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A very common but inaccurate definition of role-playing video games is the following:

A role-playing video game is a game where the player character earns experience points.

A more accurate definition is the following:

A role-playing video game is a game where all the following aspects are present:
1. Dialogue is an essential part of the game, and the characters have to talk and interact with non-evil characters to proceed in the adventure;
2. There are permanent upgrades, in the form of enhancements of the various attributes of the characters (attack, strength, magic, etc.);
3. There is freedom of exploration, all the areas are connected by an "overworld", and areas that have been previously cleared can usually be re-visited; in other words, the game is non-linear.

Note that most RPGs feature an in-game map of the large overworld. Many gamers do not distinguish between the map of the overworld and the overworld itself, and refer to the second using the word for the first.


The two definitions do not overlap.

According to the second definition, experience points alone are not sufficient to classify a game as RPG. Experience points are just one of the possible permanent upgrades, and some RPGs do not feature them at all. Some games follow perfectly the second definition (dialogues, permanent upgrades, non-linear exploration), but they feature no experience points. A notable example is the Legend of Zelda series.

Some games do feature experience points, but absolutely nothing of the three points in the second definition. A notable example is Hybrid Heaven, that would be better classified as action game.


RPvGs can be divided into three main groups:

  1. Japanese-style or consolle RPGs, that focus more on plot and dialogues (n.1 in the definition above);
  2. American-style or computer RPGs, that focus more on chracter upgrading and non-linear exploration (n.2 and n.3 in the definition above).
  3. Action-RPGs, where battles happen in the same field the characters are exploring.

Both Japanese-style and American-style RPGs are Turn-based, as opposed to action-RPGs. Turn-based means that battles are triggered periodically and are fought on a separate screen, interrupting the exploration of the overworld/dungeon. In general, action-RPG require more advanced programming, and therefore they are more recent than turn-based RPGs.

Further sub-genres incude:

  • Roguelike RPGs, where the layout of dungeons is randomly generated; they could be seen as a sub-group of action-RPGs.
  • Strategy RPGs or tactical RPGs, where the focus is on long battles, and often one of the three defining points of RPGs is missing; they could be seen as "chess with more realism"; they are usually turn-based.
  • Pokemon-like RPGs, where the player character neither gets upgrades nor fights, whereas a group of creatures controlled by the character fights all the battles and receives upgrades; the main character is a tamer or breeder of other creatures; they could be seen as a sub-group of turn-based RPGs.


This category has the following 2 subcategories, out of 2 total.

Pages in category "RPG"

The following 200 pages are in this category, out of 702 total.

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