Throughout RPG history, there have been many stories that stand out as epic so here are the best RPGs with larger-than-life narratives.
Warning: although I tried to avoid it for the most part, there are some spoilers below so please read each of the sections with caution.
Final Fantasy Tactics
The story of Final Fantasy Tactics is perhaps the most complex out of any game in the franchise. It combines political power struggles with character-driven subplots in a masterful way and its constant twists and turns, many of which end in tragedy, will keep you wanting to see how it all unfolds in the end. Throw in themes about common folk rising up to power and a diabolical cult who wishes to resurrect their deity and you're left with one incredibly intricate and engaging story that you'll probably want to enjoy multiple times.
Lost Odyssey is an example of an RPG that may not have the most original main story but its narrative shines within all of the small stories contained within it; specifically, its A Thousand Years of Dreams tales that were written by novelist Kiyoshi Shigematsu. You play as Kaim, an immortal who's struggling with his memories and the small stories that are told throughout help flesh him and the entire cast out in a beautiful and often emotional way. Plus, the subtle notion that these dreams may not be 100% accurate adds a layer of mystery.
Star Ocean: Till the End of Time
The Star Ocean series has some truly underrated stories and the best of all is within the third game, Till the End of Time. The story begins innocently enough with friends Fayt and Sophia on vacation but of course, aliens attack and a war ensues. Things only get more complicated from there but then (major spoiler alert), everything comes to a screeching halt when you come to the realisation that you, your friends, and your entire world are simply part of a computer simulation. Talk about a story that was ahead of its time!
There aren't many RPGs with time travelling and whenever the subject comes up, gamers immediately think of Chrono Trigger and for good reason. Not only does its story span multiple time periods with awesome recruitable party members in each, there's an overarching sense of doom as parasitic alien Lavos tunneled to the centre of the planet and is basically a ticking time bomb waiting to bring apocalypse which inevitably occurs in the year 1999. The most mind-blowing aspect is that you can defeat Lavos at different points in time to see multiple endings. Oh, and I love that seemingly minor character Schala becomes a huge part of the sequel, Chrono Cross.Also featured in: Top 10 Games of 1995
Breath of Fire III
Some RPGs stand out because they begin simply enough yet gradually grow into an awe-inspiring grand-scale adventure. Such games include Grandia, Trails of Cold Steel, and Final Fantasy XII yet I find that Breath of Fire III exemplifies this specific story genre in a truly epic way. You play as Ryu both as a child and adult as he journeys to find a purpose. With a strong cast of supporting characters, the story evolves from Ryu being a scoundrel to discovering the immense power within him which comes in handy when he ultimately faces one of the most manipulative villains in RPG history, Myria. It's a deeply inspiring story of overcoming adversity and proving your worth.Also featured in: Top 10 PlayStation JRPGs
When I think of epic stories, the first franchise that comes to mind is the Xeno games. Xenoblade Chronicles exceeded my expectations when I played it on Wii back in the day and it still holds up as one of my favourite games of all time. Anyway, the fact that its game world takes place on a couple of massive warring titans who are standing still after becoming deadlocked in combat is mind-blowing enough on its own, especially considering just how diverse and vast the game world is. Makes me want to play it again just thinking about it!
About the story specifically, it begins with a war between organic life from the Bionis titan and mechanical beings from the other titan, Mechonis. After eventually finding yourself on Mechonis, you realise that they're not so bad and once the true villain and the origins of this very unconventional world are revealed, things begin to take a reality-altering turn where you may be able to reshape the world.Xenoblade Chronicles Definitive Edition Review
Final Fantasy VI
Out of all the Final Fantasy games that released over the decades, Final Fantasy VI's story is certainly the most epic. Whereas many games in the series see a world in turmoil, this is the only one where the actual apocalypse occurs. As a true madman, Kefka performs some heinous acts throughout the plot and I'm sure we all know what he ultimately achieves. What I find makes the story special beyond the absolutely dire situation that the world faces is the amazing large cast of characters who each have their own memorable tale. From the silly to the serious, each character is brimming with hope in their own unique way which makes it one incredible adventure.Final Fantasy VI vs. Chrono Trigger Quiz: Final Fantasy VI Trivia
Even though every other game on this list was made in Japan, I have to give a great deal of recognition to Chris Avellone's Planescape: Torment. Just like Lost Odyssey, it tells the story of an immortal warrior with memory issues. Known simply as The Nameless One, you're on a quest of self-discovery with the tattoos on your body providing guidance which kind of makes it like Memento although Planescape: Torment actually predates that film. Anyway, its exploration of what makes someone human and if people can actually change is deeply introspective, often emotional in its side-stories, and will even have you asking questions about yourself throughout.Planescape Torment: Enhanced Edition Review
NieR: Automata contains perhaps the most abstract story out of any game on this list yet it's engraved in many gamers' memories as one of the greatest plots in RPG history due to its nihilistic take on human nature even though there are no humans in its narrative at all. Its premise is similar to Xenoblade Chronicles as androids and machines are at war. Playing as android 2B, you mercilessly slaughter countless machines; many of which display more human emotions than 2B does despite their robotic appearance. Right away, this makes the player feel uneasy and once the big picture is revealed, you'll understand just how futile everything is yet there's a certain beauty to it all.
By the way, another amazing aspect of NieR: Automata is how it's connected to the original NieR which itself is a continuation of a very specific ending of the original Drakengard. If you've played both NieR games, you'll notice many references and lore that the 2 games share which makes their stories and worlds more satisfying and engaging. The question is; is it worth playing Drakengard as well?NieR: Automata Review Astral Chain vs. NieR: Automata
If you've been playing RPGs for as long as I have then you probably saw this coming. For starters, the story within Xenogears spans over 10,000 years. At its start, you play as a humble villager named Fei Fong Wong and after a tragic event in his town of Lahan, his alter ego Id emerges who is a manifestation of Fei's traumatic past. From then on, you'll meet a huge cast of characters, experience many sub-stories that range from inspiringly heartfelt to incredibly tragic, and learn about the intricate game world via many monumental twists and turns. From characters who are consistently reincarnated to revelations that certain people aren't who they appear to be; there's a lot to dig into and the more you understand how it all fits together, the more impressed you'll be at this astoundingly epic RPG story.Xenogears vs. Grandia