The Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) game type has risen through the ranks over the decades to take its rightful place among the best gaming genres out there. However, with the increase in popularity comes a wave of games that tend to fall into the shadows. For gamers new to the MMO scene, it can be overwhelming to try and pluck a favorite from the ether.
Moreover, most games will cost money, whether that be through the actual price of the game, a monthly subscription fee (like with World of Warcraft), or in-game purchases. But in the last few years, many MMOs went free-to-play, so gamers can now cut the cost by taking advantage of the free MMOs available. Some great games in the past have been free; just look at the obvious Fortnite or League of Legends.
Updated by Juliet Childers on October 12th, 2020: With more and more games adopting a free-to-play model option, gamers have more choice than ever when it comes to how they spend their time in virtual spaces. Previous games that were pay-to-play only like Final Fantasy XIV, now offer free options. But which free MMOs offer the best experiences?
14 Path of Exile
Lauded by many as the Diablo follow-up fans actually wanted, many veterans of the MMO scene will love what Path of Exile offers in terms of lore, traditional top-down style gameplay, and the infinite build opportunities. And no: players don’t need a PC to play Path of Exile.
Though a sequel is in the works, the original game retains a properly healthy player base. Fans of the game offer that, though the game is free-to-play, supporting the studio with $5 here and there is welcome due to the overwhelming amount of hard work that’s gone into a game with so much content, character, and history.
Throwing old world mythology into the future sounds like combining the best of both worlds. Often times, these attempts can come off as clumsy; however, Skyforge manages to blend the worlds nicely and with great visuals to boot.
That’s not to say Skyforge has the most compelling storyline around, but it is serviceable for an MMO. What really stands out is the combat that delivers a smooth experience with a satisfying connection when players lay a combo into an enemy.
12 PlanetSide 2
The huge influx of first-person shooters has all but taken over the gaming industry, with most of them looking similar to one another, but not Planetside 2. The game offers enormous maps that can host hundreds of players at a time often resulting in pure, all-out chaos.
Players are not locked into any one class, so that adds lots of replayability and uniqueness to each time fans log on. They can also switch between using the terrain for an advantage or taking to the air to keep things interesting.
The hardest choice will be deciding which one of the three factions to fight for.
11 DC Universe Online
DC Universe Online filled a massive void in the RPG market. Still going strong after almost a decade is a good sign for any game, especially when it features an entire roster of childhood heroes from Batman and Hawkgirl to more obscure characters like Hades and Saint Walker.
In most games that are based on previous IPs, it’s rare that fans get all of the lesser-known characters included. The RPG format ensures that there’s space for everyone; no matter how obscure the DC character, fans should be able to find their favorites easily.
Braving the wilds of action RPGs, Onigiri gives players real-time combat experience that is rare among established MMOs. Players can finally put that honed fighting game experience to good use here. The added style flare that anime gives just about anything it touches adds an additional layer to Onigiri’s uniqueness.
But the most distinct part of Onigiri is the weapons control stat differences and style of play. Instead of pairing class with character, players can easily swap rather than get stuck with a character class.
Most MMOs put an emphasis on PvP because that is usually what draws the most people in. But Warframe has made the PvE experience a group effort to take down a common enemy. While not the first people to think of it, the game gives players a huge variety of content for the squad to slash, dash, and fight through.
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On its initial launch, one big criticism was that there was just so much grinding in Warfame. Many fans will tell new players there are two kinds of gamer: those that can grind and those that can’t. Hardcore players will find Warframe very rewarding in this regard.
For newbies, don’t worry. Every Tenno comes equipped with a futuristic ninja suit to make the experience slick and fun.
The first game to make a big splash in quite a while, Tera comes prepared with attention to detail and great production behind it. With a wide range of classes and races to choose from, all players should have their preferences catered to.
While battling through the gorgeous world of Tera, players can even lose themselves in the MMO’s interesting story structure. With the narrative setup of dropping players into a civil war to face a previously beaten enemy, gamers have to defend the planet from all sorts of interesting characters.
