12 best MMO games to play in 2023: Paid, free-to-play MMORPGs & more
MMOs are incredibly immersive games and there are a lot of great options out there. Whether you’re a veteran of the genre or a complete newcomer, here are the very best MMOs you should check out in 2023.
With so many great titles to choose from however, it can be overwhelming trying to decide what to play, especially as most MMOs have hundreds of hours’ worth of content to enjoy but we’ve got you covered with a curated list.
Here are the 12 best MMOs you should play in 2023, including free titles and paid-for subscriptions.
From well-known MMOs to some more niche titles, here are the best MMORPGs and MMOs to download in 2023:
1. Final Fantasy XIV
Arriving to a middling response when it was first released in 2010, Final Fantasy XIV (commonly known as FFXIV) was panned by critics. Following a complete shutdown of the game, it resurfaced once more in the summer of 2013 as A Realm Reborn — a complete revamp that struck gold with fans.
Final Fantasy XIV’s story is an integral part of the experience, and with a total of five expansions to get through, it’s chock full of lore to uncover. What’s more, the world of Eorzea is incredibly expansive, and players are given complete character freedoms, including being able to switch between the classes and its 20 jobs as you see fit.
While it’s both buy-to-play and requires a subscription fee, new players can dive into arguably one of the best free trials out there in FFXIV, letting you experience gameplay up to level 60 (the max level cap is 90 as of Endwalker’s release). PvP players also have options here, but it’s no secret in the community that the main focus is undoubtedly on PVE content.
In 2022, FFXIV’s 6.2 patch, Buried Memory added a new location known as Island Sanctuary. Suited for those looking for a more relaxed and slower pace, fans of games like Animal Crossing or Disney Dreamlight Valley will be right at home here, as they’re able to build, collect, and farm while building their own slice of paradise.
With beautiful sound and art design, there’s no better time than right now to jump into Final Fantasy XIV.
FFXIV Key Features
- Buy-to-play & Subscription fees
- Available on PC/Mac/PlayStation
- One of the best free trials on offer for MMORPGs
- Multiple classes and jobs with the freedom to switch at will
- A huge world to explore
- PvE-focused content (though PvP is available)
- Immersive storytelling
- Large community
- Player housing
2. World of Warcraft
Perhaps one of the most well-known MMORPGs on this list, World of Warcraft has been a household name since 2004. Today, it continues to bring in fans from all over the world, featuring some of the most iconic characters in gaming from the likes of Alexstrasza to Khadgar, and Tyrande Whisperwind. Players are transported to a world of high fantasy to experience the nine-total expansions as they partake in epic dungeons and stories, raids, open-world PvP, duels, and battlegrounds.
While WoW does have a free trial, it’s much smaller in comparison to Final Fantasy 14, only allowing players to experience the first 20 levels for free (max level is 70). Additionally, each character you create is also locked to the particular class that you choose for them. Despite this, WoW’s class designs are arguably some of the best in gaming, with each having different specializations to focus on that completely change the gameplay of its many classes.
WoW definitely leans towards catering to players who have lots of free time to grind through its mindboggling amount of currencies, reputations, and other requirements, but casual players will still have a blast exploring the world and uncovering the mysteries of Azeroth and the worlds beyond.
Its current expansion, Dragonflight, arrived late last year in November 2022. Bringing things closer to home back in Azeroth, players explore the Dragon Isles alongside a brand new playable race: the Dracthyr. What’s more, there’s even a new race-locked Hero class for this draconic race, known as the Evoker — a ranged, mage-like class that utilizes either DPS-based specialization for those who prefer to eviscerate their enemies in a fluffy of spells, and a second that caters to those who prefer a healing spec to support their party with.
As adventurers explore the Dragon Isles, they’re able to soar into the sky and glide as a Dracthyr and with the new Dragonriding skill and mounts to complete races, collect glyphs (used to increase the mount’s skills), or just as an exciting new way to traverse the land. With Dragonflight’s release, there’s no better time to don your armor and charge into battle.
