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In September 2006, the editors of Gamasutra asked its readership of game industry professionals to chime in and vote for which game in the role-playing genre "brought the genre forward" in the biggest way - whether it be an early game that helped define the RPG, or a more recent one which took those core ideas and developed a more rewarding experience than before. Specifically, we asked:
"Which role playing game over the entire history of the genre do you think has made the biggest 'quantum leap', and why?"
On the following pages, we'll first present the "honorable mentions" - games that, while certainly innovative and important, did not receive enough votes to make it into the top echelon.
Following this, we'll present the top five role-playing games voted for by our readers, in reverse order, ending with the overall recipient of Gamasutra's second Quantum Leap Award, which received the largest amount of votes from game professionals.
[Please note that while many games received small amounts of votes in this survey, we could not possibly give adequate attention to each of them. 'Honorably mentioned' games also voted on by our readers, but not making it into the top five _or_ receiving detailed commentary alongside the voting included Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic, System Shock, Bard's Tale, The Legend of Zelda, and even Façade. Special thanks to MobyGames for providing art that appears in this article.]
Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest) for the NES. A very good RPG, with the best elements of an RPG: leveling up by collecting experience, getting gold from monsters, a lot of side quests involving items you can later use, and buying new and super expensive armor & weapons; it also allowed you to try to free roam any place in its world, but you would then find a very powerful monster, which would kill you in one or two blows, which then gave you a need of leveling up to overcome all the obstacles.
Dragon Warrior, of course. Although all it did was translate "Dungeons And Dragons" themes to video games, the invention of the battle system, creative plot, and all of the genre standards were created. If the RPG genre had evolved more, I wouldn't have chosen "the first." However, it hasn't, although I have no problem with that. Now, if they'd only hire better screenwriters.
-Quinton Klabon, Dartmouth College