The 10 Most Played MMORPGs in 2022 - The Best MMOs to Start 2022 off Right!
It’s difficult finding an MMORPG to devote time to. Games either don’t live up to the unrealistic hype that other people create for them, or you happen across one you genuinely enjoy and it turns out nobody else does. The game’s empty.
And with so many MMOs having come out this year: PSO2 New Genesis, Swords of Legends Online, Bless Unleashed, Crowfall, Elyon, New World. Have the top 10 most played MMOs shifted? Is there something better out there that everyone is devoting their time to? Let’s find out. Together.
Especially given next month is the beginning of 2022, and you’re going to want something big to play, right?
Let’s start this off with the only Anime MMORPG in this list: MapleStory.
MapleStory released all the way back in 2003. This game has spawned a plethora of other titles under the same intellectual property: MapleStory M which was received with.. moderate enthusiasm, and a sequel, MapleStory 2, that shut down a year after launching.
Neither title truly managed to capture the quirky style that MapleStory employs. This is the only MMO in this list to utilize a horizontal graphical style – you move your character horizontally, left to right, across the screen. You can jump and climb, but the bulk of the game takes place on one level.
You take quests, you venture out, you group with other players, fight for control of the area, and… grind. This game is a grind. An unbelievable grind. Almost grindier than any other MMO I’ve played in the last decade. Thankfully it employs an incredibly fast, often chaotic action combat system to make up for the time you spend engaged in combat.
It’s got an adorable Anime-ish graphical style, and gets updated repeatedly over the course of the year, with new areas, new events and new classes. This brings players coming back to the game, and is what makes it one of Nexon’s highest grossing, most profitable franchises, averaging hundreds of thousands of players across all regions per month.
Yes, this list isn’t including specifically English-speaking countries.
Star Wars The Old Republic
Star Wars The Old Republic released back in 2011 as part of the greater “Star Wars” franchise. Movies, TV series, video games. And while The Old Republic – The MMO, never truly lived up to the potential of the IP, it still eventually found its footing, and allowed for Star Wars fans to channel their inner fan.
Now The Old Republic has had its highs, and its lows. With its low points lasting significantly longer than its high points, but that’s partly due to how the game has been handled up until this point.
This is an open-world MMO, with plenty of different regions – and as you’d expect, plenty of different, highly diverse worlds to explore at your leisure. The Old Republic has one of the deepest, most compelling narratives of any MMO.
And while that’s 2 for 2 thus far, its combat is much less impressive. It utilizes a fairly basic tab-target combat system that definitely looks and feels older than a 2011 MMO should, given RIFT, Aion and TERA.
Star Wars The Old Republic just released their latest expansion – which has garnered quite a bit of attention, and shot the game up to hundreds of thousands of players over the course of the last month. How long this lasts however is another question all together.
The Elder Scrolls Online
The Elder Scrolls Online released in 2014, a mere 7 years ago. It feels like it’s been out longer though, right? Much like Star Wars The Old Republic, The Elder Scrolls Online is set within an already existing franchise: The Elder Scrolls. You know. Morrowind. Oblivion. Skyrim. Yes, I listed the 3 best in order of best to most overrated.
ESO has been pretty steady for the last couple years. It’s never really had any large peaks in terms of growth, but at the same time, it hasn’t sunk very far beneath what it had already established itself as.
The game has a fantastic narrative, a large open world to explore, action combat, a fairly extensive class system allowing you to more or less equip what you want in terms of weapons and armor, while giving you freedom to craft your class – in terms of skills, however you like.
Graphically, the game holds up well. It’s one of the better looking Western MMOs out there, with Guild Wars 2 being the only real competition.
ESO averages a couple hundred thousand unique players per month, and has been averaging roughly a similar amount all year.
Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 was released back in 2012, and has since gone on to become one of the most played free MMOs. More than that, it’s generally considered to have the friendliest community of any MMO online.
The main issue with Guild Wars 2 is that for the last several years, content has been released fairly slowly. This is due to NCSoft being incompetent, and inhibiting ArenaNet from truly making Guild Wars 2 one of the greatest MMORPGs of this generation.
And with slow releases, comes an expected decline in terms of player population. Although with the recent announcement of its latest expansion, “End of Dragons” looming on the horizon, players have come back in droves to play catch-up, and new players are jumping in to see what all the hype is about.
Guild Wars 2 is a gorgeous game with an incredibly large world. It has plenty of class customization, an active PvP community and one of the better narratives out there.
The game utilizes a very high quality hybrid action combat system, allowing for players to change their entire playstyle by merely altering the weapon they have equipped.
Now this one is a little different. See, on the one hand, Star Citizen hasn’t launched yet. It’s an indie MMO that has been in development for years, and has, over the course of its time spent in development, acquired hundreds of millions of dollars worth of funding.
More funding than Final Fantasy XIV. More than World of Warcraft. And we’re still years – perhaps decades off from being capable of playing a fully realized game. However, that hasn’t stopped players from playing it in the form it’s available in.
