Not many games are capable of drawing the attention of millions of players, but some of them just seem to do it like it’s nobody’s business. The following games are either extremely successful, with dozens, sometimes hundreds of millions of registered users, or up and coming blockbusters that are getting a lot of players in record time. If you haven’t played a single game from this list, then either you don’t want to get addicted in a way that could cost you a lot of sleepless nights and missed meals, or you haven’t ever touched a computer in the last decade. Either way, there’s still time to make amends.
Without further delay, let’s begin with a list of some of the most successful free-to-play games of late.
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Drakensang Online has been around since 2011 and is often regarded as one of the best browser-based MMOs. It’s an action RPG akin to Diablo, with great graphics and also available in a downloadable version. Despite the obvious appeal of this game, it has frequently been criticized for the excessive focus on monetization, asking players for real money in exchange of stuff that is vital to progress. However, the recent update to Drakensang Online is said to improve on these issues, removing the Crystals of Truth, which were needed to identify a looted item before being able to equip, among other changes. With over 900 quests and 90 maps, Drakensang Online boasts over 29 million registered players and is available in 20 different languages, so this is truly a game with global appeal.
Warframe is a cool game for cool kids who think that the only thing better than being a ninja is being a space ninja. Nonetheless, Digital Extremes’ co-op shooter is a blast, fun and fast, with lots to do and shoot. It can become repetitive, but with frequent updates and over 10 million registered users as of September 2014, it will certainly continue to grow, even more considering the original PC version was followed by PS4 and Xbox One versions. Considering the cloned-to-death, pay-to-win military shooters out there, it’s great to see a game such as Warframe, full of style and with devoted developers.
While the initial player reaction to Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft was somewhat mixed – a lot of players were like ‘ewww, a collectible card game, milk it much?’ –, it only took a few months for everyone to see just how addicting this game actually is. The pacing is perfect, an average game lasts around 15 minutes, just long enough to keep it fresh and also suited to tablet players who wish to kill some spare time. It’s clean, it’s compelling and we also think it’s somewhat fair, despite some voices saying otherwise. Online card games were making a comeback, but after Hearthstone, we’re seeing so many of them that it’s just becoming a little bit too much.
If there’s one game that dares to bring something new to the MOBA genre, that game is SMITE. Using an ingenious setting and, above all, a fresh third-person perspective, Hi-Rez took a gamble that clearly paid off. What at first looks like a small detail actually changes the entire game, bringing players right in the middle of the action and drastically changing the skillset required to be successful in this MOBA. While fairly recent, SMITE is already the proud owner of a huge playerbase, with 6 million registered players as of December 2014 and growing, something that will only improve with the release of the Xbox One version. This is a game that is here to stay, even if it’s nearly impossible for any MOBA to rub shoulders with Dota 2 and League of Legends.
From vaporware to instant classic, Team Fortress 2 is another proof that Valve can do no wrong, even if it means going back to the drawing board several times and delaying a game for almost a decade – or developing another game for an entire decade, like they’re probably doing with Half-Life 3. One of the most acclaimed games and consistently one of the most played on Steam, Team Fortress 2 is a thrilling mix of fantastic art style, addicting gameplay and humor. We have no clue as to how many registered players there are in Team Fortress 2 right now, but one thing we’re sure of: that translates to a helluva lot of hats!
Despite the good reviews, TERA’s lifespan as a subscription-based MMORPG didn’t even last an entire year. It was when it turned free-to-play that everyone and their mom decided to see what this MMO had to offer, and what it has to offer is already well known to millions of players – action-based combat, a huge and diverse seamless world, plenty of big ass monsters to fight, impressive graphics, and publisher En Masse Entertainment is giving the game a nice boost with the Fate of Arun expansion and more stuff to come during 2015, including a new, ‘gun-toting class’ which we bet is the Arcane Engineer. As far as free-to-play MMORPGs go, TERA has ruled the genre for a few years, but heavy competition is coming soon, with Black Desert Online.
Dota 2 is a game that is, quite literally, ruining lives. Right now someone, somewhere, forgot to eat just to play one more match in this MOBA. In other corner of the world, another player just ditched a beautiful girl to play his 10th match of the day. And in a remote region, it’s already 5 AM and there’s this guy that just won’t quit the game and go to sleep. As a positive note, we haven’t yet seen any news reports accusing Dota 2 of being behind some kind of real life shooting, so it’s not that bad. Anyway, Dota 2 is played daily by hundreds of thousands of players and there’s no sign of slowing down. If Dota 2 and League of Legends were Mixed Martial Arts fighters, this fight would be the stuff of legend.
With over 110 million players registered across all platforms, it’s hard to believe that World of Tanks was once called cheap, asian stuff and worse by many big publishers, before it became the big free-to-play hit that it is nowadays. This game alone has allowed developer Wargaming to expand to over 1.000 staff all over the world and develop further games based on the same business model, including World of Warplanes, World of Warships and the collectible card game World of Tanks Generals. It’s great to see an underdog outperform some arrogant publishers and show them that sometimes originality and attention to detail can go a long way.
League of Legends isn’t the game that created the MOBA genre, but it is certainly the one that started all the craze and spawned dozens of copycats. Growing from the nice game that was released in 2009 to the colossus that we know and love today, League of Legends has so much going for it, so many champions to choose from that it is played in competitions all over the world, from North America to Europe, China, Korea and other regions. Older data says that over 67 million people play it per month, which means that nowadays the number of registered users should be well way over that. No matter how many new MOBAs are released every year, League of Legends will always be regarded as the one game that made the genre popular in a way that was unthinkable a few years ago.
What else can we say about RuneScape, recognized by the Guinness World Records as the world’s largest free MMORPG and the most updated game? Not much, clearly. With well over 200 million registered users and frequent updates, including an Old School RuneScape created to please fans of the older versions, Jagex’s classic is a stubborn beast that simply refuses to die and that defies all business logic, being successful for way over a decade. RuneScape is a multitasking phenomenon and while there’s a lot of debate over just how ‘free’ the free-to-play model is in this game, that hasn’t stopped millions of players from enjoying it and a few millions to mock it, certainly out of envy that their favorite games aren’t nearly as popular as RuneScape is. And never will be, we’re sure of it.
While some games on this list are undisputed blockbusters, and a few of them are personal bets, there are others that would also deserve a mention, such as DC Universe Online, Path of Exile, Second Life, Lord of the Rings Online, Everquest or PlanetSide 2. It’s not just the millions of registered players; it’s also the overall quality of the games and their relevance to the genre that matter here. So if you think that there’s this huge game that deserved a mention, let us know in the comments. Now go enjoy some of these games right away!