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Recommendations for an action-RPG with interesting dungeons?

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Hey all. :)

I'm looking for something that I can play with my son, who is turning 8.  We've been playing Final Fantasy XV for the last few months, and absolutely love it.  We came for the giant monsters, but the dungeon exploration is what really has wound up grabbing him the most.

In the past, he and I have played:
- Breath of the Wild
- Ocarina of Time
- Majora's Mask
- Link Between Worlds (he says he no longer likes it because the graphics are "weird")
- Lots of Mario titles
- Minecraft, tricked out with tons of mods
- Lego LOTR (this was a mixed-bag for him)
- Portal Knights (meh)
- Portal (he enjoyed it for a while)
- Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 (we played it a ton and loved it)
- Pokemon Y
- Others I can't think of.

He's obsessed with monster stats and levels, so something with quantifiable numbers is really a good thing on our end.  He also is really big into monster variety, although obviously BOTW doesn't deliver on that score and we still loved it.

I want to keep this to T or lower, and when it comes to T-rating I'm still super strict on what sort of things can be in there.  Nothing pushing the limits on violence or sexuality, obviously, and hopefully have some sort of redeeming qualities to the characters or at least have them be a blank slate.  He really loves the dynamics between the four friends in FFXV, for instance, and it's provided us with good opportunities to talk about what they are sometimes going through emotionally, and when they're being a good friend or bad, etc.

Frankly we'd just keep playing FFXV forever if we could, haha.  But we're well into the post-game now, and his birthday is coming up, so I've been trying to find a killer present.  That's been... really tough.

Thoughts so far:

Final Fantasy XIII (any of them)
The XIII-3 looks like it would be the best mechanics-wise, but the quests sound kinda dull.  And the characters are not exactly stellar.  The story being confusing is not too big an issue, but I'm just not sure about this one.

Final Fantasy XII
This was sloooow, I remember.  It doesn't seem like it holds up in a modern way.

Final Fantasy X
The remake of this could work well, I dunno.  He prefers active combat for sure, but I think this one is active enough to engage him.  I'm not the most enthusiastic about this entry, though, personally speaking.

Final Fantasy IV
The idea of an MMO with tons of content that we could sink our time into, so long as it has controller support, is interesting to me.  So long as we can basically solo it, or theoretically set up a two-party system with just the two of us if need be.  He prefers watching me play, usually, but with various games in the past we've played co-op.  I don't know if there's something else that would be okay, though, in this realm of thinking.

Tales of Berseria
I have this thanks to the Humble Monthly, and I had already been thinking about this one because of the mechanics.  He's less thrilled about anime style, but with cool enough exploration and monsters it would be fine.  My wife and I both think that this has too many bad themes with the main character just being bent on revenge and not much else.

Tales of Zestria
I'm on the fence here.  Looks like it could be interesting, but I'm not clear on how expansive it is monster-wise, and I have to remind myself what the combat is like.

Monster Hunter World
On paper, this is the perfect game for us.  Big monster fights, open world, sounds great!  But the monster fights are so darn long that we'd both be super bored.  And it sounds like they are really repetitive, and the number of types of monsters to fight are only a few dozen.  This feels underwhelming.

Diablo 3
I haven't even checked the rating on this one, but from a quick look at this it seems like it is too bloody.  The far zoom of the isometric view also won't appeal to him much.  He prefers something that's more of a third person follow camera, and I pretty much do also.  And again, I want to play with a controller.

The Witcher 3
I have this, and I've enjoyed the bits I've played so far, but obviously this is a very hard-M game.  It would be perfect in terms of scope and the type of combat and things of that nature if it thematically wasn't hacking off arms and having lots of nudity and swearing and bad bodily injuries, etc.

Dark Souls 3
I think he and I would enjoy this as well (I really enjoyed the original Demons Souls back in the day, but haven't played any since), but obviously it's thematically super inappropriate.  I have Dark Souls II from a bundle, but same deal.  If there were mods to tone this down to PG level, then that might be a different story, but...

Ni no Kuni 2
This is a strong contender, though I've heard it's only 3 hours long.  He loves Howl's Moving Castle (movie and music), and Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (music only so far), and so something with Joe Hisaishi music and Ghibli animation would definitely be a pretty attractive combo even if it is "just anime."  The first one looks like it is too indirect in the combat, versus the second one looks like it would do well.  The light citybuilding bits would probably be fun, too.

