Role-Playing Games to Action Adventure Games

Everyday there are debates about what games are truly RPGs (role-playing games). Lots of people consider The Legend of Zelda series an RPG, when the series is actually an action-adventure title; with the exception of Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, which is an action RPG. There are some people who believe that an RPG is defined as playing the role of a character in the game. The issue with that statement revolves around the knowledge of every game. Every video game results in the gamer picking up some sort of controller and playing the role of a character in their video game of choice. With this knowledge, every game would be defined as an RPG.

Role-playing games derive from an era of pen and paper RPGs such as the famous Dungeons and Dragons. Dungeons and Dragons is based on dice rolls, specific games mechanics, and settings.  Players take control of one or more characters to depart on quests. Pen and paper RPGs require a game master who controls the direction of the story and the events that take place. With the evolution and upbringing of the electronic age, video game RPGs don’t require game masters within the game, since all of that information is already programmed.

While pretty much every game in existence drives on a story, role-playing games have a major focus on them. Without the story, RPGs have no hook to keep the gamers coming back to play. The typical story for an RPG usually focuses around saving the world from evil with a party of different characters. The majority of the playable characters in an RPG are usually different classes, so each character can have some diversity to them. For example: Warriors, Magicians and Rogues.

In The Legend of Zelda, you take control of a young boy named Link. Link wields swords and various other weapons such as a bow and arrow or a boomerang. Throughout the games in the series, you go through dungeons, beat bosses, so on and so forth. There’s no way to make a person’s “Link” any different from someone else’s. The gamer can either collect the sword, armor or heart container upgrades, or not at all. In the end, Link is still Link; he will always be the same. The amounts of items Link can use are limited to a specific amount, like potions and bombs.


Characters in an RPG have different stats. The stats of a character usually consist of, Strength, Vitality, Intellect, Spirit, Dexterity and Luck. The name of stats can be completely different in other games. In some games Intellect might be referred to as Magic Attack. The different stats help craft specific characters for specific classes. A Warrior will have more Strength, while a Rogue has more Dexterity. Items in an RPG are very plentiful. There are tons and tons of them, such as, potions, revival items, status healers, stat increases and character equipment. A player can mix and match equipment as they please to gain stats or special abilities. Monsters tend to drop money and sometimes rare items.

One of the biggest aspects of role-playing games is battling. The most common way is random encounters. When the main character, controlled by the player, walks around, there’s a chance that they are suddenly transitioned into a battle on another screen. This most commonly occurs in the over world and dungeons, never in towns or cities. Action-adventure titles have no random encounters. The monsters appear, and there is no transition. The player can then hack and slash away at the monsters at their own will. The battle mechanics of an RPG and an action-adventure game are at a very thin line. There are only a few differences.

Most action-adventure games lack some sort of leveling system, which RPG’s are heavily influenced by. Devil May Cry has a powering up system. You collect red orbs by beating monsters, and use them to upgrade the few weapons that you obtain or buy items. The red orbs basically act as a universal currency. Dante himself does not level up in any way, but he does receive health enhancements.

Quests and or missions are big in the majority of games. Devil May Cry is a mission based game; anything you do is in some sort of mission. Once you complete one, you move on to the next. One of the key features of role-playing games is the amount of exploration you can partake in at almost any time in the game. Exploration is key to an RPG, because it allows the player to run around as they please and complete many side quests. Great examples are Elder Scrolls III Morrowind and Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion.

When it comes to action-adventure games and role-playing games, the differences are small in number. Many games throughout the genres have similarities, and with the new age it has spawned more and more hybrids. Games like Mass Effect, an action RPG series, feature similar qualities down to the bone to classics such as Final Fantasy and Phantasy Star. Mass Effect features no random encounters, and has battle encounters that would be similar to The Legend of Zelda, except with space guns, in space. Mass Effect allows the player to craft how their characters grow, and which type of equipment to let them wear.

The gritty surface of an RPG is a party of heroes, who level up and have different sorts of items and equipment. They travel across the world, fulfilling many quests and side quests while defeating evil that comes in their way.

I’d love to hear your opinions of the subject.

3 thoughts on “Role-Playing Games to Action Adventure Games”

  1. To me the key thing that defines and RPG vs Action Adventure is the stat block and the leveling system. If you have a linear level based on arbitrary numbers than that is an RPG. Games like DnD allow you to assign your starting stats, and the abilities, feats, spells, etc that you can use is based on a number that grows as you complete quests and kill monsters. WoW also qualifies because, while you cannot set your base stats, your actual stat block is based heavily on gearing choices. You also gain spells based on your level and can customize through the Talent system which also has level requirements.

    Zelda doesn’t count. Link’s powers grow based on what gear he has and at what point in progression the gear is. He doesn’t kill faster by increasing his Strength, he does set amounts of damage based on what level his sword has been powered too. Similarly his increase in abilities and options is based on gear that is gained in a certain order. His only increasing stat is health and that is based on collection, not questing and gridning against monsters.

    Similarlly, I don’t count Batman Arkham Assylum as an RPG. It has some good RPG elements, you gain xp by finding secrets and beating enemies, but in the end you don’t level up. You use the XP as a currency to buy new gear and power al a Legend of Zelda. And it’s not a literal currency. Get enough xp, you get a token to redeam for one upgrade.

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