If you’re looking for an isometric RPG to play, you’re in the right place. I’ve played many isometric RPGs and have included my thoughts on various games below. No matter what setting you enjoy, you’ll be able to find a game that suits your taste.
What is an isometric RPG?
I’ve seen many definitions of isometric RPGs (some valid, some wrong), and I think this is one case where a screenshot is worth 1000 words. See above and below. The screenshot above is from Pillars of Eternity.
In isometric RPGs, you have a bird’s eye view of your party (they’re usually party-based), and you can see things you wouldn’t be able to see in a 3D (or pseudo-3D) game, like over walls and into the next room, or multiple pathways in the immediate area, as you can see in The Siege of Dragonspear screenshot below.
I’ve seen games like Dragon Age: Origins described as an isometric RPG, but Origins isn’t an isometric game. In Origins, you move through 3D space. You can’t see over walls. You can’t see multiple pathways like you do in the screenshot. You don’t have a bird’s eye view. In some games, you can switch to a tactical view that gives an overview of the combat field, but that doesn’t make it an isometric game.
Combat in isometric RPGs is usually turn-based or real-time with pause.
Here’s my definition of an isometric RPG: games that look like Baldur’s Gate, the big daddy of the modern isometric RPG.
Okay, let’s get to the list.
The Isometric RPG List
Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2
Let’s start with the RPG gamers always reference when talking about isometric RPG games, with good reason. Not only is Baldur’s Gate an isometric RPG, but it revitalized the RPG genre as a whole back in the late 90’s, when the genre was stagnating and hardly any RPGs were being released. After Baldur’s Gate, there were a flurry of isometric and non-isometric RPGs, but after that, no isometric games were released for a while as 3D gaming came into its own. Over the past five years or so, we’ve seen a resurgence.
Another reason gamers always reference Baldur’s Gate is because the games are good. Really good. And they were the first games to introduce romances and add personality to party members.
Baldur’s Gate is a Dungeons and Dragons game and uses a modified version of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons second edition rules. It’s set on the Forgotten Realms continent of Faerun, on the Sword Coast.
If you haven’t played Baldur’s Gate yet, get the games! In 2012, a company called Beamdog released an enhanced version of Baldur’s Gate that plays well on modern systems and includes extra content (additional party members and quests). Later, an enhanced version of Baldur’s Gate 2 was also released. You can buy the games directly from the company, or from the usual gaming stores.
Okay, I’m going to make a huge confession here. Huge. *lowers voice* I didn’t like Planescape: Torment. There, I said it. If you talk to most gamers, they’ll talk about Planescape: Torment in hushed, almost reverent tones. They’ll say it’s one of the best RPGs ever made. They’ll say it’s an experience like no other. Me? I don’t get the hype.
I tried it twice, once when it was released in 1999, and again when Beamdog released an enhanced version. Yep, I bought the enhanced version of a game I’d already tried and abandoned, wondering if I’d finally see the light almost 20 years later. Still didn’t like it. But you’ll probably belong to the vast majority of gamers who love it.
In Planescape: Torment, you play the Nameless One. You wake up not knowing who you are, and in very strange surroundings. The game is high on story, low on combat. It’s set in the Dungeons and Dragon’s Planescape multiverse and uses a modified version of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons second edition rules.
If you haven’t tried this one, pick it up. Maybe you can come back and try to explain to me what you see in the game that I never have.
Fallout 1 and 2
The Fallout series is set in a post-apocalyptic setting, where some fortunate people have been living out their lives in vaults in the aftermath of a nuclear war. It’s a wasteland outside the vaults, with mutant enemies and rough people. You’ve grown up in one of the vaults, but you have to leave.
Here’s another series that most gamers adore but has always been just “meh” to me. In this case, it’s the setting. I’m not a fan of post-apocalyptic stuff filled with essentially amoral people and tons of violence. It’s just not my cup of tea.
Interplay developed Fallout 1 and 2. Bethesda now owns the Fallout franchise and has released Fallout 3 and 4, but the latter two games aren’t isometric. They’re true 3D games that have Bethesda’s unique stamp on them. There’s also Fallout 76, an MMO, but I haven’t tried it. It hasn’t received great reviews, but some gamers like it.
I’d suggest picking up the first two games at GOG, to make sure they’ll run on your modern system.
Divinity: Original Sin 1 and 2
Divinity: Original Sin 1 and 2 are modern isometric RPGs and have been really well received by gamers. I’ve played and enjoyed both games. They’re colourful, have great writing (especially the second one), and will provide you with hours of entertainment. They’re set in the same world as the Divine Divinity series.
The games make heavy use of environmental factors in combat, which some gamers like and some hate. For example, you can set barrels of pitch on fire, electrify water on the combat field, etc.
If you’re looking for a modern isometric RPG, this would be a great series to start with.
Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura
Arcanum is an older isometric RPG released in 2001 by Troika Games. If you’re into steampunk, it has a steampunk setting. I played this game when it originally came out and don’t remember much about it except that I enjoyed it. This is another one to pick up at GOG is you’re interested in giving it a go.
The Shadowrun series
The Shadowrun series is a cyberpunk series set in the same setting as the Shadowrun table-top game.
If you google Shadowrun games, you’ll find quite a list. When it comes to isometric RPGs, I’m talking about Shadowrun Returns, Shadowrun Dragonfall, and Shadowrun Hong Kong, the last three games that were released. I’ve played all of them. One thing I particularly enjoyed were the characters. They’re all quite memorable. In fact, one of them (Eiger from Shadowrun: Dragonfall) is my profile background on Steam.
