Bethesda is one of the rare cases of a game developer finding so much success that they branched out to become one of the biggest publishers in the Western gaming market. While not quite as gigantic as the likes of an Activision or EA, Bethesda has a great stable of developers, themselves included, that have made some of the most ambitious games on the market. Whether it’s the cutting-edge technology coming out of ID Software, the high-octane FPS action of Machine Games, or even the more experimental titles from Arkane, Bethesda’s name is attached to far more than just their high-profile RPG series.
Since they were acquired by Microsoft, all of Bethesda’s games, including the games made by the studios under them, will be console exclusive to that platform moving forward. However, there is a long history of games already released for multiple platforms, and between all the studios Bethesda is in charge of, there are games of all types to check out. You will obviously know the major players here, such as The Elder Scrolls and Fallout, but there are way more Bethesda games that are just as good. That’s why we’ve rounded up this list of the best Bethesda games of all time.
What is there that can be said about Skyrim that hasn’t been said already? This massive game is not only the pinnacle of the Elder Scrolls series (at least until the untitled Elder Scrolls VI releases), but it also shattered all expectations. It wasn’t just a critical hit but a sales juggernaut as well. The game originally came out in 2011 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC, but it has been ported almost as much as the original Doom and has sold well every time it was released after that. It makes sense why — the world Bethesda created, or rather this region of it, is just brimming with unique and dynamic events to experience. The number of things to do and see and ways to play make it feel like a true RPG experience in ways most other games could only hope to be.
Yes, Skyrim is not immune to the usual bugs and glitches that Bethesda games are known for. In this case, though, none of them are really game-breaking, unless you’re playing on the PS3, and the game was so ambitious for the time that many people were willing to overlook a few rough edges. The plot isn’t much to write home about, and many people never even saw it through, but that’s just a minor fraction of the content on offer in Skyrim. Side quests are everywhere, caves and dungeons to explore are around every corner, and interesting characters populate all the cities. Skyrim is a game where you can easily spend 100 or more hours never touching the main quest and still have plenty to do.
Read our full: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim review
While it was Bethesda themselves that took the old Fallout series and brought it back to life as a more modern 3D RPG, it was actually Obsidian Entertainment, also purchased by Microsoft, by the way, that really blended the old-school RPG mechanics and tone of the original game with the gameplay mechanics Bethesda revived the series with. Fallout 3 was a great game, don’t get us wrong, but the fans of the older titles certainly had some problems with it. While it was an open-world game, it was far less open in terms of player choice and influence and not quite as strong in the writing department. Many just assumed that was the price we had to pay for bringing the game into a fully 3D open world with voiced NPCs. That was until Fallout: New Vegas arrived.
An unfortunate trend with Obsidian is that they’re constantly given criminally short development times to produce what are expected to be blockbuster hits, and Fallout: New Vegas is a great example of that. Eighteen months is almost no time at all to create a game, let alone a massive open-world RPG that players expect to have deep systems, dozens of quests that can be completed in multiple ways, tons of weapons, and strong writing. The fact that Fallout: New Vegas manages to accomplish basically all of those things without falling apart at the seams is nothing short of miraculous. That said, it does have more than its fair share of bugs and glitches, even for a game made on Bethesda’s engine, but playing on PC with some mods essentially cleans all those problems up.
Arkane Studios is, in our opinion, one of the most underrated studios out there among gamers. Critics have been praising their games for the near masterpieces they are, but for some reason, sales have never matched up to the quality of the games they put out. Dishonored 2 should’ve been their breakout hit. It was an improvement over the original in almost every way while still sticking to what made that game and world so much fun in the first place. Every mission lets you loose in a systems-driven mini-hub world with tons of secret paths, side quests, and optional ways to accomplish your goal. They were essentially the natural progression of a level from Dues Ex, but even more elaborate. Oh, and you had an awesome kit of powers and weapons.
This time around, Dishonored 2 let you pick between two playable characters: Corvo, the protagonist from the first game, and Emily. While there are plenty of overlapping elements, they are different enough in how they play to warrant going back for at least a second playthrough. We say at least a second playthrough because there are just so many ways to tackle each mission that you’re going to miss out on at least a handful of things on any given playthrough. Seriously, this game would be worth playing for the level design alone, but the fact that it is so much fun to actually interact in that world, plus see how the world reacts to you, make it an all-time great that few people have played.
Read our full: Dishonored 2 review
Sometimes gaming doesn’t have to be much more complex than blasting demons with your super shotgun as heavy-metal guitars celebrate the carnage and gore. While Doom Eternal can be just that, a raw action, incredibly satisfying gore-fest, play on anything higher than the lower difficulties, and you’ll find that this game has way more depth in its combat than basically any shooter released in the past decade. ID made combat a multilayered puzzle of sorts, with a genius design that forces you to stay mobile, aggressive, and strategic all at once. Each enemy has a weakness you can exploit, but ammo for each gun is limited, forcing you to use your entire arsenal as well as your chainsaw to refill. Enemies hit hard and fast, so you’ll need to make sure to weaken enemies for glory kills to restore your HP, but also utilize your flamethrower to make them drop armor to preserve that health.
All those pieces make each combat encounter both mentally and physically challenging, or at least in terms of execution, exhausting (in the best way). Successfully taking out the most dangerous threats, double-jumping and dashing to avoid damage, keeping your health up, and perfectly dispatching smaller foes with brutal glory kills for just a brief second of reprieve, all while the drums and guitars ramp up with the action, leads to feeling like an absolute beast when the final demon is splattered against the wall. The game could’ve been just that, but under the hood, there are wide maps you can platform through for collectibles that show up on your ship between levels, as well as even more challenging optional fights to unlock. Doom Eternal is the full package in ways no other single-player FPS has been in years.
Read our full: Doom Eternal review
This will be the oldest entry on the list, but even with so many years removed, we can’t ignore how much The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion changed the console RPG landscape. Yes, Morrowind did come first and established a lot of the systems Oblivion would build upon, but it is far, far harder to go all the way back to Morrowind on the older hardware of the original Xbox. The skill system of leveling up specific attributes by actually performing those actions felt so intuitive and right, despite being a bit exploitable. The world was the biggest we’d ever seen, especially on a console, and the amount of content packed in felt truly endless.
The plot was also a great tale. Your created character is given the mission of stopping a group called the Mythic Dawn from opening…
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