This is a very incomplete game, with very few fully implemented features. Yet last year they reported that they had – at their peak, hundreds of thousands of active players. Which is some of the most ridiculous numbers I’ve ever seen for an unreleased title that is still so far off from being ready.
RuneScape is the oldest title in this list, releasing back in 2001. I’m not entirely certain how this game has retained the playerbase that it has, but I guess this is a testament to how good the game must be, right?
Now I’ve never dedicated much time to the game. I’ll be the first to admit that – not every person will enjoy every MMO, right? It’s asinine to believe that anyone would enjoy every single title in this list.
RuneScape is an enormous game, with more content than you can realistically dream of partaking of if you’re a new player. Sure, it’s very dated – both in terms of how it looks and how it plays. But that’s part of its appeal.
Even though it’s 2 decades old at this juncture, this game – these developers push out more updates than almost any of its competitors, paid or free.
Thankfully player numbers are public, so we can see that there are hundreds of thousands of active players at almost any point in the day. Even if some people claim that half of them are bots.
Black Desert Online
Black Desert Online released way back in 2014. Yeah, almost 8 years ago. Eight. Years. In all that time, not a single MMORPG released has come close to competing with the game’s dominance over the market in terms of graphics or combat.
To date, BDO is considered to be the “pinnacle of the MMORPG genre,” that one game that every MMO has to live up to. And I can honestly understand why.
Not only is this game absolutely stunning – the world itself, which is completely open, no loading screens at all. Entirely explorable without limitations, whether on land or sea.
But the depth of the character customization is unrivaled. Name one MMO with as good of a creator as BDO. You won’t find one. Couple that with some of the best action combat, and you have what should be the best MMORPG available, yet due to its horrendous pay to win, RNG and grind, falls short.
Pearl Abyss have confirmed hundreds of thousands of active players – on the higher end of the spectrum – which sets it above almost every other MMO in this list.
While New World is less than 2 months old at this moment, it is definitely worth noting that even with all of its issues, all of the exploits, the hacks, the duplication of items, of gold, the lack of endgame, Amazon’s poor handling of all of this, their choice to make the grind even longer in a recent update.. there are still hundreds of thousands of people playing this.
At the time of writing, there was still a peak of 132,000 players concurrently logged in, with likely over a million players still playing over the course of the last month – minimum.
New World features a large, open world – albeit the world itself seems to lack much in diversity – both with regards to the environment, and the monsters found within it.
It utilizes an action combat system that honestly isn’t bad but felt too limiting to me when I played it. There’s an extensive crafting system, a territory system and so much more that is completely overshadowed by how often new exploits are taken advantage of, repeatedly ruining the experience for everyone playing.
World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft released back in 2004, and up until 2020 was the most populated MMORPG. It was completely unrivaled. Nothing came close to competing with it, especially after WoW Classic launched.
Yet like everything, eventually things fall into obscurity. And while WoW is far from falling into obscurity, with the game still having over a million active players across both Retail and WoW Classic, it’s a far cry from what it once was.
This is evident by the premature end of Shadowlands, in their mad rush to push out something new to re-ignite the playerbase’ passion to play through something new and potentially exciting.
WoW is definitely a dated looking game – for most of it anyway. Newer zones are absolutely gorgeous, and the game features what is arguably the best tab-target combat in the genre. With the exception being maybe Aion or ArcheAge.
It also features more lore than almost any other game I’ve ever seen, but its story has become so disconnected, such a convoluted mess that it’s almost funny trying to keep track of what’s going on.
Final Fantasy XIV
And finally, Final Fantasy XIV. Final Fantasy XIV released initially back in 2010, and was such a critical failure that they overhauled the game from the ground-up costing hundreds of millions of dollars.
This was the largest undertaking in the entire MMO genre, and has paid off, given it is now the most played, most popular MMORPG. And with Endwalker having just launched into Early Access, and both Mrs Stix and I playing through it, this is probably going to be the largest year for the game to date.
Final Fantasy XIV already confirmed they had hit their highest concurrent player numbers before the mass exodus of WoW players, and the combination of the those additions to the game with fans are going to make queue times unbearable.
Final Fantasy XIV features a large open world, with each expansion introducing even larger areas than the last. It’s a gorgeous game with an incredible narrative. Shadowbringers was by far the best storytelling I’ve seen in an MMO. And I’ve played almost all of them.
Its combat isn’t the best, but it’s good enough that it doesn’t bring the game down – doesn’t hinder it.
The amalgamation of everything that Final Fantasy XIV does right has shown continued success, with the game once being rivaled by Guild Wars 2, and now tripling, maybe quadrupling it in terms of active player numbers.
Nobody ever thought Final Fantasy XIV would dethrone WoW. They thought WoW would to that to itself, and Final Fantasy XIV would continue on the route it was. Boy were we wrong.
And that’s everything. They’re the 10 most played MMORPGs in 2021, moving into 2022. Were they what you expected?