Have you ever dreamed of being a valiant knight heroically slaying monsters? A powerful wizard astounding everyone with magical incantations? Or a roguish scoundrel living life on his or her own terms? Well, MMORPGs have been helping millions of people fulfil such fantasies for a while now.
The number of these astonishing virtual worlds has been booming in the past decade. But, which fictional land is the lushest, most imaginative, welcoming, but perilous, relaxing, yet exciting?
Prepare for a trip, as we’ll explore the ten most played MMORPGs of all time based on criteria such as:
We’re going on an adventure!
In the list that follows, you’ll get a glimpse of varied and wonderful worlds, containing anything from mythical monsters to weathered Jedi and Sith warriors. So let’s jump right in!
World of Warcraft presented the allure of the MMORPG genre to the world: an immersive, rich, beautifully written world that presents a better alternative to reality at times. No wonder, then, that almost 117 million WoW subscribers have given it their souls, imaginations, and lives, and they continue doing so even today—15 years after release.
Since the 2004 World of Warcraft release, countless developers have tried to emulate its success. Alas, WoW is eternal, and no other game has captured the charm and exhaustiveness of its fantasy world, the sense of peril and adventure, or the well-developed gameplay systems.
So, what has the best fantasy MMORPG of all time done to keep things fresh? Well, eight major expansions have been released so far, with the last one in 2020. The development team introduces new storylines and gameplay elements with each new expansion, thus enticing old players to return. It works: even though the WoW player numbers dip, they rise back up.
Nowadays, players worldwide embark on their Azeroth adventure (either solo or as part of a group) through one of 556 realms across all regions. Before you step into this world of eternal conflict, however, you must create a unique character, choose a roleplaying or a normal realm, and whether you will lend your strength to the honourable Horde or the disciplined Alliance.
You can play WoW for free by installing the Starter Edition. However, without a subscription, you will not have access to various features, such as progressing above level 20, earning more than 1000 gold, pet battles, expansion content, and more. Should you choose to enjoy everything the game offers, you can select one of the following subscription plans:
Fun fact: You can visit a Warcraft-themed park called World Joyland., located in Changzhou, China.
One of the newer MMOs to tickle our fancy is Destiny 2 since it adds another layer of immersiveness with its first-person perspective. Activision initially published the game in 2017 with a pay-to-play model; however, Bungie reacquired the game’s publishing rights and converted it to a free-to-play living game.
Destiny 2 owes its player count to the numerous improvements over its predecessor. From a more robust story to better graphics, multiplayer modes, exploration, and public events, the newest entry in the series shows it has learned from the failings of the first one. Bungie’s sequel also retains the same player-versus-environment (PvE) and player-versus-player (PvP) modes.
The Destiny 2 players take the mantle of Guardians of Earth’s last haven, which is under threat of conquest by Ghaul and the Red Legion. As a protector, you wield the Light to combat the looming threat of the various alien races and the imposing Darkness. The story of this struggle between the Light and the Darkness is continuously worked on with each new expansion.
Destiny 2 comes on many platforms, and similarly to other free-to-play MMORPGs, its base game content is available to anyone. However, if you’d like to enhance your gaming experience, you can purchase various DLCs, passes, and bundles. Through the game’s Steam page, you can also buy its in-game currency, which can be used to customise your character.
Fun fact: After the Leviathan Raid, you have a slight chance of getting a key called the Loot-A-Palooza, which you can use to start a Dance Party.
Final Fantasy is an MMORPG franchise created by Hironobu Sakaguchi in 1987. Since then, Square Enix has developed and published 15 entries in the series, with a new one on the way. However, 2013’s remake of the original Final Fantasy XIV is currently the most successful game in the series, with over three million active daily players.
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn was developed as a reaction to the harsh reception of the original FFXIV released in 2010, which was doomed as a critical and popular failure. But, by getting the famed Naoki Yoshida on board, Square Enix managed to right the ship and produce one of the most played MMORPGs of all time.
The game is set in the fictional land of Eorzea, five years after the events of the original 2010 release. At the end of the original game, the dragon Bahamut destroys much of this mythical world, thus symbolising the destruction of the old game and the release of the new. In this new version of Eorzea, players are tasked to handle the impending invasion of the Garlean Empire.
To play Final Fantasy XIV, you will have to purchase the base game (Starter or Complete Edition) and pay the regular FFXIV subscription cost. However, before you commit to the game, you can enjoy a 30-day free-play period after purchasing the game. To continue playing after this free month, you have to get one of these membership plans:
|Membership Tier||Subscription Length||Monthly Price||Max Characters||Max Characters per Server|
Fun fact: Many of the game’s fictional areas were inspired by real-world places, such as the Saudi Arabia’s deserts.
Jagex released OldSchool RuneScape in 2013 to appease the nostalgic requests of their fans for the 2007 version of the original RuneScape. Irrespective of the fact that the developer was hard at work on RuneScape 3, which included massive modern improvements, players simply yearned for the times of old when they traipsed around Gielinor slaying monsters.
