The ONLY Free MMORPGs Worth Playing Going into 2022
Free to Play MMORPGs are some of the worst quality titles you’ll find within the genre. Surpassed only by Mobile MMORPGs.
And there’s a reason for that. Money-hungry developers or publishers that ruin the game with extensive pay to win, a severe lack of updates that result in an inability to retain players long-term, poor handling overall.
Realistically, there are a significant number of reasons as to why free MMOs are bad, but we’re not here to discuss those. Rather, we’re here to discuss the free titles that have withstood the test of time – that truly excel in a variety of areas.
Games that I find myself coming back to.. maybe not as frequently as Final Fantasy XIV, but every year. What I want to do is showcase what best represents the free to play MMO genre at present.
Where if you were to show someone that wasn’t interested in MMOs any of these games – it would carry the potential to persuade them otherwise.
There are still a number of MMOs that have retained an active – or, rather a semblance of an active population that I would love to include here like Vindictus, RuneScape, Albion Online or Mabinogi. But these titles are supposed to be the pinnacle of their respective subgenre.
And.. many MMOs, more specifically.. many FREE MMOs are just garbage. Which might come as a shock to you. Or you might disagree with, and you’re more than welcome to have that opinion.
For this list of games in specific, though, I’m going to be breaking down every facet of the game. Graphics. Combat. Narrative. World. Community. Content. Population.
If you don’t see your favorite game here, then that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad. But it does mean that it definitely didn’t leave as lasting of an impression on me as any of the following.
Blade & Soul
I guess let’s tackle this alphabetically. Which means first is Blade & Soul – an MMORPG released in North America and Europe back in 2016.
Oh, wow, has Blade & Soul really only been out for 5 years? It feels like it’s been significantly longer than that. Wow.
This is an MMO that took the MMO scene by storm – it became an overnight hit, with millions of players logging in to play what was arguably one of the most beautiful new action MMOs since TERA’s release years prior.
To date, this is still one of the better looking Asian MMOs out there, with very few coming close to offering the same depth of customization that this does.
The same can be said of the combat. Many people have spent years arguing which MMO, between Black Desert Online and Blade & Soul has the best action combat. Black Desert‘s is more spammy, where Blade & Soul’s feels more reactive and combo-based in my opinion.
This is also one of the few games that have a narrative. You can count on one hand how many MMOs actually have a story that can retain your attention. It feels very Shounen, but not in a bad way. As I love Shounen Anime.
The world is segregated, but as you progress further into the game the zones become exponentially larger. They’re also stunning to look at – but tedious to explore without mounts. Hey, Blade & Soul. We need mounts.
The community is questionable. I’ve had a lot of very poor experiences in the game, but there’s a large focus on PvP, so.. it’s expected. Which isn’t to say all the community are toxic, just.. a surprising number of players I’ve met.
Blade & Soul is also one of the few free MMOs that have regular scheduled content typically coming out quarterly. This might be mostly due to the fact that the Korean incarnation of the game is still highly relevant within its country of origin, however.
In terms of population? There are still tens of thousands of active players in North America alone, disregarding European or Asian countries. I daresay this is in the 5 most populated free MMOs to this day.
This also happens to be the very first MMORPG that Mrs Stix and I played actively together.
Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 was released back in 2012. Yes, it’s actually 4 years older than Blade & Soul! And, coincidentally, both games share NCSoft as a parent company.
Graphically, Guild Wars 2 has begun to show its age a little bit. I’ve noted this periodically throughout the year – it’s still a gorgeous game, there’s no debating that. The zones are vibrant, stunning, full of life. There are an endless selection of cosmetic items that allow limitless customization of your character aesthetically.
The combat is somewhere this game excels, although it’s very different to the norm. Instead of utilizing a tab-target or action combat system, Guild Wars 2 melds the two together to make for an interesting hybrid action combat system, where you have the added benefit of action combat, with the slower pace and control of a tab-target control scheme.
The game allows players to equip more than 1 weapon type, with each weapon presenting players with a different selection of abilities to use. This allows you to fulfill more than a single role, and provides you more overall utility, with additional opportunities for players to more easily adapt to the situation.
