MMO’s have dwindled somewhat in recent years from the boom they once had in the early 2000s but with a recent resurgence, they are coming back better than ever and expanding their audiences to tens of millions of players.
It’s not just World of Warcraft or Eve Online anymore that are bringing in numbers upon numbers of users to play together in one collective world. The best of the MMOs allow players from all over the world to play together, fight together or against each other in a virtual space.
After playing every MMO on this list and many, many more that did not make it. We’ve put together our list of the top MMOs to play in 2019 because there’s a lot of choices out there but not every MMO will keep gamers happy if they are after different things from the grind, the story, the PVP and much more.
The Top MMORPGs to play in 2019
Although we recommend every MMO in this list, if we had to choose just one in 2019 to play then it would have to be Final Fantasy XIV. There’s not a lot of MMOs out there at the moment that has all the moving parts needed to keep the majority of gamers happy but, FF14 comes pretty close.
There’s a stunning world filled with colour and monsters you’ll recognise from the signature franchise, a captivating personal player story which neatly leads you to end game so that you can participate in huge dungeons and events.
It’s not the perfect MMO however, as a lot of gamers have gripes over the cooldown times for skills and spells and combat in general. This combined with it not being an action-based MMO can mean it feels much more traditional as you need to “stand and shoot” rather than more fluid combat of recent MMOs. It’s more aligned to WoW with its questing and levelling so endgame can also be repetitive. Finally, it’s one of the few subscription-based games in the space, meaning you need to pay each month to keep playing.
There is a free trial up to level 35 though, so you can give it a go as a newbie and see if it’s your cup of tea. It’s something we’d recommend to any gamer looking for an MMO to start out with or someone whose been around the block but yet to pick it up.
Played Final Fantasy XIV Online? ESO is our next favourite.
If you’ve already played FF14 and were here hoping to find other ideas, then we would recommend you continue down the list and see if anything takes your fancy.
Our next favourite MMO for 2019 has to be ESO or Elder Scrolls Online. It’s a buy once, play forever type game and is playable on console and PC. It plays a lot like Skyrim but with a lot of cool changes to make it work as an MMO. So, in essence, it has the feeling but a completely new game in play – you’ll be able to choose from a number of classes, races and customise your character.
Take on questions, the main story and uncover the secrets of Tameril or at endgame take up the raids and dungeons after forming a party. If you’re up for it you can also take on the RvR battles for the Imperial Throne and become the leader above all others.
Top best theme park MMORPGs
Theme park MMOs are probably the one most are familiar with as they are as the name suggests almost a straight line of quests from level one to max level and endgame content. They like to hold your hand in a familiar setting walking you through the game while you level up your character and take on quests and kill mobs.
World of Warcraft
Release Date: 23rd November 2004
Payment model: Subscription with paid expansions
It would be a crime not to mention this game first as one of the major players in the space that set the precedent of what a popular MMO looks like.
Even after over more than 10 years of service, there’s not been much of a sign that the game has slowed down and continues to pump out updates and expansions with Battle for Azeroth being the lastest one to join the roster. It was not as highly regarded as previously released add-ons but did take players to a new high-seas adventure and brought new modes into the game with procedurally generated island expeditions.
Even if you are not a fan of the seven seas, you can start from the early game and work your way up with a number of races and classes familiar with almost every high fantasy RPG out there. Plus, you can question, raid, PvP, team up and head into dungeons plus a load more.
It is another subscription-based MMO again, plus you need to buy each expansion as you level up and get to that content area. There’s a free trial that can get you started and then you can decide if you want to continue and purchase “game time” and the DLC to keep playing.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Release Date: 27th August 2013
Payment model: Subscription with paid expansions
Originally launching with a rocky start in 2010, it was plagued with disappointment and subpar reviews from a number of outlets. Square Enix decided to keep battling on and rebuilt the entire game with a brand new team and relaunch the game with a new relevant title, A Realm Reborn.
A Realm Reborn has done a much better job and bringing back fans of Final Fantasy into an online world that is full to the brim of content and takes a lot of inspiration from what made World of Warcraft so successful while updating parts to make it not just a WoW clone but a decent MMO that stands on its own feet.
Unlike other more traditional MMOs where a class was your lot for life, FF14 did not tie down characters to any one class. You can swap between “jobs” whenever you liked and can borrow abilities from other classes just like the class Job system in the console Final Fantasy games.
