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January 8, 2010
Top 20 Free-To-Play MMORPGs
Top 20 Free to Play MMORPGs
Written by Jason Van Horn

While brick and mortar store game releases like World of Warcraft, Aion, and upcoming games like Star Trek Online get a lot of attention and make the news rounds, you'd be remiss if you didn't take note of a handful of quality free-to-play games out there that you can now play for the absolutely low, low charge of nothing. Completely freeunless you want to purchase some stuff in-game. We've broken the games down into two different categories: stand-alone (requires a download to play) and browser (can play anywhere as long as you have an Internet browser open). So without further ado our Top Ten Stand-Alone and Top Ten Browser Based MMORPGs.

1. Runes of Magic
Link: Official Website

Runes of Magic There are two things I usually think of when hearing about a free-to-play MMORPG for the first time. 1) I bet it's an ugly beast that should wear a bag on its head. 2) Its features are probably as deep as a puddle of water. So it was with great astonishment when I finally played Runes of Magic and was blown away by everything. For instance, the production values are exceptional in terms of graphics and sound. As for those shallow features, they're actually quite robust and unique, as players can freely level a character comprised of two individual character classes. Don't feel like playing a tank today? If not, switch over to your mage class and work on building them.

2. Dungeons and Dragons Online
Link: Official Site

Dungeons and Dragons Online Take the Dungeons and Dragons franchise and rules, build a game around it just like seemingly every other MMORPG in existence has done, and then release it as a subscription based game. You know what would make that deal better? How about we drop the subscription portion? Ever since the decision to make Dungeons and Dragons Online a free-to-play game (though subscription is still needed for certain parts of the game), it's seen a swell in activity and has changed many expectations as to what a free-to-play game is capable of. With lots of character classes and options, players are bound to find something to keep them happy for a long time to come.

3. MapleStory
Link: Official Site

Maple Story For those more akin to 3D MMORPGs, MapleStory's side-scrolling adventure style of gameplay can throw many people off when first trying out the game. Once you try the game out, however, it's likely you'll be infatuated with its cute anime inspired character designs and bright worlds. It's also a paradise of a game for those who like to change the look of their character to match their personality, as there are tons of clothing options to outfit your character with to make them uniquely your own. It's easy to see why MapleStory continues to be one of the most successful free-to-play games out there and one with quite a large following too.

4. Perfect World International
Link: Official Site

Perfect World International If someone showed you some screenshots of Perfect World International or even better yet a movie, you'd have a hard time convincing them that they weren't looking at an honest to goodness boxed retail game; Perfect World International's graphics are extraordinary for a free-to-play games. Not only is it one of the top games in Asia, but ever since the International version was brought to the States, it's been a whopper of a free-to-play game and a true success story for the company. With six different character classes and three different races/factions, there are a lot of options to consider when making your character.

5. Neo Steam: The Shattered Continent
Link: Official Site

Neo Steam I'm a sucker for Atlus as a publishing company, as I love how they'll take risks on Eastern markets games and bring them to the States for those that might be interested; if it weren't for Atlus I wouldn't have been able to experience a number of games that have become favorites throughout the years. Atlus tried a little something different when it came to Neo Steam, as it's their first MMORPG offering, but one that has the same charm and quality that is standard for Atlus games. With cute character designs, many different classes, and what seems like parties and events happening all the time, Neo Steam certainly has a lively community and it's quite a fun game at that.

6. Atlantica Online
Link: Official Site

Atlantica Online There's nothing like a turn-based battle system to make me feel a sense of nostalgia and like a kid again sitting in front of my SNES and playing an RPG. While many MMORPGs use an action-oriented combat system, Atlantica Online is more a chess game, as you must analyze plans and make attacks, though not restricted by the ever-present bad guy constantly biting at your heel. Build an army of your own personal mercenaries, customize then to fit your play style and needs, and then setoff on adventure with other players. If you're looking for a MMORPG that breaks from the mold a little bit more than the others, Atlantica Online is a great place to start.

7. Rappelz
Link: Official Site

Rappelz Rappelz is a game that wants to let you play your character however you want. There are three different races to choose from, 15 character classes to pick, and you can spend points on your character's job to train them into a character that is uniquely your own. Rappelz also features a nice pet system, which lets you raise, train, and evolve pets so that they can help you out and engage in combat right along your own character. With a rather large community of gamers and a solid PVP component, Rappelz is a winning game that's worth a look.

8. Luna Online
Link: Official Site

Luna Online How is your love life in the real world? If you're anything like me then yours probably sucks. It's a good thing that Luna Online was released, as not only is it an extremely cute and adorable anime inspired MMORPG, but a big selling point of the game is its dating system. After registering to be a resident in the game, you're then able to go out and try to find that special someone to spend time with. By answering a few questions and choosing your likes and dislikes, the game alerts you to when possible romantic matches are in the area. Once you get together, you can hangout, chat, and even go out on dates in special dungeons that are only open for you.

9. Mabinogi
Link: Official Site

Mabinogi Most MMORPGs are all about battling enemies and other players in order to gain experience points, level-up, and then do the whole process over again. There's nothing wrong with that, as it can be quite fun, but what if you want your virtual life to be something more substantial? In Mabinogi, not only will you be killing enemies and gaining levels like normal, but there are also part-time jobs you can take, start a life as an expert craftsman, or just pass the time, sit back, and virtually play your own in-game instrument thanks to the helpful composing feature. For those wanting to explore more at their leisure and soak in the life of a world, Mabinogi is a great first stop.

