This will ruffle some feathers. The staff at MMORPG.com, from President Craig McGregor and CTO Ben Krueger, to our wonderful list of reviewers, columnists, and community managers, all the way down to your humble and lowly Managing Editor (me) have voted. We took the top player-rated games from our Game List, including those that have been closed after launch, and we ranked them. Each of us filing up our own top 35 list from greatest to least great. Why 35? I think you'll all agree that while we might have 800+ games on our list, not all of them are MMOs, and not all of them are very good.
So the purpose of this ranking list is take stock of all we've played in the past fifteen-plus years and try to make sense of the games and where they stand in the greater scheme of an ever-changing industry. What makes a "Great MMO"? Well, in our voting we took into account both the technical and community achievements of each title, but also its wider effect on the MMO genre as a whole. In short, this list isn't just about what we think is "The Best", but also about what we think has had the most significant impact on culture and gaming as a whole.
With that in mind, here comes numbers 15 through 6 of the Greatest MMOs of All Time.
15.) The Secret World
The Secret World will probably go down in history was one of the most underappreciated MMOs ever made. Despite garnering a strong and loyal following on sites like this, TSW never found mass appeal. And that's a shame too, because Funcom's modern day horror MMO has probably the best story and questing to date in the MMO world. A lot of folks blame the stilted combat for TSW's lack of appeal, but we tend to think it's the game's modern setting, dark IP, and mature themes that just kept it off the radar for the masses. It was, and this isn't a bad thing, always going to be a niche title. Still, it's open class system, insanely good mysteries, and truly generous F2P model make it one of the best games you can play today.
14.) EverQuest 2
EQ2 was once right on even keel with World of Warcraft. Both launched in November of 2004, both aired commercials in movie-theatres, had billboards all over major cities, and both were thought to be the coming of a new generation of MMORPG gaming. Alas, Blizzard stole the throne away from the might Norrathian game, and the rest is history. But in the over 10 years since EQ2's launch, SOE and now Daybreak Games have injected so much content, care, and built in so many new systems that EverQuest 2 has clearly done just fine in the shadow of the WoW behemoth. There are few games that can claim to have added as much content as EQ2, and with a new expansion right around the corner, the future for the venerable MMO looks bright indeed.
We're not in Azeroth anymore. That was Rift's big marketing salvo aimed at WoW, and while (like EQ2 before it), Rift could not topple WoW and eventually became Free to Play, like EQ2 Trion's flagship MMO has gone on to live a long and healthy life with several expansions and oodles of free content under its belt. The most recent, Patch 3.4's Into the Wilds just brought six new souls (classes), new raids, new dungeons, new crafting items, new housing items, and a massive new zone for level capped folks. The servers may not be as crowded as they were then Telara first breathed anew, but today Rift is stronger than it ever was in terms of gameplay. Plus, it evolved the public quest system first coined by Warhammer Online with its titular rifts, giving us a system of dynamic content in a themepark MMO that is yet to be matched or surpassed.
12.) Meridian 59
Meridian 59: Evolution is now a free-to-play, open source, 3D PvP-oriented MMORPG. Its original incarnation was released in 1996 and is widely credited as the first graphical MMORPG. That original release was overhauled and relaunched in 2002, with 3D graphics and many new upgrades. The game does not have a class system, but rather a skill system based on one school of weaponcraft and six schools of magic based on the game's patron gods of Shal'ille, Qor, Kraanan, Faren, Riija, and Jala. The usual questing, monster hunts, and raising skill levels, exploration, and character customization are there. PvP is the bread and butter of Meridian, and most of the recent updates have focused on adding new modes and tweaking the system. It's one of the oldest MMOs around, and still has a faithful and loyal following.