The story was what drew in much attention to FF14 with a slow start but building up into a climactic ending that was much loved. It took your character across the continents which spanned the two expansions, Heavensward and Stormblood which gave the great stories from FF7 and FF10 a run for its money.
Endgame though has always struggled to keep players interested as content comes out but not as quickly as other MMOs which meant running the same dungeons over and over again. Even with this though, the world is still popular and the recent release of Shadowbringer deliver even more content to get involved in with new classes, areas and features.
Release Date: 25th January 2011
Payment model: Free-to-play
Other MMOs focus on trying to bring as many players in by offers a lot of different things to entice players to quest, love the story or combat. Tera has always focused on hardcore combat and is the main function behind how the game plays.
You play and progress much like FF14 and WoW but the quests and monsters are usually a hell of a lot bigger as soon as you get out into the world (and there not even raid bosses). They are able to dish out serious damage and you need to be focused in the action-based combat to dodge and attack which brought a new standard of play to the MMO space.
Now, a free-to-play game it focuses most of its an effort on delivering high once and fast-paced combat both PvE and in PvP. Like other F2P titles, it does have a cash shop where you can use real-world money to purchase in-game items but most premium items can be bought with the in-game currency as well.
It’s well known in the space for beautiful visuals and if you fancy it you can also play as a small girl with bunny ears as you take down a monster 100 times your size. If you want a challenging fight and action combat, there are not many MMOs out there that can beat it.
Top best sandbox MMORPGs to play
Black Desert Online
Release Date: 3rd March 2016
Payment Model: Buy to play
Black Desert Online is a Korean MMO which in the MMO space can be known as grinds upon grinds upon more grinding. While Black Desert Online is not much different when it comes to grinding it does offer one of the most expansive sandbox systems out there.
With the ability to craft almost anything and become almost anything there’s a lot to take in when first starting out, which makes the game very steep to learn for beginners. Once you do start questings and levelling up though you’ll see one of the most fluid action combat systems on the market and a beautiful world to explore across different nodes which divide up the cities.
Unlike theme park MMOs you can basically do whatever you want, start up your own business, build a fishing empire or become a bandit. The choices of how you play in BDO is very much up to you and a lot of gamers like this freedom. You can hire workers to do a lot of your mundane tasks and collect resources or gold or purchase some building which can be turned into blacksmiths, storage depots and much more.
Spend your days taking down world bosses or just manage your farm and bring in some cash to spend on another business. Each are just as fun and the ability to choose makes Black Desert Online a game for someone who does not like limits or being tied to a rail.
Plus, the game graphics are stunning.
Release Date: 4th January 2001
Payment model: Free-to-play with a premium subscription available
Being one of the oldest MMOs to ever exist you’d expect it to be retired but with numerous updates and massive overhaul to the engine that powers it, Runescape has a new lease of life. Even with the rise and fall of other MMOs, it’s still going and has never stopped being something different from others.
Freedom is what drives Runescape and has done since the good old browser days were membership was £3 (the good old days). You are thrown into the world with very little apart from a couple of items to get you started and what you do or where you go is up to you. The skill systems allow you to basically be anything you want, become a monster slayer or just sit back and run your own stall outside the bank of crafting materials.
If you remember the old school Runescape like me, then your choice is expanded more as you can choose to play the new one with shiny graphics or head back into the older game. Thanks to how it works on just about any computer even your grandad could play it. Focused on the content above all else and freedom to do so, it’s one of the most unique MMOs available.
Release Date: 6th May 2003
Payment model: Free-to-play with a premium subscription available
Eve Online is probably known by most gamers today and the signature sandbox MMO even after 16 years. It has the reputation of being the worst MMO when it comes to players as the world is ruled entirely by its players. They create the laws and start the wars and even cheating is welcomed if you can get away with it.
Eve Online is one of the most complex western MMOs ever and has system after system piled on top of each other. CCP has spent a lot of time trying to make the game more welcoming for newcomers but the best way to learn is to get burnt a few times yourself by just playing it.
It was a paid service but a couple of years ago they finally went free to play which means you can try the game out for free but with a limited set of ships and skills that you can use. If you manage to build yourself up you can be released into the starry inverse with endless possibilities, from space pirate all the way to a simple miner and trader.
Join epic battles that span across galaxies, rise to the top or betray your allies and join the enemy at an attempt to rule over everything. Be careful though, it might not last… as you’ll need to watch your back always.
