The best MMORPGs on PC

What is the best MMORPG experience on PC? Is it one with spell-slinging and demon-slaying? Working your way through the stars as a miner or a corporate bigwig? Solving ancient conspiracies and fighting Lovecraftian horrors? Maybe it is all of them.

If you can tear yourself away from these virtual worlds, PCGamesN is here for all your gaming needs.

Here’s our list of the best MMOs on the PC, kicking off with a few of the top free PC MMOs. You're sure to find something that will swallow up entire days at a time.

TERA

Despite being one of the older MMOs out there, TERA continues to deliver new content through the year. 2018 promises much for the action-packed MMO, including new Guardian missions and PvP options, and the new male Brawler has already made his debut. Plus there is continuing support for the recent Shadow of the Dark Gods update, which added a brand new five-player dungeon - Lakan’s Broken Prison, a variety of new skills and challenges, and a whole new server: Manahan. Dubbed an ‘event sever’, it switches up the TERA experience with swifter progression, more challenging dungeons, and redesigned battlegrounds. It means that no matter your skill level or playtime, there is something new for everyone, making it one of the best MMORPGs around.  

PLAY TERA FOR FREE

Skyforge

Skyforge stands out as one of the best MMOs thanks to the combination of its unique class system, excellent early game, and beautiful world. Incentivising experimentation and personal exploration, you are able to select between any class you have unlocked, allowing you to dramatically switch playstyle at a moment’s notice without having to go through another hundred hours of re-levelling. And it all takes place in one of the most fetching game worlds we’ve encountered, an elegant mix of high fantasy and ludicrous sci-fi. 

The early game is varied and interesting, with many options as to how to do your tasks, and plenty of rewards that let you pick and choose how you want to play. It switches regularly between solo-instanced areas that tell a linear story, wide-open zones that encourage casual teaming up in a lived-in world, and group content that is more difficult but offers better loot. While it is gated by your Prestige number, you are unlikely to run out of things to do and have to go grind it out.

PLAY SKYFORGE FOR FREE

Blade & Soul

Blade & Soul is a Korean fantasy martial arts MMORPG. And, if that is not enough to pique your interest, frankly, we don’t know what will. Perhaps the game’s intricately designed world - inspired by the visual style of artist Hyung Tae Kim - four unique races, and ten compelling classes will sway you.

Whether you choose to play as the mighty Gon, the versatile Jin, master of the natural world, Yun, or the mystical Lyn, doing battle using the fast, high-octane combat system is always a joy. Rapid counters and combo chains are essential, whether you team up with friends to tackle a wide range of dungeons or you want to do your virtual scrapping in PvP.

PLAY BLADE AND SOUL NOW

Neverwinter

Neverwinter is a surprise. It is thematically Dungeons & Dragons, taking the places, classes, spells, and abilities from the tabletop game, and then cramming them inside one of the best MMORPGs. It should not work, but somehow it does. It helps that there is an earnest love for the source material, and each quest feels like one you could imagine yourself embarking upon while sitting around a table. 

Lots of free expansions – which include new races and classes – have been introduced in the time since Neverwinter launched, taking players far from the safety of Neverwinter itself, to lands like Icewind Dale, where barbarians and unpleasant temperatures are the least of your worries. It is a mostly linear MMO, but if you start running low on new content, there is always the player-created stuff, which contains some real gems hidden away the rubbish. 

Word of warning, though: unless you approach the game casually, you will probably have to spend money. It is become increasingly difficult to play for free, though certainly not impossible.

PLAY NEVERWINTER FOR FREE

Star Trek Online

Miss Star Trek on TV? Star Trek Online might just tide you over until Discovery reappears on television screens. Each quest in this MMO is like an episode of the show, and each mission series is an arc, complete with the occasional filler episode. 

Take a trip to Risa, visit DS9, land on planets and practise your diplomacy, or get in tense space battles with Cardassians, Romulans, Borg, and whoever else is causing mischief. Space fights are a bit tactical, though in real-time, where positioning your ship to get the most out of your firing arcs is key. On away missions that devolve into combat, the game turns into a squad-based third-person shooter with ability cooldowns.

Despite a rocky start, STO has grown into a gargantuan, compelling MMO; it is frequently expanded by massive updates that add whole new storylines, and a while back it introduced the neutral Romulan faction with its unique missions and ships. Speaking of ships, that is what really sets it apart from other MMOs. You are not just outfitting and levelling up a hero, you have got a whole crew and a starship to manage and customise.

