into metaphysical mind palaces that serve as the game’s dungeons between real-world dates and classes. There, the party can unleash their “personas,” or psychic manifestations of their true selves. Players are encouraged to use elemental attacks to strike enemies’ weak points. Doing so earns the party extra turns, allowing thoughtful players to breeze through combat without letting the enemies take any actions.
Be warned, though: enemies can do the same thing to the player. Players need to employ careful party management to survive encounters with the meanest beasts.
3. Kingdom Hearts II
What happens when you smash Final Fantasy and Disney together at high speed? Kingdom Hearts, that’s what happens. Kingdom Hearts is an action-RPG series that focuses on timing-based combos and real-time combat. Players control Sora, an endlessly optimistic kid from the tropical Destiny Islands. Sora and his pals, Donald and Goofy, adventure through worlds inspired by classic Disney movies.
Characters from the Final Fantasy series show up in Kingdom Hearts in numerous cameos, giving Sora a chance to catch up with Cloud and Leon. Many fans consider Kingdom Hearts II the best entry in the franchise due to its Drive Form transformations and epic boss battles.
Sora’s clashes with the villainous Organization XIII culminate in eye-catching set-piece battles in recognizable Disney locations. The game’s optional final boss fight with Sephiroth is not only memorable, but it’s also one of the most difficult RPG side quests in gaming history.
The latest entry in the series, Kingdom Hearts III, finally closed out the Dark Seeker Saga that started with the first title back in 2002.
2. Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy VII is one of the most universally beloved RPGs of all time. It’s also one of the best PlayStation games ever made. In the game, players take control of former soldier and unparalleled swordsman Cloud Strife. Cloud joins allies like Barret, Tifa, and Aerith, to defend the world of Midgard from the Shinra Corporation.
The game incorporates the active-time battle system first seen in Final Fantasy IV. Sweeping steampunk locales give players plenty of chances to explore, fleshing out the game’s impressive setting. The storyline takes several shocking turns, though many longtime RPG fans have probably already heard of some of the game’s biggest shockers.
Some consider Final Fantasy VII the best entry in the entire series. However, it’s not the best PlayStation RPG ever. That title belongs to another game.
1. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is the best role-playing game ever released on a PlayStation console. The 2D action-RPG centers on the efforts of Alucard, the son of the legendary vampire Dracula, as he opposes his father’s machinations. Symphony of the Night is beloved by fans for introducing the Metroidvania formula. Players advance through Dracula’s castle and acquire upgrades that allow them to backtrack to explore previously inaccessible areas.
The increased player freedom in Symphony set it apart from its predecessors immediately, signaling a generational shift between the PlayStation Castlevania games and earlier NES and SNES entries. The game features tight, responsive controls that make tense battles with Gothic monsters that much more gripping.
During a burst of 3D game development Castlevania stuck to its roots, and the result is one of the best platformers of all time. Since then we’ve seen countless renditions of the more open-ended “action/adventure/RPG/platformer” on the GBA and DS, but never a more solid and pure experience than the original Symphony of the Night.Mark Bozon, writing for IGN
Symphony also sports one of the most impressive soundtracks of any game released in the 1990s. Composer Michiru Yamane perfectly captures the spirit of Romantic horror fiction while simultaneously incorporating high-octane rock tracks to hype players up.
The Castlevania franchise has been enjoying a renaissance in recent years, too. A highly successful Netflix anime adaptation, aptly named Castlevania, has introduced a new legion of fans to Konami’s moody vampire-slaying series. Fans of the series, or RPGs in general, owe it to themselves to try out Symphony of the Night.