Last week I covered the best casual MMORPGs, so it was only fitting that we shift our gaze this week towards the most hardcore games the genre has to offer. Instead of focusing solely on games that are currently live and flourishing, I’ve mixed it up with some old-school entries as well on this list. First and foremost though, I define hardcore to mean games that are inherently designed to be difficult, unforgiving, and intense by design. By this definition, they just don’t make MMOs like they used to.
While the majority of MMOs that have released in the past 10 years have mostly focused on delivering a themepark style experience that focus on accessibility and wide reach, the epic worlds of the best were happy to beat you down. This isn’t to say that hardcore games don’t exist today, but new ones are few and far between. Now let’s take the time appreciate the top 5 best hardcore MMORPGs of today and yesteryear.
5) Dark Age of Camelot
Often times, when something is fondly remembered from a past that seems distant and far away, it’s never as good when revisited. Sometimes though, just sometimes, things will age well and retain some of their original magic – such is the case with Dark Age of Camelot. While it’s far from as groundbreaking and revolutionary as it was at its original launch, the game actually holds up very well in its modern state.
If you’ve ever played a game with an open-ended or large-scale PvP system, chances are they are iterating off of systems that were originally created in DAoC. From realm vs. realm combat, to sieges, to large-scale field battles and everything in between, DAoC probably did it first. While the game isn’t as hardcore as the others on this list in the traditional sense, it remains to be one of the most satisfying PvP focused MMOs of all-time.
Darkfall, which is now known as Darkfall: Unholy Wars, is a subscription based fantasy MMORPG with real-time aiming based combat. It boasts lots of systems and features that are clearly designed to make the game lean very heavily towards not only extremely hardcore playstyles, but also to encourage ruthless PvP. It’s a game that truly takes a tremendous amount of skill to master the game itself, but also a significant time investment in order to progress enough to be competitive.
The game has everything from large-scale siege-style warfare, to rampant duels, and even PvE content for those seeking it out. Amidst all of these features though, most of all is the simple fact that the game has completely open free-for-all looting for all corpses in the game. Yeah, even player characters. With its open PvP areas and full loot, that means that you run the risk of losing all of your possessions no matter where you go – that automatically makes this game all the more epic and intense. If you crave this time of brutally unforgiving gameplay, then D: UW is hands down your best modern option in the genre.
Of course you must have known that EverQuest, or as it was commonly known in its heyday, EverCrack, would make the list. Not only is this game often regarded as the big one that brought the genre mainstream, but it was a truly intense and hardcore gaming experience as well. A lot of people running around in the World v. World map on Guild Wars 2, or in raids in World of Warcraft might think they’ve got it rough today, but they have no idea. Until you embark on a multi-hour corpse run to retrieve your valuables that are left on your body several zones away, you don’t know the meaning of a tough life.
Before you chime in about EverQuest, keep in mind that the EverQuest that’s live on official severs today as a free-to-play title is a mere shadow of what it used to be. Not only is the entire model and structure of the game different, but many of the gameplay elements have been revamped or changed entirely. Thankfully though, its legacy will forever live on and the epic boss fights that drained hours of life from millions will never be forgotten.