PLAY STAR TREK ONLINE FOR FREE

Rest your reading lobes for a minute as we take a look at the best MMOs on PC via the soothing medium of video:

Rift

Rift led a wave of new MMOs at the start of this decade, and has proved the most resilient of the bunch. Not only do its original strengths still hold up - the spontaneous events that see big groups of players band together against invasion, and the highly customisable class system - but Rift has transformed into one of the best MMORPGs over the last several years, too.

For one thing, developers Trion Worlds remain committed to the free-to-play push that gripped the genre back in 2013, and talk often about ensuring the system feels fair and generous. Even the game’s latest expansion, Prophecy of Ahnket, has no monetary barrier. And beyond that, the Crucia’s Claw update brought all the right sort of additions: the climactic return of a dragon goddess, bosses the size of houses, and the kind of high-level raid upon which lifelong friendships are founded.

EVE Online 

There is a good chance that you have already heard about one of the many tales of dark bastardry that have spun out of Eve’s New Eden. It is a game of cold-hearted betrayal, mining, economics, more betrayal, more mining, and the occasional thousand-person spaceship battles.

With CCP’s hands-off approach, the universe of New Eden is one of the most player-driven MMOs in existence. Wars that span weeks, if not months, across multiple systems. Years of plotting and sabotage to bring huge corporations down from the inside. Reports of huge losses in ships and cargo, some reaching the thousands of dollars in real world value. As you can imagine, it is not the easiest game in the world to learn, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible. Our own Eve Online beginner’s guide will show you how to set up in one of the best MMOs around. 

Lord of the Rings Online

Tolkein’s world of Middle-earth is a perfect setting for an MMO. It has great characters, a massive world to explore, and everyone is always fighting.

Humans, Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits – AKA: the good guys – make up the playable races of Lord of the Rings Online, and as hunters or burglars or one of the other classes, you will go on your own adventure, half-following in the footsteps of the famous Fellowship. Meet Ents, get lost in Moria, or take long rides through Rohan. Expansions push the story forward, following the books, and with each major plot point comes new mechanics, like the addition of mounted combat. If you have ever dreamed of experiencing Tolkien’s world first hand, then this MMORPG has you covered. Best of all, it is free-to-play.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

A galaxy far, far away is the perfect setting for one of the best MMOs, so it is no surprise that BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic is a winner. Play as one of eight classes, split across the Empire and Republic. Each has a detailed, dramatic story, and they are good. Surprisingly so. You can take on the role of an Imperial Agent, working for the good of the Empire by rooting out terrorists; a Jedi Knight sworn to hunt Sith and protect the galaxy; or even a slave-turned-Sith Inquisitor, playing a dangerous game of politics. You can play all of this for free, but as a subscriber, you can level faster and concentrate solely on the interesting class and planetary quests instead of the trite filler rubbish. 

Several expansions have kept it feeling reasonably fresh, but it is the excellent Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion that really deserves to be played. With its web of intrigue, relationships and a focus on player choice, it feels more like a proper Knights of the Old Republic sequel than anything that has come before it.

Secret World Legends

What if myths, legends and conspiracies weren’t works of fiction at all? Secret World Legends asks exactly that. It is an action-MMO set in the modern world, except this modern world is filled with cults, zombies, ghosts, demons and eldritch nightmares.

Secret World Legends represents a path MMOs could have gone down, but sadly didn't. A path where quests were more than just sources of loot and experience, attempted to tell compelling stories, and force players to engage their brains. A quest in Secret World Legends is as likely to be a puzzle that makes you search through real websites for the answers as it is to be one that just sends you off to behead a monster.

Once known as The Secret World, this bold and different MMO is now free-to-play in the new guise of Secret World Legends, and absolutely worth trying out if you are hunting for something more unusual. 

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a story of heartwarming redemption. When it was originally released it was not very good. In fact, it was terrible. This triggered Square Enix to take drastic action: ditch the old team, hire a new team and remake the game.

The outcome is A Realm Reborn. And it is good. If you are a Final Fantasy fan, you will adore Eorzea. It hits everything the series is known for: epic stories of good and evil duking it out, varied, painfully gorgeous environments, over-the-top characters, flashy cutscenes, and chocobos galore. It is also clever: players have a great deal of flexibility within their class choice. As soon as you hit a paltry level 10, you gain the ability to switch to any of the games eight combat classes at just the switch of the weapon. The upside is that players do not need to create alts to try out other roles.

Guild Wars 2

Where World of Warcraft is as traditional an MMO as they come, Guild Wars 2 is the weird, contrarian opposite. Its design can be seen as an attempt to fix and improve on every broken mechanic that online games persist in pursuing, and its success in these areas makes it one of the best MMORPGs you can play.  

