Wizardry 6, 7, and 8
The venerable Wizardry series has to make an appearance on this list as one of the most influential RPG series — in Japan as much as in the West. Of note here are Wizardry 6, 7, and 8, which transitioned the franchise to color graphics, brought significant strides forward in terms of gameplay, and comprised the Dark Savant trilogy. The three games are actually a complete clean break from the continuity of previous Wizardry games, but will allow you to move characters from between those three. At the very end, your upgrade path will allow your character to become a god. GOG.com bundles 6 and 7 together and sells 8 separately, but of course, I recommend you get all three for the full experience.
Divinity: Original Sin
Divinity: Original Sin is a Kickstarter success and proof that the market is definitely there for old-school RPG fans today. What this game does differently and gets right is it lets go of the handholding and gives you the chance to figure out the battle mechanics for yourself. Here’s the thing: this is not an easy game and you will find yourself starting over multiple times to avoid character deaths and averse outcomes. The rewarding feeling of getting it to all come together when you do, however, is completely incomparable.
Deadly Rooms of Death: King Dugan’s Dungeon
Now, this is a bit of a change of pace from the typical save-the-world fare of the games in this list. It is still fantasy, but with a satirical edginess. You play the unattractive but lovable Beethro Budkin, dungeon exterminator extraordinaire. As a Smitemaster and wielder of the Really Big Sword, King Dugan tasks Beethro with clearing each floor of his 38 x 32 grid dungeon of monsters. The monsters move in turns along with Beethro, so the meta game is ultimately all about strategy and puzzle solving instead of reflexes. GOG.com’s bundle includes the original and its two sequels.
Might and Magic 6-Pack Limited Edition
This goes without saying but, if you wanted to get into New World Computing’s classic Might and Magic, you cannot go wrong with getting the the Might and Magic 6-Pack today. GOG.com’s bundle includes maps, manuals, cluebooks, refrence cards, and soundtracks, and this limited edition also incorporates the full speech for Might and Magic 4 and 5. The hallmarks of the series has always been nonlinear gameplay, rich sprawling game worlds, and complete freedom in building up your party and your individual game characters. This one purchase alone will net you hours of gameplay.
Another successful Kickstarter to bring back an older genre, Shadowrun Returns is mostly seen as a success in bringing back the tactical RPG to the modern gaming world. From its great isometric 3D look to its much improved character progression and combat systems, there is very little here for fans to find fault in. Plus, with the editor, you have the tools to make your own Shadowrun experience, whether you like it intense and challenging or light and engaging.
Betrayal at Krondor Pack
Once again, GOG.com offers a bundle of two great games in one. Betrayal at Krondor and Betrayal in Antara are not connected directly story-wise, but comprise a continuity in Sierra Entertainment’s RPG lineage with their design. Betrayal at Krondor was a spinoff of Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar novels, later incorporated into the canon and actually novelized as Krondor: The Betrayal. Betrayal in Antara is the less beloved follow-up and the result of Sierra losing the rights to Riftwar, but you may still find it a worthy play for its larger story. Both games boast linear gameplay resembling going through a novel, with chapters and a quick save feature.
Geneforge is a series of RPGs that boast a scifi/fantasy continuity explored across five games and published on both Mac and Windows. The games revolve around the Geneforge itself, which is able to enhance any living thing’s physical and magical abilities. Choose sides between the world’s multiple factions, as none of them are completely good or bad, and marvel at the multiple skill trees, which will force you to make strategic choices to meet that potency to its full ability.
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
Now, this game is a true outlier and a new addition to GOG.com’s growing library. With the partnership of XSEED Games, Nihon Falcom is able to bring this JRPG in DRM-free to English-speaking PC users for the first time. Trails in the Sky is surmised by detailed characters, switching between different types of world maps, and turn-based combat with a meter management mechanic. JRPG fans will love its diverse set of characters, but even if you are more of a Western RPGer, you owe it to yourself to give this one a chance. The sheer value in terms of gametime and incredible amount to detail to it has made this Nihon Falcom’s most successful in its thirty years.
Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magicka Obscura
Yes, we have covered this game already, but it is that good that it merits repeat mentions. Arcanum’s stat-driven system and distinctive game world sets it apart from the pack and the potentiality of nonlinear gameplay with multiple outcomes means you will find yourself coming back to it again and again and again.
Avernum: The Complete Saga
Lastly, the Avernum games are sprawling dungeon crawlers that will satisfy many a classic board-and-paper RPG fan. Rather than six games, you can think of them as two series of trilogies that chronicle the events and encounters between the underground community of Avernites and the Empire above the surface. All the games boast large worlds, with many quests, spells, skillsets, and character traits, as well as unique enemies that will require deliberately planned tactics, more than just reflex hacking and slashing, to defeat.