10 Most Popular MMOs in History

Massively multiplayer online (MMO) games are some of the biggest and best video games in the world. Ever since these games first came to light, with titles such as Ultima Online, there has been a growing demand for more and more online games played on a massive multiplayer scale. If you’re keen to get started on MMO gaming, want to spread your wings a little bit from the games you usually play, or just want to know what all the fuss is about, then this is the list for you. Here are the 10 most popular MMOs in history.

World of Warcraft

Kicking off this list is not only the most popular MMO of all time, it is also one of the most popular video games of all time. Created in 2004, World of Warcraft (also known as WoW) is a MMORPG, which basically means it is a role playing game. Although the Warcraft franchise had been around for quite some time, no one really anticipated how popular this massively multiplayer online game would become.

It has over 10 million subscribers currently, making it the most subscribed to MMORPG in the world; something for which it holds a Guinness World Record. It is also the highest grossing video game of all time, which it achieved when grossing over 10 billion dollars as of July 2012. This is such a popular online video game that even celebrities admit to playing it.

Mila Kunis is one celeb who admitted she was addicted to the game so much that she actually had to take a break from her computer for a while… It is one of the most addictive MMOs in the world, which is probably why it has so many subscribers. Once you become a WoW player there is no turning back.

World Of Warcraft


Yet another MMORPG to make it onto this list, only this time as a ‘free to play’ or f2p. This fantasy MMO was first released in 2001 and has since gone through so many changes and updates that it actually has a Guinness World Record for being the most-updated game. That’s not the only World Record Runescape holds, however, as it is also the world’s largest free MMORPG; with over 200 million registered accounts and growing.

The game has no linear storyline and so players can chose what it is they want to hone their skills in. Everything from mining to fishing can be worked on, leaving players with a wealth of ways to grow their character. As the game grew at such an exponential rate the developers have had to keep on top of updating it. The first version was released in 2001, then RuneScape 2 was released in 2003, before RuneScape 3 came out in 2013.

The constant updates, addition of extra features, and the awesome free roam aspect of RuneScape will ensure this MMO remains popular for some time to come. If you haven’t already tried it out then take a look, after all it is free to play. Unless you want to dominate, in which case you may have to pay for some extras.


EVE Online

EVE Online is slightly different to most of the others on this list, as it is actually based in a sci-fi space setting. Whilst most MMO games seem to run with the fantasy element, EVE Online bases its success on appealing to all those space and sci-fi lovers out there. The game was first released in 2003 and managed to reach over 500,000 subscribers within 10 years.

What used to be found on Steam is now boxed up and sold in stores around the world; much like World of Warcraft. Members are known as pilots and can customize their ships to play through a huge galaxy, with over 7,800 star systems. The gameplay makes it feel as though you are actually in charge of a spaceship, taking on other opponents and becoming the best in this huge world. To say this game is vast would be an understatement, but then it is set in space!

You’ll always find many of the diehard gamers talking about EVE Online, sometimes good and sometimes bad. Whatever it is you have heard about this game there is no denying it has surpassed some of the ‘greats’ to secure itself a place in MMO history.

EVE Online


This award-winning MMO was first released in 1999, making it one of the oldest massively multiplayer online games on our list. The expansions of EverQuest just keep on coming (we’re currently on the 21st) and this could be one the reasons it has gained such worldwide popularity. There are plenty of different subscription options when it comes to EverQuest, which may be another reason it is so popular with online gamers.

You can choose from the free bronze level, or the one-time fee silver level, depending on how quickly and far you want to advance in the game. There are thousands of online zones to play through, plus millions of players to pit your skills against. Without games like EverQuest it is unlikely that MMOs would be as popular as they are today.

So, it may not be the best game available on the market but it is certainly one of the oldest and most refined over the years. That could also explain why it has won Game of the Year and a Technology & Engineering Emmy Award! If you haven’t played EverQuest yet then it is always worth signing up for a bronze account, just to see where the history of MMOs really got going.

The Lord of the Rings Online

There are plenty of big name franchises trying to break into the MMO market, but none did it quite as well as The Lord of the Rings Online. This MMORPG was released in 2007 and is based upon the J. R. R. Tolkien writings of Middle Earth. Fact is, you don’t even have to be a Lord of the Rings fan to get some true enjoyment from this massively multiplayer online game. It’s another free to play game, although there are ways of progressing through spending money if that’s your cup of tea.

he creators and developers of the game believe that their free to play model is what has secured this MMO as the third most played of all time. Add that to the constant updates, including new expansion packs being released on a nearly yearly basis, and you’ll understand why there are some diehard The Lord of the Rings Online fans. This is the type of MMO that will have you hooked within minutes and keep you playing until you realize you’re two days late for work. Don’t believe us? You’ll just have to sign up and see for yourself then, won’t you…

The Lord Of Rings Online

Final Fantasy

Any true gaming fan will tell you how much they adore the Final Fantasy games. However, there has been some umm’ing and aah’ing over how good the Final Fantasy Online games truly are. Square Enix have tried their hand at MMO gaming several times now, including Final Fantasy 11 and the newer Final Fantasy 14: A Realm Reborn. Some people have sniggered at the things that these Final Fantasy Online games get wrong, but you’ll find far more people talking about what they get right.

