It’s 2015 and online gaming has been around for quite a while now. We’ve had a lot of fun with hundreds, even thousands of online games but in such a competitive world, only the strong survive and stick with us for a decade or more. While there are plenty of new games being released every month, some players just won’t trade the classics for anything in the world. Which classics, some of you ask? Well, here’s something of a history lesson for those that weren’t into online games several years ago.
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10 – S4 LEAGUE (original release: KR 2006)
We didn’t want this top to be filled from top to bottom with MMORPGs, so we’re going to begin with a shooter that sucked so many hours of our lives, much more than it’s probably healthy to do: S4 League. This game tried to play the stylish card and we have to admit that it worked – it was doing parkour and awesome moves before Warframe was even imagined, and the virtual reality competition is something that fans of Sword Art Online could easily relate to. This was such a smooth and exciting shooter that was made all the better by the cool visuals and emphasis on teamwork.
9 – DUNGEON FIGHTER ONLINE (original release: KR 2005)
There’s no way around it – among all the MMO fighting games ever released, Dungeon Fighter Online is one of the most treasured, bringing back memories of classic brawlers such as Double Dragon, Golden Axe or Final Fight. It’s been around for a decade and while Nexon decided to shut down the North American version in 2013, developer Neople brought it back in 2015 due to high demand by players who missed punching enemies in the face in glorious 2D. Sure, it’s not as easy to enter nowadays as it was when it launched in North America in 2009, and it can even feel primitive to some players used to more up-to-date productions, but if you give it some time you may end up loving it – if the retro visuals aren’t your thing, then the tons of different classes and massive content will probably keep you playing for a long time.
8 – WIZARD101 (original release: NA 2008)
We’re still a bit baffled at the lack of proper wizardry MMORPGs, with all the potential that the theme has and the huge crowd that is somewhere out there, desperate for a decent MMO to quench their Harry Potter thirst. With 50 million registered players by the end of 2014, Wizard101 is a fun and harmless game for kids with plenty of safety options to keep them safe. With colorful cartoon graphics that still look pretty decent today and a turn-based combat system that uses collectible cards way before online collectible card games were the shit as they are in 2015, Wizard101 has earned its place as a classic in our heart and computer. But if pirates are more your thing, then there’s a sister game called Pirate101.
7 – THE LORD OF THE RINGS ONLINE (original release: NA 2007)
It’s not like we’re spoilt with great MMO games based on popular franchises. That was just one more point in favor of The Lord of the Rings Online, but in the end it was the sheer quality of this game that turned it into a classic. This is Middle-Earth done right and while it still failed to surpass World of Warcraft as many have mistakenly gambled on, it has shown that great literature can be turned into quality games when developed with passion. Recent news about server merges aren’t too surprising, as most games need at some point to regroup their population, but this doesn’t mean that the game is dying, at all.
6 – MAPLESTORY (original release: KR 2003)
12 years and counting. MapleStory is the game that made side-scrolling MMORPGs popular and while others have tried and continue to do so, most of them fail and it’s highly unlikely that any of them will ever come close to the 100 million registered players of this game. This, however, isn’t a game just for kids despite its cartoon look and so-cute-I-could-die characters – it’s a brutal game about building your character through a lot of playtime and grinding, and it won’t hold your hand and take you on a ride as most MMOs sadly do nowadays. You’ll have to spend a lot of time, ask for help from other players and hope they’ll point you in the right direction and on to the most fun bits of the game. This is a classic in its own right, like it or not, and the sequel is already out in Korea and taking risks that seem to be paying off.
5 – DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS ONLINE (original release: NA 2006)
Pulling off an MMORPG from Dungeons & Dragons Online is probably something to give some serious headaches to any studio out there. However, Turbine rose to the challenge and released an awesome game, one that wasn’t shy on complexity and yet managed to somewhat please fans of the original work as well as players who weren’t particularly interested in the tabletop game. Be warned though, if you’re a player who likes his eye-candy – this game was a bit rough around the edges visually when it was released and hasn’t aged well, so this is one for those who like depth, not beauty.
4 – RAGNAROK ONLINE (original release: KR 2002)
First of all, let’s spare a moment for Ragnarok Online 2, a sequel so generic that when it looks in the mirror, it’s World of Warcraft that looks back. But moving on, or actually back, it’s impossible to forget Ragnarok Online, one of the first big MMORPGs that is still played nowadays and while it’s not as in-depth as some more recent MMOs, it offers so much to do that you’ll either love it or hate it. If you’re going to try this one for the first time, arm yourself with plenty of patience or a friend that can help you along the way. Or you can always wait for Tree of Savior, which is the spiritual sequel to Ragnarok Online and was designed by the same creator, Hakkyu Kim.
3 – MABINOGI (original release: KR 2004)
Mabinogi is a colossal sandbox MMORPG and one that, oddly enough after over a decade, still has an idea or two that we haven’t seen well implemented in other MMOs. For example, the way that characters grow older is something that other games should take notice of, as it has some influence in how the game unfolds, albeit very slight. Mabinogi has dozens of skills and activities to keep you entertained, from composing music to cook or fish, and even designing clothes. Combat also tried something different for the time, with a focus on timing and counter-attacks. Mabinogi is extremely feature-rich and the focus on socializing is one that made it a true gem. The prequel, Mabinogi Heroes, known in the west as Vindictus, trails a completely different path, more of a punch in your face and kick in the groin kind of approach, but is also a great game.
2 – RUNESCAPE (original release: NA 2001)
Widely known as that game that was recognized by the Guinness World Records, RuneScape launched in 2001 and while it has over 200 million accounts, the actual numbers are far from what they used to be. Nevertheless, RuneScape is still going after so many years and there’s even an old school server for those who weren’t too keen on the largest updates. While touted as a free MMORPG, RuneScape has plenty of locked areas accessible only to those who purchase a subscription – the world is three times larger than what a free player can explore, and there are other extras such as more quests, minigames, and only as a member you get to design your own house or become a harbourmaster. It’s not the only MMO with limitations, but locking most of the world sounds a bit extreme.
1 – EVERQUEST (original release: NA 1999)
What can we say about EverQuest, an MMORPG that launched in 1999 and is still alive and kicking? Well, we can add that this is probably the game that shaped up the future of MMOs and without it, World of Warcraft wouldn’t have existed or would look very different from what it was when it launched in 2004. With EverQuest, Sony Online Entertainment (bless its soul) went all 3D and paved the way for other games, running for 16 years and still being supported by Daybreak Game Company, with 21 expansions and a future where updates called campaigns will keep on bringing new stuff to the game. It’s unlikely that EverQuest Next is going to change anything for the original game, due to the clear differences between them, so we’re betting that EverQuest is going to stick around for a few more years. Whenever the time comes to call it quits, we’re pretty certain that many players, just like us, will give it a heartfelt salute.
And that was our trip to the past which, incidentally, is also the present day for many of us who still play these games from time to time. We left a few games out, of course, but in the end it all amounts to a matter of taste. So let us know in the comments if you would prefer to see other games in this list, and until next time.