The Top 10 Best Pay to Play MMORPGs AND Buy to Play MMORPGs in 2020!
So after my top free-to-play MMORPGs video, I’ve seen an influx of people asking me what the best pay-to-play and buy-to-play MMORPGs are.
To do a video on those business models as well. I haven’t really ever done “top videos” on those because – I’ll be honest here, guys.. there really aren’t enough good games to fill either of those videos.
So I came up with the idea to instead, combine the two and make a “top pay-to-play and buy-to-play MMORPGs in 2020” video. That way, for those of you that are interested in MMOs but don’t want pay to win free games, you’ll have a selection to choose from.
Like all top 10s, this list will be completely subjective and in no specific order.
Now, I’m going to be breaking this down into 2 separate parts, one regarding the pay-to-play MMOs and one regarding the buy-to-play MMOs.
So.. let’s jump right in.
THE BEST PAY TO PLAY MMORPGs TO PLAY IN 2020
Final Fantasy XIV
I spent from December 2018 until August 2019 playing 8 hours of Final Fantasy XIV probably 4, maybe 5 days a week. Unfortunately I had to work on the channel so the rest of the time I was either recording and editing, or sleeping.
But even while sleeping I’d be thinking of Final Fantasy XIV.
Although some people might argue this point, to me, it is a narrative masterpiece in terms of MMO-storytelling. Not necessarily comparative to non-MMOs but when it comes to telling a single, non-convoluted story centering around one topic.. it is unrivaled.
The story, like most JRPGs takes a while to really get going, so I can understand where people might find fault when it comes to progressing through it.
Not only that, but Square actually gutted most the classes, removing – like all devs do with every expansion, skills throughout the leveling process that made your class feel a little more interactive, and less.. standing around clicking your basic rotation.
Which let’s be honest here, from 1 through 40, maybe even 50, consists of very little skills.
And I know a game, especially an MMO shouldn’t require you reach level 50 to really begin to experience what it has to offer, to fully begin to enjoy the game but Final Fantasy XIV does.
At least in terms of combat and story. The game is still very beautiful, has lots of fun characters and side quests, and absolutely tons to do.
But anyone that has played any expansion will tell you that it is so contrastingly different to the base game that it’s almost like it’s a different game all together.
The game is beautiful, has an amazing narrative, is already partially through its third expansion, boasts over a million players, and has, albeit slow at times, but highly entertaining tab-target combat for people interested in this type of game.
Yes it has some flaws, especially when it comes to reaching later-game content and content-gating, but playing through the game is quite a journey.
Under no circumstance should you purchase a level boost and skip most the game – trust me, you won’t understand nor appreciate it and you’ll probably end up with a false interpretation of what the game is.
Final Fantasy XI
I never had the opportunity to play Final Fantasy XI. By the time I could actually afford the game, it was already long since passed its prime.
By that point, I’d already become highly enthralled with other MMOs and never really looked back. But that isn’t to say that the game is anything less than old-school awesome.
A lot of people compare the game to Final Fantasy XIV – because why wouldn’t they, right? To a lotta people, Final Fantasy XIV is essentially what Final Fantasy XI would be if it were more updated.
But those of us – not me personally, but those of us that have played the game know that’s quite untrue, as this is a different beast entirely.
Yes, they both utilize tab-target combat, are both set in similar worlds, have similar classes and races, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
Final Fantasy XI requires substantially more time invested to accomplish things, and is significantly more difficult. It requires you be more involved in the world as a lot of content is locked behind world-activities and sidequests.
This forces players to go outside of their comfort zone and actually participate in more group activities and open-world content which let’s be real here.. doesn’t really happen that often in this day and age.
The fact that it’s been kept online for so long, and continues to receive updates even years after Final Fantasy XIV released is a testament to the strength of the title.
World of Warcraft
Growing up I had no money. My family was poor, but World of Warcraft was my one escape. It was the one single game I could afford all on my own.
I worked my ass off to pay for not only the base game back during Wrath of the Lich King, but to also pay for a monthly subscription AND purchase every subsequent expansion.
To date, I have had an active subscription since 2008. I have an active subscription right now. If I enjoy an MMO, I don’t let my sub drop because I’m more than happy supporting the devs behind it.
Now yes, World of Warcraft, especially the older zones look incredibly dated. It’s to be expected from an MMO released back in 2004. However gear, zones, dungeons, raids. Everything continues to improve as you progress.
They get more detailed, they get more complex, more mechanically challenging. But at the same time they lost a little bit of what made WoW.. well, WoW. And people know this. Well, people that played pre-Cataclysm I guess.
But at the end of the day, even with the issues that Battle for Azeroth brought with it, World of Warcraft is a damn good game.
It has some of if not the best tab-target combat in the genre and provides some of the most fun PvP I’ve ever participated in. Not only in the form of Arenas and instanced PvP, but also in open-world PvP.
I’m a huge fan of open-world PvP, it was pretty much all I did while growing up. Yeah, I was that annoying kid. The day they removed PvP servers from current WoW and replaced it with Warmode I shed a small manly tear.
