Every BioWare Game, Ranked

For decades, BioWare has stood at the forefront of Western role-playing game development. While it’s hard to argue with the fact that their spot at the forefront has slowed down in more recent years, BioWare is nevertheless a name with a great deal of recognition. Several of their games have become legends in their own right, and even a few of their noble misfires had interesting elements.

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We’ll be ranking every BioWare-developed game ever made, which is no easy task. Along the way, we will nigh-inevitably slot something somewhere you disagree with, wondering why it’s so high, or so low. Never forget, your opinions are just as valid as ours – if not more so!

20 Dragon Age Journeys (2009)

Dragon Age Journeys Battle Screen

We begin with a game that… uh… certainly exists. Or rather, existed. We debated whether to even include Dragon Age Journeys, since at the time it was developed, the studio wasn’t BioWare, but rather EA2D. That’s why you won’t see Heroes of Dragon Age on this list – don’t worry, it’s no great loss. EA2D did eventually become the now-defunct BioWare San Francisco, so hey, we’re including it.

Honestly, we’ve already written more sentences than this short-lived Flash-based browser game deserves. From gameplay to graphics, it felt like it had been thrown together in a blender after the devs added one part of Farmville to two parts of Runescape. Which might have been good, come to think of it. But it wasn’t. Only the first chapter ever saw the light of day, with the second and third chapters canceled. Presumably because Dragon Age Journeys wasn’t remotely good.

19 Mass Effect Galaxy (2009)

Promotional Shot Of Mass Effect Galaxy Including Jacob

A cheaply-made, clearly-rushed top-down shooter for iOS in an age before iOS and Android games could be great, Mass Effect Galaxy lacks any of the spark, gravitas, or creativity that makes the game it ties into – Mass Effect 2 – so renowned. Jacob Taylor isn’t exactly the most beloved character in Mass Effect fandom to begin with, but Galaxy writes him so much the worse.

The plot, such as it is, quickly devolves into a squabble with an alien extremist who isn’t nearly as compelling as the other extremists of his species we can encounter in the trilogy. Mass Effect Galaxy was yanked from the store a mere three years after release, and we promise, you’re not missing anything.

18 Dragon Age Legends (2011)

Dragon Age Legends Battle Scene with Dragon

We, uh, promise we’re almost to the ‘real’ games. Dragon Age Legends was the second of EA2D’s freemium efforts, and while the gameplay was a modest step up from the swamp that was Journeys, the aggressive monetization pretty much nuked any sense of enjoyment for most players right off the bat.

With a plot occurring right alongside Dragon Age 2, Legends was the tie-in to its contemporary mainline installment that its predecessor had been for Origins. There’s actually an OK little story in here somewhere, though your mileage may vary on whether it’s remotely worth the effort of looking for its offline version’s download links, and then marching your way through its uninspired mechanics.

17 Shattered Steel (1996)

Via: youtube.com (VGames4Lif3)

Hey, there are far worse fates than having the first game your studio develops among your very worst. Shattered Steel, the newly-formed BioWare’s inaugural outing, tries to outshine the popular MechWarrior series without bringing anything fresh to the table. In fact, its stage design is a substantial step back from what Activision’s bigger-name robot-piloting action franchise was already achieving.

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Shattered Steel’s story starts off fine, inviting players to ponder the truths behind a nemesis responsible for our species’ near-extinction. But the delivery just isn’t there, with the narrative payoff stymied by fairly predictable moments. Coupled with achingly repetitive combat, there’s little to recommend. The visuals are kind of cool for their time, at least?

16 Anthem (2019)

Anthem cover art

And at the other end of the timeline, we have what is, as of this writing, BioWare’s most recent release. By the time the company formally announced Anthem in mid-2017, media outlets had been reporting on it for years; the struggles behind the game’s development came into sharper focus, and although 2018 gameplay footage seemed generally fine, there was good reason to wonder how Anthem would land. Many longtime BioWare fans were also upset that the team responsible for the Mass Effect trilogy was shifting to a co-op live service title.

All these hesitations would prove well-founded when Anthem launched in February 2019. It was immediately obvious this was hurried out the door in an inexcusable state. The core loop of flying around shooting bad guys is fun in the beginning, but the tedious and overly similar mission structure soon becomes a slog. Folks were equally right to worry that Anthem’s live-service nature would harm its story; it’s disjointed at best. Anthem ceased further development in 2021, leaving its ongoing narrative forever unfinished.

15 Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood (2008)

Sonic Chronicles The Dark Brotherhood Screenshot Of Sonic Crew Fighting Creatures

There’s a decent game somewhere in Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, BioWare’s sole outing for Sega’s blue mascot, but it’s hidden beneath a thick layer of purely average content. Despite its BioWare pedigree, the scope of The Dark Brotherhood’s plot doesn’t extend much, if at all, beyond what you would find in something like Sonic Adventure. Nor do enough of its remotely intriguing concepts come into view until you’ve run a gauntlet of ridiculously easy battles and cheesy one-liners.

