This is quite old by now, but I am still impressed by the way Progress Quest basically destroyed a genre by ridiculing it, just like the Comedian trailer destroyed corny movie trailers. After playing PQ last year, I immediately lost all interest in Dungeon Siege and Neverwinter Nights (which weren’t out yet). PQ exposes the shallow meaninglessness of RPGs, the rut in which the industry has fallen. Apart from better presentation, I can think of no recent RPG which actually tries something innovative in terms of game mechanics. (Admittedly I haven’t played all of the latest RPGs, such as Arx Fatalis or Gothic 2.)
Of course, there is the ‘Looking Glass School’, responsible for games such as Deus Ex, Thief, System Shock 2, etc. But although the creators of these games consciously employ RPG elements, due to their first person / simulation aspects, they are not generally perceived or classified as RPGs. Still, these games may ultimately be more important to the future of RPGs than the Baldur’s Gate series.