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Games like Runescape to run and escape into

(Image credit: Jagex)

Runescape has evolved so much since it kicked off in 2001 that developer Jagex launched Old School Runescape in 2013 to let players relive the glory days of gormless character models and full loot PvP. That said, if you've seen and done all there is Runescape has to offer, you're probably looking for something entirely new in the MMORPG genre. And lucky for you, we've gathered the best games like Runescape that offer their own unique charms, compelling levelling systems, and social communities for you to find your new forever game.

Legends of Aria

A solid alternative to Old School Runescape, Legends of Aria was created by some of the team behind Ultima, an early pioneer of the MMORPG genre. If you're looking for that timeless isometric perspective, purely skill-based leveling system, and high-risk PvP, you'll definitely want to check out Legends of Aria from Citadel Studios.

Although it's been in development for years, the game just released in Steam Early Access in August 2019. There's plenty of content to enjoy in Legends of Aria's tremendous world, but the growing community is still on the smaller side for an MMORPG. Even so, there's a risk in leaving safe zones and trusting strangers that evokes a nostalgia specific to the early days of the genre. Plus, there are player-created servers to offer something for everyone.

Available on PC

Ultima Online

Of course, sometimes there's no replacement for the originals. If Runescape has consumed most of the time you have for MMORPGs, there's a good chance you missed out on arguably the most influential of the genre. It's a good thing then that Ultima Online is still alive and well today, with an intensely loyal, if modest, community.

Ultima Online was the first MMORPG to reach 100,000 subscribers, and it did so by giving players an immense sense of freedom to play precisely how they please, and at risk of falling victim to another player's freedom to play exactly how they please. If you die, everything you were carrying is your assailant's to carry off and sell. But if you reach your house in time and lock the door, you're safe for now (unless they're a skilled mage). What's remarkable is how similar Ultima Online is in 2020 to its state in 1997, and maybe that's exactly why it's held such a tight grip on its cult following.

Available on PC

The Elder Scrolls Online

For those of you more than happy to leave the past in the past, The Elder Scrolls Online is one of the best modern MMORPGs you can play. For fans of Runescape looking for a similar sense of community and social aspects, The Elder Scrolls Online has one of the most active player-bases in the genre (via BeStreamer), and you're constantly being encouraged to join guilds and quest with other players.

You won't find as many holiday events, and there aren't quite as many life skills to level up as in Runescape, but for a more cinematic, action-focused MMO, The Elder Scrolls Online's epic scale, intricate dungeons, and calculated boss fights never fail to delight.

Available on PS4, Xbox One, PC, Stadia

Neverwinter

Neverwinter is a free-to-play MMORPG with one of the most active player bases in the genre today. Since it first launched back in 2013, Neverwinter has persisted at the forefront of the genre for its excellent combat, in-depth character customization and leveling system, player-created quests, and of course, immersive lore based in the fabled Dungeons & Dragons universe.

For a (mostly) free-to-play game, Neverwinter benefits from extraordinarily-substantive updates that come on a consistent basis, and never require payment for access. It doesn't exist on a scale as large as heavyweights like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy 14, but fans of Runescape will feel right at home in Neverwinter's rich, complex fantasy world.

Available on PS4, Xbox One, PC

Albion Online

First released in 2017, Albion Online is a newer MMORPG with old-school DNA, and it's completely free to play. With full-loot PvP, a deep, player-driven economy with lucrative life skills, and distinctly Runescape-like visuals, Albion Online might be the most faithful modern homage to the MMORPGs of yesteryear still active today.

Fans of Runescape, or even Ultima Online and early Diablo, will remember the distinct sense of danger to leaving towns and exploring those worlds. In Albion Online, you're always aware of the same kinds of threats, whether it's monsters beyond your skill level or traps set by experienced gankers. For many MMO fans, myself included, it's that very sense of risk vs. reward that makes games like Albion Online so compelling. For Runescape fans looking to relive the glory days in a newer, more polished world, Albion Online is not to be missed.

Available on PC, Android, iOS

Black Desert Online

Despite being among the newer entries on this list (having first released in 2015), the free-to-play Black Desert Online has already garnered widespread acclaim and built an active player base. And while the usual MMO trappings - exploration, plenty of skills/life skills, player events, etc. - are present and well-done, Black Desert Online stands tall among genre favorites for its involved combat, which demands skillful, manual aiming and free movement.

If what you love about Runescape definitely isn't the combat, Black Desert Online offers something new and refreshing that requires more than the right skills to defeat enemies. And Black Desert Online deviates from the MMORPG rulebook in more ways than one, with elements like infrastructure-building and a day/night cycle there to make for a unique experience. Add to that a gorgeous, expansive world and extensive character customisation options, and Black Desert Online makes for a formidable alternative to the same 'ol, and an MMORPG more than worth a download.

Available on PS4, Xbox One, PC, iOS

Path of Exile

The only game on this list that isn't an MMORPG, Path of Exile is an action RPG (ARPG) that appeals to Runescape players who could do without the game's "massively-multiplayer" aspects. Path of Exile has seen high-praise through numerous expansions since its initial launch back in 2013, namely for its unique barter-based economy, massive and complex progression system, frequent events, and genuine free-to-play business model.

There is a learning curve involved with Path of Exile that might put some of Runescape's more casual fans off, but if you have some (read: a lot of) time to kill, you'll be rewarded proportionally. And I'm not just referring to the game's progression system, Path of Exile is stuffed to the brim with content, and every inch of it demands - and deserves - your full attention.

Available on PS4, Xbox One, PC

Project: Gorgon

Part of what makes MMORPGs - and certainly Runescape - so attractive, is the freedom their worlds and systems afford. Project: Gorgon is a Steam Early Access title that takes boundaries and throws them to the wind. Just like Runescape, the only progression you achieve is by levelling and acquiring new skills, except here you're presented with an unprecedented number of skills to choose from.

You can also choose to play as a play as a barn animal, write a book and donate it to a library, or jump into a lake when you catch yourself on fire. There's a near-limitless number of things to see, do, become, and practice, making Project: Gorgon the only clear option for Runescape fans looking for even more to do.

Available on PC

Wakfu

If you don't mind supporting a slightly-lesser-known, but no-less imaginative MMORPG, Wakfu couldn't be more deserving of your time. There's a lightheartedness and humor that should please Runescape fans, but Wakfu paves its own path with a genre-defying turn-based tactical combat system, political system, and ecological-focus that makes it uniquely lovable.

The map and weather design provide a beautiful environment to roam, professions are expansive and diverse, and there's a strong co-op focus that makes playing with friends as enjoyable as questing with randoms. As you might expect, there's a small community playing Wakfu, but everything from individual cities and monsters to character design and combat is so distinctly charming that you'll soon be shouting to your friends about this soulful MMORPG until they join you in the fun. 

Available on PC, Android