As more developers seek new ways to make their games more unique, RPGs are fast becoming one of the most diverse genres out there. Going into a new game with no information these days is a total crapshoot – you do not know what you're going to get.
With all that said and done, there are some things that we will never get tired of – and when they pop up, even in newer games, we're comforted. Sometimes they're simple staples of the genre, and sometimes they're the things that don't make sense but are steeped in tradition. Regardless, we love them.
10 Incompetent Henchmen
You know the kind. They're evil, sure, but they're so funny you can't help but smile when they turn up. More often than not, they'll be a recurring boss, and if so, they're definitely not going to be difficult until they get serious.
While they may simply be comic relief, these types of henchmen can also serve to illustrate just how evil and competent their masters are or how ruthless they can get if they decide to do away with the poor bumbling fool. Looking at you, Exdeath.
Examples: Final Fantasy 5 (Gilgamesh), Final Fantasy 10-2 (Logos and Ormi), Disgaea (Mid-Boss), Kingdom Hearts 2 (Pete), Chrono Cross (Solt and Peppor)
9 Karma Meters
Also known as "The Consequences of Your Actions," karma meters track your choices and actions in a game and translate them to functional changes. NPCs might react differently towards you, you might unlock new quests or even endings, or you might get attacked on sight if you're too much of a meanie.
These are great features for games with many choices to be made. They provide replayability for anyone who wants to see how the other half lives. Depending on how the meter is implemented, of course, there's always the risk of crossing into comical territories – such as being able to redeem your reputation for blowing up an entire town by giving a homeless man 20 bottles of purified water.
Examples: Fallout 3, Fable, Dark Souls, Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, Romancing SaGa
8 Oddly-Placed Chests
Okay, who is placing these treasure chests in underwater caverns, onboard airships, and even on the freaking moon in at least one occurrence? This is a drawback (if you consider it one) of treasure chests being the premier loot-delivery system of RPGs as a genre.
Still, it's hard not to smile at the leap in logic that it must take for a game designer to be placing the same treasure chests that populate castles and forests inside extradimensional spaces created by villains. Some games will at least change the appearance of a chest to make it seem more appropriate… but still.
Examples: Mother 3, Final Fantasy 4, Dragon Quest 8, Eternal Sonata, Valkyrie Profile
7 Good Morning, Player Name
That's right, the quintessential call to adventure. How many RPGs start with the main character in bed or otherwise asleep, sometimes woken up by a family member and prompted to get out of bed and look around their room? A lot of them.
This is a true classic of the genre. The start of a new day for the character mirrors the beginning of a new game for us, and we get to see the main character's domestic life before everything inevitably goes to pot. Not now, Lavos; it's breakfast time.
Examples: Chrono Trigger, Every Pokemon Game, Golden Sun, Kingdom Hearts, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, EarthBound
6 The Doomed Hometown
This trope is as common in RPGs as it is in anime. If you are the hero of an RPG, you'd better prepare yourself for the decent chance that the place you call home will go up in flames, get invaded by an evil empire, or get trampled by a dragon. Something disastrous.
This is especially brutal when paired with a nice, chill opening where you get to know the town quite well. The game will unload a ton of great personalities on you and then threaten them with some big evil to trick you into getting invested in their game. It's a mean strategy, but it works.
Examples: Final Fantasy 7 (Nibelheim), Dark Cloud (Norune), Tales of Berseria (Aball), Bravely Default (Norende), Dragon Quest 11 (Cobblestone)
5 Home Ownership? In This Economy?
What better way to live out a fantastical life than by doing what seems so impossible for many these days? That's right, owning property. This comes up in a lot of games, usually as some far-off goal that you can save and grind towards.
In-game homes can be bases of operations, a money-making tool, or just a place to chill and rest after your many adventures. No matter how they come, it's always satisfying to finally get the keys to your own virtual home, especially if you're one of the unlucky few with a Doomed Hometown.
Examples: Final Fantasy 14, EarthBound, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Pokemon Platinum, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Fable 3
4 The Inevitable Tournament Arc
It's a tale as old as time – storytellers love a tournament. They are just incredibly useful for hitting so many plot and gameplay beats: they can show how tough a villain is, show how far the hero has come, or simply let you test your mettle against enemies. Sometimes they may even revolve around a particular minigame!
They can be side quests or thrust into the main narrative. Expect rare and powerful goodies, perhaps even some painful difficulty levels to overcome if the former. If the latter, expect some surprise opponents or a super-important grand prize necessary to progress the story. Either way, they're a classic.
Examples: Golden Sun, Rogue Galaxy, Final Fantasy 9, Octopath Traveler, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion
3 Pick Your Happy Ending
Romance is a beautiful thing, and it's no surprise that so many games manage to incorporate it as a feature so well. Romance in RPGs ranges from optional flirtations to full-on marriage side quests. And yes, of course, sometimes a love story is blended seamlessly into the main story.
But today, we're talking about those games that let you pick and choose who you want your characters to spend the rest of their lives with. Playing matchmaker with your party members and seeing the outcomes is such fun and can even encourage a second playthrough to see what would happen if things went a little differently.
Examples: Fire Emblem Fates, Rune Factory 4, Dragon Age: Origins, Mass Effect, Assassin's Creed: Odyssey
2 Beating Up Your Future Buddies
The more you think about it, the weirder it seems that this is a thing used so often in video games. How many times have you played through a game, beaten up yet another boss, and suddenly the boss joins your party? It's bound to be more than a few.
This is a pretty fun way to introduce players to new characters they'll be playing with. You get to see them in action before you get them – you can think of the battle as a taster. Regardless of the turncoat's reasons for joining up with you, this is a great mechanic to have in an RPG.
Examples: Dragon Age: Origins (Zevran), Final Fantasy Tactics (Meliadoul), Chrono Trigger (Magus), Fire Emblem Fates: Revelation (Camilla), Disgaea (Flonne)
1 Optional Superbosses
As far as challenges go, you don't get much harder than the optional superbosses that RPGs might throw at you. Or hide from you, as the case may be. These are usually quite far off the beaten track, and if you stumble across them, they will likely beat you down without a second thought.
These bosses require critical thinking, a high level of strategizing, and perhaps some luck to overcome – but boy does it feel fantastic when you finally manage that feat. They are great ways to test players when they think they've mastered the game's intricate systems and mechanics.
Examples: Golden Sun (Dullahan), Kingdom Hearts (Sephiroth), Persona 5 (Caroline and Justine), Final Fantasy 9 (Ozma), The Last Remnant (The Lost)
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