If you go buy what’s new and exciting, MMORPGs—massively multiplayer online roleplaying games—might have seen their heyday come and go. But if you look at the continued success of Runescape, as well as the 10 other like-styled MMORPGs that we’re going to talk about below, you might just be convinced otherwise. We can look to Runescape as a capstone reference for a lot of what made MMOs a successful genre, but even so, that landmark game is only one among many.
Whether or not you’ve ever played an MMO, you probably know that there are millions of people around the world that find them to be exceptionally fun. Read on, and you’ll start to get an idea as to why!
In many ways, Runescape was a pioneer. It’s hard to say if it was “the first” MMORPG that was ever successfully funded and published. Because before it, the genre itself was messy and mostly unrealized. However, Runescape is currently recognized as the largest game in that genre that’s ever existed, even standing tall against other massive entities like World of Warcraft, which most view as the current reigning champion.
Defining an MMO
For the uninitiated, “MMORPG” might be a confusing term. What does “massively multiplayer online” mean for the genre? And how is it different from other roleplaying games?
The answers to these questions are in the title, actually. MMORPGs take place in online environments, in which thousands, even millions of player share the same game with each other. Typically, this huge collection of players are divided up into different server communities, but even these are quite large. Most of the activities that players engage in, thusly, are built to be undertaken alongside (or against!) other players. They’re social experiences, but they’re different from what you might encounter in something like Call of Duty, for example.
They differ because of the “RPG” aspects. In MMORPGS, you play as an avatar that’s styled after the world that you’re playing in. Most of these games are immersive experiences that tell a story to its players, even while encouraging them to work together to build their own tales from shared experiences. Spaceships, fantastical worlds, monsters, magic, and further unrealistic elements populate these games and help to define the genre.
Runescape fits into this by being one of the very best MMORPGs on the market. Though, if you’re new to the genre, you might not know it.
- This is because Runescape was originally released back in 2001.
- It has since grown and expanded beyond what it initially looked like.
- It’s no longer constrained to your web browser, for instance, and it’s been developed from the ground up to use fully 3D graphics and environments.
But all of the core elements are still in place—exploration, quests, fun play styles, and adventures that will surprise and entertain you. It’s largely recognized as the progenitor for many games that eventually followed it—a few of which are detailed below.
10 MMORPGs Like Runescape
When we look at MMORPGs like Runescape, we’re looking at the most popular games in the genre. An MMO is typically only as fun as its player base allows it to be, and that means that you need a rather large number of people to play alongside.
In addition to that, you want an MMO to be something that you truly invest in. Many of them require serious time commitments to fully enjoy, and we’re here to make sure that you’re only committing to those that are going to feel rewarding, after many hours of play.
Cost: Monthly subscription
There’s no way that we could create this list without topping it with the reigning champion of the MMO genre. World of Warcraft was developed by the titanic Blizzard Studios (now Activision-Blizzard) and it continues to be one of the most lucrative and famous games in the genre.
It’s grounded in the Warcraft series of games, which sees fantastical races of people—Orcs, Human, Elves, Undead, and more—pitted against each other in warring factions. The heavily stylized graphics invite imagination, and even though it might seem somewhat antiquated compared to newer games, don’t be fooled. World of Warcraft is still seeing new expansion packs released every few years.
Based on the popular Elder Scrolls series of open-world roleplaying games, The Elder Scrolls Online utilizes the same world, mythology, and fictional peoples to create an MMO experience tailored towards fans of the IP. If you’ve ever played an Elder Scrolls game—from Morrowind to Skyrim—there’s a good chance that you’ll become easily immersed in the fantasy landscapes of this particular game.
It wasn’t released to wide acclaim, but its developers have fastidiously kept after the game’s improvement, and it’s now a very accessible experience that can even be played on contemporary consoles!
Cost: Monthly subscription
If you’ve been a gamer at any point in the past 10 years, there’s very little chance that you’ve escaped the popularity of the Final Fantasy roleplaying game franchise. It’s the ivory tower of Japanese developer Square Enix and is largely considered one of the most landmark series of games ever made. In addition to that, it might just be one of the longest-lasting franchises in gaming history.
