Massively Overthinking: The oldest MMORPGs we still play

I am not supporting this lizard-shooting quest.

When I was still a teenager in my earliest MMOs, the trend in the communities I ran in was to play MMOs sequentially, due in large part to the fact that there weren’t a whole lot of MMOs to begin with. I personally played a sandbox or two on the side of most of the themeparks we traipsed through, but for the most part, my groups spent a decade playing one MMO and then another and then the next as they came out and caught our collective attention.

But in the more recent decade, we’re flush with choices, and people move around much more between MMOs as they get new content on shorter time-scales rather than stay ensconced in a single title for years. And while some may argue that harms communities, it’s also helped keep alive a ton of older MMOs that might otherwise have died for lack of players.

So I’ve posed this question to our staff for this week’s Massively Overthinking: What’s the oldest MMORPG you still play, and what does it have that other games don’t that makes you keep going back? (With the caveat that “still play” means “in the last half year with intent to return.”)

Andy McAdams: I cut my MMO teeth on Anarchy Online, and I inevitably end up going back to play a few hours every year. Anarchy Online has one of my favorite “magic” systems, a really fun inter-class dependency system of buffs, and a sci-fi setting. It also has one of my favorite classes: the Meta-physicist, which was about a support-y as you can get. (An MP’s direct-damage abilities without a pet are something akin to hitting the baddie with a nerf dart. Sure, it might be satisfying and make you feel better, but it’s not really effective in any meaningful way.) That’s the only old game I wander back to consistently, but in recent years I’ve gone so far back as diving into some MUDs for the depth and complexity they offer.

As soon as Jason Epstein leaves Daybreak, I am looking forward to going back to Norrath in EverQuest II because I love the fae race (so much!) and the Illusionist class.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): For me, it turns out to be Star Wars Galaxies, though I had to start over on a rogue server, which is not an easy thing for a crafter, so I know I really wanted to be there and wasn’t just riding on the momentum of “10 years of stuff” since I had no stuff to fall back on! There just aren’t many MMOs out there offering the kind of economic sandbox that SWG had and has, full-stop. If I ever find one that tops it, I’m sure I’ll be tempted away. Still waiting, though, and I feel like I still have to play other MMOs for my smashing-stuff fix because SWG doesn’t do much for me there.

City of Heroes would be a close second, but it’s a little less than a year younger than SWG. And I do usually return to Ultima Online repeatedly as well, and I do intend to return again someday, but I haven’t played it heavily since last year, so it probably shouldn’t count for me, though it’s a good six years older than SWG.

Carlo Lacsina (@UltraMudkipEX): The closest thing I have to an old MMO is Guild Wars. But I don’t really plan to come back to it any time soon. The time I had with it was absolutely magical; however, the more I look back, the more I realize how playing it today won’t bring back the folks I used to play with. It really was the people I enjoyed playing with. Hanging out at Marhan’s Grotto after some tough missions is a fond memory of mine, but nobody goes there anymore, so there’s really to point to just sit back and hang out after I’m finished with a play session. It’s a blessing that Guild Wars is still around, but nothing will bring back the carefree days of playing Guild Wars all day and then hanging out with folks on Teamspeak. But that’s fine. I’m glad it happened.

Chris Neal (@wolfyseyes, blog): I guess the oldest game I play right now is City of Heroes. The things it does differently than other MMOs should be pretty obvious to most by now: The character customization above and beyond body sliders is yet to feel matched by any other game, trying new combinations of powers is a game in and of itself, and of course there’s the nostalgia factor at work. It really does feel unlike other games out now, and I can’t help but dip my toes in now and again.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): Final Fantasy XI, to the shock of absolutely no one. But it’s not a case of what it has that other games don’t – in fact, most of the things that I’d say the modern FFXI has are also things that FFXIV has. The difference is all in the details, and it’s instead a case of appreciating two very different flavors of big, baroque, richly developed worlds that both do a delightful job of leading me on an adventure. It’s like the difference between vanilla ice cream and strawberry ice cream. I might generally prefer one, but I like both of them a lot.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Right now probably the oldest, chronologically, is World of Warcraft and City of Heroes. There aren’t a lot of pre-2004 MMORPGs that still appeal to me today, even if I did play them and appreciate what they contributed. I would say that both CoH and WoW are very user-friendly, have strong communities, and are simply a lot of fun in the combat department. I may be middle-aged, but bright, shiny colors still appeal!

