The 10 Most Played MMORPGs in 2020 - What MMOs Should You be Playing?
It’s a new year, and there are new MMORPGs to look forward to. Blue Protocol, Project TL, New World, Phantasy Star Online 2, Crimson Desert.
Yet you might be wondering, until thoses new games actually release in a playable state, what MMOs are really worth even investing time into?
Now I do these kinds of videos once per year, at the beginning of each year. A “Most populated MMORPGs” video listing the most active, most played games right now for players interested in something new, for players that are new to the genre all together, or.. for players just curious where their favorite game ranks.
The games included in this list are not going to be in any particular order because while we’re capable of discerning a general estimate for most games, it’s impossible to obtain exact numbers.
You might argue that some of these games are good or bad, but regardless, they’re still the most played beginning 2020 and moving into the new year.
Guild Wars 2
Love or hate the game you can’t deny it’s one of the best free-to-play MMOs on the market right now. The entire base game is free allowing players to play up until level 80 without paying a cent. Expansions require a one-time purchase but purchasing one expansion gifts you all of them if I recall.
The combat in Guild Wars 2 is.. well, some people classify it as action combat but it isn’t really. Action combat is something like TERA or Black Desert, where no target is necessary.
A target is technically necessary for various skills in Guild Wars 2, but the game isn’t tab-target. It’s an unusual hybrid between the two since you’re required to dodge, you have to be mobile, you can move while casting, but you’re not required to aim while wielding long-range weapons or various magics.
If I had to classify it as anything, I’d say it’s much more action-oriented, especially for melee classes since you’re capable of freely swinging without a target.
The game has great character creation, allowing you to create a unique character but not as much as most South Korean MMOs. There are plenty of outfits and gear sets obtainable in-game that allow you to further customize your character and take part in the main-game: Fashion Wars.
The world utilizes segregated zones, splitting every zone off from one another via loading screens and level scaling. Interestingly, level scaling scales your level down to a level appropriate to the zone you’re in.
The population for the game is more difficult to gauge than most the other games in this list. I Googled around out of curiosity and saw that it was mentioned it had more than 3 million active players.. which is a very, very far stretch.
Regardless of how good the game is, ArenaNet and Guild Wars 2 has been in a state of decline all year, even despite how much people enjoy the game.
In 2018, there were approximately 400,000 to 600,000 players. Earnings for Guild Wars 2 have dropped by over 40% over the course of the year since NCSoft reported their financials in 2018.
They also laid off over 143 employees – and have been slowly reducing the speed of content updates. While I can’t give specific numbers.. it’s safe to say quite a large percentage of players have stopped since those numbers were reported on in 2018.
Dungeon Fighter Online
Dungeon Fighter Online will always be a personal favorite of mine. It’s got some of the best combat in a side-scrolling brawler and has one of the largest selections of zones to explore in a game of its kind.
See, while yes the game is in fact a hub-based brawler, it’s much more than what you’d expect, providing various different locales, quest hubs, and a plethora of zones to explore.
Truly, the game is tremendously large for the kind of game it is. DFO has a very deep class-system allowing for you to choose different, diverging routes each with their own unique styles of play, strengths and weaknesses.
But that isn’t where the game shines: The game shines with its combat, which is not only fast and impactful, but also has some the most impressive special effects I’ve seen outside of probably.. Maplestory.
I know what you’re thinking. “But Stix, there are only a few hundred people playing according to Steam!” I know, I do. Every time I make mention of Dungeon Fighter Online, I always get people saying “DFO’s dead,” when in reality, not only can you play the game via Steam, but also via their own personal client.
But that isn’t where the vast majority of players come from. The game is one of, if not the highest grossing MMO in the entire world. Don’t believe me? Go and Google it.
Its playerbase has several million players playing concurrently during peak hours.. but as you may have already guessed by now, that isn’t on the North American or European servers.
No, China and South Korea are where the vast majority of players are located, but due to the sheer number of players, the game continues to get more updates than almost any other MMO in existence. Seriously, boot up a VPN and go ahead and log into the Chinese Dungeon Fighter Online. Take a look at the playerbase. It’s.. crazy.
