David is an avid gamer across multiple platforms such as consoles, handhelds, mobile phones, and PC.
What Are MMORPGs?
MMORPGs are literally explained within their acronym. They are role-playing games in an online massively multiplayer environment. For the purposes of this list, the games must include a leveling or skill system where you become more powerful the more you play. This list will also include games where you can pretty much interact with players anywhere in the game world.
1. Final Fantasy XIV
- Released: 08/27/13
- Developed By: Square Enix Business Division 5
- Published By: Square Enix
- Metascore: Holds a 83% metascore on Metacritic.
All About Final Fantasy XIV
Final Fantasy XIV succeeds the previous MMORPG made by Square Enix, Final Fantasy XI. At the time of this article, I consider this to be the best MMORPG of all time. Rightfully so, as it's the only MMO I currently play today. At the time of its release, Final Fantasy XIV was considered to be a horrible game, but Square Enix rebuilt it from the ground up to the game it is today, which is a rare occurrence in the game industry.
- Plenty of expansions. There are a few expansions for this game, which are pretty much required if you want to fully enjoy the game. While it's fine to start the game without them, in the end, you will be expected to get them to play with your friends and take advantage of all of the content.
- Required to pay a monthly subscription. This is not a free-to-play MMO. There is a monthly subscription fee to enjoy all of the content the game has to offer, which is very much worth it in my opinion.
- There is a cash shop. Most of the items are cosmetic, such as clothing, pets, mounts, and housing décor. However, there are some convenience items as well. You can pay to skip the storyline, level up a character quickly, or obtain more storage. This is not pay to win, though.
- The storyline is required. You can't skip the story, unless you pay to do so. To progress in almost every aspect of the game, you have to do the main story. Is it good? It is, but I didn't care for it since it's not why I play the game. But yes, it's worth doing if you are in it for the story.
- One character, all of the classes. You only need one character to play any class you want. One of the best parts about the game is that you can switch classes on the fly, allowing you to focus on just one character overall.
- Crafting is just as deep as combat. Think combat makes the most money in the game? Nope. Crafting does. Crafting could be its own game with all of the steps involved, recipes to gather, and items to make.
- Many ways to make money. There are a variety of ways to make money, from combat, crafting, decorating houses, and more. I don't craft that much, but I make a lot of money digging up treasure. You won't have to rely on just combat or crafting to make money.
- Some of the best housing in any MMORPG. Final Fantasy XIV has the best housing system of any MMO I have played. The only downside is that not everyone can have a house, as they are sought after by private players and free companies alike. It's also very expensive to get into, from buying a housing plot to buying items for your house.
- Combat is an artform. There aren't many choices when it comes to combat. There are a lot of classes, but you are given your skills and the gear stats aren't that variable. There is nothing wrong with that as the combat focuses on mostly skill over customization of your class.
- Best social game out there. You will find players doing all sorts of activities in the main cities. Some chat, some play music, and some do much more. It's a very social game and you will make friends here.
Why It's on This List
It's the best MMORPG I have ever played, hands down. It's the one game I end up logging into almost on a daily basis because it's just that good. However, you should only pick it up if you have the time to invest in it.
2. Ultima Online
- Released: 09/24/97
- Developed By: Origin Systems
- Published By: Electronic Arts
- Metascore: Holds a 59% metascore on Metacritic.
All About Ultima Online
I am sure you are wondering why Ultima Online is on this list, if you have even heard of it at all. The reason why is that Ultima Online produced some of the best gaming experiences in my life, and it is the first true MMORPG I ever played.
- Plenty of expansions. Like other games on this list, there are plenty of expansions in Ultima Online. They are also required to fully enjoy what the game has to offer, so if you get into it, I recommend you pick them up.
- Can pay a monthly subscription. There is a free component, however, it doesn't offer as much as the monthly subscription. It does allow enough of a taste to see if you would be into it.
- There is a cash shop. Again, like the other games on this list, there is a cash shop. It's something I haven't touched, but it does have a variety of items to improve your gameplay experience. But they are not required.
- You'll be thrown in the deep end. There isn't much of a storyline in Ultima Online. In fact, while there is a tutorial, you'll be thrown in the game and expected to survive. It's a great way to handle the game actually, as you are free to go and do what you want, even if you'll die a lot.
- Free form classes. What I love about the game is that there is a skill point system. You get stronger by repeating tasks in a certain set of skills. Want to cast better magic? Then you cast lower level magic until you get better. It's a good system which isn't used that often in the newer MMORPGs.