10. Dragonica Online
Link: Official Site

Dragonica Online Take the side-scrolling gameplay of Maple Story, but flesh everything out in 3D and give more depth to the landscapes if you can picture that you've got a good idea as to what Dragonica Online looks and plays like. Featuring four different initial character classes that can each splint off into one of two more advanced classes later on, it's not likely that you won't be able to find a character that fits your personality. Don't go in thinking that the game will be as simple as an old-school side-scrolling beat 'em up, either, as there's a challenge to be had and a good amount of depth as well.

1. RuneScape
Link: Official Site

RuneScape You can't talk about browser-based MMOs without talking about RuneScape the most popular one of all-time and one that has had tremendous staying power and a number of fans. In fact, the Guinness Book of World Records even acknowledges it as the world's most popular MMO. The graphics aren't as fancy as they might've been a few years ago, but it's still not a bad looking game. There is a ton of content though, including over 150 quests, and a number of skills you can use to craft your character (though some are for paying members only).

2. Earth Eternal
Link: Official Site

Earth Eternal Mankind has vanished, but Earth is still alive. So if we're set on a modern Earth and there aren't the standard humans, elves, and dwarves to play as, what kind of character races are there? Animals, of course! Well, animals and a handful of other creatures. In fact, there are 22 different races that the player can play as: bears, boars, birds, rats, etc. (humanoid animals, but still animals mostly). Given all the landscape and 3D environments in the game, it's surprising that the game can cram this all into a browser, but it does just that and does so exceptionally well.

3. AdventureQuest Worlds
Link: Official Site

AdventureQuest Worlds The team over at Artix certainly knows how to do browser-based games, as they've also made AdventureQuest, DragonFable, and MechQuest, but we're here to talk about AdventureQuest Worlds (a semi-sequel, but now an MMO). At its core, AdventureQuest Worlds is an MMORPG for the more casual player, as it doesn't take a big time commitment to play. If you're busy at work and have a break, you can easily jump on, do a little fighting, and off you go. AdventureQuest Worlds is also easily identifiable, as it has a cute, Japanese manga art style, which is shared between the world, the characters, and the enemies and bosses.

4. FusionFall
Link: Official Site

FusionFall Licensed projects don't always make for the greatest games, but there's something oddly endearing about the Cartoon Network's FusionFall, where you not only have miniature helpers that look like many of your favorite stars from the network's shows, but you'll also be able to work with them and interact with such known characters as The Kids Next Door, Dexter, and even Ben 10. While it's geared more towards a younger audience, it's still not hard to get swept up into the game as an adult and still find yourself having a blast.

5. Free Realms
Link: Official Site

Free Realms Free Realms is a little bit of everything for a lot of different people and you can participate in all the activities whenever you want; you're not forced to choose one job and stick to it. Not only can you fight monsters while going on quests, but you can also play soccer, go fishing, become a chef, deliver mail, race cars, be a blacksmith, mine for ore, become a demolition derby driver, play a trading card game, raise pets, or be one of a handful of combat classes. Explore the brightly lit world and experience everything the game has to offer.

6. ShadowTale
Link: Official Site

ShadowTale There are several things about ShadowTale that makes it quite unique. For starters, the game is set in a persistent world, but the big thing is that the game is action-oriented rather than turn-based (the style many browser games use due to the limitations of the system). The game also has an interesting character class system, where you don't simply level-up a class based on being that class, but rather by using class specific actions and abilities while in combat. The game is also updated pretty regularly, so there's usually always something new to do.

7. Dark Orbit
Link: Official Site

Dark Orbit I'm a big fan of sci-fi, but sadly that genre isn't represented all that often or all that well when it comes to MMORPGs. One interesting exception is Dark Orbit, a space-faring MMORPG, where players control a ship as it flies around space. The thing that makes Dark Orbit so fun is the "what could happen" factor as you're out in the dark abyss exploring. Since a lot of the game is completely open PvP, it's not uncommon to be going about your business when suddenly another player appears and starts attacking you. It can be frustrating, but it makes the gameplay tense and fun at the same time.

8. Heroes of Gaia
Link: Official Site

Heroes of Gaia Heroes of Gaia is a mash-up game, which takes the resource gathering and city building of a sim, but mixes it with a role-playing game combat system. As you're upgrading buildings and improving your kingdom, you can also send out heroes to do your bidding by going on quests and partaking in fights, and while you can have them auto fight and handle everything themselves, the game takes on an Atlantica Online type vibe as you can manually control the action in the turn-based battle system. The game also has some pretty nice graphics and easy to maneuver menus and screens, so you won't be spending a lot of time randomly clicking around to find what you need.

9. Neverland Online
Link: Official Site

Neverland Online Neverland Online is a game built around the formula of other games, while at the same time managing to craft something uniquely its own. Combat is turn-based and based on random encounters (think of a JRPG), but one thing that's different is you often have a pet to fight alongside you in a manner not unlike Jade Cocoon, and which are caught somewhat like in the Pokemon games (wear them down to catch them). There are a number of different creatures you can catch and then train as your own to help you in combat.

10. Evony
Link: Official Site

Evony Okay, so yes, let's get the obvious thing out of the way. Evony has had quite a lot said about it mostly about how its use of half-naked women as advertising is in no way at all a sign of what the real game is about. Evony is actually about building a city, upgrading it, gathering resources, and then either making friends and alliances with other players or going into all-out war with them. When you take the gameplay alone and look at that without all the nay saying about some of their principles, the game really does impress and is quite fun to play.


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