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.
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.
As varied as it is satisfying, Crossout is a post-apocalyptic MMO action game from Targem Games that gives you the chance to scavenge and craft the materials to build more fearsome vehicles of battle beyond the imagination of any ten-year-old.
In what is essentially a free-to-play Mad Max: The Game, you customise a unique and wide range of vehicles with dozens of bespoke parts and use them to destroy your enemies in high-octane, action-packed skirmishes. You can play in both PvE and PvP modes, even fighting against player-created bosses.
You also have plenty of weapons at your disposal: rocket launchers and machine guns favour the most offensive and in-your-face players, whilst stealth generators and drones give you a greater choice in your approach. All your explosive efforts go toward your choice of five factions, too, earning you new blueprints, missions, parts and, storage space. Shooting and building things has never been so lucrative.
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?
Blade & Soul
Blade & Soul is a Korean MMO so popular it prompted a 10,000 signature petition to bring it to the West. Why all the fanfare? With a bombastic revenge plot mashed together from the likes of Kill Bill and Old Boy, and a on-wire martial arts fighting system, this is an F2P MMO with a rare stylish twist.
As majestic and graceful as the game’s combat is, it’s also remarkably easy to get the hang of. Every move is tied to a clean and simple hotbar on the screen, allowing you to keep track of cooldowns and key-mappings on the go. That makes for Crouching Tiger-levels of acrobatics that don’t need lengthy combos or special ability meters to enable.
A first-person battle game with cartoon visuals and champions: Paladins might have a lot in common with Blizzard’s Overwatch, but it’s worth seeking out for more than the fact that it’s free. Developed by Hi-Rez Studios, who made the massively popular MOBA Smite, Paladins boasts a refreshingly simple class system that categorises its champions by their main strategy on the battlefield.
Damage, Support, Flank and Front Line are the champion types players can choose from, which makes deciphering their strengths and weaknesses dead easy. Playing as a Flank champion like Skye will mean you’re best suited to attacking key objectives from behind enemy lines, whereas a Front Line champion excels at holding the line and stopping enemies from getting through. Ultimate meters for each hero also mean that the action never results in a stalemate by ensuring every player has an ace up their sleeve that can potentially turn the tide of the match.
What makes Smite different? Switching out the favoured top-down view of most MOBAs for a third-person, over the shoulder view that brings players closer to the action. It’s a small tweak, but it’s one that adds a lot to the flavour and pace of its gameplay. The result is that Smite feels more like an action game, but all the MOBA fundamentals are in place: roles, creeps, towers and lanes.
Like Dota 2 and League of Legends, Smite’s main mode features two teams of five gods engaging in a gladiatorial-themed bout for dominance of the arena. Unlike those MOBA behemoths, Smite boasts a glut of other game mode variants like Joust, which reduces the number of lanes to just one, and Assault, which randomly allocates a god to every player. So if you’re not chasing the eSports prize pools, there’s enough gameplay variety to keep players coming back for more.
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.
Unlike most MMOs, there’s actually stuff to do at sea. Especially after the Maelstrom update, which introduced the game’s first PvP arena - a high-drama whirlpool of ocean monsters, undead, and other players. What’s more, ArcheAge’s astonishing 40+ player raids are far more easy to organise and sustain these days, thanks to new raid finding and group-syncing tools.
Head on over to page two for more free MMORPGs and other F2P games…