The advent of the MMORPG genre was truly a landmark turning point for gaming at large, signaling the dynamic shift from gaming as a largely solitary, self-contained venture, towards collective social experiences on a grand scale. Today, thousands of these online worlds are inhabited by millions of people on a daily basis, each with their own distinct cultures, personalities, and even economies that rival those of real world countries.
But of the many online worlds that have risen and fallen over the decades, which ones truly left their mark? How many left impressions on their inhabitants that will truly last through the ages? To find out, Game Rant has dug through Metacritic to find the top scoring MMORPGs of all time, and gathered together the top ten among them in the list below - keep scrolling to check it out!
10 City of Heroes (85/100) (PC)
City of Heroes stood apart from the typical MMO offerings by revolving around the concept of superheroes and villains, rather than the usual fantasy or science-fiction settings that had been the basis of practically every other genre title on the market.
Unfortunately, the official City of Heroes servers were taken offline in late 2012, after a long and relatively successful eight-year run. However, a particularly dedicated band of CoH fans branded as the Homecoming Team have successfully launched public servers as of mid-2019, seemingly with the blessing of former publisher NCSoft.
9 Final Fantasy XIV Online: A Realm Reborn (86/100) (PS4)
Final Fantasy XIV is the definitive Cinderella story of the MMO world, laying claim to one of the most catastrophic launches in video game history, followed by one of the most triumphant and impossibly successful recoveries after redeeming itself with the A Realm Reborn relaunch.
Ignoring its unfortunate origin story, A Realm Reborn is a fine title meshing hallmark elements of the Final Fantasy franchise such as a deep, overarching plot and fantastic visual spectacle with bread-and-butter MMO elements such as grouping, raiding, and the like. It certainly isn't the franchise's first foray into online territory, but at the time of this writing, it certainly is the most impressive.
8 Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (86/100) (PC)
Warhammer Online was a successful marriage of the MMORPG format with the setting and thematically eternal conflict of the Warhammer Fantasy universe, well known and loved for its incredibly deep and involved faction-based PVP content.
The war between Order and Destruction would be waged across various zones, until one side managed to push far enough into their opponents' territory to sack and loot their capital for rewards. The looters would face increasing NPC resistance until they were forced out of the city, beginning the process anew. Although the game received notable critical acclaim, the official servers were closed in 2013, after a rather short five-year run.
7 The Lord of the Rings Online (86/100) (PC)
Although Tolkien's Middle-Earth is the basis for many fantasy worlds, some of which are on this very list, it didn't receive its own persistent graphical online presence until The Lord of the Rings Online released in 2007. Though it's hardly canonical, the game features a great wealth of content sourced from the books, much to the delight of dedicated Tolkien fans that pick the game up.
The main, or "epic" questline unfolds alongside landmark events in the Lord of the Rings fiction, in some cases even supplementing it by delving deeper into events that were only touched on canonically. Though it initially launched with a subscriber-only format, the game converted into a free-to-play model in 2010, with optional subscription passes and a cash shop. It has remained that way since.
6 Old School RuneScape (87/100) (iOS)
Old School RuneScape (or OSRS) is a throwback title released by Jagex to placate RuneScape fans that yearned for the RuneScape they grew up playing. And it certainly did a lot more than placate them, seeing runaway success from its 2013 release and onward.
However, what really made OSRS stand out was its release on mobile platforms in 2018. Players now had a fully functional RuneScape experience that fit in their pocket, causing its player count to absolutely soar. Another key factor in the success of OSRS is the player base's heavy involvement in its continued development, with most changes and updates being the direct result of their feedback on polls.
5 Dark Age of Camelot (88/100) (PC)
Dark Age of Camelot hails from the golden age of MMOs, alongside titles like Everquest and Asheron's Call, having been released in 2001. Its setting channels a mixture between classical Arthurian legend, Norse mythology, and Celtic folklore, and it has amazingly remained online up to the time of this writing.
It was one of the first MMO titles to heavily feature RvR player-on-player combat as a core mechanic rather than secondary addition. Although it most definitely shows its age (both graphically and mechanically) compared to more contemporary MMORPG titles, it's definitely worth a trial run if only to experience the classical charm of the genre's genesis.
4 Guild Wars (89/100) (PC)
Guild Wars is a truly unique entry in the genre due to the heavy, almost exclusively instanced content of its PVE campaigns. It features three different campaigns that function as standalone titles and is perhaps best known for its rabidly competitive yet easily accessible PVP scene.
Guild Wars' PVP content is restricted to a consensual arena setting, and one of the more surprisingly unique aspects of it is the ability to create PVP-specific characters that begin at maximum level, and gain access to content as the player unlocks it with their PVE characters.
3 Phantasy Star Online (89/100) (Dreamcast)
It might barely qualify as an MMO, being more of an ARPG outing, but it was such a major step forward in pushing consoles towards supporting the genre that it's absolutely a necessary mention. And its aggregate Metascore would seem to support that assertion pretty well.
Phantasy Star Online was a game of firsts, being the first online RPG title available on the Dreamcast and on consoles at large, as well as being instrumental in pushing online RPGs into the mainstream in its home country of Japan.
2 Guild Wars 2 (90/100) (PC)
Guild Wars 2 continued the series' established tradition of testing the constraints of the typical MMORPG format, largely by replacing the typical questing process of other MMORPGs with an event system that allows for more open and inventive approaches.
It also did away with the RPG trope of the dedicated healing class, identifying that necessitating one limited the variety of party formations and that doing so would expedite the process of players getting involved in group play. It also has a sterling run of post-launch support, receiving an exhaustive roster of content updates and expansions for seven years to date.
1 World of Warcraft (93/100) (PC)
World of Warcraft was the definitive MMORPG that made the genre into an undeniable mainstream phenomenon, invading countless households and transporting millions into its expansive fantasy universe from the time of its 2004 release and into this very day.
The Warcraft universe had already enjoyed considerable success and development as one of Blizzard's cornerstone RTS franchises, but its leap into the MMORPG racket overshadowed all things. With an epic run time of fifteen years under its belt and few signs of it coming to a discernible end in the near future, World of Warcraft is entirely deserving of its near-perfect Metascore and immense critical acclaim.