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A role-playing game is a video game genre that is heavily influenced by traditional role-playing games. Role-Playing Games (RPG, also erroneously shortened as "RPGs" or "RPG games") will commonly feature immersive worlds that have a well-thought out history.

Role-playing games normally feature many playable characters who over the course of the game become more powerful. Their statistics will usually increase overtime as the player continually thwarts opposing forces. Following this they'll gain experience, and over time their levels will gradually start to increase.

Many modern games infuse role-playing elements into their games that aren't exactly considered part of the genre. For example, an action-heavy title may include statistics that increase over time. Another may have the player gaining more abilities or increasing the amount of ammo they are capable of having (i.e. Metroid). Today, role-playing games are among the most popular video game genres.

Definitions

There are at least two definitions of a role-playing game, and they overlap partially.

Definition 1
A role-playing video game is any video game that features experience points.
Definition 2
A role-playing video game is any video game that features the following aspects:
  1. Dialogue and text-rich: it would be almost impossible to clear the game in a language unknown to to the player; the player has to actively engage in conversation with non-player characters, and/or the player has to look for and read clues that could be missed (on the other hand, cutscenes are passive, unavoidable dialogues).
  2. Freedom of exploration: all areas are interconnected, or they are connected by an overworld; it is possibile to backtrack to previously cleared areas and navigate them backwards.
  3. Permanent upgrades: characters' attributes and skills increase as the game progresses; usually such improvements are ruled by exprience points, but notable exceptions exist (e.g. Final Fantasy II, The Legend of Zelda).

The first definition was more common in the past, and it caused huge debates. For example, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of the Lance is an action-platformer game that features "experience points", but these are actually just the player's score, without any impact on gameplay. On the other hand, The Legend of Zelda (series) features all elements of a role-playing game, except for experience points (a fact that makes it more realistic and immersive).

Gameplay

The gameplay of role-playing games are perhaps the most diverse of any genre. There are many different types of role-playing games.

The first, major difference is between Western computer role-playing games and Japanese consolle role-playing games (both abbreviated as "CRPG", the latter also abbreviated as "JRPG"). The main difference are the controls: a keyboard for the former, a joypad (and menus) for the latter. Also, Western games give more emphasis on exploration and "body-building", whereas Japanese games focus more on story-telling. Another difference is that computer role-playing games feature a long and detailed character creation, whereas consolle role-playing games allow to get in the in-game world faster with pre-made characters (that are usually functional to the plot).

Another classification is between turn-based role-playing games and action role-playing games. This is about the combat style only. The first group will have the opposing sides take turns battling, carefully selecting the moves they want to perform when it is their turn. Action role-playing games, which have become increasingly popular over the years, will have the player simply leveling up by fighting as he would in any other action video game. Some action role-playing games have a gauge that empties once a player attacks. The player can still move about, though he'll have to wait until the gauge has filled once more until he can attack once again.

In tactical role-playing games the player moves an army on a grid and attacks accordingly.

Setting

The setting for role-playing games is very diverse. Most, however, take place in a medieval world inspired to the tabletop Dungeons & Dragons (1st edition: 1974). This was especially true for the earliest role-playing video games; in fact, the oldest Western games were developed in 1975, and the first Japanese games were released in 1984.

Games like Final Fantasy take place in a variety of different settings: some take place in a classic European setting, while another may take place in an advanced civilization with machines.

Adventuring parties

While this cannot be said about all games within the genre, most role-playing games feature groups of player characters, with one prominent protagonist. They all have a similar goal, which usually is saving the world. Over the time of their quest they'll battle many enemies, solve puzzles and traverse through dungeons. When one member of a group is dispatched in battle, another can usually revive him by using special potions, though this is not always the case.

Game lists