Elemental Challenge Day Ten: Action RPGs



You know what? Screw tradition. It’s time for Day Ten and the Ahrpguhz… better known as ARPGs or Action RPGs. The difference between today’s list of favs and yesterday’s is interesting, with most of the entries yesterday having been released prior to 2000 whereas today it’s precisely the reverse. ARPGs are the wave of the future and they have been since RPGs took a step in this direction with Square’s Active Time Battle system in Final Fantasy IV. Action RPGs, which often place emphasis on the former rather than the latter, mechanically, are a mark of the modern era and a testament to the power of modern engines to support extremely fast gameplay. More bombastic than their patient predecessors, ARPGs currently dominate the role-playing scene and they probably will for a good long AAA while!

Here are just a few of our favorites…


FF3-NES-Summoner2.png The Green Screen Mage

Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic 2. I can’t say how many times I have run through this game. I love the light and dark side paths and the different characters you get to add to your party and get to know. Also, killing things with a lightsaber. Yeah, that’s fun.



blackmage The Black Humor Mage

There’s a lot of action RPGs out there, and it might be my favorite genre. It’s the best of both words, and while I love a lot of action RPGs, my favorite right now is Bloodborne. It’s an impressive game, and it blows my mind. It’s an absolutely brutal game and totally tested my will and skill. There’s great customization of clothing and weapons, and the gameplay is sturdy. And the design of the enemies and sprawling, yet interconnected environment were absolutely amazing. When I finished it, it felt like a real accomplishment. And it’s a PlayStation exclusive!



mystic_knight1 The Midnight Mystic Mage (Sublime Reviews)

Dragon Age. This whole series is so incredible, if I had to rank them I would go Inquisition, Origins, & 2 from the top to bottom. It is hard to pick in this genre which is almost certainly my favorite type of games. The Legend of Zelda makes up my childhood just as I’m sure it does most of yours, and I have played every game from the Fable trilogy and thoroughly enjoyed each of them. I have as of yet only finished the first game in the Witcher series, but I loved it so much that it just might take my top spot when I am able to complete them.



spoonybardmageright.jpg The Spoony Bard Mage (Nerd Speaker)

Does Secret of Mana count? Because Secret of Mana. Another Square classic, with some of the best music you’ll hear in any video game. Also, many weapons. And elemental sprites. You also travel by canon.



finalfourteenthmage.png The Final Fourteenth Mage (Cilla vs. Games)

NieR is such an underrated game. The lore is so amazing between the two versions and the Grimoire. Nothing could have prepared me for the second playthrough and the different perspective you had access to. Every characters backstory was so tragic and I was invested in each and every one of them. I found the combat fine albeit a little clunky at times. I have my fingers crossed that they will release an amazing remaster one day especially with Automata doing well!



HandheldMage1  The Hopeful Handheld Mage (Retro Redress)

Fallout 3. The game that made me realise that I needed to play more RPGs. One of the most memorable feelings I’ve had from gaming was the sheer wonder of being dumped in the Capitol Wastelands with nothing but a vault suit. I’d never played a Bethesda game before and had no idea what to do. Having to explore the Wastelands and learn how to survive was incredible. I honestly felt my character grew as the game when on… not just his stats, but the friends he made, weapons he discovered, settlements he rescued…

I traded Fallout 3 in for Fallout: New Vegas. Imagine how gutted I was when you were given weapons, clothes and tutorials from the beginning of New Vegas… The glee of killing that first raider and getting your first armour was sadly gone.



 The Rage Mage
Okay… Rage Mage’s don’t cry… but I actually like something! How many shameless Zelda clones are there in the world? Innumerable but I got into Crystalis, this Miyazaki-esque NES ARPG, and it’s never let go…



rmage2.jpg The Well-Red Mage

When you walk away you won’t hear me say pleeeeeeeeeeease o-oh baybeeeee don’t go! Simple and clean is the way that my nomination for favorite ARPG concludes this post, because c’mon guys… Kingdom Hearts. I remember I was introduced to this game when I asked a cashier at a game shop what’s a good RPG I hadn’t played yet and he highly recommended KH. I scoffed off the Disney characters and he essentially said “don’t be such a narrow-minded snob, you platitudinous buffoon!” I’m glad I took his advice because this game is one of the hallmarks, the milestones, of my personal gaming history. This is one of the best games on the PlayStation 2 and Square/Disney’s lovechild will not fail to reach your inner heart of hearts, no matter what kind of gamer you are. Even non-gamers have enjoyed Kingdom Hearts. I know several people who’ve said “I haven’t ever played and finished a video game… except for Kingdom Hearts.” So for me, it’s really the only obvious choice. Well, that and I struggled to find a pick for this category. I really struggled. ARPGs, the modern ones, typically aren’t this mage’s thang.



