For those of you who might have missed it, Titan Quest, now over ten years old has, out of nowhere, received an expansion with Titan Quest: Ragnarok. Now we LOVED us a bit of Titan Quest back in the day. Sometimes a little Diablo-style loot n grind is what you need to scratch your gaming itch, right? So it got us thinking. What are the best Diablo style games of all time?
Here you’ll find our picks from history – only with a difference. Except for that first one below, we’ve intentionally not gone for the obvious ones – but all the games below are great titles in their own right and well worth investigating for any Diablo fans looking for something a bit different.
TITAN QUEST – PC, iOS, Android
Because it would be rude not to start with this. While Diablo was all “Die in Hell You Demon Sons of Bitches”, Titan Quest took a more swords and sandals approach to the genre with an epic journey across ancient antiquity. Everything was very much in the Greek and Egyptian tradition – a mix of shortswords and Gods – where magic, nature and mythology collide into a melting pot of click and loot awesomeness.
The best thing about this game? An absolutely BRILLIANT class leveling system, which allows you to either go all in on a class, or cleverly pick two for a hybrid class. The scope for replaying and experimenting was incredibly satisfying. If you enjoy your loot in the same way as Diablo, but fancy something a little more sunny and less miserable in appearance, then Titan Quest is the only way to go.
BALDUR’S GATE: DARK ALLIANCE 1&2 – PS2, Xbox, Gamecube
It would also be criminal for us not to highlight Dark Alliance for being the superb Baldur’s offshoot that it was. Back in the day a PS2 (or Xbox and Gamecube if you were so inclined) two controllers, a sofa and your mum already half way home from Dominos with gigantic meat feast was a recipe for good times.
Console gamers didn’t exactly have it so good for ARPGs at the time and so Dark Alliance was a breath of fresh air – not just for the solid experience, but it was also a technical marvel at the time, thanks to the superb Dark Alliance Engine. Teaming up with a mate and hacking through the undead hoard was very satisfying. The game was no push-over either, so taking down bosses together give a proper sense of adventuring and camaraderie.
This would be a great candidate for Xbox One’s backward compatibility catalogue and one we’d jump at the chance to play again – if only for the sneaky pleasure of hoovering up all the gold while your mate’s nipped off to the bathroom.
THE BARD’S TALE – PC, PS2, iOS, Android
An unusual choice for best Diablo style games maybe, but for my next game I’m going to choose The Bard’s Tale.
Here’s a fun fact for you – this baby actually uses the same engine as Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance, and is another fondly remembered console ARPG. Unlike Dark Alliance which, while offering a choice of class, was more of a Strong Silent Type in the story department. The Bard’s Tale offered the opposite, a more restrictive single player experience, but one with a little more richeness in writing and story. It had the rather interesting central conceit of the main character being a bit of a dick – with his main motivation being less about saving the world, but more about making some quick cash and getting his end away with the local women-folk. In a rather nice touch, the games narrator also thinks the main character – known only as ‘The Bard’ – is a total bellend, with a cleverly sarcastic and knowing tone throughout the adventure.
Unlike Baldur’s Gate Dark Alliance, there’s also a pretty decent Android and iOS port available if you’re curious. It runs and plays pretty well too – so is a must-play if you’ve not sampled it before.
SACRED – PC
My quest for the best Diablo style games brings me back to PC land and a series which, I must say, I always loved, right up until Sacred 3 ruined everything with its dumbed-down garbage. Seriously, that game couldn’t be any further from it’s proud lineage if it tried.
Anyway, Sacred. Sacred is what happens when Germany does Diablo, and the results are just as you’d expect. What it lacks in the immediacy of Diablo it makes up for in detail. While in some ways its a little simpler (it ditches mana for a rune-system for skills for example) it’s much stronger in terms of story. Unlike Diablo, this is not so much about getting swarmed by enemies in random maps, instead everything is meticulously paced on huge maps which give you much more of an epic, exploration vibe.
Personally I always preferred Sacred’s lore and more story-driven approach to adventuring. You can pick this up pretty cheaply now – but while it is a firm favourite of mine, it hasn’t aged as well as Diablo 2, despite being younger than it by two years. So do yourself a favour, play Sacred 2 instead – it’s not quite old enough to be counted as ‘retro’ (hence not on this list) but is still an excellent game and massively underappreciated!)
NOX – PC
You can be forgiven for not having heard of this one – I can count on two fingers the people I know who played this game, and they’re all in my family. Nox was notable in that it was the output of Westwood Studios, a company better known for Dune: Battle for Arakkis and, of course, Command and Conquer.
Visually it was kinda cool. Admirably detailed, in a miserable, brown sort of way, and it using a somewhat distracting line of sight mechanic, which threw angular shadows all over the screen. Sure you were always on the verge of having a seizure, but I always enjoyed Nox for it’s buttery-smooth pace. Played from a slightly more zoomed out elevation than most Diablo style games, the main character runs along at a fair old pace, which made it feel very compelling, moment to moment. It also had three different endings for those who wanted an extra dash of replayability and, curiously, a multi-player with classic modes like deathmatch and capture the flag.
PHANTASY STAR ONLINE – Dreamcast, Gamecube, Xbox, PC
The ultimate streamlining of the Diablo format. Pick a class (Hunter, Ranger, Force) and teleport down to your mothership and meet three more like minded adventurers for sci-fi infused romp around boss-topped stages. Kill the enemies, pick up the money and weapons and – YES! get a tingling feeling in your pants when you caught glimpse of a super-rare red drop box.
Phantasy Star Online didn’t throw loot at you like a mad man (sometimes you could do a whole bunch of runs before you got anything) and when you did, it made that new drop all the sweeter.
While it was fairly short on content initially (just four stages in the original Dreamcast release) those who played PSO will remember it for being nothing short of magical. Magical in that it was one of the first proper online console games – but also that it’s low-swung third person camera view made it a much more intimate experience than your traditional arpg.
The setting and music also combined to make replaying that small amount of content so relentlessly moreish that it proved one of Dreamcasts most intoxicating games. It is no wonder that it is so loved by fans that, even after all these years, it still has a small and friendly community on PC, almost 20 years on from release.
Just type ‘Schthack’ into google for more info, and thank us later.
FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES: Ring of Fates/Echoes of Time – Nintendo DS
First I was going to do the original Gamecube version – but then I realised there’s no handheld love on this list. No one ever expects to find a solid Diablo-style game on handheld, mainly because they’re few and far between. But they do exist – and among the best of them are the FFCC games, Ring of Fates and its superior sequel, Echoes of Time on Nintendo DS. Sure they look kinda kiddy in a chibi/anime sort of way – but they remain surprisingly excellent ARPGs and worth checking out.
While playable on solo, they really come into their own in multiplayer and up to four of you can tool up and go hunting. They’re level-based adventures where you work through stages with incidental block, switch, door puzzles before facing bosses. The hack and loot mechanics are still very much present though and, thanks to the bite-sized nature of the stages (you can burn through them REAL fast in multiplayer) it means they’re great for both short bursts and also good fun to grind through if you’re so inclined.
The Crystal Chronicles series has long been seen as the inconvenient, poor relation to the main FF series, so few people ever bothered with them. It’s unjustified though, as they provide a rare opportunity for lootin’ and grindin’ on the go.