Baldur’s Gate 3 is an incredible role-playing game experience, a gift for RPG fans and a wonderful introduction to the genre for newcomers. It’s got everything a good RPG needs: memorable characters, exciting, strategic battles, and a textured world to get lost in as your party goes questing across the map. It’s a showcase for just how good RPGs are when they really connect, and fortunately for us, there’s plenty more where that came from.
So, in the event that Baldur’s Gate 3 has inspired you to explore the genre further, here’s a list of games that similarly nail the RPG experience in ways that will leave you itching to get back to the character you’ve created — provided, of course, you didn’t immediately roll a new one to take into Baldur’s Gate 3 all over again.
Divinity: Original Sin 2
Larian Studios’ previous game is a natural next step for Baldur’s Gate 3 fans, as it’s about as close as you can possibly get to “more of the same” without waiting for a sequel. There’ll be some adjustment — as it’s not a D&D adaptation, the rules are different and combat here has a different set of quirks you’ll have to learn to navigate — but the transition is surprisingly seamless. Most importantly, Original Sin 2 has what Baldur’s Gate 3 nails in spades: a rock-solid focus on character and permissive design that encourages you to come up with oddball solutions and surrounds you with a cast of characters you’ll think of fondly. Shoutout to the homie, The Red Prince.
Pillars of Eternity
One of the first big attempts at a throwback to the Baldur’s Gate franchise is still one of the best. Pillars of Eternity tells a sprawling tale with a great hook — children are suddenly being born without souls — as a mystery meant to draw you into its strange fantasy world and characters. A little more old-school in its design, but with the option to crank down the difficulty if story is why you’re here, Pillars of Eternity’s biggest strength is in its elegant narrative, in which the answer posed by every quest intersects with at least two other equally interesting quests. It’s easy to lose an evening navigating the game’s tangled web of short stories, but what a tremendously satisfying way to get lost.
Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire
If there’s one thing I enjoy more than Pillars of Eternity, it’s Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire. Whereas the first game took place in an atmospheric if derivative take on a classic fantasy continent, Deadfire puts you in control of a customizable ship on the high seas. Along with The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Spiritfarer, and the recent Shadow Gambit: The Cursed Crew, Deadfire is proof that archipelagos make for perfect video game worlds: As you build your party of travelers, you’ll encounter vastly different factions, cultures, and ways of life, both linked and separated by the waves between them. Exploring the world of Deadfire feels at once like a singular journey and a collection of potent short stories, all connected by vivid writing and myriad chances to role-play. —Mike Mahardy
If you can stomach the hyper-goofiness of its post-apocalyptic storytelling, Wasteland 3 stands among the best that the CRPG genre has to offer. Its script and character writing leave a lot to be desired, but in terms of structure, Wasteland 3 is as open as they come: You pursue three major quest lines across a ruined Colorado, all the while building up your headquarters and recruiting a massive party of survivors. If inventory management and improving your team composition are your favorite aspects of CRPGs, Wasteland 3 is a dream. And while there are compelling story beats strewn throughout, it’s the mechanics and systems that make inXile’s 2020 release sing. —Mike Mahardy
Marvel’s Midnight Suns
After a dozen or so hours investing in your party in Baldur’s Gate 3, they start to feel like superheroes. Battles hinge on incredible (and very fun) stunts that can excite the storyteller in you narrating the whole fight. Marvel’s Midnight Suns is entirely built around that feeling, a strategy game where winning a battle largely depends on you figuring out the most dramatic move possible every turn. It’s also got a character creator for your original protagonist and lots of fun RPG-style conversations between said fights too, so the social butterflies among us won’t feel left out. Just don’t come looking for romance, which unfortunately is not part of the experience.
