MMORPGs are popular Internet pastimes, and have been for a long time now. For some people, they’re ways to challenge themselves: to explore, to collect, and to survive in a sometimes hostile virtual environment. For others, MMORPGs are competitions to see not only who has the most powerful avatar and/or the most play skill. Still other people play MMORPGs as avenues to friendship and co-operation, playing a role in a group, and learning to work together and get along with others.
There are a lot of free MMORPGs out there on the Internet today, but we dug through the expert opinions to bring you the cream of the crop – the best free MMORPGs! If you’re just getting into MMO games, this article is a great place to start. We will teach you:
- 9 best free-to-play MMORPGs
- What exactly is an MMORPG?
- Common features of MMORPGs
- Are the MMORPGs on this list really free?
We’re going to jump right in with our list of the best free online MMORPGs, so let’s start the adventure! If you need a little information on some of the basics of MMORPGs, jump down to learn about what exactly an MMORPG is, some common features of MMORPGs, and if the MMORPGs on this list are really free to play.
9 best free-to-play MMORPGs
1. Guild Wars 2
The Elder Dragons are on a rampage through the world of Tyria, and only heroes like you can stop them. Create a character from one of 5 races and 8 professions, and then weave your own legend in a medieval fantasy realm. Co-operate with fellow players to unleash devastating combo attacks, or join a team and compete against other players on your shard in quest-like matches. You can even compete against teams on other shards in “World vs. World” mode!
Best feature: The “Dynamic Events” system makes your decisions about your character, as well as what they do in the game world, have big impacts on the customization options available to you and the state of the game world itself. For instance, if you help train a militia squad for a village, they may report that they’ve fought off a group of monsters the next time you log in. If you don’t, you may find the village destroyed instead!
Any additional costs?: Purchasing one or more expansions (each valued at about $30) will lift free account restrictions, as well as unlock additional areas and features.
Short for “The Exiled Realm of Arborea,” T.E.R.A. lets you join an alliance of mortal races striving to defend their shared home from a host of otherworldly threats, including the merciless Argons. Embody an avatar from one of 7 races and 13 classes, and enjoy action-based combat that challenges you to strategically position your avatar and aim your attacks at enemies while dodging their own. The “chain skill” system allows you to pull off custom attack combos – if you get the timing right! Go solo or co-operate with other players to progress through a fixed story, or take on other players or teams in various styles of PvP gameplay.
Best feature: Lots of character customization options. From your avatar’s race and class to the skill glyphs that you choose to the way you enchant your equipment and set up your abilities, there are lots of ways to shape your avatar the way you want it. You can even get items in-game that change how your equipment looks, and even being part of large groups can get you exclusive skills!
Any additional costs?: Purchasing the full game (which costs an average of $20), or purchasing a time-limited subscription to the T.E.R.A. Club, will ease some restrictions on your free account. In addition, there is an in-game shop that allows you to buy items that change how your avatar looks.
The best free MMORPG for fans of the classic tabletop RPG Dungeons & Dragons, Neverwinter plunges you into the infamous city of the same name as it’s being besieged by dark forces. Choose an avatar from over 12 races and 8 classes, and fight in action-based combat that’s based on the 4th-edition rules of Dungeons & Dragons. Will you follow the story and free a shattered city from the Lich Queen, Valindra Shadowmantle? Or will you compete against fellow adventurers for glory and infamy? The choice is yours…
Best feature: The “Foundry” function allows you to make up your own quests and storylines, and they all become part of the game world! So, if you’re feeling creative, you can dream up challenges that all other players can enjoy!
Any additional costs?: You can purchase “item packs” that give your avatar(s) rare in-game items. You can also buy a currency called “Zen” that can be exchanged for in-game items.
4. Blade & Soul
From accomplished Korean game developer and artist Kim Hyung-Tae, Blade & Soul is an MMORPG where East Asian mythology and martial arts collide. As a student of the Hongmoon School, you begin a journey to stop the evil Jinsoyun from using the legendary sword, Twilight’s Edge, to allow the Dark Realm’s terrors to invade your world. Pick from one of 4 races and 10 classes, and enjoy an extensive story where your decisions can affect who is friend or foe in PvP play.
Best feature: Fast-paced, acrobatic navigation and a deep combat system test your ability to maneuver strategically, time your attacks and reactions well, and co-operate with other players to perform combos.
Any additional costs?: Premium memberships are available at about $10-12/month that give you bonus gameplay perks. You may also purchase “NCoins” ($0.80/coin; must be bought in bundles) to spend towards in-game items and upgrades.