While the game does technically have a pretty solid narrative, with each expansion they seem to be slowly spiraling out of control. They really messed up Warlords of Draenor, did impeccable work with Legion then.. made Sylvanas essentially Garrosh 2.0 for.. reasons.
But that doesn’t change the fact that it has some incredibly likable characters with lore-rich backstories. Even some of the NPCs you don’t see much of and the dungeons themselves are woven into the zones you play in.
Blizz definitely has its work cut out for it with regards to Shadowlands, but I have no doubt they’re capable of salvaging what failed with Battle for Azeroth and improving on its next expansion.
Because WoW is a damn good game and I don’t want to see it degrade into a remnant of its former self.
A Tale in the Desert
I’m gonna go ahead here and preface this entire thing by stating that A Tale in the Desert is one of the most unique MMORPGs I’ve ever played.
The game is finite – it has both a beginning, and an end, normally lasting approximately 18 months per cycle. What makes the game unique – and what might simultaneously be a huge turnoff to a lotta you is that the game has no form of combat at all.
We’re lead to believe that MMOs require combat, but that’s not really the case. There should be different subgenres of MMO, and A Tale in the Desert really excels at everything else it has to offer.
Faction politics, various types of social activities, a large emphasis on crafting, seriously. I did a video on this a few months ago where I talked in greater detail as to what you were capable of doing but I’d forgotten how difficult older MMOs could be.
The game offers you no hand-holding and very limited support – instead, telling you something akin to “go find the red string attached to a berry along the western shore.”
Like.. okay, cool, but where is the western shore in relation to me? Like where am I? East or west of the shore? Yup. Therefore it requires you either take the time to explore, or engage the community and ask for help.
Thankfully I found tons of people that were willing to aid me because I honestly sucked at this, and it made for a much better experience. It was weird not being able to attack anything or anyone but it was just a very.. unique, very different feeling game.
Do note though that since the game is finite, after every 18 months.. the game is wiped and you begin anew, with a new story, new events, quests and more keeping the game fresh.
Man, I actually, honestly thought there would be more than that but so many MMOs in the last few years actually dropped their pay-to-play models for free to play models.
Yes, there are some games that have VIP memberships or premium memberships that offer substantially more than what can be obtained in-game, but at the end of the day, if you’re capable of playing the entirety of the game without paying a monthly fee.. it doesn’t belong here.
So let’s move on to the next section of this list.
THE BEST BUY TO PLAY MMORPGs TO PLAY IN 2020
Elder Scrolls Online
When beginning the MMOByte Youtube channel, I played 3 games every week: Final Fantasy XIV, Guild Wars 2 and Elder Scrolls Online. Yes, all 3 games were very popular, but they each signified some of the best of their respective genres.
I’m a huge Elder Scrolls fan. I had over a thousands hours in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind on Xbox, and probably another thousand or two on PC, I had over a thousand in Oblivion and a solid 300-400 hours in Skyrim.
Other than the Final Fantasy games, Pokemon and Legend of Dragoon, I’ve never played another game franchise to this extent.
So you can imagine my surprise when I not only learned that I’d be able to play an Elder Scrolls game with other people, but they’d also constantly add expansions for areas that I loved: Morrowind, Elsweyr.. yup.
As I noted earlier, the Elder Scrolls Online is much like Guild Wars 2 and Final Fantasy XIV – not in the form of gameplay or combat – which just an FYI, is action-combat, but in terms of quality and world.
The game has a very strong narrative, featuring entire zones crafted around their own segregated stories with their own selection of NPCs and enemies.
It also provides more creative freedom in terms of customizing your character and how you want to play than most MMO available right now.
While yes there are going to be cookie-cutter builds, nothing beats running around in a robe stabbing people in the back stealthed with a mace.
Sure, the game has issues and people claim its VIP membership is a little more than necessary if you want to fully enjoy the game but I’ll let you be the judge of that.
Yeah, people actually play Astellia. Honestly, it ended up doing pretty well when it released last year much to the surprise of.. like, everyone.
I’d played the South Korean version of the game in the past and not even I had all that high hopes for its release but I’m glad we were all proven wrong.
Astellia is.. kind of.. I guess more of a traditional MMO. It doesn’t try to really “innovate,” nor does it try to be something it isn’t. I mean it’s so “traditional,” that the game’s tab-target.
It takes the formula that has been proven time and time again to be an effective way of creating an MMO, and adds a few little unique things like Astels to really make it their own thing.
I mean yeah, I know Astels aren’t really unique to Astellia. Astels are just a fancy pet that talks to you but they provide a lot more customization to how you go about playing.
Honestly, it’s a beautiful game and there’s a lot of fun to be had with it. The devs behind the game have promised a lot of content for years to come, and considering the game is pretty much only available in the West now, I hope that’s true.
What we need aren’t necessarily “amazing” MMORPGs. What we need are MMORPGs that are just.. entertaining to play, and Astellia really is.
