The 10 Greatest Free MMORPGs To Start Playing Now

The landscape of MMORPG gaming has never been better than it is today. Some may pine for the good old days when games like Ultima Online, Everquest, and Dark Age of Camelot dominated the scene, but in terms of variety and affordability we’re living in the golden age right now.

Here are 10 of the best available options for those of you who want to play a commercial-quality MMORPG without ever paying a cent. The only criteria for being on this list are that there is no upfront cost (e.g., Guild Wars 2) and there are no mandatory subscriptions (the key point of free-to-play MMORPGs). Don’t be surprised to see a few MMORPGs that were once premium!

Note: There is no particular order to this list. If you find a game on here, all it means is that I believe it to be worth playing. Release dates are the first date that the game was released anywhere, not specific to any region.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

mmorpg swtor   The 10 Greatest Free MMORPGs To Start Playing Now

Released: December 20, 2011

Payment Model: Free accounts have some interface and gameplay restrictions; Preferred Status can be unlocked with any purchase of $4.99 or greater to lift some restrictions; subscribers have full access for $14.99 per month. There is also a cash shop called Cartel Market which uses Cartel Coins.

Pros: Great story and immersion for anyone who loves Star Wars lore; graphics and animations are well done; class gameplay is unique and distinct from each other; fast paced combat; fun PvP system.

Cons: Linear gameplay can be repetitive; interface is a bit chunky; endgame is a bit nebulous; nothing that really sets the game apart from its competitors.

TERA Rising

mmorpg tera   The 10 Greatest Free MMORPGs To Start Playing Now

Released: January 25, 2011

Payment Model: Standard accounts are completely free with a few limitations on gameplay but not content; Founder accounts are for players who have a purchased copy of TERA; Elite Status is a subscription of $14.99 per month that increases dungeon rewards and daily bonuses and reduces brokerage fees. TERA operates with a cash shop.

Pros: Active combat system reminiscent of Guild Wars 2; beautiful graphics and animations; customizable interface elements; lots of activities for solo players; cash shop items can be traded to other players.

Cons: Linear gameplay can be repetitive; quests and story are lackluster; endgame content is also lackluster; poorly designed crafting system.

PlanetSide 2

mmorpg planetside2   The 10 Greatest Free MMORPGs To Start Playing Now

Released: November 20, 2012

Payment Model: Free accounts have full access to all game content; membership can be purchased for $14.99 per month to unlock increased resource and XP gain as well as extra character slots and priority logins; the cash shop allows players to purchase convenience and cosmetic items.

Pros: FPS gameplay between 3 factions for high-action fun; great for players who want large-scale battles; graphics engine is top-notch and beautiful.

Cons: Deviation from typical MMORPG design results in a steep learning curve; graphics engine requires a powerful computer; classes are somewhat imbalanced.

Neverwinter

mmorpg neverwinter   The 10 Greatest Free MMORPGs To Start Playing Now

Released: June 20, 2013

Payment Model: Standard accounts are free to play without any restrictions to game content; Zen is the virtual currency used for Neverwinter’s cash shop, which is used to purchase convenience items and quality-of-life improvements.

Pros: Great virtualization of the Dungeons and Dragons franchise; modern graphics and interface result in an aesthetically pleasing game; atmospheric and immersive world; The Foundry is a game tool that allows players to create game content for others to experience; great PvP system.

Cons: Nothing particularly innovative or new about the gameplay; quests and progression can be repetitive due to linearity; three separate currencies make for poorly designed economy.

Lord of the Rings Online

mmorpg lotro   The 10 Greatest Free MMORPGs To Start Playing Now

Released: April 24, 2007

Payment Model: Free accounts have significant restrictions that can be lifted through the cash shop using Turbine Points; Premium accounts are automatically granted to players who make real money purchases; VIP accounts are subscription-based for $14.99 per month and unlock all game features as long as a subscription is maintained.

Pros: Great virtualization of the Middle Earth environment; housing system that players can personalize; trait system is unique and fun.

Cons: Not much else that distinguishes gameplay from competing MMORPGs; linear quests and progression; not much endgame content.

Everquest 2

mmorpg everquest2   The 10 Greatest Free MMORPGs To Start Playing Now

Released: November 4, 2004

Payment Model: Free accounts have full game content access but some gameplay restrictions; Silver accounts lift some restrictions and can be unlocked with a purchase of $5 or greater in the cash shop; Gold accounts lift all restrictions and provide some bonuses, available for $14.99 per month.

Pros: Huge race pool and branching class specializations result in lots of player variety; massive game world built on ten years of development;  housing system that players can personalize.

Cons: Last generation graphics yet requires a somewhat powerful computer; some gameplay elements are obviously dated.

RIFT

mmorpg rift   The 10 Greatest Free MMORPGs To Start Playing Now

Released: March 1, 2011

Payment Model: Free accounts have full access to the game with some restricted gameplay features while Patron accounts (subscribers) have unrestricted access to the game and some bonuses for $14.99 per month. Credits can be bought and spent in the cash shop or traded to players for in-game currency using the RIFT Exchange.

