Note: It’s irregular for companies to publish hard numbers of active users for MMORPGs nowadays. Therefore, this list’s rankings are based on data from several different sources, including Steam Charts, online censuses, past population reports, as well as population trackers such as this one. In the end, we do have to speculate a little to determine a ballpark for the most popular MMORPGs.
12. Bless Online
- Active Users: 1,500-3,000 approx.
- Sources: Steam Charts
The youngest MMORPG on our list, Bless Online took the scene by storm when it released in May 2018. Its player count was exceptional in its first month, peaking at a concurrent of more than 25,000 in the first 30 days online. But since that time, the numbers have slid in dramatic fashion.
Bless’ active users dropped substantially following its launch, with peak player counts hitting just under 6,000 and then averaging around 3,000 thereafter. As of writing this update (Feb. 2019), Bless is managing a daily average of just 600 or so players, but as recently as last November the game saw population spikes of up to 3000.
11. Final Fantasy XI
- Active Users: 1,500-3,000 approx.
- Sources: Hands-on experience
An older entry to the genre winds up being one of more recent entries to this list. Recent changes to improve/modernize Square Enix’s first MMORPG Final Fantasy XI has led to a surprising renaissance of sorts.
Final Fantasy XI’s most populous server, Asura, regularly averages somewhere between 1,000 to 2,000 accounts at a given time. The game’s other servers are are more in the 500-1000ish ballpark.
Now keep in mind, dual-boxing (logging in multiple accounts from the same person) is quite common in Final Fantasy XI and bots/mules are around as well. But even conservative estimates allows Final Fantasy XI to crack this list.
We’ll see if the game continues to grow up or at least stay consistent when it celebrates its 20th anniversary in a few years.
- Active Users: 5,000-10,000 approx.
- Sources: Steam Charts
Neverwinter has been around six years now and developer Cryptic Studio recently touted the game had exceeded 18 million players. It’s important to note, though, that number speaks to created accounts rather than total players, many of which are likely duplicate accounts and/or bots/fake accounts. Neverwinter is popular but it isn’t that popular.
Still, though, the total active user count is still mightily impressive, with steam numbers regularly averaging 2000-3000 players per day. An all-time peak of 14,000 has been bested since its 2013 launch year, but numbers of 5000 or so aren’t uncommon.
TERA is an MMORPG that launched on PC in South Korea in 2011, and in North America the following year. In 2013, the game went free-to-play. It has recently released on PS4 and Xbox One, giving many more people access to the game.
Playing the game for free does not impart any time, level, or content restrictions. If you wish, you can purchase an “Elite” status, which allows you to level up faster and receive more dungeon loot per day, among other extras.
TERA uses a real-time action combat system in which players aren’t required to manually select individual targets; the developer calls it the “Non-target battle system.”
If you’re looking for fast-paced MMORPGs, or if you’re already a fan of action RPGs, then TERA may be the game for you.
It has been optimized for controllers, promising smooth controls no matter what platform you are playing on.
8. EVE Online
Many MMORPGs opt for a high fantasy setting, which makes EVE Online a standout entry on this list. It follows games like Star Wars: The Old Republic and Star Trek Online, taking the genre to outer space for a sci-fi setting.
In 2013, EVE Online managed to reach over 500,000 subscribers. However, due to the decline in popularity, the game added a free-to-play version in 2016. Playing with a free account (known as an alpha account) allows you access to most of EVE Online.
However, free accounts are limited to the number of skill points that they can allocate, as well as lacking access to some advanced ship types. The game’s player base saw a rise after going free-to-play, as it is now available to anyone with a PC.
The game has been inducted into the Museum of Modern Art, celebrating its accomplishments of the player base. For example, players of one alliance spent eight months building the game’s biggest starship. Eve Online has also featured on our list of most popular MMORPGs, ranked by peak concurrent players.
7. Black Desert Online
From oldest to newest MMORPGs, here is Black Desert Online. It released in Korea in 2015 and made its way over to North America and Europe in 2016. It uses a buy-to-play model in the West and offers microtransactions.
Black Desert Online is one of the best-looking MMORPGs on the market, with detailed characters and stellar animations.
Similarly to TERA, it uses an action combat system, and feels similar to Western console RPGs, requiring manual aiming to attack your foes.
An Xbox One release is slated for 2018, with a PS4 release to follow.
As far as PC MMORPGs go, this is hugely popular on PC, but the jump to console is sure to see a boost in the player base –one that might push the game a little higher on this list.
Here we have the longest running game on this list of MMORPGs, RuneScape. Releasing in 2001, RuneScape has grown so much to the point that it has split into two separate games: Old School RuneScape (often shortened to OSRS) and the newer RuneScape 3.
RuneScape’s subscription model, and the fact that it could be played in-browser made it one of the most accessible MMORPGs.
A free account gets you access to a decent amount of content, while a paid account increases the number of skills that you can level, and expands the number of quests, size of the world, and much more.
