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What is an RPG? The video game genre explained

Across video games, there are a bunch of genres to accommodate a wide variety of tastes. RPG is one of the most popular gaming genres around. Here’s our clear and concise explanation of just what RPGs are.

Some of the very best games of all time, as well as some top titles of recent years, come from the RPG genre. The like of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Elden Ring, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mass Effect 2 and a whole lot more.

But, whether you have played these games or not, you may not be completely familiar with what the term “RPG” actually means. Let us explain.

What is an RPG?

RPG stands for role-playing game. It’s a term used for both tabletop and video games. A role-playing game is a game which sees the player take on the role of a character and explore a world. RPGs typically involve quests, which see the player challenged with different combat and exploration challenges.

An RPG is usually governed by a set of rules and a player character then navigates the world, with their own abilities and statistics having an impact on how they fair in challenges and interactions. Many games then allow the player to upgrade these skills and acquire new ones throughout the game.

Changing these abilities and skills isn’t always about creating the “best” character, instead, many players embrace the role-playing aspect and choose to base the character’s skillset on how they have decided the character would or should behave.

In many RPGs, the player is able to choose between different types of characters when they begin their journey, such as wizards, warriors, thieves and more. This will typically vary depending on the game and its own lore. Player character customisation often plays a large part, with players able to design the look of their character and this, sometimes, has an impact on their journey.

In video games, the role-playing genre will usually see a player invited to explore a large and expansive world, with a wide range of characters and settings to explore. The player will often choose a route through the world, in contrast to more narratively-focused titles that typically guide you through in a more choreographed fashion.

The origins of video game RPGs begin with tabletop gaming and, more specifically, the Dungeons and Dragons franchise. Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) launched in 1974, a tabletop game inspired by the fantasy literature genre as well as wargaming strategy games.

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