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A lot of people play RPGs for the story. People love Final Fantasy characters. I personally don't care. Don't need a back story to my characters. I don't need a story. I just need to play like back with Dragon Quest. Princess is kidnapped. Save her. Mario has used that formula too. Zelda seems to use a simple formula too.

So I'm asking, do RPGs need a story?

They need dialog of course like the castle is to the north or boy I hate that monster that keeps eating our children. That alone could be a story. Your own story journeying to the castle. Journeying and killing the monster. Like silent protagonists from Half Life or Doom.
You're magical to me.
No. No they don't need a story, strictly speaking. You could even go even more bare-bones than Mario or Zelda and have the objective "Get from point A to point B" or something and you could still make a game.

However, I personally prefer a story. My favorite part of an RPG is the characters; learning about them, watching them interact, and watching them grow on their journey. It's not required by any means, but it's a huge plus to a lot of people :D
Different players want different things. I'd be happy to play Might and Magic or Dungeon Master where no backstory exists, but most modern gamers need some potatoes with their meat.
Technically, no. But even something as simple as saving the princess qualifies as a story.

But I wouldn't see the appeal in an RPG without a story because RPGs tend to be... kind of boring when it comes to the gameplay side of things. You might as well play in an Excel spreadsheet and make numbers go up, because that's what you do in an RPG when you don't look at the story.
That sounds like a combat flaw. If the combat is boring, why have it? When you can just have a story. Like To the Moon or Final Fantasy 8 lets you skip all battles.
Not necessarily; a vaguely defined story with fuck-amazing gameplay and everything else is perfectly fine as far as I'm concerned.

It still helps to have one either way, though. Since RPGs by nature are games with depth and length, it'd help to have an in-universe reason why you're playing in the first place.
Heavily agree with Milennin: There are things that can hold my interest for 20 hours. Selecting "Attack" is not one of those things.

Final Fantasy 8 lets you skip all battles.

Wait, what? That's not a feature I remember!
Strictly speaking, any chain of events is a story. Actually having no story means not what you think it means, it means total wandering about and having nothing you do have any impact.
Most games need some sort of context, even if it's as simple as "Save the Princess", but I don't think a complex story is necessary for an RPG. I'm probably in the minority here, but I think that whatever story there is should serve to enhance the gameplay rather than the rest of the game serving the story.

If the combat is boring, why have it? When you can just have a story.

On the other hand, if you remove the combat and other "unnecessary" elements, then why are you making a game rather than some sort of non-interactive media? I'd think it would be better to work on improving the combat instead of ditching it altogether, but I'm admittedly biased toward gameplay
JRPGs didn't get married to storytelling until SNES, really, and even then the stories didn't start having merit until Playstation (other than a few key titles from the previous generation). So, if your goal is to make a stripped-back story with an emphasis on battles, exploration, puzzles, and/or looting, then you absolutely can, and if the gameplay is engaging enough, it could really work. If that's your goal, though, make sure that you don't tack on a crappy story--you still have to use the story element smartly, even in a stripped-down, self-aware kind of way. A good example of what not to do is Diablo 3's storyline: banal characters, inane twists, and the phrase "I am legion" being used earnestly.

Personally, I really LIKE the storytelling aspect of JRPGs, and when it's done well it engages me probably more than good gameplay can (not that there isn't room for both).
the world ends in whatever my makerscore currently is
My games have very little story-telling, it's more about setting and atmosphere.
And I like to think it works just fine, considering my goal isn't to have some huge overarching story-line.
Heavily agree with Milennin: There are things that can hold my interest for 20 hours. Selecting "Attack" is not one of those things.

Final Fantasy 8 lets you skip all battles.

Wait, what? That's not a feature I remember!

I didn't remember the feature either until I went back and slogged through it as an adult. Its some esper power. You can do 50% battles or 100% no battles. It seemed pointless having no battles.
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
Still gotta fight the bosses and event battles. And also you can't get that until several dungeons into the game. And if you go that route, you will end up playing a lot of cards and refining those cards into magic spells, because otherwise you won't be powerful enough to beat the occasional bosses.

A better example of an RPG that lets you skip all battles would be, like, Skyrim. You can totally beat the entire game via sneaking, bribery, and theft. Or you can beat the entire game via persuasion, politics, and money.

Recettear is an RPG you can beat without ever touching combat - the combat is honestly just a minigame there to augment the game and possibly reward you with some extra resources you can use for your shop.

The key is that there is still gameplay in all those games even when you play without battles. Otherwise it's a visual novel, not an RPG.

But yeah, most RPGs don't have stories, or have only the bare minimum story, and do just fine for it. The aforementioned Recettear and Skyrim are both great examples.
And even before you get it, the number of fights you have to do can be counted on both hands. The only battles you ever have to do in the game are the boss battles - there's even an achievement on the Steam version for finishing the game without Squall ever gaining a level.
author=]But I wouldn't see the appeal in an RPG without a story because RPGs tend to be... kind of boring when it comes to the gameplay side of things. [/quote

play better rpgs
Unfortunately, most people don't know really know a lot of good mechanical RPGs because so many rely heavily on story and just go "oh, it's an RPG, it's not expected to have awesome gamplay." That said, a lot of RPGs do have some rather dull mechanics, even the big ones - everyone raves over Ni no Kuni, and I like the game, but it'd be a pretty dull and generic game without the story (and omg, dem Ghibli graphics) to back it up (from my current experience, I haven't played a whole lot of it yet - six hour, maybe?).
"My father told me this would happen."
All RPGs have a story even if it isn't a good enough story for you to call it a story: This is because plot is different from story. In those cases, a lot of the story takes place in the background and not in the forefront.

Like, take the plot of the original Dragon Quest:


That was the plot, but it wasn't the story. The story was how Erdick is a legendary, almost mythical figure who's deeds were mighty and worth of renown. And you go through the entire game under the weight of being his descendant and knowing you have a lot to live up to, and that reflects itself in how some NPCs will look down on you for not looking the part, or not having proof of your lineage.

The story was how this whole entire land was there for you to explore, and how you weren't ever pointed in the direction of where your goals were like in a plot-driven story, but rather you discerned them through talking to people, putting their clues together, and finding the hidden caves or shrines on your own.

The story is the quest of you, the player, as the hero. The story is more malleable and flexible that way because a large part of the events - the order you choose to take them, the way the unfold, what you personally have to say about it, are all up to you to interpret in your own way. It wasn't a plot that you're guiding your character on to its completion, it was just your adventure, y'know? I agree we need more of that.
There's a reason why the first few early RPGs have a lack of or hardly any story.
Woops guess I'm ok with plots. Just not stories? Well the story of you, but so many modern games just have cut scenes and walls of dialog. When I play RPGs here and I don't have control of my character within 5 - 10 minutes, I lose interest.
More than talking about what storytelling is in games, it sounds like the question you're really asking is if you need to tack bad writing onto your game when you don't want to. Please DO NOT do that! If thy dungeonman just wants to get leprechaun gold because why not, that's perfectly fine.
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