Pros: Fun PvE content; interesting game world and lore; fun and rewarding PvP system; visually pleasing graphics; the Soul system allows for interesting multi-class options.

Cons: Lots of issues with class balance; very reminiscent of World of Warcraft’s gameplay but not as polished.

Aion

mmorpg aion   The 10 Greatest Free MMORPGs To Start Playing Now

Released: November 25, 2008

Payment Model: Starter accounts are free and have access to all game content but some restrictions on gameplay elements; Veteran accounts are for paid users from before Aion’s switch to F2P and have full game access; Gold accounts provide full access and some extra perks for $13.75 per month.

Pros: Aesthetically pleasing graphics; unique open-world PvP system; interesting combat system; player housing for players to personalize.

Cons: PvE content is too quick and easy, but the grind is longer than average; ongoing problem with bots; repetitive linear gameplay.

Age of Wushu

mmorpg ageofwushu   The 10 Greatest Free MMORPGs To Start Playing Now

Released: April 10, 2013

Payment Model: Free accounts have full access to the game but players can upgrade to a VIP account for 30 Gold (about $9) per month, which grants bonuses to some gameplay elements. Gold is the cash shop’s currency. The cash shop mostly contains convenience items and cosmetic equipment.

Pros: Eastern theme and graphics provide a breath of fresh air; unique strategic combat system with lots of depth; open-world PvP; player-driven economy.

Cons: Combat can be complex and thus has a steep learning curve; quality of graphics is not up to par with commercial MMORPGs; many bots and scammers.

Dungeons and Dragons Online

mmorpg ddo   The 10 Greatest Free MMORPGs To Start Playing Now

Released: February 28, 2006

Payment Model: Free accounts only have access to free zones/classes/races/quests but extra adventure packs can be purchased using Turbine Points which can be earned in-game given enough time; Premium accounts are those that have spent any amount in the cash shop and have some free restrictions lifted; VIP subscribers have full access to the game for $14.99 per month.

Pros:b Fun action-based comat system; instanced world design makes it easy to play for short periods of time; instances have multiple difficulties; adventure pack system allows you to purchase the zones you want and skip the ones you don’t want; designed after the D&D 3.5 ruleset.

Cons: Amount of free zones/quests is not enough for a fully free player; character progression is slower than most modern MMORPGs; graphics are somewhat outdated.

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14 Comments -

Ocassional Observer

List is woefully incomplete without Star Trek: Online. Constant new updates and features, truly free to play (no content locked away behind payments, although money can get you ships/gear/in-game items and bonuses), hours and hours of content, and a new major expansion just released a few months back.

Collije

Totally agree. STO should be on this list easily.

Todd Smith

Path of Exile should be here. Maybe it doesn’t count because it’s more of an Action MMORPG, but it’s still definitly noteworthy. Maybe Allods as well.

I finally left World of Warcraft back in ’09 (I think it was) and despite having tried out 7 of the games above, I can’t really find anything to fill that MMORPG void. Aion, Neverwinter, and *maybe* Tera, got close. Most games are fun in the beginning – creating the character, getting new abilities, etc. but it’s really hard to find something worth STICKING with

Jurmy C

I like Path Of Exile :), but i will have to try 1 or two from the list above .

Jurmy C

Does anyone know what happened with Legend Of Ares? I miss it.

Sean

PoE can’t really be classified as a standard MMORPG. It lacks most of the elements of a classic MMORPG.

t gon

missed marvel heroes also

RMXIII

I was wondering were Star Trek Online would be on the list. All paying really does for that is give you more inventory slots as you level, free respec tokens as you level, and 500 Zen a month. As for the ships bought with Zen, most are more side upgrades with extra features with their special consoles.

Also all 3 factions have their own different starter stories, but about halfway though they all merge together though. Ship based space combat is excellent, but ground combat is not as good, but passable. You may reach 50 rather fast in Star Trek Online though, but it seems most of the real game really run at LV50 though in there,

Carl C

I think it’s important to mention that in LOTRO, it’s possible to earn Turbine Points simply by playing the game; it’s theoretically possible to unlock everything in the game simply by playing enough. I started when the game went free to play, and I played for months without spending a dime, as I used the Turbine Points I had earned to buy the unlocks for new regions as I arrived at them. Yes, you might have to grind a little to advance, but you can experience the whole game for free if you’re determined enough. In fact, the only reason that I became a subscriber is because I really liked the game and wanted to support it, not because I felt that I was limited in any way.

Joel L

Thanks for that. LOTRO has undergone a lot of changes during its life and its business model can be a little fuzzy in places. It sounds pretty similar to DDO with the “grind it out if you have the time, but here are purchases for your conveniences” direction.

falafel

I know, I know I probably shouldn’t say this…but I will…LOTRO is the only one with a mac client.

Le Batteur

I agree that Star Trek: Online ought to be on this list as well, right up next to The Old Republic.

Adam T

Runescape isnt on the list? Theres so much free content, and the monthly sub price is one of the lowest around :)

r3zs1ckn3ss

STO is boring, graphics are blah, character models are fugly. That’s why it’s not on here. Not aesthetically pleasing at all.