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The 10 best MMOs and MMORPGs to play in 2021

Where to play with your massive friends

Massively multiplayer online roleplaying games, aka, games that will consume your life. Your first task: fetch thirty kobold beaks for Gary and receive a stubby longsword in exchange. Fast forward ten thousand hours later. You sport fiery pauldrons, slay a dragon, and nab some legendary loot. What a feeling. And there are plenty of MMORPGs that can give you this experience, but with different makeups. Some are fantasy, some lean into the JRPG side of things, while others go full sci-fi. Well, we've put together a list of the 10 best MMORPGs to try out if you're into levelling, raiding, and roleplaying.

The 10 Best MMO games

Think of the links below as a matchmaking tool for finding a group to raid with, but the raid is a paragraph on an MMORPG, and there's no party - unless you're reading this with someone in real life over your shoulder, of course. Don't be afraid to write your own entry in the comments below if you feel strongly about a favourite of yours, and we may just consider it for a future update. Who knows? Maybe New World will end up on this list. Have a look at some gameplay in the video above, if you're interested. Anyway, that's enough of us, please click away:


10. Planetside 2

Planetside 2

Planetside 2 is an FPS which focuses on huge wars between thousands of players. You can pilot ground and air vehicles, or just run headlong at things with your assault rifle in tow in battles for interplanetary supremacy.

At its core Planetside 2 is a fairly straightforward class shooter about capturing and holding bases, but it comes alive when played alongside other players in organised squads. Plotting a course across a massive battlefield, leading counter-attacks or daring raids on enemy bases, is a thrill and a spectacle on a scale most other shooters can't get close to.


9. The Lord Of The Rings Online

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 story expansions even in 2021. And as an added treat, it's due a visual update in 2022 to tie in with Amazon's LOTR TV show.


8. Guild Wars 2

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.


7. The Elder Scrolls Online

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, tThe 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

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. Black Desert Online

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.


4. Runescape

Runescape

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.

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

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 recent 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

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 worse.

World Of Warcraft's latest expansion, Shadowlands, also shook the game up and made it more interesting. It squeezed the level cap, streamlined the beginner experience, and added a better flow to combat. For new players, the lore isn't a mess to jump into but pretty easy to follow now. All the old faction leaders and warchiefs and pandas are references to be experienced later on, at your own pace - if you want to.


1. Final Fantasy XIV

A group of happy characters in 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.

In other MMOs you may find you feel quite hemmed in by your choices, but with Final Fantasy XIV there's this sense of freedom. And it's this which makes it such a popular choice. Oh, and each expansion seems to get better and better. If you want to play an MMO that's on the rise, this is the one for you.

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