Massively Overthinking: The best MMOs for duoing

A Massively Overpowered reader by the name of DaBruuzer posed a great question to the team, one I thought we’d have a better time answering as a group since many of us play with spouses, significant others, or dear friends in duos.

“I would love to see some coverage about MMOs that are couple-friendly. My wife and I have been playing MMOs as a couple for many years now, always trying out new games that make duoing fun. Since the sunset of City of Heroes/Villains, we just haven’t found a new home. I have seen lots of stuff about soloing and grouping, hence my ‘couples’ angle. I don’t necessarily mean about a game’s marriage features — more like MMOs that complement a two-person group set-up.”

For this first installment of the reincarnation of our old Think Tank, I asked the MOP crew about the very best MMOs for duoing.

Brendan Drain (@nyphur): I’ve used MMOs throughout the years to keep up with friends I can’t physically spend time with, so I see the value in games having a focus on on duoing (which may not be a word, but totally should be) rather than on only solo gameplay or larger groups. I’ve always found EverQuest II to be a very comfortable game to play with one other person, as there are loads of class combinations that match up well with each other. You don’t have to go the typical tank and healer approach as EQII has more hybrid classes like the Bruiser with its built-in self-heal or the Shadowknight’s health drain buff. Questing through zones in EQII with a friend is pretty painless compared to soloing, and there’s plenty of extra stuff to do when your partner’s not online, like crafting, collecting, house decorating, or hunting named mobs for loot. EVE Online is also pretty good for duoing if you’re into space MMOs, as much of the PvE content is balanced around individuals, but there’s nothing stopping you bringing a wingman along. Solo PvP is also very rare and skill-intensive in EVE, but a small pack of just two or three newbies can get some nice kills in faction warfare.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Duoing is how I spend the vast majority of my online gaming time. My husband and I are pretty inseparable, and I know how hard it is for other people to get their spouses into their games, so I don’t for a minute take it for granted that we both prefer to play together. Geek cred moment: I actually built a motorcycle in World of Warcraft a few years ago and gifted it to him for Christmas as a joke-but-not-really to make our duoing easier (it’s got a sidecar! Vroooom!). City of Heroes, as DaBruuzer noted, was perfect for a duo that was either out of sync level-wise or just couldn’t stick with a darn class for more than five minutes. Guild Wars 2 is our modern favorite for the same reason; we can basically play whatever characters we want together on any given night, and we’re not playing against the game (sacrificing experience or drops or missing out on endgame) when we do so. A hat-tip to classic Guild Wars, too; prior to seven-hero parties, the game was optimized for two humans with three heroes apiece.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): I’m a bit of an outlier as I already spend a great deal of time doing stuff with my wife as it is; back in Star Wars: The Old Republic we would play a tank and a healer, bring out DPS companions, and go to town in group quests without a care in the world. The best games we’ve found for operating like that, traditionally, have been The Old Republic, World of Warcraft, and Final Fantasy XIV; then again, we’re not averse to just playing the most group-critical roles and filling out party ranks with whomever. Of course, the level best game for duoing was probably City of Heroes, as the game largely didn’t care about who you were and gave you plenty of leeway in making any group size work. But that doesn’t really help anyone now, does it?

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): I’ve duoed (briefly) with my wife in Guild Wars 2, Wizard101, and World of Warcraft. While all of those games were great for that, extra points go to Guild Wars 2 for downleveling my character to match whatever zone my wife was exploring. Since I usually shot ahead of her in levels, this worked out great and gave us maximum flexibility for solo and duo play.

Larry Everett (@Shaddoe, blog): It might be obvious that I would choose Star Wars: The Old Republic as an MMO that is really fun to duo in. However, I didn’t choose it because it’s currently my favorite MMO but because it’s currently my favorite MMO because of duoing. If you and one other friend, mate, or even child are looking for a game that is actually more fun to play with one other person, then SWTOR does it. There are quests with dialogue cutscenes that you and your partner can battle over who wins the voice-over roll. If you run two different classes, you can see two amazingly told stories instead of just one. And with a partner you can actually level a bit faster because you don’t have to search for another player to do heroic missions, which are mostly geared for a two-person group.

Mike Foster (@MikedotFoster, blog): I think Final Fantasy XIV’s smaller party size makes it great for couples. With only four people to a dungeon, two can make a much bigger difference. I’ve also played lots and lots of Dota 2 with significant others, but I feel like that one’s a bit more niche and we also had friends to fill the rest of the team out. Overall I’d say any MMO with strong syncing/mentoring features is ideal, that way you and your partner can still hang out together even if you cant put in the same hours. As a side note, Portal 2’s co-op mode is the best way to find out if your relationship can weather a storm.