Elder Scrolls Online
I’ve always been a huge fan of the Elder Scrolls series. I’ve poured more hours than I know what to do with in Morrowind and Oblivion, and Skyrim took more of my life away from me than I’d like to admit. However, The Elder Scrolls Online was.. an interesting route to take the series.
It has the same feel of an Elder Scrolls game, features the same kind of action combat most of the Elder Scrolls games use, but does not feature a seamless world, instead having an open world with small loading screens separating various zones from one another.
The combat and class system for ESO is unique in so that it allows you to kind of build the character – or moreso, the class you want. You can be a badass hulking mass of muscle that uses a little wand to smack people with after coming out of stealth. Yup, it’s that awesome.
Last year, the Elsweyr expansion was released, taking us to the home of the Khajiit. Prior to the launch of the expansion, ESO had approximately 11 million registered players. I’d also like to note that The Elder Scrolls Online is buy-to-play, meaning that that is 11 million players that paid for the game.
After the expansion dropped, months later, it was revealed that there were roughly 13.5 million total registered players, adding a ridiculous 2 and a half million new players to the game over the course of the period since it was first reported. This included players who purchased the game, it didn’t take into account any special trial editions.
As I reported in my last Weekly Byte of MMORPG News video, ESO actually has an entire year worth of updates planned with the first chapter, Greymoor being announced recently.
In the last several months alone, the game has increased the total number of players to over 15 million, adding another 1 and a half million players over the latter half of the year. It’s also worth noting that this counts players on ever platform: PC, Xbox One and PS4.
With those numbers.. adding over 4 million new players over a 1 to 2 year period.. it’s safe to say that the game is not hurting for players.
Star Wars The Old Republic
For those of you with a craving for sci-fi, this’ll probably be one of the only MMORPGs you have in terms of options. I’ll admit, I haven’t played that much of the game. 10 hours, maybe 12 total. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are still quite a few players logging in regularly to play the game.
It takes place within the Star Wars universe, so if you’re a fan of the movies or the other games, you’ll probably find yourself caught up in the story – of which Star Wars The Old Republic has quite an emphasis.
This game is probably the most story-driven MMO I’ve seen other than Final Fantasy XIV – and that’s saying something because XIV is filled with what seems like hundreds of hours worth of story.
The game offers a unique way of storytelling by providing players with varied options that can lead to different character’s deaths and even impact recruiting or romancing other characters you come across.
The combat.. well, honestly the combat definitely isn’t the selling point for The Old Republic. It’s a pretty basic, albeit a little dated tab-target system. Don’t get me wrong, though – the combat isn’t bad – it’s just.. slower and a little clunkier than I’m used to.
While Star Wars The Old Republic is free-to-play, many current and old players alike are of the opinion that you need to pay if you want to fully experience the game.
The most recent expansions, along with all content found within them are locked behind a pay-wall though requiring you subscribe once to unlock all of the content associated with them, but that’s what? A one-time $15 fee?
Official numbers have never been given for Star Wars The Old Republic, but several unofficial sources claim the game has well over 100,000 active players. That is highly unlikely, however. The game has quite a few active players, don’t get me wrong, but the cumulative total population across all their servers numbers closer to half of that number at max.
Black Desert Online
Black Desert Online has been dominating every single platform with its recent expansion onto everything other than the Switch. Wait, they haven’t launched onto the Switch yet, right? I don’t think so.
Black Desert is generally considered the best looking MMORPG on the market. It provides players unrivaled character creation options, with players often spending hours within the character creation alone.
It also provides almost unparalleled action combat, with some of the fastest and the flashiest combat you’ve ever seen in an MMO. And if they weren’t enough to get you excited, the game is a giant sandbox: There are no loading screens between pretty much anywhere in the world.
Or at least there weren’t. I came back to the game recently and get the occasional brief little intermission in the form of a loading screen when running between various different areas. But maybe that’s just me.
BDO is unique in so that it offers absolutely nothing found in most MMOs these days. You make your character, then you go out and instantly begin grinding. And that makes up the bulk of the game. There are no dungeons, no raids. It’s an interesting spin on the MMO genre, but one that has worked very well for it.
Getting a gauge for currently active players is impossible. The game was sitting at a couple hundred thousand monthly active players before they released onto each console, with console sales numbering in the hundreds of thousands as well. So while we can’t obtain exact numbers, it’s safe to assume several hundred thousand players still play each month.
