The 9 Best Single Player RPGs of 2021

Spend hours and hours exploring new worlds

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The best single-player RPGs (like many of the best story games in general) offer expansive worlds with important stories to tell. These immersive experiences are fit for players to dive into solo, serving up hours of tantalizingly good fun that feel like diving into new worlds over and over again. Most RPGs are lengthy, massive experiences as well, offering a wealth of content for a relatively low price compared to the hours of entertainment on hand. 

Though most single-player RPGs aren't the best in terms of replayability, most single-player adventures offer dozens, if not hundreds, of hours of excitement before the credits finally roll. Add in expansion packs, secret missions, and "new game plus" runs with new content to unlock, and you've got a genre filled with a veritable treasure trove of content. The list below represents some of the most immersive, challenging, and rewarding RPGs out on the market for all systems, from Xbox Series X|S to PC. You may very well find a new favorite to dive into.

The Rundown
Considered one of the best RPGs of all time, it offers everything you could want from the genre.
Unlike any other Legend of Zelda game ever made.
The game looks gorgeous with distinctive character designs that will stick with you for a long time.
All about finding new gear at every turn.
Best Mod Support:
Bethesda Fallout 4 at Amazon
The Fallout modding community is a bustling one, with talented players who create their own heroes, NPCs, weapons, and narratives.
Best Post-Apocalyptic:
Wasteland 3 at Steampowered.com
An action-packed adventure from top to bottom that has to be seen to be believed.
Paints a picture of a future ruled by megacorporations that have begun colonizing space and terraforming alien planets.
Best Sci-Fi RPG:
Cyberpunk 2077 at Amazon
Players descend upon the dystopian world of Night City, an open world divided into six different regions.
This is a wondrous world to simply wander around in forever.

Best Overall: CD Projekt Red The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Witcher
What We Like
  • Massive, gorgeous open world

  • Some of the best storytelling in games

  • Engaging combat

What We Don't Like
  • Somewhat clunky traversal

For a long time, The Witcher was a fairly niche RPG (role-playing game) series that only the most dedicated fans tended to seek out. Considered one of the best RPGs ever made, The Witcher 3 offers everything you could want from the genre. You play as Geralt the Witcher, a highly trained monster slayer who travels the world helping both peasants and kings alike. Want to help people in trouble or uncover corruption? Sure, that's an option, but so is choosing a darker, more sinister route. The world of The Witcher 3 is vast, complicated, and as politically convoluted as real life. But it doesn't have to be that serious - you can also relax and play some cards at the local tavern.

Upgrade your weaponry how you like or choose to have Geralt become proficient in his Witcher magic. Or maybe, you'd simply rather spend time competing in horse races, it's all up to you. It's likely you'll end up doing a little bit of everything though, as the game is sprawling and every action leads to a satisfying reward, even if every choice you make leads to an unexpected consequence. Combat is action-based rather than turn-based so expect to get really into learning how best to fight ghosts and ghouls, and how to survive when facing up against mythical creatures and armies of the undead.

The Witcher 3 looks gorgeous and it feels almost never-ending in its scope. It offers a compelling narrative and almost infinite replay value with its choices. It's available for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. 

Best Action/Adventure: Nintendo The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo Switch)

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
What We Like
  • The best, most open Zelda yet

  • Wildly interactive world and items

  • Incredibly unique dungeons

What We Don't Like
  • Divisive weapon durability system

Widely regarded as the best The Legend of Zelda game made in its long storied history, Breath of the Wild is responsible for many Nintendo Switch purchases when the console launched. It's unlike any other Legend of Zelda game, given it's far more open world than previous entries and takes lots of cues from modern RPGs like Dark Souls and Fallout.

In the game, you'll scan vast fields, oceans, volcanoes, castles, ruins, dungeons, caves, forests, and snow-capped mountain ranges with seemingly no limitations on where you can explore. It's possible to glide over areas as well as simply travel on foot or by horse to see what you can uncover. There's a deep and gripping storyline here but the most fun comes from stepping away from the beaten track and simply seeing what's out there. Playing it for review, our tester Kelsey found some of the best content existed outside of the "main narrative."

It's possible to scavenge for new weapons, take out huge beasts, solve environmental puzzles, and craft food to keep you going through blazing heat or freezing cold. It's delightfully open-ended in how you tackle objectives, although you do need to keep an eye on your resources and stamina. Unlike other Zelda games, it's possible to "overuse" your weaponry, which causes it to lose its potency or fall apart altogether, so manage your tools well.

"A beautifully designed action-adventure role-playing game that both newcomers and fans of the series will love." — Kelsey Simon, Product Tester

What We Like
  • Fantastic cast of characters

  • Some of the best turn-based combat ever

  • Amazing clockwork world

What We Don't Like
  • Runs out of steam near the end

Japanese role-playing games (or JRPGs) are generally pretty quirky and different from Western RPGs. That's certainly the case with the Persona series, and Persona 5 is easily one of the best in the series. The story follows a team of teenagers as they spend their days at school before spending the nights tackling dungeons as Phantom Thieves—a group aimed at uncovering the inner vulnerabilities of others through the use of protective masks.