Your turn!

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wingster
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wingster

Ghostmourn
FFXIV is NOT for duo since it does not allow to progress and complete content with two people. It requires the completion of a storyline to get to new content. The storyline quests require 4-8 man grps to complete. This is the reason we quite this very beautiful game.

camelotcrusade
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camelotcrusade

Duoing has turned out to be my favorite activity.  As a gaming couple it’s been a great way to spend time together plus have fun.  We both like the journey more than the endgame so we prefer games that let you play together in a meaningful way from day 1.  We chewed through GW2 and had fun with it, but the most enduring one has been SWTOR for us.  As others have said, with enough legacy built up the two of you + companions can see everything leveling has to offer, plus some of the end-game stuff, too.  
The one we liked the least was Final Fantasy XIV (we played pre-ARR).  It frustrated us that we couldn’t group for some leve types (factions, I think) or that we’d be given different ones.  Not to mention if we made the “mistake” of choosing races who weren’t together it meant a needless delay before we could group.

A Dad Supreme
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A Dad Supreme

eLdritchMD alexjwillis 
1. You share your class story with any partner. They help you as you do it and are actually part of it (in the scenes).
2. You, Partner, two companions= perfect party. Even for some dungeons if you’re geared right.
3. Lots of huge, chain quests on every planet to group with as well as the main planet story quest.
4. Heroic +2, +4 content is perfect for duoing.

A Dad Supreme
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A Dad Supreme

BalsBigBrother Radfist  And making decent coin for SO… DBG.
Problem is the leveling itself isn’t “duo friendly”. You can solo everything extremely easy… two people make it trivial.

Aralithful
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Aralithful

As pointed out by many, GW2 is great because you can team up with anyone regardless of level and getting around is easy. And since most content is event based you don’t need to worry about being synced up on quests or progression.
I also enjoy Dungeons and Dragons Online. It is a perfect game for a weekly get together as long as everyone stays within a few levels of each other. You pick up a quest and go dungeon diving. And you can pick up mercenaries to fill the need missing party elements.

FeveredDreamer
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FeveredDreamer

Duo feasibility is one of the big things I look for in MMOs these days, though I still play regularly with guildies and the like much of my time is spent either playing with my wife or with 1-2 of my local pals.  Until ESO I didn’t realize how spoiled I’d been by the other games I play regularly, GW2, TSW, LotRO and even Neverwinter do a comparably amazing job of supporting duo play (LotRO is great!) in comparison with ESO but I guess that isn’t saying much.  I was honestly puzzled at how practically unplayable ESO was for small groups of folks pre-end game on release, though I hear lots of that has changed these days and I do look forward to picking the title back up when it goes F2P I couldn’t believe it was the sort of thing that somehow no one noticed.

thegirlwiththehair
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thegirlwiththehair

GW2, due to downleveling and no loot/gathering node splitting (though it would get more of a lead if personal story missions were not painlessly easy with more than one player)

Kanbe
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Kanbe

GW2 wins this by a landslide for me. My fiancee prefers to spend time on console games while I typically play mmo’s. This means I either have to roll 2 characters for any mmo we’d play (one for solo and one for duo) but even that only works so-so. If she wanted to play but I was doing something else my duo character would end up falling behind. This is why GW2’s level scaling system wins out hands down. I’m 80 and she’s 30? No problem at all.

GeekFitness
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GeekFitness

datus4 GeekFitness And for me, it wasn’t about questing. The actual quests in FFXIV aren’t really worth the time to do, from rewards to XP. The actual level-sync from FATEs and world events and dungeons and such works so well. Even while leveling up a class for the first time, you can pretty much skip as many ordinary quests as you want, do the main scenario, and just play with dynamic world events (FATEs) and Levequests since that’s where the syncing comes into play the best. That, and dungeons. 

I do totally see your point, though, if you were to be trying ordinary NPC-given quests. But honestly, they’re the worst part about the game anyway. I wish SE would do something to make them actually worth the time it takes to do them, but when you can get almost a full level from a dungeon or a handful of leves in the time it takes you to do a single NPC quest, they’re just there as filler content. :/ It ain’t right, I tell ya!

datus4
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datus4

Slaphammer Some of my best MMO experiences were from LotRO.

datus4
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datus4

nightbeard I didn’t find this to be the case.  I find any game without a mentoring or level down mechanic doesn’t play well with friends… unless of course your specifically reserve an alt for each friend / group of friends, which I find un-enjoyable.

datus4
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datus4

GeekFitness I found them both pretty bad for duos actually.  Neither has mentoring / level down mechanics and the level requirements for quests on FFXIV are pointlessly stringent.  That is you cannot take the same quest your friend just took if you were only 1 level behind.  It was the reason I unsubbed.  In FFXIV you could choose another profession to level with your friend, but still have to stay within the same level for quests.

