The 10 best MMOs and MMORPGs to play in 2023
Where to play with your massive friends
The best MMOs and MMORPGs (or massively multiplayer online roleplaying games, if you want the long version) can often be, as the name suggests, a massive undertaking that'll end up consuming big chunks of your life. But that's what makes them special, right? You can spend years with your suite of characters, dinging their levels from lowly wannabe to raid heroes with fiery pauldrons that drip lava, so making sure you invest that time wisely is important. Not all MMOs cater for everyone, but the greatest allow you to carve out another existence in your own time. So please, do take your time sifting through the 10 best MMOs and MMORPGs to play in 2023.
The 10 Best MMO and MMORPGs
Over the last couple of years we've seen MMOs and MMORPGs slowly filter back into the fray, with Amazon's New World and Smilegate's Lost Ark being the most notable. And 2023 has some potential too, with zombie survival MMO The Day Before, anime-as-heck Blue Protocol, and Dune Awakening, another survival MMO where a horrid sand worm will no doubt gorge on thousands of players. Expect us to give these a look when they arrive and update this list accordingly. Stay tuned.
To help make things nice and easy for you, you'll find links to all of the MMOs on this list below. Think of these links like a "raid-finder", but less fighting a massive dragon and its peons, and more reading a paragraph of - hopefully riveting - text, that'll ensure you at least level up your video gaming experiences. And don't be afraid to write your own entry in the comments below if you feel strongly about a favourite of yours, as we may just consider it for a future update. There are loads of MMOs out there, so don't be shy.
- The Lord Of The Rings Online
- Lost Ark
- Black Desert Online
- The Elder Scrolls Online
- Star Wars: The Old Republic
- Guild Wars 2
- EVE Online
- World Of Warcraft
- Final Fantasy XIV
10. The Lord Of The Rings Online
For fans of Middle Earth, The Lord Of The Rings Online is definitely worth considering if you're after a new MMO. Of course, the main selling point here is that you've got Tolkien's world to embed yourself in. You can play as a hobbit, fight alongside Gimli, and take on the Witch King in Angmar, just to name a few.
Lord Of The Rings Online is also faithful to the books, with plenty of neat little touches for those into the lore. It's an aging MMO now, first released in 2007, and it was fairly old-fashioned even at release, but it continues to receive updates even now. And what's more, a huge amount of its content is free-to-play and will take you all the way up to level 95 through the Helm's Deep expansion.
9. Lost Ark
Lost Ark may be the MMO equivalent of grey carpet, but that doesn't mean that grey carpet doesn't have its place in the MMO space. If you're lots of fetch quests, where the fetching equates to mulching beasts in Diablo-like combat, then it might be for you!
Easily one of the game's biggest draws is all the fighting you'll be doing, whether that's fetching lizard tongues for Barry down the road or against armoured bears in a savage raid. It's fast-paced, weighty, and oh-so flashy, with plenty of classes to choose from and a host of customisation options to keep your build from becoming stale.
8. Black Desert Online
Black Desert Online might be one of the nicest looking MMOs out there, with a vast, gorgeous world that puts a lot of others in the genre to shame. It's worth downloading just to play around with its gorgeous characters creator.
You've also got fast-paced combat with an emphasis on aiming, dodging, and blocking in real time, but what really sets Black Desert Online apart is its focus on building empires and civilisations. Yes, you can play this as an action-RPG or MMO, but there's a huge amount of depth if you want to go a bit Age of Empires. You can hire workers, set up production chains, and even set up full-on businesses, like this one centered around brewing beer.
7. The Elder Scrolls Online
If you can't get enough of Skyrim or Oblivion, then I reckon you might just like The Elder Scrolls Online. It combines multiple settings from the various iterations of Bethesda's singleplayer RPGs, allowing you to explore from Tamriel, to the High Elf realm of Summerset and the Khajit homeland Elsweyr.
As if knowing its audience, The Elder Scrolls Online also does a fine job of balancing being an MMO and a decent singleplayer experience. For those who want a solo experience or a massively multiplayer one, there's no judgement here, and if anything, it has increasingly offered more of the former. Plus, it upholds certain Elder Scrolls tenets, like being able to pickpocket every NPC.
6. Star Wars: The Old Republic
One of Star Wars: The Old Republic's biggest selling points is its storytelling. This is one of the few MMOs where your character development isn't all about making numbers go up, but in the relationships you form with others. You can befriend and betray, murder or confess your undying love to NPCs who aren't just static quest-givers.