Going back to the original Baldur’s Gate games is a very different experience from Baldur’s Gate 3, as they come from an entirely different era in game design that may or may not speak to you in the same way. In spite of its similarity to those older games, Planescape: Torment, a sister title to the OG Baldur’s Gate games, is worth giving a shot. In it you play The Nameless One, a man with no memories in search of his identity and the reason he can’t seem to die. Taking place in Dungeons & Dragons’ Planescape setting — a sort of interdimensional halfway point in the multiverse, where anything could be a door to Someplace Else — Planescape: Torment is among the most bizarre, existential, and contemplative RPGs ever made. It’s a game where combat barely matters (seriously, just play on easy and put all your stats in Wisdom and Charisma), but deciding who The Nameless One becomes as he learns more about himself is everything.
Torment: Tides of Numenera
Maybe you tried Planescape: Torment and found it too clunky. Or maybe you loved it and want more. In the way that Pillars of Eternity was a spiritual successor to the original Baldur’s Gate games, Torment: Tides of Numenera is a new attempt to recapture the magic of Planescape: Torment with more modern sensibilities. In this game, you play as the Last Castoff, a sort of rejected avatar for a being known as the Changing God, who has achieved immortality by hopscotching across bodies like yours. What’s up with that? What else has this Changing God done, and who else have they left in their wake? Tides of Numenera retains the focus of its inspiration, emphasizing role-play over combat, using the mystery of an immortal being and an indelible science fantasy setting to probe at troubled characters and ask big, sweeping questions about fate and existence.
Dragon Age (all of ’em)
For over a decade, the RPG void left between Baldur’s Gate 2 and Baldur’s Gate 3 was filled by Dragon Age. Beginning with 2009’s Dragon Age: Origins, the Dragon Age games mixed dark fantasy with bright, snappy characters to create one of the most beloved fantasy RPGs in recent memory. Each game has a slightly different flavor — Origins is the closest to the “classic” RPG feel, where combat strategy is just as important as role-playing through an epic plot, while Dragon Age 2 focuses more on straightforward action and smaller character drama, and Dragon Age: Inquisition splits the difference with the most modern design of the three. Play all or one, in any order you choose. Each has its strengths, and all of them have at least one character destined to become your favorite.
If you appreciate how a game will throw your best-laid plans out the window with one failed dice roll, then Disco Elysium is the obvious follow-up to Baldur’s Gate 3. Not only do your choices have the same level of impact, but both games embrace creative problem solving in the way only a good role-playing game can. Disco Elysium lets you talk your way out of (but usually into) trouble in some mind-bending ways. Although it’s a more modern setting than Baldur’s Gate 3, both games relish their moments of bleakness. Paladin-type role-players may struggle with the inner demons of Disco Elysium’s amnesiac main character, but he’s the hero for those who revel in messy choices. —Chelsea Stark
Yeah, fantasy is cool and all, but what if you want a Baldur’s Gate 3-style adventure in a sick Blade Runner-ass setting? Shadowrun: Dragonfall is your answer. A relatively short and self-contained RPG set in Shadowrun’s totally rad, magic-but-also-cyberpunk universe, you play as a shadowrunner (a mercenary, but cooler) hired to join a crew for one big score. It goes sideways of course, and once you escape the chaos, there’s only one question on your mind: Who set you up and why? Perfect for anyone who wants to trade swords and spells for guns and cyberdecks (and also spells). What’s more, if you love it, there are two more games widely available (and optimized for consoles): Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun: Hong Kong.
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
Another big appeal of RPGs is getting the chance to traipse around a very familiar setting and seeing what trouble you can get into. In Baldur’s Gate 3, that’s the Forgotten Realms of Dungeons & Dragons. But let’s say you wanted to do that in Star Wars — lucky for you, there’s Knights of the Old Republic. Made by BioWare, the folks behind Dragon Age, KOTOR (that’s what the cool kids call it) is set thousands of years before the prequel trilogy, at a time when both the Jedi and Sith were numerous and at war. This setting gives KOTOR a flavor that’s impossible to find in modern Star Wars, as one of the premier RPG developers was given free reign to define its own corner of the universe and infuse it with all the charm of its acclaimed role-playing games — and a killer mystery to boot.
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