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 number 35 through 26 of the Greatest MMOs of All Time.
35.) A Tale in the Desert
A Tale in the Desert will forever be one of those games that’s underappreciated by so many. An indie title before “indie” was en vogue, A Tale in the Desert has been around now since 2003, and remains to this day as one of the only MMORPGs both set in Ancient Egypt and completely devoid of combat as a main attraction. Instead, ATITD is all about crafting and socializing and working together to solve game-wide puzzles. Interestingly enough, it’s also one of the few MMOs to have a beginning and an ending, with “Tellings” making up the game’s history where servers are reset and new challenges are proposed by the developers. The 7th Telling of A Tale in the Desert began on September 11th, 2015.
While we don’t think anyone would argue that Vanguard was a polished or complete game at launch, that didn’t stop this massive and deep MMORPG from having some excellent features that other games would do well to ape (Diplomacy anyone?). Though the game only lasted seven years from 2007 until 2014, it was widely regarded by its players for its complex crafting, social systems, and wondrous and immense open world. Perhaps if the game had the team and budget it needed, we’d not be left commiserating its untimely demise. But some things, as they say, are just not meant to be. We’ll always have Telon, folks.
Ah, Shadowbane. Those now watching with much anticipation the rise of Crowfall would do well to read up on Shadowbane. Shadowbane was the brainchild of Wizard101 creators J. Todd Coleman and Josef Hall. Crowfall indeed looks to right the wrongs and learn the lessons taught by its forebear, Shadowbane. Launched in March of 2003, and closed on July 1st, 2009, Wolfpack Studios’ claim to fame will forever be the game’s intense siege warfare, unconventional races, and complete lack of instancing (which would later come to dominate the genre). Like many games in the MMO arena, Shadowbane lacked polish in many areas, but had a strong and loyal following (one that lives on today in many forms). Here’s hoping Mr. Coleman and ArtCraft Entertainment have learned the lessons bore by Shadowbane’s loss.
32.) Lineage 2
Lineage 2 will forever be living in its big brother’s shadow (Lineage 1 remains one of the world’s most-played games outside of NA/EU regions). But that doesn’t mean L2 didn’t have plenty of its own great bits and pieces. Though deemed too hardcore and tedious by critics (who weren’t necessarily wrong), Lineage 2 has still garnered a large and devoted following since it’s original 2004 NA release. With continued content updates, and some of the best siege PVP around, Lineage 2 will likely remain among the NCSoft catalog of games for a long time to come… or at least until Lineage Eternal comes out. Whenever that may be.
31.) Ragnarok Online
We couldn’t make this list without including the original Ragnarok. Though it was never widely played in the West, Ragnarok Online has amassed over 40 million players since its original launch in South Korea back in 2002. It may offer nothing “special” in terms of features these days, but RO remains as one of many MMOers first games, and therefore has a special place in a lot of hearts. Plus, it’s spawned countless spinoffs, animes, and more. If cultural significance alone were enough to put a game on this list, RO would probably be even higher. The upcoming MMO Tree of Savior looks to bring the success of Ragnarok Online’s original incarnation into a new generation of MMORPGs, coming from the same creator, Kim Hakkyu.
30.) Fallen Earth
Fallen Earth is one of a very few MMOs to try something truly different from day one. Not only is FE one of the only post-apocalyptic MMOs on the market, it can be argued that its survival aspects led developers of today’s survival games to their own inspiration. Creating your own ammo, crafting pretty much everything from ammo to your own bikes and ATVs. To this day Fallen Earth has one of the more complex and interesting faction systems, as well as integrated VOIP and physics based gameplay. It may not be aging too gracefully (its visual look was dated even when it launched), but Fallen Earth still deserves a spot on this list.
Wizard101 doesn’t get a lot of respect from our hardcore grown-up MMO crowd… but it should. Despite its kid-friendly nature, W101 is one of the deepest MMOs around, and one of the very few that offer card-driven strategic turn-based gameplay. Plus, it’s as close to Harry Potter the MMO as we’ll get for at least another few years. Mounts, housing, PVP, mini-games, a full-blown story… it’s all here and definitely earns a spot on the best MMOs of all time.
28.) Age of Conan
Age of Conan had one of the rockiest and most disappointing launches in MMO history (a plight known well to its maker, Funcom). But that’s OK in our book, because though it never became the PVP siege warfare heavy game it was originally intended to be, under the tutelage of the fantastic Craig Morrison (now at Blizzard) AOC became one hell of a dark and gritty PVE theme park. Could it have been more? Maybe, but we’re inclined to accept it as it is: a fantastic take on RE Howard’s work with some of the best combat in MMOs available.
27.) Path of Exile
Ever wish Diablo 2 was a full-on MMORPG? That’s what Grinding Gear Games wanted, and so they made it happen. Path of Exile is not only one of the most fair F2P MMOs available in terms of its cash shop, but it’s also got the most ridiculously deep and versatile skill trees around. Now with its own housing, crafting, and an excellent 4 Act story, Path of Exile is easily one of the best Action MMORPGs around. Go play it, love it, and live it.
Though now overshadowed by its newer and shinier younger brother, the original Planetside has the glory of being the world’s first true MMOFPS. Open world, tons of vehicles, class-based roles, tons of weapons, capture points, and on and on. Now fully Free to Play with NO MICROTRANSACTIONS, Planetside may not be getting any further development but Daybreak (formerly SOE) is keeping the lights on for now. Before it’s gone, go play it, and see a piece of history. Then play the heck out of Planetside 2, which is a little higher on this list…
That’s it for this week’s picks. Next week, it’s all number 25 to 16. 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!