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Thread: RPG Classifications or "What the hell is an RPG?"

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    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    Smash RPG Classifications or "What the hell is an RPG?"

    I still get Game Informer and their newest issue had them rank the 100 Greatest RPGs of all time, spoiler alert, it's not a Final Fantasy. Yet going through the issue, there were a few nagging entries that I just can't bring myself to classify as an RPG that magically showed up on the list. The three that rang alarm bells in my mind were Horizon Zero Dawn (I feel it's more of an Open World sandbox game like Far Cry), Bloodborne (An Action game with RPG mechanics, but easily an action game first, more so than the Dark Souls series) and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Action Adventure game with an RPG gimmick attached).

    Granted, perhaps I'm just making a mess out of nothing and simply whining because these three games don't exactly adhere to my own interpretation of the genre but I had a similar issue when I was looking up RPG games on Steam to find their suggestions littered with titles that I feel are firmly classified as a very distinct genre like classic Adventure game, visual novel, and straight up action games.

    So my question for this thread is simple: Are there any games you've seen classified as RPG you don't feel deserve it or vice versa games that should be called RPGs but are not? Secondly, what makes a game classified as an RPG for you?

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    Untalented Game Designer FFNut's Avatar
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    I have a small collection of strategy games I love to play that have an RPG element to them, yet when people tell me it's an RPG I look at them funny. They are not an RapG, they are a stragity game that just happens to add an element from the RPG into it.

    Next they hey will say that sports games are RPG with modes like Be A Pro, or FIFA 17 where you play as Alex Hunter in his bid to make and stay in the Premier. They are not, they are sports games that added a RPG element to it.

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    Sh♥tposter Extraordinaire Jinx's Avatar
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    Technically all video games are role-playing games, because all video games are not your real life.
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    I always knee-jerk about this kind of discussion, because trying to be stringent about genres and "what is a real X" inevitably leads to to the obnoxious "X ISN'T A REAL VIDEO GAME" whiners that populate much of the internet. So I've no great opinion on this.

    Other than to say that Horizon: Zero Dawn is absolutely not an RPG. That's the only allowance I'll make of those three quibbles. That's it.

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    Beautiful Elf Boy Mister Adequate's Avatar
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    I think I'd agree with excluding the games you mention WK (Though I can see it with Bloodborne I guess, as the Souls games are generally considered RPGs and it's closely related). Still, in the modern era RPG mechanics of one kind or another have been snagged by everything from FPS games to open-world racers. Honestly for me it's a little like that old saw about porn; I can't really define it, but I know it when I see it. I mean, you could say it's about dialog and character interaction - does that make the Telltale games like The Walking Dead RPGs? There's no levels to gain or stats to grind or dungeons to explore, but they're some of the purest "play a role" games around, to the point where how you react to unavoidable events is pretty much the whole thing.

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    i read that issue too, it sux that they included so many games that were not RPGs that they weren't able to include more RPGs that should have been on there... basically they added a bunch of adventure and survival games with slight RPG elements in them like calling Zelda RPG when it's adventure, and Horizon when it's survival... but this is Game Informer, you can't expect them to get everything right, it's more of a propaganda machine and not really informative and rarely accurate...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elly View Post
    i read that issue too, it sux that they included so many games that were not RPGs that they weren't able to include more RPGs that should have been on there... basically they added a bunch of adventure and survival games with slight RPG elements in them like calling Zelda RPG when it's adventure, and Horizon when it's survival... but this is Game Informer, you can't expect them to get everything right, it's more of a propaganda machine and not really informative and rarely accurate...
    Most people do insist that Zelda is an Adventure. I on the other hand cannot see anything that just pins it down to an adventure alone. For me it is an RPG/Adventure combo. And Breath of the Wild in particular.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sephiroth View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Elly View Post
    i read that issue too, it sux that they included so many games that were not RPGs that they weren't able to include more RPGs that should have been on there... basically they added a bunch of adventure and survival games with slight RPG elements in them like calling Zelda RPG when it's adventure, and Horizon when it's survival... but this is Game Informer, you can't expect them to get everything right, it's more of a propaganda machine and not really informative and rarely accurate...
    Most people do insist that Zelda is an Adventure. I on the other hand cannot see anything that just pins it down to an adventure alone. For me it is an RPG/Adventure combo. And Breath of the Wild in particular.
    I think it more defines an area of gray where people tend to draw the line. Otherwise you have trains of thought that lead like: If Zelda is an RPG then so is Darksiders. If Darksiders is an RPG, then so is God of War. If God of War is an RPG then so is Asura's Wrath. If Asura's Wrath is an RPG then so is Heavy Rain. And if Heavy Rain is an RPG then so is Family Guy

