We all like to think of ourselves as cultured and deep individuals who routinely calculate square roots and recite Gilbert and Sullivan at dinner parties, but the truth is that we spend an inordinate amount of time cooing over baby animal videos and buying carcinogen-laden products if they’re wrapped up in bright, attractive packaging.
So yes, we also have a soft spot for games that are totally adorable. Oh, maybe not you, Mr. Too Cool for School, but even you have to admit that there’s a mass appeal for games that turn on the visual charm. Maybe there are rich features behind that sickly sweet exterior, but maybe that game is just a bubbly airhead that gets preferential treatment because it flashes those doe eyes and tosses glitter bombs into the air.
Today on Perfect Ten we are going to get incredibly shallow and basic as we count down 10 MMOs that are, as 2015 would like to say, totes adorbs. PREPARE FOR THE CUTENING OF YOUR LIFE.
1. MapleStory 2
When Nexon whipped up a sequel to its long-running MapleStory, it did more than bring the franchise from 2-D to 3-D. The company robbed every little girl’s room in the tri-county area to find inspirational figurines and posters for the art team to use. The result? An MMO so chubby and charming that you want to pinch its cheeks and talk to with a high-pitched baby voice. It makes me feel kind of bad to actually kill anything in this game, but the chibi gods must be satisfied.
2. Twin Saga
Obviously for a list like this, anime MMOs are going to come up a lot — and in fact, I had to limit myself from completely overdosing on them. I mean, after a while, one looks like the other, as they’re all drawing from the same genre. But out of these, Twin Saga perhaps nails the classic anime look the best, blasting us with pastels and big eyes and a landscape so adorable it should be topping a cake rather than being the setting for a grand adventure.
Yes, it’s entirely possible for a western MMO to be adorable, and the more I thought about it, the more WildStar seemed like a shoo-in for this list. This is, after all, a game with bunny-girls, bunny-savages, rainbows, fluffy bumblebees, neon brilliance, rowsdowsers, and all sorts of stylized decorations. The best part was that it offered players the choice in housing and costumes to go as cutesy as they wanted or as rough-and-tough as desired. It wasn’t forced upon you… not all of the time, at least.
There isn’t just one fixed template for adorable visuals in MMOs, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that. Tree of Savior gets the nod here because we here at MOP were forever commenting on how attractive and appealing its hand-drawn(like) environments and characters were and how it set this game apart from most other MMOARPGs. It might be getting some competition in this department from Torchlight Frontiers this year, but even so, I think Tree of Savior will keep its charms even so.
5. Free Realms
Kid-centric MMOs are another clear source of options for this discussion, as designers tried hard to create the type of visually welcoming and stimulating atmosphere that children enjoy in cartoons and toys. Free Realms took the colors and style of World of Warcraft and cranked them up a few notches to make a world that begged for bedtime snuggles and mantleplace photos. There was even that squirrel mascot that was shoved in our face every two seconds, and darn it if we didn’t want to adopt that thing.
The newest title on this list, Tales of Wind automatically earned a spot through its lush color palette, beautiful world, and giant chubby critters. Sure, these cats and hamsters and whatnot probably need a low carb diet, but it’s hard to criticize them when you just want to pinch their pudgy cheeeeeeks.
Give Europe some credit, too: It has the potential to produce cartoon styles that make you cock your head and go, “Awww!” Dofus’ world looks like it should be the setting of an ’80s Saturday morning cartoon, and yet we have the opportunity to frolic in it and explore its intricacies. Toss in the isometric viewpoint and turn-based combat, and you end up with a rather unique — and underrated — MMO.
8. Rose Online
Recently departed from the MMO space, Rose Online employed eye-fetching cel-shaded graphics to populate its anime world. Sure, every character looked as though they were maybe 12, 13 years old, tops, but you don’t get cuteness from middle-aged heroes with receding hairlines, crow’s feet, and bifocals. Or so my kids keep telling me.
I wanted to have an older title represented on this list, and Ragnarok seemed a good candidate. While the colors and design is more muted than many of the other games here, this MMO does have a certain Flash-era charm to it that makes me think of older JRPGs (and in a good way).
At first thought, FFXIV seemed too large and traditional to be included here, but those thoughts were quickly vanquished when I considered how many adorable designs, stances, and creatures are present here. From the jolly Cactuar to the flying Moogles (spellcheck really does not like this sentence), this MMO is chock-full of sights that appeal to the inner Lisa Frank in all of us.