When it comes to critical acclaim, you never know what is going to rise to the top.
Critics looks at things differently than most of us and, usually, they get it right.
One thing that has helped to quantify this huge though once mysterious segment of art and culture is a numerical system that translates a critic’s subjective opinion into an objective number.
This is a number we can use as a point of discussion as well as combine it with other critical assessments to form an overall critical view of a piece of art or media.
And no website exploits this modern phenomenon more deftly than Metacritic.
In fact, companies even use the aggregate Metacritic score as a metric for measuring the relative success or failure of a game.
Of course, sales always top every other consideration at the end of the day.
But companies have noticed an interesting correlation between really high sales and really high scores on Metacritic.
So in this article we’re going to take a look at the ten top review role-playing games according to aggregate Metacritic critical review scores.
1. Mass Effect 2 (X360)
This is Bioware at their finest, and it is both a blessing and a curse for the developer today.
Imagine being the dev behind the highest-rated game of all time.
Every single game you release after that is going to come under intense scrutiny.
But can you blame people when you have the sci-fi role-playing game masterpiece that is Mass Effect 2?
If you loved the in-depth PC RPGs of yore, or you really enjoy a good science fiction yarn, you really can’t do better than Mass Effect 2.
The only problem is that you will have a difficult time finding anything to match it.
From characterization to plot pacing to the overall shine and polish of the game’s mechanics and visuals, Mass Effect 2 is a must-play and a definite case of the critics getting it right.
Whether it is the best game ever is always debatable, but its numbers speak for themselves where reviewers are concerned.
2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (X360)
The Elder Scrolls is not an unknown franchise by any means, but it seems to keep getting better over time.
Or at least it keeps changing and keeping up with the times (everyone has their own favorite).
What made Skyrim so cool was that it embraced the epic vibe of Oblivion and took it to the next level.
This showed in everything from the main quest to the downloadable content that was released for the game.
No horse armor here, and you won’t need it given how much good stuff Bethesda put into the game.
Lost in translation are the bright, colorful graphics and overtly Tokien-esque world.
Here to stay is a Nordic-inspired landscape that would look right at home in the Game of Thrones universe.
You’ve got zombies, dragons, demons, wizards, witches…everything you’d expect in a fantasy game.
Heck, Skyrim even has a vampire DLC.
It is basically hitting on all cylinders and it never lets up from beginning to the end.
An epic for the ages, Skyrim is the highest rated game in The Elder Scrolls’ series on Metacritic.
3. The World Ends with You: Solo Remix for iPad (iOS)
Originally a Nintendo DS title, The World Ends with You for the iOS is a bespoke version of that game ported to smartphones but losing none of Square’s quirky style and gameplay innovations in the process.
Gamers who enjoy classic JRPGs but want something a little different shouldn’t hesitate to pick up The World Ends with You.
For the rest of us, it’s not hard to see why this game is so highly rated on iOS.
Few games on Apple’s platforms come close to this level of quality and compelling gameplay.
A complete game, The World Ends with You should find a home in any “hardcore” mobile gamers library.
4. Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn (PC)
Classic PC role-playing games like Fallout and Diablo both share a gritty, dark atmosphere that modern gamers love.
If you want some gameplay to match that atmosphere, then Baldur’s Gate II is more than happy to punish you.
And you’ll love every minute of it.
Almost a relic of its age, Baldur’s Gate II is the definition of a compelling single-player game.
It’s got an epic story, awesome characters, intuitive yet deeply strategic combat, and a range of player choices that both encourages exploration and multiple playthroughs.
5. Divinity: Original Sin II – Definitive Edition (PC)
What do you get when you release a perfect distillation of 1990s role-playing games on PCs? You get Divinity: Original Sin II.
This isometric role-playing game evokes both Diablo and Baldur’s Gate while its story seems written by George RR Martin, Tad Williams, or Robert Jordan.
Rocking a score that is appropriate for a Hollywood film, Divinity: Original Sin II is one of those games that you will never forget because its in-game world is so detailed and well crafted that it is impossible to do so.
If you want a game that you can lose yourself in and discover a living, breathing world filled with interesting characters, then Divinity: Original Sin II is a must-purchase title.
