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The best MMORPGs

Video games continue to get larger, adding more story content, side activities, and bigger environments that create worlds so massive, some players never want to leave. While we’ve seen this with single-player games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2, MMORPGs have also continued to grow over the years.

These online games offer players a little bit of everything. Whether you’re into fishing and crafting or raiding and adventuring, there’s an MMO for every playstyle. Here’s our comprehensive guide to the best MMORPGs currently available.

Further reading

The Elder Scrolls Online (PS4, Xbox One, Windows, MacOS)

We’ll likely be waiting several more years before the release of a true sixth Elder Scrolls game, but ZeniMax Online Studios’ The Elder Scrolls Online continues to have a dedicated following of players invested in Tamriel and its inhabitants. Set years before the events of titles like Oblivion and Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls Online is free to explore territory not explored in the other games, and it has received several expansions that cater to longtime fans. The first, Morrowind, returns us to the setting of The Elder Scrolls III, while Summerset takes us to the setting of The Elder Scrolls: Arena. Free-to-play after the initial game and expansion purchases, there’s little to lose in giving the game a try, and players on PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One can all join in.

Read our full The Elder Scrolls Online review

Crossout (PS4, Xbox One, Windows)

If you enjoy the Mad Max franchise but were disappointed with the official Mad Max video game, Crossout might be more your speed — literally. A free-to-play vehicular action game set in a devastated wasteland, Crossout tasks you with creating the ultimate rolling death machine, outfitted with a variety of weapons including machine guns and chainsaws. The game uses an “advanced damage model” to affect vehicles’ performance based on where they are hit, and auctions and trading systems allow you to swap gear with other players in order to create your ideal ride. To increase your chance of survival, you can join a clan, and special “Clan Wars” events let you and your squad take on another clan for bragging rights.

Guild Wars 2 (Windows, MacOS)

Despite being nearly eight years old, Guild Wars 2 continues to be updated with new content through its “Living World” system, which encourages continued play with new quests, events, weapons, and more on a more regular basis than standard expansions can allow. Guild Wars 2 doesn’t feature as many races or classes — the game calls them professions — as other MMO titles like World of Warcraft, but it also doesn’t force players to take up a traditional trope-filled role, either. You can play as a Warrior or a Thief, but they can be augmented with specializations that make them unlike anything else in the MMO space. With competitive options, traditional instanced dungeons, raids, and dynamic events influenced by how you play, there’s something in Guild Wars 2 for just about everyone.

Destiny 2 (PS4, Xbox One, Windows)

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Is it a shooter? It is a shared world game? Most importantly: Does it matter? Destiny 2 came out swinging in 2017 with a fantastic campaign, challenging raid, plenty of cooperative and open-world activities, and an engaging competitive multiplayer mode, but things slowed down considerably for much of 2018. That changed when the first major expansion Forsaken released, adding in an entirely new campaign and activities, as well as new class options with additional “Super” abilities for taking out enemies in even more spectacular fashion. Bungie has continued to bring fresh content over the years, with New Light completely revamping the title and each new season offering plenty of unique rewards.

Read our full Destiny 2: Forsaken review

World of Warcraft (Windows, MacOS)

World of Warcraft Battle For Azeroth Review

The game has been divisive over the years, but Blizzard’s World of Warcraft has remained popular because it is constantly evolving with new gameplay experiences, new conflicts, and plenty of lore for dedicated Warcraft enthusiasts to eat up. The latest expansion, Shadowlands, is scheduled to launch later this year, bringing with it a completely revised leveling system. Additional content is always being added through consistent updates, and it’s still sitting on top of the MMO world 16 years after its original release.

Read our full World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth review

RuneScape 3 and Old School RuneScape (Android, iOS, Web, Windows, MacOS, Linux)

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The MMO many players enjoyed before graduating to more advanced games, RuneScape’s simplicity is much of its charm. The newest iteration, RuneScape 3, is a creative and polished role-playing game with a visual style not unlike its contemporaries, yet it still uses the basic click-heavy gameplay mechanics of its predecessors and can still be played in your browser. Without set classes to choose from, you can customize your character to be exactly as you want it, and there’s even a “Legacy” combat style so you can play the game as you remember it from a decade ago.