...Anyhow, I'm really freaking torn, and it's been really difficult trying to find the perfect game to come next for us.  Any help or ideas is appreciated! :)


I want to toss the Myst series in, even if it is puzzly (and probably too cognitive for him), but the environments are beautiful and there's lots to explore.

I've got Unepic in my library, haven't played, but its in the right genre.

Dungeon Siege series; fairly linear, very Diablo-y, generally not too difficult.

Fight the Dragon; wasn't really my style of game, but its got a large variety of dungeons (User Created Content, ahoy). My main gripe was that in order to build my own dungeons I had to do the RPG side of the game which I didn't particularly enjoy.

Hammerwatch; on the tougher end of the spectrum (think Magicka), but I believe there's a difficult setting to make lives unlimited. 2D top down, tons of weak enemies, and dastardly boss fights.

Krater; played a bit of it, generally found it enjoyable. Don't remember why I stopped playing.

The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot; same style of game and same issues as Fight the Dragon, just a different art aesthetic (FTD is more cuboid).

Psychonaughts; classic. There's a few tough spots where the game doesn't give you good info, but aside from the meat circus final level its just an "oooh, I needed to use THAT power." Meat Circus is just frustratingly difficult because you progress by climbing higher up the level and you have to escort an idiot NPC. I gave up and called it quits and figure I've beaten the game.

Monster Hunter World is something I'm enjoying immensely, but you are absolutely right - it is slow, has a huge grind, and not much variety.  'Quick' hunts take 10-15 minutes, and 30 minutes is typical; then I end up repeating them 5-10 times to gather all the bits I want for crafting - and I'm not even in the real endgame yet.  There are only roughly 15 monsters before reskins, too, so you see the same or very similar targets a lot.

Berseria isn't as dark as the description makes it seem, but for an 8-year old?  Moral ambiguity may not be the best theme.  Zestria is better in that regard, but if the anime cliches don't appeal, well, there's not much else to the game.  I think both have demos, if you wanted to check them out, plus there are a bunch of other Tales games.  Vesperia and Abyss are very popular, and I don't think either is considered to be 'dark'.
Some similar games to the Tales series that you might glance at is the Grandia series.  Much more light-hearted 'Adventure!' games, but again, beware the anime cliches.

If combat is the 'good' part, there's the Musou games (Dynasty Warriors/Samurai Warriors) including a Zelda-themed one.

If it doeesn't need to be coop, you might consider Knights of the Old Republic.  I'll always recommend KotR to anyone that hints at liking an action-RPG.

Dark Souls might be to hard for an 8 year old child. That's just my opinion personally.

FFX is my favourite Final Fantasy but might not what you are exactly looking for. It is rather straightforward with little exploration until you reach a specific point in the game and even then you cannot freely roam the world like in other FF games. The combat however is probably the best in the entire FF franchise.

CrossCode, which will come out this year, might be soemthing for him (although Singleplayer). It's like .Hack which means it pretends to be a MMO game but is essentially a singleplayer RPG.
It features great dungeons with puzzles to explore.

Anything from the "Atelier" Series. This is the first one in the PC series: https://store.steampowered.com/app/527270/Atelier_Sophie_The_Alchemist_of_the_Mysterious_Book/
Atelier are GREAT games with a charming style that fits children. You play as an Alchemist and you explore different regions for ingredients that you can use to craft basically everything. Ingredients have different qualities and perks which will be applied to the items you craft. The game gives a lot of stuff to experiment with and is really fun to play.

I really would like to recommend Tomb Raider/Rise of the Tomb Raider but these games tend to be violent. They are however something he likes when he gets older.

And, ideally for kids: A Hat in Time. I cannot recommend this game enough. This game is very similiar to Super Mario titles but with a charming little child (something that children can associate with). And the child acts like a child would to, she is goofy, she is friendly, she is curious, all traits of a typical small child.
this game was so wonderful to play and in September the next expansion comes out which will be free on launch. Better, they will release Split Co-op so you can play together with your son. Just get it, trust me on this.

I know you said he does not enjoy isometric view, but Fight The Dragon might be fitting if you would like to try out an isometric game.


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