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.
If you’ve played a whole bunch of MMOs you may be tired of the traditional combat systems that so many of them use. Bucking the trend is TERA, which trades in click-to-attack mechanics for fast and fluid third-person action combat. It’s so action focused, in fact, that you can even use a controller. Think Devil May Cry as an MMO and you’re halfway there.
That rapid combat doesn’t mean there’s no RPG depth, though. Everything you’d expect from a massive MMO is right here, from expansive open worlds to intricate skill trees. The Korean heritage shines, too, with detailed character designs and all sorts of monster varieties to get your blades stuck into.
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.
Master X Master
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Rifts, as you might expect, are what makes Rift one of the most lively and exciting free MMOs on PC. These titular portals open up unpredictably across the world, spawning in hordes of enemies or gigantic bosses and forcing every player in the area to band together in order to repel the demonic attacks.
Of course Rift isn’t just a multiplayer adaptation of whack-a-mole, it also boasts one of the most flexible class systems in the genre, allowing players to create a variety of builds. From the very specific to the Jack-of-all-trades: every style of play is catered for.
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.
Guild Wars 2
With a storyline that reacts to the player’s actions, Guild Wars 2’s narrative is unique by MMORPG standards. Instead of traditional quests, players will encounter dynamic events that pop up around the game world. Likewise, there are multiple paths to completion for each of these encounters, and intentional or not, your actions in Guild Wars 2 will have consequences.
For example, defending a town from a group of rampaging ogres might cause them to return with deadlier weapons or seek out refuge in a nearby cave – you’ll have to deal with the fallout of these events, whether that means repelling a stronger attack or hunting down and killing the remaining ogres. The result is a free MMO with the questing diversity of a triple-A RPG: what’s not to love?
Where World of Tanks and War Thunder revel in the military hardware of yesteryear, Armored Warfare drags online tank battles kicking and screaming into the near future. That means better tech, both offensively and defensively, and more upgrades to play with as you level up. It's also being made by Oblivion, which isn't something you expect from a F2P tank game. Like missiles. And who doesn’t love missiles?
Its near-future setting means each player in PvP is the head of their own private military company, essentially swapping out the nation-based tech trees of its competition and allowing players to pick the vehicles they want in their army. Managing your garage of tanks so that you’ve got hardware to suit every situation is tough when you can pick from practically any tank in the modern world.
Free MMOs are rarely as pretty on the eye as buy-to-play, triple-A titles. Skyforge is the exception. Wander through the sci fi fantasy-themed planet of Aelion – admiring the beams of sunlight that poke through the foliage or the crisp fidelity of the lightning that’s shooting from your character’s hands – and it’s easy to forget you’re playing a game that cost you exactly nothing.
But Skyforge is more than just a pretty face in an otherwise ungainly genre. Few games do as much to actively encourage experimentation across different classes as Skyforge does, allowing the player to switch between classes in an instant, opening up all of the game’s combat styles for experimentation and mastery.
Head on over to page two for more free MMORPGs and other F2P games…