So which ARPG gets your blood pumping? Do you prefer your RPGs more traditional or more hyperactive? Let us know and come back again tomorrow for Day Eleven. Just make sure to bring your thinking cap, because tomorrow’s genre will require some… strategy.characters4

Did you enjoy this post? Consider becoming a Warrior of Light and join us in restoring integrity and quality to entertainment journalism. We specialize in long-form, analytical reviews and we aim to expand into a podcast and webzine with paid contributors! See our Patreon page for more info!



35 replies »

  1. Yayyy!!! Every game mentioned is awesome!!! Hooray!!!
    But Lord C’ll go for Kingdom Hearts, as, before it gets all silly, the story tore a hole in my heart.. (Sora must rescue his friends & defeat the Heartless! Literally! THE HEARTLESS!!! what more d’ya bloomin need!? 😀 😀 )

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What I love best about the existence of Kingdom Hearts is that I can technically say that Sephiroth is now a Disney villain along with my second favorite villain Loki 😆 I can keep all my sexy villains in one place! Do you know he (Sephiroth) was voiced by Lance Bass from ‘N Sync in KH??! Don’t judge me!!

    All that being said Mass Effect is my favorite ARPG. I’m not a huge fan of the subgenre in terms of game mechanics, but I’m trying because many of them have great stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh naw! Haha you picked literally like the most embarrassing factoid about KH1! At least, it used to be when we made fun of Lance Bass in school. Now, I don’t have anything against the guy. I can’t recall what Sephie sounded like in KH1 anyways. I can only hear his Advent Children voice.

      You and I have I think the same views on ARPG mechanics! 🙂


  3. Props to the Crystalis answer! I’d say Secret of Mana, but I do think Kingdom Hearts is more of a favorite for me. I’m sure there’s a big action RPG I’m not thinking about, since there are a lot of them now, but I’ll go with KH. Not for the story of course. I have no idea what’s going on in that story still!

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are a ton of them out there. Maybe it was paralysis with too many choices that kept me from reaching an answer right way , but when I thought of Kingdom Hearts, I knew that had to be it for me. I think if KH1 was a standalone and wasn’t infected with sequelitis, it’d be a great story, but yeah once you start getting into the “136/298.398 divided by 1293.pi Dreams in Madness” games then it’s too much.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I nominate Fable: The Lost Chapters on the PC. I have not played many action RPGs, but I did enjoy this game. It was interesting for a game to focus on good and evil characteristics, but maintain a neutrality regarding morality. I like the way the game provided skills, decisions and bets during quests that were undeniably good or evil, but it is the player’s decision to use these skills or make the decisions. I also liked how the player’s appearance changes depending on their moral choices (between a glowing saintly figure and a threatening demonic creature). I found the story interesting as well (with a detailed background and some enjoyable side quests) and enjoyed the humour in the game as well. The gameplay was simple, with the use of melee weapons, ranged weapons and Will, with the player learning a variety of other skills. Some of the locations were interesting as well, with the grim Darkwood, misty Witchwood, spooky Litchfield and a bordello (which I have not really encountered in a game before). The extra content on the Lost Chapters is good as well, I like the Northern Wastes (which create an effective atmosphere of cold), the disturbing Necropolis level and the ways the spirits were collected.
    I have thought Kingdom Hearts seemed like a weird game, I remember an advert showing Goofy and Mickey Mouse resolutely preparing for battle. Are the games based on locations and characters from Disney films? Or are they completely invented for the games, just with Mickey Mouse as a hero?

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you haven’t played Kingdom Hearts, you’re doing yourself a disservice like I was before I played it. It’s not something to brush off. Final Fantasy character cameos and Disney characters as supporting cast members, it’s a brilliant mash-up game that’s also a fun ARPG. Sora is the hero, not Mickey.


  5. I give this nod to Ys Origin. Ordinarily I would give it to one of the older games in the series (It’s also my favorite JRPG series so there’s some overlap) but this game gives you a ton of back story, and gives you a new perspective on the other games in the series as it’s a prequel. One that takes place several hundred years before the events of the first game. Plus it has three endings one for each of the characters, the third of which is considered the canon ending. It’s awesome.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m going to go with Daggerfall. It isn’t as good as Morrowind, Oblivion, or Skyrim but it was the first true open-world game for me that just allowed me to go out in the world and adventure. And I could be a naked Cat person and get arrested for indecency. I mean, really I find it indecent that a Cat person would wear clothes.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Like you I lean more towards JRPGs and so this is a tough one for me…Kingdom Hearts is definitely a great game, but I think I’ll be going with Tales of Symphonia for this category. Whereas many games in this category tend to emphasize the “action” part of the name, Tales is still very much focused on the “RPG” with more strategic combat, party roles, and overworld exploration/puzzles being a larger part of the experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’d have to saaaaay… Phantasy Star Online just barely manages to nudge Tales of Symphonia out on this one, due to the sheer amount of time I put into it. I always adore sci-fantasy and you pretty much don’t get any more sci-fan than PSO. The character models were… ‘there’, in that extremely SEGA way (including the perpetually nodding in place seen from Sonic Adventure), but the rest of the game was great. Basic spells were available to everybody (save the mechanical race), there were a wide variety of class variations from all-arounders to specialized roles, and the weapon system made procedurally-generated items fun before they were the fashionable thing to include in everything outside of rouge-likes. Being SEGA, the soundtrack was great, too, and the randomized stages weren’t anything to overlook, either. I’ll always love PSO for making the future actually look fun and exciting, instead of endless hallways of future-steel.

