Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Top 10 Alternatives to Skyrim

So you've played 500 hours worth of Skyrim and have finally finished experiencing all there is to do? Or maybe you only played for a short while before getting bored with it? Perhaps you don't want to pay $60 for a brand new game, and don't even own Skyrim? For whatever reason, we all come to a point when we stop playing Skyrim and search for games to fill the void it's left behind, whether that be a craving for more games like Skyrim, or for good RPGs in general.

As it turns out, there are actually a fair number of recent "fantasy-themed role-playing games" that are all good and worth playing, so I thought I'd compile a list for anyone looking for an RPG fix after Skyrim. Continue reading for the full list.

#10. Dark Souls

This one gets #10 on my list for two reasons: 1) I've never played it so I can't recommend it from personal experience, and 2) it's only available on the console boxes, not on the PC. Dark Souls is a fantasy action-RPG with brutally tight combat and leveling mechanics, set in a semi-open world to explore at your own pace. It's essentially a dungeon-crawler with intense combat and lots of deeply-layered decision-making in terms of how you play, how you customize your character, where you go and what you do, that all has a significant impact on the gameplay.

#9. Two Worlds 2

I haven't played this one either; consider it merely a suggestion. I played a bit of the first Two Worlds and thought it was an interesting RPG with a somewhat generic atmosphere and other clunky issues, but from all accounts, Two Worlds 2 addresses most of the problems with the original game, offering the same level of depth with more polish and refinement. Two Worlds 2 features a rather large fantasy world to explore, complete with quests that offer plenty of different role-playing options and decisions, and that makes it a desirable game in and of itself.

#8. Nehrim: At Fate's Edge

Nehrim is a total conversion mod for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. It's a completely stand-alone game with all-original landscapes, quests, leveling mechanics, soundtrack, and voice-overs. It's a community project that's completely free (as long as you have Oblivion to run it), but everything about it feels professionally done, and it's actually better than Oblivion in many ways. Chief among Nehrim's changes to the Oblivion formula is a more conventional "experience points" system for killing enemies and completing quests with non-scaling enemies, making it a very compelling experience.

#7. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

It's always nice to see a new IP, so Kingdoms of Amalur is exciting if only for the chance to explore an entirely new universe. It feels kind of like a mash-up of popular RPGs like Fallout 3, Skyrim, Mass Effect, and Fable, with slight hints of Guild Wars and World of Warcraft. It sports a large, open world with tons of quests and lots of fast-paced, exciting combat, all mixed with a fairly interesting story and fate mechanics. I really liked the mage combat and the openness of the leveling system, so it should be an interesting game to check out.

#6. Drakensang: The Dark Eye

Based on a German pen-and-paper role-playing game, The Dark Eye, Drakensang plays somewhat similar to Dragon Age: Origins, in the sense that it's a fantasy RPG with dragons and a tactical, party-based combat system with dice rolls. The combat proves to be deep and satisfying with a constant element of challenge, requiring good strategy and character builds to be really effective. Questing and exploration are both relatively straight-forward in RPG terms, but they're complimented by bright, colorful visuals that keep the game feeling unique and interesting.

#5. Dragon Age: Origins

I've written a couple of articles on Dragon Age: Origins before, and being a BioWare game, I'm sure you're already well aware of its nature. Party-based role-playing with tactical combat reminiscent of the Baldur's Gate games and other D&D CRPGs. What it offers over Skyrim is a better story with better characters and tighter gameplay elements. There's a lot of content to experience in DAO, but everything you do compliments your progress in the main quest, unlike most of Skyrim's content that has no consequences for any other aspect of the game.

#4. Risen

Risen takes place on an exotic island, where you play a nameless hero on a quest to discover why ancient ruins are rising up from the earth, and ultimately, to save the island from total destruction. Risen offers an open world to explore, conflicting factions that you can join, intelligently-designed quests that are satisfying to complete, and a combat system that's engaging and rewarding. With Risen 2: Dark Waters set to release in April, you can either play Risen now and be ready for the sequel, or just jump straight into the sequel, which is sure to be an even better experience.

