On the contrary, some of the most popular MMORPGs today are games that have been around for many years. And some of them have roots dating back to the birth of the genre itself. For gamers, these elder statesmen are not only still compelling games but may also be better than many of the newer options now on the market. To highlight that, here are five MMORPGs that have stood the test of time and are still worth playing in 2022.
Old School Runescape
When it comes to MMORPGs, there aren’t many titles with a history longer than that of Runescape. The original version appeared in beta form way back in 2001 and has existed in various forms ever since. Old School Runescape (OSRS) is a version of the original game that dates back to 2007 — when the game’s developer revived it after fans gave the latest mainline version a cool reception.
But it’s worth noting that OSRS now has a user base that exceeds the mainline version, with 1.29 million active players. Back in 2020, the game even had over 150,000 players online at once — a feat it had never managed before. And that’s not the only sign of its enduring popularity. The game’s currency, OSRS Gold, still fetches a high price for traders, feeding a vibrant in-game economy that’s as strong as ever.
World of Warcraft
Dating back to 2004, World of Warcraft (WoW) is one of the best-known and best-loved MMORPGs in the world. Its name is synonymous with the genre and its lore is embedded in pop culture like no other game before or since. The game was even the subject of an Emmy-winning episode of the long-running American cartoon South Park, which lampooned how addictive and engrossing (quite literally) the game can be for its players.
And that’s not its only connection to present-day culture. WoW was the beginning of a game universe that eventually spawned the massively popular card game Hearthstone. The latter owes much of its artwork, creature concepts, and battle mechanics to WoW, proving just how important WoW is to modern gaming.
To this day, WoW has over a million daily players and continues to be one of the most popular MMORPGs going. And now, as Microsoft takes the helm as the new owner of the game, fans expect WoW to get even better. In the months to come, it’s going to see the release of a mobile version, and an expansion into the Xbox ecosystem may even be in the cards. Not bad for an almost 20-year-old game, eh?
One of the things that most MMORPGs have in common is that they use 3D graphics to create immersive worlds for gamers to get lost within. But that’s what sets MapleStory apart from the pack. It’s a rare 2D game with a side-scrolling interface that seems like it’d be more at home among the legendary games of the 1980s. But don’t let its retro aesthetic fool you. It’s one of the most popular MMORPGs of all time.
Launched back in 2003, MapleStory boasts over 180 million registered users, a great many of which still play the game to this day. And it’s still under very active development, with new quests, items, and events added periodically to keep players engaged. Given that many new games don’t see the level of care and attention that goes into MapleStory’s constant updates, it’s easy to see why it’s still going strong after all these years.
As MMORPG fans of a certain age can tell you, there’s a kind of magic that early entries in the genre had that newer games can’t quite recreate. Maybe that’s why EverQuest is still attracting gamers, despite making its debut back in 1999. Today, it’s something of an elder statesman in the MMORPG market, and it still has a very active regular player base. According to a report when ownership of the game changed hands back in 2020, it still draws around 88,000 monthly active users.
It’s fair to say that part of the game’s enduring success owes to the nostalgia factor — with some older gamers calling it “the greatest MMO ever made“. But really, its staying power is due to the fact that it’s an unapologetically great game. It’s also the game that set the standard for almost every MMORPG developed since. That’s why new players often comment on how its mechanics and gameplay features don’t feel dated. But that’s because EverQuest is the originator — and it’s a tour-de-force that’s worth checking out for any fan of the genre.
While it’s not as well-known or popular as the other games on this list, Lineage II is still worth playing for players who love endless character variety and open-world PvP gameplay. Making its debut in 2004, the game is a sequel to Lineage, but is set 150 years before the events in the first game. And like MapleStory, Lineage II still receives regular updates to keep it fresh and relevant.
But what’s kept Lineage II alive for all of these years was a decision back in 2011, that at the time, seemed revolutionary — it became free to play. Right around the time that the original Lineage was shut down for good, its developers decided to make its predecessor a free-to-play title. But they went further than other so-called free-to-play titles of the era by giving players unrestricted access to the game. That meant every player could participate in every part of the game without spending a dime.
And that decision kept powering Lineage II for over a decade since — making it one of the longest-lived titles still operating, and a game with a hard-core following that’s showing no signs of slowing down.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, there’s no shortage of MMORPG titles to suit every imaginable gamer. But there are good reasons why the titles on this list have been so popular for so long. In some cases, it’s because they’re true ground-breakers that set the stage for many of the games we know and love today. And in other cases, they reflect some different approaches to MMORPG gameplay that today’s designers tend to avoid.
Whatever the reasons, the games on this list continue to attract new players, long after the competition has faded into obscurity. And they’re all worth checking out for fans of the genre, as well as new gamers looking to experience the history of MMORPGs firsthand. Plus — they’re all amazing games that are just as worth playing today as the day they launched. That alone makes them standouts that gamers should love.