An MMORPG is a work of creativity, but some features are essential. The game needs its own unique location and a collection of compelling history and playable races. Understanding the lore of your character and their world is part of the immersion that makes a game special. Maybe even worthy of an on-screen adaptation.
For World of Warcraft fans, lore has always been a point of controversy. Every expansion seems to bend, twist, or break the lore completely. Or does it? Back in the days of Classic World of Warcraft, when the lore was fresh, new and right out of the Warcraft III real-time strategy game, there was less to argue about. Here are ten of the coolest races that inhabit the land of Azeroth, ranked by their contribution to the lore and backstory of Classic WoW.
The Naga are connected to Night Elf lore, which is one of the reasons they're on the list. The Naga race is an uncomfortable reminder of what happens when a Night Elf plays with magic and makes a deal with the Old Gods. There was a point when developers considered making the Naga a playable race, as their history and culture had the same variety as others on Azeroth. This plan fell by the wayside simply due to design issues, but Naga are still pretty interesting. You wouldn't know that from playing Classic WoW, which takes little time to explain any of their lore or even separate them from the animals or monsters that you often kill while out questing or grinding.
Warcraft players take Goblins for granted, especially Horde players. It was because of them that the Hordies had a network of zeppelins to ride on, and how handy is that? They were the neutral race for a long time, quietly doing a quaint bit of war profiteering while the wars raged on. Their creation in the lore actually goes back to the Old Gods and one of the Keepers, Mimiron. You might know him as a boss within Ulduar. The Goblins were driven to the island of Kazan after the Sundering, which was brought to the world map for the Cataclysm expansion, at the same time they became a playable race.
Even in times past, it was all about the tech. Gnomes evolved from the Mechagnomes, who were created by the Titans but afflicted with the Curse of Flesh. This is what led them to Kaz Modan to found Gnomeregan and forge an alliance with their neighbors, the Dwarves. A trogg invasion and an inside job lost them their city when it was invaded and became irradiated. When you play a Gnome in Classic WoW, you learn about their recent past and future plans to get Gnomer back as they take refuge in New Tinkertown. When you play a Gnome, it feels like you're right in the middle of an ongoing story.
We've all seen the memes, heard the jokes and read the horror stories. You have to hand it to these things. They've got colonies and cities on almost every shore, they drop most of the items we need, and they have laid many a gamer low with their gurgling battle cry. It's a wonder the Murloc race isn't running all of Azeroth, considering the power they seem to wield.
They're also one of the oldest races in Azeroth, maybe even older than Trolls or Night Elves. In later expansions, Brann Bronzebeard would tell us his theory about the Gorlocs, the Murloc ancestors, and the ancient Gods they were descended from but in Classic WoW, they were the most mysterious, dangerous, and annoying race in Azeroth.
They're a popular race to play, with some interesting heroes and questlines, mostly because they have some great lore. One of the most stunning monuments to human forces shaping Azeroth's destiny is the Ruins of Lorderon, where a corrupt human prince killed his father and set events in motion that would eventually see his home city as a haven for an Undead Queen and her restless followers. The story of Ashbringer is also about loyalty and treachery among humans. Khadgar and Medivh were both human Mages, and one of the most prominent characters in the ongoing story of the World of Warcraft is Jaina Proudmoore, another human Mage. Then there's the Wrynn Dynasty, the story of Stormwind's ruling family, which really gets its start in Classic. In the time before WoW, it was the Humans, with help from another notable race, that started all of this in the old RTS games.
5 High Elves
There are only a few High Elf NPCs in Classic WoW, which is odd considering how ubiquitous they were in the Warcraft RTS games. They were the magic users, priests and healers of the army that opposed the Scourge at Arthas' side. Queen Sylvanas Windrunner is actually a High Elf, and the story of how she gave her life in vain to save her people is one of the pillars of Azerothian lore.
The race that was introduced in the Burning Crusade expansion as the conversion to Blood Elves had its detractors. Blood Elves and High Elves are the same race, and there are very few elves left that still call themselves High Elves. In the modern game, you could find High Elf holdouts in places like Theramore Isle and Dire Maul up until Cataclysm. There's not even enough of a population left to make them a playable race.
The most interesting thing about the Forsaken isn't just who they are, it's who they used to be. Sylvanas Windrunner was a prominent High Elf. Nathanos Blightcaller was a human Ranger. All of the undead heroes have their own story along with one more from their living existence, making the Forsaken a unique mix of races. When the Scourge lost its hold in Sylvanas and many other undead minions, they took Lorderon as their refuge, which is ironic considering it was the former seat of one of their greatest enemies, the Menethil Dynasty. Undercity is also one of the best-designed locations in the game, although in Classic WoW Sylvanas looks like a Night Elf even though there are High Elf toons in the game. Great lore, yes, but the early design needed some work.
Trolls could be the most ancient race in Azeroth, even more than Night Elves or Murlocs, but the debate still rages even in modern retail WoW. There are several different tribes and species of Troll, living in virtually every environment, and the race includes warriors, priests, shamans, hunters, and rogues, just to show you how diverse they are. When it comes to lore, they're one of the best-developed races in Azeroth. Their ancient religion, voodoo practices, and rich history of heroes and exploits make them a major player in early Azerothian history. It's also worthy to note that Vol'jin, the leader of the Darkspear Tribe, was close to Thrall and a fan-favorite during the Classic WoW period.
2 Night Elves
They call themselves the Kaldorei, or Children of the Stars, and they made Azeroth as we know it in Classic WoW. This isn't just about Sentinals, Rangers or ancient magical trees. The race that caused the Sundering is going to have some amazing lore, thus Night Elves are high on this list. The Night Elves were the first race to study magic as Mages, and they used it to win their battle against the Burning Legion, but only at great cost. Their magical knowledge wasn't so much as lost but shunned after the Sundering as a harbinger of death and doom. They were always solitary and mysterious, only reaching out to the Alliance as another influential race started to encroach in their territory of Ashenvale.
The story of the World of Warcraft started with the Orcs and a deal with a demon. The lore surrounding the origin stories of the Orcs in Classic WoW started in Warcraft II and continued into Warcraft III and was always a driving point of the lore and one of the most interesting parts of the story. Every expansion of the online game has included huge, juicy chunks of Orc lore, like taking us to Nagrand in the Burning Crusade or introducing us to The Warlords of Draenor. Thrall is really the star of this show during the early days of the MMO, as he was arguably the most benevolent and popular leader in Classic WoW with an inspiring personal story all his own.