5 Best World of Warcraft Expansions – ranked

Ava Thompson-Powell
Top 5 WoW Expansion image

World of Warcraft has been taking players on amazing adventures to distant lands for 16 years. We’ve taken down Onyxia, accidentally rediscovered Pandaria, defeated the Legion army, and are now peeling back the veil between life and death itself in Shadowlands.

Admittedly there have been some ups and downs with WoW –Warlords of Draenor was panned by fans because it lacked content – but for the most part, these expansions have been consistently good.

However, what is the best WoW expansion, and where does Shadowlands – the latest release – rank?

Here’s our top five.

5. Mists of Pandaria

Halfmoon Hill in WoW's Pandaria
Halfmoon Hill is where you begin your journey as a budding farmer in Halfmoon Hill.

While not considered the most revolutionary of expansions, Mists of Pandaria still deserves a mention. With an incredible atmosphere and an immersive story, MoP really was something to behold.

The Vale’s daily quests differentiated over time and working towards getting the Cloud Serpent mount through completing Serpent dailies was a rewarding experience.

The Siege of Orgrimmar was too long, though, and that has held it back from being higher up in this ranking. However, the plot itself was incredibly emotive and gripping, with feelings of hatred towards Garrosh brewing as you played through the raid.

Mists of Pandaria also introduced a cool feature that hasn’t been revisited since, which is a shame. The Tillers, ran by Father Yoon in Halfhill, gave players the chance to build their own farm – who didn’t enjoy having a quiet moment at Sunsong Farm?

Growing harvests and reaping the rewards was wonderful, and was the closest thing players have ever had to their own WoW homestead.

4. Shadowlands

Ardenweald showcased in Shadowlands, with beautiful scenery
Ardenweald is truly a sight to behold in the latest expansion.

Even though it’s early days for Shadowlands, WoW’s latest expansion deserves to be recognized as one of the best. As with Mists of Pandaria, it’s not a revolutionary addition, but it brings players more of what they love.

More importantly, it actively attempts to move on from and rectify many of the long-term issues that Battle for Azeroth had; such as the Heart of Azeroth skill problems, Warfronts, and Island Expeditions. These elements missed the mark, making BfA a grind with little reward for your efforts.

Backpedaling on lots of the features introduced in BfA, or improving upon them, Shadowlands has brought WoW out of its two-year funk. With a focus on player agency, choice, and customization, it’s beginning to feel that we have the freedom to create what we truly want, while covenants and their class-specific skills are a popular addition.

WoW is still a relatively linear experience, so there’s definitely a lot of room to grow, and as time progresses, the expansion can go one of two ways; it will be interesting to see if it moves up or down in our rankings in the coming months and years.

3. Legion

The Shattered Abyss in WoW's Legion Expansion
Legion saw players explore ancient, otherworldly shattered isles while they battled Sargeras.

By far one of the better expansions of the past six years, Legion took us to the Maelstrom’s Broken Isles. While the theme of an apocalyptic event looming over Azeroth isn’t something that’s particularly fresh, Legion’s content was handled wonderfully well.

With class-halls, fantastic invasions (large, group-instanced events) that were found all over the open-world, and one of the best storytelling campaigns in modern World of Warcraft, Legion deserves to be high on this list.

The class halls felt unique to every player, and really fit in with that class fantasy: Rogues’ class hall was hidden behind a secret bookcase that descended into the Underbelly of Dalaran with dark, damp sewers that evoked a feeling of Skyrim’s Thieves Guild. You were able to wield Legendary weapons that are featured in Warcraft lore; making you truly feel like a powerful hero set on toppling a world-ending threat.

Storylines involved big characters in the WoW universe, including Sargeras’ Burning Legion which previously featured heavily in The Burning Crusade.

The game’s second Hero class, Demon Hunters, was also introduced along with their own storyline to progress through. A class type we hadn’t seen since WotLK, Demon Hunters provided a fantastic DPS and tank-capable class with enormous survivability – ideal for any returning or new player.

2. Wrath of the Lich King

The Frozen Throne in Wrath of the Lich King/Shadowlands
The Frozen Throne is featured in Lich King and Shadowlands.

WoW’s second expansion is also our second best! In this fantastic follow-on from The Burning Crusade you’re tasked with stopping the titular character wreaking havoc over the world as undead minions advance into the far corners of Azeroth.

Wrath also saw the launch of World of Warcraft’s first ‘Hero Class’, The Death Knight. Starting in Acherus, The Ebon Hold, this unique introductory area is different from any other class experience. Playable as either a tank or DPS, this shieldless, two-handed weapon class has fantastic survivability through auto-healing.

It also holds a special place in fan’s hearts for actively leaning on Warcraft 3’s lore, with Arthas Menethil taking center stage in the plotline as players got the chance to stand up against him. Uldar and Trial of The Crusader are some of the most memorable raids in WoW history, with a general consensus of players fondly remembering these iconic moments.

1. The Burning Crusade

Silvermoon City from The Burning Crusade in WoW, bathed in sunlight
Now the oldest part of the WoW’s game world, Silvermoon still manages to hold its own.

Taking the number one spot is Blizzard’s first expansion, The Burning Crusade. Released in January 2007, World of Warcraft’s original expansion is the best addition yet.

This isn’t just for nostalgic reasons – yes, memories become more rose-tinted over time, but no WoW fan will forget that amazing feeling the first time they walked through that dark portal into the Hellfire Peninsula.

Introducing arguably the most popular race today in WoW, the Sin’dorei Blood Elves became playable in the Horde alliance for the first time. Along with the alien race of the Draenei for the Alliance, The Burning Crusade really expanded the fantasy and customization with these additions – something that’s still growing today.

As well as new races, it introduced the jewel crafting profession and we also finally received the much-needed flying ability. A whole host of extra features that are still around today made their debut, too, including daily quests, arenas, and the ability to reduce the number of players in a raid.

TBC added the freshest content and changes of all of the expansions to date, and it deserves to be remembered as the best WoW expansion yet.