If you’re going to give the series a try, I’d play them in order. Start with Returns, then Dragonfall, then Hong Kong.
Icewind Dale 1 and 2
Icewind Dale was released shortly after the Baldur’s Gate series and has more of an emphasis on combat than it does on story, which was the intended design. It was made for gamers who loved the combat in the Baldur’s Gate series and wanted a game that gave them the opportunity to really test their combat chops.
Because the emphasis isn’t on story, the party members are thin on character. In fact, you build your party of six right at the beginning of the game. You don’t meet party members as you play, like you do in most other isometric RPGs.
I played both games and found them more difficult than Baldur’s Gate, but that’s because I’m not a combat-focused player. I don’t mind combat, but I don’t spend hours making builds and such. If you enjoy a lot of combat, this would be a good series to try.
It’s based on a modified version of the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons second edition ruleset, which isn’t surprising because it’s built on the same engine as Baldur’s Gate. It’s set in the Forgotten Realms, in the northernmost region of Faerun.
Beamdog released an enhanced edition of Icewind Dale, but hasn’t done so for Icewind Dale 2. If you want to buy 2, I’d suggest getting it on GOG. That way, you know it’ll run on your system.
Pillars of Eternity 1 and 2
Pillars of Eternity is part of the modern wave of isometric RPGs. It takes place in Eora, a fantasy setting, and is a spiritual successor to the first wave of isometric RPGs (Baldur’s Gate etc.). I’ve played both games. I really enjoyed 1 but haven’t been able to get into the second game, even though it seems well done. I’m not sure why, but I’ll try it again at some point. The second game has received quite a few updates since it was released, including the addition of turn-based combat.
The world is very well done and the games offer hours of entertainment. You can build a stronghold in the first one (not sure about the second one), which adds another dimension to the game.
If you’re into isometric RPGs, definitely give this series a try.
In Tyranny, you play a bad guy, so right away this differs from most RPGs. Now, you might not see yourself as the bad guy, and you can try to make good choices. The interesting thing about Tyranny is that a lot of the time, you’ll be choosing the lesser of two evils.
The game is set in a world that an evil overlord has conquered, and you play someone who has to restore order to the world, using whatever means possible. People aren’t happy to see you.
I really enjoyed this one, and I’ll definitely be playing it again because I still need quite a few achievements. It’s built on the same engine as Pillars of Eternity.
If you want a different type of experience than you usually get in RPGs (where you’re usually saving the world), try this one out.
This is another game that gamers rave about (or at least they did about Wasteland, the first game). But I just couldn’t get into it, probably because it’s set in a post-apocalyptic world (hence the name). Because of that, I don’t really have a lot to say about it, except that it’s the successor to Wasteland, so if you enjoyed Wasteland or heard a lot about it, you might want to give Wasteland 2 a try.
Torment: Tides of Numenera
Torment: Tides of Numenera is intended to be a spiritual successor to Planescape: Torment, so it has a greater emphasis on story than combat. Also, your character starts out as a blank slate.
As I mentioned earlier, I couldn’t get into Planescape: Torment, but I loved Torment and will definitely play it again. The game has a science fiction setting (Numenera, a fantasy campaign by Monty Cooke). It’s called Tides of Numenera because tides are an indication of how you’ve affected your party members and ultimately what bonuses and special skills they receive.
If you’re into story, give this game a go.
Tower of Time
Tower of Time is an undiscovered gem. In fact, even though I can find a Wikipedia page for more obscure games, there doesn’t seem to be one for Tower of Time. I bought this one because it was on sale at GOG, and I’m so glad I did. According to GOG Galaxy, I’ve put almost 60 hours into the game.
Tower of Time is essentially a dungeon crawler. You have to climb to the top of a mysterious tower (which has been inverted, so to get to the top, you’re actually descending. Play the game to see what I mean).
The writing is good, and your party members are interesting. If you enjoy RPGs, get this one. It really is a game that should have received a lot more attention.
This one is new (released in 2019) and has received great reviews. It’s on my “to buy” list, so I don’t have anything to say about it, but I’ve included it in the main list because it’s the most recent isometric RPG release at the time I’m writing this (early 2020).
More Isometric RPGs
Here are some more isometric RPGs I haven’t played, or I don’t have much to say about them:
- Avernum – I haven’t played the Avernum series by Spiderweb Software, but all the games in the series are isometric.
- Underrail – I own this one but haven’t gotten around to playing it yet.
- Pathfinder: Kingmaker – okay, I tried this one and bailed on it. Parts of the game are isometric. From what I’ve seen, you spend a lot of time doing things other than playing your characters, but I don’t have much experience with the game because I bailed early. I’ll try this one again when I’ve reduced my game backlog.
- The Age of Decadence – I bailed on this one too. It’s an old school RPG (meaning difficult, or at least I found it to be so).
- The Temple of Elemental Evil – not much to say about this one except to get it on GOG, because it’s old. I just looked on GOG and actually own it, so I’ll give it a try at some point. I must have picked it up during a sale.
- Inquisitor – tried this one and bailed on it. Pick it up on GOG if you want to give it a whirl.
- Diablo – action RPG, but isometric. Buy on GOG.
- Torchlight – not sure this one is true isometric, but it’s close. Also an action RPG. I finished the first game and enjoyed it. Had to bail on the second game because the repetitive motion of combat (and there’s a lot of it) was killing my wrist. Buy on GOG.
So there you have it. There are thousands of hours of isometric RPG goodness in the list, so if isometric games are your thing, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy.
I’m sure I missed a few games, so if you think an RPG should be on the list, leave a comment. If I agree, I’ll add it.
Now go forth, and enjoy some isometric RPGs.