The best free MMOs are:
- War Thunder
- World of Tanks
- World of Warships
- Star Trek Online
- Blade & Soul
- Star Conflict
- and 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. And in the air, too - the most recent update introduced dragon mounts, reared by players to become fearsome sky-conquering beasts. If that sounds a little intimidating, you can always try one of ArcheAge’s progression servers - starting with a fresh, launch version of the game and exploring the newer features as they are gradually introduced.
A free-to-play MMO with some extensive creative tools that let players make pretty much whatever they like, Trove is essentially the culmination of all good things: Minecraft’s versatile crafting, RPG-style questing, and a good measure of multiplayer madness.
Trove is not tied down to a specific theme or setting either, which is why you are able to play as practically any class you can dream up, from a dual-wielding gunslinger to a dino tamer. Similarly, most of Trove’s landscapes are procedurally generated, ensuring you never run of out of places to explore.
Planes, tanks, and ships battling it out for ever and ever and ever. That is the ultimate goal of War Thunder. It is a F2P title that 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 is 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.
That realism means it can be a little tricky to get started, so be sure to read our pilot's manual, AKA the War Thunder beginner's guide.
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 are a fan of military hardware, you are a fan of World of Tanks. Unlike War Thunder however, World of Tanks does not ask you to pour hours of research into learning the armour ratings and layout of every vehicle in the game; instead, World of Tanks takes a more arcade approach.
That is not to say there is 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 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 is 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 its on-tracks sibling thanks to the sheer scale its warfare is conducted on. Oh, and it has got some lovely sunsets too, if that is 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.
The name and setting of Neverwinter has a long and storied history online, beginning in 1991 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 will have to reach for those if you do not want to – expansions have taken Neverwinter players to some of the most beloved corners of the Forgotten Realms, including the Underdark and Icewind Dale.
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 have 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 are wandering through space, the next you are 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.
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 is shooting from your character’s hands – and it is easy to forget you are 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.
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.
Blade & Soul is a Korean fantasy martial arts MMORPG. And, if that’s 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 - and 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, the mystical Lyn, or any of the many other roles, 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. And since it's free, you can get started right now with help from our Blade & Soul guide, no cash required.
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 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 will 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?
If you have 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 is so action focused, in fact, that you can even use a controller. Think Devil May Cry as an MMO and you are halfway there.
That rapid combat does not mean there is no RPG depth, though. Everything you would 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.
A space MMO that has been running for years now, the sheer scale of Eve Online is its greatest strength. Eve’s 7,800 star systems combine to make a bountiful sandbox, letting you get on with anything from piracy to mining, or even taking part in space battles so destructive that they consume the lives of 20 million virtual soldiers and last for nearly an entire day.
Better still, developer CCP have also made Eve Online free-to-play, meaning you can check the game out for yourself without having to commit money to it. Earn your way to the top of a player-run corporation by collecting resources and trading frugally, or command your own fleet of ships after proving yourself a loyal and skilled soldier – it is up to you. And since the game is constantly evolving, thanks to things like the new Eve Online Into the Abyss update, there's untold years of life left in this MMO veteran.
A first-person shooter game with cartoon visuals and champions: Paladins might have a lot in common with Blizzard’s Overwatch, but it is worth seeking out for more than the fact that it is free. Developed by Hi-Rez Studios, who made the massively popular MOBA Smite, Paladins is built upon a 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. Still confused? Just check out our best Paladin's champions guide. Playing as a Flank champion like Skye will mean you are 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.
Combine these core elements with constant updates that bring additions such as the Paladins battle royale mode, and you have a shooter that will keep you entertained for years.
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 is a small tweak, but it is one that adds a lot to the flavour and pace. The result is that Smite feels more like an action game, but all the MOBA fundamentals are in place: roles, creeps, towers, lanes, and - of course - the best Smite gods.
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 are not chasing the eSports prize pools, there is enough gameplay variety to keep players coming back for more.
Fractured Space is a stellar space combat game that is as tactically deep as it is exciting. The explosive action when you reach the climactic close quarters gamma stage is one of the best in the free-to-play business as you take the helm of vast Fractured Space spaceships in epic battles.
Edge Case Games have not just produced a solid action game, here: Fractured Space has the tactical complexity of the likes of League of Legends or Dota 2, making the game fun to learn, but tough to master.
A variety of game modes - brought to stunning life in Unreal Engine 4 - scratch every interstellar gaming itch you could have. If you want to play alone or just learn the ropes, give the solo PvE mode a go. Up for something meatier and more complex? Conquest mode, the beating heart of Fractured Space - is where you should go. In Fractured Space, tactical complexity meets thrilling combat in one of the best free games out there.
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 is not just a multiplayer adaptation of whack-a-mole. It 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.