5. Star Trek Online
Widely considered the best free-to-play MMORPG for “Trekkies,” Star Trek Online allows you to play your very own part in the storied science fiction world of Star Trek! Play as one of over 20 iconic races and become the captain of your own personal starship. As you progress as a leader, you will be able to recruit and train new crew members, as well as discover new equipment for your crew and new enhancements for your ship. Engage in tactical ship-to-ship combat, deploy away teams for fast-paced firefights on foot, and boldly go where no one has gone before!
Best feature: The game closely follows the established lore of the Star Trek universe, so you may run into some familiar characters from the hit TV shows and movies – most of whom are voiced by their original actors, including Michael Dorn as Worf and Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine!
Any additional costs?: A currency called “Zen” can be purchased and exchanged for various in-game items and upgrades. Monthly and Lifetime subscriptions are also available (valued at about $15/month and $300, respectively) which lift some free account restrictions and give you other bonus perks, like periodically earning Zen. Some in-game item packs can also be purchased with real money.
The realm of Aelion needs you! As an immortal champion, defend a world where medieval fantasy blends with science fiction. As you complete heroic deeds, you will not only develop your avatar, but also draw worshippers from among the populace to your cause. If you gain enough of a following, you can even become a god and gain access to still greater abilities! Whether you use your newfound power to continue to protect Aelion, or to compete with rival gods in PvP play, is up to you…
Best feature: Skyforge‘s unique talent system lets you change your avatar’s class between any of the 13 that you’ve unlocked anywhere and anytime, except during a fight (unless you’re a god – you can change class mid-battle!). This lets you experiment with play styles, or fill a needed role in a group, without having to spend time creating and developing a new avatar every time. One is all you need!
Any additional costs?: Some in-game items and currencies can be bought with real money, but Skyforge has been designed to limit the extent to which this gives any one player an advantage.
The realm of Telara is being invaded by the six elemental worlds surrounding it. Will you put your faith in the gods and defend its people as a Guardian, or will you combine magic and technology to take the fight to the invaders as a Defiant? Choose from one of six different races (three per faction) and five classes, and then harness the souls of Telara’s fallen champions to develop – or even change – your avatar’s role on the battlefield. Jump into action-based PvE or PvP combat in areas suited to your avatar’s power level, or explore Telara and the elemental worlds on your own terms. But beware: planar rifts can open – and battles can start – almost anywhere and anytime!
Best feature: The “Dimensions” feature allows you to develop your own custom world within the game. Decorate it with items you’ve found or purchased, or combine raw materials into whatever you need to complete your own little sliver of space-time. Then show off your creation to other players!
Any additional costs?: Some in-game currencies, such as “Credits” and “REX,” can be bought with real money and spent to generate “Loyalty.” Having enough “Loyalty” on your account will lift the few free player restrictions. “Patron Passes” (valued at $12-15 a month, depending on length) can also be purchased to lift these restrictions, gain “Loyalty,” and unlock a host of other gameplay bonuses. Finally, “Booster Packs” can be purchased to gain exclusive items and upgrades.
From game developer Jake Song and fantasy author Jeon Min-Hee, this Korean MMORPG has a bit of a twist to it. Start off by choosing the West or East faction of Erenor and one of six races (three per faction) to set your avatar’s starting abilities. From there, master combat capabilities from up to 2 of 10 skill sets at a time, allowing for a possible combination of 120 different combat roles! But fighting isn’t the only thing you can do in ArcheAge – not even close! Gather raw materials, craft new items, form trading convoys to earn gold, build vehicles for traversing land, air, and sea; and even set down roots by constructing houses and farms! Or just become a pirate and steal from everybody. Whatever you want!
Best feature: ArcheAge‘s trading and land-owning systems encourage you to work together with other players more closely than in other MMORPGs, so you’ll likely form tighter-knit relationships with players and groups who frequent your preferred corner of Erenor. Whether you’re a trader looking to start a caravan or a bandit looking to plunder one, a few dependable friends will make life a lot easier!
Any additional costs?: “Patron” subscriptions can be purchased (ranging from around $8 to $15 per month, depending on length) that offer extra benefits and lift the restriction on free accounts for owning land. The in-game currency “APEX” can be bought with real money and used to gain “Credits,” which can be spent towards Patron subscriptions or in-game items. “Booster Packs” are also available for purchase, which often contain exclusive items and upgrades.
9. EVE Online
In EVE Online, play as an avatar from one of 4 factions of humans in the distant future who set out to colonize the galaxy of New Eden… but lost their way back to Earth. What will you become in this new interstellar frontier? Trader, miner, salvager, scientist, mercenary, pirate, surveyor… the choice is yours as you develop and pilot your spaceship between over 7500 unique areas, experiencing tactical ship-to-ship combat along the way. You have great freedom in New Eden, but that can also mean great danger… and your biggest challenge in EVE Online may be deciding who to trust.
