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 get deeper.
They’ve cemented their place as the kind of video game that can hold the attention of players for a long time, and there are plenty of them to play. Some of the best MMORPGs are traditional role-playing games, but the genre has evolved to include games that mix in more action-oriented elements. Here are some you should try out.
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 two 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
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.
Despite being more than six 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.
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 is committed to filling the drier periods with more content, as well, using the Annual Pass to offer additional quests and even raids in between major expansion releases.
Read our full Destiny 2: Forsaken 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, Battle for Azeroth, returns to the Horde-versus-Alliance war that has been raging since the days of Warcraft: Ors and Humans, but with infighting and fragile partnerships that reflect the morally gray and complex nature of the game in 2018. Additional content is also being released after the expansion’s launch over the summer, include more “Warfront” content.
Read our full World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth review
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.
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. Traditional expansions have also been released, including Stormblood, another is scheduled to arrive in 2019. With compatibility for PlayStation 4 and Mac in addition to PC, Final Fantasy XIV is a great choice for those who might not have the rig to run some other MMORPGs.
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.
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.
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 with timely content, including the new “Atlantis” episode, and you can even create your own secret lair to really get into the superhero mindset.
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 including Human, Hobbit, Dwarf, and High-Elf and 10 different classes are each inspired by a classic character from the novels.
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.
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.