The Best Free to Play MMORPGs Going Into 2020
We’re nearing the end of the year. As such, I feel it’s time to do a final list of the best free to play MMORPGs of 2019, going into 2020.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the vast majority of you will have either played through at one point or at the very least heard of most of these titles, but I implore you to nevertheless give these games a chance.
Or give the players that haven’t tried these out the opportunity to see whether or not the games are worth playing in their opinion.
Repeatedly spamming “that game sucks” and being toxic in the comments only discourages potential players from playing anything – and that is part of why the MMO scene is drying up.
Most the communities left are so toxic that they drive people away. So instead, and I know this’ll be difficult for some of you, but let’s encourage one another to find something that looks fun to them – and subsequently try it out.
Note that these will be free to play MMORPGs only. No pay to play games like Final Fantasy XIV or buy to play games like The Elder Scrolls Online.
With that said and done, let’s see if we can’t all find something fun to waste some time in, yeah?
Phantasy Star Online 2
I had to start this off with Phantasy Star Online 2. I just had to. Not only is it densely populated within Japan, but there are a plethora of Western players that play the game via a nifty little English fan-translation project.
While it hasn’t released in North America or Europe yet, it is scheduled to release during Spring 2020, which means it’s right around the corner!
PSO2 is probably the ultimate MMO for fans obsessed with the Anime genre – not only is it probably one of the most accurate Anime MMORPGs available right now, but it also has crossovers with literally every popular Anime and JRPG.
It’s actually kinda crazy how large this game is, how much of an impact it’s had on the market.
While it does look great graphically, the action combat employed in-game is generally considered to be some of the best in the genre.
I know some of you will argue that BDO, Blade & Soul or Guild Wars 2 has better combat – and that very well might hold true to some people, but to others – people that enjoy PSO2 – feel that it excels in combat.
The game still has a very active playerbase, and that will likely increase quite significantly when it launches in North America.
I was always a fan of Kritika. Wiggy and I used to play it back when it was only released in Thai. Or at least I think it was Thai. PlayPark was Thai, right?
Regardless, MMOByte was pretty much one of the only channels to play Kritika before En Masse released the game in the West. Although it didn’t end up doing too well because of mismanagement of the game, and subsequently shut down.
As of this week, ALLM, the original developer of the game re-released the game under their own management, and it’s soared to tens of thousands of new players.
I’m personally pleased with that outcome as I enjoyed the game quite a bit and was saddened to hear about its closure.
While graphically it definitely looks a little more its age, its action combat is top-tier for a hub-based MMO. It definitely gets a little repetitive, as do most games of its type, but if this is a genre you’re interested in, this is something you can’t pass up.
The playerbase right now has tens of thousands of active players. Now is definitely an ideal time to jump in-game and try the game out if you haven’t already.
I grew up with Neverwinter Nights as a kid. I’m a little embarrassed to admit, but I actually had a slight game-crush on Aribeth. Was that just me? I can’t be the only one to have had one on her, right? C’mon.
Either way, I was ecstatic to play Neverwinter when I found it because I thought it was set in the same world. While Neverwinter is completely disconnected from the Neverwinter Nights games – or at least as far as I’m aware it is, the game stands on its own merits.
Neverwinter is a good looking game – it has some really detailed, really epic looking environments and has a lot of depth to its world.
Yes it’s published, quite poorly I might add by Perfect World Entertainment, but if you ignore that aspect – and the pay to win concerns the publisher brings with their games, Neverwinter is a very high-quality title.
It has fantastic action combat, a lot of character customization and to date receives plenty of regular updates.
The game is still fairly populated, with tens of thousands of active players.
Ascent: Infinite Realm
Like PSO2, Ascent: Infinite Realm has yet to reach our shores, but it has been all but confirmed at this juncture to release in 2020.. well, the beta, anyway.
I did a video on this in more detail a couple weeks ago so if you’re interested in specifics, go ahead and check that out!
I feel like this is the first game in the list to not have action combat, much to the surprise of many players, especially given that it’s developed by the very same people that developed TERA.
While it doesn’t have action combat, it does make use of free-aim tab-targeting, meaning that you’re required to have a target to attack, but it gives you much more freedom than traditional tab-target games do.
Since this game is releasing next year, you can bet the game looks damn good. It does – it really does. I love steampunk games, and I think the last steampunk MMO was Black Gold Online? And that game sucked.
So you can imagine my excitement for A:IR.
It’s impossible to really gauge interest and therefore speculate on the future potential playerbase number, but there’s a lot of people interested in the game and the beta tests for both the Korean and Thai versions of the game were packed with players.
I had to include FlyFF. It’s one of the OG Anime MMOs that has somehow stood the test of time, with much of its competition having long-since closed down.