- Plan out your character. You can't have a warrior and crafter on the same character, at least not if you want to maximize what you do in either area. If you want a crafter, it will need to be a separate character in order to maximize that character's growth.
- Many ways to make money. This is another game where there are many ways to make money. You can fight tough monsters, craft, and even steal from other players. For the most part all of that is legal in the game. When a player almost scammed me, a Game Master advised there was nothing they could do, as it's part of the game.
- Housing is not required, but it's fun. The housing in the game isn't required unless you really need a lot of storage. What is fun about it is that you can design your house from the ground up, brick by brick. This produced some unusual houses around a variety of themes. It was great that they were part of the game world. Most MMORPGs have their housing in a separate, instanced area. But in Ultima Online, you can place a house directly in the game world.
- Small population. With how old the game is, and how outdated the game looks, there isn't that big of a player population. However, with how the game world is designed, you will just randomly run across players. There are also events that bring players together.
- Player versus player combat. There are two worlds in this game, one where you can fight other players freely and one where you can't. I rarely spent time in the PvP area, but it was one of the earliest games to have open world PvP.
Why It's on This List
I had so many memorable moments in this game. From stealing gold from players, to having a spider chase me down, to finally getting the house I always wanted. While it may not hold up to today's standards, it will always be a top tier MMORPG for me. There are other games that have tried to replicate it, but they have failed to do so.
3. World of Warcraft
- Released: 11/23/04
- Developed By: Blizzard Entertainment
- Published By: Blizzard Entertainment
- Metascore: Holds a 93% metascore on Metacritic.
All About World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft is considered to be the most popular MMORPG of all time. It shattered subscription records when it came out and was often talked about in the media. Its light may have faded in the last few years, but it's still a solid MMORPG.
- Plenty of expansions. Obviously this game has had many expansions, which are basically required to make any real progress in the game. It's a no brainer that they should be picked up if you plan to play long term.
- Monthly subscription is required. However, what is interesting about this game is that you can buy a monthly subscription from other players with in-game currency. It's a way to avoid paying real world cash for the subscription, but you have to be good at making money to be able to afford it each month.
- Easiest MMO. Of all of the games on this list, World of Warcraft is the easiest. That's not to say there isn't hard content—there is. But it's still easy to level up, earn money, and do whatever you want in the game. If you want a casual experience, then this is the best game for that.
- Great storyline. For the most part, I don't care about the story in MMORPGs. However, in World of Warcraft, I did care about the story. During one expansion, I was excited to play new content to see how the story would go. World of Warcraft always had a great storyline.
- Different races and classes. To me, this game had the best variety of classes and races to choose from. Each class felt very different from one another. In some cases, there are different ways to play the same class. It added great variety to the game.
- Gear is fairly standard. This is not a game where you get gear with unusual stats on it. While some stats can be adjusted and improved, mostly everyone will be wearing the same type of gear. So combat is more of a skill game than relying on stats on your gear.
- Crafting is a side activity. Crafting isn't bad by any means, but you can have it in addition to your combat character. I appreciated that as I felt like it complimented my character.
- There is no housing. This is something I felt World of Warcraft was missing out on—housing. There is no true player housing in the game. There are some things that are like that, but it's not as fleshed out as it could be. It's a shame as this game could really benefit from player housing.
- PvP. There are some servers that allow open world player versus player combat. There are also different modes of player versus player combat. I actually really enjoyed it. It was fun, active, and I wasn't that bad at it!
- Outdated content. My problem with this game is that content becomes outdated. Something done in one expansion is just ignored in the next expansion. Other MMOs either keep the content, update it, and may carry it over. But in World of Warcraft, some old content is just completely disregarded.
Why It's on This List
World of Warcraft is the gold standard of MMORPGs. If you're looking for something new or old to play, then I would recommend this game as it's the middle ground of all of the games on this list.
4. EVE Online
- Released: 05/06/03
- Developed By: CCP Games
- Published By: Simon & Schuster
- Metascore: Holds a 69% metascore on Metacritic.
All About EVE Online
The next two games on this list were the hardest for me to select. The reason I went with EVE Online is that it's a solid MMORPG that does things the other games do not.
- Plenty of expansions. The big difference in these expansions is that they are all offered free of charge. That's huge for an ongoing MMORPG.
- Monthly subscription is required. Like World of Warcraft, you can buy the subscription using in-game currency. But you need to be really good at making money to be able to do that. Otherwise, you have to use real world cash for the subscription.
