Every once in a while we receive emails here at Massively OP that share a similar sentiment. Usually that boils down to, “I love MMOs, I want to play MMOs, but I’m extremely time-limited due to family/work/superhero commitments. What should I play?”
I’ve seen this question asked numerous times elsewhere, where it has been dismissed by people who go “All MMOs can be played no matter what! Just go at your own pace!” However, I don’t think that really addresses the need. These people are looking for MMOs that can be enjoyable in short bursts (say, around a half-hour) and offer advancement and progression at a rate that makes any player feel satisfied. Not every MMO does that, if we’re honest.
So where can the time-limited player get a thrill and accomplishment these days? I have a suggestion. Ten of them, in fact.
While some of the Living World episodes may demand longer stretches to complete, the massive amount of map completion that’s available offers more than enough casual and steady activity for any length of time. You never have to travel very far to uncover something new, fill up a heart, and complete a quick daily. The zone level scaling tech and the relatively flat leveling curve means that progress from one to 80 comes pretty regularly, too.
I’ve seen this MMO recommended quite often to people looking for shorter span games, and I think the key here is the One Tamriel update. By allowing players to go anywhere and group up with anyone without worrying about level disparity, it’s removed a lot of that psychological pressure of being left behind. Even the weekend warrior can have his or her fun here!
This was the first game that came to mind when I brainstormed this topic, because no game offers intense bite-sized missions the way Warframe does. There’s always something to do, something to chase, and something to enjoy, even if you’ve only got a sitcom’s worth of time in which to do it.
Many traditional leveling MMOs disqualified themselves from this list, but I’m going to include FFXIV for the reason that it’s a game that goes out of its way to hold your hand and walk you, step by step, through its linear progression. Even during a short play session, you’re still getting a good dose of story and moving toward your eventual goal — and you don’t feel like it’s worthless to engage in that.
And speaking of “hand holding,” you can’t get any more brainless than a sparkly path leading you to the next destination like you do in Neverwinter! Actually, there’s a lot of depth in this game, but its zippy personal instances make this a must-have for someone who wants to come away with actually having finished something in only 15 or 20 minutes.
Another Cryptic entry, STO has a few missions that will push outside of the 30-minute barrier that I imposed for this list. Still, a vast majority are pretty doable (even if just in stages) in under a half-hour, and the sheer variety and storytelling excellence (seriously) makes it a strong contender for occasional gaming.
As long as you’re cool with the type of gameplay in such titles, action-RPGs are a great idea for shorter play sessions. Path of Exile gets you into the action very quickly and delivers a satisfying experience full of victories and loot. As a bonus, the frequent new leagues offer everyone opportunities to (re)start together, even if you’ve only a few hours that week in which to play.
From clicking the desktop icon, you’ll be in and playing Trove in seconds — and you won’t be limited in what you’d like to do that day. Dungeon diving, exploring, mining, building, crafting, killing — there’s an ocean of options, and all of it is easily accessible from the start.
9. MapleStory 2
I’m going to toss this into the list because (a) it’s a newer title that many might not have tried yet, (b) it has a huge amount of content, and (c) you can do a whole heck of a lot in a half-hour. The combat is fast, the story comes in the tiniest of bites, and there are fun optional exploration goals for each map.
10. Mobile MMOs
I know, I know, kill me now. But hear me out: While mobile MMOs get a bad racket (and often deservedly so), there have been some quality releases over the past couple of years, including the recent Villagers and Heroes, AdventureQuest 3D, and Old School RuneScape. Since mobile devices are always on us, it might be perfect for the mom or dad who can’t sit in front of a computer for an hour but might have some time while waiting to pick up kids or taking that extra-long bathroom break. Just sayin’.