Black Desert Online
I know talking about Black Desert is a bit of a touchy subject for a lotta you guys. You either unconditionally love the game and its flaws, or you loathe it with an unrivaled passion.
Regardless, don’t shoot the messenger here. I’m just here to talk about it, because yeah, at the end of the day, Black Desert Online provides players an experience they won’t get in any other MMO.
Yes, the game has a lot of issues, but at its core, the game provides you with almost limitless freedom to play however you want.
It has arguably some of the best combat in an action MMO, and perhaps even an MMO in general, and you cannot deny that the game is absolutely stunning. So much so that I believe people invest more time into designing characters than actually playing the game.
I mean I like to customize my characters, sure, but I spent what? 10? Maybe 15 minutes when creating a character. Any more than that and I feel myself slowly die inside.
It is a South Korean MMO though and if there’s one thing we all know about South Korean MMOs.. it’s that they’re always beautiful, play incredibly well, but underneath that they’re pretty shallow, and yes, BDO is sorely lacking in terms of narrative and story.
But everyone knows that you don’t play Black Desert for the story.. You play to grind. You play to PvP. You play to grind. No wait, I said that already. You play to have the freedom to not grind if that’s more your thing.
It’s really a pretty good game in terms of what’s offered. There are concerns of pay-to-win, upgrading is an absolute piece of garbage… but otherwise, this game really excels at a lot of things!
Kingdom Under Fire 2
Kingdom Under Fire 2’s a new release. Well, I mean it’s an older release.. releasing almost a decade ago in South Korea, but it’s a new release in the West, having released just a few months ago.
Like A Tale in the Desert, Kingdom Under Fire 2’s quite a unique title, in so that there really aren’t many games like it in the MMO scene.
MMOs are typically divided into one of a few different categories: Tab-target or action combat. However, Kingdom Under Fire 2 is a tactical, strategic MMO that offers more than one gameplay type.
The majority of the game takes place within large-scale battles like something out of a Total War game, and the rest takes on the form of an action MMO, having you explore large environments and take quests from NPCs.
It’s an odd amalgamation of two very distinctly different genres but they just.. work very well together. I played Conqueror’s Blade which was also a bit of a tactical MMO but it was nothing like this.
Kingdom Under Fire 2 is a very high quality title, I just wish they’d released it years ago when there was a larger market for it.
It’s very story-driven, has multiple difficulty modes for battles, and honestly – this is the kind of game that belongs in a list like this. This and A Tale in the Desert. Games that are so different to the norm and can provide something you’re not used to.
I mean technically Temtem launches into Early Access on Jaunary 21st, but I’ve played through the Alpha and the stress test for the game and I cannot stress enough how good this game is.
I’m sure you’ve played Pokemon. I’d wager some of you have played other games with similar monster-catching mechanics like Riders of Icarus or Dragomon Hunter as well.
Never did I expect – not in a million years – that Temtem would turn out as good as it did. Currently, the game is completely story-driven, with the Early Access having between a 20 to 30 hour campaign, finishing off at what, 50 to 60 hours by full release?
There are a ton of Temtem to catch, a handful of Dojo leaders to do battle with, and an incredibly beautiful, detailed, large world to explore – either by yourself or with friends.
The game is a full-MMO, allowing you to play alongside hundreds, even thousands of other players. However, you’re only capable of grouping with one other person currently.
Battles take place much like they do in Pokemon, with you and your 2 Temtem being opposite your enemy, and taking turns trying to down one another.
I mean I’ve been wanting a Pokemon MMO, a lot of people have been wanting a Pokemon MMO that isn’t powered by a private server for a long time now and this – this right here is it.
I’ll be playing on the 21st for sure and I urge you to if you’re at all interested as well.
At first glance you might think Project: Gorgon looks terrible – but don’t let that dissuade you from trying this gem out.
I’ll be completely up-front and honest with all of you.. I haven’t played all that much of the game. A few hours, tops. Not because it’s in any way a bad game, but because of the time investment I feel is required to fully play it.
Like A Tale in the Desert, Project: Gorgon is a highly difficult game that really doesn’t hold your hand at all. You’re thrown into this world with no idea what’s going on, where you’re going, what does what and.. yeah.
It’s marketed as an “old-school MMORPG” and let me assure you right now.. it most definitely is.
While yes, the graphics and slower tab-target combat are probably largely responsible for the game’s low population, I couldn’t help but feel as though skipping this is a missed opportunity.
There are so many puzzles, so many engaging facets of the game that are different to what you’re used to, so much difficulty that isn’t often found in the genre.
I dunno. I feel as though I need to take a deeper dive into the game and I recommend other people interested in trying something difficult – something more akin to a classic old-school MMO try with me.
At the end of the day though, regardless of what you play, this is my list of pay-to-play and buy-to-play MMORPGs.
There aren’t too many games out there that aren’t free-to-play – or that don’t offer insane VIP memberships, but here’s a handful or two to invest some time into.