The best MMORPGs are the kind of game that let you explore vast alluring worlds with the help of friends - or against various foes. Narrowing down the best MMORPG games can be a challenge because there are so many solid options and plenty of diversity between them, which partly explains why our list here clocks in at a whopping 25 games.
Some of us would consider the best MMORPGs to be those with the biggest worlds and richest lore, while others value dungeon design and community above all else. Some MMO fans like the risk and reward of a full-loot PvP system like Ultima Online and Runescape, while others prefer to explore worlds and do quests without worrying about PKers. For the reasons above, we've done our best to include games for every MMO fan, whether you're after the biggest and most popular titles or something niche and underrated. Maybe you're just here to see where your favorite game falls in our ranking of the best MMORPGs in 2021, and in that case, let's not waste any more time.
25. Riders of Icarus
Available on: PC
In a post-Pokémon Go world, the idea of a monster collecting MMO seems like a no-brainer, and yet it’s still territory that very few online RPGs have properly broached. Riders of Icarus takes the idea of collecting pocket monsters and gives it an interesting twist, making all the creatures you hoard into mounts that are central to character progression.
Mounted combat is understandably a central mechanic, and while it can be difficult to master, especially while flying, it also provides some very satisfying and dramatic moments. And Riders of Icarus is flush with gorgeous, rare gear, and quests that often deviate in pleasant ways from the traditional “fetch 15 rat pelts” MMO mold.
24. Defiance 2050
Available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
The fact that Defiance is any good is practically miraculous. Developing an MMO shooter based on a SyFy original television series sounds like a recipe for disaster, but somehow Trion Worlds was able to deliver an excellent game with a lot of cool hooks. It helps that the world of Defiance is an interesting one, the result of a curious set of circumstances. Earth has been rendered almost unrecognizable by the accidental deployment of alien terraforming technology, and a long war with the aliens responsible has left both sides on the brink of collapse. Factions have splintered off and in many cases aliens and humans have banded together in the desperate struggle for survival.
While SyFy axed the television show back in 2015, the MMO lives on, continuing to succeed on the strength of its combat mechanics, satisfying character progression, and the its absolutely massive armory of weapons and gear. It’s the first MMO we've played that makes shooting guns in PvE feel viable and fun, and it now also includes some surprisingly effective melee weapons. The rebooted version of the game, Defiance 2050, is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC, featuring classes and power trees, but the same world and quests - not enough to be considered a wholly new game, but give it a try if you want to see the world of Defiance through fresh eyes.
23. Black Desert Online
Available on: PC, Xbox One, PS4
A Korean MMO that launched in the US behind a lot of fanfare, Black Desert Online was able to mostly deliver on the hype with its snappy action combat and interesting property management elements. Alongside the standard leveling and questing, BDO offers players and guilds the opportunity to become medieval slum lords, buying up buildings and setting their function as residences or crafting repositories, or even taking wholesale control of entire cities.
While some of these mechanics were a bit clumsy or unavailable at launch, BDO is a game that’s taken full advantage of the long lifespan of most MMOs and has continually improved over time. And Microsoft’s reveal at E3 this year that Black Desert will be making an appearance on Xbox One as a console exclusive means more players will be able to get their hands on this sleeper gem.
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22. Revelation Online
Available on: PC
Speaking of incredibly pretty looking Eastern MMOs, Revelation Online proves that beauty and substance aren’t mutually exclusive. This Chinese offering that recently made its way west has incredible depth in terms of character creation and development, and a vast, intriguing open world to plumb for loot and secrets.
Revelation Online is also one of a current bumper crop of games that provides the option to choose traditional, tab-targeting style MMO combat or more dynamic action combat. It even offers a third option that’s an intriguing (if somewhat clumsy) blend of both. And with the option to respec your character for free at any point, it’s an easy game to commit some time to without feeling shackled by your choices.
21. Secret Worlds Legends
Available on: PC
Another recent convert to the free to play model, Secret World Legends is a game defined in large part by its setting, which reads like every conspiracy theory crackpots dream come true (or their worst nightmare realized). Secret societies, mythological creatures, and evil cults define a world shrouded by mystery and bursting with supernatural horrors. Propping up the setting and story is some killer sound design, which successfully ratchets up tension and gives the game’s events a sense of sweeping drama.
In fact, one of Secret World Legend’s strongest features is its dedication to storytelling. Instead of the standard MMO trope of letting players queue up a practically unlimited number of quests--which leads to lots of mindless fetching and slaying without any sense of overarching purpose--The Secret World focuses on a tight handful of quests at a time, all with clearly defined objectives. This narrow focus helps emphasize narrative and points a spotlight at the games writing and atmosphere, which is of a fairly uniform high quality.
Click 'next page' to see entries 20-11 in our countdown of the top MMORPGs.