Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

The RPG genre has been a staple of gaming for decades, with countless titles and franchises emerging over the years. But what game started it all? In this article, we’ll be taking a deep dive into the origins of the sci-fi RPG genre, exploring the game that set the stage for all the epic adventures that followed. From its groundbreaking gameplay mechanics to its enduring influence on the industry, this game is a true pioneer in the world of gaming. So, join us as we delve into the history of this legendary title and discover how it paved the way for the countless RPGs we know and love today.

Quick Answer:
The origins of the RPG genre can be traced back to the early 1970s with the release of the game “Dungeons & Dragons.” This game combined elements of fantasy and role-playing, allowing players to create characters and embark on adventures in a fictional world. The success of “Dungeons & Dragons” spawned a new genre of games, with many developers creating their own RPGs in the following years. The genre continued to evolve and expand, with the development of sci-fi RPGs in the 1980s. These games, such as “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic” and “Fallout,” blended elements of science fiction and RPG gameplay, creating a new subgenre of RPGs. The popularity of sci-fi RPGs continues to grow, with new games and franchises being released to this day.

The Birth of the RPG Genre: A Brief History

The Early Days of RPGs

The Influence of Pen and Paper RPGs

The roots of the RPG genre can be traced back to the late 1970s, with the rise of pen and paper RPGs. The most notable example of this is the game “Dungeons & Dragons,” created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. This game allowed players to create their own characters and embark on adventures in a fantasy world, using their imagination and a set of rules to guide their actions.

The Evolution of Home Console RPGs

As technology advanced, home console RPGs began to emerge. The first console RPG, “The Legend of Zelda,” was released in 1986 for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). This game featured an open world, non-linear gameplay, and a focus on exploration and puzzle-solving, which would become staples of the RPG genre.

The popularity of pen and paper RPGs such as “Dungeons & Dragons” had a significant impact on the development of home console RPGs. The focus on character creation, leveling, and exploration in these games was heavily influenced by the tabletop RPGs that came before them.

The Emergence of the JRPG

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Japanese developers began to create their own RPGs, often with a fantasy or science fiction setting. These games, known as JRPGs (Japanese RPGs), quickly gained popularity around the world. The most notable example of this is the “Final Fantasy” series, which began in 1987 and has since become one of the most iconic and influential RPG franchises of all time.

The Influence of JRPGs

JRPGs had a significant impact on the development of the RPG genre. They introduced new gameplay mechanics, such as turn-based combat and a focus on storytelling, and popularized the use of anime-style graphics and music. The success of JRPGs also helped to expand the audience for RPGs, making them more mainstream and accessible to a wider audience.

Overall, the early days of RPGs were defined by the influence of pen and paper RPGs, the emergence of home console RPGs, and the rise of JRPGs. These games laid the foundation for the RPG genre as we know it today, and their impact can still be felt in the games we play today.

The Rise of Sci-Fi RPGs

The Impact of Classic Sci-Fi Films

Science fiction films played a significant role in the rise of sci-fi RPGs. Early sci-fi films such as “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Star Wars” captivated audiences with their imaginative worlds and futuristic technology. These films sparked a desire in viewers to explore and experience these worlds for themselves, leading to the creation of sci-fi RPGs that allowed players to do just that.

The Emergence of Space-Based RPGs

As the popularity of sci-fi films grew, so did the demand for games that allowed players to explore space. Early space-based RPGs such as “Starflight” and “Elite” were some of the first games to explore this new genre. These games allowed players to explore the vastness of space, engage in space combat, and interact with alien races, opening up new possibilities for adventure and exploration.

The Evolution of Sci-Fi RPGs

As technology advanced, so did the capabilities of RPGs. Early sci-fi RPGs were often limited in their scope and gameplay mechanics, but as time went on, developers were able to create more immersive and complex worlds. Games like “The Elder Scrolls” series and “Fallout” series pushed the boundaries of what was possible in the RPG genre, with massive open-worlds, complex storylines, and intricate character development systems.

Today, sci-fi RPGs continue to be one of the most popular genres in gaming, with games like “Mass Effect,” “Horizon Zero Dawn,” and “Deus Ex” leading the way in innovation and storytelling. These games continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in the RPG genre, and are loved by millions of players around the world.

