The basic premise of the role-playing game is simple and ubiquitous in numerous games: you create or take control of a character that you can then level up through experience points. RPGs are a cornerstone of gaming, but no single game can represent the genre because it’s grown and blossomed into numerous sub-genres. With that in mind, here are the most popular sub-genres with a short explanation for each.
  • RPG: Encompasses a variety of different niches and sub-genres, ranging from tabletop gaming with cards and dice (Dungeons & Dragons) to video game RPGs (Fallout).
  • ARPG: Action RPGs have a strong emphasis on combat but include many of the characteristics of a standard RPG, like The Witcher 3.
  • CRPG: “Computer RPG” is typically used to describe Western-developed RPGs created for PC gamers, like the first two Fallout games.
  • MMORPG: Combines the massively multiplayer online genre format with RPG gameplay, with notable titles like World of WarcraftEVE Online, and Elder Scrolls Online.
  • TRPG: Short for tactical role-playing games, TRPGs resemble strategy games but place a deeper emphasis on creative thinking and short-term decision-making, like the XCOM series.
  • Roguelike: Strict definitions feature turn-based gameplay, some form of permadeath, tile graphics, and procedural generation. However, many newer and popular examples, like The Binding of Isaac and Spelunky, focus more on the action and platforming, respectively.
  • Roguelite: Does not include one or more key elements of a typical roguelike. Definitions for this sub-genre will vary, but Rogue Legacy is a widely accepted example.
While you may see other RPG-associated terms used during gaming discussions, these are some of the most common ones to keep in mind. Read about The 10 Best RPG Games of the Last Decade here.
RPG examples
  • Skyrim
  • The Witcher 3 (ARPG)
  • Fallout 4