Note that, even though A smaller development team maintains Old School Runescape with less frequent updates, it’s currently enjoying a larger fanbase than RuneScape 3, according to the most recent OSRS stats. In turn, it makes it one of the most played MMOs in the world, with around 3.1 million daily active players.
The fictional realm of Gielinor welcomes all brave adventurers to brave its varied environments and climates. Its many kingdoms are inhabited by all manners of creatures and magical races, from humans to dwarves, fairies, elves, and trolls. However, gods created and ruled the world of Gielinor before any of these mortal races clashed and inspired the game’s quests.
The game is free to play for anyone. However, membership definitely adds up to the experience by unlocking the full game content, which includes additional skills, quests, items, games, navigation options, as well as the entire world map. The easiest way to get an OldSchool RuneScape membership is via Steam by paying for one of these subscription plans:
Fun fact: Players who drop a gold ring in the Wilderness Volcano will witness Gollum appearing and screaming: “My Precious!!! NOOOOOOO!!!”.
Despite the everlasting popularity of World of Warcraft and the hunger for new stories, a fraction of its fan base also grew nostalgic for the classic game experience. In an attempt to recapture the early charm of the game Blizzard released WoW Classic in 2019 as a love letter to all those who were there at the beginning and those who wanted to know what it was like.
Over 25 million WoW Classic players have decided to look through this window in time to a land where joint adventures were a fantastic and unique experience. This vanilla version of the game depicts Azeroth in a pre-Burning-Crusade state, with all the original gameplay mechanics, absent the numerous changes and improvements introduced in the later expansions.
When we look at the current WoW Classic stats, we are reminded of players’ feelings for their careless childhood gaming years and their wish to relive them. The development team deftly utilised this mass nostalgia to effectively create a separate game that belongs on today’s top ten MMORPG list in its own right.
As far as pricing is concerned, don’t look for any WoW Classic subscription plans since you get access to the game when you pay your standard WoW subscription, detailed above.
Fun fact: The Classic development team emulated the release cycle of the original game by issuing its major patches via the original phases.
Developed by ZeniMax Online Studios and published by Bethesda in 2014, the Elder Scrolls Online is the first MMORPG game set on the fabled continent of Tamriel. While the initial ESO player count and reviews showed mixed feelings about the game, the team re-released it a year later to critical praise after implementing numerous beneficial changes.
Rare are the gamers unfamiliar with the Elder Scrolls franchise, which has been a part of gaming culture since 1994. Of course, we’ve all enjoyed Skyrim, right? Well, it’s still going strong thanks to its community and the various re-releases. Well, the central idea behind ESO was to unify and open all of Tamriel’s lands in an online joint adventure format.
Nowadays, the ESO player base experiences events that happened on Tamriel centuries before the main storylines of the single-player games. The Second Era of this fictional universe is rife with conflicts, and players will fight to preserve their world and overcome other factions in the race for Tamriel’s seat of power.
You can play Elder Scrolls Online on all major platforms, and as far as pricing is concerned, the new rebranded ESO, known as Tamriel Unlimited, has transitioned to a buy-to-play model with an optional subscription. Known as ESO Plus, the game’s payment plans (as listed below) come with numerous benefits, such as full DLC access, extra currency, storage, XP, and more:
Fun fact: The ESO player base is placed in two unconventional megaservers (North America and Europe) and phased when necessary, unlike the standard server implementation in other MMORPGs.
Originally released as a java browser game by Jagex in 2001, RuneScape was eventually moved onto a standalone C++ client in 2016. For that reason, the current third iteration of the game (released in 2013), known as RuneScape 3, is much different from the original game. In 2018 and 2020, respectively, the game was also released on mobile and Steam.
The latest RuneScape stats show a staggering number of 200 million unique accounts have been registered during the 20-year lifespan of the game—a feat worthy of Guinness World Records recognition. Despite its success, however, Old School RuneScape remains the more popular version despite the various improvements introduced in the main game.
RuneScape players who join this newer reborn adventure will experience a non-linear storyline where every adventurer is free to explore the world as they see fit. Would you like to slay monsters? Trade with other players? Or simply make new friends and cooperate towards a common goal? You can do it all, and cross-platform too.
While the game is free to play, it still offers a membership programme that offers numerous benefits at a minor cost, such as a larger world to explore, extra quests, skills, minigames, armour and weapons, and more. To get full access to all RuneScape features, however, you have to subscribe to one of the following plans:
Fun fact: The game had a glitch that allowed female characters to have beards or other types of facial hair, but the “feature” was later patched.
Guild Wars 2 is another MMORPG considered as one of the best MMORPG games for PC. After ArenaNet finished the game in 2012, they published it as a direct sequel to Guild Wars with the same subscription-free model. The game only required a one-time purchase, which was also removed in August 2015. By then, Guild Wars 2 had 5 million subscribers.
