2023 was a whirlwind year for gaming, with nearly every single month seeing multiple massive, critically acclaimed releases. It’s hard to see 2024 keeping up that cadence, and from a cursory glance at the current schedule, it won’t. This year seems destined to be trapped in the previous year’s shadow, except in one regard: RPGs. The first four months of 2024 are stacked with role-playing games, and even after that, there’s a lot to suggest the year will be a banner one for the genre. Other genres might slow down, but this year could mark the height of another renaissance for RPG fans.
Before looking forward, it’s important to recognize that 2023’s hottest games were complex RPGs. Baldur’s Gate 3 is the obvious star that dominated the second half of the year and garnered Game of the Year at The Game Awards. But Starfield, Phantom Liberty, Sea of Stars, and Octopath Traveler 2 all received a lot of attention, too. Importantly, all those games are also very different. Riding on players’ unparalleled enthusiasm for the genre last year, 2024 is now the moment for role-playing games to shine.
That’s particularly important because this year’s upcoming role-playing games generally fall into two categories: follow-ups to games that pushed the genre forward, and titles bringing back long-dormant franchises.
Second Time’s The Charm
This year is already shaping up to be the year of the RPG, with multiple sequels to some of the most devastatingly popular games of the last decade.
It kicks off just weeks into the new year with Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth, a direct sequel to Yakuza: Like a Dragon. The first game was a brilliantly subversive deconstruction of party-based RPGs, seamlessly blending what makes Yakuza so special with a turn-based RPG. Then, one week later, Sega will release another bombshell: Persona 3 Reload.
It’s fair to say Persona 5 was one of the key games that led to a resurgence in turn-based RPGs, taking the franchise into mainstream popularity in the process. That gives developer Atlus a chance to reassess one of its most ambitious games and capitalize on the buzz Persona 5 still gets eight years after its release.
Three weeks after that, Square Enix will put out Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth, a tremendously ambitious follow-up to Remake, which felt like a turning point for Final Fantasy. Remake created one of the most compelling combat systems ever seen in an action RPG, on top of wild narrative swings that are surprisingly well implemented.
That’s not even to mention massive sequels like Dragon’s Dogma 2 and Hades 2, both of which look to deliver more of their respective studios’ vision for the original game.
And then there’s that second category of releases, RPGs hoping to breathe new life into slumbering franchises. Here you have Eiyuden Chronicle (a spiritual successor to Suikoden), Visions of Mana, SaGa: Emerald Beyond, Metal Slug: Tactics, Granblue Fantasy: Relink, Vampire: The Masquerade 2, and more.
It’s staggering how many series we’re seeing come back all at once, and that’s not even talking about ambitious new IPs from legendary studios, like Level 5’s DecaPolice, Obsidian’s Avowed, Atlus’ Metaphor: ReFantazio, Bandai Namco’s Blue Protocol, and more. Even studios that traditionally haven’t made role-playing heavy games are shaking that up this year, like Vanillaware with Unicorn Overlord and Dontnod with Banishers: Ghosts of New Eden. There are a half dozen options for action RPG fans, just as many for turn-based players, and plenty of strategy games mixed in between everything.
More importantly, we’re seeing all these studios that don’t just want to make RPGs but want to push the genre forward in new and exciting ways. Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth’s developers have talked about wanting to make a compelling open world, drawing from The Witcher 3 as inspiration. The team behind Eiyuden Chronicle wants to bring a modern take on Suikoden. Dragon’s Dogma 2 looks ridiculously ambitious, with Capcom clearly wanting to deliver on the first game’s visions, which notoriously had a big amount of cut content.
This surge of RPGs is likely coming from a couple of different places. It could be delayed development timelines finally catching up, or it could be massive games like The Witcher 3 and Breath of the Wild paying dues by inspiring other developers. The prevalence of RPGs this year is an interesting trend, especially when you compare it to other genres. Even shooters only have a few confirmed titles, like Suicide Squad, Destiny: The Final Shape, and presumably another Call of Duty. No matter how you slice it, role-playing fans seem the best off in the next year.