Final Fantasy XIV
If you’ve watched my channel at all in the last year you’d know that Final Fantasy XIV is my favorite MMORPG. I played it for about 8 months straight from the final patch of Stormblood until several months through Shadowbringers, and played the game during 2.0 for a few months before Heavensward released.
As I mentioned earlier, Final Fantasy XIV has one of the deepest stories I’ve ever played through in an MMO. I’ve never really felt personally connected in any capacity when it came to MMOs. I click through the story like most of you do because the plot normally sucks. It does. It’s okay to say that, we don’t need to hide it.
The combat is tab-target, and I’ll admit that early on the combat can be really slow. Like, mind-numbingly slow, but I could say the same about most tab-target MMOs. It gets better, and by the time you’re at max level, you have more abilities than you realistically know what to do with.
One thing I enjoy about the game more than almost any other feature is the ability to level every class, every profession and pretty much do every single thing on a single character. There is absolutely no need to level alts because every class is accessible on your main.
This not only makes finding the perfect outfit easier – and let’s be honest.. Glamour in Final Fantasy XIV is more popular than the game itself – and it makes managing friends, mounts, gear and.. everything else that much easier.
The world is split into segregated zones, with each expansion expanding in size – offering absolutely enormous areas to explore.
According to the Final Fantasy XIV Census website, there are over 600,000 active players currently. At the beginning of 2019, Square Enix revealed that there were, at the time of the announcement, approximately 14 million registered accounts currently.
That is REGISTERED ACCOUNTS, not TOTAL ACTIVE PLAYERS. I have this argument every time I mention this in a video. Please understand the difference.
Towards the middle of 2019 when Shadowbringers launched, there were over 17 million registered players, and it was revealed that the game had hit its highest number of active subscribers in the game’s history at 1.1 million active subscribers.
Since then, no doubt the population has dipped a little bit but it’s safe to assume there’s still quite a significant number of players. Whether that’s 800,000 or a million is impossible to say, but it’s more than almost any other MMO online right now.
Eve Online is one of the most popular sci-fi MMOs ever. I’ll be honest with you guys.. I’ve only ever played through maybe a couple hours, max. The game requires a lot of investment to really understand. Too much for me at the time who was struggling with growing the channel and working a full-time job.
I really should revisit the game, especially considering it’s free-to-play now, but.. Iunno, one day. But I digress.
EVE is a complete sandbox MMO – you have the freedom to explore the galaxy, or, the universe? I’m honestly not sure how large the game is, but you can explore it! It doesn’t hold your hand at all and provides you a plethora of different activities to partake of.
You’re capable of running missions – which is a good starting point if you’re new to the game, there’s the ability to explore the universe, you can participate in general gathering and crafting, you can haul items from station to station and most importantly.. you can participate in open-world PvP.
Or, well, okay. I say open-world PvP, but it’s more like.. open-universe PvP. There’s actually a ton of PvP that takes place in the game. I wish I’d gotten to experience it but.. yeah, there was no way I would’ve ever gotten far enough to have been able to.
The population in EVE Online is at approximately 30,000 concurrent players as of January 2020. There is no way to gauge total active players that I’m aware of, and while the playerbase fluctuates by a few thousand depending on the week, it’s still a safe bet to assume that around 30,000 players play the game concurrently.
RuneScape/Old School RuneScape
Alright so for this one I’m kinda just going to.. clump the two of these together. RuneScape and Old School RuneScape, because they’re both kinda the same game while.. not really the same game.
Regardless of which version of the game you play, you can’t deny that this game is one of the – if not the most played free MMO pretty much ever. Yes, the graphical style might dissuade you from playing it upon first glance, I can definitely see that being the case. But don’t let it hinder you.
RuneScape features an incredibly large world, featuring content that has been actively being released since back in 2001. Yes, the game is older than a lot of you guys watching this video. It utilizes, interestingly enough, pretty solid tab-target combat.
Well I mean, I say tab-target combat but at the same time you can’t really.. bind your target-cycling key to tab, which is a little ironic admittedly. Or at least you couldn’t when I last played the game.
One of the most important features, and this was actually a much more recent addition to the game, that I believe was integral in expanding even further, was their launch of RuneScape onto mobile devices. Yup, RuneScape is completely cross-platform compatible with mobile devices, bringing in tons of new players to the game.