It has few regular quests: instead players gang together to fight in rolling events – mini storylines that play out in stages depending on how gamers perform. These get players to work together organically, and also have an impact on the region they are in, perhaps reducing the threat of roving bands of monsters, at least temporarily. 

Right now, the new Path of Fire expansion is tasking players to kill Balthazar, the rogue god of war, before he brings Tyria to ruin. Should you not be ready to meet that challenge you can player lower-level adventures without spending a dollar, as the core game is now entirely free.

ArcheAge

ArcheAge can be a very traditional MMO, with quests, factions, and a completely forgettable story. But what makes it one of the best MMORPGs is that you can ignore all of that and head into the sea.

The ocean is huge. To sail from east to west in the fastest ship in the game can take anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour depending on dangers like storms, whirlpools, sea creatures, or pirates. There is even a legendary Kraken that dwells in the northern ocean, and it takes an entire raid of 40+ players and ten galleon-sized ships, cannons blazing, to even scratch it. Deep under the ocean you can find shipwrecks filled with delicious bounty, the hardest of which requires diving gear to reach.

High above, meanwhile, fly the dragon mounts introduced in Legends Return. ArcheAge’s bold recent update had players adopt the winged beasties as their own, raising them to adulthood and then riding them into battle. As premises go, it soars up there with the best.

World of Warcraft

Over a decade old and still the most popular MMO in the world, World of Warcraft is a bit special. During its long reign, WoW has changed a lot. New classes, races, a graphics overhaul, whole new continents... players can even travel back in time. It is huge, bewilderingly so, and you can speed through it so quickly now that it becomes easy to miss some of the surprisingly excellent story-laden quests that have sprouted up. 

At times it seems traditional, which is unsurprising considering it is the MMO that defined the modern style of the genre, but it is not above mixing things up. Take Garrisons, for instance: your base of operations in Draenor, where you command your loyal forces of either the Horde or the Alliance. They’re teeming with stuff to do, click and loot, and even NPC followers who you can send off on their own adventures. And the upcoming Battle for Azeroth expansion promises even more changes, with new Allied Races and RTS-style Warfronts. 

That's what we've come up with  how about you? Any favourite MMOs that we've left off the list?

Comments

Crimsoner
4 Years ago

Seriously? You're doing Top 10 lists now? This is utter clickbait, and you know it. I mean, feel free to do a "Our favourite MMO" list, but "10 best mmo list" is real N4G clickbait.

Shriven
4 Years ago

+1

Nilbog
4 Years ago

"This list [is] in no particular order".... that is why I numbered them..... when I could have just listed them.... yep.

Sydthmadhr
1 Year ago

so what?

Nick Wilson
4 Years ago

Hey there Crimsoner,

Thanks for your feedback. Just wanted to clarify that I mentioned in the intro that this list was in no particular order. It can be astounding how many people missed that part =D.

magicus
4 Years ago

Except that it's pretty obvious which is your favorite game, considering you have it bannered at the top of the article, give it a perfect review, and say you're installing the client again as you're writing! And by the way, I played Quake 3 for 10 years, no PvP in any MMO out there comes remotely close to that kind of competitive FPS gameplay.

AskJesus
6 Months ago

Well, that really comes down to opinion. I have had some really fun experiences that have made me feel the rush in games like World of Warcraft. It really comes down to preference of genre and game.

AnAuldWolf
2 Years ago

I'm so fond of Elder Scrolls Online, personally.

Originally, I wasn't a fan. That was the fault of their advertising. They played it up as beefy people fighting giant beasties in bloody battles with raids and all that jazz. Great for people who want that, but I am not one of them. I prefer something with just a dash of the cerebral to it.

I gave it a go. Two of the factions turned out to be what I expected, but I was absolutely floored by the Aldmeri Dominion and their political squabbles. You see, I've mumbled a bit before about the presence of prejudice in video games and how it helps to create a toxic atmosphere.

Yes, racism in a fantasy setting absolutely should be dealt with! Why? There are people involved with lives which are ruined by it, with feelings, and it can be a great allegory of the suffering experienced by those in real life who've been put through the wringer of life thanks to discrimination.

I'm autistic, so this hit home with me and resonated strongly. The first story of the Aldmeri Dominion is an intelligent look at the extremes of prejudicial thinking and the evils it can bring with it. It looked at how it affects people in different ways, and put forward the notion that, yes, something should be done.

The Thalmor University place was really intense for me. It had me grinding my teeth and I was actively bothered by it on a rather deep, emotional level. It was something of a parody of the Judge Rotenberg Centre, and places like it. A dark place where people who were deemed to be 'different' were abused and conditioned so that they would be less different.

