MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games for the Uninitiated) are one of the largest, most complex, and most loved genres of games. Taking place in sprawling game worlds filled with thousands of players all building their own characters and social networks, this is a very special genre that has thrived since the early 2000s.
Since then, while many MMOs have come and gone a handful have stood out for being incredibly influential. Let’s uncover exactly which MMORPGs have been the most influential.
Why are MMORPGs Still So Popular?
While this genre may have seen greater success in the 2000s and early 2010s than today, the genre is still hugely popular among gamers of all ages. This is due to a wide variety of reasons.
Firstly, these games all thrive on multiplayer communities—specifically cooperative ones. MMORPGs are built so that players have to team up, strategies, and overcome tough challenges together. This leads to a strong sense of camaraderie between players, resulting in strong social bonds and lasting communities.
Secondly, MMORPGs are HUGE! Seriously, many of the games on this list have seen players play continuously for years or even decades without completing all the content or obtaining all the rare gear they dream about. These long-term goals make MMOs a very unique genre.
Thirdly, combining the previous two points, MMOs are simply very multifaceted. They incorporate social elements with RPG gaming, including everything from character-building to role-playing to crafting to competitive play and much, much more. This means that players can always find something to enjoy in their favorite MMOs.
Known best as the pioneer of the genre, EverQuest was one of the first MMORPGs. Released in 1999, it totally changed the landscape of online gaming by introducing players to a large world incorporating all the MMORPG staples to players—from raids to housing and character progression. EverQuest is truly a trailblazer when it comes to the genre.
But don’t worry, this isn’t a long-lost game, you can still play EverQuest—for free!
Originating as a very lightweight, in-browser game, RuneScape was many young gamers’ first interaction with the MMO genre—both because it was free, and you could play it without your parents particularly knowing.
Taking an almost birds-eye view, RuneScape was a unique MMO in the fact that it had stakes—that is, if you died out in the world you would drop all of your stuff. This almost rogue-like approach to the MMO genre attracted many players.
RuneScape is also still going strong today, with both Old School RuneScape and RuneScape 3 still attracting large player bases. If you want to jump back into it, you can purchase Old School RuneScape accounts here!
EVE Online (2003)
Taking the genre in a whole new direction, EVE Online innovated the genre in many ways. Set in a truly enormous, persistent world EVE Online is considered by many to be a much more hardcore MMO experience, verging on the genre of space simulator.
In EVE, players participate in various professions including mining, manufacturing, trading, exploring, combat, and, of course, piracy in the fastness of the cosmos. Due to its persistent world, battles are final. Meaning that, like the original RuneScape, death means that players can lose a lot of progress. Because of this, EVE is well known for hosting some of the most expensive battles in gaming history.
World of Warcraft (2004)
OK, you definitely saw this one coming. Both an MMORPG and a cultural phenomenon, gaming as a whole has been hugely influenced by Blizzard’s landmark game. Released way back in 2004, Blizzard truly solidified the format of MMORPGs with World of Warcraft, setting the bar for storylines, raids, PvP, and much more.
WoW is still a hugely popular MMO, a testament to the fact that it is not only hugely influential but it is also an incredibly good game.
Final Fantasy XIV (2010)
Final Fantasy is one of the longest-running single-player game series, so its transformation into a multiplayer game was not an easy one. That said, since its rocky start FFXIV has become hugely beloved, especially for fans of the series. FFXIV is particularly notable for its engaging storyline—drawing heavily from the series’ focus on narrative—alongside its unique approach to gameplay.
The Elder Scrolls Online (2014)
Like FFXIV, The Elder Scrolls Online is a game that was hotly anticipated by players but released to a rocky start. While many players wanted Skyrim online, it’s important to recognize that The Elder Scrolls Online isn’t quite that.
While it retains many of the core features present in the single-player series, it is at heart an MMO featuring a large interactive world, deep lore, and huge raids. If you’re a fan of The Elder Scrolls series, this one’s for you.
Ken Anucha studied Information Technology at Sikkim Manipal University. He is a gaming and sports enthusiast whose aim is to keep folks in these spheres thoroughly informed and up-to-date.