Tue. May 28th, 2024

When did RPGs become popular? This is a question that has been asked by gamers for decades. The rise of role-playing games (RPGs) can be traced back to the early days of gaming, but it was in the 1980s and 1990s that the genre truly took off. In this article, we will take a look back at the classic era of RPGs and explore the factors that contributed to their popularity. From the release of the first console RPGs to the emergence of iconic franchises like Final Fantasy and The Elder Scrolls, we will examine the key moments that helped shape the genre and make it the beloved staple of gaming culture that it is today. So join us as we embark on a journey through the history of RPGs and discover when they became the beloved games that we know and love today.

The Evolution of RPGs

The Early Years: Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is widely regarded as the first modern RPG. It was created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson in 1974, and the first edition was published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR). The game quickly gained popularity, and its success led to the creation of numerous spin-off games and the birth of an entire genre of gaming.

The Birth of Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons was inspired by various sources, including medieval fantasy literature, wargaming, and role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, the original concept of Dave Arneson, which involved a miniature war game that incorporated elements of fantasy. Gary Gygax, who had previously published a series of fantasy and adventure games, joined forces with Arneson to create the first edition of D&D.

The game was initially intended to be a fantasy version of the war game Chainmail, but it quickly evolved into something more. Gygax and Arneson created a game that allowed players to take on the roles of characters in a fantasy world, exploring dungeons, fighting monsters, and collecting treasure. The game’s mechanics were simple, yet versatile, and the players’ imaginations were the only limit to what they could achieve in the game.

The Impact of Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons quickly became a phenomenon, attracting thousands of players worldwide. It spawned numerous spin-off games, including Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D), which was published in 1977 and became even more popular than the original. The game also inspired a whole new genre of gaming, including video games and other tabletop RPGs.

The success of Dungeons & Dragons helped to popularize the concept of role-playing games, which were still a relatively new concept at the time. The game’s focus on creativity, imagination, and social interaction helped to establish RPGs as a legitimate form of entertainment, and it opened the door for other games to follow in its footsteps.

In conclusion, Dungeons & Dragons was the game that started it all. Its impact on the gaming industry cannot be overstated, and its influence can still be felt today. The game’s popularity in the 1970s and 1980s paved the way for the RPGs of today, and its legacy continues to inspire new generations of gamers.

The Golden Age of RPGs: 1980s and 1990s

The Rise of Japanese RPGs

The 1980s and 1990s marked a significant turning point in the history of role-playing games (RPGs). During this period, Japanese RPGs, commonly referred to as JRPGs, gained immense popularity worldwide, especially in the United States and Europe. These games were characterized by their rich storylines, engaging characters, and unique gameplay mechanics that captivated players across different age groups and genders.

Some of the most influential JRPGs that emerged during this era include the Final Fantasy series, Dragon Quest series, and the Persona series. These games were not only groundbreaking in terms of their narrative and gameplay, but they also paved the way for other JRPGs to gain recognition and success in the global market.

The Influence of Western RPGs

While JRPGs were making waves in the gaming industry, Western RPGs also had a significant impact on the genre during the 1980s and 1990s. Games such as the Wizardry series, Ultima series, and the Baldur’s Gate series were among the most notable Western RPGs that emerged during this period.

These games were known for their complex storylines, intricate gameplay mechanics, and open-ended exploration, which provided players with a sense of freedom and immersion. Western RPGs also emphasized character development and player choice, which added to the genre’s appeal and allowed players to shape their gaming experience according to their preferences.

Overall, the 1980s and 1990s were a defining period for RPGs, as both JRPGs and Western RPGs continued to evolve and influence each other, ultimately leading to the creation of some of the most iconic and beloved games in the genre’s history.

The Most Influential Classic RPGs

Key takeaway: Dungeons & Dragons, also known as D&D, is widely regarded as the first modern RPG and played a significant role in popularizing the genre. The game’s success in the 1970s and 1980s helped establish RPGs as a legitimate form of entertainment and paved the way for other games to follow in its footsteps. The impact of D&D on the gaming industry cannot be overstated, and its legacy continues to inspire new generations of gamers.