World of Warcraft key features
- Buy-to-play & Subscription fees / Free trial available
- Excellent PvE and PvP options
- One of the largest MMO communities in the world
- Limited to one class per character
- Exile’s Reach, a fantastic starting area that shows new players the ropes
- Chromie Time lets players who have a max-level character experience any of the 8 expansions
- WoW Classic runs parallel to the main game, letting veterans and new players experience the game as it was when it released
3. The Elder Scrolls Online
If you’re looking to play one of the most iconic story-driven RPG series with others, look no further than The Elder Scrolls Online. Throughout its lifecycle, developers ZeniMax have opened up more and more corners of the world of Tamriel to explore. Featuring all the bells and whistles one would expect from an Elder Scrolls title, from the Khajiit race to an incredibly immersive storyline to uncover alongside the likes of guilds such as The Dark Brotherhood, there’s truly something for everyone here.
Though the graphics style may have aged the game somewhat, it’s incredible to see the likes of Morrowind and other locations from the series brought into a more modern graphic style than how they appeared in their original games.
Unlike FFXIV and World of Warcraft, ESO’s combat isn’t completely tab-targeting, featuring systems that give you slightly more player agency and control over what you’re doing. Just like the mainline games, you can aim and run around the battlefield with free reign. Hold down the attack button for longer and you’ll perform a heavy attack, or avoid an incoming one from your enemies with a well-timed block.
With phenomenal player housing opportunities and the ability to bend the game’s classes to your specific preferences (want a warrior that also uses spells? You can do that!) – you can truly craft a character unique to you. The Elder Scrolls Online also utilizes PvP differently than many other MMORPGs. While it’s completely optional, it ties it directly into the main storyline through Alliance Wars, which sees three factions vie for control in huge battles within the iconic Cyrodiil. What’s more, the MMORPG received a brand new expansion, High Isles, back in 2022, providing new or returning players with lots to sink their teeth into.
That’s not all though, as in June 2023, Necrom, its latest expansion, will arrive. Taking players to the Telvanni Peninsula in the Daedric realm of Apocrypha, there’ll also be a new class, the Arcanist, that is said to channel “arcane energies, ancient runes, and lost tomes of power”.
The Elder Scrolls Online key features
- Buy-to-play model with additional subscription benefits with ESO Plus (also requires PlayStation Plus/Xbox Live Gold)
- Available on PC/Mac/PlayStation/Stadia/Xbox
- Player housing
- An iconic, immersive world to explore alone or with friends
- All of the races available in the mainline series
- The freedom to create a class you want
- PvP that directly ties into the main story
4. New World
Amazon Game Studios’ New World MMORPG is based on the settling of America, with players venturing to a land shrouded in mystery to uncover its secrets.
With unique armor and styling due to its 1600s setting, the world combines this with a high-fantasy feel for a truly special player experience, as you battle against NPC Humans that have been corrupted by the island of Aeternum’s mystical, dark power source.
As you explore and unravel the world’s lore, you’ll be able to take part in dungeons, PvP content that pits between 25 and 50 players against one another, and even a PvPvE mode as you vie for control by killing enemies and collecting resources for your team.
New World is full of skills centered around combat and non-combat aspects of the game, giving you vast amounts of variety as you freely explore the different weapons and attributes.
New World key features
- Buy-to-play model
- Lots of different games modes for every type of player, from typical PvE dungeons to PvP, and even PvPvE
- Player housing
- Skills like camping, cooking, engineering, and leatherworking
- Player-run markets
- Three factions to join with benefits that depend upon how much territory they control
5. Black Desert
Pearl Abyss’ Black Desert is known throughout the MMO community as being arguably the best-looking MMORPG on the market. That envelope was pushed even further in 2018, when Black Desert Remastered brought in even more visual fidelity and audio improvements.
Black Desert is truly open-world, giving you complete freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want. The game’s story, while entertaining, is muddled and hard to follow – but the vast array of other features means that you’re never lacking for something to do.
That being said, the game is incredibly grindy, and casual players may often feel overwhelmed at just how much of one particular feature there is to get through. With tons of life skills to pick up outside of typical combat, players can adopt the life of a farmer and hire workers to do all of the hard work, purchase properties, or fish, and become a merchant by transporting their goods through different trade routes to make that big sale.
Character customization in Black Desert is also limitless, letting you truly mold every aspect of your adventurer, even down to the texture and length of their hair. New classes are regularly being released, too, with the latest arrival being that of the Maegu, a ranged, melee-based attacker that uses a Foxspirit Charm to attack her foes with. Black Desert also gives away free goodies through the use of redeemable codes, meaning you can stockpile items to go toward your adventure as new ones are released.
