(Almost) Every Game Today is an RPG, and Here’s Why

I know.  Right now you’re thinking, “Wait, what?  This doesn’t even make sense Shank.”  Well, just why is almost every game today an RPG?  Here’s why… For purposes of this article, I’m going to be looking at a 3 specific genres: Halo 4 representing First Person Shooters (FPS), Assassin’s Creed III representing Action/Adventure (AA), and Fifa representing the Sports titles. Now, you may say that I’m looking at a very limited view of games, and yes, you would be correct.  The purpose of this isn’t to cover every single game from every single genre out there – that would just be ridiculously extensive.  Rather, all I wish to convey is that today, and really for the past 5-7 years, games have been borrowing more and more from the rpg genre.  Thus, the line between what is and isn’t an rpg is getting more and more blurred.  So, if you would humor me for the next few minutes, I’d be much obliged. The First Person Shooter The debut outing of 343 Industries saw Halo 4 released upon the masses (in fact, this author may or may not have seriously considering skipping voting that day because of this game).  Universal acclaim, breathtaking vistas, and nerdgasms aside, this game, while it remains a shooter, contains many elements found in modern RPGs.  The best example of which can be found in Wargames, Halo 4’s version of multiplayer matchmaking. What does that look like to you?  If you answered “class creation”, then you’d be correct.  In fact, these loadout customizations are 343i’s newest addition to the Halo franchise.  In here, the player can customize the weapons, equipment, armor ability, as well as tactical and support packages.  Why do I bring this up?  Virtually every single RPG runs off of a class system.  The player starts the game, is presented with several choices regarding playstyle, and is tossed into the world.  With this in mind, it’s not difficult to see the similarity between loadout customizations in FPS and class creation in RPGs. The Action/Adventure I’m not going to lie.  When Assassin’s Creed III was announced last year, I very seriously considered freezing myself until its release.  The ‘Creed’ franchise is tied for my #2 spot for game franchises (tied with Mass Effect, in case you were wondering – you should know what #1 is).  I love it because of the amazingly intricate stories, the seamless but brutal combat, but mostly, I love it for this: And this: And finally, this: Now, why did I choose these screens?  I chose them because Assassin’s Creed is more than just amazingly intricate stories, and seamless, brutal combat.  It’s a game with very well fleshed-out sandbox environments.  In these games, you can go off doing the main story mission, sure.  But, if you’re like me, you’ll spend hours parkouring around the trees, currying favor with town criers, and just flat out enjoying the beautiful vistas.  What other RPG juggernaut out there does this sound like?  Hmm.  Oh wait, Skyrim comes to mind.  Skyrim is the definition of ‘sandbox game’.  You can go do the ‘main quest’ (although I would argue, successfully, that there is no such thing in Skyrim), or you could wander around for hours and get nothing accomplished.  Games like the Assassin’s Creed franchise are blurring the line between Action/Adventure and RPGs. The Sports Game The Fifa franchise is one of the best-selling, well-recieved franchise in sports games.  True, it might be a yearly franchise, but that does not stop its developers from adding features like dynamic dribbling, smarter AI, and physics-based collisions.  “But wait a minute, Shank”, you might be saying, “Now you’ve gone too far.  No way a sports game can borrow RPG elements, right?  Right?” Wrong!  Out of all the genres and games I’ve listed here, sports games might be the closest thing to an RPG.  No, no – just hear me out.  What does the above screenshot look like?  If you said ‘team roster’, then congratulations, you deserve a cookie.  True, one of the coolest aspects about team-based sports games is being able to manage and foster your team.  You spend countless hours slaving away at which player you should place at Sweeper, or who should goal tend for your big match against Brazil, knowing full well that they’re very offensively minded. But if you step back and take a second look, you suddenly realize that what you’re doing is no different than managing a party.  If I tried to name every game out there that ran off a party system, I’d fail miserably.  For our purposes, let’s stick to Mass Effect.  In Mass Effect, you interact with and engage in the story with various characters, many of which can become party members.  If you’re like me, then you’ve spent a great deal of time customizing every single character’s skill points and specializations.  It’s incredibly rewarding when done right.  From this lens, sports games and RPGs are very similar indeed. But Shank, you didn’t cover x game from y genre!  I hate you!  You’re mean! I said in the very beginning that this piece is purely to draw attention to the fact that more and more games today are borrowing elements from RPGs.  But, the question you should ask is not, “well what about this game?”.  Rather, you should be asking, “Well, is this really a bad thing that other genres borrow from RPGs?” The answer is, quite simply, no.  Think about it.  What is an RPG?  It is a ‘role playing game’, one where you assume a ‘role’ and ‘play’ it out.  It is the purest form of escapism.  It is the most convincing form of immersion.  It is the definition of freedom. Now that does sound comforting, doesn’t it? Shadow hide you.


  • But Shank, you didn’t cover Minecraft! I hate you! You’re mean! 😉
    Thanks for this very informative, entertaining and thought provoking article.
    By the by: a genre you did forget, which is also adopting many elements from RPS is Racing games: the type of car (Handling vs acceleration vs top speed) is like the class system and the newer games include a large open world, which can be explored, and which offers many side “quests”. Some also include setting up a team (eg: Need for Speed Underground).
    Thanks again and may the Force be with you.
    Cpt Ryaffio

    • Thanks bud. Yeah I did leave out racing games, but only because I felt that shooters made a better case for use of a class system than racers. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Forza, but I felt a stronger argument could be made for shooters.

      Shadow hide you

Leave a Reply