I tried playing both with my gf and they didn’t work out.

Nogroson
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Nogroson

My wife does not play MMOs anyway I have had opportunities of duoing with friends. Even if it’s a while I have not played it anymore I remind Atantica Online offered a lot of opportunities for a 2 people party (also consider the normal party was 3-people).

Also in POTBS there was a lot to do for a 2 or 3 people group both in PVE and PVP

salidar
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salidar

Hmm.. games my wife and I have had the most fun duo’ing in would be EQ2, TSW, EQ w/mercs, GW2 recently, and once upon a time CoH/V. Games we didn’t find very duo friendly would be ESO, Rift at launch, Lotro without the right classes, WoW without the right classes, AoC.

Lately I wonder how I am going to get her away from Town of Salem to play anything though.

GeekFitness
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GeekFitness

I think FFXIV works great, like you guys mentioned. I have a very small group of friends I play it with, and most of the time, it’s just a couple of us out doing FATEs or something like that. It works well because of level sync and the ability to have our chocobos out as party members.

Same goes for SWTOR–being able to party up with one other person gives an additional companion, which makes stuff so much more fun and easy to play/plow through.

omedon666
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omedon666

Oh thank goodness! A mentor system is exactly what that game desperately needs!

BalsBigBrother
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BalsBigBrother

omedon666 the problem with Marvel Heroes is that those instances are level based and it can become problematic to the point you can’t get into the same instance as your duo partner if you start to get a level gap between the duo. Which is quite easy to do given the abundance of exp boost gear, plain old boosts, event bonuses and so on. 
The good news is that Gaziliion are supposedly working on a proper mentor system that they hope to implement at some point his year which should make things a little less of a problem.

BalsBigBrother
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BalsBigBrother

oops a little late to this topic but I would go with DCUO and EQ2.
DCUO has the whole duo dungeon thing going for it, the clue is in the name and even without those there is still plenty of content that duo’s can tackle with relative ease.
EQ2 has a ton of content that you can tackle, both solo and duo. The mentor system means that if your duo partner is not around you are not left stuck twiddling your thumbs until they come online and can just mentor back down to their level to continue your adventures together.

BalsBigBrother
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BalsBigBrother

Radfist Sadly DCUO seem to be a forgotten PC mmo these days despite it having had some nice things added to it over the past year or so.

eLdritchMD
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eLdritchMD

alexjwillis how so? what specifically qualifies SWTOR as a positive duo experience over everything else in the genre?

eLdritchMD
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eLdritchMD

Ondrea yeah I have that same problem in FFXIV, where you have to disband your group to do the main story solo instances.

eLdritchMD
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eLdritchMD

NoYou eLdritchMD but you can’t do that for every mission, you can only do that if it’s behind one of those green force fields. If the conversation triggers from a clicky somewhere then you can’t watch it.  We had it loads that either one of us would have a clicky and the other would have a portal… I just find it ridiculous to name it as a duo game when it’s so clearly designed to be played alone. Doesn’t mean it’s bad, it’s just the wrong answer to the question posed.

eLdritchMD
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eLdritchMD

Morningrise eLdritchMD that doesn’t make it better…. kinda difficult to get invested in another story when you’re only allowed to see half of it while you have to have the other half explained to you… The system is just clearly not made for groups of any size it’s made for solo play and as such I just can’t see why this game specifically should be mentioned as a GOOD example for a duoing MMORPG. Like.. just because soloing was possible in DAoC, I wouldn’t call it a good choice for a solo MMO.

eLdritchMD
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eLdritchMD

davidjames79 except for the cat cosplay :P

PricessAisatNuhu
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PricessAisatNuhu

I just wanted to say thank you so much for doing this for me and many others. At the beginning of the break up I felt like I would never love again and that my life has ended. Thanks to all your advice, I now have the courage to face every new day. My heart has healed tremendously and I feel like I can now really move on. If it wasn’t for your words then I would probably still be in that dark place of my life. Thank you, thank you!” prophetsuleman@gmail.com wish you good lucky.