Black Desert Online key features
- Buy-to-play model (with a 30-day free trial)
- Available on PC/PlayStation/Xbox/iOS/Android
- High-quality graphics that stand unparalleled in the genre
- Robust character creation and customization
- 25 classes to choose from (though some are gender-locked)
- Unique takes of typical classes, like the Nautical-based Corsair
- Complete action-based combat that relies on aiming skill
- Large PvP battles
- Activities like farming, fishing, sailing, and trading
6. Guild Wars 2
Guild Wars 2 is right up there as one of the best MMOs available right now. While those who are looking for MMORPGs with the best graphics might be disappointed, Guild Wars’ unique gameplay systems and story put it a cut above the rest. The game is incredibly accessible, meaning you’re not punished for coming into the game in 2023 as a new player, or whether you’re returning to it after a break.
Character creation gives you different choices that affect both small and larger gameplay elements, from your starting armor to how you’ll experience the core content of the game. Choose to be raised as Nobility as a Human, or whether you blacked out at a celebration as a Norn (yes, that’s actually a choice!).
Aside from their expansions, the game also releases new content in the form of Seasons, dubbed ‘Living World’ – these add new quests, storylines, and areas to the game world. Season 1’s Living Story was even temporary – meaning that new players in the game today aren’t able to experience it.
Guild Wars 2’s PvP is incredibly accessible, rewarding, and fun to play. World vs World pits you and boatloads of players from your world against opposing ones as you battle it out to claim your stake on castles and keeps in a never-ending loop.
The game’s combat and classes are top-notch, with a heavy focus on utilizing its dodge mechanic to dance around your enemies and stay alive.
Guild Wars 2 key features
- Buy-to-play model (the ‘core’ content is also free to play!)
- A fantastic story that plays out through seasonal content in the form of a ‘Living World’
- Able to be played casually by people who have less time to dedicate
- Unique races, such as the Sylvan ‘Sylvari’
- Choose your character’s background through a series of questions and experience content specific to those answers
- The ability to work with other players throughout the game without the need for forming parties in ‘Dynamic Events’
- World vs World play takes PvP even further, pitting hundreds of players against each other as they vie for control of the land
- Extra open-world content like jumping puzzles to unlock achievements and rewards
Best free MMORPGs in 2023 to download
While the above MMORPGs are some of the best that you can pay to play, there are some equally fantastic free MMOs to download:
1. Lost Ark
Lost Ark is an MMO ARPG, giving fans of games like Diablo and the multiplayer genre itself the chance to fight foes in a gorgeous, isometric world. Initially released in Korea back in 2018, Lost Ark finally arrived on Western shores early in 2022.
There are six base character classes to pick from, each of which has its own ‘Advanced’ versions (alongside plenty of unreleased ones) that further shape the way you approach the world, all with their own specific playstyles. There’s a vast world of seven unique continents to explore, the chance to sail the high seas, and plenty of dungeons, quests, and PvP battles to keep you spoiled for choice.
Each of your abilities can be upgraded, too, further allowing you to create a character that fits in with your personal style. Alongside that are a whole host of non-combat-related skills to train and refine. In Arkesia, you’ll be able to explore, collect and fight to your heart’s content in a unique take on the MMORPG genre.
Lost Ark key features
- Free-to-play model (with the option to purchase in-game items)
- 6 classes to play, and even more subclasses
- 3 levels of customization for each ability
- Dungeons, Raids, and PvP
- A vast, predominantly open world to explore, with instanced areas like dungeons
- Ships and ocean exploration
- In-depth character customization
- Crafting systems and Guilds
2. Star Wars: The Old Republic
Fans of Bioware games like the Mass Effect and Dragon Age franchises will feel right at home with this free-to-play MMO. Featuring everything from romanceable companions, to fully-voiced NPCs (including your own character!) SWTOR provides RPG features that some of the other best MMORPGs on this list could only dream of.
Anyone looking for an immersive story set in space will love this as you explore the Galaxy, with interactive cutscenes and even decision-making.