Anybody with taste will know that there is nothing better in life than piloting a massive spaceship. Dreadnought, a 5v5 space combat sim from Yager Development, kindly lets you do this - without hours upon hours of training.
In Dreadnought, it will not just be you looking cool in the pilot’s seat: your ship will too. You can customise every last element of your ship so your airborne enemies can gawp at how ‘fly’ you’re looking before they get blown to smithereens. The game has several tactical team-based modes to explore as you look to expand your fleet.
If dragons and magic are not 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 are there to play a game of golf, and so are loads of other people. The benefits? No extortionate club fees and snooty folk. Fortunately, Winning Putt is underpinned by a more than serviceable golf mechanic that is much more complex than simply aiming a trajectory arc so the golf ball goes in the golf hole over and over again.
League of Legends
A player base of almost 67 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 137 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. And if you were into LoL back in the day and have been out of the game for a while, League of Legends' tournament mode is perfect to get you back onboard.
Path of Exile
An action-RPG cut from the same cloth as the Diablo games, 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.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Making an MMO out of the beloved Final Fantasy series was never going to be easy. As if to prove that point, Square Enix made a royal mess of Final Fantasy XIV the first time around and had to take another swing at it, eventually turning one of their worst games into one of the best free MMOs on PC.
Unlike other MMOs, Final Fantasy XIV doesn’t force players down the route of having to grind endlessly with multiple characters in order to see which combat class they want to play as. Instead you just need to make it to level ten and the ability to switch between the game’s eight combat classes is magically unlocked. It is also one of very few cross-play MMOs, which means you can inhabit the same world as PlayStation users. You lucky thing.
Lord of the Rings Online
Wouldn’t it be nice to enter an MMO without having to plunge multiple hours wrapping your head around its lore? Chances are you will already know the basics of Tolkien’s Middle-earth before heading into Lord of the Rings Online – so that is half the battle.
The other half is avoiding all the quests, NPCs and PvP encounters so you can get on with what you’re really there to do: explore all the most famous locations from the franchise – locations like Rohan, Moria, and the Shire. In fact, pretty much every setting in the lore has made it into the game in some form, although in typical MMO fashion you will have to do a whole lot of farming in order to meet the level requirements of some areas.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
When you are starting out Star Wars: The Old Republic it will not strike you as a unique MMO. You get some story, pick a faction and a class, and do some typically grindy missions for a while. Surprisingly though, that story soon gets better – a lot better – and you quickly find yourself pouring hours into the game just to get to the next cutscene.
While it began life as a subscription-based MMO, SWTOR is now also completely playable for free, although you should expect levelling up to take a little bit longer. If you fancy playing as a slave-turned Sith or an Imperial Agent, though, it is a worthwhile grind.
At 17 years of age, Runescape isn’t far off being able to buy itself a pint at the pub. By gaming standards it should be abandoned and decrepit, but with a still thriving community, one of the best free-to-play models around, and updates so regular it is nearly impossible to keep track of, Runescape still feels as young and fresh as it did in the early 2000s. Quests, new characters, festive events, and entirely new features have come and gone in their hundreds.
Runescape is also one of the friendliest MMOs around, with a community of veterans who are always willing to lend a hand to a noob in need. Even after some graphical upgrades, it is not the easiest MMO on the eyes, but that does at least mean you can run it on a potato.
Highly customisable player housing, a telegraphed combat mechanic, and environmental storytelling are among the many best traits of Wildstar, a free-to-play MMO made by a team of ex-Blizzard devs. It has got all the usual MMO trappings you would expect from the genre, like PvP, dungeons, and a variety of class and race types, but there is plenty that makes Wildstar feels unique among its peers.
Sky Plots, for example, are Wildstar’s solution to restrictive player housing. These plots are open to anyone the player allows entry to, and while the exterior of each house can only be tweaked slightly, the interior offers total creative freedom.
Combat in Wildstar is less about cycling through your abilities and mashing keys than it is in other MMOs, though there are still traces of that, but the inclusion of telegraphed attacks means both you and your opponent have a chance to counter or dodge attacks.
World of Warcraft
One of the most famous and adored MMOs around, and one that most associate with a hefty subscription fee, World of Warcraft actually has a free-to-play trial now, although you won’t be able to take your character above level 20. While the Starter Edition of WoW limits a few features, there is enough to do before hitting the level cap to make this a worthwhile entry. You may even get to see some of the best World of Warcraft moments before your time runs out.
World of Warcraft earned the record for having the most concurrent subscriptions (12 million) for a reason. Azeroth is enormous and ever-growing thanks to new expansions like Battle for Azeroth, and it will be years before you feel like you’ve seen everything that is hidden away in its various dungeons, cities and regions.