    People are okay with making exceptions here and there for games like Zelda and Dark Souls. But people are also opposed, because they find the idea of opening the flood gates for everything to be defined by everything as too ridiculous. We need our labels and categories



  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vyk View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Sephiroth View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Elly View Post
    i read that issue too, it sux that they included so many games that were not RPGs that they weren't able to include more RPGs that should have been on there... basically they added a bunch of adventure and survival games with slight RPG elements in them like calling Zelda RPG when it's adventure, and Horizon when it's survival... but this is Game Informer, you can't expect them to get everything right, it's more of a propaganda machine and not really informative and rarely accurate...
    Most people do insist that Zelda is an Adventure. I on the other hand cannot see anything that just pins it down to an adventure alone. For me it is an RPG/Adventure combo. And Breath of the Wild in particular.
    I think it more defines an area of gray where people tend to draw the line. Otherwise you have trains of thought that lead like: If Zelda is an RPG then so is Darksiders. If Darksiders is an RPG, then so is God of War. If God of War is an RPG then so is Asura's Wrath. If Asura's Wrath is an RPG then so is Heavy Rain. And if Heavy Rain is an RPG then so is Family Guy

    People are okay with making exceptions here and there for games like Zelda and Dark Souls. But people are also opposed, because they find the idea of opening the flood gates for everything to be defined by everything as too ridiculous. We need our labels and categories
    Darksiders is considered by many people as "mature Zelda" and RPG-ish.

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    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mister Adequate View Post
    I think I'd agree with excluding the games you mention WK (Though I can see it with Bloodborne I guess, as the Souls games are generally considered RPGs and it's closely related). Still, in the modern era RPG mechanics of one kind or another have been snagged by everything from FPS games to open-world racers. Honestly for me it's a little like that old saw about porn; I can't really define it, but I know it when I see it. I mean, you could say it's about dialog and character interaction - does that make the Telltale games like The Walking Dead RPGs? There's no levels to gain or stats to grind or dungeons to explore, but they're some of the purest "play a role" games around, to the point where how you react to unavoidable events is pretty much the whole thing.
    Bloodborne is a much more streamlined affair than Dark Souls. They certainly removed some of the deeper mechanics from Dark Souls to make the game a more fast paced action experience. Course I have a hard time saying Dark Souls is an RPG, but I'll give them that. Bloodborne pretty much feels like Devil May Cry with stats.

    As for Telltale games, I still consider them adventure/visual novels. You certainly play "a role" but as Jinx pointed out, that's gaming in general. The idea your choices matter and affect the story certainly gives it more merit than some JRPGs who usually just have you watch a pre-made story, but if we adhere back to the genres roots of D&D, making choices is only half the experience of what the genre was meant to do. I'm probably more strict on mechanics in my own definition of the genre though.

    Other than that, I agree with the porn analogy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vyk View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Sephiroth View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Elly View Post
    i read that issue too, it sux that they included so many games that were not RPGs that they weren't able to include more RPGs that should have been on there... basically they added a bunch of adventure and survival games with slight RPG elements in them like calling Zelda RPG when it's adventure, and Horizon when it's survival... but this is Game Informer, you can't expect them to get everything right, it's more of a propaganda machine and not really informative and rarely accurate...
    Most people do insist that Zelda is an Adventure. I on the other hand cannot see anything that just pins it down to an adventure alone. For me it is an RPG/Adventure combo. And Breath of the Wild in particular.
    I think it more defines an area of gray where people tend to draw the line. Otherwise you have trains of thought that lead like: If Zelda is an RPG then so is Darksiders. If Darksiders is an RPG, then so is God of War. If God of War is an RPG then so is Asura's Wrath. If Asura's Wrath is an RPG then so is Heavy Rain. And if Heavy Rain is an RPG then so is Family Guy

    People are okay with making exceptions here and there for games like Zelda and Dark Souls. But people are also opposed, because they find the idea of opening the flood gates for everything to be defined by everything as too ridiculous. We need our labels and categories
    ^This is partly where I'm getting at. The term RPG has become as loose as the term "Action-Adventure" so just about anything is getting labeled as so. It's getting weird is all I'm saying, and I'm curious to see how other people define the ever elusive "RPG".

