What is the best free MMO? Making such a decision is no mean feat. Free-to-play games are increasingly common, meaning the F2P crowd now have a lot more options than they used to. From online war zones to behemoth free MMORPGs, there’s something for everyone to enjoy, regardless of what’s in their wallet. So to help you out we’ve put together this list of free online games.
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We've also included some MMOs with lengthy free trials or subs after decent enough level caps - games where there’s plenty to enjoy without spending a penny.
Planes, tanks and ships battling it out for ever and ever and ever. That’s the ultimate goal of War Thunder, and with ships finally starting to trickle into the game that holy trinity of warfare is almost complete. War Thunder specialises in vehicular warfare, with three similar but largely separate games under its title: Ground Forces, Aviation and Naval Battles.
War Thunder’s frankly ridiculous number of vehicles all manage to stay unique thanks to the game’s realistic damage model, which simulates almost every single aspect of ballistics, from shell type and speed to the thickness and angle of the armour it’s hitting. Every single shot is calculated, meaning that real-life tactics like staying hull down or angling your armour to deflect shells are essential skills to master in War Thunder.
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The name and setting of Neverwinter has a long and storied history online - beginning in ‘91 with the first graphical MMORPG, before revolutionising the realm of player-made modules under the stewardship of BioWare with Neverwinter Nights. The rather more modern Neverwinter pulls from both - setting groups of D&D characters loose in the famous city, while allowing players to write their own stories. There are some inventive community adventures on offer if you’re willing to dig.
Not that you’ll have to reach for those if you don’t want to - expansions have taken Neverwinter players to some of the most beloved corners of the Forgotten Realms, including the Underdark and Icewind Dale.
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Star Trek Online
Character creation tools in MMOs let you shape everything from your avatar’s jawline and eyelash length to the exact density of their chest hair, but even they’ve got nothing on the options available in Star Trek Online. Tired of playing as a human? Great, here you can be a Gorn, Rigellian, Romulan, Klingon, or any other of the 30 race variations available.
Questing and progressing in Star Trek Online plays out like episodes from the TV series: one moment you’re wandering through space, the next you’re having to do deals with, or shoot lasers at, one of the many franchise belligerents. Be it in spaceship battles or on the ground where gameplay takes the form of a third-person shooter, Star Trek Online does a brilliant job of bringing the storylines and tone of the TV shows into an F2P MMO.
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World of Tanks
There are over 400 tanks in World of Tanks, and if you revisit this page in the next hour that number will likely have grown. Essentially, if you’re a fan of military hardware, you’re a fan of World of Tanks. Unlike War Thunder however, World of Tanks doesn’t ask you to pour hours of research into learning the armour ratings and layout of every vehicle in the game; instead, World of Tanks is a more of a War MMO-lite.
That’s not to say there’s a lack of sophistication, but rather that the core of the game has always been its fast-paced, arcade action. Like Call of Duty, World of Tanks is easy to learn, but impossible to master. Clashes are won by fine margins and lightning-quick reflexes, while a compelling XP system and tech tree keep players coming back for more.
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World of Warships
World of Warships switches out the twitch shooter elements of World of Tanks for a slowed-down and much more tactical style of play. Warships are leviathans: they crawl and creep across the map, and each one possesses enough power in a single barrage to wipe out anything else.
The change of pace makes for action that’s more calculated and nerve-wracking. It can take up to 20 seconds for some shots to meet their targets, which means that every moment is spent trying to avoid incoming fire or anticipating where your foe will have moved to. World of Warships is also more cinematic than it’s on-tracks sibling thanks to the sheer scale its warfare is conducted on. Oh, and it’s got some lovely sunsets too, if that’s what you want from a free-to-play war game.
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If dragons and magic aren’t your cup of tea, maybe golf is. Winning Putt is an MMO for people who love putting more than potions, and as unusual as that concept is, Bandai Namco have managed to make a solid F2P game out of it.
Essentially Winning Putt simulates a real-life golf course: you’re there to play a game of golf, and so are loads of other people. The benefits? No extortionate club fees and snooty types. Fortunately, Winning Putt is underpinned by a more than serviceable golf mechanic that’s much more complex than simply aiming a trajectory arc so the golf ball goes in the golf hole over and over again.
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Star Conflict dumps players in the role of an elite space pilot on a quest to track down and fight for alien treasures scattered throughout its expansive sandbox. Essentially, the game’s progression is all about acquiring a bigger and bigger collection of ships, from agile fighters to floating behemoths, before finally handing you control of your own fleet.
PvE quests and raids see you and your friends facing off against squadrons of aliens or space pirates, while PvP is a looming threat wherever you venture. An impressive tech tree and catalogue of ships means there’s always reason to keep playing, as you’re never far off a new weapon type or ship module.
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Finally, an MMO for sailing aficionados! No, not the sweater-tied-around-neck, regatta and finger sandwich type of sailing. Instead, ArcheAge’s world is full of rum-drinking, Kraken-fearing pirates who traverse the enormous oceanic map completing sidequests and hoarding loot.
Of course if you’re not the seafaring type, ArcheAge also has vast deserts to explore, skies to soar through and, naturally, crops to farm. It’s also got some of the best water in gaming and, unlike most MMOs, there’s actually stuff to do at sea, like raids for 40+ players, trade routes to run cargo along, and pirates. So many pirates.
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League of Legends
A player base of almost 12 million means you’ll never struggle to find a game in Riot’s sensationally popular MOBA. Following a similar formula to that of the original Dota, League of Legends is significantly more accessible than its competition, and a constantly expanding and updating meta ensures that even the pros are still learning the game.
Part of that meta is the roster of 132 champions, who get buffed and nerfed on a regular basis. LoL also boasts some of the biggest eSports prize pools out there, if you fancy yourself as a future pro.
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Path of Exile
An action-RPG cut from the same cloth as the Diablo and Gauntlet franchises, Path of Exile combines grim fantasy, compelling combat and an extensive selection of gear, abilities and upgrades to keep players grinding away for hours on end. Better still, you won’t just be retreading the same old ground every time you log in either, because every area is randomly generated across all servers - so the dungeon you and your friends are battling through will be different every time you tackle it.
Path of Exile also manages to shed some positive light on that most loathed of all monetisation strategies: microtransactions. The games developers are so staunchly against pay-to-win business models that they’ve included only “ethical microtransactions” in their game, by which they mean they add no gameplay advantages to the customer whatsoever.
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Head on over to page two for more free MMORPGs and other F2P games…