When it comes to role-playing games, few developers are as legendary as BioWare. From genre-defining staples like Baldur's Gate and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic to modern classics like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, this Canadian studio has a knack for creating immersive, imaginative universes in which your choices affect the world around you. Now that the developer is branching out into the world of persistent online shooters with the hotly anticipated Anthem, we've looked back at BioWare's storied catalog and ranked every game from worst to best.
Credit: Electronic Arts
Oh, what could have been. Mass Effect Andromeda was meant to be the franchise's grand debut on current-gen platforms, promising a stunning new graphics engine and a fresh storyline set in an all-new galaxy. What we got instead was a disappointing, middling action-RPG birthed out of one of the most tumultuous development cycles in all of modern gaming.
You play as Ryder, an explorer tasked with leaving the Milky Way to find a new home for humanity in the Andromeda galaxy. Despite the promising setup, Andromeda delivers a dull story that reverts back to the tired "bipedal aliens are trying to kill you" storyline and lacks the memorable squad mates that made the original Mass Effect trilogy so special. Andromeda isn't without its bright spots; its nimble combat system is arguably the best in the series, and it can look quite gorgeous (when it's not bugging out). But for a game that had so much riding on it, being decent just wasn't enough. BioWare's Casey Hudson has teased that there's more to come for the franchise, and let's hope that's the case. Mass Effect doesn't deserve to go out like this. — Mike Andronico
Credit: Electronic Arts
Before BioWare became synonymous with Western RPGs, it made its debut in 1996 with this mech simulation game. You pilot a giant bipedal robot and battle for survival in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, with notable features for the time that included 16-person multiplayer and destroyable terrain. Shattered Steel may not look like much these days, but it was received fairly well at the time of its release, with many reviewers calling it a fun, simpler take on the genre popularized by games like MechWarrior.— Mike Andronico
Credit: Interplay Productions
Another game you'd be surprised came from BioWare, MDK 2 is a goofy third-person sci-fi shooter that lets you play as space soldier Kurt Hectic, scientist Fluke Hawkins and Max, a genetically engineered robot dog with a knack for firearms. The game earned big praise for its creative use of each character's unique mechanics, solid controls and slick art style, which is quite impressive considering that this was one of BioWare's first true 3D action games. When you look at the acrobatic gunplay in newer titles like Mass Effect: Andromeda and Anthem, you can see a glimpse of where it all began in MDK 2. — Mike Andronico
Star Wars: The Old Republic was an incredibly ambitious project, aiming to bring BioWare's Star Wars series to the massively multiplayer online RPG realm without sacrificing the storytelling and sense of player choice that made the franchise so special. And in many ways, it succeeded, with polished cutscenes, tons of playable classes that you could take to the light or dark side, and a range of subsequent expansions that explored exciting corners of the Star Wars universe. The Old Republic's player base has wavered since the game launched in 2011, and it's not going to satisfy anyone looking for a single-player experience akin to the original KoToR. But the game is free to play and absolutely worth giving a shot for anyone who misses BioWare's take on the galaxy far, far away. — Mike Andronico
BioWare rarely produces an out-and-out misfire, but Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood was never quite at ease with itself. This stand-alone RPG for the Nintendo DS featured Sonic the Hedgehog and his much-derided cast of supporting characters in a decidedly dark story, reminiscent of BioWare's other morally gray worlds. Seeing Sonic and the crew get fleshed out with good writing and a lengthy campaign was fun; the game even made Shadow the Hedgehog, Rouge the Bat, Cream the Rabbit and Big the Cat downright tolerable. But the turn-based battle system leaned way too heavily on tedious minigames, and Sonic's happy-go-lucky demeanor always felt a little at odds with the dystopian narrative. I'll go to bat for Sonic Chronicles any day, but it's not as good as BioWare gets. — Marshall Honorof
It's hard to judge Neverwinter Nights as a single title; in practice, it was almost two separate, unrelated games. On the one hand, there's the bog-standard single-player campaign, which was a huge step down from BioWare's earlier Baldur's Gate series. Yes, you could make your own custom character with the intricate Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 rule set, incorporating all the feats, skills and combat maneuvers therein. But you could recruit only one forgettable party member at a time, while the story was full of clichéd characters and ugly environments. However, the game also had a masterful multiplayer component: a deep but approachable campaign-creation tool, which let you create any D&D scenario you could imagine. You could even get a whole group of players together and act as a Dungeon Master in real time for them, guiding them through your adventure with customized traps and monsters. — Marshall Honorof
The red-headed stepchild of the Dragon Age series was not nearly as bad as detractors would have you believe — but it's not nearly as good as the first or third games, either. In this game, you take control of Hawke, a human of noble origins who must make a new home for himself or herself in the bustling city of Kirkwall. Dragon Age II features fleshed-out party members and a personal, picaresque story all about Hawke's family. But the combat is a little too streamlined after the deep strategic options in Dragon Age: Origins, the environments get reused way too often, and the ending goes a little wonky, regardless of your story choices. Dragon Age II at least tried something new, even if it didn't fully work. — Marshall Honorof
Credit: Electronic Arts