Like ESO above, TOR's developers know a lot of people are coming to it from their love of Knights Of The Old Republic, and once you've reached the expansions, you're hit with this episodic structure that's frankly more like a singleplayer game than an MMO. You're thrown into your own instance and free to make plenty of tough decisions that'll affect your story alone, no one else's. This is easily one of the best Star Wars games out there.
5. Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 isn't a traditional MMO, in the sense that it replaces a lot of boringly structured fetch quests with more emphasis on live events you can stumble across while exploring the world. These are dynamically generated by the game's systems, and allow you to hop into fights alongside swarms of other players. The fighting is more dynamic than most MMOs too, as you dodge out the way of enemy attacks and aim your own, as opposed to being locked into an animation.
Players praise Guild Wars 2 for its lack of grind as well. Nearly everything you do awards experience, from crafting to exploring to combat. Even if someone else has attacked a big monster before you, helping them out will still give you some EXP. Guild Wars 2 wants you to have a nie time, and to see its world and story without needing to work thousands of hours for it.
Not only is Runescape free-to-play, it's an MMO with a wealth of skills to get stuck into. I'm talking about everything from fishing and farming, to divination and dungeoneering. There's a huge amount of depth to each class, with money to be made on the marketplace, or by standing in banks and yelling "Iron bars for sale!!!" over and over again.
The quest variety is also on point in Runescape, as you won't find the usual barrage of fetch quests, but actual stories with engaging conversations, fights, and puzzles; there's even some longrunning quest lines and penguin conspiracies. Seriously, the game has some of the most inventive quests in MMOs that trade bombast and combat for brain-teasers and thinking on your feet.
Let's not forget Old School Runescape too, which allows you to experience the 2007 version of the game with updates based upon player voting. Nice.
3. EVE Online
EVE Online has earned a name for itself as being a cold, callous universe filled with exploitative players - and that's justified. This is an MMO where war, betrayal and espionage between real players is the norm, with results that are engrossing for those involved and fascinating for everyone else to read about.
In the shallows of space, where you start out, you might be surprised by how generous people are. Player-run corporations need new players to join the fray, and strangers are often willing to hand over ships, blueprints and in-game currency to help you get started. Some players even started an in-game university to train you in how to survive. Play it long enough and EVE Online is one of the deepest games ever made - a space game with actual politics and council meetings driven by real people - but its experience for new users has improved year on year.
In Brendan's interview with EVE Online's CEO Hilmar Petursson, he also said that the game "will never die". So that's a bonus.
2. World Of Warcraft
I mean, you've heard of this one. World Of Warcraft is that MMO everyone thinks of when you say "MMO". World Of Warcraft took the model of the MMOs that came before it - EverQuest, for example - and applied a level of Blizzard polish which you'll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Today, it's a beautiful world to explore and almost frictionless to play - for better and for worse.
World Of Warcraft's latest expansion, Dragonflight, introduced a lovely array of waterfall cliffs along pretty shores and beautiful mountain temples. Perhaps the two biggest things, though? A new race that actually lets you play as a dragon-person, as well as the ability to soar through the sky on the back of a customisable dragon. While not a perfect expansion by any means, it's a DLC that introduces new stuff that can be built on, rather than torn down in future expansions. Not to mention that it's a little more casual friendly too.
In Liam and I's first episode of Inventory Space, we took a look at World Of Warcraft and found it to be a disjointed experience that's a far cry from its glory days. However! There the game does have a "Classic" component (included for free with a subscription) that's essentially a portal to the old days, before all the streamlining and numerous updates. Sure, WoW may not be the juggernaut it once was, but it's always evolving and still features plenty of options for players who either want it to be a lifetime investment or a casual after-work sesh.
1. Final Fantasy XIV
Final Fantasy XIV has an undeniably slow start and initially feels very similar to other MMOs, but over time you'll have an increasingly diverse range of activities to do. I think that's down to the fact it doesn't impose any limits. On one character you can bounce between different Jobs (classes) that'll evolve into more complex roles as you level them up. This extends to your secondary Jobs, like crafting, fishing, cooking and more. Again, you can pick up whatever you'd like and just give it a go.
Final Fantasy XIV's story is a high fantasy epic, and even within the free trial, you'll be doing stuff that doesn't just involve smacking things to right wrongs. Instead, you might need to help a 'beast tribe' reincarnate their god, with less time spent fighting and more time spent actually digging into the nitty gritty behind their need to do so.
Each expansion only serves to make the game even better: read our Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker review to get a better idea of how. And last but not least, the game's community is - for the most part - an extremely lovely bunch. They restored my faith in humanity, after all.