Sonic Chronicles both looks and sounds good, however, with bright, poppy character art and some of the best-looking backgrounds on the Nintendo DS. Progression is largely accomplished via stock fetch quests, and the RPG nuts-and-bolts are disappointingly bland, so we still can’t recommend it.

14 Mass Effect: Andromeda (2017)

Mass Effect Andromeda

When BioWare Edmonton’s talented Mass Effect division shifted focus to the game that would become Anthem, it was up to BioWare Montreal to deliver the goods for Mass Effect’s future. In their defense, this was a huge responsibility for a fairly new studio, even if they did learn the ropes a bit through the crafting of a few pieces of the series’ DLC. Alas, Mass Effect: Andromeda does more wrong than right. Relative to its predecessors, Andromeda has a shakier story, fewer lovable companions, a greater sense of bloat, and some truly woeful technical hiccups.

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Those hiccups may have doomed poor Mass Effect: Andromeda from the start – videos of the game’s less-than-savvy presentation went viral on YouTube in the weeks leading up to release, and combined with the tepid reviews, this middling quasi-sequel crashed and burned like an ill-fated Ark ship. Even its planned DLC follow-up got turned into a novel, and BioWare would spend years soul-searching for the series before announcing the next Mass Effect – which is still years away.

13 Dragon Age 2 (2011)

Dragon Age Asunder Templars in Dragon Age 2

Dragon Age: Origins debuted to considerable success, so it was only fair that a sequel should get the go-ahead from BioWare’s new owners, Electronic Arts. Far less fair was the amount of time the Dragon Age devs were given to get that sequel rolling: roughly 14 to 16 months. Conversely, even if you set aside the time dedicated to crafting the universe’s broad strokes, Origins had several years to make the magic happen.

And so it goes that Dragon Age 2’s magic-centric story is crippled by its rushed creation, with an especially swift resolution that rings hollow as a result. A common criticism of Dragon Age 2 is that the entire game is set in the city of Kirkwall and its surrounding areas; we contend that this was always a cool idea, but it was the developers’ harsh deadlines that reduced what could have been the slow and steady transformation of a troubled town into mere lipservice.

Still, DA2 does have its fans, and not for nothing; the companions are strongly written, and protagonist Hawke can be pretty darn hilarious.

12 Neverwinter Nights (2002)

The two best things about BioWare’s Neverwinter Nights both have nothing to do with the game itself – the modding community was fantastic, and Obsidian Entertainment’s sequel was a major improvement. The 2002 entry, named after the first MMORPG set in the same famous Dungeons & Dragon region, is ultimately more focused on giving players a ton of multiplayer options than telling a sweeping tale.

As a result, while the overall chapter-based structure makes progression feel rewarding (various things one does in an early chapter can carry forward into the next), the campaign is largely a miss. Dialogue is trite, truncated, and clearly driven to push you forward as quickly as possible. The D&D-based combat’s implementation feels a little undercooked, too, though still moderately compelling.

11 Star Wars: The Old Republic (2011)

First, the good. Star Wars: The Old Republic’s CG trailers are routinely exquisite. In the years before Disney revved its engines on new live-action content, this was Star Wars at its prettiest. Some of the origin stories for BioWare’s MMO can be quite enjoyable. The colorful aesthetic sort of clashes with what the single-player Knights of the Old Republic duology brought to the table, but they’re easy on the eyes, especially at higher graphical settings. Some of the expansions have been solid.

We don’t exactly love the way The Old Republic controls, and we’ve never become full-blown fans of its battle system. Nor have we found most of the more recent expansions to live up to their legacy, especially at launch, when they’re barely a few hours in length. The cash shop isn’t quite as pervasive as it can be in other free-to-play games, and you can upgrade to a paid subscription, but it’s hard to shake the feeling you’re missing out if you aren’t spending. BioWare Austin gets credit for righting this ship from a (very) rough launch – we’re just not over the moon of Endor with it.

10 MDK2 (2000)

MDK2 Screenshot Of Atomic Toaster In Use

Time was, BioWare wasn’t just in the business of making role-playing games. Time was, BioWare made a third-person shooter called MDK2, the just-as-irreverent sequel to a game about a janitor who saves the planet from an alien invasion. MDK2 is, in every sense, the superior entry. Gameplay feels less stale, level design has improved across the board, and perhaps the most important thing – the gunplay – feels even smoother than the already-impressive MDK’s.

Time has been a little unkind to MDK2. It no longer seems as snappy, and the visuals, while arresting in style, have some of those dreaded ‘early 3D’ moments that can seem inelegant or even ugly today. Most importantly, while it’s a good game, MDK2 is far from BioWare’s best – hence, you know, why it’s been placed where it is.

