Trying to answer the age old question - What is an RPG?

Yes, I don’t understand trying to attach “RPG” to games which are clearly not. Just…why? HZD was really fun, great action game, it was not an RPG though. Neither is Far Cry, Gears 5, AssCreed, Halo Infinite, Tomb Raider etc. etc. which all has some RPG-elements.

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People have said for eons that becauase all games have elements of RPGs, therefore the definition of RPG is outdated or wrong or whatever. Bullshit.

Just like how Jazz is considered by many academics to be at the core of music, so too are RPGs to games, but not all games are RPGs.

For me at least, an RPG needs to have at least 3 of these 5 factors.

  1. Genuine choice and Consequence
  2. Stats that have a tangible impact on gameplay that are limited by time and access.
  3. A levelling system that is non-linear (i.e. choice of perks or randomized/choice for stats. Not just level 2, 3,4, etc. net you 1 strength, dexerity, etc. consistently)
  4. An open-ended game design that encourages multiple approaches to a given problem.
  5. A level of control over your character’s personality, appearance, etc.

Obviously, there are fringe cases. Something like Halo Infinite or Horizon (Forza or Sony’s, both apply) have 2 of these factors. But for me, an RPG needs at least 3 of these. A good one has all of them.

But to put it this way: a cheeseburger and a pizza both often have a component derived from dough, a tomato based sauce and cheese. Would you call a cheeseburger a pizza?


Well… The title sums it up

You can only “try” Gordon Ramsay Reaction GIF



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haha so true, welcome to 2021 where every “big” game has some form of weak RPG moniker / structure built in to make the player feel like their progressing. i feel if this were the 90’s or even early 2000’s peoples answers would be a lot me definiative.

Some good discussion, loving it.

Looking at responses in this topic the industry really has created a weird situation with regards to defining when it comes to RPG’s as apose to other genres.

To add to DEOGAME’s point a bit

An example I though of to strengthen my intial arguement a bit is funnily enough GTA.

Now hear me out for a sec, GTA is mostly an openworld cinematic action game for all intents and purposes but in the case of Vice city at least, they contain multiple sections or missions where the player races against either the AI or the timer. because of this vice city has lite racing elements within, but would the community generally catergorise the game as a racing lite anywere due to some of the mechanics being in that can be found in actual racing games.

Example might be admitidely somewhat weak but there are going to be other games like this you can collectively think of that have entire car class rankings and unlocks aside from the main point of the game.

Food for thought?

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Ninja Gaiden Black has this and it’s a character action game…weapons become available to you over the course of the game, you level up those weapons (after certain points of the story) and gain access to new moves. Also each weapon has different play style so you can choose your play style in that game too.

I don’t think character progression and unlocks over time are a characteristic of only RPG’s.


I don’t like to mix story with the definition of RPG. Same story can be implemented using multiple game genres. So… having choices / having an impact on the story is not intrinsic to RPG. And, in fact, Final Fantasy has never implemented this on their games, with story being completely static where you cannot have any impact on it.

So, to me, RPG games have a stats-based combat with a progression-based min-max strategy. Players must constantly make choices on how to tune their stats (either using points on a skill tree, or adding point to their strength, learning skills, choosing a materia that adds/remove stats in exchange of something, etc.) on a non-perfect scenario (usually, you cannot max all stats until end of game). As you progress on the game (either story or lvling up), your options on the strategy grow.

This is what usually enables things such as having different roles in a team and giving players choice on how to progress.

I don’t believe in games being categorized on one, and only one, genre. And I think RPG mechanics have proven to make players feel more empowered / engaged with the characters and the game, so it is normal that simplifications of this model appear on games typically associated to other genres.


Games where you have input on your play style and outcomes (not just your mechanical skills), and story and characters. Games that can be approached differently and have different outcomes in each playthrough.

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Traditionally a rpg was a turn based game that was not afraid to show the maths and statistics on the frontend. Spreadsheets on your face. To make it more palatable it tradicionally was compensated with a very heavy story.

In adventure games the realtime gameplay prevail over statistics. Story does not need to be so strong and narrative can be more subtle.