#3. The Witcher

I wrote a more in-depth piece on The Witcher that you can also read for a better description. What makes The Witcher so great is primarily its moral choice system, which presents you with different shades of gray that require a lot of deliberation to really decide on, and the fact that there is always some kind of consequence for your actions down the road. It's a mature game that's very sophisticated in this regard, making sure that everything you do has some kind of significance on the overall experience. There's also The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings.

#2. Gothic 2

Gothic 2 was released way back in 2003, but don't let its age discourage you, because Gothic 2 plays much like any modern game, just with an idiosyncratic control scheme and interface. Simply put, Gothic 2 is at the top of its class. It's loaded with content, but above all its atmosphere, immersion, and gameplay are extremely compelling. From exploring the large, non-linear game world, to fighting enemies, to leveling up and upgrading your character, to completing quests, every minute is pure addicting fun. Click here for more of my words on Gothic.

#1. Fallout: New Vegas

New Vegas is not only a great RPG, but it serves as a good example of how Bethesda games typically lack in role-playing sophistication. New Vegas is the one title in this list that isn't traditional fantasy, but it's an original, imaginative world nonetheless, with rich and interesting gameplay mechanics. You've got the faction system that offers a lot of depth, consequences, and replay value to the experience, with a well-designed world that offers a lot of interesting challenges as you progressively level-up and explore it. Read more of my words here.

** UPDATE FROM 2013 **

In the 20 months since I published this article, I've had the fortune to play Dragon's Dogma, another game in the same basic genre as Skyrim. And it's pretty good. It's an open world hack-n-slash RPG that feels like a cross between Skyrim (in terms of its world and quest structure) and Dark Souls (in terms of its combat), with hints of Shadow of the Colossus mixed in for good measure. This is a solid game that deserves to be somewhere near the top of this list. Read my full review here

But wait! There's more!

I tried to pick games that were fairly recent (all of them were released in 2009 or later, except for Gothic 2 from 2003, and The Witcher from 2007) so that they would feel like modern contemporaries to go along with Skyrim. But if you don't mind playing older games, then there are even more options available to you. Some of these have really dated graphics that might be a bit of a turn off if you're not used to games from this era, but I find most of them to still be visually appealing games, and for the most part their gameplay is actually a lot deeper than what you can find in Skyrim. Anyway, here's a quick list:

  • Fallout 1 & 2
  • Planescape: Torment
  • Baldur's Gate 1 & 2
  • The Temple of Elemental Evil
  • Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura
  • Wizardry 8
  • Ultima 4-7
  • Betrayal at Krondor
  • Realms of Arkania

And if you don't mind some more recent RPGs that aren't traditional fantasy, and follow a slightly more science-fiction route, you might also want to check out:

  • Mass Effect 1 & 2
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
  • Knights of the Old Republic 1 & 2
  • Alpha Protocol

Or, you might want to check out some notable first-person shooters that blend intelligent RPG elements into their gameplay, like

  • Deus Ex
  • STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl
  • System Shock 2
  • Borderlands

So, there you have it. There's a huge wealth of great RPGs available to play, so if you're looking for something to fill the void that's been left in the wake of Skyrim, there are plenty of great games worth looking into. 


  1. Whoa - hold on - New Vegas over Dark Souls and a handful of games you've never played? That's crazy. Here's my list:

    1. Demon's Souls (You should actually buy a PS3 if you don't have one in order to play this game)
    2. The Witcher
    3. Dragon Age: Origins
    4. Fallout: New Vegas

    I'm not sure what should come after that. Probably Dark Souls, but I haven't played it yet. I'm still enjoying Demon's Souls. Legend of Grimrock is a lot of fun too.

    1. Now that I've actually played Dark Souls (as well as Demon's), I'd certainly rank DkS much higher on the list than #10. But even still, New Vegas is mechanically much closer in style to Skyrim than the Souls games in the sense that it's primarily a role-playing game, whereas the Souls games are more action/adventure games with RPG elements (which, ironically, despite TES' roots, describes Skyrim more aptly than being an RPG).

    2. Good point. I should have realized that the idea of the post is to suggest other games that are similar to but possibly better than Skyrim.

    3. I withdraw my recommendations for The Witcher and Legend of Grimrock. To be fair, I may have lost the ability to enjoy anything other than Demon's Souls D:

  2. thankyou for your great post here is the nclist post where he explain the top 10 skyrim alternatives thanks.