Bethesda consistently releases vast, open-world RPGs with tons of glitches and janky gameplay features, yet it’s still loved by gamers worldwide. Well, Piranha Bytes is similar except they operate on a AA level as opposed to Bethesda which has a much larger budget. Piranha Bytes games are also priced accordingly, well below the traditional $60 point.
Piranha Bytes acquired popularity among RPG fans with their Gothic and Risen series of games. Today, I’m here to talk about the best Piranha Bytes game. They have released a total of 8 games, which I shall rank in order of worst to best. So without further ado, let’s get started.
The Best Piranha Bytes Games: Ranked From Worst To Best
Let’s start things off with the 3rd Risen, which honestly isn’t a bad game. It’s just the black sheep of the Risen series. This game does the same thing that Risen 2 did, only with a less satisfying plot and repetitive enemy encounters.
9. Risen 3
|Release Date||August 12, 2014|
|Platforms||PC, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4|
In the first Risen game, you’re acquainted with an ancient race of higher beings known as Titans. In Risen 3, you see the culmination of a war that was started in an attempt to control these Titans. Your player character isn’t named but is speculated to be Patty Steelbeard’s brother (an NPC from the previous 2 Risen games).
As one of the last pirate captains, it’s your job to ensure the continuation of your empire amidst a war that involves both humans and supernatural beings from other realms. A demonic faction called the Shadows is your primary opponent in Risen 3. While this game isn’t a massive improvement over its predecessors, you’ll surely love it if you’re a fan of Risen and Risen 2.
8. ELEX 2
|Release Date||March 1, 2022|
|Platforms||PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series X/S|
This is the most recent Piranha Bytes game so far, and a successor to ELEX which was released in 2017. You return to the post-apocalyptic science fantasy planet of Magalan. Most of its surface was rendered uninhabitable a long time ago due to a meteor strike.
ELEX 2 introduces new factions, each with its own quirks and motivations. This time, your enemy is the group known as Skyands who wish to control the planet and twist its future to facilitate their own needs. The art design and graphics are beautiful, but ELEX 2 is hamstrung by its unresponsive combat system and lack of polish which results in jerky animations, glitches, etc.
7. Risen 2
|Release Date||April 24, 2012|
|Platforms||PC, PS3, Xbox 360|
Imagine what would happen if you mixed Sid Meier’s Pirates! with The Elder Scrolls. Risen 2 isn’t your typical action RPG based in medieval Europe. It’s a full-fledged pirate fantasy with demons, gods, and black magic.
You can’t customize the appearance of your player character, but there are a wide variety of talents and attributes to choose from. These talents and attributes facilitate different playstyles, so you can craft entirely unique characters with each subsequent playthrough. Most of the world in Risen 2 is inspired by real-life locations from the Caribbeans (as well as various pirate movies).
|Release Date||October 2, 2009|
|Platforms||PC, Xbox 360|
This is the very first of the Risen franchise, and it’s set in the fictional world of Faranga. Which is an island, kind of like Sicily with wizards and orcs. There are tons of mountains and Mediterranean scenery, creating a very immersive experience in which a player can lose themselves for days and weeks.
You control a nameless hero trying to fight off a powerful dictator who wishes to harness the power of ancient titans buried within a temple. Long ago, the Gods sealed these beings away because the Titans challenged them (similar to Greek mythology). When humans started harnessing magical energy on Faranga, they accidentally awakened the Titans from their slumber.
|Release Date||October 17, 2017|
|Platforms||PC, PS4, Xbox One|
Unlike the previous Piranha Bytes games, this one isn’t based in a medieval fantasy world with elves and dark lords. Instead, it’s set in outer space. You have a post-apocalyptic future science fantasy that mixes medieval fantasy elements with lasers and teleportation devices.
The planet of Magalan was struck long ago by a giant space rock, causing a massive extermination event that killed tons of people. However, this meteor also contained ELEX- a source of great power that is sought after by various independent factions on Magalan. Some are scavengers, others are warlords, and your character is caught in the middle of this resource war.