If and when you choose to enter GW2’s fantastical world of Tyria, you will be tasked with bringing together Destiny’s Edge, a powerful adventurers’ guild that carries the fight against the recently awakened Elder Dragons. With its responsive storyline, dynamic events system, and active combat, Guild Wars 2 certainly stands apart from its more traditional competition.
To revel in Tyria’s awe-inspiring landscapes, rich storylines, and meticulous PvP combat, simply download the base game free of charge and subscriptions. However, to experience everything the game has to offer, you also have to pay a one-time fee for the two released expansions, as well as the third upcoming one.
Fun fact: Your character receives a gift on their birthday. You can also type “/age” in the chat to see your characters’ age.
Black Desert Online is a Korean MMORPG game developed by Pearl Abyss and published for Windows in 2015. Several years later, in 2019, the team also released the Black Desert Online mobile version and the console version for both Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Note that, while the game is free-to-play in certain countries, the English-language editions are buy-to-play.
Set in the high fantasy world divided into four main areas after the Black Death plague ravaged the world. In the game’s current setting, the materialistic Republic of Calpheon and the spiritual Kingdom of Valencia, are in conflict over the precious black stones strewn all over Valencia’s Black Desert.
Players mainly choose to play the BDO MMO game because of its manual aiming combat and the free movement systems, just as those found in various shooter games. In addition to its deep and varied PvP events and castle sieges, the game offers a thorough character customisation feature, as well as multiple pastimes, such as farming, fishing, and trading.
Given that it uses a buy-to-play model, gamers do not have to pay a Black Desert Online subscription fee. Instead, you can buy the game via its official site or Steam at a one-time cost of £8.99. However, to get a starting advantage over other players and enrich your gaming experience with additional buffs and perks, you can buy one of the following bundles:
Fun fact: You need an item called “megaphone” to talk in the game’s World Chat; otherwise, no one can hear you.
Star Wars: The Old Republic is the first Star Wars online MMORPG game to reach mainstream success. This long-in-the-making title was announced in 2008 and released in 2011. Three days after release, the number of SWTOR active players reached one million, which speaks volumes about the desire for an MMO experience set in the legendary Star Wars galaxy.
Despite its strong start, the SWTOR player count dropped by a certain degree; however, it has remained profitable after changing its payment model. In general, the game was met favourably by both Star Wars fans and MMORPG gamers who praised its morality system, i.e. the option to walk either the light or the dark path, regardless of whether they side with the Jedi or the Sith.
This Star Wars MMORPG game perfectly captures the tenuous balance of power in the universe between the Sith Empire and the Galactic Republic. By offering deep and varied customisation options, player-driver dialogue options, different species, classes, companions, and more, developers achieved an exquisite immersion in the lore we all know and love.
To join this eternal struggle for the fate of the galaxy, you only have to download and install the game since developers adopted a hybrid free-to-play model soon after release. However, players who subscribe to one of these optional payment plans will have access to certain perks, such as extra currency and levelling speed, as well as access to all of the game’s expansions:
Fun fact: The Old Republic Era (known as the Sith era) lasted between 25,053 BBY and 1000 BBY when it became The Republic.
So far, MMORPGs have proved to be the most popular and most lucrative game model ever conceived. Honestly, it comes as no shock when these types of games fuel the imagination of their playerbase by allowing them to become anything they want.
Regardless of whether you are an MMORPG fan, looking to become one, or simply checking out the most recent MMORPG data, we hope our list of the biggest MMOs has helped you in your quest.
The surge of MOBA games has pushed back against the MMORPG onslaught. However, MMORPGs are definitely here to stay, thanks to their dedicated fanbase.
WoW is by far the leading MMORPG of all time. The game peaked at 46 million monthly active users in Q2 2017. Moreover, the total tally of subscribers amounted to almost 116.9 million as of September 2021.
The latest daily metrics (September 2021) showed almost 3.2 million active daily players of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn—accounting for a million more than WoW’s active daily players.
As one of the most played MMORPGs of all time, World of Warcraft still maintains an immense playerbase. In September 2021, for instance, WoW had around 2.2 million daily users.
The same MMO Populations data revealed that almost 1.05 million Destiny 2 players were active daily throughout September 2021. On the other hand, the total number of Destiny 2 subscribers just crossed 37 million.
As someone who grew up gaming and always had a love for random facts, being able to write about gaming and technology for a living has been an absolute treat. Whenever I’m not researching my next topic for Don’t Disappoint Me, I am deflecting the attacks of Bosses in Sekiro, investigating a murder in Disco Elysium, helping Zagreus escape the underworld in Hades, or flanking enemies in Call of Duty with my squad. Having studied English language and literature has helped me merge these two worlds of random facts and gaming into a fulfilling career.