Best feature: EVE Online has a unique real-time avatar development system. It allows you to plan out the skills you want to learn, and then gradually earn experience for them over time – even if you’re logged out! So whether you’re playing or not, your avatar is guaranteed to improve!
Any additional costs?: A currency called “PLEX” can be purchased and traded for in-game currency or other items, including cosmetic enhancements. In addition, subscribing to “Omega” mode (for between $11-15 per month, depending on length) allows you to train skills faster and more often, as well as to learn better skills and pilot stronger ships.
And that’s our list of the best free MMORPG games! If there were some terms or concepts that you didn’t understand in any of the descriptions, we’ve included a few appendices below that go over the basics of free MMORPGs below.
What exactly is an MMORPG?
An MMORPG is a type of video game. A player creates some sort of avatar to represent themselves within a persistent online world populated by a large number of players at once – sometimes even all of them! They then develop their character by interacting with the game world, as well as other players.
If it helps, think of the definition of an MMORPG in two parts. The first is the “MMO” part, which stands for “Massively Multiplayer Online.” This means that thousands of players can be playing the same game, at the same time, within the same shared game world over the Internet.
(Image source: World of Warcraft)
The second part is “RPG,” which stands for “Role Playing Game.” This means that you get to become a unique character within the game world, commonly referred to as an “avatar.” Your avatar can be different from those of other players in many ways, such as their looks, occupation, equipment, skills, and overall power.
Put those two things together, and you get an MMORPG – a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game! Not all RPGs are MMO – the main distinction is that you almost unavoidably encounter and interact with other players online, and in most cases, the number of players sharing the same game world with you is in the tens of thousands.
Common features of MMORPGs
Some of the larger and more popular MMORPGs can’t actually handle all players playing in the exact same game world at the same time. So instead, they use a convention called “shards.” This means that they make copies of the game world and run them on separate server computers worldwide. This allows players around the world to connect to “shards” close to them so they can play with fewer slowdowns or interruptions in gameplay.
It can also separate players who want to co-operate from those who want to compete against each other. These conventions are commonly known as “PvE” and “PvP,” and we’ll explain those next.
PvE and PvP
PvE (“player versus environment”) consists mainly of players competing against the hostile characters and environmental hazards of the game world itself. They may do so alone, or they may work together with other players around them. But generally, players are not allowed to harm each other’s avatars or otherwise interfere with each other’s game progress.
PvP (“player versus player”), on the other hand, allows players to compete against each other by harming each other’s avatars or opposing them in other ways. Examples include harming a game world character – or destroying or stealing a game object – that a player or team was supposed to protect.
(Image source: World of Warcraft)
PvP can range from one-on-one duels to team battles to even massive-scale contests between different shards! PvP also can occur in scenarios somewhat separate from the main game world (sometimes called “instances”), or sometimes in the course of normal gameplay – so you may have to watch out for both enemy characters and opportunistic human players!
In most MMORPGs, PvE is the default, with the option to enable PvP among players who agree to it. As was discussed in the section above, though, MMOs that use the “shards” system may designate some shards as completely PvE only, while other shards force players to play PvP.
Are the MMORPGs on this list really free?
Yes, you can play through the entire core content of all of the MMORPGs on this list without spending a dime. However, they all offer some form of incentive for spending real money on them. For example, many of them offer time-based “subscription” services that ease restrictions on gameplay, such as the number of avatars you can have saved at a time or the amount of in-game currency one of your avatars can carry. Some even provide gameplay bonuses, such as extra resources or faster avatar development.
(Image source: World of Warcraft)
In addition, many of these MMORPGs sell special currencies that are difficult or impossible to obtain in-game, except for buying them with real money. These currencies can be exchanged with the game developers – or other players – for all sorts of things, such as new looks for your avatars, powerful new equipment, in-game currency, and other upgrades that normally aren’t available. One example is the ability to reset your avatar’s skill choices and choose different ones without losing your overall progress.
If you don’t mind spending a little bit of money for a game you enjoy, check out this massive list of all online MMORPGs, including those that cost money to play.
Well, that’s our introduction to the world of MMORPGs, as well as our list of the best free ones to be playing right now. We hope you find the right MMORPG for you, one that lets you have fun while staying safe. If not, there’s a whole list of free ones at MMORPG.com!
If you’re looking to take your MMORPG experience on the go, we also have a course on how to play the hit mobile game Pokémon Go! And if you’re looking for other ways to enjoy yourself online, our Fun & Games section has lots of other stuff for you to do!