The Contenders: The Games That Defined the RPG Genre

Key takeaway: The RPG genre has its roots in pen and paper RPGs such as Dungeons & Dragons, which laid the foundation for the genre. Home console RPGs such as The Legend of Zelda and Starflight further expanded the genre, introducing new gameplay mechanics and storytelling techniques. Sci-fi RPGs, in particular, have had a significant impact on popular culture, inspiring movies, television shows, literature, and video games. The genre continues to evolve and expand, with indie developers pushing the boundaries of what is possible in a sci-fi RPG. The future of the genre looks bright, with new advancements in technology allowing for more immersive and realistic gaming experiences.

Game #1: The Black Onyx

The World of the Black Onyx

The Black Onyx, released in 1981, was a text-based adventure game that took place in a sci-fi setting. Players took on the role of a space explorer who had crash-landed on a distant planet and must navigate the harsh environment while trying to repair their ship and find a way home. The game’s world was built around this central narrative, with players making choices that determined the outcome of the story.

The Mechanics of the Black Onyx

The Black Onyx was a pioneering game in the RPG genre because it introduced several key mechanics that would become staples of the genre. For example, the game featured a character creation system that allowed players to customize their character’s abilities and stats, making each playthrough unique. The game also featured a dynamic combat system that allowed players to engage in turn-based battles with a variety of alien creatures.

The Legacy of the Black Onyx

The Black Onyx was a commercial success and helped to establish the sci-fi RPG genre. Its unique blend of text-based gameplay and sci-fi storytelling inspired many subsequent games in the genre, including the highly influential Wasteland series. The game’s mechanics and design elements would also go on to influence many later RPGs, including the popular Fallout series. Today, the Black Onyx is remembered as a classic of the genre and is often cited as one of the most important games in the history of RPGs.

Game #2: Starflight

The Universe of Starflight

Starflight, developed by Binary Systems and released in 1986, was a groundbreaking game that laid the foundation for the RPG genre. Set in a vast universe, the game follows the story of a spaceship captain who must navigate through dangerous territories, make alliances, and engage in battles with other spacefaring civilizations. The game’s universe was a masterclass in world-building, with intricate details and a rich lore that made the game’s setting feel like a living, breathing world.

The Mechanics of Starflight

The gameplay of Starflight was a mix of adventure, exploration, and turn-based combat. Players could explore various planets, engage in diplomacy, and build relationships with different alien races. The game also featured a unique combat system that allowed players to manage their ship’s resources and weapons during battles. Starflight’s mechanics were a significant departure from other games of its time, offering players a fresh and engaging experience that blended strategy, adventure, and role-playing elements seamlessly.

The Legacy of Starflight

Starflight’s impact on the RPG genre cannot be overstated. The game’s unique blend of exploration, diplomacy, and combat laid the groundwork for many future RPGs, including the highly successful Ultima series. Starflight’s influence can also be seen in modern games, with many modern RPGs incorporating similar mechanics and elements. Today, Starflight is considered a classic and continues to be enjoyed by gamers worldwide.

Game #3: Wasteland

The World of Wasteland

Wasteland is set in a post-apocalyptic world, where a devastating war has left the land barren and dangerous. The player takes on the role of a Ranger, tasked with exploring the wasteland and rebuilding society. The game’s world is full of intricate details, from the ruins of Las Vegas to the scattered survivor camps. The player must navigate this harsh environment, dealing with hostile factions and scarce resources.

The Mechanics of Wasteland

Wasteland uses a turn-based combat system, where the player must strategically position their party members and use a variety of weapons and skills to defeat enemies. The game also features a unique morality system, where the player’s choices affect the outcome of the game. For example, killing innocent civilians will result in a decrease in the player’s reputation, making it harder to negotiate with other factions.

The Legacy of Wasteland

Wasteland was a critical and commercial success, and is often cited as one of the most influential RPGs of all time. Its complex world, challenging gameplay, and morality system have inspired countless games in the genre. The game’s success also led to the development of two sequels, Wasteland 2 and Wasteland 3, which continue to build on the original game’s legacy.