9 Baldur’s Gate (2000)

Dialogue from Xzar after being removed from party in Baldur's Gate 1

Now, before you accuse us of being chief instigators of the Time of Troubles, let us emphasize, we’re talking about the first game, not the second. The original Baldur’s Gate is solid, but just doesn’t hold a Candlekeep to what came thereafter. Rich writing and an impressively diverse world to explore are Baldur’s Gate’s strong points, but its AD&D system can feel antiquated at times, unreasonable at others. Even thinking back to its release, Baldur’s Gate could be awkward in this regard, so it’s not just us looking back over two decades down the line.

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Despite such misgivings, wow, what a start, right? BioWare went from being perceived as relative small-fry in the industry to blowing up in popularity with Baldur’s Gate, and for good reason. You can see so much of the masterworks to come in the game’s DNA, with so many of its development staff going on to bigger, better projects in the years to come. Including, of course, the sequel.

8 Jade Empire (2005)

jade empire main character in field

Jade Empire might not be a great RPG, but it’s nevertheless an instant recommendation to any genre fan looking for something different. The Eastern Asian influences on the game’s setting are fascinating, weaving together a compelling cultural tapestry with enough original flavor to avoid feeling like parody. The Open Hand and Closed Fist morality system, while clearly based on a BioWare staple (the reputation system), feels more three-dimensionally presented than one might expect, with altruism and self-reliance – not good and evil – as the guiding forces.

It’s also full of flaws; Jade Empire’s dialogue can seem oddly stilted, its pacing borders on the bizarre, its gameplay balance is all over the place, and its story probably could have used a few extra hours along the way. Yet these flaws only make the fandom’s fervor bittersweet – hopes for a sequel, one which could have hypothetically ironed out these wrinkles, have been dashed so many times we’re not sure anybody still believes it possible.

7 Mass Effect 3 (2012)

Mass Effect 3 Screenshot Of Garrus Shepard and Tali huddled up.

Mass Effect 3 is a tale of two cities. The first, the finale to one of the best trilogies in gaming history, is bursting with memorable emotional moments, powerfully fulfilling climaxes, a stellar soundtrack, and (especially with the ‘Citadel’ DLC), a gathering of many of the coolest characters around. It’s a space opera told far and wide, with excellent stakes, heartbreaking sacrifices, and more. Seriously, the highs in this game are towering.

But it’s also a shining beacon of what goes wrong when an intensely story-centric trilogy’s final hours are conceived by a couple of people with, we’re sorry, a downright erroneous understanding of the very themes they helped to create. This narrow-minded decision is the catalyst for an infamously dreadful ending which, thank goodness, was at least somewhat improved post-launch.

Mass Effect 3 also undercuts some of its predecessors’ best qualities; we can appreciate the urge to help add texture to the player character, Commander Shepard, but there’s simply too much auto-dialogue, not to mention something of an eleventh-hour literary insistence that Shepard’s morality is rigidly defined, and their reactions to certain events are predetermined. For all this, it’s still a total must-play for anyone who enjoys the first two games; this is no colossal misfire. It’s just not quite what it ought to have been.

6 Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014)

Dragon Age Inquisition Finally Made Dragons Scary

Following the middling reception – and sales – of Dragon Age 2, BioWare took the right amount of time to craft something much bigger the next time around. Big doesn’t always mean good, of course; some players lament the number of ‘MMO-like’ side quests in Dragon Age: Inquisition, and the sheer number of explorable regions does, at times, seem to get in the way of the story getting as much focus as it needs. But Inquisition is fun. Its companions are fun, its humor is fun, even some of its most tumultuous showdowns feel fun.

It’s also gorgeous. We’re writing this list nine years after the game’s launch, and it can still be a stunner. Sure, the character models are hardly award-winning, but those environments have aged so well. We also think Inquisition has the niftiest lore in a series rightly praised for its upper-tier worldbuilding. There’s a lovely, almost Suikoden-esque, joy in watching the titular organization you’ve been chosen to lead come together into a political powerhouse. And, while the original endgame sequence is a bit weak, the 2015 ‘Trespasser’ DLC makes up for it in spades.

We can’t believe the fourth game still isn’t out yet.

5 Mass Effect (2007)

A reptilian alien holds a gun as he looks elsewhere in Mass Effect 1

At this point, we’re running out of ways to criticize these games. BioWare’s top-shelf fare is top-shelf gaming, full stop. The combat in the first Mass Effect is a little wobbly, and yes, those planetary exploration side quests make Starfield’s slew of abandoned bases look downright innovative by comparison. (In fairness, Mass Effect is 16 years Starfield’s elder.) But goodness, when Mass Effect clicks, it clicks. Those who rank it above both sequels often praise its distinctly 1970s sci-fi vibe, and yes, we miss that vibe in 2 and 3, too.