- You are the storyline. I consider this to be an open world MMORPG. While there are hints of a storyline here and there, you make your own storyline.
- Your ship is your character. Unlike the other games, your ship is your character. Your ship can change from time to time too. While you will see your character sometimes, your ship is the one you will be controlling in the game world.
- Learn skills over time. I flat out love this system. You learn and improve skills by obtaining the skill book and selecting it to learn. It could take minutes, hours, or even days to learn a skill. This shouldn't put new people off as you can still be a great player in a short period of time.
- Lots of choices. There are so many ships, skills, weapons, and gear you can put on your ship. The ship I had felt unique compared to other ships. I loved that feeling. You really have a lot of choices in this game.
- Player-driven economy. The players control the economy. There isn't just one market where items are bought and sold. It covers the entire universe of the game. I ran a trade empire from one station and hired other players to move goods for me.
- Fun mission system. I really liked the mission system of the game. Missions sent you out to a spot and you had to complete an objective. While some of the objectives are the same, the setup of the mission area was always different.
- PvP. The game has player versus player combat everywhere. However, depending where you are, you will either have the in-game guards help you or not. In the lower security areas of the universe, it's a free for all. You may hear about people losing thousands of dollars of real world money due to the PvP since they lost ships that take a lot of time and effort to make.
- Firing at the dots. The only problem I had with the combat is that sometimes you were just firing on dots. If you had a long range ship, you won't see what you are firing at. However, it made sense for this type of game.
Why It's on This List
If you want something different, then EVE Online is the way to go. It's the only MMORPG on this list which does things completely different than the other games.
5. Star Trek Online
- Released: 02/02/10
- Developed By: Cryptic Studios
- Published By: Atari
- Metascore: Holds a 66% metascore on Metacritic.
All About Star Trek Online
Now I am sure many of you would disagree with this choice, but I hope you hear me out. Star Trek Online is on this list since I am a huge trekkie. However, I also think it's a solid MMORPG.
- Plenty of expansions. Like every other game, this has many expansions. They are free though, mostly because it's not how this game makes its money.
- Has a monthly subscription. There is a free-to-play component which can take advantage of many aspects of the game. However, paying for a monthly subscription has all of the benefits.
- There is a cash shop. Of all of the games on this list, Star Trek Online has the biggest cash shop. It's also a pay-to-win cash shop. You can buy the best ships, gear, and buffs to make your character overpowered.
- The storyline is decent. If you aren't a Star Trek fan, then the storyline may seem decent. If you are a trekkie, then you'll enjoy the storyline quite a lot. You don't need to know anything about Star Trek to enjoy the story.
- Many ways to build your character. While there aren't that many classes, you can build them in so many different ways. With the variety of equipment, ships, and support characters, you can be truly unique.
- Space combat is great. If you don't want to fire at dots, then this is the game to get. The space combat is top-notch; it's the biggest reason why this game is on this list. While EVE Online feels like a strategic space game, this feels like an action space game.
- Ground combat is horrible. Despite constant reworks, the ground combat is just plain bad. It's better than what it was at release, but it's not fun and drags down the game.
- Still buggy. Despite how old the game is, there are still quite a few bugs found in the game. I've had missions break or loot disappear. This wasn't enough to make me stop playing, but it was annoying.
- Lootboxes. This is the only game on this list that has lootboxes. Lootboxes require a key to open and offers items not available elsewhere. The keys can be bought in the cash shop. The worst part is that the lootboxes drop in-game all the time.
- Doesn't feel like Star Trek. With how much you fight in the game, it's not traditional Star Trek. The solution to everything is to just kill it. Plus, the ships seem so outlandish; they don't feel like they belong in Star Trek.
Why It's on This List
Despite its flaws, I consider it to be a solid MMORPG. The space combat alone makes it worth playing, along with the different ways you can build your character.
Star Wars: The Old Republic: I call this World of Warcraft... in space! That's basically what it is. That doesn't mean it's bad. It's a fun game with a Star Wars storyline, good combat, and solid classes. If you would prefer playing a sci fi game instead of a fantasy game, then I would recommend Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Dark Age of Camelot: Graphically, this game hasn't aged well. However, it's on this list because it was one of the first games to have PvP combat that was realm versus realm. There are three factions fighting against one another. It's one of the few games to offer that. Plus, the dungeons were not instanced, which few games offer nowadays.
What Do You Think?
Are there any MMORPGs that you would recommend? Do you disagree with my list? Let me know in the comments below!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 David Livermore