When you take a step back and look at the broad MMO genre, you see some common threads that run through most games. One of these is that pretty much every character we control is a humanoid, albeit in many shapes, sizes, and ear configurations. This makes sense, as we ourselves are human and have the easiest time strongly identifying with an avatar that correlates to our own bodies.
Yet there are plenty of exceptions to the rule, and I’m not just speaking of fantasy races that give you four legs instead of two or two heads instead of one. Some MMOs plop you into a nuts-and-bolts vehicle as your primary avatar, encouraging you to bond with this hunk of soulless machine over the course of incredible adventures.
Today we’re going to count down — or count up, or count sideways — through 10 MMORPGs that stuffed your brain into a machine and then encouraged you to live your new life as a ship, car, or very violent automatic can opener.
1. EVE Online
One thing that I want to lay out for this list is that these are games in which your primary avatar is a vehicle; some will allow you to, ahem, “walk in stations,” but for the most part you are expected to identify more with the vehicle than the people in them.
Which brings us to our first entry, EVE Online, which is and has always been about cold, beautiful, and deadly spaceships doing unspeakably nasty things to each other and also innocent hunks of drifting asteroids. Lately the game has started to allow players to modify the exterior looks of their ships with skins, although it’s really what’s on the inside that counts. Right? Right?
2. Pirates of the Burning Sea
Yarrr! Swarm the poop deck and haul the rigging, there’s sailin’, fightin’, and lootin’ to be done! Placing players in the role of a ship of war during the Age of Sail seems to be a tried-and-true method for studios that have more than a drop of pirate’s blood in their bodies. Newer games like Sea of Thieves might look prettier, but Pirates of the Burning Sea has the virtue of age and expansiveness.
3. Earth and Beyond
A short-lived (2002 to 2004) yet somewhat beloved sci-fi title, Earth and Beyond sent us to the stars in a breathtaking moment of human brotherhood and then quickly shattered it by separating everyone into factions divided by ideology and hate. But hey, you got to have some one to blow up, am I right? Can’t just wait for aliens to show up and become target practice.
4. Auto Assault
I’ve always been somewhat sad that Auto Assault didn’t at least get to a point where it could be sustained over a long period of time. The idea of letting players roam and fight across a post-apocalyptic wasteland in Mad Max-style vehicles is a fun one, even if it is pretty niche. Can we bring back this game already? Oh wait, it was published by NCsoft, so that’s a hard “no.”
5. Perpetuum Online
Let’s all agree that if we do have to progress into the future, science and industry better darn well give us mechanical bodies to wear so that we don’t have to do so much physical labor like swiping touchscreens and sipping Starbucks coffee in our cubicles while waiting for 4:45 p.m. to come around. Giant mech suits are the answer, and Perpetuum Online is quite glad to give us the keys to them provided that we act responsibly and don’t lob low-yield nukes at the neighbors. Well, two low-yield nukes, but then it’s back to helping colonists terraform a planet, OK?
6. Motor City Online
“The year is 1965, and you and I are undercover detectives on the hot rod circuit. Now, let’s burn rubber, baby!”
OK, so that’s not the premise of Motor City Online, but any time I see a game trying to merge the racing and MMO genres together, that Simpsons quote always leaps to mind. An EA title than ran from 2001 to 2003, Motor City Online gave players the chance to soup up and race muscle cars from several eras of automobile history. The game might be long dead, but it’s premise lives on in titles such as…
7. The Crew
VROOOOM! VROOOOM! EEEEEEEEE*crash*
Who would have ever thought that a game about long-distance racing across the continental United States would involve such realistic touches like insurance paperwork, expensive medical bills, and long periods of physical rehabilitation due to high-speed pileups? Amazing immersion!
8. Ascent: The Space Game
One of the great things about space sims is that your starship is a flexible tool that can deliver to you the type of content you desire. In the case of Ascent, it’s pretty much anything you’d ever want to do in outer space and on alien worlds, save get into huge PvP battles. You’ll be amazed what your Swiss Army Knife ship can do in this game (and you’ll be praised if you can figure it all out).
9. Star Trek Online
Or if you enjoy being bossed around by an interstellar bureaucracy that wants to use you and your starship to futher diplomacy, exploration, and alien genocide, there’s always Star Trek Online. Sure, there’s a large ground combat portion of the game, but let’s be honest: Everyone says the space part is way better, and your ship tends to be “you” more than that pink-haired Vulcan that your created during a night of insobriety and regret.
10. Uncharted Waters Online
Boasting more than 100 different kinds of ships, Uncharted Waters Online is certainly not lacking for choice. It even samples from history, presenting players with a mishmash of fact and fancy. Sure, maybe it’s not the most realistic, but I don’t think we should be throwing stones in MMO glass houses, do you?