Mia DeSanzo (@neschria): Have you ever known people who keep going back to their exes, even though those exes are no good for them? I just subscribed to Daybreak’s All Access in order to play EverQuest with all the perks. I knowingly gave money to Daybreak to play a 21-year-old game that I can log into for free. There’s no justification for that.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): The oldest MMOs I still play are Star Wars Galaxies (via the emus) and EverQuest II. What do these games have that keeps bringing me back? Stellar housing! A literal home to go back to. Also, the opportunity to live and breathe in a virtual world, with a myriad of activities to choose from, has just not been replicated as well as these. It helps that I have so much history and many great memories with these games. The stories I made, the character lives I roleplayed – they are stories I love returning to. OK, and leaper mounts in EQII are just totally fun!!

Samon Kashani (@thesamkash): The oldest game I’m still playing is Guild Wars 2. Time being what it is, I can’t seem to make enough of it to be able to play anything older. I’ve thought about going back and playing dozens of games, but it just isn’t reasonable. I’ll stick with GW2 for the same reason most people stick to their game: inertia. I’m already past all the beginning stuff. I know how to play. I have good gear and look awesome. And I know most of the game’s lore. Going into some other game I’d have to start from the bottom and that just isn’t going to work.

Tyler Edwards: Probably Star Trek Online. I came into MMOs later than a lot of other people on staff, and I never really got into older games in a meaningful way. The oldest game I’ve been heavily invested in is WoW, and I haven’t played it since Legion, nor am I sure I’ll ever come back. It feels like it lost something when Metzen left, and I just can’t do another Pathfinder grind ever again. As for what brings me back to STO, it’s Star Trek in an MMO. I’ll forgive a lot for the privilege to fly my own D’Deridex.

For anyone keeping score at home, the oldest-oldest game one of us still actively plays turns out to be EverQuest (1999). The youngest-oldest game one of us still plays is Guild Wars 2 (2012).

Every week, join the Massively OP staff for Massively Overthinking column, a multi-writer roundtable in which we discuss the MMO industry topics du jour – and then invite you to join the fray in the comments. Overthinking it is literally the whole point. Your turn!

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Get your facts checked, the oldest game that lots of people play and enjoy on hundreds of servers is Ultima Online which was released in 1997 two years before EverQuest.

Rodrigo Dias Costa

Huh, not between them, the site’s staff… also, considering your criteria to say that, UO still loses to Tibia, by around 8 months.


Wait, I haven’t answered here yet?

…not that I really need to. Beyond saying there are indeed Gnomes in EQ2…none of them look like me though. <3

Tee Parsley

Absolutely City of Heroes. Didn’t like the earlier mmos, and didn’t care for Warcraft. Only got two other mmos loaded on my system, so the list is short to begin with.

Malcolm Swoboda

I don’t play 90s. The only early 00s one I play is WoW and that’s clearly its own class by now. I may try out late 00s but I inevitably quit. I’m still mostly an early 10s MMORPG player, partially because I’m more used to the design, partially because I don’t have the tech (changing since game streaming kinda works) and time investment into the recent late 10s MMORPGs.

I’m say right now the oldest MMORPG ‘I play’, as in right now, is 2011’s SWTOR, though technically FFXIV released 2010, but do we count that or 2013’s A Realm Reborn? Regardless, my status is that I basically write off 90s MMORPGs, I’m open to 00s, and comfortable with 10s.

I’d look into good remakes of the earliest MMORPGs, just as I’ve looked into the ‘legacy’/’classic’ server of WoW.


I’ve been trying out SWG:Legends this week. I played pre-cu live but have never really experienced the NGE. With SW day this week, I felt the need so I’ve been giving it a go. It has not gone well, so it’s unlikely I’ll stick around.

