What is the best MMO RPG on PC in 2020? Is it one with spells to sling and demons to slay? Working your way through the stars as a miner or a corporate bigwig? Solving ancient conspiracies and fighting Lovecraftian horrors? Maybe it’s all of them.
But, hey, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What’s an MMO, anyway? Well, those oft-used letters represent the words Massively Multiplayer Online, and refer to games where hundreds – if not thousands – of players come together in the same world. MMORPG games like World of Warcraft offer new lands to live in, exchanging your regular life for one of adventure, profit, and danger.
Here’s our list of the top MMORPG games on PC, kicking off with a few of the top free PC MMOs. You’re sure to find something that will swallow up entire days at a time – be that the most popular MMORPG in the world, or a hidden gem with a dedicated community.
Rift led a wave of new MMOs at the start of this decade, and has proved the most resilient of the bunch. Not only do its original strengths still hold up – the spontaneous events that see big groups of players band together against invasion, and the highly customisable class system – but Rift has transformed into one of the best MMORPGs over the last several years, too. Rift is still being updated with seasonal events, adding delights such as an adorable mummified corgi companion for Halloween.
BLADE & SOUL
Blade & Soul is a Korean fantasy martial arts MMORPG. And, if that is not enough to pique your interest, frankly, we don’t know what will. Perhaps the game’s intricately designed world – inspired by the visual style of artist Hyung Tae Kim – four unique races, and ten compelling classes will sway you.
Whether you choose to play as the mighty Gon, the versatile Jin, master of the natural world, Yun, or the mystical Lyn, doing battle using the fast, high-octane combat system is always a joy. Rapid counters and combo chains are essential, whether you team up with friends to tackle a wide range of dungeons or you want to do your virtual scrapping in PvP. Don’t forget to check out our Blade & Soul tips before embarking on your new wushu quest.
ArcheAge can be a very traditional MMO, with quests, factions, and a completely forgettable story. But what makes it one of the best MMORPGs is that you can ignore all of that and head into the sea.
The ocean is huge. To sail from east to west in the fastest ship in the game can take anywhere between 45 minutes and an hour depending on dangers like storms, whirlpools, sea creatures, or pirates. There is even a legendary Kraken that dwells in the northern ocean, and it takes an entire raid of 40+ players and ten galleon-sized ships, cannons blazing, to even scratch it. Deep under the ocean you can find shipwrecks filled with delicious bounty, the hardest of which requires diving gear to reach.
ArcheAge is free to play, with a premium subscription available that offers several perks, including the ability to claim your own patch of land – not instanced, genuinely taking up space in the open world – on which you can build a house or even an underwater aquafarm full of fish. Alternatively, there is ArcheAge Unchained, a new separate version of the game that gives you access to all the perks of a subscription for a one-time fee.
Regardless of which version you choose, the fantastical world of ArcheAge is the perfect setting to embark upon a life of crime on the open seas, where you’re essentially playing a pirate game and everyone else is an unsuspecting sailor – but instead of a parrot, you’ve got a dragon.
GUILD WARS 2
Where World of Warcraft is as traditional an MMO as they come, Guild Wars 2 is the weird, contrarian opposite. Its design can be seen as an attempt to fix and improve on every broken mechanic that online games persist in pursuing, and its success in these areas makes it one of the best MMORPGs you can play.
It has few regular quests: instead players gang together to fight in rolling events – mini storylines that play out in stages depending on how gamers perform. These get players to work together organically, and also have an impact on the region they are in, perhaps reducing the threat of roving bands of monsters, at least temporarily. End game content is constantly evolving through the Living World episodic updates, the latest of which will pit heroes against the dragon Jormag and his icebrood. Should you not be ready to meet that challenge, you can play lower-level adventures without spending a dollar, as the core game is now entirely free.
If you’re looking for an MMO where you can sit back, relax, do a little crafting, and tend to your farm while popping out for the occasional fight and odd monster hunt, then Albion Online is not your game.
It’s PvP from the get go and for that reason you’ll always need to be alert and on-guard. The full-loot drop system can be slightly frustrating, but Albion Online demands players to be tactical and patient. It’s a lot of fun, and requires brain power and perseverance to steer your guild in the right direction, but it’s as rewarding as it is tough.
STAR TREK ONLINE
Miss Star Trek on TV? Star Trek Online might just tide you over until Discovery reappears on television screens. Each quest in this MMO is like an episode of the show, and each mission series is an arc, complete with the occasional filler episode.
Take a trip to Risa, visit DS9 in Star Trek Online, land on planets and practise your diplomacy, or get into tense space battles with Cardassians, Romulans, Borg, and whoever else is causing mischief. Space fights are tactical, while playing out in real-time, as it’s key to position your ship to get the most out of your firing arcs. On any away missions that devolve into combat, the game turns into a squad-based third-person shooter, complete with ability cooldowns.
Despite a rocky start, STO has grown into a gargantuan, compelling, and free MMO and one of the best space games out there; it’s frequently expanded by massive updates that add whole new storylines, and a while back the neutral Romulan faction introduced unique missions and ships. Speaking of ships, that’s what really sets this game apart from other MMOs. You’re not just outfitting and levelling up a hero, you get a whole crew and a starship to manage and customise.
Neverwinter is a surprise. It is thematically Dungeons & Dragons, taking the places, classes, spells, and abilities from the tabletop game, and then cramming them inside one of the best MMORPGs. It should not work, but somehow it does. It helps that there is an earnest love for the source material, and each quest feels like one you could imagine yourself embarking upon while sitting around a table.
Lots of free expansions – which include new races and classes – have been introduced in the time since Neverwinter launched, taking players far from the safety of Neverwinter itself, to lands like Icewind Dale, where barbarians and unpleasant temperatures are the least of your worries. It is a mostly linear MMO, but if you start running low on new content, there is always the player-created stuff, which contains some real gems hidden away the rubbish.
Word of warning, though: unless you approach the game casually, you will probably have to spend money. It is become increasingly difficult to play for free, though certainly not impossible.
Trove is an action-focused MMO, most often compared to games similar to Minecraft and one of the best building games on PC. Firstly you’ll need to build a base, a home from home, where you can fashion all sorts of creatures, weapons, and items. Once your homebase is established, you’ll be able to zip between worlds and loot dungeons and go on quests online with your friends or guild pals. Trove’s dedicated community are always updating and bringing the best mods to Trove, so there’s always something to do whether you’re improving your base or looting with your online buddies.
Skyforge stands out as one of the best MMOs thanks to the combination of its unique class system, excellent early game, and beautiful world. Incentivising experimentation and personal exploration, you are able to select between any class you have unlocked, allowing you to dramatically switch playstyle at a moment’s notice without having to go through another hundred hours of re-levelling. And it all takes place in one of the most fetching game worlds we’ve encountered, an elegant mix of high fantasy and ludicrous sci-fi.
The early game is varied and interesting, with many options as to how to do your tasks, and plenty of rewards that let you pick and choose how you want to play. It switches regularly between solo-instanced areas that tell a linear story, wide-open zones that encourage casual teaming up in a lived-in world, and group content that is more difficult but offers better loot. While it is gated by your Prestige number, you are unlikely to run out of things to do and have to go grind it out.
There is a good chance that you have already heard about one of the many tales of dark bastardry that have spun out of Eve’s New Eden. It is a game of cold-hearted betrayal, mining, economics, more betrayal, more mining, and the occasional thousand-person spaceship battles.