Just to kinda go back to this because I think you underestimate the impact that stats can have. They can drastically affect how the game is played. Some simple examples could be language skills (ability to talk your way out of an encounter), hacking skills (ability to hack robots and have them fight for you), lockpicking (pretty obvious).

All of this directly impacted by how you allocate skills. I mean, this is stuff that directly impacts how encounters play out.

Yes, there are many examples like this. Take Halo Infinite for example. With the addition of the grappleshot and the traversal that comes with it there is a bit of platforming. Is Halo Infinite then a platformer? Lol, no.

Gears 5 has some mild stealth options, is it now a stealth game? It also has Jack and the upgrades, and a more open world. Does that mean that Gears 5 is an Open world-Stealth-RPG? No, it’s a TPS.

In Deus Ex: Human revolution you can find a basketball court and shoot some ball, is Deus Ex now a basketball game?

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Yes, everyone who plays proper RPG’s knows the importance of stats and how it impacts the games. Dismissing them means you have no idea what an RPG actually is or how they function.


While all true, Ninja Gaiden is far more action based than HZD. In HZD, you can do stealth which in turn makes the game slow and cuts down on the “action”. People keep saying HZD or AC is an action adventure game and while both elements are in those games, Uncharted is a pure action adventure game and neither HZD/AC are anywhere close to being that.

I agree in general but does every stat actually the way it’s intended? Very rarely does that occur. Usually, a few stats will work properly and the rest won’t affect anything.

I understand some things affecting how encounters/quests play out but not every RPG does this (HZD, AC, Final Fantasy, etc.) yet is considered by the majority to be an RPG. Is anyone really going to argue about Final Fantasy and I would say that’s much closer to HZD compared to something like The Outer Worlds so if one is considered to be an RPG, how can the other not be?

Haven’t played much FF7 Remake (will now that I got free PS5 upgrade) but would agree that games like FF7, Forspoken, and FF16 definitely muddy the waters. Part of me thinks that if these games were made by a different developer or didn’t share the name with a historically RPG franchise that they wouldn’t be classified as RPGs.

JRPG in general lack a lot of the mechanics that we typically attribute to an RPG, even more so with these real time action and party less ones lately.

Have you played real RPG’s`?

Like I said earlier, I simply see RPG’s as being varied. To me, there is NO clear cut definition of what makes a game an RPG and when 95% of gamers and media classify HZD or a FF7R as an RPG, no one is going to listen or go based on what the 5% minority says. That would be like 95% of people listening and agreeing with me complaining about BOTW. It’s just not going to happen.

RPG’s have evolved and don’t do all the same stuff that old RPG’s used to and I think a lot of people have their mind set to what an RPG was that they can’t get around the fact that some games nowadays are RPG’s but not what they’re used to seeing or having in what they would consider to be an RPG.

Yes. More back in the day than now but still yes. The Witcher 3 is an action RPG. To me, AC/HZD and others are action RPG’s. They’re just not “hardcore”. That’s the only difference. They evolved to become something different than what everyone have been used to for decades. I played Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, Shadow Hearts, Suikoden and a bunch of others in that SNES/PS/PS2 eras.

I think the main issue is that everyone here is basically going based on BioWare, Obsidian, perhaps InXile and Bethesda Game Studios while ignoring all the rest. I consider the vast majority of their games to all be RPG’s in one way or another. It just may not be what I prefer in what I want in an RPG.

A lot of people love choice & consequence but I don’t. I think it’s completely stupid, meaningless and pointless because it’s only there to decide what ending you get out of multiple endings and then, when the next game in the series releases, only one ending actually counts so what’s the point in having all of that to begin with when none of it carries over into the next game.

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I don’t think the genre of RPG has evolved, the games themselves have evolved to blur the lines and effectively have made it hard to classify games.

I don’t see a fundamental difference between HZD and God of War 2018 beyond how open the world is yet one is labeled an action RPG and one is labeled action adventure.

In the end, it’s a fruitless exercise trying to fit things into boxes. It only serves to start arguments lol.

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Hahaha. True. lol

now that this is solved, let’s tackle a harder question… are videogames art? :oh_wow_think: