The MMORPG genre is a difficult one to judge, isn’t it? For one thing, brand-new blood has been a little rare of late, as fresh titles struggle to make a real foothold. For another, long-running favorites that have been around for years keep reinventing themselves, with vast swathes of new content to wade through.
Nevertheless, the core appeal of the genre remains: if you want a huge, virtual world to lose yourself in and plenty new to do once you have, MMORPGs are for you. Let’s take a look at some of the very best that 2018 had to offer, from the legendary World of Warcraft to up-and-comers like Warframe.
10 EVE Online
EVE Online is an interesting case to start this rundown with. It was first released way back in 2003, and has had quite a troubled history. As MMORPG reports, its past has been marked by failed attempts at VR and other misfortunes, but you can never count an MMORPG out.
EVE Online, as with many other games on this list, was originally released some time before 2018, but the attention that has recently been lavished on the game has paid dividends. This expansive space-exploration title is only getting bigger. How influential has the game been? Well, there’s a permanent exhibit in New York’s Museum of Modern Art dedicated to it. Enough said.
9 World Of Warcraft
Speaking of long-running MMORPGs that were looking bigger and better than ever in 2018, here comes the real behemoth of the genre. Does it get any bigger than World of Warcraft? No, no it doesn’t. This one’s the head honcho as far as the genre’s concerned; a great, glorious black hole that has pulled millions into the humongous fantasy playground that is Azeroth.
Games that demand subscriptions (or have done historically) tend to make many prospective players think twice, but in terms of bang for your entertainment buck, World of Warcraft’s value is almost limitless. Its many updates have been a little hit and miss over the years, but in terms of the sheer size of the package, few can rival what this one brings to the table now.
8 Final Fantasy XIV
Ah, yes. Franchise fans can be a defensive bunch, can’t they? Sequels are such a difficult business. The follow-up’s got to be true to the classic formula, or they’ll riot. By the same token, though, if developers play it too safe, they’ll also riot. It’s a super tricky one.
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As such, Final Fantasy fans tend to feel a certain way about Final Fantasy XIV. On its own merits, though, it’s a very interesting MMORPG, and another that has been looking more robust than ever of late. As MMORPG put it last year, “The recent patches have pushed along the story, revamped features, and added content to keep people busy until the inevitable big announcements at the fan festivals.”
MMORPGs are curious beasts. Much of the time, the whole experience is centered around lore, exploration and that sort of thing; anything that can help you make sense of the gigantic virtual world you’re a part of. Some players aren’t looking for that, though. If you want more of an action RPG experience, there are lots of games in the genre that will cater to those needs.
Tera is one of the more high-octane experiences out there, offering combat on a grand scale and a rich world of alliances, mortals and gods.
6 Guild Wars 2
Much like World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2 is another faithful old veteran in the world of MMORPGs. Still, ask any fan of the genre about some of the best MMOs out there at the moment, and they’re sure to drop this name sooner or later.
Truly great games, when offered continued support, are almost timeless. This is how Grand Theft Auto V managed to wind up as the 11th best-selling game of last year, even though it’s over five years old. It’s also how Guild Wars 2, with its unique plot affected by player actions and strategic, environment-based combat, is as vibrant and compelling an experience as ever.
Now, Trove’s going to be a bit of a contentious pick. It’s divided opinion a little more than some of the other games we’ve included here, offering something that’s both super unique and just a little hackneyed all at the same time. Trove is a blend of all sorts of familiar MMORPG trappings, packed in a Minecraft-inspired shell. Yes, so many games have been hopping on the 2D blocky bandwagon lately, but the Minecraft aesthetic and freeform approach really does work well here.
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Trove was a little lacking content-wise on arrival, but, as we’ve seen many MMORPGs manage to resolve that issue handily over time with updates.
The MMORPG genre tends to have a preference for one of two themes: either the swords and sorcery angle or the super futuristic space-dwelling angle. The curious thing about Warframe is that it actually combines the two a little. Players take the role of a Tenno, a member of an ancient warrior race (there’s the swords and sorcery link) that has been in cryosleep for centuries. On awakening, they find themselves embroiled in a fierce intergalactic war (there’s the spacey).
Warframe is characterized by its co-op gunplay and the fact that it’s grown exponentially in content and player base since its introduction. In 2018, Warframe was a force to be reckoned with, and it’s only becoming bigger.
3 Star Trek Online
Unlike its fellow sci-fi icon Star Wars, Star Trek has always had a little more trouble breaking into the mainstream. In terms of movies, merchandise and beloved characters, Star Wars is a clear winner for many of us. You can never count Star Trek out, though. The series has an excellent MMORPG to its name in Star Trek Online (which again takes the popular naming route of lazily slapping the word "online" in there at the end).
The concept is a simple yet intriguing one: players captain their own starships (I’m sold already), but also visit the surface to complete quests. The combat is a highlight, too. It’s a good balance of action and strategy, as you balance your own position with the ebb and flow of action on the craft itself.
2 Sea Of Thieves
Sea of Thieves is one of those unfortunate titles that just wasn’t given a fair shake. The fantastic concept of an open-world co-operative pirate ‘em up is something we could all get on board with, but it was alarmingly low on content when it first arrived in March 2018.
Nevertheless, they say that time heals all wounds, and time certainly did Sea of Thieves the world of good. By last summer, substantial updates had given the playerbase a real boost; the package was much meatier than it had been. That momentum may not have lasted as long as we’d have liked, but at its peak, Sea of Thieves was a popular, unique and entertaining experience.
1 Elder Scrolls Online
If you’ve delved into Skyrim (which just about every lifeform with functioning hands in the whole known universe must have done by now), you’ll know what a vast and awe-inspiring world the Elder Scrolls series can create. When they say you can go anywhere and do anything, they’re not kidding.
As such, you can bet that an MMORPG set in Elder Scrolls-ville is going to be a huge, daunting prospect. It wasn’t a new release for 2018, true enough, but what a year that was for Elder Scrolls Online. As MMORPG reports, Summerset marked a huge spike in players (over 11 million of them were recorded), and the allure of Wolfhunter and Murkmire certainly helped too.