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sephiroth View Post
    Darksiders is considered by many people as "mature Zelda" and RPG-ish.
    That's why I used it to segue to the rest of the argument :P It's also very God of War in combat, so it helps blur the line for people either leery or eager to open the flood gates and categorize "everything" an RPG



  12. #12
    Feel the Bern Del Murder's Avatar
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    I read the issue, and they did mention that the line defining an RPG has become blurred. I think they included those games on purpose to make a point. Though it is odd they include games like Horizon and Destiny and not, say, Borderlands.

    I think the definition of RPG is definitely not what it used to be. Instead of categorizing every game into a single genre, they are more like labels where a game could have one or several. Any game with some kind of stat progression could qualify for the RPG label these days.

    The biggest atrocity of their list is putting Skyrim at number 1. Honestly, their list is kind of weird, but every list like this is going to have some odd elements. I liked IGN's RPG list better.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vyk View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Sephiroth View Post
    Darksiders is considered by many people as "mature Zelda" and RPG-ish.
    That's why I used it to segue to the rest of the argument :P It's also very God of War in combat, so it helps blur the line for people either leery or eager to open the flood gates and categorize "everything" an RPG
    Eh, you very much exaggerate with your conclusions though because the more transitions you make the more aspects are lost. It does not make much sense to disregard Game 2 after transition 1 as RPG just because Game 11 after transition 10 is not an RPG. You check if there are still criteria for it to be considered an RPG and then say "okay after that transition it has lost all of the possible characteristics" but you do not say "this one doesn't have it so the other one also" if "this one" possibly still has a lot of things that "the other one" might have lost already. I for example see one game that is considered RPG as no RPG at all because I see it as "its very own genre that adopts from RPGs" and that is Pokémon. If anything I can accept is as its own new subclass of the superclass RPG but that's really it. As long as it is clear that it kind of has its own niche and is not comparable to the standard. And for Zelda I see that very similiar. I consider Zelda an RPG way easier than Pokémon because while Zelda "has no HP and EXP and blabla" there are still fundamental aspects of it that I see as necessary for an RPG. And that something has puzzles and no EXP is not really an RPG-No-Go for me. As said, for me Zelda is a mix. And Action-Adventure-RPG. And Darksiders is pretty much the same thing then. I cannot say too much about God of War because I have never played it. Your transitional thinking of "Chain Member 1 is an RPG so Chain Member 10 is also" is incomplete as long as you do not define how many criteria are still fulfilled BUT for your specific examples we actually can see where the chain should stop because certain aspects are lost at one point.,
    Last edited by Sephiroth; 05-16-2017 at 08:28 PM.

  14. #14

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    to be clear the only reason i call Zelda an Adventure game even if it's exceptionally close to being an RPG is because it said "Adventure" on the original boxes for the NES... back in the 80's NES days the boxes had the games categories printed on them, as well as with their descriptions in Nintendo Power also being labeled with a specific category... the Nintendo Power Strategy guides were also seperated by these categories... in all these instances it was categorized as Adventure, so i figure Miyamoto decided it was Adventure, and so i go with that...
    this is as i recall it from the 80's, i was a teenager then so there's a chance i could be misremembering something...

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    Memento Mori Site Contributor Wolf Kanno's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elly View Post
    to be clear the only reason i call Zelda an Adventure game even if it's exceptionally close to being an RPG is because it said "Adventure" on the original boxes for the NES... back in the 80's NES days the boxes had the games categories printed on them, as well as with their descriptions in Nintendo Power also being labeled with a specific category... the Nintendo Power Strategy guides were also seperated by these categories... in all these instances it was categorized as Adventure, so i figure Miyamoto decided it was Adventure, and so i go with that...
    this is as i recall it from the 80's, i was a teenager then so there's a chance i could be misremembering something...
    If you go by Nintendo's eShop categorization, only a few of Zelda games count as RPGs. Usually it begins with the 3D entries and the top down titles are still action-adventure. I still consider Zelda to sort of be it's own thing. I don't mind calling it an RPG or simply Action-Adventure, but frankly it's unique enough to be just in a category of it's own. I feel the same way about Vagrant Story.

    For my own reasoning, I usually start with "what is the primary gameplay function/component?" and use that to determine the genre of a title that utilizes multiple components by ranking the elements from most important to least. I also do a fail safe check to see if it falls into another category. For instance, TellTale games have the role-play element pretty upfront for their titles, so you could argue it's an RPG, but it's also a visual novel, which I consider a separate genre due to different goals and lack of some major RPG components. For RPGs specifically, my criteria for an RPG is usually "how close is it to D&D?" and I go from there.

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