Game #4: The Bard’s Tale

The World of The Bard’s Tale

The Bard’s Tale, developed by Brian Moriarty and published by Electronic Arts in 1985, was a groundbreaking game that set the standard for the RPG genre. The game’s world was inspired by fantasy literature and medieval Europe, with a focus on storytelling and character development. The game’s setting was a sprawling, interconnected world filled with diverse landscapes, including cities, forests, and dungeons.

The Mechanics of The Bard’s Tale

The Bard’s Tale was a text-based RPG that allowed players to create and customize their characters, including their physical appearance, skills, and abilities. The game’s mechanics were complex and involved, with a focus on combat and exploration. Players could interact with NPCs, collect items, and battle monsters in turn-based combat. The game also featured a unique experience point system that allowed players to level up their characters and unlock new abilities.

The Legacy of The Bard’s Tale

The Bard’s Tale was a critical and commercial success, and its influence on the RPG genre cannot be overstated. The game’s innovative mechanics and immersive world-building set a new standard for the genre, and its legacy can be seen in many modern RPGs. The Bard’s Tale also spawned several sequels and spin-offs, cementing its place as a beloved classic of the RPG genre.

The Influence of Sci-Fi RPGs on Popular Culture

The Impact on Film and Television

The Rise of Science Fiction Movies

Science fiction movies have been a staple of Hollywood since the early days of cinema. With the popularity of science fiction in the 1950s, movies such as “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Forbidden Planet” were released, which revolutionized the science fiction genre in film. These movies brought to life new worlds and possibilities, which had never been seen before on the big screen. The success of these films inspired filmmakers to continue pushing the boundaries of science fiction in film, leading to a rise in the number of science fiction movies released in the following decades.

The Emergence of Science Fiction TV Shows

Television also played a significant role in the popularity of science fiction. In the 1960s, “Star Trek” first aired, which quickly became a cultural phenomenon. The show followed the adventures of a group of space explorers as they traveled through the galaxy, encountering new civilizations and battling alien threats. The success of “Star Trek” paved the way for other science fiction shows, such as “Battlestar Galactica” and “The X-Files,” which continued to push the boundaries of what was possible in science fiction on television.

With the rise of science fiction movies and television shows, the genre has become a beloved part of popular culture. The themes and concepts explored in science fiction have influenced literature, art, music, and even fashion. Science fiction has also inspired new technologies and scientific discoveries, making it a crucial part of our collective imagination and shaping our understanding of the world around us.

The Impact on Literature

The influence of science fiction RPGs on literature is a topic that deserves further exploration. These games have not only inspired new genres but have also had a profound impact on the evolution of science fiction books.

The Evolution of Science Fiction Books

The science fiction genre has always been a fascinating subject for writers and readers alike. It is a genre that allows authors to explore new worlds, create unique characters, and examine complex societal issues. The influence of RPGs on science fiction books can be seen in the way they have inspired new narratives and styles of writing.

For example, the classic game “Dungeons & Dragons” was instrumental in shaping the fantasy genre. Its focus on exploration, combat, and character development has influenced many authors to create similar stories. The “Wheel of Time” series by Robert Jordan is a prime example of this, as it features a vast world filled with magic, political intrigue, and memorable characters.

In addition, science fiction RPGs have also inspired new sub-genres within science fiction literature. For instance, the popularity of games like “Deus Ex” and “Fallout” has led to an increase in cyberpunk literature. This sub-genre often features a dystopian future, advanced technology, and a focus on the intersection of humanity and machinery. Authors like William Gibson and Neal Stephenson have written critically acclaimed works in this sub-genre, showcasing the impact of RPGs on literature.

The Rise of New Genres

Another way in which science fiction RPGs have influenced literature is by giving rise to new genres. For example, the game “Starflight” was one of the first RPGs to combine space exploration and combat. This unique combination of elements inspired a new genre of science fiction literature, known as “space opera.” Authors like Iain M. Banks and Alastair Reynolds have written popular works in this genre, featuring epic space battles, political intrigue, and grandiose adventures.