11.) Asheron's Call
Asheron’s Call is one of the original sandbox MMORPGs. Set in the world of Dereth, a heroic fantasy setting of medieval influences, familiar and unfamiliar creatures, and over 500 square miles of virtual world to explore and in which to adventure. AC gained game by disregarding specific classes by allowing the player to choose what skills to develop, thereby creating the type of character they want to play. AC forgoes dividing the world up into zones, creating one huge seamless world where thousands of gamers may exist in the realm at the same time. Plus, if you're lucky, you'll find the killer rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. That alone may earn it a spot on this list. It's now free to play for everyone, so if you've yet to experience Asheron's Call, go remedy that travesty.
10.) Final Fantasy XI
One of the original MMO addictions, and quite possibly the first true console MMORPG, FFXI is the game that introduced a whole segment of the RPG fandom to the possibilities of massively multiplayer online gaming. Players enter the world of Vana’diel, a land with a healthy mix of magic, swords, and technology, and where the inhabitants are on a constant search and struggle for control of the crystals, the fundamental source of all creation. Players create characters from a list of five races and fifteen ‘jobs’ to take on challenges throughout Vana’diel’s four vast continents.
Dark Age of Camelot is the deluxe MMORPG from Mythic Entertainment. Now run by spinoff company Broadsword, DAOC is set ten years after the death of the fabled King Arthur of Camelot. Sensing that the once great city is gradually weakening, the enemies of Albion, such as the barbarous Norse from Midgard and the magical Celts from Hibernia, have set their sights on finally crushing the city and destroying King Arthur’s realm once and for all. DAoC pioneered large-scale Realm vs Realm combat, while still having the usual expected MMORPG features such as PvE, questing, a large variety of races and classes, player and guild housing, a quality combat system, mounts, pets, and all based on excellent lore.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is Square Enix's second online installment in the legendary Final Fantasy series. Players adventure in the regions of Eorzea, and can switch between tons of unique classes and even more sub-specializations by equipping different weapons. The PC game was originally released in September of 2010, but it definitely didn't go well. It but was brought back into development for a full overhaul and relaunched alongside the PS3 (and eventually a PS4 version) in 2013. If that endeavor hadn't been a success, FFXIV would very well be on a "Worst MMOs of All Time" list. Instead, Yoshi P and team took FFXIV and turned it into one of the best theme park experiences and a true Final Fantasy experience. If you want proof of FFXIV's success around the globe? Note that it's one of a very select few MMOs remaining that still operate with a pure subscription-based model. FFXIV fans are fans for life, it seems. And there's plenty of reason why.
7.) Ultima Online
This one was Bill's personal #1, but luckily this isn't a dictatorship and his vote only counted once. Ultima Online is one of the defining games of the MMORPG genre. From designer Richard Garriott's vision for a multiplayer RPG world, it has been influential on many of the most successful and popular titles that came after it. Set in Medieval Brittania, the game is a 2D fantasy RPG that follows the single-player Ultima series. UO allows you to choose a class, train skills, and upgrade player stats to advance. Many gameplay mechanics and features that we now consider traditional in MMOs, such as living in a virtual world, building player cities, leveling, crafting, exploring, and more were either forged by or made classic by Ultima Online. There is an extensive crafting system and resources to gather for use in both skill training and crafting, and to this day UO remains one of the most fervently defended MMOs. It may not have had quite the social reach of EverQuest, but UO will also be so many gamers' first MMO love.
6.) EVE Online
EVE Online is the first class space-faring sandbox MMORPG developed by CCP. Players enter a vast universe housed on a single game server, and filled with planets, ships, asteroids, space stations, moons, wormholes, various complexes, and thousands of other players. EVE lets players choose their own class from hundreds of skills, keeping play free form and fluid, not as restricted and dependent on set skill trees as other MMORPGs do. The same free form method also applies to customizing ships, with hundreds of models, rigs, and subsystems to choose from. It was once the highest fan-rated game on this site, and while it seems to be waning in popularity these days, EVE still maintains one of the truest sandboxes, where politics and war intertwine. Grown from humble beginnings, EVE became the quintessential sci-fi MMO, and will likely remain with that title for years to come.
That's it for this week's picks. Next week, we're down to the TOP FIVE. What games do you think will land there? Did we miss something here? Discuss! Might as well argue about things that are fun to argue about... that's what we do!