Surprisingly, the first chapter of what would become one of the most popular and influential RPG series in PC gaming history -- wasn't meant to be an RPG in the first place. Bethesda Softworks, drawing on their sports games experience, originally envisioned Arena to be a medieval-style gladiator game, where the player fought other teams in various arenas until they became the 'grand champion'. Between tournaments, there would be side quests that the player would need to complete. As development progressed, the side quests became more important, RPG elements were added, the game was expanded to included cities around the arenas, and dungeons beyond the cities. Eventually, the whole idea of the tournaments was dropped and Arena became a full blown RPG. But because all material was already printed with the title, 'Arena' remained.
Fuelled by the modest success of Arena, Daggerfall attempted to create a game world larger than Great Britain, rendered in a fully-3D engine, and build a skill-system that revolved around skill building rather than experience gains. Daggerfall suffered from that very ambition: rushed to publication, the game was found tortuously buggy, and prohibitively hardware-intensive. The game had over 15,000 towns, dungeons, and villages; 750,000+ NPCs to interact with; and an area 161,000 square km to explore, although it was randomly auto-generated. By comparison, Morrowind had 6 square km to explore and 1,000 NPCs, and Oblivion had 16 square km and also 1,000 NPCs. But since only a limited amount of building blocks were used to auto-create towns and dungeons, players complained about the game's monotomy. The 2002 sequel 'Morrowind' responded with a far smaller area but a lot more detailed and unique areas to explore.
Taking a break from the official 'Elder Scrolls' chapters, Bethesda released two smaller action RPG games set in the Elder Scrolls universe; Battlespire and Redguard. The first, Battlespire, sets the player as an apprentice in a Battlemage training facility, where you have to travel through seven levels to get to the top of the Battlespire to defeat an army of Daedra that have invaded the facility.
The second spin-off from the Elder Scrolls series was Redguard, an action-adventure with a third-person perspective 'Tomb Raider' gameplay style. The story takes place aprox 400 years prior to the event in 'Arena', where you play as a Redguard pirate hero who is looking for his sister.
Morrowind saw the return to a non-linear expansive RPG gameplay, and with a strong emphasis on individually detailed towns, dungeons and NPC characters in a much smaller world than Daggerfall's. Morrowind was released on PC as well as Xbox systems and enjoyed tremendous popular and critical success, selling upwards of 4 million copies.
The ultimate Morrowind release was the 'Game of the Year' Edition, as it included a fully patched Morrowind, as well as both expansion packs - Tribunal and Bloodmoon, giving players an incredibly massive world to explore.
Development for the next major release of the Elder Scrolls chapters began back in 2002 as soona Morrowind was shipped. The PC and Xbox 360 versions were developed and released at the same time, while the PS3 version arrived a year later. Oblivion was more focused than Morrowind, with less filler side quests and more developed characters. Other improvements over Morrowind are improved AI, improved Physics (thanks to the Havok physics engine) and impressive graphics that featured advanced HDR lighting and specular mapping. Critical response was excellent, averaging 93% across all game review sites, with many 'Game of the Year' awards, and so far has sold over 3 million Xbox360 and PC copies.
Here is the official list of all Elder Scrolls titles released on the PC and all console platforms. This list has all of the US/North American versions, and I've also included a few of the more popular titles in their European/UK/PAL versions.
The Elder Scrolls series was designed by a team that was heavily inspired by the Ultima Underworld and Dungeons & Dragons games.