Top 10 Classic ARPGs Worth Playing In 2019

Last week I offered up my top ten RPGs to play right now and some of you may have noticed none of the games in the Diablo series were on the list. Your thoughts may differ but I don’t really see Diablo and the other games like it as true RPGs. These classic ARPGs belong in a subgenre all their own. There are several characteristics shared throughout the genre that sets it apart. To start, the games employ an isometric top-down view centered on the character. There are exceptions to this next one, but the genre generally isn’t known for having the strongest stories, and character progression is focused around building up a couple of big hitting abilities that are further enhanced by the weapons and gear you equip. The most defining trait of the genre, though, is the fast paced combat against hordes of mobs and the resulting loot-splosion.  It is with that in mind that I present to you the To 10 Classic ARPGs Worth Playing In 2019.

10 – Victor Vran

Victor Vran doesn’t define your character by choosing one of the typical archetypes of other games in the genre. You have a single choice and based off the title you may have already guessed you will be playing as Victor himself. Your choice of outfits, weapons, and demon powers will help define the powers your Victor can wield. There are also Destiny Cards – swappable cards carrying some of the special abilities and perks other games permanently assign to weapons and gear – which help you tweak your build for specific battles.

Not known for a strong story, Victor Vran makes up for it with great combat. Victor Vran’s combat is a chaotic light show of death and destruction which is elevated to epic proportions in four-player co-op. Toss in a legendary weapon like the Chicken Mortar or the Ghostbuster lightning gun and you will be giggling like a 6-year-old who just heard someone say “poop.”

9 – MU Legend

When hearing that MU Legend is a free to play Eastern MMO that has been brought over to the West, many players will roll their eyes as terms like ‘grind fest’ and ‘cash grab’ spew out of their mouths. Let’s face it, though, if you don’t expect EVERY game in this genre to give you an extreme grinding experience you have never played a single classic ARPG. There is a cash shop, but I can personally attest to the fact that it isn’t necessary to spend a single dime to reach max level and experience the end game content MU Legend has to offer. If you are looking for that classic ARPG feel in your MMO, then MU Legend is sure to scratch that itch, at least until Lost Ark finds its way over here.

8 – Magicka 2

Underneath the not so serious demeanor of Magicka 2 lies one of the most complex spell casting systems this genre has seen. At best, most games allow you to alter a spell out of combat, adjusting its casting speed, damage, range, etc. Magicka 2 takes this process into combat, where quickly pressing a sequence of buttons will determine the characteristics of a spell on the fly. This allows you to easily adapt to whatever circumstances you find yourself in. Fire and water create steam, water and cold create ice, and so forth. 

All of this culminates into some hilarious moments in the 2-4 multiplayer co-op mode. Solving puzzles and surviving the friendly fire enforced combat truly requires cooperation and communication so you can expect an all-out brawl to break out among your group at any moment. It’s these moments where you realize infinite resurrections isn’t just an easy-mode to completing the game, it’s a requirement to get past the first 5 minutes of the game.

7 – Pagan Online

I really struggled on whether Pagan Online should be on this list, mainly because it is still in early access and doesn’t hit full release until next week. But hey, it’s a fun game and I feel it earns a spot on this list, and with a bunch of updates expected to be patched in on release day, it possibly could rank even higher in the future.

So what is it about Pagan Online that warrants this pre-launch nod of approval? To start, I love the instanced based levels. I know, lots of gamers aren’t a fan of instance-based anything, but it works here. As an online co-op game, the instanced levels mean you can meet up with friends for a short gaming session and still make noticeable headway in the campaign. Then, while everyone else is away, you can pop into the game and run some of the other game modes to advance some skills, work on crafting or unlock other characters.

There is a decent mix of character types as well. You start with three choices but will quickly build up the resources to unlock others. A nice touch here is being able to freely swap characters between runs without having to unlock each map with your new choice.