Old School RuneScape, meanwhile, is a playable love letter to classic fans, delivering an experience nearly identical to what RuneScape was over a decade ago. Player-versus-player combat is still enabled in the infamous Wilderness region, and there are still hundreds of different quests to complete, with a membership option giving you access to additional content if you don’t want to stay free-to-play. It’s also available on mobile devices with cross-platform support, and you can keep your progress across all systems.

Final Fantasy XIV (PS4, Windows)

Video games very rarely get second chances, but Final Fantasy XIV took the decaying corpse of the original online Final Fantasy XIV and managed to turn it into a game worth playing. Taking place after the events of the disastrous original game, the rebooted version is packed full of quests as well as “Full Active Time Events,” which are similar to the public events seen in Destiny 2. Some of them are even multi-part, with consequences for completing the previous step. Fans of the series will find a lot to love in FFXIV, and even newcomers will quickly fall for the world of Eorzea.

Ragnarok Online (Windows)

Ditching the 3D character models traditionally seen in MMO games, Ragnarok Online’s flat hand-drawn aesthetic helps it to stand out from the pack — and it’s comparable to the gorgeous Octopath Traveler. The free-to-play game offers 32 different classes to choose from, and with new maps and, dungeons, and player-versus-player content being added, it’s an extensive and deep role-playing experience despite its cutesy look. The economy system also offers a nice twist, with players able to set up their own merchant shops to sell goods to others, and Ragnarok Online is playable on machines only slightly more powerful than toasters, so you are very unlikely to have any problem running it.

Secret World Legends (Windows)

Far spookier than the other games on our list, Secret World Legends is an MMO game that doesn’t force you to cooperate with other players. If you choose, you can play through the whole story by yourself, or you can team up with others to experience the supernatural mysteries. A rebooted version of The Secret World, the new version uses a free-to-play structure, but all content is available to all players without having to spend a dime, and more action-oriented combat should appeal to those who aren’t used to the slightly passive approach taken by other MMORPGs.

DC Universe Online (PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Windows)

If you’ve ever wanted to play as your very own DC superhero, you needn’t look further than DC Universe Online. Available for free on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC, the Daybreak MMO has been running for years, and additional Episodes give you more content to experience, either by yourself or with your superhero team. Traditional MMO weapons like one-handed swords and bows even make an appearance, but with a DC twist giving them supernatural attributes, or you could wield powerful handguns like you’re part of Batman’s Rogues’ Gallery. Daybreak continues to update the game on a regular basis, even though the game might be starting to show its age.

The Lord of the Rings Online (Windows, MacOS)

Long a competitor to World of Warcraft and other sword-and-sorcery role-playing games, The Lord of the Rings Online is a completely free role-playing game set in Tolkien’s famous universe, complete with characters like Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins. The game introduced a sort of asymmetrical multiplayer mode dubbed “Player Vs. Monster Player,” which pits heroes against those in Sauron’s army in a battle to the death. Many different races are available to choose from — including Human, Hobbit, Dwarf, and High-Elf — and 10 different classes are each inspired by a classic character from the novels. Its player base is starting to dwindle in 2020, but it’s still an incredible game for fans of the franchise.

Tera (PS4, Xbox One, Windows)

The free-to-play Tera is available on consoles in addition to PC, and it’s one MMO that won’t suffer if you’re using a gamepad instead of a mouse and keyboard. The tactical and dodge-based combat rewards skilled play, and the seven races and 10 different classes give you tons of options for how you’re going to venture into its world. Huge monsters can be slain with the help of your friends, and they vary in design beyond the standard fantasy fare we’ve come to expect from the genre. You’ll have to actually aim and react to them in real-time, so Tera’s best players won’t just be the ones who have acquired the most powerful gear.

Neverwinter (PS4, Xbox One, Windows)

Set in the enormous universe of Dungeons & Dragons, Neverwinter features eight different character classes, each having multiple abilities that can come in handy when battling the terrifying threats you’ll face during the campaign. The Forgotten Realms made famous in the classic role-playing game is brought to life in the free-to-play MMORPG, and the game keeps the Dungeons & Dragons humor fully intact, just like you would if you were playing it with your friends gathered around the table. The game also features a deep character customization tool and transmutation system, so you can bring the exact character in your imagination into the digital world.

