Massively multiplayer online games (or MMORPGs for short) offer countless immersive and memorable gaming moments, featuring sprawling worlds full of other players to meet, quests to complete, and experience levels to gain. The genre got its start in the early-90s but didn’t pick up steam until games like Ultima Online started pushing the boundaries of online multiplayer gaming. As we entered the new millennium, developers started honing their craft, resulting in hugely popular titles like Runescape and Final Fantasy XI. Now, nearly 30 years after the birth of the genre, MMORPGs and online gaming are more popular than ever before.
In an effort to pay our respects to these titans of multiplayer, we’ve crafted a list of five exceedingly popular and enjoyable MMORPGs. These games captured the imaginations of thousands of players, pushed the envelope of the genre, and continued to be great fun for years on end. Even now, years after release (for some), these fantastic titles keep their fans coming back for more. If you haven’t dabbled in the MMORPG genre before, these five games are excellent points-of-entry, guaranteed to have you gleefully lost in their imaginative worlds. They’re also the best of the best, earning their spot as some of the best MMORPGs of all time.
Now let’s get into it!
World of Warcraft
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way, as World of Warcraft is as synonymous with MMORPGs as Super Mario Bros is to platforming games. Developed by Blizzard Entertainment and released in 2004, World of Warcraft ushered in a new era of MMORPGs, establishing numerous genre trends that continue to this day. Now, decades after its initial release, World of Warcraft is still going strong. The current version of the game has more than 3 million active players, while the retro version, World of Warcraft Classic, boasts another 1 million active players.
With an endless list of quests, loads of multiplayer raids, and a healthy PvP scene, World of Warcraft offers an excellent variety suitable for any MMORPG player. It’s also one of the most welcoming MMORPGs on the block, fine-tuned for novices and veterans alike. For millions of players, World of Warcraft has provided lasting memories, friendships, and epic gaming moments. Simply put, not only is World of Warcraft one of the most popular MMORPGs of all time, but it’s also one of the best.
The Elder Scrolls Online
The Elder Scrolls is one of the most long-running and successful RPG series ever made, so it was only a matter of time before an MMO was in the works. Despite its huge potential, The Elder Scrolls Online had a rough start when it was first released in 2014. However, this first-person MMORPG has improved significantly over the past few years, resulting in one of the best gaming glow-ups in recent memory. After many much-needed updates and the removal of a monthly subscription fee, The Elder Scrolls Online has become a respectable MMORPG with lots of content.
Not only is it welcoming for newcomers, but it’s one of the best MMORPGs for solo players, as the majority of the content involves questing and dungeon-delving. There’s still plenty of PvP, raids, and world events for groups to enjoy, but the base Elder Scrolls Online is solid regardless of your player count. It’s no wonder why the game is still going strong, with over 1 million active players enjoying the world of Tamriel. Whether you’re an introverted player looking for a solo MMORPG experience or you really enjoy the Elder Scrolls universe, ESO is worth playing.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
The Final Fantasy brand is easily one of the most recognizable names in the RPG genre, with tons of classic hits dating as far back as the late-80s. The franchise made its jump to the MMORPG space with Final Fantasy XI in 2002, helping popularize the genre. The most recent Final Fantasy MMO, Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn had its fair share of problems at release, prompting a full service shutdown and re-work in 2012. It made its return in 2013, and has remained a beloved MMORPG ever since.
Like the main series, FFXIV: A Realm Reborn is packed with content, providing players with a satisfying grind and an imaginative fantasy world. It might be a bit tough to get into at first, but there are plenty of players who will attest to its quality, as FFXIV: A Realm Reborn has over 2 million active players. With a new expansion scheduled for Fall 2021, there’s no better time to hop in.
Old School Runescape
Runescape was one of the earliest MMORPGs, and helped bring the genre into the mainstream with its wide success in 2001. Nowadays, Runescape has received numerous modern features and patches, resulting in a much different game. However, like World of Warcraft Classic, there’s still a retro version of the game available to play, dubbed Old School Runescape. Despite its blocky visuals, dated game mechanics, and quirky nature, it’s still one of the most popular MMORPGs on the market.
There’s an undeniable charm to Old School Runescape, evidenced by its 2 million active players. Where other games like Final Fantasy XIV and The Elder Scrolls Online can feel big and intimidating, Old School Runescape is immensely approachable and remarkably addictive, making it a good place for MMO newbies to start.
Black Desert Online
Black Desert Online is the newest game on our list, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a super popular MMORPG for diehard fans. Originally released in 2019, Black Desert Online is a mostly PvP-focused action experience. Unlike other traditional MMORPGs, Black Desert Online has real-time combat that requires lots of precision aiming and quick reflexes, rewarding players with more skill over anything else. There are tons of character customization options, allowing you to craft the ideal hero to brave Black Desert Online’s unforgiving sandbox world.
Set in a time of epic war between two fantastical factions, Black Desert Online is ripe with massive battles, full of personal moments of stress and victory. With over 1 million active players, Black Desert Online has made a big name for itself in a short amount of time. If the game continues to receive updates and expansions, Black Desert Online could be the next big MMORPG to take over the industry.
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