The narrative in Guild Wars 2 is one of a mere handful of titles in the MMO genre that actually have a worthwhile story. I daresay Guild Wars 2 even makes top 3. I’d say this comes in third place after Star Wars the Old Republic and Final Fantasy XIV.
The world, much like Blade & Soul is segregated. This means you’re unable to freely move between areas – that there are loading screens separating each and every zone from the other. Even so, the areas are so large and filled with unique events, story, bosses and players that you never even realize the loading screens are present.
Especially given players are required to spend quite a long time in each zone as the leveling tends to be a little on the slower side comparatively to other MMOs like World of Warcraft or Black Desert Online.
The community in Guild Wars 2 is perhaps the most welcome, most helpful community I’ve ever come across. I’ve never had an issue with anyone outside of PvP, and have repeatedly encountered players that would go out of their way to help me out in the open world.
There’s a large variety of content to partake of: dungeons, raids, fractals, new events every other month, world bosses, zone elites, crafting, world exploration. The collection of as many outfits as you can possibly find. Yes, even with all of the aforementioned features, Fashion Wars is where the bulk of the game is at.
Admittedly, I do wish more people did dungeons. Dungeons are an aspect of MMOs that both Mrs Stix and I love, and seeing a lot of players opt out of running them is a little disappointing. Especially given how unique and how much fun they seemed when Mrs Stix and I ran through some of them.
In terms of population, with the new End of Dragons expansion on the immediate horizon – literally just 2 months away, the playerbase is booming. It’s always been a highly populated game, but with their slow update schedules it left the playerbase on the decline for an extended period of time.
With its unique questing system, its sheer amount of content to consume, its great looking world, engaging hybrid combat system, addicting narrative, large world filled with things to explore, unrivaled wholesome community and active playerbase, there’s no denying Guild Wars 2 is one of the best MMORPGs right now.
MapleStory is the only Anime MMORPG in this list, and was released back in 2005. Yes, before some of you were even born.
This is by far the Anime MMORPG I’ve come back to more than any other – with the single exception being maybe SoulWorker.
This is a very different type of MMO though, in so that the game utilizes a horizontal side-scrolling form of gameplay. You don’t have the typical freedom you’d find in traditional MMOs but that adds some unique flair to the game.
While you move horizontally across an area, and I know that can be a little jarring at times, your abilities move on both an X and Y axis. Taking you up additional levels, across the entire map. The action combat found within MapleStory is some of the flashiest, most destructive, overwhelming combat I’ve ever come across.
Seeing the particle effects from several classes at once on screen is like watching Alexandra Daddario in Baywatch.
Interestingly enough, MapleStory has a very intriguing narrative. There is a main story for players to follow, a story for every individual class, stories for large-scale dungeons. And the vast majority of it is satire. I guess if you have no sense of humor you might not necessarily enjoy this but for someone like me – I couldn’t get enough.
The world is large – larger than most. However it is segregated, meaning there are a lot of loading screens. Unfortunately, many zones do make use of copy-pasted environments, often being the same backdrop with a different colored, more powerful monster. But you get used to it as there are just so many zones to move through.
Honestly, after playing this on and off for over a decade, I can say that.. I’ve rarely ever talked to anyone. A few people gave me a bunch of money ingame due to “streamer privilege,” but.. outside of that this is the only game where I’ve never seen much of the community helping – or conversing in any form.
MapleStory is a massive grind: just like Black Desert Online, you grind to progress, you do some class quests, some of the themed dungeons, some story, then grind more.
Thankfully many people seem to enjoy that formula, as the game still manages to cater to tens of thousands of players every single day.
This is by far one of the most unique MMOs available to play. Yes, it’s published by Nexon but.. it’s just so full of charm and polish you simply can’t ignore it.
Star Wars The Old Republic
Star Wars The Old Republic is an MMO set within the – you guessed it.. Star Wars universe, released back in 2011.
This was Mrs Stix’s main MMO. An MMO she devoted more time to than any other. And there’s a number of reasons for that.