Black Desert Online (PS4, Xbox One, Windows)

If you live for the grind, then Black Desert Online might be a perfect fit. All that grinding is backed by a fast-paced combat system that rewards players for using combos, rather than spamming a single skill over and over. It also helps that BDO is one of the best-looking MMOs on the market, and you’ll be able to shape your character however you see fit.

Of course, if you get bored of picking fights, you can spend the game honing your other survival skills—like fishing or cooking. The game runs on a buy-to-play model, but it does include some hefty microtransactions. Nonetheless, it’s one of the most popular MMORPGs on the market, and it’s easy to see why.

Albion Online (Android, iOS, Linux, MacOS, Windows)

Although Albion Online has been a bit of an outlier for MMORPGs, you shouldn’t discount it right off the bat. Its biggest selling point is a player-driven economy, where just about every single item in the game is created by players from resources gathered throughout the world.

The title features a somewhat cartoonish art style and is played from a top-down, isometric viewpoint — a stark contrast from most of the games in the genre. With a community that only continues to grow, no entry fee to worry about, and plenty to explore, Albion Online might be worth checking out.

Warframe (MacOS, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Windows)

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This one is a bit different from most others on the list, as its RPG elements are tightly wrapped around guns and futuristic artillery instead of swords and shields. But make no mistake, Warframe features some incredible character customization and enough stat management to rival the best MMOs.

Most missions can only be tackled with up to three other players, but developer Digital Extremes has been consistently rolling out new content that allows users to gather in massive hub zones before breaking out into their usual groups. There’s still a lot of life left in seven-year-old Warframe — in fact, it was recently announced for both PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X — and there has never been a better time to jump into the space-ninja action.

Phantasy Star Online 2 (Xbox One, Windows)

It took several years to make its western debut, but it was certainly worth the wait. Phantasy Star Online 2 is a free-to-play experience in which players step into the role of an ARKS Operative — someone who is tasked with exploring dangerous planets and searching for “a dark corruption called the Falspawn.”

You can choose from four different races and nine unique classes before jumping into the action-based combat system. Combat in PSO2 is one of its biggest draws, as it forces you to think on your feet and move around much more than your typical MMO. There’s no button mashing or standing in place waiting for cooldown timers — you’re going to have to do a bit more thinking than that. In fact, the best comparison is probably to the Monster Hunter franchise and its strategic, visceral battles. Anyone looking for an online game with a bit more punch to its combat will find much to love in Phantasy Star Online 2.

Star Wars: The Old Republic (PC)

Believe it or not, The Old Republic has been alive and well through all these years. Its developer holds some type of in-game event every month, and it still boasts a healthy player population. However, things drastically improved when the game launched on Steam in July and received a new influx of users.

Of course, it’s not as popular as the likes of Elder Scrolls Online or Final Fantasy XIV, but for Star Wars fans looking to scratch that RPG itch there’s nothing else like it. The game was developed by BioWare, so you should already know what to expect — a deep role-playing experience packed with complex dialog options, and a winding narrative where nothing is as it first appears.

Path of Exile (MacOS, PS4, Xbox One, Windows)

If an MMORPG and an ARPG had offspring, Path of Exile emerges as the sequel to Diablo II that was worth the wait. A few of the developers who worked on the actual Diablo franchise assisted in creating Path to Exile.

You’ll find the RPG experience evidenced in the complex nature of the skills provided. There are so many options in how you can spec your character that you may experience the paradox of too many choices.

Consider yourself warned that Path of Exile features some of the most savage and vile combat available on the market, and you’ll need to be right in the middle of it to have any chance of enhancing your powers or navigating the skill tree. Seven distinct classes each have their own favored weaponry and playstyle, and you get to select which one you want.

A significant part of Path of Exile is both looting and acquiring the best weapons and armor to survive. Pillaging is so crucial it will establish which skills you can utilize.

Forget the old notion of learning new abilities to level up. In PoE, expect to find skill gems, horde them in your gear, and increase your power by slaying multitudes of adversaries.

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