Able to be fully played up to level 60 for free, and with the ability to also experience the first two expansions completely free, too, there’s a lot of content to get through before you’d even need to consider signing up to their subscription model. There are some restrictions of course, but despite that, there’s plenty to do.
With the game’s 8 classes, each one has a completely different storyline to explore, and it wouldn’t be a Star Wars game without the option to commit to either the Light Side or the Dark Side, complete with visual changes as you err closer and closer to either end of the spectrum.
Star Wars: The Old Republic key features
- Free to play up until level 60 (with an optional paid membership)
- Features iconic franchise locations like Alderan and Tattooine
- Choose either the Light or Dark Side
- Your own ship!
- Companions (you can romance and even marry some!)
- Interactable cutscenes
- Fully voiced NPCs and main character
- Different stories for each of the game’s 8 classes
One of the OG MMOs, RuneScape has gone through huge changes since its initial release — from content expansions to visual overhauls (and more coming in the future!)
Easily downloaded and run on both PC, Mac, Linux, and mobile, the game is completely cross-save, allowing you to pick up and play on any platform.
RuneScape features a huge amount of skills that affect how you approach and interact with the world of Gielinor. While some like Farming, Invention, and Thieving are locked to members only, there are over 15 skills free players can level up in, from Woodcutting to Fishing.
The game’s combat also features two settings: Evolution of Combat, and Legacy. The former focuses on different abilities similar to other MMOs on this list, whereas Legacy restores combat to the original style from earlier in the game’s lifecycle. While this option lets you sit back as you click on an enemy and your character does all the work, you’re never penalized for choosing this option.
Both the overall improvements and expansions the devs made to the game, alongside the respect Jagex has for some of the simpler features from back in the day make this free MMO one everyone should try out.
RuneScape key features
- Free to play (with an optional paid membership)
- Old School, which keeps the original vision for the game alive, with improvements implemented via community polls
- Playable on Mobile
- A completely classless system, allowing you to switch between whatever playstyle you prefer
- Player housing
- Daily challenges are quick to complete, allowing you to progress at a decent speed
- Comedic, brilliantly written quests which try to break free of the typical ‘kill x, go here’ chain
- Areas and some skills that are locked for members only
- Cross-save and crossplay functionality
4. EVE Online
If you’re looking for a sandbox-style MMO where the shape of the world is defined entirely by its community, you’ll be right at home out in EVE Online’s space-themed title, which has been around now for 19 years since its 2003 arrival.
Set thousands of years ahead of our own time, this player-driven world features exploration, trading, and warfare as you attempt to take your claim in the game’s vast universe. While those looking for an experience where you can explore the world as your character like many other MMOs may be disappointed, EVE Online instead has a wealth of features that will send anyone looking for their next sandbox game into a tailspin.
In-game, you step into the shoes of a Capsuleer, an immortal pilot who uses neural technology to navigate their ship throughout space from a capsule within your spacecraft — and what’s more, there are plenty (over 350!) to unlock and fully customize, all of which have their own specific uses within the world.
With over 7,000 solar systems to explore, known collectively as ‘New Eden’, there are four empires that govern them: The Amarr, the Caldari State, the Gallente Federation, and the Minmatar Republic, each with its own unique lore and backstory. There are even unexplored areas to venture out into and discover off the beaten path, too.
During your adventure, you can pick from a selection of different careers, all of which change the way that you’ll navigate New Eden: Explorer, Industrialist, Enforcer, and Soldier of Fortune. What’s more, these also branch off into their own professions, with Enforcers being able to become Mission Runners or Bounty Hunters, whereas a Soldier of Fortune can take up arms as either a Pirate or Faction Militia.
One of the most unique features of EVE is undoubtedly Skill Training, a feature that allows your Capsuleer to increase their skills whether you’re currently playing or not, with up to 50 skills being able to be queued up at any one time.
EVE Online is also free to play, although the game’s subscription model Omega allows skills to be trained faster, alongside all skills and ships being unlocked, lower taxes, and more.
