Though it's been a busy year for game developers, 2011's actually seen a pretty light RPG offering, with developers more interested in adding role-playing dynamics to other genres than making an RPG proper. That said there have been a few stand-out titles that no true RPG fan should be without come 25 December.
5) Dungeon Siege III
Intended to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors, the presence of Dungeon Siege III in the list showcases just how poor-a-year 2011 has been for RPGs.
Once again set in the kingdom of Ehb, the game, while fun, would probably not have made the top five in previous years. The lack of character customisation and seemingly minor changes to the franchise's classic loot and character leveling systems making it feel a little dated.
That said, with a new focus on multiplayer the game supports four player online and offline co-op making it an ideal choice for those looking for a more social form of dungeon-diving.
Released: 21 June, 2011
Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Proving the time honoured truth that a game doesn't need a AAA budget to be awesome, Bastion is one of 2011's pleasantest surprises.
Opening to the game's unnamed protagonist, Bastion sees "the kid" explore the remnants of a mysterious city complex known in-game as the Bastion following "the calamity." Available via the Xbox 360's XBLA Bastion was one of the few RPGs this year that really took us by surprise.
The game's artistic direction is astounding and the ongoing real-time narration that literally chronicles what you do as you're doing it make it a blast to play and for the paltry 1,200 Microsoft Points it costs, Christmas RPG-nuts left an XBLA reward card come Christmas day will finally have something to be excited about.
Released: 20 July, 2011
Xbox 360, PC
3) Dragon Age II
The second entry into Bioware's ongoing Dragon Age sage Dragon Age II hit stores back in March to a generally positive reaction.
Set immediately after the events of Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II followed the exploits of Hawke, a refugee building a life in the city of Kirkenwall having fled his homeland to avoid the darkspawn. Taking a marked step away from the silent hero of its predecessor the game offered a strong personal story of one man -- or woman depending on how you create your character -- and his quest to build a life for himself and his family.
Keeping the same emphasis on character development and team combat, the game set itself apart from the competition, with the IBTimes' only real question being "when will we finally get our hands on Dragon Age III?"
Released: 8 March, 2011
Xbox 360, PS3, PC
2) Dark Souls
Definitely not for the faint hearted, Dark Souls is the "spiritual successor" to the PS3 exclusive Demon Souls. Like its predecessor Dark Souls is, for lack of a better word, brutal. Seeing a return to the Japanese old-school approach of punishing ineptitude Dark Souls is one of the most difficult RPG's ever released.
Seeing your unnamed character explore a dark and dangerous realm in a quest to break the "curse of the undead" playing Dark Souls you will die. In fact, being more accurate, you will die a lot. Fair to say by the time you complete the game you will probably have seen the "You Died" screen more times than you care to count, with all manner of creatures from humble bandits and giant rats, to undead knights and gargantuan dragons hampering your path and taking their pound of flesh.
Yet, despite its punishing difficulty Dark Souls remains one of the most engaging and ultimately rewarding RPG experiences of the year. The difficulty forces players to approach each battle tactically, developing their character specifically for the task. At times the build-up can take hours, sometimes even days, with each attempt at the seemingly unkillable boss granting a new clue how to beat it.
Upon finally slaying the beast, the intense -- and yes unwarranted -- sense of achievement felt makes you willing to forgive and at times even embrace the game's unyielding nature. All this adds up to make Dark Souls a must have this holiday season, earning it second place in this year's buyer's guide.
Released: 4 October, 2011
Xbox 360, PS3
1) The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Launched on 11.11.11 Bethesda's latest entry into its iconic Elder Scrolls series not only lives up to its proud origins, but blows the competition out of the water, raising the Elder Scrolls bar to a level most RPGs can only dream of reaching.
Set after the events of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Skyrim takes players in the cold and harsh land of the viking-like Nords. The story sees you explore the frozen landscape weaving in and out of the ongoing war between the Imperial loyalists and rebel Stormcloud warriors. Despite the importance of the war, the main crux of the plot explores the return of dragons and your role as dragon born -- a special type of power that sets you apart from the normal folk.
Keeping the same first-person view and emphasis on player freedom, Skyrim refines and improves on Oblivion's strengths, implementing new character development and combat systems. The game's open world freedom and wealth of quests mean that for their £39.99 players will be granted more hours gameplay than they will likely be able to complete -- all of which adds up to make Skyrim 2011's number one RPG and a must have for any self-respecting gamer..
Released: 11 November, 2011
Xbox 360, PS3, PC