Days are spent completing simple high school tasks like attending class, participating in after-school activities, or heading to a part-time job. The change of pace to dungeon crawling at night is significant and jarring but each component of gameplay complements the other as you learn more about the characters and level them up. It might seem disjointed yet its turn-based combat is fast-paced and thrilling, and you really do come to care about everyone involved no matter if they're wearing a school uniform or a trench coat.

Persona has a one-of-a-kind art style with distinctive character designs that will stick with you for a long time. An acid jazz soundtrack makes things even more stylish and cool as you jam through the hundred-hour campaign. Don't be afraid if you haven't played past Persona games; this one will still make sense as the plot isn't intrinsically linked to past titles. The only downside? It's only available for PlayStation 4 owners.

Best for Co-Op RPG: Blizzard Entertainment Diablo 3: Eternal Collection (Xbox One)

Diablo 3
What We Like
  • Fantastic action combat

  • Staggering amount of loot

  • Cool, distinct character classes

What We Don't Like
  • Maybe too much loot

Typically referred to as a loot-based RPG, Diablo III is all about finding new gear at every turn. Pretty much every enemy you kill will drop some kind of equipment or weapon or piles of gold that can then be sold to earn more stuff. Combat is fast-paced and almost akin to a shoot-'em-up; you'll easily take out hundreds of enemies each session. You choose and equip your loadout and mash buttons until everything on the screen is gone.

It's also fantastic fun when played alongside a friend, either online or side by side (take a peek at some of the other best PS4 co-op games you can buy). Despite sounding like it's fairly shallow, Diablo III actually has a complex story that's wrapped up in a ton of lore. While the previous games aren't available on consoles yet, you will soon find yourself embroiled in the tales of Deckard Cain and company, as they navigate treacherous and dangerous worlds on an epic adventure to defeat Diablo.

A choice of different character types means there's always a reason to replay Diablo III, with each class offering different abilities and powers, ensuring there's a different kind of strategy required to take on enemies and bosses along the way. What might seem initially like mindless action soon demonstrates its depth as you find yourself juggling different combinations depending on what enemies you're facing up against, paired together with who is in your party and how you can complement your skills together.

Best Mod Support: Bethesda Fallout 4

Fallout 4
What We Like
  • Frequently on sale

  • Massive open world narrative

  • Hundreds of mods available

What We Don't Like
  • Occasionally game-breaking bugs

  • Mods have no official support

Bethesda's Fallout 4 is a post-apocalyptic open-world game that already features hundreds of hours of content in its base game, in which players explore a massive wasteland. But despite having an expansive single-player landscape, Fallout 4 is also well-known for being easily moddable for curious players who want to make the game more like their own custom creation. The Fallout modding community is a bustling one, with talented players who create their own heroes, NPCs, weapons, and narratives and effortlessly breathe new life into them. Now, five years after Fallout 4 initially debuted, it's become something of a beacon for modders to delve into and truly make their own, all the way from improved versions of the base game to new voices for companions that make Fallout 4 feel nearly like a brand new game. Whether you want to change things a little or a lot, there are so many mods in the Fallout 4 universe, it'll make your head spin.  

Best Post-Apocalyptic: Wasteland 3

Wasteland 3
What We Like
  • Humorous take on exploring the post-apocalyptic wastes

  • Unique isometric perspective

  • Inventive storyline and characters

What We Don't Like
  • Not very accessible to newcomers

  • Difficulty spikes can stall progress

For some time, Fallout has worn the crown when it comes to offering the best of the best in terms of post-apocalyptic exploration. Wasteland 3, however, has it beaten in several ways. From its refusal to adhere to cookie-cutter norms to its biting depiction of what a true post-apocalyptic nightmare would be, it's an action-packed adventure from top to bottom that has to be seen to be believed. Players take on the frozen tundra of Colorado after the nation is riddled with nuclear warfare as members of Arizona Ranger Team November. They're looking to assist the ruler known as The Patriarch to earn support for issues in Arizona, but the Patriarch has problems of his own. Players must take on rival factions, curb wayward punks, and combat the futuristic nightmare that is Colorado all while being met with creepy visions of pop culture theme songs and even Ronald Reagan worshipers. 

Funniest RPG: Obsidian Entertainment The Outer Worlds

The Outer Worlds
What We Like
  • Unique setting

  • Fantastic NPCs and relationships

  • Expansive world to explore with branching dialogue system

What We Don't Like
  • Combat can occasionally be simplistic

  • Some performance issues depending on platform

What if, in 1901, President William McKinley wasn't assassinated at the Pan-American Exposition, and Roosevelt never took over? The world might look something like the alternate future presented in The Outer Worlds, which paints a picture of a future ruled by megacorporations that have begun colonizing space and terraforming alien planets. Colonists work to reach the stars and find planets suitable to live on, but at some point the mission goes awry, and your player character is awakened from cryosleep early. As a result, you must join a faction, figure out what's going on at the colony of Emerald Vale, and get used to the way the world has become. Oh, and there are tons of quests to complete and loot to collect, naturally. All of this unfolds with some truly hilarious quests, NPCs, and dark humor that makes The Outer Worlds one of the funniest and most unique RPGs we've seen in ages. 