At the beginning of 2019, RuneScape turned 18 years old. Jagex, the team behind RuneScape revealed that not only had the franchise hit its largest number of active subscribers ever, but simultaneously broke record for monthly active users across all versions of RuneScape.
There were over 1 million active subscribers, and hundreds of thousands of players logged in concurrently. The active number of players? Obviously significantly more than that. But then that was back in 2019, shortly after the release of their mobile version.
While the number might be less as of the same time in 2020, it’s safe to assume there are still well over a million active players.
Maplestory is an interesting MMO. It’s the only MMO I’ve played of its kind, and although yes, there are a couple other games that are similar in nature, I just haven’t ever gotten around to them.
Maplestory is a side-scrolling action MMO. Dungeon Fighter Online and Maplestory are the only Anime-inspired games in this list, and Dungeon Fighter is pushing it.
Graphically, it’s adorable – it is. Yet at the same time, has some of the most epic looking special effects I’ve seen in an Anime game. No joke. Even games released a decade later don’t look nearly as good as this does.
The world is ridiculously large as well, but the game has an interesting way of navigating it. Each zone has different level requirements, and every zone is cut off from the other via little portals that trigger loading screens.
This means that zones are segregated, but there is often plenty to explore in each zone with varying levels to ascend and descend. It also has a very deep class system with more classes than I would ever know what to do with.
But most importantly, the game actually has a decent story. It’s.. well, it’s definitely something. Both the main story, and even the side-quests are very fun, if a little dumb at times but they keep me highly entertained.
As an example, the kind of humor I like is back in World of Warcraft, when you click an Orc Peon enough times, he responds with “Me not that kind of Orc.” That gets me every time, and I love stupid humor like that.
Googling around, I see that mention of Maplestory is at around 8 million players, which is nowhere near true. Yes, Maplestory still earns quite a bit of money for Nexon, but as of 2020, the game has lost a large percentage of its playerbase.
Factoring in Asian servers, the cumulative total of active players for Maplestory is much closer to approximately 300,000 active players.
World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft was my first “big MMORPG.” I started back in Wrath of the Lich King and have been a part of every expansion since 2008. Now love or hate WoW, the fact is that currently, it’s still the most populated MMO on the market.
While it’s definitely plausible that this will change in the next year or two, there’s still no denying it as of the beginning of 2020. World of Warcraft has more content than almost any other MMO. Most of the content pre-Mists of Pandaria looks very dated – it does.
I’ve seen multiple people admit to not playing WoW merely because the early leveling zones look disgusting and they think that’s what the entire game looks like. Yet later zones, especially the areas in Legion and Battle for Azeroth are absolutely stunning, gorgeous. You wouldn’t think they were from the same game.
The combat is also still, to this day, an example of what good tab-target combat looks and feels like. With all of the issues WoW has, combat is most definitely not one of them. Its world is also something that games should aspire to replicate.
Zones aren’t segregated from one another: It’s open and you’re capable of exploring freely, running from zone to zone without loading screen. Well, I mean continents have loading screens separating them but other than that, the world is seamlessly connected.
At the end of the day, World of Warcraft is a very good game. The developers just don’t really know what to do with the game and thus people complain and find issue with various features they either introduce and remove.
I know Battle for Azeroth was disliked, and I hope Shadowlands helps to correct some of the mistakes it made, but the base game, at its core, is still a very impressive MMO to play. While at its peak it had what, 11? 12 million monthly active players? A fraction of that remains, but it still sits a solid million players or more above any other MMO.
Some people claim the game has a mere million players playing the game but via various addons that track logged in players, and even Blizz’s financials themselves, it’s safe to assume there are approximately 2 to 3 million active monthly players left.
While Shadowlands will no doubt increase that quite significantly, we’ll have to see if the expansion can retain players – something Battle for Azeroth couldn’t seem to do.
I know that some of you probably dislike some if not most of the MMOs included in this list. But nevertheless, these games are the most actively played in the genre right now. Yes, there are other solid games like Neverwinter, Blade & Soul or Star Trek Online but they lack the playerbase that these games do.
Nevertheless, hopefully this list helps you find something to play if you’re concerned with active player numbers. Or at least help keep your attention until something launches this year.