Furthermore, science fiction RPGs have also inspired a sub-genre known as “solarpunk.” This genre explores a future where renewable energy sources have replaced fossil fuels, leading to a more sustainable and equitable society. While the term “solarpunk” was first coined in the gaming community, it has since been adopted by authors like Adam Flynn and Gareth D. Jones, who have written stories set in this world.

In conclusion, the influence of science fiction RPGs on literature is undeniable. These games have inspired new narratives, styles of writing, and even entire genres. As the popularity of RPGs continues to grow, it is likely that their impact on literature will only become more significant in the years to come.

The Impact on Video Games

The Evolution of RPGs

Role-playing games (RPGs) have come a long way since their inception in the 1970s. From pen-and-paper games like Dungeons & Dragons to the sprawling, open-world RPGs of today, the genre has seen numerous iterations and innovations. One of the earliest and most influential video game RPGs was the 1983 game Ultima III: Exodus, which introduced features like a persisting world, character levels, and non-player characters (NPCs) with unique personalities and quests. Other notable early RPGs include the Wizardry series, which debuted in 1981, and the Dragon Quest series, which began in 1986.

The Emergence of New Genres

The rise of RPGs also gave birth to new subgenres, such as action RPGs, which combine the exploration and combat of traditional RPGs with the real-time action of arcade games. Examples of action RPGs include the Legend of Zelda series, which debuted in 1986, and the Diablo series, which began in 1997. Another subgenre is the tactical RPG, which emphasizes strategic combat and party management, such as the Fire Emblem series, which debuted in 1990, and the XCOM series, which began in 1994.

These games have not only shaped the RPG genre but have also had a profound impact on the wider world of video games. RPGs have influenced game design in general, with many other genres adopting elements like leveling systems, NPCs, and character customization. The open-world RPG, in particular, has become a staple of modern gaming, with games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (2017) setting the standard for expansive, immersive worlds.

The Impact on Society

The Evolution of Science Fiction Fandom

Science fiction fandom has undergone a significant transformation due to the rise of sci-fi RPGs. Prior to the emergence of these games, science fiction was primarily a niche interest, with fans largely isolated from one another. However, the introduction of RPGs enabled like-minded individuals to come together and share their passion for the genre. This fostered a sense of community and belonging, which in turn contributed to the growth and mainstream acceptance of science fiction fandom.

The Rise of Cosplay and Conventions

Another notable impact of sci-fi RPGs on society is the rise of cosplay and conventions. With the development of these games, fans gained a new outlet for expressing their fandom and creativity. Cosplay, or the practice of dressing up as characters from sci-fi works, became increasingly popular among RPG players. This, in turn, led to the emergence of conventions specifically catering to science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts. These events provided a platform for fans to showcase their cosplay, attend panel discussions, and engage in other activities related to their favorite RPGs. The growth of cosplay and conventions has had a profound effect on popular culture, bringing science fiction and fantasy into the mainstream and encouraging a wider appreciation of these genres.

The Future of Sci-Fi RPGs

The Current State of the Genre

The Latest Trends in Sci-Fi RPGs

  • The increasing popularity of open-world games with RPG elements
  • The rise of games that focus on player choice and consequence
  • The incorporation of elements from other genres, such as survival and strategy games

The Most Anticipated Releases

  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
  • Final Fantasy VII Remake
  • Cyberpunk 2077

The Current State of the Genre

  • The continued dominance of fantasy-themed RPGs
  • The resurgence of turn-based combat systems
  • The emergence of indie developers creating unique and innovative sci-fi RPGs

The sci-fi RPG genre has come a long way since its inception, and it continues to evolve and expand in new and exciting ways. The current state of the genre is characterized by a mix of established franchises and indie developers pushing the boundaries of what is possible in a sci-fi RPG.

One of the most notable trends in the current state of the genre is the continued dominance of fantasy-themed RPGs. Despite the sci-fi label, many of the most popular and beloved RPGs are set in fantasy worlds, such as The Elder Scrolls and The Witcher series. This is likely due to the timeless appeal of fantasy settings and the ease with which they can be adapted to the RPG format.