Most of the Final Fantasy games are single-player fare, but Final Fantasy XIV is the series’ second foray into MMO territory, following the wildly successful Final Fantasy XI. It was a rollercoaster upon release—the initial version of the game was so poorly received that the servers were shut down, and the game was completely retooled under a new team and fresh direction. Now, it’s one of the most popular MMORPGs being played. Need proof? Its second major expansion pack is coming out this summer, titled Stormblood!
Of course, you’ve heard of Star Wars. Everyone has heard of Star Wars. But this is actually the second successful Star Wars MMO. It takes place far before any of the movies that we’ve come to know and love, and though many of the game’s locations will be familiar, it’s largely unexplored territory.
The familiar elements are there—Jedi and Sith, smugglers and soldiers—but it’s now an experience that millions of people can enjoy together. The gameplay is actually quite reminiscent of what you’d find in World of Warcraft, though the setting could be more different.
Though this is most definitely the sequel the original critically-acclaimed Guild Wars, it’s actually quite a lot different. Familiar character classes, locations, and stories return, but the gameplay has been entirely renovated to suit a modern audience of gamers. It’s fast, it’s furious, and it lacks the “holy trinity” role-based system of “tank,” “healer,” and “damager-dealer” that many other MMORPGs tend to adopt.
It’s also free to play, once you’ve bought the base game. This makes it extremely accessible, and when you couple that with the frequent updates and special events that the developers roll out, you’re in for a treat.
This is an interesting game. Many people criticize the MMORPG genre for having “slow” combat compared to other fighting-heavy games, but Tera breaks that mold. It’s all real-time combat, meaning that your character will swing their sword and shoot their bow in whatever direction that they’re pointing; it doesn’t matter which enemy you have selected, as tends to be the norm for other MMOs.
It’s a fantasy game, too, one that features heavily stylized but gorgeous graphics. So if you’re in the mood for something violent, wild, risque, and fast, give this one a try.
You might need a workhorse of a computer to run it, but Black Desert Online is one of the most technically advanced MMOs that you’re going to find on the market. It’s hugely focused on PvP (player vs. player) combat, however, so if you’re averse to constantly having to fight other players in this shared world experience, you might want to steer clear.
If that’s your cup of tea, though, you’re going to have a good time. There are thousands of hours worth of activities to enjoy in Black Desert Online.
This game has had a storied history, but it didn’t necessarily stop on a bad note. In fact, it hasn’t necessarily stopped. It was one of the most hyped MMO releases since World of Warcraft first debuted, but many players found that they were frustrated by the combat systems and the higher-difficulty activities. As such, many left the game early to find greener pastures.
Wildstar has improved quite a lot, since then, and boasts fast-paced, dynamic combat. It’s all coupled with cartoonishly stylized graphics that are immediately endearing.
This was always something of an underdog, but it was always a game worth playing. The Secret World is a modern MMO set in a modern timeline—players create their avatar and pick one of three factions to align with. You wield everything from swords to machine guns, but in a tactical way that keeps all of the fighting styles on a balanced level.
In The Secret World, you’ll unravel heavens and hells, and Lovecraftian horror-mysteries that each have a surprising twist to throw your way. It might have been underrated when it was released, but the world and lore of this MMORPG are nothing but engrossing.
This is another special little game that has most certainly earned its spot on our list. It’s a Korean game, which means that the core gameplay elements are going to be a little bit different from what Western audiences are used to. Get ready to grind for levels and items, for instance, but along the way, you’re going to be accompanied by gorgeous graphics, a catching soundtrack, and martial-arts-based fighting that’s always fast and fun.
And in these 10 excellent titles, we’ve pretty much covered the “best-of-the-best” when it comes to MMORPGs. Whether you grew up on Runescape or are simply on the hunt for a game that can give you just as much (or more!) fun, you’re going to find it in the games that we’ve listed above.
Feel like we missed one of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!