I played FlyFF as a teenager, it was one of the first MMOs I’d ever tried. If you ever played FlyFF you’ll know how terrible the grind was in-game and how long it took to level, but man flying around on a broomstick for the first time was a magical experience.
Excuse the pun. FlyFF is a very old MMO – probably one of the older ones in this list, but nevertheless it still continues to offer a traditional MMO experience to players that you just don’t find anymore. And that, I believe, is part of the reason it survived.
It has tab-target combat, has large open areas to explore, tons of classes to pursue and takes a long time to progress through. It isn’t for those of you with no time to play a game – that’s for sure.
The playerbase is still going strong with thousands of players playing, and thousands of players split between various private servers as well.
Honestly if I had the time to invest hours every day into an MMO again – and I had an itch for an Anime title.. this would probably be where I’d end up.
C9: Continent of the Ninth
Before Black Desert became known as “The MMO with the best action combat,” Continent of the Ninth was one of the few MMOs to hold that title. Whether you loved or hated C9, the fact remained that the game had some great quality action combat.
Even in 2019, people play and enjoy Continent of the Ninth – despite its lower playerbase. While the game doesn’t offer open-world zones to explore or provide a large amount of player customization like PSO2, the game has managed to survive all these years.
That’s because at its core, it’s a very entertaining game. Like Soul Worker or Kritika, Continent of the Ninth is a hub-based action MMO, meaning that you queue for a zone, enter and then complete the mission you have that required you enter.
There honestly aren’t many games like this left because they rapidly become redundant but C9 has maintained player interest for years.
While the graphics definitely show their age, the playerbase has stuck by and will likely stick by this game for a long time to come.
Secret World Legends
I played The Secret World back when it required you to pay for it. It wasn’t until it relaunched under the free to play “Secret World Legends” that it really caught my interest though.
Not because it was a bad game, but just because I couldn’t afford active subs to multiple MMOs at a given time.
Secret World Legends is probably one of the better MMOs I’ve had the pleasure of playing through. Not only does it have a deep, well-developed story but it has some ridiculously good voice acting, great graphics and a great tab-target combat system.
Yes it utilizes tab-target but it’s more free-aim tab-target system, allowing you to select your target but freely move your camera how you want.
Unlike most MMOs though, Secret World Legends is set in the real world. AKA, our world. Real people, real areas, real environments and real world problems.
That is probably one of the key selling points to me – the fact that it’s in a setting that is often overlooked.
The playerbase isn’t nearly as high as it once was, with a few thousand active players on average playing.
Tree of Savior
I’m actually in the process of recording Tree of Savior: Rebuild right now, coincidentally, and I’m almost level 100 after a couple weeks of playing.
Honestly, the last time I played a game like this was back when I played Ragnarok Online, which I know Tree of Savior is supposedly the spiritual successor to.
But Tree of Savior is more than that. I know it made a lot of mistakes when it was young, but its beautiful graphical style, it’s impressive action combat, its class-diversity.. it truly offers players something else.
You might’ve overlooked it due to issues before it was overhauled, you might’ve overlooked it due to the fact that it looks like an isometric action RPG.. but if you haven’t tried it yet, I urge you to give it a go.
I’ll have a full, much more detailed video of it up in the near future, but I can tell you.. it’s a lotta fun.
Plenty of people still enjoy it, with tens of thousands of players still logging in weekly to play.
I couldn’t list free to play MMOs and not include Vindictus. Even with Black Desert available, people claim Vindictus still has better action combat than any other title on the market right now.
And honestly, they’re not wrong. Not entirely. Vindictus has incredible combat and incredible visuals, and Nexon know this, thus they continue to release new characters that cater to a certain.. demographic to keep players interested.
And it works, don’t get me wrong. It really does. I’ve poured probably 20, maybe 30 hours or more into Vindictus and the game is truly a marvel to play through.
Granted, the earlier zones are somewhat uninspired, but then that’s a reoccurring theme for a lotta MMOs. Vindictus is the only other hub-based MMO in this list and that’s because there really aren’t many players interested in them.
The few that excel excel because they’re good, and yes, although Nexon is a terrible publisher, Vindictus as a base game is a lot of fun.
The playerbase still has thousands of active players as well, so there’s no shortage of players to play with.
No “best free to play MMORPG” list is complete without the inclusion of Mabinogi. It was one of the best Anime MMO when it originally released, and it’s still one of the best Anime MMO over a decade later.
I’ve only ever played Mabinogi as a traditional MMORPG – it definitely allows you to. However, it’s also generally referred to as a “social MMO” or “real-life simulator,” as you’re capable of doing much more than leveling, grinding for gear and exploring.
While some MMOs like Black Desert or Final Fantasy XIV provide a lot in the way of additional content – like crafting, life skilling, sailing, farming and the like, Mabinogi expands even further.