It was tactful, sensitive, and clever. These are not words I apply to MMOs. I don't usually think of MMOs in terms of story. Here, though? It had me on the edge of my seat, tackling real world problems through the lens of a fantasy world.

Most often, video games will pander to the masses and make even the most disgusting, nauseating individuals feel welcome. I remember how Ragnar did this with Dreamfall Chapters. My problem there wasn't that -- as Ragnar spun it -- there was discrimination et al. No, not at all. Rather that NO ONE stood up and said how horrible it was.

Video games can be used to educate people about why discrimination is horrible and how it can ruin lives. It needs to be revealed for the disease it is, and how for it can go to be toxic, even deadly, to society as a whole. In general, designers fall over backwards to include these toxic people, though, to get their money.

Not ESO. I don't know why, but there are intelligent writers working at ZeniMax Online Entertainment. And for the first time in an MMO since Uru: Ages Beyond Myst, I was on the very edge of my seat. I needed to know what would happen next.

It continued to excel. With each zone telling a completely encapsulated story, and never forcing me to grind so much that I would stop enjoying it. It's a perfect balance, and for the first time I felt I understood why anyone would play an MMO. Of course, the Aldmeri Dominion isn't very popular -- to the contrary, it's the red-headed stepchild of the factions -- so perhaps that's a misleading perception.

The truth might be more that ESO's Aldmeri Dominion isn't all that akin to an MMO at all.

I feel genuine rage at their marketing, though. I want to fight them. I want to drive away the demons of idiocy and replace them with entirely more competent people. My issue is is that I know there are people like me out there who'll take one look at the advertising and never experience the just bloody exemplary storytelling of the Aldmeri Dominion.

And that's a shame.

If all MMOs were so grind free and story heavy...

Well, I'd have a lot less time on my hands!!!

Sadly, the rest couldn't give a care about tactfully dealing with real world problems in a fantastic setting, and realising that you can do more with a force to fight than some dragon. The rest seem to settle for 'some dragon' though, and I'm just not into that. I like dragons! I don't want to be that beefy pea-brain with torso muscles that don't actually exist bursting into the lairs of innocent beasties and slaughtering them in the bloodiest ways for imagined crimes. That's just not me. And that wasn't ESO, either. Bless it.

Edit: I will add that it got extra bonus points by having werewolf mode's sounds essentially being someone saying 'rar rar rar' and then feeding the result through a filter. That just never got old. Yes, sometimes I can be easy to please via things so utterly ridiculous.

Chantlilly
6 Months ago

The box illustrations kept me from playing EQ for a year and a half before my kids showed me the gameplay. I really like the 1st person viewpoint. It helps me feel like I'm really there even if I'm jealous of my character's appearance.

AskJesus
6 Months ago

If I could, I would give you the classic stand up slow clap. This is 100% true.

panbient
2 Years ago

This list just makes me miss City of Heroes so much more than I did 5 minutes ago.

Malakie
4 Years ago

Sorry but I think there is one other game that should have been included on the list above all else. It does not have the flashiest graphics, the coolest weapons nor the fastest pace but it IS the grand dad of them all and it IS still running and it is still fun to play... Ultima Online.

Stranger
4 Years ago

The list is a little messed up.

Shriven
4 Years ago

.

Akeldama
2 Years ago

I'm glad Black Desert Online didn't make the list, because they need to seriously fix their community of atrocious edgelord neckbeards before it gets any positive recognition.

Antigollos
2 Years ago

BLACK DESERT ONLINE!

MaliceAlyce
2 Years ago

In terms of value for money, quality and community I would say WoW is the most reliable, even though I don't play it anymore, I find myself often lost in nostalgia. Just the overall bullshit that f2p and even b2p models blast you with, it's just less stressful.

Chantlilly
6 Months ago

Everquest. The graphics aren't the best but the gameplay and number of quests is amazing. There's free to play and pay to play and you get a lot of gameplay in the F2P mode and a lot more in the pay to play. I pay by the year to get a better price. Heh, I'm thinking about dumping my satellite TV. I'd rather play Everquest. It has an added bonus that isn't readilly apparent, and that is it doesn't require a lot of keystrokes to play. If you've got carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis, or like me, both, that makes it an ideal way to pass the time. Only reason I'm here today is they're doing an update to add Holiday content, seasonal quests and rewards. I started in 2001 and I've tried WoW and there were some others that I don't remember, but also EQ2 which was a dud.

Its sad that you guys left out one of the best mmorpgs that still has active servers with thousands of people still playing since 2002 and that title is called Final Fantasy 11, please make an exception because FFXI is still the best mmorpg you could find anywhere, even though the setup cd's are only obtained through ebay and amazon, its still accessable to new comers