Most of the big-name MMOs, like World of Warcraft, EVE Online, and Star Wars: The Old Republic, take up a lot of space on your hard drive; Final Fantasy XIV takes up 30 GB! If you’re on an old computer, or just don’t have very much space on your drive, this could be a problem. To join in the MMO fun without a huge download, check out these eight MMOs that you can play for free, right from your browser.
The grandfather of all browser MMOs, Runescape has been around for a very long time: the first beta release was in 2001. In 2008, the Guinness Book of World Records gave Runescape the title of “World’s Most Popular Free MMORPG,” as well as “Most Frequently Updated Game.” Like most fantasy MMORPGs, you’ll choose skills to level up, collect armor and weapons, explore dungeons, and slay monsters to get loot. But not everything is hack-and-slash; you can focus on gathering or artisanal skills as well, helping you create useful items.
While Runescape remains completely free, you can also pay to upgrade your membership; for $10 per month, $26 for three months, or $90 for a year, you’ll get access to exclusive skills, a vastly larger world, more enemies, different bosses, and a slew of new equipment and outfits.
Another fantasy MMORPG, Drakensang has a distinctly more Diablo-like feel than Runescape. Choose a Ranger, Steam Mechanicus, Dragonknight, or Spellweaver and set off into the world of Dracania to slay dragons, battle monsters, and find ultra-powerful weapons, armor, and item sets. Dracania is a medieval place, so if you’re into that sort of aesthetic, Drakensang will be a great choice.
Although there are microtransactions which will help you progress through the story, the game is free to play, so you can grind it out without spending any real money. Some people find the regular pressure to pay a bit annoying, but others have made it very far through the game without paying any money.
If you’re looking for something a bit lighter than Drakensang or Runescape, Spiral Knights is a great choice. With cutesy graphics and a light-hearted tone, this game is a bit easier to play casually than many MMORPGs out there. The Spiral Knights, an alien race, have crashed on a planet called Cradle, and must fight their way to the core of the planet in search of an energy source. Unfortunately, that energy is guarded by hordes of monsters and a constantly changing mechanical dungeon called the Clockworks.
Like most of the other games on this list, you can pay real money to get better equipment faster and take on higher-level monsters, but there’s no in-game advertising in Spiral Knights, keeping the microtransaction pressure to a minimum. Some people find the game to be similar to Zelda on numerous levels, making this a good choice for fans of that series.
As of 2009, there were 30 million AQ accounts, making this a very popular option for 2D fantasy MMORPG fans. Choose a warrior, mage, rogue, or healer, and venture off through the world, learning advanced skills, gaining reputation, and adding new types of classes to your character. The cartoony graphics and lack of blood and gore make this a good option for kids. There are even “kid-safe” servers for kids under 13, where chatting can only take place from drop-down menus.
AQ is free to play, but you will be forced to watch a few ads—fortunately, they only pop up when you die. If you become a Legendary member, however, you’ll get access to over 3,000 Legend-only weapons, items, areas, bosses, and new classes. A three-month subscription is $20, or you can get an entire year for $60.
If you played real-time strategy games in the late 90s and early 2000s, you probably remember Command & Conquer. The Tiberian-series games were science-fiction-influenced and included some cool technology that you could deploy against your enemies, and Tiberium Alliances carries on the legacy as a free-to-play MMO. Start building your base, and you’ll get a free week of protection—after that, it’s a free-for-all. Collect resources, build units, expand your base, and lay waste to the competition.
Tiberium Alliances is totally free, but you’re given the option of purchasing funds to speed up your progress. You can easily go through the game without spending any real money, though, making this a great way to get your RTS fix. If you want more Command & Conquer action, don’t forget to download Red Alert 2 and Tiberian Sun for free (grab these other awesome 90s games for free, while you’re at it).
Not into the futuristic sci-fi theme? Pirates offers a more classic setup, where you’ll build up a Haven, establish your pirate fleet, and plunder the seven seas for loot and infamy. Harvest lumber and gold, distill rum (very important!), pillage shipwrecks, and take on other pirate fleets to become the baddest pirate of them all. You can also spend time working through an impressively large technology tree, which includes things like sword-fighting, gunpowder, mathematics, trade, and even flight. Join a brotherhood and get to it!
Pirates, like other games by Plarium, is free to play, but you can buy additional resources using real money. Why not save your money, though, and just buy more games?
Enough strategizing—it’s time to shoot stuff. There’s not much preamble to this game; you’re teleported by Oryx, the Mad God (not to be confused with Oryx, the Taken King of Destiny fame) to his realm to be consumed by his minions. Team up with other players, let the bullets fly, and survive! Once you’ve defeated enough minions, Oryx will show up—but once you’ve killed him, there’s plenty more to do. Explore the Shatters, a super-hard dungeon experience, collect legendary loot, and try to get the highest stats. Just don’t die: once you’re dead, that character is gone forever, and you’ll need to start over.
Yep, same as before. Free to play, but you can buy stuff if you want. Microtransactions are annoying, aren’t they? But at least we get to play games for free. That’s something. (You can also get Realm of the Mad God on Steam.)
Did you know that there are text-based MMOs? Urban Dead is a great way to get introduced to the fascinating genre; you’ll start as a human, and you need to survive zombie attacks. If you get killed off, you’ll come back as a zombie unless someone can heal you. Explore the city, find useful items, and stay alive as long as possible. And don’t forget that you can be killed off even when you’re logged out, so be sure to find a safe place before you quit for the day (or your Action Points are depleted)!
Urban Dead is free. Totally free. That’s it. If you want to give money to the developer, you can buy some UD merch. Finally! A totally free online MMO.
What Are Your Favorite Free MMOs?
These eight games are great free MMOs that you can play in your browser, but there are plenty more out there. What are your favorites? Share your favorite fantasy, post-apocalyptic, medieval, science-fiction, or any other kind of MMOs in the comments so we can all try them out!