— by Tyler G.
Ahhhh, the Baldur's Gate games. Waster of hours. Creator of so many CHARNAMES (that's what we called the first two games' "Tav", whippersnappers).
It's become a white-hot property again in the last year thanks to Larian Studios' most recent release. To say Baldur's Gate III has been popular is redundant- the game's done so well that it's caused a close friend to finally understand the appeal of medieval fantasy (versus me insisting they watch Record of Lodoss War with some weed for a decade).
It's a Good (But Old) Video Game Series™
But it's also caused an interesting dilemma. There's been 23 years between Baldur's Gate II and Baldur's Gate III- combined with the fact those first two games didn't have console ports until very recently, chances are there are tons of people swooning over Karlach or Astarion (or, if they
have taste like Evil Women, Minthara) haven't played any of the other games.
So, as an old fart in everything but age, here's an outline of the rest of the Baldur's Gate series, rough as it may be.
Baldur's Gate (1998)
The first game in Baldur's Gate is... well, the original Baldur's Gate.
This is probably going to be the roughest of the games outlined here to go back to. This was before the "Bioware formula" of basically giving you a dating sim in RPG form, but like the other main Baldur's Gate game of the time, it's running off AD&D 2e rules- a substantially more brutal system that isn't nearly as flexible as 5e.
I Hope You Like Class Limits On Your Elf, Buddy.
But for 1998, it's hard not to see why this game was so beloved. It's a pretty rewarding CRPG with a solid enough plot, and then-innovative with its Real Time With Pause combat system. I am a famed RWtP Hater but even I like this game.
While planned Dreamcast and Playstation 1 ports never released, it has gotten ports through the Enhanced Edition. This not only includes the core game, but the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion pack AND adds new content- including new characters and new quests- and can be got pretty easily on modern consoles (like Switch, in this link), phones/tablets, and PC.
Baldur's Gate: Siege of Dragonspear (2016)
Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition also gave us the first crumb on standalone content for the series in over a decade: the Siege of Dragonspear.
I'll be honest. I have not played this one- I don't even own the Enhanced Editions, I'm still rocking the original digital releases of these games from GOG- but I do know a bit about this. Mainly, it's an interquel set in the gap between Baldur's Gate 1 and Baldur's Gate II, dealing with a crusade led by the "Shining Lady", with the player's CHARNAME sent to Dragonspear Castle to halt her army's advance.
It's also, hilariously, a sequel to the first Icewind Dale of all things (which also got a console port via its Enhanced Edition, packed with the widely beloved Planescape: Torment). But, I've heard it's a largely inoffensive time and it's included on the console ports instead of being a standalone release like on PC, so give it a shot.
Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn (2000)
Honestly, when people talk about the Bhaalspawn Saga, there's a decent chance they're going to talk about this.
The game not only starts the "Bioware formula", but also is a laughably massive leap over the first game in terms of writing- even doing some fun stuff with canonizing the placeholder NPC Biff the Understudy (a failsafe in the first, where if a plot-critical character isn't available, Biff loads in to prevent an engine crash and says their lines) and playing with ADnD 2e's notorious race-based limits on classes.
Baldur's Gate Might As Well Just Been The Opening Act
The expansion pack, Throne of Bhaal, more or less enhanced every aspect. Together, you get a hell of a time rightfully remembered as one of the CRPG genre's best.
The Enhanced Edition is on the same disc as the first and ToD, if you get it on consoles like Playstation.
Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance series (2002-2004)
The Baldur's Gate series came to consoles with the Dark Alliance games, unrelated games that happen to be set in the city of Baldur's Gate. This is a set of two (technically three, counting the GBA title) hack-and-slash co-op games for then-current consoles. Think a mix of Gauntlet and Diablo 2 for the early 2000s- and it's frankly about as plotless, compared to the computer games.
Baldur's Gate: The Black Sheep (but Still Fun Video Games)
These are by no means amazing games, but they're fun enough dungeon-crawler ARPGs if you've got an itch for Co-Op especially. The hype for BG3 also led to them getting modern console and PC ports- but those are digital only.
Baldur's Gate III (2023)
You're probably reading this article because of this game. Baldur's Gate III is the long-awaited third game, finally finished by Larian Studios.
I Don't Gotta Explain More, Right?
It dropped to universal acclaim, managing to swipe away several Game of the Years from a new Zelda game. It's also the first Baldur's Gate game to actually play like the tabletop DnD by being a turn-based tactics game.
Sadly, unless you import the Japanese mass retail release for PS5 or order from Larian, it's also digital only for the time being.
The Ones Down by the River
The name Baldur's Gate III is also arguably equally infamous for what didn't get made. BG2's expansion pack, Throne of Bhaal, was originally Bioware's take on a third game before being rolled into an expansion. Developers Overhaul Games and Beamdog Software- who handled the Enhanced Editions- made a ploy that failed to pan out.
You Cannot Kill Guilt (Even If It's Moved Out of the Forgotten Realms)
It is very funny how Dragonspear- technically the third Baldur's Gate game in the main series and clear bait for getting to do a Baldur's Gate III- is also more of an Icewind Dale game sequel.
The actual Baldur's Gate III also had next to nothing to do with the Bhaalspawn Saga.
it eventually became Obsidian's Pillars of Eternity a decade later. There's even a cute nod to this in the final game, where the unreleased game's cover art shows up as a stained glass mural in the Black Hound pub.
Join me in praying that, like the tech demo for the infamous "Van Buren" version of Fallout 3, it gets leaked one day though. And hey- come on down to Fair Game to see if they've got these beloved titles (or more!). Maybe you'll luck out and get 'em all, eh?