Top best story based MMORPGs
Normally stories are the thing most skipped in any MMO, you are there to get you quest, complete it and collect your reward. There are however some who wish to dive headfirst into the story of any MMO world and understand the history, backstory of the civilisation and the secrets.
Elder Scrolls Online (ESO)
Release Date: 4th April 2014
Payment model: Buy-to-play with DLC and premium subscription available
Elder Scrolls when it first came out suffered from some launch issues but after a year of tweaking Bethesda was able to get the game back on track. It’s become one of the strongest MMOs on the marketplace today and it has a lot to do with its steady stream on expansions that add more well-known areas of Tamerial to explore.
Morrowind, Summerset home of the High Elves and the recently released home of the Khajiit, Elsweyr are some of the places you can experience new lore, quests, characters and a host of things to do. Each of the expansions is massive allowing plenty of time to be spent uncovering the new “world” story of each expansion. On top of a decent main narrative, ESO has some of the best side quests in any MMO for storytelling, keeping kin to games like The Witcher 3.
Outside of the story though, ESO offers a lot of freedom to design your own house, get married for EXP bonuses and participate in-the-way PvP. Combat works in a lot of ways like it did back in Skyrim but will MMO elements for skills, levelling up and crafting skills to kit out your character. The One Tamriel Update also gave way to level scaling so any area can be completed at any level.
Secret World Legends
Release Date: 3rd July 2012
Payment model: Free-to-play
Another MMO which was re-released as a free-to-play after starting out as a buy-once, Secret World forgoes the high fantasy route for a more modern take. You can play as one of three factions based on real-world conspiracies like the Templars and the Illuminati. All wrapped up in a very Lovecraft inspired a world of demons, vampires, zombies and other things that go bump in the night.
Questing in Secret World takes a different approach wit their investigation based quests, so it’s not all about killing. You need to collect clues to help you through the journey and complete puzzles with the help of Wikipedia and other websites just to progress. It still has the standard questlines you’ll find in any MMO but these story and puzzles based ones really make it stand out giving off a Heavy Rain type vibe.
Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO)
Release Date: 24th April 2007
Payment model: Free-to-play with DLC
Lord of the Rings MMO came out quite a while back and has steadily kept a pretty healthy player base thanks to the rich foundations the universe is able to offer players as an MMO. Sometimes overlooked because it is considered a “WoW Clone” but only inspiration was sought after and there are differences which make is anything but. It explores the world that Tolkein created in much more detail that the movies bringing the world of Middle Earth to life in a way you can interact with more deeply.
If you are a fan of the books or the movies then playing Lord of the Rings Online is highly recommended as each realm has been carefully built with the original script in mind with a lot of care and attention not seen in many MMOs. It’s not aged all that well since 2007 but if you overlook the graphics and head into with an open mind on the story, you’ll enjoy the ride.
Top best MMORPGs for PvP
Questing and dungeons are fun, the story is nice when it is good but sometimes you just want to jump into a game and fight another real-world player. PvP in MMOs is a stable evolution of your character to master the games mechanics and meta builds for characters to create a machine on the battlefield. These MMOs that focus heavily on PvP put much more emphasis on their combat and class skills systems than others offering up a much more competitive space to test their skills for bigger rewards and bragging rights.
Guild Wars 2
Release Date: August 28. 2012
Payment Model: Buy-to-play with DLC
I could not write about a PvP MMO and not think of Guild Wars 2 as there’s not another MMO in the market that has done as well at creating a league around its combat in the genre. You can play across multiple different types of PvP, from the traditional deathmatch with teams to objective-based modes such as capture the point or take part in World v World to compete against hundreds of players at once.
Guild Wars 2’s action-based combat is what makes it fun, you can roll, dodge and move around the battlefield in ways, unlike any other MMO. Skills have been designed to assist your ability to dodge or get up close with the enemy and has “downed” states for players, which can either be revived by allies or finished off with finishing moves by the opposing team.
Each class has its own role in combat and there are plenty of skills and builds to choose from to design your character for the most devastating presence on the field. More importantly, PvP is not limited to max level characters as taking part automatically levels you to endgame temporarily where you can build your character and skill sets without restriction.
Even with recent wobbles with balancing issues, ArenaNet is constantly tweaking and getting feedback from players to make sure PvP stays fair but challenging.