The Legend of Zelda

The Birth of Action-Adventure Games

The Legend of Zelda, released in 1986 for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), was a groundbreaking game that marked the birth of the action-adventure genre. Prior to its release, most video games were either focused on action or puzzle-solving, but The Legend of Zelda combined these elements to create a new and exciting gaming experience.

The Impact of The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda had a significant impact on the gaming industry, and its influence can still be felt today. The game’s open world design, where players could explore different areas and complete objectives in any order they chose, was a revolutionary concept at the time. This design allowed for greater player freedom and encouraged exploration, which became a staple of the action-adventure genre.

Additionally, The Legend of Zelda introduced the iconic character of Link, who would go on to become one of the most recognizable and beloved video game characters of all time. The game’s story, which involved saving the princess and defeating the evil force behind her capture, also became a staple of the genre.

The Legend of Zelda’s impact extended beyond the gaming industry as well. The game’s success led to the creation of a franchise that has since spawned numerous sequels, spin-offs, and merchandise. The franchise has become a cultural phenomenon, with a dedicated fan base that spans generations.

Overall, The Legend of Zelda was a seminal game that helped to define the action-adventure genre and had a lasting impact on the gaming industry as a whole. Its influence can still be felt today, and it remains a beloved classic among gamers.

Final Fantasy

The Rise of JRPGs

JRPGs, or Japanese Role-Playing Games, have been a staple of the gaming industry since the 1980s. The rise of JRPGs can be attributed to several factors, including the growing popularity of home consoles, the evolution of game mechanics, and the influence of Japanese culture on global gaming trends.

One of the most significant factors in the rise of JRPGs was the emergence of home consoles such as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and the Sega Genesis. These consoles provided a platform for JRPGs to reach a wider audience, as they offered a more immersive gaming experience compared to earlier computer games. Additionally, the growth of the internet and online gaming communities allowed players to connect with each other and share their experiences, further contributing to the popularity of JRPGs.

The Influence of Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy, a JRPG series developed and published by Square Enix, has been one of the most influential games in the genre. The first Final Fantasy game was released in 1987 for the NES, and since then, the series has grown to include over 15 mainline games, as well as numerous spin-offs and adaptations.

Final Fantasy’s influence on the JRPG genre can be seen in several ways. The series has consistently pushed the boundaries of game mechanics, incorporating innovative features such as real-time battles, complex character customization, and branching storylines. Additionally, Final Fantasy has been praised for its engaging storytelling and memorable characters, which have helped to establish the series as a cultural phenomenon.

Final Fantasy has also had a significant impact on the broader gaming industry. The series has inspired numerous other JRPGs, and its influence can be seen in games across multiple genres. Furthermore, Final Fantasy has helped to popularize many aspects of Japanese culture, such as anime and manga, in the Western world.

Overall, Final Fantasy’s influence on the JRPG genre and the broader gaming industry cannot be overstated. The series has helped to shape the landscape of gaming and has inspired countless developers and players alike.

The Elder Scrolls Series

The Birth of Open-World RPGs

The Elder Scrolls series, developed by Bethesda Game Studios, is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of the open-world RPG genre. With its vast, immersive worlds and non-linear gameplay, the series has set the standard for the genre and inspired countless other developers to create their own open-world RPGs.

The first game in the series, The Elder Scrolls: Arena, was released in 1994 to critical acclaim. The game was set in the fantasy world of Tamriel and featured a sprawling, open world that players could explore at their leisure. The game’s emphasis on exploration, character development, and questing made it a standout title in the RPG genre, and it quickly gained a dedicated fan base.

The Impact of The Elder Scrolls Series

The Elder Scrolls series has had a profound impact on the RPG genre as a whole. Its focus on open-world exploration and non-linear gameplay has inspired countless other developers to create their own open-world RPGs, and its emphasis on player choice and customization has become a staple of the genre.

The series has also been praised for its rich, detailed world-building and its complex, deep lore. The series’ sprawling, immersive worlds have become iconic, and the series’ many characters and factions have become beloved by fans.