EVE Online key features
- Free to play (with an optional, paid subscription model)
- Over 7,000 star systems to explore
- Over 350 ships to utilize and customize
- Multiple classes and professions to pick from
- ‘Corporations’, a feature similar to guilds in other MMOs, that can merge with others to create Alliances and compete for areas of space
- Skill Training lets you rank up in needed areas without being logged in
- PvP and PvE battles
- A sandbox style of play, allowing you to explore, fight, or trade in New Eden
- A player-driven economy: items purchased are typically sourced or created by players
5. Blade & Soul
Blade & Soul was released in 2012, and it’s still undoubtedly one of the best free-to-play MMORPGs currently available. With a fantastic and engaging story, deep character creation, and high-octane action-based combat full of flashy combos to pull off, it’s definitely one to check out.
Featuring a blend of both martial arts and magic, the story begins with your character starting off as a student, before being thrust into a world of darkness as you attempt to avenge those that were defeated.
Blade & Soul features a dizzying choice of 15 classes — the latest of which being the Musician which arrived in October 2022’s Symphony of Destruction update — to pick from alongside 4 different races. While each of the classes are race-locked, there’s still a wide variety to choose from to play the way you prefer.
Back in September 2021, the game also received a long-awaited Unreal Engine 4 update, too. Bringing the title up to date, it’s never been a better time to hop in and try out Blade & Soul.
Blade & Soul key features
- Free to play model (with an in-game shop)
- Deep character customization
- 4 races and 14 classes to choose from (though some are race-locked)
- Action-based Martial Arts style combat
- Take to the skies with a glide feature
6. Lord of the Rings Online
If you’re still not over the fact that the Rings of Power episodes have now finished, and you’re looking to be transported into the world yourself, look no further than Lord of the Rings Online. Released all the way back in 2007, the MMO is still receiving updates to this day — with the most recent addition, Before the Shadow, having arrived in November 2022.
The game recently switched to a free-to-play model, too, meaning that you can play a decent chunk of the now 15-year-old MMO’s content without needing to hand over a dime. That being said, more recent content additions and the upcoming expansion will cost you. There’s also a VIP subscription model on offer that provides adventurers with everything from additional inventory slots to ‘Legendary Servers’, daily XP bonuses, and a whole lot more.
With a total of seven races and eleven classes, from High Elves to a Stout-Axe and even a Beorning, you’re able to shape your character’s fantasy to how you see fit.
If you’re a fan of PvP content, you’re in luck, as there’s a PvMP (Monster Play) mode that pits you against players stepping into the shoes of, well, a monster — but PvE fans will also feel right at home as they explore the virtual Middle-earth.
Lord of the Rings Online key features
- A large chunk of free to play content (with more recent paid expansions and a VIP membership)
- Seven classes, eleven races, and even more customization options are available
- Solo and team-based content known as ‘Skirmishes’
- A PvMP mode where you can play as Orcs and more
- Player housing in locations such as The Shire
Best new and upcoming MMORPGs to play
Fancy looking ahead to the future? We’ve got some of our favorite upcoming MMOs to keep an eye on as new information is revealed:
Looking for something a little less battle-centric, and a little more relaxing to play? You’ve found it with Palia. Created by Singularity 6, Inc, Palia is helmed by ex-Blizzard and Epic Games devs. With a community-minded approach, fans of games like Stardew Valley, The Sims, and Disney Dreamlight Valley, players will be able to explore a beautiful, Pixar-like open world with the ability to glide through the world, fish, cook, build, and furnish homes.
Palia’s overarching story focuses on humans, a Legendary race that disappeared at the “height of their grandeur and mastery of magic”. In it, you’ll experience an ever-evolving story as one of them, with the ability to befriend and even romance a colorful cast of NPCs as you explore and build a life for yourself.
While no release date is set as of yet, we’ll update you here as more information is revealed.
Palia key features (so far)
- Building and decorating
- Activities such as fishing, cooking, gardening (with more to be revealed)
- NPCs to befriend and romance
- An ever-expanding world narrative
League of Legends MMO
One of the most anticipated MMOs, but also one that we know very little about, League of Legends’ MMO is sure to be a success. It also seems like Riot is trying something that might break the typical MMO mold, having stated that not everyone will love the decisions they’ll make with the game design.
It also seems like Raids are set to be one of the most important end-game features.
As more information is revealed, we’ll update you here, and over at our dedicated hub.
So, there you have it. That’s our list of the best MMORPGs and MMOs to download and play in 2023 and beyond. Looking for more recommendations on games to play across different genres? Check out the following lists:
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