4. Gothic 3
|Release Date||November 14, 2006|
|Platforms||MS Windows (PC)|
This is the last Gothic in the series, and it takes you to a new continent that’s basically run by orcs. Your hero lands in Myrtana, the central portion of this kingdom. Since your ship was stolen in Gothic 2, you’ve got no money or goods.
The place you’ve arrived in also happens to be the spawning point of an orc invasion force that attacked you in the 2nd game. Orcs have enslaved humans and there is a resistance movement building up in the frozen northern mountains.
You can assist the human rebels or side with an orc tyranny. The game also lets you forge your own independent path, should you choose to not ally with either faction.
|Release Date||November 23, 2001|
|Platforms||MS Windows (PC)|
Piranha Bytes released this game back in 2001, and it’s still excellent over 2 decades later. Mods and patches have given Gothic a new lease of life, through added content and customization options. If you do choose to boot up a copy of this game today, rest assured you won’t be disappointed.
The entire plot of Gothic revolves around humans vs orcs. Your character starts out as a nameless prisoner who’s being forced to work at a mining camp. There are tons of factions, interlinked questlines, and cool magical abilities for you to play with.
2. Gothic II
|Release Date||October 28, 2003|
|Platforms||MS Windows (PC)|
Possibly the best medieval European RPG of the early 2000s, and definitely the best Gothic game of the series. This is the base version of the game, and it gets a content bonus through The Night of the Raven (which is an expansion). If you do get Gothic II, I highly recommended adding The Night of the Raven for a complete experience.
Your nameless hero returns to Khorinis- a prison isle in which you were once held captive. Gothic II lets you revisit old locations from the first game, seeing how they have changed in the aftermath of various events. This time, you’re tasked with investigating a new enemy faction led by dragons.
1. Gothic II: The Night of the Raven
|Release Date||August 22, 2003|
|Platforms||MS Windows (PC)|
While this is merely an add-on to the base game, it feels like an entirely new experience. And easily one of the best expansion packs released for any RPG, ever. You get new weapons, maps, and attributes.
Plus, the difficulty curve was toughened (due to community feedback). Potions are rarer and enemies are tougher in The Night of the Raven. The gameplay is more dynamic, thanks to new spells and items.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: Who owns Piranha Bytes studios?
A: THQ Nordic took over the German studio after their previous owners “Phenomedia” went bankrupt in 2002.
Q: Is Piranha Bytes a large studio?
A: Quite the contrary, they only had 33 people as of an August 2021 report. This company is closer to an indie venture than it is to a proper big-budget studio such as DICE or Infinity Ward.
Q: I really want to get into games such as Gothic, but the janky controls and old graphics are putting me off. What to do?
A: Well, that’s part of the charm with these old RPGs. You play them for the story and creative questlines, which are quite entertaining despite the old visuals. Plus, there are tons of mods that add content and fix bugs to keep the old games fresh in a modern world.
Q: I don’t own a PC, can I still play Gothic and Risen?
A: All Gothic games are exclusive to MS Windows PCs, so the answer is “no”. However, a remake of the Gothic series has been announced which is supposed to be developed by Alkimia Interactive. If this game makes it to the market, it will be released on both PC and console.
Q: Are all Piranha Bytes RPGs set in medieval Europe?
A: No, the ELEX games are set in a post-apocalyptic science fiction world. Jetpacks and laser rifles mixed with futuristic crossbows make for quite an interesting gameplay loop.
Piranha Bytes makes niche products for hardcore RPG enthusiasts who like their medieval European fantasy with a touch of Greek mythology. If you play something like Risen or Gothic, you’re getting deep, interlinked questlines with meaningful character interactions that are supported by well-written dialogue. However, Piranha Bytes ran the formula dry with Risen 3 which felt uninspired and incomplete.
Fortunately, ELEX is an excellent return to form and is reminiscent of the glory this company achieved with its Gothic series. ELEX 2 came out a short time before this article was written and received mixed reviews. Critics rightfully complained about its clunky combat system and poor voice acting.
Hopefully, Piranha Bytes can patch these inconsistencies in the near future. Because underneath all the clutter, you can see the framework of a truly excellent game. The potential is there, but it must be harnessed.