The success of the Elder Scrolls series has also led to the development of numerous spin-off games, such as the popular mobile game The Elder Scrolls: Legends, and the upcoming game The Elder Scrolls VI.

In conclusion, The Elder Scrolls series is a seminal work in the RPG genre, its influence can be seen in many modern RPGs. Its focus on open-world exploration, non-linear gameplay, and player choice has set the standard for the genre and inspired countless other developers to create their own open-world RPGs.

The Impact of Classic RPGs on Modern Gaming

The Revival of Classic RPGs

The revival of classic RPGs in recent years has been nothing short of remarkable. Many of these games, which were originally released decades ago, have been remastered and re-released to new audiences, while others have inspired new games that draw heavily from their design and mechanics.

The Success of Remastered Classics

One of the most notable aspects of the revival of classic RPGs has been the success of remastered versions of these games. Many of these titles, such as the Final Fantasy series and Chrono Trigger, have been re-released on modern consoles and PC platforms, often with updated graphics and gameplay mechanics. These remastered versions have been well-received by fans and critics alike, and have helped to introduce a new generation of players to these beloved games.

The Rise of Retro-Inspired RPGs

Another way in which classic RPGs have been revived is through the rise of retro-inspired games. These games draw heavily from the design and mechanics of classic RPGs, while also incorporating modern gameplay elements and graphics. Examples of retro-inspired RPGs include the Baldur’s Gate series, Pillars of Eternity, and Divinity: Original Sin. These games have been well-received by fans of both classic and modern RPGs, and have helped to keep the spirit of classic RPGs alive in the modern gaming landscape.

Overall, the revival of classic RPGs has been a boon for both gamers and game developers. It has allowed players to revisit some of the most beloved games of all time, while also introducing new audiences to these classic titles. Additionally, it has inspired a new generation of game developers to create games that draw from the rich history of RPGs, while also pushing the genre forward in new and exciting ways.

The Influence of Classic RPGs on Modern RPGs

Classic RPGs have had a profound impact on modern RPGs, influencing everything from their themes to their mechanics. In this section, we will explore how classic RPGs have shaped the genre in the modern era.

The Continuation of Classic RPG Themes

One of the most significant ways in which classic RPGs have influenced modern RPGs is through the continuation of their themes. Many modern RPGs continue to explore the themes of exploration, adventure, and character development that were present in classic RPGs. In fact, many modern RPGs can be seen as evolutions of the classic RPG formula, building on the foundations laid by the games that came before them.

For example, the “Elder Scrolls” series, which began with the classic RPG “Arena” in 1994, has continued to explore the theme of exploration and character development in its subsequent installments, such as “Oblivion” and “Skyrim”. Similarly, the “Fallout” series, which began with the classic RPG “Fallout” in 1997, has continued to explore the theme of survival and post-apocalyptic world-building in its subsequent installments, such as “Fallout 3” and “Fallout 4”.

The Use of Classic RPG Mechanics in Modern Games

Another way in which classic RPGs have influenced modern RPGs is through the use of their mechanics. Many modern RPGs incorporate mechanics from classic RPGs, such as turn-based combat, leveling systems, and character classes. These mechanics have become staples of the RPG genre, and are often expected by players.

For example, the “Baldur’s Gate” series, which began with the classic RPG “Baldur’s Gate” in 1998, is known for its use of the “Infinity Engine”, a game engine that was also used in the classic RPG “Icewind Dale”. This engine featured a tactical real-time with pause (RTWP) combat system, which allowed players to pause the action at any time and issue commands to their party members. This mechanic has been incorporated into many modern RPGs, including the “Neverwinter” series and the “Divinity: Original Sin” series.

Overall, the influence of classic RPGs on modern RPGs cannot be overstated. These games have left a lasting legacy on the genre, shaping its themes and mechanics in ways that continue to be felt today. By building on the foundations laid by classic RPGs, modern RPGs have evolved and expanded the genre in new and exciting ways, ensuring that the spirit of classic RPGs will continue to live on in the gaming world for years to come.