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This is also the Mass Effect series’ best main story. While the sequels’ best bits concern ongoing (and excellent) sub-arcs, like the genophage and the Quarian/Geth conflict, Mass Effect 1’s smart centering on a human operative and their ragtag crew going up against a renegade rival and unlocking galaxy-shaking revelations is a thing of beauty. Every time Saren and Shepard verbally spar, it’s satisfying; to say nothing of that conversation with Sovereign, who remains, for better and for worse, the most interesting Reaper of them all.

4 Mass Effect 2 (2010)

Mass Effect 2 Illusive Man in his big room

Narrowly besting its forerunner, Mass Effect 2’s ‘Avengers Assemble’ moment is, for our money, better than Marvel’s own. This game is Ocean’s Eleven, it’s Seven Samurai, it’s the ultimate in get-the-band-together goodness. The overarching trilogy story does progress, but at a slower pace than the other entries – intentionally so, as everything rides on Shepard’s ability to recruit, command, and inspire the galaxy’s most eclectic band of would-be heroes.

Graphically, Mass Effect 2 is a leap from the first game, and the improvements to combat make the visual upgrades look modest by comparison. Mass Effect 2 gives each of Shepard’s six potential classes an identity they had previously lacked, and though the cover-based fixation can feel somewhat archaic, there’s still nothing like that Vanguard’s Charge that ME2 (and subsequently ME3) supplied.

Mass Effect 2 gets just about everything right. We get the argument that it backtracks on the ‘RPG’ elements to a disapproving extent, but it works so well for what it’s going for, and hey – the dialogue options, the companion stories, it’s all still there, and even better than before.

3 Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic (2003)

Kotor Bastila Shan

We’re beginning to strongly suspect Embracer Group’s planned Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic remake is never going to happen. You want to know what? We don’t particularly care. It would be undeniably rad to see the greatest Star Wars game of all time given a modern coat of paint, but KOTOR is perfectly playable today. It’s the first of a string of BioWare games whose transition to 3D makes for some uneven combat, but other than that, this game is glorious.

The strength of Knights of the Old Republic’s plot hinges on the success of its late-game twist, which has gone down as one of the grandest in gaming. That’s not to say the rest is poor. Every planet you’ll visit is brimming with intrigue, including quests of every sort, from lightsaber-twirling action bits to mystery-solving whodunnits to swoop races and card games. During the days of George Lucas’ Star Wars prequel trilogy, some fans were desperate for something more to their taste. Along came this bold new era, and decades of adoration ever since.

2 Dragon Age: Origins (2009)

An Ode To Dragon Age Origins Sloth Demon (5)

BioWare pitched Dragon Age: Origins as something of a spiritual successor to, well, the only game left on the list after this one. We don’t quite get that vibe from it, if we’re being honest here, but that doesn’t change our love for Origins one iota. Dragon Age: Origins is the quintessential narrative-heavy epic fantasy experience. The characters with whom your hero, the Warden, will meet in their travels are all some kind of stock archetype, and the world-rending evil at the end of the campaign is about as straightforward as they come.

It’s not the broad strokes that make it all work so well, but the finishing touches. It’s the writers at BioWare in the zone, pulling off some of the finest work in their careers, instilling every trope with nuance, vibrancy, and smartly-designed player-driven impact. The consequences of your actions are keenly felt to an extent BioWare has come close to many times, but never quite eclipsed. The battle system, the most stoic and turn-based of its trilogy’s, is thoughtful, strategic, and employs a companion tactical mechanic that really ought to be in so many more RPGs.

1 Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows Of Amn (2000)

baldur's gate 2 shadows of amn gameplay screenshot dragon best pc games of all time

Long before there was Baldur’s Gate 3, there was… Baldur’s Gate II. It’s a painfully obvious statement, but with the 23-years-later third entry by Larian Studios taking the gaming world by storm, it feels a little like a cliff note that there were Baldur’s Gates before 2023. Ask any old-school WRPG enthusiast, on the other hand, and you won’t just be reminded Baldur’s Gate II exists. More often than not, you may receive an essay on why it’s one of the best games ever made.

We’re right there with you. Look, if we begin to wax poetic over why this thing’s a masterpiece, we fear we will not stop. And then this list, already overlong, will not end. Or at least, it won’t end for about 100 hours, which is how long our most recent Baldur’s Gate II file lasted us. If you’re just getting into BioWare’s magnum opus, consider playing the original first, and definitely play the Throne of Bhaal expansion that serves as the real ending. But no matter what you do, prepare for something magical. Our sole caveat? That AD&D combat can be downright obtuse at times.

Don’t let ‘obtuse’ keep you from buying this. Or installing it for the tenth time. (Same.)

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