Fantasy races serve to make our games feel, well, more fantastical. However, the RPG genre has always had a particular reverence for the old masters, which has led to some games being filled with familiar takes on classic fantasy races. There is nothing wrong with including elves or dwarves in your game, but they can be examples of the fantastical element starting to feel a little on the ordinary side.
Thankfully, there are a number of creators who have spread their wings and included some more interesting races. From demonic teddy bears who use the power of dance to sentient turns, these fantasy races are a little more off the beaten path.
It can be hard to walk a foot in a modern RPG world without stumbling into a cat person. They have become extraordinarily popular. Especially in JRPGs. However, while cat people are extremely common, their depiction in the Elder Scrolls series is far from typical.
Unlike many games where cat people manifest as cat ears, a tail, and skimpy clothing, the Khajiit have facial features that lack any real human qualities and are covered head to toe in fur. These stealthy cat people are one of the most notable in the Elder Scrolls series and help to balance out some of the more vanilla fantasy races.
9 Undead, Divinity Original Sin
While the undead are old standbys of the RPG genre, they are typically just monsters who exist to be bopped. That is not true of the Undead in Divinity Original Sin 2. Fane is one of the more eloquent characters in the game, despite being a sentient pile of bones. And that is what makes this a pretty interesting inclusion: sentience.
In the world of Divinity the Undead walk, and instead of seeking the brains of the living, they seek knowledge. Forced to hide their identities due to rampant prejudice, the Undead are extremely sympathetic figures in Rivellon.
8 Wolfling, Shining Force
Werewolves have been around for a long time. However, they are surprisingly not featured as frequently as one would expect in games. Games are lousy with Vampires, but wolfmen have generally been given the bum end of the stick. Thankfully, we have the Shining Force series: the one franchise to regularly feature wolf people.
Yes, the Wolfling is a werewolf-like race of bipedal man-wolves. Most Shining series games have one representative of the Wolfling race. This is a tradition that goes all the way back to Zylo, who appeared in the first game in the series. At least one series has some sense!
7 Rito, Zelda
The Rito are the bird people of the Zelda franchise. While they have gone through a few iterations, the most recent one in Breath Of The Wild saw them go full-bird. Now they look like they could belong to the same race as Falco from the Star Fox series, which is appropriate, as the most notable Rito, Revali, has the same jerk-ass attitude as Falco (and we love him for it).
Bird people aren’t completely unheard of in video games, but they are certainly less common than your typical centaur, elf, or dwarf. It feels like the Rito fly particularly high when it comes to the bird-person representation.
6 Horse People, Breath Of Fire
Obviously, the most notable beastmen in the Breath Of Fire series are probably its dragon people. But do you know what type of races we have seen in a number of properties? Dragon people. Do you know what you NEVER see? Horse people. Breath Of Fire 3 specifically, really emphasizes their horse people.
Not only are they front-and-center in the story, but they are actually portrayed as being quite capable opponents. There is a bumbling, comical element to their personalities, but they also absolutely slaughter your party in the early goings of the game, and are, initially, extraordinarily intimidating — especially for being horse people.
5 Motavian, Phantasy Star
Phantasy Star’s Motavians are a race of people who primarily scavenge. They look like a cross between a person, an owl, and Sesame Street’s Grover. Fiercely independent, and physically strong, they made their first appearance in the series as enemies. However, Phantasy Star 4 introduced a playable character in the form of Gryz.
While many RPG series have misunderstood scavenger races that would parallel well with the Motavians, what really helps the Motavians stand out is their appearance. Visually, there are no other races that look like them in games. Unfortunately, the more recent Phantasy Star games seem to ignore the Motavians and focus on the more generic races. Hopefully, we will see the return of these blue badasses in the near future.
4 Prinny, Disgaea
The Prinnies act as comedy relief in the Disgaea world. Canonically, they are being punished for having lived bad lives. The Prinnies are penguin-esque bird people who fight with knives and explode if thrown.
Pretty hard to argue that this race is anything close to generic, huh? They have proven to be so popular with the Disgaea fanbase that they have even been given their own spinoff series of games, and for good reason. What could possibly be cooler than a demonic penguin? Nothing, that is what, Dood.
3 Duck People, Suikoden
Ducks are inherently adorable. So an anthropomorphized duck person is just obviously a slam dunk out of the gate. What makes the duck people in the Suikoden universe so damn great is their sincerity. They could be silly, waddling comic relief, but the most notable representative of the race is a stoic, brave, seasoned warrior.
Are these Duck People still played for laughs on occasion? Of course they are. They are giant ducks! But their portrayal is balanced. The duck people are eloquent, brave, and empathetic. This is one fantasy race that has waddled its way into our hearts.
two Turnip, Chrono Cross
Most fantasy races are based on mammals of one shape or form. Occasionally, you get some kind of tree man. However, while we have seen living plants in games, there are very few examples of living turns. Finally, it is the turnip’s time to shine! While the living vegetable angle feels like one that has rarely ever been explored in RPGs, this is a series that has never shied away from having oddball characters.
The turnip in Chrono Cross, appropriately named “Turnip”, has a number of direct parallels to Chrono Trigger’s beloved Frog. From his design of him to the way he speaks, he seems almost like a callback: the only major difference being that, well, he is a turnip. The one knock against Turnip is that he is one of a kind. Hopefully, we will one day get a sequel that features a whole village of sentient turns.
1 Moogles, Final Fantasy
The Final Fantasy series is packed with interesting fantasy races. However, there was never a question of which of the Final Fantasy races is the best. It is the tiny white teddy bears with demon wings who possess dance magic: the Moogles!
There is still a criminal underrepresentation of playable Moogles; if you want to play as these adorable little demonic bears your options are still just Final Fantasy 6 and the Tactics Advance titles. However, despite only being playable in a few titles, the Moogles have remained iconic.
Next: Final Fantasy 14: The Origins Of Every Playable Race
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