Perfect Ten: 10 MMORPGs as Saturday morning cartoons


My insane MMO and MMORPG thought experiments do indeed continue: Previously I considered what muffins MMO NPCs are, then I considered what flavor of gelatin games would be. Now I am being allowed – nay, encouraged – to sit here and try to compare MMORPGs to Saturday morning cartoons. These are things Bree lets me do. I love my job.

Now before we begin, I realize that the concept of the Saturday morning cartoon might be alien to those of a certain age group, but back in the old days, Saturday mornings from around 8:00 a.m. to roughly 11:30 a.m. or noon would be non-stop cartoon series, usually packaged in some sort of block of network-specific programming. It was part of my childhood, a reprieve from the looming specter of homework later on in my weekend, and it ultimately means that this list is going to probably speak to a select demographic of people.

And now I also feel like I’m made of disintegrating sandstone because I had to explain this. Anyway, let’s begin!

Star Citizen is Alvin and the Chipmunks

I’ll start with the inter-office chat joke that launched this whole thing: Bree had instructed me to set the primary category for a Star Citizen story as “ALPHAAAAAAAAAA,” which made me remark that that was best read in the voice of Dave from the cartoon Alvin and the Chipmunks. But as I thought about it, that comparison actually makes a measure of sense.

Both the ever-alpha MMO and Alvin and the Chipmunks are mischievous scamps who constantly get into trouble or operate on greed, but they also do just enough actual creation of intended product that they come off as well-meaning or with their heart in the right place. The pieces fit in my mind. And now I’ll probably hear Chris Roberts’ voice pitched upwards from here on out in my head. Great.

Lord of the Rings Online is The World of David the Gnome

I admit to making a deep cut here, so this one probably requires some preamble. The World of David the Gnome premiered as part of the Nick Jr. kids’ cartoon lineup back in the late ’80s to ’90s here in the US. It was basically a pretty serene and relaxed affair that peered in on the lives of a bunch of forest gnomes doing their forest gnome thing. Think The Smurfs if the show was on ether.

Now when I think of relaxed, slower paced, and more measured MMORPG experiences, the first thing that springs to mind is Lord of the Rings Online. I have some fuzzy memories of David the Gnome, but I also recall a sense of peace and calm when I think back to the show – the same sense that I get from playing LOTRO. That’s not a bad thing if you ask me.

The Secret World is Beetlejuice

Honestly this is leaning into thematics more than anything else, but if you remember the animated Beetlejuice show, then you probably are already nodding your head in agreement. Especially if you’re a person of culture.

Beetlejuice as a cartoon wasn’t particularly funny or clever, but it absolutely oozed with a gothic, macabre, fun-filled style from start to finish that I truly enjoyed being surrounded by. And there’s no other MMORPG that hits nearly parallel dark beats than TSW. If we’re all honest with ourselves, that inky world and its stories were the reason why most of us put up with its garbage combat.

Final Fantasy XIV is Captain Planet

“Huh?” Yes, at face value, this comparison is pretty damned strange, but hear me out. Captain Planet and the Planeteers was the ’90s way of trying to make people care about global pollution, climate change, and caring for Earth. This was primarily done by a bunch of kids bringing their elemental powers together in order to summon the titular superhero Captain Planet as he took out villainous caricatures of earth-harming problems. Basically they defeated things with the power of friendship.

And what other MMORPG has people doing the same feat? Yes, it’s Final Fantasy XIV, a game where the player’s Warrior of Light has time and again risen up to face incredible challenges through the power of camaraderie, friendship, and people believing that things are better done together. The only thing that doesn’t make this a direct comparison is the fact that the Warriors of Light aren’t manifested by the power of a magical device – oh wait that’s kind of a thing too.

Lost Ark is Thundercats

Cheesy. Loud. Extremely pretty to look at on the surface but kind of middling when you dig in. All of those things summarize my feelings about both Lost Ark and the old Thundercats cartoon. Not the newer one that Cartoon Network tried, by the way.

I seem to recall that Thundercats was way more interesting in its opening moments than the actual content of the show itself was. That could arguably be said of a lot of ’80s cartoons of the time, but just look at the opening sequence of this show – how action-packed, crisp, and well animated it is. And then watch an actual episode. This is a lot like how Lost Ark played out for me: extremely fun and bombastic from the opening section, but once you drilled down past that impressive exterior, it’s hollow and unsatisfying.

EverQuest and EverQuest II are any number of Looney Tunes cartoons

Depending on where you lived or what network you tuned into at the time, your Saturday morning cartoon block very likely had some old classic Looney Tunes cartoons as a feature. They’re evergreen pieces of both humor and animation – the template for a lot of shows whether most will admit it or not.

In that same regard, the original EverQuest is very much like that progenitor of our wider genre. Even EverQuest II is kind of like some of the Looney Tunes cartoons that were around during the ’60s and ’70s – a little weird and different but not too divergent from the original source material. Seriously, if you’ve never seen Looney Tunes cartoons from that era, look ’em up. They’re kinda weird.

Fortnite is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

TMNT as an IP has undergone a whole slew of transformations, but one of its most divergent is the move from the comic books of its origin to the animated series that ran from the late ’80s to almost all of the ’90s. In fact, it’s so ubiquitous with the franchise that most people probably don’t recall the Eastman and Laird comics at all.

That pretty much mirrors Fortnite perfectly: When most think of Fortnite, they think of the battle royale shooter and not the wave survival fort building co-op title it was first conceptualized as. And arguably the shooter is going through its weird-ass Nickelodeon phase where it doesn’t know what the hell to do with itself as it tries to throw everything at the wall to see what sticks.

World of Warcraft is He-Man

I’m going to be up front about this one: I adore He-Man. It’s an unapologetically cheesy romp of fantasy that takes some classic barbarian tropes and coats it in ’80s candy. But it’s also a really, really dumb show. Like seriously dumb.

Arguably, World of Warcraft is very similar, but not because it’s also dumb. Mostly the comparison stands up to me because it strikes me as a big, goofy caricature of some of the more “serious” fantasy realms that it was cribbing from. In short, WoW is to Warhammer as He-Man is to Conan.

New World is Inspector Gadget

Inspector Gadget as a character is basically an amalgamation of multiple different parts that really shouldn’t fit together but do, creating a bumbling but ultimately successful sort of hero who manages to stop the evil Dr. Claw and his villainous crime syndicate with the help of his more competent handlers Penny and Brain.

New World as a game is basically an amalgamation of multiple different parts that really shouldn’t fit together but do, especially in spite of itself and the weird steps that Amazon Games has taken. But it perseveres and arguably thrives thanks to the help of its more competent handlers who now seem to better know what its creation is capable of.

Guild Wars 2 is Transformers

This comparison admittedly takes some mental gymnastics, particularly since there are no face-value similarities in terms of tone or thematics. So where do I get off saying that Transformers is a lot like Guild Wars 2? It’s because it managed to land on some good branding and pull a rabbit out of its hat to become a sort of generational thing.

Transformers the show was really mostly about selling toys (as were many other cartoons, let’s be real), but it also managed to lean into its own mythos and story to become a standout IP and a classic piece of nostalgia. GW2 seems to have landed in a similarly fated position, managing to stand up on its own feet despite some weird initial choices, molding into a semi-new classic that now feels part of our greater genre lexicon when it initially felt like it was… well, kind of selling a toy.

And now I hope I didn’t make Eliot mad with this comparison.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at or with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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