To fully understand what that means you’re probably going to have to go ahead and read up on it because it’s a lot to take in.
It’s a very unique looking game – almost one of a kind in the MMO scene. It also has very interesting combat. It’s tab-target, but is like a constant game of rock-paper-scissors.
The playerbase has grown quite stagnant, but I’m sure they’d appreciate new blood!
Guild Wars 2
You didn’t think I’d forgotten about Guild Wars 2, did you? Definitely not! Guild Wars 2 has held, and likely will hold for the foreseeable future the title of “Best free to play MMORPG,” with the only competition being RuneScape, but more on that later.
The reason Guild Wars 2 is held in such high regard is because the game has a very deep, rich story filled with content that pull on your heart strings.
It has action combat that in my opinion is some of the best in an MMO, allowing you to swap weapon types out and gain access to entirely new skill trees.
There’s a large world to explore that syncs players down to the level of the area you’re in providing players the opportunity to play with one another, and honestly.. it just does so many things right.
The only issues are that content releases are very slow, and that’s having a noticeable effect on the playerbase numbers, and the expansions – which are required to access later-game content are locked behind purchases.
I’m actually in the process of recording a video on Guild Wars 2 – so if you’re interested in more info on Guild Wars 2, you might wanna keep your eyes peeled.
Star Trek Online
I’ve missed Star Trek Online in almost every single “top list” I do because I just never got all that far through it.
I’ve heard fantastic things about the game, that it’s packed with story content, has a lot of freedom, and is generally everything you’d want out of a scifi MMO.
I know that it has pretty traditional tab-target combat, but much in the “Star Trek” way, similarly to how Star Wars The Old Republic has traditional tab-target combat.. but in a Star Wars-y way.
The playerbase is still pretty good with thousands of players playing every day.
Obviously no free to play list would be complete without RuneScape. It does have, what, roughly a hundred thousand players online right now? Yeah. Easily the most densely populated free to play MMO.
And it stands to reason as to why – the game is packed with content, literal decades worth of content split between RuneScape and Old School RuneScape.
The game has an absurdly large world for players to explore and a plethora of content to both engage in and with.
Combat is – and don’t hate me for saying this – but, honestly, it’s a little dated, that should be obvious though and expected, considering when the game was released. Even still, it holds up pretty well.
Again, there are an absolute ton of players playing RuneScape. It’s also cross-platform compatible so if you want to play on your mobile device, you can go ahead and boot it up.
I’ve poured a solid 10, maybe 15 hours into Atlantica Online over the years. Yes, I’ve never really progressed nearly as far as I could have but that’s because it has quite a small population.
However, it’s also one of the most unique MMOs I’ve ever seen. It plays much like an older MMO would, but provides a unique combat experience that I haven’t seen replicated anywhere else. Well, not in a PC MMO, anyway.
See, Atlantica’s combat takes place much in the same way that older JRPGs did: Whenever you engage in combat, it triggers an encounter that takes place in a separate loading screen.
There you do battle in turn-based combat with a group of units, trying to eliminate the enemy units. So combat, and engaging enemies actually happens in an instanced-battle.
Yup. Graphically, the game still holds up well, but the main selling point for the game is its unique combat.
The playerbase is very low, though. I’m not sure exactly how low but I wouldn’t expect more than a couple hundred people really play this regularly.
And that’s it. We’re done. This is the final “free to play MMO” list of 2019. These are games that I found highly enjoyable over the course of the year. These are games that are still alive and kicking.
These are my selection of unique, but at the same time worth-playing MMOs. I know you can relate to some of these, and I know you probably disagree with most of them.
That’s fine – that’s your opinion, and much like mine, we’re entitled to having our own. Nevertheless, let’s attempt to remain positive going into the new year, yeah? We got a lot to look forward to next year and I’d love for us all to tackle it positively.
If you feel I missed a good free to play MMORPG though, do let me know which game that is and why you believe it’s as good as you claim, I’d love to take a deeper look at a variety of games I may have overlooked.
The final MMO in this list is Granado Espada. Much like Atlantica, Granado Espada actually has a very unique style of combat, making for an interesting twist on the genre.
The game is very large, offering a plethora of zones to run through and explore. However, in Granado Espada you actually recruit various characters throughout your journey to add to your party of NPCs.
These NPCs are then capable of following you around the open-world, aiding you in battle. This means that playing with other people isn’t a necessity – which I know, defeats the purpose of an MMO.
Graphically, it’s still one of my favorite MMOs because it’s set in a time-period that I love.
The playerbase has several thousand players playing each day still, split across Europe and North America, so even though you can make an army of NPC party members, you shouldn’t be at a loss for people to play with.