RuneScape was extremely popular in the 2000s, and although it is currently nowhere near as popular as it used to be, it still holds one of the largest populations in MMORPGs, which is especially impressive considering how long it has been around for.
5. The Lord of the Rings Online
- Active Users: 250,000 approx.
- Source: Lotrostats
The Lord of the Rings Online is another of these MMORPGs that has been around for quite some time now, releasing all the way back in 2007, yet it still retains a rather sizable and dedicated fan base.
Its shift to free-to-play can definitely be attributed to drawing in many more players. Based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, The Lord of the Rings Online lets players choose between several different races, including Hobbit, Dwarf (restricted to males), Elf, and Man.
As well as embarking on epic quests, or taking part in PvP modes, The Lord of the Rings Online also features an in-depth music system. After reaching level 5, you can learn to play one of many musical instruments.
Players have held mini-concerts in the past, and the music system was even the subject of a Harvard anthropological study.
The Lord of the Rings Online lets many of us live out the fantasy that we’ve always dreamed of: just chilling in Middle-Earth. That’s why we love MMORPGs, right?
If this sounds like something you’d like to partake in, the game just released its sixth expansion in 2017, so it doesn’t seem like it’s slowing down quite yet.
4. Final Fantasy XIV
A comeback story for the ages. Final Fantasy XIV’s initial PC-only launch in 2010 gave us one of the lowest reviewed MMORPGs of all time. It was bug-ridden, had a world that was confusing to navigate, and a terrible UI.
It didn’t take long for the population to plummet. Lo and behold, eight years, a complete relaunch, a console port, and two expansions later, Final Fantasy XIV sits as one of the most popular MMORPGs in current times, despite the fact that it is pay-to-play.
Despite it being an MMO, Final Fantasy XIV still very much feels like part of the long-running JRPG franchise, with a lengthy and gripping main scenario, and the ability to swap between a whole host of different jobs on a single character.
A Realm Reborn’s combat overhaul makes it less like its predecessor, Final Fantasy XI, and more similar to something like World of Warcraft.
Final Fantasy XIV is constantly growing, with new patches adding substantial content every few months, highly justifying the pay-to-play model.
If you’re a fan of the series, but have yet to dabble in MMORPGs, give XIV a shot.
3. The Elder Scrolls Online
- Active Users: 2.5 million
- Source: MCV
The Elder Scrolls Online is another of the MMORPGs on this list that used a monthly subscription model at first, but eventually shifted to a buy-to-play model with the release of the rebranded Tamriel Unlimited version, where it also released for Xbox One and PS4.
It’s easy to see how The Elder Scrolls Online has reached the popularity that it has, what with it being an entry in the hugely popular Elder Scrolls series, being on consoles as well as PC, only requiring a one-time payment (with optional subscription benefits), and the fact that the developers did a great job of improving the game through updates.
If you’ve played an Elder Scrolls game before, you know what you’re getting with The Elder Scrolls Online. It retains the same first-person action combat of prior games, making it very unique amongst MMORPGs –a genre littered with third-person games.
The massive open world, an abundance of quests, and a large number of different skills to use are all here, too.
The newest expansion, Summerset, has just released. It can be accessed with a level 1 character, so now is a perfect time to start your MMORPG adventure in the world of Tamriel.
2. Guild Wars 2
Released in 2005, the original Guild Wars was one of the few most popular MMORPGs of the time that didn’t require a subscription fee – just purchase and install the game, and you’re good to go.
Guild Wars 2 followed in its footsteps and managed to reach a peak player concurrency of over 460,000 in August 2013. A couple of years later, a free-to-play version was released, and the game has only grown in popularity since.
The base game allows you to pick between eight different professions, none of which are a dedicated healing class. This alleviates the party restrictions that many MMORPGs have.
Guild Wars 2’s skill system also allows for more flexibility, where players can select a number of different skills from a large pool. Available skills are determined by the player’s race and profession, so you’d be hard-pressed to find another player that matches your exact setup.
1. World of Warcraft
Obvious entry on a list of most popular MMORPGs is obvious. World of Warcraft is the indisputable winner of this MMORPGs popularity contest, with the number of active players sitting somewhere in the ballpark of multiple millions.
Even though it saw a gradual decline of subscribers following the launch of Cataclysm, losing millions of players, it is still the most popular of all MMORPGs.
World of Warcraft continued the story of the popular RTS series Warcraft, but its complete shift in gameplay raked in players who had never touched the series before. It mixes elements of fantasy, steampunk, and science fiction to create a unique world, that you, the player, get to live in.
The game has been kicking about since 2004, so there’s plenty of content for you to sink your teeth into.
The game’s seventh expansion, Battle for Azeroth, releases in August of this year. Blizzard also plans to re-release an old-school version of World of Warcraft, titled World of Warcraft Classic, which is sure to bring fans of MMORPGs back to the game.
And there you have the most popular MMORPGs ranked by the total active users at the time of writing. Which is your favorite? Let us know down in the comments below. We’ve written other similar lists, such as the most popular games ranked by peak concurrent players.