Best Sci-Fi RPG: Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077
What We Like
  • Huge amount of activities to complete and people to meet

  • Slick, exciting cyberpunk aesthetic feels like Blade Runner come to life

  • Expertly-designed by veteran RPG creators

What We Don't Like
  • The sheer amount of things to do can feel overwhelming

  • Adult content may not be everyone’s cup of tea

Just as developer CD Projekt RED did for fantasy with its colossal hit The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the outfit did the same for the world of sci-fi and the cyberpunk aesthetic with Cyberpunk 2077. Players descend upon the dystopian world of Night City, an open world divided into six different regions. As the customizable mercenary V, they can customize their body down to body type and cybernetic modifications as they explore different disciplines in hacking, weapon proficiency, and melee combat, all in a bid to tackle a variety of missions and objectives that will change depending on character class, back story, and alignments. Cyberpunk 2077 is a massive world teeming with personality on the cutting edge of technology, with a variety of cars, weapons, clothing, consumables, music, and even sexualities to experience. It's a tour-de-force in terms of what sci-fi is capable of, and a colossal undertaking for anyone looking for an excellent single-player RPG.  

"As for the quality of the story itself, whatever path you choose is remarkably well written, and this quality of storytelling is probably the main highlight of the game, next to the insane graphical fidelity. It is well-acted, and some sequences are so well done that you can almost forget you’re playing a game, and it becomes more like an interactive movie." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester

Best Fantasy: Bethesda Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
What We Like
  • Spectacularly immersive living world

  • Stunning diversity of quests and storylines

  • Open, wildly customizable character progression

What We Don't Like
  • Sheer amount of content can be intimidating

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is unparalleled in offering an immersive world that you can lose yourself to for countless hours. First released in 2011 for PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim continues to beguile fans around the world. Now available in a special remastered version for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and the Nintendo Switch, there's a good reason why many have returned to it more than once: It's an all-time classic with an exciting setting and a never-ending amount of things to see and do.

You play the Dragonborn, someone whose destiny is to defeat ancient dragons and liberate the realm. It's standard RPG concepts but The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim offers so much more than simple fantasy cliches. Vampires, trolls, and dragons stand in your way, and defeating them grants souls you can use for special powers and magic spells.

Developing your character also ties into how you play, so you grow in strength based on how you tackle obstacles. Liable to talk your way out of trouble? You'll see your speech skill develop fast. Handy with a one-handed sword rather than a staff? That improves the more you hack and slash away at enemies. The game dynamically responds to your playstyle, while being sure to throw lots of wrenches into your plans to keep you on your toes. Our reviewer Kelsey said it was the perfect game for "any player who enjoys fantasy, dragons, and magic in an expansive open world."

"Skyrim does an amazing job of setting up an open-world fighting system that really allows you to control how your character fights and levels." — Kelsey Simon, Product Tester

Final Verdict

Unsurprisingly, some of the best RPGs are sprawling open-world fantasy epics. If you want something gritty, intense, with some of the best storytelling in video games, you can't go wrong with the endlessly rich universe of The Witcher 3. If, on the other hand, a fully realized, living world with amazing clockwork systems and one of the best character progression systems of all times appeals more, dive into Skyrim (or, ideally, just play both).

About Our Trusted Experts

Brittany Vincent is a freelance video game and entertainment writer whose work has been featured in publications and online venues including G4TV.com, Joystiq, Complex, IGN, GamesRadar, Destructoid, Kotaku, GameSpot, Mashable, and The Escapist.

Jennifer Allen has been writing about games and technology for almost ten years, and her work has appeared in a number of top publications covering both industries. She's even appeared as a guest speaker on BBC Radio to discuss Facebook's gaming portal.

Kelsey Simon is a tech and fiction writer and librarian, and an expert in consoles and gaming. Aside from the reviews featured in this roundup, she's also written about Knack, Overwatch, and PUBG for Lifewire.

What to Look for in a Single-player RPG

Setting - One of the most compelling parts of any RPG is the world in which it's set. Are you looking for a sprawling open-world like the Witcher's, or something slightly more compact but still extremely varied, like that Monster Hunter World's? Do you want something colorful and vibrant, like Mario and Rabbid's cartoonish landscapes, or something a little more sweeping and varied, like Skyrim's?

Story - Another huge component is narrative. RPGs excel at telling stories, and The Witcher 3's is one of the best and deepest ever presented in games. By contrast, the story in South Park is predictably hilarious, whimisical, even borderline stupid at times, but always entertaining.

Mechanics - Of course, we play games to interact with these stories and worlds, so gameplay and systems are key. Skyrim has one of the best-developed character growth systems in games, while the action combat in Diablo III is some of the best ever coded, and the tense tactical battles of XCom 2 present a completely different take on explosive action.

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