Massively Multiplayer Online games are nearly as old as PC gaming itself. The most memorable moments in most games happen towards the end, after a lot of progression – but if the experience of getting to those moments is rough, players will leave and not experience what makes a game truly special.
MMOs fall victim to this a lot, especially MMOs that keep the majority of content locked behind the max level. The process of leveling a character in most MMOs tends to take a long time, but the best games make the process worth it in the end.
10 Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 launched nearly a decade ago and its unique combat mechanics and its go-as-you-will approach to exploration and leveling made it stand out amongst other MMOs at the time. The game starts in a pretty interactive introduction based on your character’s race.
Its combat mechanics, class mechanics, and weapon abilities take a few hours to get used to, but the game’s huge world and vibrant art style make the journey worth it. Plus, the game is planning to release its third expansion soon, and there’s no better time to get going.
9 EVE Online
EVE Online is a notorious MMO for its incredible complexity and fanatical player base. EVE Online functions as a persistent world where every player, base, resource, and fleet can interact with one another in the near-infinite world.
EVE Online is one of the most complex games for new players to learn, so be prepared to keep wiki tabs open while playing. The game gets really good when playing with a fleet of other players or engaging in total space warfare, but usually, only the most skilled players learn to survive.
Runescape has seen a resurgence in recent years thanks to its availability on multiple platforms and the release of Old School Runescape, a carbon copy of the game from 2007 with player-voted changes. Both games take some time to get into, but Old School Runescape is especially arduous.
The modern version of Runescape has lots of ways to get around the world, new abilities, and a new level of convenience. Old School Runescape, however, is just as much of a grind as it was back in the day. It’s a nostalgia trip that gets surprisingly fun when at higher levels.
7 World of Warcraft Classic
The granddaddy of all modern MMOs was re-released in 2019 to fan acclaim. While retail World of Warcraft is extremely forgiving and convenient, World of Warcraft Classic is a reminder of how difficult the game used to be when it was first released.
World of Warcraft Classic keeps just about everything from the original MMO. After a few hours of leveling, getting gear, and learning your abilities, World of Warcraft Classic becomes an enchanting yet challenging experience everyone should try.
6 Lord Of The Rings Online
Lord of the Rings Online is one of the more casual MMOs listed here. It doesn’t ask much of the player in terms of min/maxing gear for endgame content, and the leveling process is both fun and pretty accurate to the Lord of the Rings series.
The game is free and is set to receive a major graphics overhaul, but it still feels a little dated at the start. As the player progresses, though, they will discover how nice it is to play an MMO that doesn’t demand speed leveling. Instead, it encourages the player to take a long time and be patient.
5 Everquest and Everquest 2
Everquest and Everquest 2 were among the first MMOs to truly go mainstream. The games are both still free and still updated to this day, even though they are decades old and have few (but dedicated) fans. Everquest is significantly more dated than Everquest 2, but both are still fun for different reasons.
The main problems with the two titles in the modern day are their dated gameplay mechanics and cliche feel (although it was a pioneer in the MMO space). The later levels and areas are still beautiful, though, even for players who didn’t play these two games back in the day.
4 Final Fantasy 14
Final Fantasy XIV is a huge game that actually released twice – it was a failed launch initially that received a complete overhaul in 2013 to re-boot the game entirely. Since that re-boot, the game has been massively successful and critically acclaimed, particularly for its story.
Final Fantasy XIV is a graphically beautiful MMO that takes its time to tell the player everything they need to know about playing the game and exploration. After that initial process, though, it’s one of the most stunning and well-put-together MMOs to come out in recent years.
3 Star Wars: The Old Republic
Star Wars: The Old Republic launched to an underwhelming response initially and has become much more popular in recent years after several updates and expansions. The game was switched to a free-to-play model and the developers fixed a lot of bugs bothering players, bringing back a stable player base.
Star Wars: The Old Republic features systems not seen in other MMOs, including dialogue that actually matters, and might take some getting used to if you’re coming from another similar game. It’s another title that puts a lot of focus on the leveling experience, and its rough start is easily forgotten once the story really picks up.
2 The Elder Scrolls Online
The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) launched relatively recently compared to some on this list, but it also boasts the most amount of content released in that short time span. The Elder Scrolls Online has five expansions under its belt already, each more interesting and detailed than the last.
The Elder Scrolls Online has a basic introductory segment that explains the basics of combat and controller play. The world’s systems (guilds, crafting, etc) might take a minute to figure out, but the incredibly detailed world and meaningful questlines make it well worth the time.
1 Secret World Legends
The Secret World: Legends is a very story-based MMO that has a small but dedicated fanbase progressing the game along. The game boasts over 100 hours of story in total but takes its time to get to the really juicy parts.
It stands out from other MMOs out there for its modern setting. Players go to real-life locations in the game, not made-up ones, in their war against the supernatural. The game is gorgeous visually as well, but be prepared to learn a whole new way of playing an MMO.