F2P games, especially the Eastern variety, are heavily scrutinized. Generally, users at mmorpg.com dislike f2p MMORPGs and particularly hate f2p Asian MMORPGs. While many f2p games are lacking in quality, or are designed to be cheap replacements (such as WoW clones), this was not the origin of the f2p MMO. In this list, I want to show examples of games that are both original in concept and originally free from conception. No freemium games such as EverQuest 2 extended, AoC: Unchained, or DDO: Unlimited on this list. There is also an absence of WoW, Aion, and Lineage 2 clones. Some of these games are new, but many of them are older and important to the history of f2p mmorpgs. These games are not only played because they are free, but played because they offer a unique gameplay experience (in fact, two on this list that were originally free switched to subscription! How often do you see that?)
10. A Mystical Land - A new MMORPG that plays in your browser. The game is filled with humor and has a medieval setting (not so much high fantasy). The game is filled with silly jokes, sound effects and the game does not use original music, but publicly owned classical music for its soundtrack. However, the game has decent graphics, robust crafting, mini games, and a lot of skills to skill up! It is fairly polished and unique and while not likely to be phenomenally successful, it will have a strong following with casual gamers for a long time.
9. Atlantica Online - There are no subscription games comparable to Atlantica Online. It offers unique turn-based gameplay and oldschool JRPG gamers eat it up. This is one of the most popular f2p games for a reason.
8. Graal Online - although some may argue that this game is not "massive" enough to be an MMORPG, I still put it in on the list due to the fact that it was one of the few free options back in the early 2000s. This game started out free for players but moved to a subscription service. Today, it has a microtransaction model which allows you to buy in-game currency. You can also design your own world and pay to have it hosted and therefore accessed by Graal players. In the player-world that I normally played in, there was open PvP and graphics ripped from Zelda: A Link to the Past. Character customization was insane! I remember playing a blue haired princess wielding a pink light sabre... A game with a similar concept today is LinkRealms Online...
7. Dofus - this unique French MMORPG is captivating and neat and definitely a game that has more going for it than being f2p. Unique characters, tactical gameplay, and a colorful world... and an optional subscription for those who want a little more. This is the type of game that earns your sub and doesn't coax you into buying overpriced digital items. Watch out for the future as the makers of Dofus are putting out a new game with some very interesting ideas and will also be published by Square Enix. That game is Wakfu.
6. Vindictus - this game made such a splash that even people who only follow the AAA titles took notice. Vindictus is an f2p brawler with amazing graphics and intense gameplay. Vindictus is in a league in its own due to amount of polish and value. You need a good rig to run it though. Perhaps if you cannot run Vindictus or prefer something a little less bloody (and anime), then Dragon's Nest is the game for you.
5. Mabinogi - another Nexon game makes the list. Mabinogi is filled with features. There is so much to do, dozens of skills, and a ton to explore. You character ages. You can farm for food. There is a season and weather system. You can compose and play music. You can have a part-time job! This is on top of your usual crafting and adventuring.
4. Glitch - another newer game on the list and also a browser mmorpg. In Glitch, there is no combat! The game is focused on community, crafting, exploring, and world shaping. The actions of players in Glitch can have real effects on the game world. Want to use tree poison and destroy all the trees in an area? You can do it. Want to cure a poisoned tree that another player poisoned? Buy an antidote and do it! Want to own a viritual home and get to know your neighbors and make communtiy decisions? You can do that in Glitch too. Best of all, Glitch is truly f2p and items in the item mall are purely fluff. There is an optional subscription if you want to support the game, get a good deal on item mall currency, and participate in politics.
3. Maplestory - How huge of a success is Maplestory? Huge! Side-scrolling action, a bright and colorful game world, awesome music, and a lot of social features (like getting married). When this game came out for FREE in 2004, people could not help being excited about this unique game. In fact, there are quite a few MapleStory clones out there. That is pretty impressive as it is usually the AAA subscription games that get cloned.
2. Ragnarok Online - this is the second example of a game that started out free and became so immensly popular that it changed to a subscription service. Graal and Ragnarok both went p2p around the same time, and that made me a sad teenager. My options were cut down to Conquer Online and Runescape (this was before the flood of f2p games, after all). Interestingly, it is hard to find proof that this game was originally free on the internet... but it was! So what made Ragnarok unique? Several job classes and abilities, isometric view, a "Final Fantasy Tactics" look.... Today, Ragnorak is f2p again (but still has a server for subscribed users that offers faster leveling and other perks).
1. Runescape - Many people may hate Runescape because they find the controls clunky or the combat unsatisfying. But hundreds of thousands of players have found that Runescape is the game for them. Open-ended gameplay, tons of skills, lots of crafting, and the ability to interact with the world around you... This was also the game that I played because I could not get my parents to pay for a subscription to Ultima Online (my uncle played it and I admried him for it).. But I think Runescape has more going for it than just being f2p and has been a great and convenient place for gamers to hang out and quest for years.