If you have ever visited the MMORPG subreddit, you probably know that one of the most frequent posts that pop up are ones asking the community for recommendations. These are players who have left a full-time game and are now fishing around for a substitute, or those who have “played them all” and are hoping that some undiscovered gem exists, or are having a difficult time finding a good game match for their preferred playstyle.
I am often leery about tossing out blanket recommendations because it’s far better to get to know a player, his or her game history, and the type of game sought before giving my opinion. But if you were to put a fish cannon to my head and threatened me with rapid-codding, I think I would be generally OK promoting the following 10 MMORPGs to most players, sight unseen.
These are MMOs that have earned my personal recommendation and are the titles that I tend to promote the most. Here we go!
1. Secret World Legends
Reboot discussion aside, Secret World enthralls me with its storytelling, world building, mind-bending quests, reality blurring, and memorable NPCs. It’s the best example of an adventure game made massively multiplayer (or now, just multiplayer), and its conspiracy themes and contemporary setting lend it a unique feel that you don’t get in most MMOs. I lost count of the number of times I’ve said, “You don’t see THAT in most online games!” And every time that happens, I want to share it with the world.
Yeah, I’m fully aware that RIFT suffers from the perceived taint of Trion Worlds’ business model handling. I’ve never thought that its F2P model was as harsh or out-of-wack as ArcheAge’s, but instead feel that this is a great alternative to World of Warcraft that throws in a few features that its much more famous brother lacks (such as housing and instant adventures). It’s just a good, solid MMO for the most part, and one that I keep returning to over the years.
3. Final Fantasy XIV
This is an odd recommendation for me to make, because it’s coming more from a stance of respect than personal love. FFXIV isn’t quite the game for me, mostly due to its aesthetics, but I can’t help but admire its devotion to storytelling, regular updates, a cost-effective subscription, and its devoted playerbase. It’s an easy recommendation to make.
4. Guild Wars 2
I know, I’m marching down the obvious, but I’m not going to bypass them just because of that. Guild Wars 2 is a good title to recommend to players burned out on traditional MMORPGs but who don’t want to stray too far from the familiar. There’s a little of everything here for you, especially if you like to pursue flexible goals and explore a beautiful world.
5. Lord of the Rings Online
Long in the tooth? At 10 years, perhaps, but I like to think that this MMO has aged well as it’s fleshed out Middle-earth and added more to the epic journey of the books. For Tolkien fans, it’s a lore-master’s dream to visit this game and see what it has to offer. Plus, it comes with a generous, friendly community that’s well-known for roleplaying, community events, and fashion shows.
6. Star Trek Online
I’ve long felt that STO is one of the better-kept secrets in the MMO industry. It’s neither done spectacularly well nor faded away, but endured on the strength of its IP and the gradual expansion of its quests. And believe it or not, this game has some pretty terrific writing and quest elements (although its voice acting and animation leaves a lot to be desired).
Once again, here’s an MMO that I don’t regularly play but I do respect greatly. It may fool you with its kiddy looks and silly concepts (such as Candy Barbarians and toilet mounts), but Trove contains hidden depths with its flexibility and sandbox elements. Allowing the players to take a creative part in the game’s landscape and even weapon design makes this a title worth noticing.
8. Elder Scrolls Online
Another easy recommendation to make, even if I’ve never gotten very far into it. ESO has come a long, long way from its shaky launch to create a massive world with questing freedom, housing, a great deal of character build options, and Elder Scrolls lore out the wazoo. Plus, some pretty good voice acting, story beats, and an acceptable buy-to-play model keeps this recommendation-high.
Call this my (cough) wild pick, WildStar makes my recommendation list because at the end of the day, it is a really well-done MMO with a lot going for it. It’s beautiful, it has a unique world populated by bizarre alien races, it sings with one of the best soundtracks that has ever graced an MMO, and it has a tremendous housing system. It’s a real shame what’s happened to it on a business level, but as long as it is operating, I feel comfortable in pointing it out to others.
10. Black Desert
Trove aside, I wanted to make sure that I got at least one purebred sandbox MMO on this list. And out of those operating, the medal for best overall package goes to Black Desert. It’s got a more acceptable business model than ArcheAge and has so much for players to see and do. Huge points for its beauty, housing, and neverending pursuit of improvement.