The Best MMORPGS of All Time

Last updated: 3/18/2024
5 minutes read

MMORPGs illustrate the perfect microcosm of what makes the internet great. They connect us with people across the world, helping us share goals and overcome common challenges. Ever since the first breakout of MUDS and MMO games like Ultima Online, this genre has continued to fascinate us.

The best MMORPGs of all time act as a kind of history lesson for the development of many gaming concepts. Whether looking at today when games with the most realistic graphics are popular or back when fantasy and abstraction ruled supreme, MMOs follow and evolve with the roads and trends traveled.

Now with over three decades of titles behind us, we thought it would be interesting to turn back the clock and explore the long road travelled. From the most popular game right now to the niche titles that still affect the market, here's our list of the top MMORPGs of all time.

World of Warcraft – Launched 2004

You knew it would have to appear somewhere on the list as one of the best MMORPG to play, so we may as well get it out of the way. 

World of Warcraft took what was already a popular RTS series and turned it into the most famous game in the world. WoW was welcoming, it had style, and it found itself as the crown jewel in Blizzard’s golden age.

WoW is still considered by many as the greatest MMORPG of all time. From its PvP to huge raids, WoW set off an explosion of imitators, proving what massively multiplayer games could accomplish in the mainstream.

Ultima Online – Launched 1997

Years before Orcs and Humans took to online open-world games with WoW, Ultima Online was setting standards on what virtual landscapes could accomplish. Borrowing from the long-running Ultima RPG series, Ultima Online earned its place among the best MMORPGs ever.

Designed partway as a game as well as a social and economic experiment, the results of Ultima Online's tests helped reveal some interesting points about what online multiplayer games should and shouldn't do. 

It’s regarded as one of the best MMORPGs of all time thanks to its famous moments such as the killing of the series’ creator's character, Lord British.

Everquest – Launched 1999

Everquest was a clunky MMORPG, but there's still no doubting its importance. What made Everquest one of the best MMORPGs of all time was its ability to build on the foundations set by Ultima Online, and make it more approachable to a broader audience.

Everquest had imagination, it had a cutting-edge 3D world, and it had a level of grinding that would set a bar many would unfortunately emulate. 

Once the biggest MMORPGs of all time, Everquest still enjoys a solid reputation and fans today.

Final Fantasy XI – Launched 2002

As yet another online entry in a long-running series, FF11 took key elements of its previous games and adapted them into the MMORPG space. 

The quality and momentum of Final Fantasy guaranteed this game would be an instant top-seller, but what made it one of the best MMORPGs of all time was its availability.

Final Fantasy XI was the game that popularised MMORPGs in the console space. While Phantasy Star Online for the ill-fated Sega Dreamcast was the first, FF11 was undoubtedly the biggest. 

Fans especially loved the game's built-in translation features which made it possible to communicate with players across the world with ease. Now usurped by the also online Final Fantasy 14, this entry is still one of the best MMORPGs ever.

Eve Online – Launched 2003

Balancing the line in the MMO vs MMORPG battle is Eve Online, a game that takes place in one enormous and persistent universe. Eve has you create a character and build an empire as you trade, do battle, and attempt to avoid attacks from an often unfriendly universe.

Eve is regarded among the best MMORPGs of all time because of its scale. The game spans an entire galaxy, and the different parts of the galaxy are controlled by player-made factions. 

This has led to enormous conflicts full of drama both online and off. The largest-ever battle, the Massacre at M2-XFE, cost around US$380,000 of real player investments, becoming the stuff of legends.

RuneScape – Launched 2001

RuneScape took off at a time when online access was reaching the masses. Everybody and their mother was jumping into the World Wide Web, and this created an influx of new PC gamers. 

The problem was a lot of these new players didn't have gaming computers, and they didn't have fast internet. To RuneScape, this didn't matter.

RuneScape found its place among the best MMORPGs of all time through accessibility. It didn't require fast hardware, fast connections, or even a purchase. It still featured a dense world full of activities, abilities, and classes, and so it found enormous success. 

Still undergoing updates for new and classic versions, this more than 20-year-old game is still one of the best MMORPGs in 2024.

Star Wars Galaxies – Launched 2003

Star Wars Galaxies is one of the sadder tales among the best MMORPGs of all time, not unlike the tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise. 

This was the first Star Wars title to really take advantage of the IP in the MMO space, and it swung its lightsaber for the fences. Cool classes, flight, and player housing so immense that it created entire new towns helped set Galaxies apart.

Unfortunately let down by a series of poor updates, Galaxies eventually took a direct hit from the Death Star of public opinion, but its original form is still remembered fondly. 

Galaxies walked so the also great Star Wars: The Old Republic could run, and for that alone, it's one of the best MMORPGs of all time.

A Bright Future

Looking back at this list of the best MMORPGs of all time, you might get the impression that all good games are in the past, but this isn’t true. 

Most of the games listed above are still available today, and most have evolved significantly to become even better with age. These are just the titles that have best stood the test of time, earning their legacies to become legends.

In a few years, don’t be surprised to see the best MMORPGs of 2023 and today added to this list. Like our older titles above, they first have to prove their place in history. Let’s just hope the titles of the last few years end up a little more like RuneScape, and a little less like Star Wars Galaxies.