Bruce Baugh
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Bruce Baugh

Golden_Girl In addition to what others are saying, this isn’t the case for SWTOR because of the companions. Last night I did a couple passes through a flashpoint with another player – him on a healer, me on a dps character, and each of us with a tank companion out. Things went very smoothly, and gave me major nostalgia fits for the days of doing all-mastermind task forces in City of Heroes *sniffle*.

nightbeard
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nightbeard

Swotor is a great duo game

frogman llc
Guest
frogman llc

Strangley enough, Rift.  Followed by EQ2, obviously yet pointlessly CoH,V, SWToR, and GW2.  All in that order, with SWTOR and and GW2 tying.  FFXIV is also pretty nice but comes in last simply because as mentioned elsewhere, can be solo’d or borderline requires more than two.  SWTOR and GW2 are tied because GW2 has the downleveling which makes coming back for the person leveling ahead easier (although boring for those who blast through maps for completion) and SWTOR because of the story element and the fact that it doesn’t feel quite as static while questing together.  EQ2 is just such a full, rounded out game after so long that when using duo features it works out almost perfectly.  Rift seems to have this constant “event all the time or dungeon” feel too it tied with so many random specs being viable that there is almost endless amounts of challenges to be tackled if you want to find them.

Best of luck in finding the next great ‘duo’ game to play!!!

Zakiel
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Zakiel

Well I am now obsessed with Rift so I will stand by it. Chronicles for 2 players, bunch of tough quests and story lines for which you will need a friend by your side. But too be honest I am a bit of a loner when it comes to questing… I just dont like waiting for others. = ) But I love dungeons and beating the crap out of mobs in groups. = )

malrats
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malrats

EQ2, no question. Beyond the fact that all of the classes are phenomenal and they all work well together, mentoring down to your duo partner’s level if you get a little (or a lot) ahead is so invaluable.

davidjames79
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davidjames79

Wife and I played FF14 for a while tonight, very enjoyable with the small part size for dungeons and lvl scaling for fates. Added bonus is its probably the most beautiful mmo ever made :)

Phubarrh
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Phubarrh

So much content in games is gated by the requirement for e.g., a five-man group, my wife and I have been driven away from more than one game we love that brought us to forced grouping…Age of Conan comes to mind. Our current months-long stint with FFXIV has probably pivoted on the fact that the duty finder makes grouping for dungeon runs painless, if impersonal.
The best game we’ve found for duoing is EQ2…the ability to hire NPC mercenaries, as well as down-leveling as appropriate, makes running dungeons together a pleasure.

Slaphammer
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Slaphammer

My wife and I duo’d LotRO and it was great fun.  We eventually got involved in a kinship and then it became more a group of friends and just us two, but it was a great game for us to duo as she cut her teeth on MMOs.

Nonsensicles
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Nonsensicles

ManastuUtakata
That was pretty fun! :D

Radfist
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Radfist

Exactly. Enchanter and bard duos were a thing of beauty before the crowd control nerfs and homgenisation.

Radfist
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Radfist

Surprised DCUO didn’t get a mention since it has a large chunk of content called ‘duos”.

NoYou
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NoYou

eLdritchMD There’s an option that allows you to enter groupmates story missions in SWTOR. You can’t influence the dialogue, but it’s still entertaining watching the other story.

NoYou
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NoYou

rasabox Dc…U…O

starcallerasterei
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starcallerasterei

I like this topic. It feels like there aren’t enough duo friendly games- you either play in a group or you play solo, and the solo friendly games often have instanced areas where even if you do want to play with a partner, it’s hard unless you’re on the exact same step of a quest.

I play FFXIV with my husband but as said above, it’s not really ‘duoing.’ Sure you can play with just two people, but you’re not doing anything you can’t do just as easily on your own. You can go into dungeons, but you have 2-6 other people there with you. I actually found our time in FFXI far more interesting as a duo thanks to the flexibility of the jobs in it. There were a lot of good combinations that let you take on bosses and events that might be too tough for one person, but a fun challenge when you team up.

Damonvile
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Damonvile

I’ve never played an mmo solo, not really sure what the point is.The stories are always way better in solo RPGs and grinding solo is mind numbing…so every mmo has been good for Duo playing. Some fight you a lot more by not letting you finish quests together etc. I think SWTOR probably had one of the better systems for questing but no game can compare to COH and it’s sidekick system.

ManastuUtakata
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ManastuUtakata

Following nonsensicles around doing jump puzzles in GW2 was an interesting experience. <3

MikeMinier
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MikeMinier

I actually have to disagree with SWTOR though.  Sitting through some other character’s storyline just drags on like mad.  GW2 you are able to circumvent this by choosing similar backgrounds.  Some things may not overlap, but much of it does.  With SWTOR I felt like I was trying to watch two different shows at once.  Not the worst experience ever, but not my favorite.  Everything else works well for a duo though.