    So, technically, this is a tie: Phantasy Star Online 1/2 was a strong hobby, but I’m actually picking Phantasy Star Zero for the DS for this entry. Being a DS title, the graphics weren’t entirely something to put up against the Gamecube’s PSO. But what it lacked in wide online support and graphics, it made up for in having a much more coherent story than the original- not that I mind that one, either, but PS-Z did a nice job of actually weaving the overall conflict with your own journey, instead of just tossing you on a planet and having you piece together small bits from either side-quests or discovered message packs. It controlled a lot better as well, offering a wider range of special attacks and AI support. And your story partners themselves had a lot more focus this time around, so I actually liked having them tag along for once. I played it so much that I actually soloed the 100-floor bonus dungeon. And 100 floors of one game takes -exactly- as many hours as you’d think it does!

    Liked by 2 people

    • “I’ll always love PSO for making the future actually look fun and exciting, instead of endless hallways of future-steel.” I don’t know much about Phantasy Star Online but that line of yours right there is exactly why I like sci-fantasy. So much sci-fi now is bogged down in depressing, dystopian hopelessness (Alien: Covenant being the most recent example), but I’m not sure why sci-fi writers look at the universe in this way as one big, bleak, empty, hopeless place. Sci-fantasy is able to combine a bit more humanity in with the quote “cold-hard-science” stuffs.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I remember getting Kingdom Hearts on release day and playing through, expecting to get my Disney ending. Boy, was I wrong. Then Another Side, Another Story came on… I think I just stared at my TV in wonder for a long time after that.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I think that ARPGs are some of my favorite games. I’ve never played one that I didn’t like. Of all of the ones I’ve played, I think that the Kingdom Hearts series is my favorite. I was going to say KH1 like Red, but decided to go with a different game in the series: Kingdom Hearts II. I debated over this and KHI for a while.

    Overall, I enjoyed 1 better because there is far more explorability to the game, and it doesn’t include the massive hoard battles that the second game involves. That being said, I felt like 2 has a more user-friendly battle system, offers more story with less required filler story, and more updated graphics compared to the first. It helped that the voice acting is a little less awkward than that of the first game as well. They’re both excellent games, though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oooh we could have had a long discussion on the merits of KH1 and KH2, on which I personally lean toward the former, but you’ve actually listed in orderly fashion my grievances with the second game. I really missed that sense of exploration from KH2 and I felt that the level design was really terrible, a lot of A to B hallways in KH2. Playing it again recently with the remix, I felt that it’s got a weird camera-panning/zooming issue and not as much sense of urgency as the first game. But anyway, we’re still talking about the different between enjoying a heckuva lot and still enjoying. Plus, Steamboat Willie world in KH2! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I was tempted to say FFXIII: Lightning Returns, especially after putting so much time into it recently, but … even though i’ve not palyed t for a while, I’ll say .Hack//Infection. The franchise is great fun, with the .Hack//SIGN anime standing out for me, but that first game was an absolute blast in my eyes.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Reblogged this on Sublime Reviews and commented:

    Day 10 is the genre that gets a 10/10 from diss guy, Action RPG. My favorite series in this genre and possibly my favorite series overall is Dragon Age. Would love to hear you weigh in with your favorites over at The Well-Red Mage.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Fallout 3 was incredible, brilliant game. Spent ages playing that, such a rich and detailed apocalyptic world to explore. Bloodborne was a stunningly dark and macabre game, tough as nails mind, but you got a real sense of achievement when you beat one of the bosses – let alone finishing the game 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This is a great list, but I’m actually surprised to see a title missing from this list: Mass Effect. The entire trilogy truly was the best game that I have ever played in my entire life (yes that is a bold statement lol 😂). But your list is fantastic as well, amongst all these Fallout 3 has got to be my favorite, a truly epic game in every sense of the word 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now that you mention it, that is pretty unusual, considering how often Mass Effect is mentioned, if not touted. I haven’t played it personally and from what I’ve seen I’m on the fence about whether I’d like it at all. I prefer my RPGs traditional and with a J in front of them, but that’s not to say I couldn’t like Mass Effect at all. As for the other mages, yeah I’m not sure which of them have played Mass Effect, either. Also… you need to play some Chrono Trigger. And then never play another game again.

      Liked by 1 person

Kindly leave a civil and decent comment like a good human being

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s