Another trend that has emerged in recent years is the resurgence of turn-based combat systems. While real-time combat has long been the norm in the RPG genre, many developers are now experimenting with turn-based systems that allow players to plan out their attacks and manage their resources more carefully. This has led to a renewed interest in classic RPGs that used this system, such as the Final Fantasy series.

Finally, the current state of the sci-fi RPG genre is also marked by the emergence of indie developers creating unique and innovative games. With the rise of digital distribution platforms, it has become easier than ever for small teams to create and release their own games. This has led to a surge of creativity in the genre, with indie developers pushing the boundaries of what is possible in a sci-fi RPG. Examples of this include the procedurally generated worlds of No Man’s Sky and the psychedelic sci-fi adventure of Hyper Light Drifter.

Overall, the current state of the sci-fi RPG genre is one of evolution and experimentation. With a mix of established franchises and innovative indie games, there is something for every type of player in this exciting and ever-evolving genre.

The Future of the Genre

The Advancements in Technology

The future of sci-fi RPGs is an exciting prospect, with new advancements in technology allowing for more immersive and realistic gaming experiences. With the rise of virtual reality and augmented reality, players can now experience games in a way that was previously unimaginable. These technologies provide a more interactive and engaging experience, allowing players to truly immerse themselves in the game world.

In addition to virtual and augmented reality, there are also advancements in motion capture technology and 3D modeling that allow for more realistic character movements and environments. This allows for a more seamless and believable experience for players, making the game world feel more lifelike.

The New Frontiers of Sci-Fi RPGs

As technology continues to advance, the possibilities for sci-fi RPGs become increasingly endless. One area that is seeing a lot of development is the use of artificial intelligence in gaming. With AI, games can become more dynamic and responsive to player actions, creating a more personalized experience for each player.

Another area that is seeing growth is the use of online multiplayer in sci-fi RPGs. With the rise of online gaming, players can now connect with others from all over the world and play together in real-time. This has led to the development of massive multiplayer online RPGs (MMORPGs), which offer a shared gaming experience for thousands of players at once.

Overall, the future of sci-fi RPGs is bright, with new technologies and innovations allowing for more immersive and engaging experiences. As the genre continues to evolve, players can expect to see even more exciting developments and possibilities in the years to come.


1. What is the RPG genre?

The RPG genre stands for Role-Playing Game, which is a type of video game that allows players to assume the role of a character and make decisions that affect the outcome of the game. In RPGs, players usually have the ability to explore different environments, interact with other characters, and complete quests or missions.

2. What is the history of the RPG genre?

The RPG genre has its roots in tabletop role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, which was first released in 1974. The first video game to be considered an RPG was titled “Dungeon” and was released in 1975 for mainframe computers. The game allowed players to control a character who explored a dungeon, fought monsters, and collected treasure. Since then, the RPG genre has evolved and expanded to include a wide variety of games, from classic games like Final Fantasy and The Elder Scrolls series to more modern games like The Witcher 3 and Persona 5.

3. What makes a game an RPG?

An RPG game typically features a combination of elements such as character creation, customization, exploration, combat, and a branching storyline that is affected by the player’s choices. RPGs often have a strong emphasis on storytelling and character development, and may also include elements such as crafting, skill trees, and party-based combat. The exact definition of an RPG can vary, but generally, a game must feature these core elements to be considered an RPG.

4. What is the significance of the game that started the RPG genre?

The game that is considered to have started the RPG genre is often debated among gamers and historians. While some argue that the first RPG was “Dungeon” in 1975, others point to games like Ultima (1981) and Wizardry (1981) as the games that truly established the genre. Regardless of which game is considered the “first,” it is clear that the RPG genre has had a significant impact on the gaming industry and has spawned countless beloved games and franchises.

5. How has the RPG genre evolved over time?

The RPG genre has evolved significantly since its inception in the 1970s. Early RPGs were simple, text-based games that relied on players’ imaginations to create the game world. As technology advanced, RPGs became more complex, with improved graphics, sound, and controls. Today’s RPGs are massive, open-world games with complex stories, intricate character development systems, and immersive gameplay mechanics. Many RPGs also incorporate elements from other genres, such as action, adventure, and strategy, to create unique and engaging experiences.

Quick Guide to RPG Subgenres

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