While Daggerfall’s sheer size often dominates conversations about the game, it’s some of this sequel’s other innovations that impress most all these years later. Daggerfall not only greatly improves upon its predecessor’s storytelling, combat, and character growth possibilities, but it does so in ways that we see in the next Elder Scrolls game and throughout the rest of the franchise. It was far too ambitious for its own good, but it was a necessary step forward for the genre and this series.
7. Fallout 4
If you can separate Fallout 4 from the rest of this franchise and the other games on this list, you’ll find a lot to like about it. It offers a sizeable open world filled with both narrative-driven activities and substantial distractions. You can spend hundreds of hours wandering around Fallout 4 (many of which will likely be spent on the character creation screen) and eventually encounter enough worthwhile moments to justify your considerable time investment. If that’s not enough, Fallout 4 even offers a couple of really well-designed DLC expansions that are arguably more interesting than the base game (Far Harbor and Nuka World). As a Fallout-themed open-world game, Fallout 4 understands and completes its assignment.
As an RPG, though, Fallout 4 falls apart almost immediately and never really recovers. For an entry into a franchise that raised the bar for actual role-playing in video game RPGs, Fallout 4 features shockingly few role-playing elements. Your dialog and character-building choices are laughably limited, the story is frustratingly narrow (and, honestly, often quite bad), and for a game that emphasizes looting and shooting quite as often as this one does, the looting and shooting in this game feel quite bad. Even its much-hyped settlement building mechanic feels woefully disconnected from the role-playing elements of the experience.
Fallout 4 is a game at war with itself and large sections of its fanbase. It’s playable, it’s often amusing, and it’s more impressive than many modern major open-world titles, but it is so far removed from the things that make this studio and this series so special in the first place that you can’t help but see it as a step back.
6. The Elder Scrolls Online
At the time of its release in 2014, there was a slight stigma surrounding The Elder Scrolls Online’s very existence. At a time when many Elder Scrolls fans simply wanted the next mainline game in the franchise, some saw ESO as a detour that would only delay The Elder Scrolls 6 by another couple of years (simpler times). It didn’t help that the initial version of ESO felt painfully basic and did little to distinguish itself from pretty much everything else out there.
Over the years, though, Elder Scrolls Online has grown to become one of the most interesting MMORPGs on the market. Compared to something like Final Fantasy 14 or World of Warcraft, ESO focuses slightly less on the communal multiplayer elements of the genre and more on the idea of emphasizing the PvE elements of a solo-player MMO experience. However, unlike other pseudo-MMOs like Destiny or Diablo 4, ESO still offers fairly substantial multiplayer content that will eventually incentivize you to play nicely with others. Indeed, some fans feel that ESO may be a little too overwhelming for those looking to treat it as a slightly more traditional Elder Scrolls experience.