6 – Titan Quest

Titan Quest first released way back in 2006 and has seen re-releases and expansions for PC and ports over to consoles as recent as a few months ago. While the console versions may have been released with a little tarnish on the armor, Titan Quest is a perfect example of how the gameplay of the genre is able to stand the test of time. You may not find the sprawling maps of more recent titles, but the linear maps still offer up substantial playtime and the carrot on a stick loot hunt will keep you going well past the end of the story quests. 

5 – Torchlight 2

The Steampunk vibes and cartoon art style of Torchlight 2 set it apart from the darker mood found in so many other ARPGs. It builds upon the original Torchlight, a very successful game in its own right, most notably adding co-op play. Torchlight 2 makes sure you spend as much time out in the field killing and looting by giving you a pet that not only carries a few items for you but will also make the trek back to town to sell off unwanted equipment so you can keep on going.

Oh, and did you know that Torchlight 2 is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on September 3? Yeah, that’s right, 7 years after the original release it is finally coming to consoles. And people complain about Epic Store exclusives, am I right?

4 – Grim Dawn

For anyone who needs a (un)healthy dose of depression injected into their daily gaming, you need to look no further than Grim Dawn. Humanity is on the cusp of extinction, thanks to an ongoing war between two extra-dimensional species. The Aetherials want to harvest humanity as a resource and the Chthonians want to eradicate humans to hinder the Aetherials. Whatever happened to the old saying of the enemy of my enemy is my friend?

Many of the choices you have to make during the story in Grim Dawn boils down to which one you feel is the lesser of two evils. Fortunately, that isn’t the case when choosing which character class to play since players are able to combine two classes together to make hybrid classes. With two classes and a total of 244 skill points to spend among their skill trees, players are able to mold a character into their favorite play style.

3 – Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3

Welcome to the oddball of this group. Other classic ARPGs have been ported to the Nintendo Switch, but MUA3 is the only one on this list created exclusively for the mobile console. It’s also the only superhero-based game listed here (all of you Marvel Heroes fans can let out a sigh right about…now), giving you access to dozens of your favorite Marvel characters.

You aren’t able to create your own superhero so you are limited to the predefined powers of each character. This is an ARPG so you are still able to upgrade your heroes of choice, but the real joy in combat is in combining the powers of your four hero team (AI controlled or multiplayer co-op) to create combo attacks. Each character is also able to ultimately unleash a screen-filling Extreme attack. 

2 – Diablo Trilogy

It’s so hard to decide which one of these is best, and to avoid peppering them throughout this list I am combining them together here at number 2. Diablo was the defining game of the genre, and 2 and 3 both pushed the gameplay forward. Each game has expanded the world and lore of Sanctuary, and new mechanics introduced have become standard throughout the genre. It’s been seven years since its release and Diablo 3 is still going strong. So what’s next for the Diablo franchise? It may not have received the warm welcome Blizzard hoped for, but let’s hope Diablo Immortal turns out to be a good game.

1 – Path of Exile

Earlier I said that classic ARPGs aren’t known for their varied character progression. Well, the online multiplayer Path of Exile would be the exception to that rule, times 1000. The skill tree in PoE would better be described as a skill web. All character classes start in the middle of this web and then branch out in different directions from there. It can be mind-boggling finding a path through all the stats, skills, and buffs in the web, but anyone willing to spend the time mapping out their build will find it time well spent (or just head to one of the multiple websites dedicated to this).

Beyond the character progression Path of Exile also has all the features you would expect from a classic ARPG. A decent story, a  variety of weapons, very detailed pages to track everything about your characters skills and stats, and a robust crafting system are all included. Beyond all that, developer Grinding Gear Games is continuously reworking and adding new systems to the game to keep it fresh. It is this continual adaptation and evolution of the game that keeps it ahead of the rest of the pack.

Written by
Old enough to have played retro games when they were still cutting edge, Mitch has been a gamer since the 70s. As his game-fu fades (did he ever really have any?), it is replaced with ever-stronger, and stranger, opinions. If that isn't the perfect recipe for a game reviewer, what is?

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