Starfield vs Baldur's Gate 3: Which of this year's biggest RPGs should you play first?

(Image credit: Larian, Bethesda)

In an already massive year for games, two stand out from the crowd – and remarkably close to one another. Starfield and Baldur's Gate 3 have turned this summer into one dominated by two massive RPGs. The two games are so close, in fact, that they've even technically launched on the same day – Baldur's Gate 3's PS5 release and Starfield's full access launch both fell on September 6. But assuming you don't quite have enough time to simultaneously play two 100+-hour RPGs, which one should you prioritize? To some extent, that's up to you, but we're here to help you make that decision. 


First thing's first, you'll want to check what platform you're planning to play on. PC gamers are truly spoiled for choice with full, moddable access to both games. But when it comes to consoles, Baldur's Gate is currently only available on PS5 (with Xbox Series X and S launches on the way later this year), and Starfield is an Xbox exclusive, with a PlayStation port likely a long way off (if it ever happens at all).

If you're a PC player, an owner of both consoles, or are simply patient enough to wait for both games to be available on their console counterparts, you're not exactly barred from either game, so let's move on.

Critical reception

Unfortunately, our opinions here at GamesRadar+ don't provide an obvious answer either. Both our Starfield review and our Baldur's Gate 3 review offer up dazzling five-star scores, with an Editor's Pick award thrown in there for good measure.

For Starfield, Leon said:

"Starfield isn't really a game you play to complete, it's more about living whatever sort of life you want in the literal universe Bethesda has created. Whatever you're thinking of doing, you almost certainly can do it, and the scale is almost a release in a way – you'll probably never see or do it all, so just enjoy the moment. There's months, if not years, of discoveries buried away in here, and even after 80 hours I can't wait to see more."

And on Baldur's Gate 3, I said:

"At a time when Dungeons & Dragons boasts a popularity unknown at any other time in its 50-year history, Baldur's Gate 3 will stand alongside the best of the best; with Curse of Strahd, Critical Role, and its own beloved predecessors. By any metric, it's not just one of the best D&D games or best RPGs ever made – it's a new gold standard by which the entire genre, if not an entire industry, will be measured."

If you're truly obsessed with the numbers, then Starfield currently sits at a score of 88 on Metacritic, while Baldur's Gate 3 boasts some all-time high scores - 96 on PC is a joint second-place score, while 97 on PS5 makes it that platform's best-reviewed game ever. That's an interesting at-a-glance metric, but it's not exactly a truly like-for-like comparison – suffice to say that both games have reviewed very well, but Baldur's Gate 3 seems to have elevated the CRPG genre a little more than Starfield's open-world approach has pushed its own genre forward.


(Image credit: Larian)

Baldur's Gate 3 was never afraid of Starfield - in fact, it was the opposite; lead writer Adam Smith told us that "it's good to be in the company of other RPGs"


This is where Baldur's Gate 3 and Starfield really differ from each other. First, it's important to note that there are several top-level differences to pay attention to: Baldur's Gate 3 is a fantasy, isometric, turn-based RPG, built out of Dungeons & Dragons' ruleset; Starfield is a sci-fi, real-time, primarily first-person, action-based RPG that borrows a lot from the Skyrim engine that it's been built in in terms of how it plays minute-to-minute. If you've played The Elder Scrolls 5, you'll recognise Starfield, despite its NASA-punk aesthetic.

Both titles are role-playing games, but they approach the genre in different ways. Baldur's Gate 3 bakes its role-playing into your portrayal of your character; background and class have an effect, but your dialogue choices have the greatest impact on the world. While Starfield offers plenty of different ways to play, it's your actions, not your words, that shape your version of the galaxy.

Baldur's Gate 3

(Image credit: Larian)

Crucially, that comes down to another key difference. In Starfield, you're a cog in a galactic machine, and while you're part of the main campaign, many of the game's 1000 planets will continue to exist in exactly the same way even if you never set foot on them. You can set up entire galaxy-wide supply chains, but that won't necessarily affect the lives of the people living at the edges of some frontier or another.

In Baldur's Gate 3, you're a much bigger player from the start, and the individual choices that you make will affect the lives of the people around you – and potentially the course of the entire game – right from the very start. It's a game where consequences are key, and a single mis-step can change the entire story. That also means that your relationship with the characters around you – particularly your companions – is substantially deeper than in Starfield.

To put it simply, it's a difference of size vs density. Starfield will let you go everywhere, and experience its galactic world on a more macro level. Baldur's Gate 3 has a smaller, much more tightly-packed world, but everything in it has the potential to impact directly on the world, whether that's a puddle of water turning to ice or using an explosive barrel to one-shot a boss. Both games let you interact with almost anything you can see, but Starfield positions it as set-dressing, while Baldur's Gate 3 is filling up a toy box. That said, the latter enforces trickier rules in order to take advantage of those toys – while in Starfield, you can jump straight in and get shooting. In Baldur's Gate 3, you'd best read the D&D Players' Handbook first.


(Image credit: Bethesda)

Graphically, there are also some pretty stark differences. While Starfield boasts the traditional AAA open-world approach to realizing its world that Bethesda has been building on since Oblivion, Baldur's Gate 3 is somewhat hampered by its isometric, CPRG origins. It's a very pretty CRPG, with genre-redefining cinematics, but Starfield does put it to shame when it comes to impressive graphical vistas.

In the end, despite all of the above, it comes down to a matter of personal preference. For every similarity, a dozen ways that Starfield and Baldur's Gate 3 differ from one another. If you're looking for a sprawling, Bethesda-style world and emergent combat, then you'll find it with Starfield. If you're looking for deep CRPG storytelling and more tactical fights, Baldur's Gate 3 is full of it.  If you have the time and money free to play both, you could certainly do worse – both are massive, inherently-replayable games that let you lean into their roleplaying aspects, with each one putting the 'R' in RPG in a slightly different way.

Whichever you choose first, both of these games deserve their spot on our list of the best RPG games.

Ali Jones
News Editor

I'm GamesRadar's news editor, working with the team to deliver breaking news from across the industry. I started my journalistic career while getting my degree in English Literature at the University of Warwick, where I also worked as Games Editor on the student newspaper, The Boar. Since then, I've run the news sections at PCGamesN and Kotaku UK, and also regularly contributed to PC Gamer. As you might be able to tell, PC is my platform of choice, so you can regularly find me playing League of Legends or Steam's latest indie hit.