6. Final Fantasy IX (PS)
The Final Fantasy series had quite a run on the original Sony PlayStation.
Starting with Final Fantasy VII, the series pioneered 3D gameplay and huge, epic cinematic interludes.
All of which featured Final Fantasy’s trademark orchestral score and an engaging, shockingly deep story.
But, unlike FFVII and FFVIII, this game was a call back to the Super Nintendo-era Final Fantasy games and featured yellow-eyed mages with pointy hats, a protagonist with a tail, and huge, overarching themes in a positively Disney-esque world.
A beloved throwback to all of the things that made the series what it was prior to Final Fantasy VII’s game changing release, Final Fantasy IX is a swan song for the old 8-bit and 16-bit games in many ways.
Though a lot of titles have tried to revisit these themes since (such as Crystal Chronicles), FFIX holds a special place in the hearts of fans and critics alike as one of the truly “final” Final Fantasies in that it marked the end of an era and the beginning of the modern FF age.
7. Legend of Grimrock (iOS)
If you never played the old school PC role-playing games that came out back in the day, then Legend of Grimrock needs to be something you download immediately.
It’s a tile based dungeon crawler for your smartphone that offers the most quintessential old-school RPG combat around.
This isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is perfect for people who have never experienced this type of game.
Older gamers who remember text-based Zork and the like will love it.
And it’s no mystery why it is so highly rated. Everything comes together really well in this game and, even on iOS, it is hard to put it down, eyestrain and all.
It’s rare that a portable game gets this high on a list like this, but Legend of Grimrock is worthy if ever there was a game to be that.
8. Chrono Cross (PS)
Ostensibly the sequel to the classic SNES title Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross is one of the most highly acclaimed games of all time, even beating its forebear.
But what makes it special exactly?
In a nutshell, it is everything you would expect from a JRPG in one game. We’re talking hours upon hours of content, tons of lore to explore, extras galore, hidden secrets, and a compelling battle system that takes some time to get used to but is both innovative and fun once you do.
Is it better than Chrono Trigger, though?
That’s a debate that will rage for the ages with many coming down on the side of the SNES cart.
Yet that doesn’t change the metrics, and those show that Chrono Cross is one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time.
Best of all is that you can play it after Chrono Trigger or without having played it at all. It truly stands on its own, as the numbers bear out.
9. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (X360)
Is there really any question as to why this game is on the list?
Oblivion was truly next level stuff for people who didn’t have the pleasure of experiencing Morrowind, the game that came before it.
And, though we take Bethesda’s games for granted now, back in the day this game was pretty unparalleled on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Like Skyrim, you were thrown into a fantasy world where you were pretty much left up to your own devices as to what to do.
To be fair, Oblivion is a lot more broken in many places than Skyrim is and its downloadable content is somewhat lacking (horse armor is a real thing).
Nonetheless, this game is a gem. From graphics to gameplay to story and sound, everything comes together in what can only be called a magical experience.
Unlike Skyrim, you won’t have photorealistic graphics here and there’s no attempt at simulating the real world.
Bright colors, vistas inspired by Tolkien’s elves, and choices galore, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is a masterpiece of modern game design and in a class all by itself.
10. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Blood and Wine (XONE)
Notice how many legendary titles are on this list?
That is just one indicator that the critics don’t always get it wrong.
And when you’ve got The Witcher 3 as the tenth best critically acclaimed game according to Metacritic (not counting duplicates), then you’ve got a powerful list indeed.
The Witcher 3 is regarded by many people who have played it as the best game ever made.
There’s good reason for that.
From the gripping story that seems ripped from both HBO and the pages of the best epic fantasy, to the gameplay mechanics and in-world choices, The Witcher 3 is a game for the ages.
Of course, CD Projekt Red is a legendary developer and pretty much everything they touch turns to gold.
As far as whether or not The Witcher 3 will hold up over time, we feel pretty confident that this one is a game for the record books.
Plus, it can help you get a taste of what’s to come from CD Projekt Red whose upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 will change the nature of this list on day one we have no doubt.
In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Cyberpunk 2077 as the highest-rated game of all time when it debuts. For now, though, we have The Witcher 3, a game just as deserving of that position.