Looking for the best MMORPG (or MMO) games in 2021? Whether you’re keeping an eye on upcoming releases like Riot’s League of Legends MMO, jumping into New World, or the free-to-play RuneScape, there are plenty of games to download and play.
While the most common MMOs like World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Black Desert are known throughout the community, there are also some lesser-known, new games that are releasing in 2021 and beyond.
Some, like RuneScape and Blade & Soul are free to play, whereas the likes of Guild Wars 2, The Elder Scrolls Online, and World of Warcraft need to be purchased or require a monthly subscription (or both!)
From well-known MMOs to some more niche titles, here are the best MMOs and MMORPGs to download:
Final Fantasy XIV
Originally released back in 2010 to a middling response, Final Fantasy XIV (commonly known as FFXIV) was panned by critics. After being completely shut down, the game resurfaced in the summer of 2013 as A Realm Reborn, bringing with it a complete revamp that struck gold with fans.
The story of FFXIV is an integral part of the experience here – with a total of four expansions to get through, it’s chock full of lore to uncover. The world of Eorzea is also incredibly immersive to explore, and players are given complete character freedoms, from being able to switch between the classes and its 18 jobs as you see fit.
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While the game is both buy-to-play and requires a subscription fee, new players can dive into what is arguably one of the best free trials out there, letting you experience gameplay all the way up to level 60 (the max level cap is 80, raising to 90 with the release of Endwalker). PvP players also have options here, but it’s no secret in the community that the main focus is undoubtedly on PVE content.
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
World of Warcraft
Perhaps one of the most well-known MMORPGs on this list next to FFXIV, World of Warcraft released back in 2004 and continues to bring in fans from all over the world. With some of the most iconic characters in gaming from the likes of Anduin Wrynn, Sylvanas Windrunner, and Tyrande Whisperwind, players are transported to a world of high fantasy to experience the eight-total expansions as they partake in epic dungeons and stories, raids, open-world PvP, duels, and battlegrounds.
WoW’s free trial is much smaller than that of Final Fantasy 14, though – only allowing players to experience the first 20 levels for free (the level cap is 60), and each character is locked to the particular class that you choose for them. Despite this, WoW’s class designs are some of the best in gaming, with each having different specializations to focus on that completely change the gameplay of its 12 classes.
With its current expansion, Shadowlands, players explore beyond the veil of life and death, as its two factions attempt to fight off one of the most powerful villains the game has ever seen.
While WoW definitely leans more towards catering to players who have lots of free time to be able to grind through its mindboggling amount of currencies, reputations, and other requirements, casual players will still have a blast exploring the world and uncovering the mysteries of Azeroth and the worlds beyond.
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
Amazon Game Studios’ New World 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.
- Read More: New World Beginner’s guide
You’ll never be stuck for something to do in New World, either. 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
The Elder Scrolls Online
Are you looking to play one of the most iconic story-driven RPG series’ with others? Look no further than The Elder Scrolls Online. Since its release, 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 through 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 still feels incredible to see the likes of Morrowind and other locations from the series brought into a more modern graphic style than their original games.
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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. Hold down the attack button for longer and you’ll perform a heavy attack, or actively block an incoming one from your enemies.
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.
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
Pearl Abyss’ Black Desert is known throughout the MMO community as being arguably the best-looking MMORPG on the market. The 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 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 can often feel overwhelmed at just how much of one particular feature there is to get through. With tonnes 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 your goods through different trade routes to make that big sale.
Character customization in Black Desert is also completely limitless, letting you truly mold every aspect of your adventurer, even down to the texture and length of their hair.
Black Desert Online key features
- Buy-to-play model (with a 30-day free trial)
- High-quality graphics that stand unparalleled in the genre
- Robust character creation and customization
- 23 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
Guild Wars 2
Released back in 2012, 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 also incredibly accessible, meaning you’re not punished for coming into the game in 2021 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 through 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!).
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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.
As someone who prefers PvE content, Guild Wars 2’s PvP is without a doubt one of the most accessible, rewarding, and fun PvP modes 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 fantastic, and the game focuses heavily 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 2021 to download
While the above MMORPGs are some of the ultimate best that you can pay to play, there are some equally fantastic free MMOs to download:
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 ran 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. While the former focuses on different abilities similar to other MMOs on this list, 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.
As someone who played RuneScape non-stop as a kid, both the overall improvements and expansions they’ve made to the game, alongside the respect Jagex has for some of the simpler features from back in the day makes 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
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Fans of Bioware games such as the Mass Effect and Dragon Age series 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 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.
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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 whole lot of content to get through before you’d even need to consider signing up to their subscription. 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
Blade & Soul
Releasing all the way back in 2012, Blade & Soul is 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 14 classes to pick from alongside 4 different races, and while classes are race-locked, there’s still a wide variety to choose from to play the way you prefer.
On September 7, 2021, the game finally received its 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
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, 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 these humans, befriending and even romancing 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
Lost Ark is an upcoming MMO ARPG, giving fans of games like Diablo and the multiplayer genre the chance to fight foes in a gorgeous world. While initially released in Korea back in 2018, Lost Ark has yet to see release in NA or EU.
However, with a current release window of Early 2022, it doesn’t seem like fans of the game’s art style and fantastic customization options will have to wait too much longer. A closed beta period is arriving in November, running from the 4th through until November 11, 2021, with both NA and EU servers.
The available 5 classes each have their own sub-classes to further shape the way you want to play, and you’ll be able to explore its vast world full of 7 continents and seas while fighting in dungeons, quests, and PvP battles.
Each of your abilities also features 3 levels of customization, further allowing you to create a character that fits in with your personal style alongside a whole host of non-combat-related skills to train and refine.
Lost Ark key features
- Free to play model (with Founders Packs that offer extra bonuses)
- 5 classes to play, with 2 subclasses each
- 3 levels of customization for each ability
- Dungeons, Raids, and PvP
- A vast, predominantly open world to explore, with instanced areas like dungeons
- In-depth character customization
- Crafting systems and Guilds
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 free, new, and current MMORPG and MMOs to download and play in 2021 and beyond.