MikeMinier
Guest
MikeMinier

DCUO, for as quickly as the game gets old, always has me coming back every 3-6 months or so, just for the duo friendly content.  Not to mention I am absolutely dying to fill that game that CoH left in my heart.  I also found LotRO to be surprisingly duo friendly, but there are some circumstances to be dealt with.  One of you should be a Hunter.  I say this simply because the game is so ridiculously tedious travelling around in without the hunter’s port abilities, that I recommend that as the first character for anyone.  Also, be willing to shell out some cash, and make sure your duo partner is willing to do the same.  Trying to wait for your duo partner to grind deeds for tp to buy packs or xpacks is near impossible and a waste of your time.

That said,a LOT of the content in LotRO scales specifically for 2 man groups, which makes it wonderful.  Don’t rush and enjoy it.  Finally Guild Wars 2.  If there ever was a game that was meant for duo, this is it.  Everything, with the exception of the instance based dungeon stuff, scales your level.  It doesn’t scale to you level, it scales you to the content’s level, while still getting loot and xp rewards that are current for your level.  Quite simply, it just works.

davidjames79
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davidjames79

This is a really cool article that hits home for me, my wife and I have been duoing mmo’s for a few years now.

When we first started playing things were a bit different but nowadays every current mmo I can think of is so easy that grouping or duoing is not necessary but it wasn’t always like that!
I think one game stands above the rest and that is GW1, you can invite
your partner into your party (Or vice versa.) and the content is
challenging enough to make it really really helpful.

rasabox
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rasabox

since the original poster mentioned City of Heroes… And duos…I wonder why no one suggested DC Universe Online. There is a little only a section of the game called Duos. DC Universe Online is what my fiance and I played when City of Heroes went away. I think this is by far the best option for the two of you. While it isn’t a thriving game it is something that can be done casually with your partner

mjcbarnes
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mjcbarnes

SWtoR is great for duoing. I don’t play it solo at all anymore, but I still play with my husband in that game. We were also victims of the CoH closure. We also play together in LotRO, but that game doesn’t lend itself very well to duo play at times because of a lot of forced solo quests. I do still love LotRO and it’s my new home, but for duo play, SWtoR does it better. There’s even quests in SWtoR that are designed for two players.

Cyclone_Jack
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Cyclone_Jack

GW1 is great for duoing, went through the entire game with a friend and we both had a blast (suggest starting with Nightfall for the Heroes).  GW2 is good, if you have not played GW1 and if you don’t mind shallow combat, since players scale to the area.  FFXIV is pretty solid for duo play, especially if one of the two players is either a healer or tank (makes duty finder queues last a minute of less, and players scale to the instanced content), however, there are a number of solo-only quests, which can make it annoying for the duo.  DDO can be quite fun in a duo as well, and it is cheap to get into (free) to see if you like it.  TSW seems to go out of its way to force solo play quite a bit, but it can be very fun going through the story with another person, because the story is just that awesome (and you can help each other with the puzzles).

Morningrise
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Morningrise

eLdritchMD When duo’ing, the class stories are generally in the same area. When you get there, you do yours, they do theirs and then you meet outside. I found there was very little waiting outside like a doggy.

Morningrise
Guest
Morningrise

SWTOR is amazing for duo’ing.

Enikuo
Guest
Enikuo

My list is pretty short because I feel like the persistent world of an MMO is wasted if we have to worry about keeping our characters in sync. We want to be able to play our characters as often as we want to AND play them together as often as we want to, without having to negotiate quests, levels, and gear disparities.
Guild Wars 2 is great for duoing because it has down-leveling and shared credit. In fact, it’s what has kept us going back, despite what we consider some serious missteps in other parts of the game.
Trove was really good for duoing, but the desyncing issues that came up after beta made it unplayable for us :( 
Warframe has been working out because you can equip lower level gear to play at lower levels without one-shotting everything and the material drops from low level missions remain useful. (I don’t know if Warframe counts, since it’s a lobby-based, PVE shooter. It feels MMO-y to me.)
Wizard101 is good for bringing low level wizards into higher level content – they’re like having a really smart minion.
Rift has a really good down-leveling system, if I remember correctly. The game just didn’t grab us for other reasons that I don’t quite understand. It’s that perfect-game-on-paper that I could never love, no matter how much I tried.
I wish more games had down-leveling and side-kicking. Or, better yet, I wish more games had only horizontal progression. (Levels and gearscores are just numbers, man.)

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