It probably helps that the franchise has such a huge following with gamers already, but it also helps that Square Enix are a dab hand at making compelling games. Now that you can play A Realm Reborn on consoles such as the Playstation 4, we think that the Final Fantasy MMOs will creep up the list in no time. However, there is no way that they will ever be as popular as fan-favorites, such as World of Warcraft; they simply don’t have the same game dynamics or selling points as the firm winners in this list.

We would recommend giving them a go, just to see what they do and don’t get right, but we doubt you’ll spend your whole life addicted to Final Fantasy Online.


Star Wars: The Old Republic

Finally, another sci-fi MMO to make it onto the list! When you own a franchise as huge as Star Wars then it makes sense to turn it into a massively multiplayer online game; just look at WarCraft and Final Fantasy. The game was released in 2011 and has quickly become a firm favorite with those who love sci-fi based MMO games. Not only is it one of the most popular games ever made, it is also one of the most expensive ever made.

Although the developers won’t spill the beans on exact amounts it is thought to have cost between $150 million and $200 million to make. This ‘most expensive game ever made’ title was only just recently taken over by GTA V, which cost a whopping $265 million. Costs aside, it still managed to attract over 1 million subscribers within 3 days of its launch; earning the title of fastest growing MMO game in the world.

The game since adopted the free to play business model, which has become popular with a whole range of online games, but ensuring that it had some paid for options to keep the revenue coming in. It’s still a popular sci-fi MMO for all Star Wars lovers, but it does rest heavily on the franchise name.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Guild Wars

If you’re a true fan of MMO gaming then chances are you had a Guild Wars account and you now have a Guild Wars 2 account. This game was first released in 2005, with Guild Wars 2 being released in 2012. It quickly grew thanks to the free to play model and plenty of MMO lovers made the switch to this subscription free format. The PVP combat is one of the biggest selling points of this game, allowing users to create maximum level characters with all the best equipment in order to take each other on; something which was practically unheard of in the online gaming world.

This ensured plenty of people joined up for the PVP format and then stayed on to become true Guild Wars fans. They have since moved away from the free to play model, however, opting for the box price and online shop to enhance character attributes; much like the way World of Warcraft works. Although Guild Wars 2 changed their free to play model they found that more and more people hopped on the MMO bandwagon to join them. It just goes to prove that a good MMO game will stand the test of time, however many fundamental changes they decide to make.


City of Heroes

Here’s an MMO that isn’t based on sci-fi or fantasy, shock horror. City of Heroes is not based in a Tolkien fantasy world or in the depths of space, it is based in a world inhabited by superheroes. This immediately ensured it stood out from the crowd in the world of MMO gaming and quickly secured itself a place in the most popular massively multiplayer online games of all time. It was launched in 2004 and saw a real buzz of excitement over the first few years. After all, there was nowhere else online that you could play as your favorite superhero and take on other superheroes!

There were 23 major updates released for this game from 2004 until 2012, before the developers realized they weren’t making as much as they thought. The game was then completely shut down in November 2012. Why does it make it onto the list then, you may think. Simply because this MMO quickly became one of the most popular online games in history and changed the way many developers thought about creating their online multiplayer worlds. We need another superhero MMO if you ask us!

City Of Heroes

Ultima Online

Finally, no list of the most popular MMOs in history will be complete without the game that really got the ball rolling. Many people believe that Ultima Online is the first MMO to have ever graced the world, although this isn’t technically true. Although that may not be true, it is the first MMO to actually become popular and is what most of the online games we play today was based on.

It was released in 1997 and became the first massively multiplayer online game to reach 100,000 subscribers; a number which far exceeded any other game before it. Although it may have been the first MMO to gain such popularity, it hasn’t been doing so well over recent years. It now holds a market share of under 0.65% of the MMO game subscriptions, thanks to games such as World of Warcraft dominating the market.

However, Ultima Online hasn’t thrown in the towel yet and continue to release updates and new features, in the hope that it can return to its former glory. With the recent announcement that the development of the game will be moved to a newly made studio, there is every hope in the world that Ultima Online can rise through the rankings once again.