On the one hand, this is one of the larger-scale MMOs out there. It has the backing of an enormous studio with more funding than everyone you know combined and multiplied by 100 times.
Graphically, it provides players with some gorgeous worlds. However the character design and outfits leave a lot to be desired. This is largely an issue with it being a Western MMO though, with Eastern MMOs having a preference for graphics over substance.
The combat is tab-target, with this being the only tab-target MMO in this list. The combat is slow and traditional, which is about what you’d expect from an MMO released a decade ago. But it in no way inhibits your ability to enjoy it.
I believe The Old Republic has the second best narrative in the entire MMO genre, second only to Final Fantasy XIV. But that’s because Final Fantasy XIV caters to the JRPG-lover in me.
There are so many options, options that alter your alignment. Options that have lasting effects on the story, the characters. It’s incredible how enthralled you can become in the story of your character, given how rare a competent story can be to find in this genre.
The world is massive, spanning a multitude of planets. Yes, you cannot expect to be grounded on a single planet for the entire game, right? This is a Star Wars game, dude.
The community actually seems relatively kind and helpful. I’ve had players come out and help when I’ve had issues in the past but for the most part they tend to do their own thing.
Content is definitely a concern. It gets updated more frequently than 98% of MMOs but at the same time, doesn’t have the same schedule that the larger more popular MMOs have.
There’s plenty to do, Flashpoints, Operations, dailies, Warzones, Arenas, space combat and so much more.
The population hasn’t been relatively large in.. well, probably a decade. There are tens of thousands of active players playing every month, with more coming back for the upcoming expansion. But that’s still a little ways off.
I’ve come to realize that almost every title in this list has been an action MMO, with the single exception being The Old Republic. TERA, though, released back in 2012, at roughly the same time as Guild Wars 2. Yup – both titles actually predated Blade & Soul. And yup, there hasn’t been a good free MMO release in 6 years.
TERA, interestingly enough, is the MMO that allowed for Mrs Stix to find me. She was searching for a guide for a dungeon, and I happened to have had just what she was looking for. Thus, this game will always hold a very special place in my heart.
Graphically, the environments are definitely showing very evident signs of aging. Outfits though, character models and abilities not so much. This game is still gorgeous to look at though and has some incredible looking areas!
The combat – and this is just my opinion – I know a lot of you are about to raise your pitchforks and chase me outta my room, but this has the best action combat in the genre. It’s fast. It’s fluid. It’s intuitive. Makes use of combos. Ability chains. And it isn’t overly spammy like Black Desert can be at times.
I wish I could say there was any sort of story to follow though. As someone who absolutely loves story in my games, TERA.. has less story in a game with hundreds of hours of content than this segment about the game has. To say that is disappointing is an understatement.
The world makes use of a semi-open world and some segregated zones. The areas aren’t as large and expansive as in Blade & Soul or Guild Wars 2, though. And they’re much more linear.
The community isn’t too bad. A lotta Elin lovers, a lot of role players. There used to be a lot of toxicity when open-world PvP was a thing but that’s since disappeared.
Honestly, while the game has content to do.. not many people partake of what’s available. Dungeons, raids, the daily quests and the odd event here and there. Admittedly, the game is far from being actively updated.
The population after merging with Gameforge’s playerbase has definitely increased, but not by any type of significant margin. Thousands of active players per month.
Again, this game is an immense amount of fun. There are so many facets of the game that I enjoy, I just wish people would actively participate in it.
If you think about it, with the exception of Blade & Soul, there has been no good free MMO release in roughly a decade.
Just thinking about that… blows my mind. How poor a state must the market be in that we have had one single worthwhile free MMO release in a decade?
Now, granted, there are other good free MMOs out there. Good in certain areas. Excelling at one, maybe 2 different aspects. But none that I would say fulfill the majority of the requirements I have to garner a listing here.
RuneScape, Vindictus, Mabinogi, SoulWorker, FlyFF. I’ve had fun in so many, but these 5 MMOs right here are what I believe to be the very best the free MMO genre has to offer. And that’s good! The fact that we have a handful of games is more than we can say about the mobile market.