The Future of Classic RPGs

The Evolution of Classic RPGs

The Adaptation of Classic RPGs to New Platforms

  • As technology advanced, classic RPGs were adapted to new platforms, such as home consoles and personal computers, which allowed for wider distribution and increased accessibility to players worldwide.
  • This adaptation allowed for the expansion of the RPG genre, with new games and series being developed for different platforms, and the establishment of a thriving gaming community around classic RPGs.

The Reinvention of Classic RPG Mechanics

  • With the evolution of technology and the growth of the gaming industry, classic RPG mechanics were reinvented and expanded upon to create new and innovative gameplay experiences.
  • This reinvention allowed for the development of new subgenres within the RPG genre, such as action RPGs and MMORPGs, which combined elements of classic RPGs with other genres to create unique and engaging gameplay experiences.
  • The reinvention of classic RPG mechanics also allowed for the creation of new and innovative gameplay mechanics, such as real-time combat and dynamic quest systems, which added depth and complexity to the genre.

The Importance of Preserving Classic RPGs

The Cultural Significance of Classic RPGs

The classic era of RPGs, spanning from the 1970s to the 1990s, is of significant cultural importance. These games were not only pioneers in the gaming industry but also helped shape the broader cultural landscape. Many classic RPGs dealt with complex themes, such as morality, politics, and personal identity, that resonated with players and contributed to their personal growth. Furthermore, the social aspects of playing RPGs, including collaborating with friends and sharing stories, have fostered lifelong connections and memories for many gamers. Thus, preserving these classic RPGs is essential to preserve these cultural artifacts and the memories they hold.

The Value of Classic RPGs in the Gaming Industry

In addition to their cultural significance, classic RPGs also hold value in the gaming industry. Many of these games were groundbreaking in their design and gameplay mechanics, paving the way for future RPGs and other genres. They have influenced numerous modern RPGs and games in general, showcasing the lasting impact of these classic titles. As such, preserving these games is also valuable to the gaming industry, as they serve as a foundation for understanding the evolution of gaming and provide a source of inspiration for future developers.

Furthermore, classic RPGs can still be enjoyed and appreciated by modern gamers, even if they do not have the same graphical and technological capabilities as current games. The timeless storytelling, memorable characters, and engaging gameplay mechanics continue to resonate with players today, making them valuable additions to any gaming library. Therefore, preserving classic RPGs is essential to maintain the history and heritage of the gaming industry, as well as to ensure that future generations can experience these iconic titles.


1. What is an RPG?

An RPG, or Role-Playing Game, is a type of video game that allows players to assume the role of a character in a fictional world. Players take on the role of the protagonist and make decisions that shape the story and outcome of the game.

2. When was the first RPG game released?

The first RPG game was released in 1975, called “Dungeons & Dragons.” It was a tabletop game that allowed players to create characters and embark on adventures in a fantasy world. The game quickly gained popularity and laid the foundation for the RPG genre.

3. When did RPGs become popular in the video game industry?

RPGs became popular in the video game industry in the 1980s with the release of games like “Final Fantasy” and “The Legend of Zelda.” These games combined elements of traditional RPGs with action-adventure gameplay, making them appealing to a wider audience. The popularity of these games helped to establish the RPG genre as a staple of the video game industry.

4. What are some classic RPGs from the 1980s and 1990s?

Some classic RPGs from the 1980s and 1990s include “Dragon Quest,” “Final Fantasy,” “The Legend of Zelda,” “Chrono Trigger,” “Xenogears,” and “Planescape: Torment.” These games are often considered classics and are still popular today.

5. How has the RPG genre evolved over the years?

The RPG genre has evolved significantly over the years, with new games incorporating new mechanics, graphics, and storytelling techniques. Modern RPGs often feature open-world environments, complex character customization, and multiplayer modes. Some popular modern RPGs include “The Elder Scrolls” series, “Fallout” series, and “The Witcher” series.

6. What is the appeal of RPGs?

The appeal of RPGs lies in their ability to immerse players in a fictional world and allow them to take on the role of a character. Players can make choices that shape the story and outcome of the game, creating a unique experience for each player. The depth of character customization and the ability to explore vast worlds also contribute to the appeal of RPGs.

RPGs Were Never About Roleplaying

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