Also playing WAR: RoR too. That’s in a much better shape than legends and is way more fun to play, but it’s narrow focus on pvp means that if im not in the mood for pvp, I end up playing something else.

Bruno Brito

It has not gone well, so it’s unlikely I’ll stick around.

Any specific reasons? I’m interested in your input.


Mostly just lag problems – whether that’s genuine network lag, or server lag, or just old game lag I don’t know.

But, when im in combat, it can take up to 5 seconds between me pressing a skill and it firing (i have the option ticked to let me use skills from toolbar). Most of the time, I don’t see any animations for the skills im using either. So, combat is just a hot mess and not much fun.

But the lag extends elsewhere too. Buildings will just suddenly pop into existence 10m in front of me, or a group of tuskans will appear just behind me. When riding a speeder, it’s not too bad except slowing down. Most radial menus in the game also take, on average, 4-5s before it’ll show me all the options (e.g. takes 5 seconds for teh “store” option to popup on my speeder, then another 3-5s for it to actually store itself).

As mentioned, I never really played NGE live so I don’t know how much of what im experiencing is reflective of the live service and how much is genuinely lag/bugs. But, 5 hours in and it’s just not fun. So, im installing SWGEmu as I type this so I can compare :-)

Bruno Brito

Mostly just lag problems – whether that’s genuine network lag, or server lag, or just old game lag I don’t know.

All of the above. They say it’s just the old code, bad optimization, but several of the players think that it’s also the quantity of players and afk play and macros running.

But, when im in combat, it can take up to 5 seconds between me pressing a skill and it firing (i have the option ticked to let me use skills from toolbar). Most of the time, I don’t see any animations for the skills im using either. So, combat is just a hot mess and not much fun.

Gotta agree with this accessment. The combat is not the strong point of the game.

Clearly you mentioned the bad parts being the game being clunky. That is something i can’t really fix nor can i give you counsel on how to fix it. The game is old and janky.


Managed to spend a few hours playing SWGEmu last night.

General responsiveness is far superior, skills fire on time and with the proper animations, radial menus open much quicker and my speeder works as I want it too. So, much happier on that front.

Draw distance / popping is the same between Legends and Emu, i.e. it’s bad in both. I have about a 20m radius around my character where vegetation shows, then about 150m radius where buildings show, but beyond that it’s all just empty, low quality landscape. Makes for a very bad experience in forests but it’s not too bad on Tattooine where there isn’t much vegetation anyway.

In my memory, the Emu and Live were both better with this issue in the past, for example I seem to remember being able to see most buildings in coronet from a distance, whereas now the buildings pop in and out as I move through.

But, that might just be rose-tinted glasses, its been a few years since I was last on Emu and 16 years since I played live…….


I heard Legends is based on stolen code, and SWGEmu is reverse engineered. If the lag on Legends really is caused by too many AFKers and too many macros, it’s probably the reason why the game was shutdown instead of just put into maintenance.

Kickstarter Donor

The oldest I occasionally log into is LOTRO. I always go back with the idea to catch my main up with current current or level up one of my alts. But then there’s some slight modification to some system that I need to figure out or build I need to reconfigure. Still, it’s one of the 4 games I automatically reinstall every time I rebuild my computer (the others are usually ESO, GW2 and SWTOR). LOTRO was my first MMO and I will always keep it around because, well, it’s Middle Earth. It’s the closest I’ll ever get to living there.


I’m rather disappointed in not seeing Ultima Online anywhere on this list.

Edit: I take that back, @nbrianna is my savior ✌️

Rob Hagaman

Eve Online (May 7th 2003). A true sandbox economy, where everything is made by the players, from ships to fittings, from ammo to bases. True PvP as well, from small 1v1 and ganks, to battles of 1000 players or more. It’s one of the few games that is more a hobby than a game.


Probably Tibia – I play it at times though

Jim Bergevin Jr

EverQuest is the oldest I play on a regular basis. The oldest one I have played thus far is Furcadia (1996). However, I do plan on getting into Ultima Online and Meridian 59 at some point to try to play on a regular basis in the near future. I’ve also had my eye on a MUD or two. So the next time you pose this question, we’ll have some old ones that qualify.