The absolute best video game crafting systems

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From brewing alchemical potions in the Witcher series to crafting-as-the-game from Minecraft, nowadays it seems like most games try to shoehorn in a crafting system of some kind, to varying degrees of success. 

Not all of them succeed at making crafting a truly critical or useful system. While Neverwinter Nights 2 for instance was a huge step up from its predecessor in terms of both story and visuals, one way it didn't satisfy was by having a crafting system that didn't feel worth the investment.

Those were feats and skill points you could have put elsewhere, and with the high requirements for making anything useful, it always seemed like you were putting more into the crafting system than you were ever getting out of it.

Here we're going to look at seven games with stellar, in-depth crafting that all approach the system from different directions.

Vagrant Story

A very polarizing game, for some Vagrant Story was the pinnacle of the PS1 RPG experience, and and for others the game has landed in the trash heap of history where it belonged.

However you feel about the game's difficulty and odd combat, it did have insanely in-depth crafting - and it had to, since there were no shops or merchants of any kind.

All your equipment was crafted by hand and you needed to have a horde of different options available for taking on various enemy types, especially those bosses that probably inspired the annoying difficulty of games like Dark Souls.

The Sandbox Evolution 

For this fun little mobile experiment, the entire game IS the crafting system, but this interpretation is significantly different from Minecraft or Terraria. Basically you are all the almighty god of existence, bringing down your finger of creation to craft any sort of level you can imagine using all sorts of pixel tools.

Mix together different elements to get everything from sand to acid to electricity, then populate your level with pre-built enemies and obstacles.

The only downside is the micro-transaction scheme. Unless you are willing to put in a whole lot of play time to unlock new elements, you'll end up spending money to buy specific building blocks and put together that perfect level.

Ark: Survival Evolved

There are some balance and mechanics issues to be worked out as the game is still in early access (although that hasn't stopped the developer from releasing paid DLC...) but on the whole Ark is sort of an awe-inspiring experience. 

You start with literally nothing - just your fists. From there you've got to dodge killer dinos, avoid other murderous players, and survive the elements while figuring out how to craft EVERYTHING from scratch through trial and error.

I really mean everything: you'll go from cloth pants and stone clubs to metal armor to full buildings and eventually all the way up to rocket launchers. Add in the fact that you can tame and ride dinosaurs, and there's a ton of fun with crafting to be had here.

Guild Wars 2

MMORPGs basically require some kind of crafting system so that players have reasons to stay engaged for long play sessions over extended periods of time. Each entry has provided different takes on crafting special gear, making items to sell through the in-game economy, etc.

One of my personal favorites is Guild Wars 2, which allows players to master two different crafting styles simultaneously and switch them out anytime they please to try something different.

What really got me hooked when I hit character level 80 was cooking, and I spent months trying out every pattern I could think of to hit cooking level 400. Having sought-after items to sell through the Black Lion Trading Company makes the whole system self-sustaining, as I'm selling my creations to earn money to make more creations or buy upgraded gear.

Ultima Online

Going in a different direction than Guild Wars 2, this senior citizen of the MMORPG world had a truly innovative crafting system for its time, with many of its individual pieces hacked apart and used in later games.

What stood out in the earlier days of Ultima Online was how an actual economy was created, and how you could essentially play the game as a merchant while ignoring killing things in the wilderness altogether.

Groups of merchants banded together - totally independent of any gameplay mechanics - to create guilds and stabilize prices so everyone thrived. It was a wonder to behold before other MMORPGs arrived and ended Ultima's heyday.

Terraria

Out on both PC and mobile devices -- and now consoles as well, Terreria is essentially Minecraft but in a 2D side scrolling format and with more of a combat focus.  There's an absolute ton to do and more crafting elements to discover no matter how far you go.

You can tear up the landscape in search of materials for building a house (got to keep out the monsters at night!), craft weapons and armor to assault those creatures directly, and build items to keep you alive as you explore the depths of the world's cavern system.

Dead Rising 2

This game is as ridiculous as they come, but its combo weapon options offer more fun than just about any other game's crafting system in existence.

Glue a bunch of nails to boxing gloves and get up and close and personal with the zombie horde, strap chainsaws to a boat oar for long reach grinding mayhem, or even make your own personal light saber by combining diamonds and a flashlight.

Electric zombie wheel chair of doom? Cuddly teddy bear AK-47 sentry? Lawnmower headbutting death mask? YES PLEASE! 

Even though these games all have interesting crafting systems that are fun to play with, I feel like we haven't really found the definitive crafting experience yet, as all of them – even crafting focused games like Minecraft – certainly have flaws or could be improved in one aspect or another.

What's your favorite crafting system, and what game do you think should have made our list? What changes would you like to see to upcoming crafting options to make the perfect system? Sound off in the comments below!

Published Sep. 23rd 2016

Featured Contributor

Ty splits his time between writing horror fiction and writing about video games. After 25 years of gaming, Ty can firmly say that gaming peaked with Planescape Torment, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a soft spot for games like Baldur's Gate, Fallout: New Vegas, Bioshock Infinite, and Horizon: Zero Dawn. He has previously written for GamerU and MetalUnderground. He also writes for PortalMonkey covering gaming laptops and peripherals.


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