7 Star Trek Online
True Trekkies probably already know about and love Star Trek Online. It does an amazing job of immersing the player into the franchise and keeping to the original lore which is always important. The game shows the player rise up through the ranks to command a starship of their own — the dream of many that has now been made possible.
Eventually, players will find themselves in command of a fleet to fulfill the agenda of the side and race they choose. Best of all: the player-made missions add a huge amount of content and rewards. This keeps users coming back indefinitely for more space shenanigans.
6 World Of Tanks
With the likes of Ace Combat, PlayStation has been littered with vehicular warfare. Taking the basic shooter games and adding the extra element of controlling a tank does add a little firepower to the game. World Of Tanks has 100s of tanks to unlock and tinker with that keep the grinding pace interesting.
The strategic gamer will have no issue planning and executing a variety of co-op maneuvers to defeat the enemy. All this while exploring the variety of game modes on offer is the reason World Of Tanks has maintained such a large fan base and competitive scene.
A sandbox game that takes the groundwork Minecraft has laid and builds nicely upon it. Coming in with brighter colors and a focus on combat, Trove is a fresh enough take to stick with. While the class system still applies, players can jump back and forth between the classes and level each one.
The seemingly unending stream of player-created content ensures users will always have a solid path forward to level and earn rewards. The combination of RPG and sandbox gives a sense of direction in an overwhelming world to explore.
4 Destiny 2
Once a premium game, Destiny 2 has seen some growing pains since Bungie switched from Activision to being an independent agent. But the good news for new players is that they can access all year-one content, as well as activities, foundational modes, and rewards. Additional content, such as the DLC Shadow Keep will remain on sale for specific prices.
This move came after announcements that Bungie would continue to support Destiny 2 over the next few years. The goal is to hone in on the MMO aspect of the game vs. starting anew with another installment in the franchise. For fans of impeccable shooting mechanics, this MMO can’t be beaten.
3 Final Fantasy XIV
Even non MMORPG players know about Final Fantasy XIV just by virtue of following the franchise at all. With the recent success of Final Fantasy VII Remake, many players sought the additional comfort of an in-world MMO experience, too. Luckily, FFXIV now offers a free-to-play model vs. their traditional $15 USD per month fee.
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The game is a fantastic traditional MMORPG experience with role-focused combat, the iconic job system, and plenty of Final Fantasy nostalgia with Chocobo mounts, Moogle minions, and storylines in Ivalice (recognizable from past games).
Players on the free model still gain access to the Heavensward content. As of October 13th, there’s also a new game mode titled “The Bozjan Southern Front”, as well.
Based on the gigantic Dungeons & Dragons franchise, Neverwinter carries on the tradition of great storytelling and allowing the players to control their own fate. With great writing and a very immersive feel, gamers wouldn’t fault anyone for sticking on the path laid out for the player. However, it’s advisable to fully explore the world with other player’s content.
Integrating entire storylines to play through, players can create entirely new paths for each other to veer off on and collect the sweet rewards. On top of the added content, there are 13 different races to pick from, with each offering their own paths and advantages. Neverwinter really brings the adventure back to MMOs.
1 Genshin Impact
The current darling of the MMORPG world, Genshin Impact offers a Breath of the Wild style experience with classic anime aesthetics. For a free-to-play game, it offers such a wide array of experience across many unique maps with stunning visuals.
While it does feature unfortunate “gacha” mechanics, the depth of the gameplay makes up for it. Players need to learn about elemental attunement, can cook just like Link in Breath of the Wild, can enjoy tons of loot, position themselves for flank or height advantages in combat, and more.
NEXT: The 5 Best Things About Genshin Impact (& The 5 Worst)
- dc universe online
In his free time you’ll find him in the trenches, sharpening his skills on the fighting game of choice. Otherwise its pen to paper, writing as much as possible!
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