That's likely a question we've all asked ourselves at one point, while staring at our computer game library (on STEAM in all likelihood) and then coming up with a blank, only for us to put on a pointless clicker game, or yet another round of one of our old-time favorites where we know all the outcomes, even with hundreds of mods including.
And if you look around, you'll find that there are hundreds of articles about "These are the Top/Best RPGs of YEAR-X" and so on, but there's nothing to really help you choose what game YOU should play.
Well, the thing is that there are no hard and fast rules for which game you should play, but there are some things that you can consider on which game might potentially be right for you. So here are some thoughts on what you should consider when you next sit and go "which RPG should I grab?" - And without feeling like a kid in a candy shop.
Only one rule is present for these thoughts here, and that is No D&D or Pathfinder. This list is designed to get you away from the systems you already know and play and to try something new.
Complexity vs. Simplicity
Normally most would start looking at Genre first, but I'm going to redefine genre slightly in a bit, so I'll start with a simpler question: How involved should your RPG be? Do you prefer simple games (to use a computer game analogy, perhaps something like FTL?) or do you prefer ones where you have to dig down into every little detail and micromanage? (Perhaps something like Civilization)
This is where you should set your mind first — perhaps especially if you want to go with something new here, like an old preference for complex games over simple ones.
It's worth noting here though that many people put "complex" and "deep" as being the same thing. That is NOT the case. A game can be deeply immersive while still being simple to play (a favorite example here is something like "Everyone is John").
Time and Scope
How much time do you have to invest in the game and what sort of scope should it be on? A single short or long session? A lengthy campaign? Somewhere in between? Some games are designed to last for only one session (Ten Candles for example), while others are more predisposed towards lengthier campaigns (such as Call of Cthulhu). This is essential as the games that tend towards the long-form also tend to be more complex in system — it's not set in stone, but it is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind.
Genre and Theme
We are going to consider genre and theme as being together because theme and genre are often tied together. For example, science fiction can cover everything from Alien (which is definitely horror) to Traveler (which is more like exploration) to Paranoia (comedy). So it's important to keep these in mind, as well as whether you want it to be something that you already know and use (typically fantasy (and to a lesser degree science fiction)) or if you want something new. This could be from Alien as mentioned above, all the way over to Camp Karate.
This is the final one. If you're like most players and GMs you're unlikely to want to invest too much money into a system that you don't know yet - which is perfectly sensible. So decide on a Budget before you start looking. What's your limit? Does it have to be free or can it cost you a few bucks? I'd probably set my own limit for a first-time purchase (unless I know the company or authors well) at around 10$. That's a decent start to get you going with a starter adventure or something similar.
And with that, I hope to see you back next week for more. :)