The Massive Multiplayer Online genre is constantly evolving. It’s never easy to stay on top of all the trends, changes and newcomers, but with this guide, you will know everything there is to know about MMORPG for Mac.
Some MMORPGs are subscription-based, some demand a one-time payment and some are “fremium” (which means something different every time), but here you will find the best of the best for each category.
Be aware though, this ultimate “Mac MMORPG” list will include only the best games out there (and some stranger, but still cool ones). No web-based fremium stuff here. Sorry!
You may think that MMORPGs are not your cup of tea, but believe me when I tell you that once you find the one that’s right for you, it will change the way you see video-games. Let’s find the best Mac MMORPG for you (in no particular order):
WoW is not only the most famous MMO, it’s also the most successful. At one point, WoW had over 12 million subscribers! To put this in perspective: WoW has more active players worldwide than all the other MMOs combined.
At the heart of WoW you will find nothing more than the classic story of good versus evil. However, no matter what side you play for, Horde or Alliance, they both have good reasons to do what they do. The Horde is the misunderstood outsider on the lands controlled by the Alliance, while the Alliance is trying to protect their homeland from the invaders.
As you’ve probably heard a thousand times before, WoW is extremely addicting (and that is not an understatement!). That is because every aspect of this game is perfectly tuned to be easy to try but extremely difficult to master. This applies to everything: the missions (PVE), the Player versus Player (PvP), the professions, the crafting, the dungeons, raids, everything.
Once you taste the satisfaction of leveling up and getting more powerful items (and hence go from the newbie to the mighty warrior like the ones you admired back in Stormwind), it’s hard to stop.
Pricing model: World of Warcraft is subscription-based, meaning that you will to pay a subscription every single month (and also buy all the Expansions, the last one being Warlords of Draenor).
The Elder Scrolls Online is the latest big MMORPG to join the party. Considering the success of both The Elder Scrolls Oblivion and Skyrim, this was one of 2014’s most expected games.
But many things have changed since. The game just became The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (since March 17, 2015) and besides adding a ton of content, the game isn’t subscription-based anymore! The entire original game and all six major content updates since launch are now at your disposal, you will only need to buy the base game once.
In ESO you have access to four classes: Dragon Knight, Templar, Sorcerer, and Nightblade. As in previous The Elder Scrolls titles, the gameplay is mostly nonlinear with a mixture of quests, random events and encourages players to simply explore the world. Expect to spend hours simply exploring and discovering strange things in this huge world!
And with Tamriel Unlimited, developer ZeniMax fundamentally changed the game, and almost always for the better. Many call it version 2.0, and it includes a new Justice system, more balance between classes (specially during end-game content) and a new Champions system.
Pricing model: Tamriel Unlimited is no longer subscription-based. Just like Guild Wars 2, you only need to buy the base game once to get access to all the content (including Expansions).
Set in the fantasy world of Tyria, Guild of Wars 2 is the only MMORPG that has enough merits of its own to compete with World of Warcraft.
What I love the most about Guild Wars 2 is that it goes to great lengths to remove (or at least limit) the “grinding” that reigns on most MMOs. Guild Wars 2 focuses on group events and world-wide stories to progress through the world instead of repeatedly killing 10 rats (or wolves or whatever), making the grinding close to non-existent. However, the forced group aspect makes playing the game at non-peak times difficult (when others aren’t online) – something that had already been a big issue in the original Guild Wars.
The other thing that sets Guild Wars 2 apart is the fact that it doesn’t require a monthly subscription. You have to buy a copy to play, but unlike WoW, that’s all you’ll ever have to pay. Taking into account that the game is constantly updated and improved, this is a pretty good deal (ESO: Tamriel Unlimited definitely took a play from their book).
Overall, Guild Wars 2 is the most polished and perfected MMO available on the market.However, be aware that their Mac client is still in beta and many gamers report very poor performance (but many others don’t, so take this with a grain of salt).
Pricing model: Guild Wars 2 doesn’t require a subscription, you only need to buy the base game once to get access to all the content (including Expansions).
Part of the best free Mac games, DotA 2 is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game, otherwise known as a MOBA, from developer Valve. League of Legends may be slightly more popular, but DotA 2 is closing in fast.
In DotA 2, all matches involve two teams of five players each and only one objective: To destroy the other team’s “Ancient”, which is a building located at their stronghold. Throughout the game, you will be in control of a “Hero” that you will need to improve and “level up”: collect XP, gold, better items and gear.
The biggest downfall to DOTA 2 is the player-base. In Dota 2, bullying and name-calling is common. Even veteran players trying to learn a new class will probably get destroyed in the chat. Bottom-line, with a mix of Warcraft and classic MMO gameplay mechanics, Dota 2 is a great experience. Just be aware that the community can be very harsh.
Pricing model: Dota 2’s base game is entirely free-to-play. It does offer items for cash, but they are in no way mandatory.
Get Dota 2 for Mac
The first time I ran the original beta for Star Trek Online, I wasn’t impressed. But then Cryptic went free-to-play and released an OS X client, giving me good reasons to give it another shot. I’m glad I did.
After an entire weekend cruising the solar system and rescuing emissaries from forgotten planets, this was not the same game I tested a few years ago. Cryptic changed the entire tutorial part of the beginning of the game and inserted a real storyline for new players. The ability to give the players a spaceship and command their own decisions makes STO something MMORPG fans need to try at least once.
Something to keep in mind, I’m in no way a Star Trek fan, but that doesn’t prevent me from absolutely loving this game and everything about it. The third person rescue reconnaissance missions, the ship battles, the leveling system, and the redesign of the entire game from that original beta – all well needed. Best of all, I still haven’t spent a dime, even though I really want a Romulan Warbird…
Pricing model: Star Trek Online’s base game is entirely free-to-play. It does offer items for cash, but they are in no way mandatory.
This is another MMO which started with a subscription-based model, but turned F2P (free to play) after seeing the massive success Dungeons & Dragons Online had with their free-to-play formula. By the way, the game looks almost identical to Dungeon Defenders Online (graphically speaking), however the story and gameplay are completely different.
Developed by Turbine, LotRO follows the story from the movies and gives for free full access to almost everything the game has to offer. The only differences with the paid version are the 2 character slots (as opposed to 5), the fact you cannot send money through the in-game system and lack of destiny points (high-end points you have to be a VIP member to use). LotRO is still one of the best fantasy MMO’s on the market, while making it free added the much-needed player base it so desperately needed.
It wasn’t easy to chose the best free MMO, mostly because most of them are free-to-play nowadays. But because it has solid gameplay and takes place in the amazing universe of the Middle-Earth, the Lord of the Rings Online took the spot among our 10 Best Free Mac games.
Pricing model: The Lord of the Rings Online’s base game is entirely free-to-play. It does offer items for cash, but they are in no way mandatory.
League of Legends, from developer Riot Games, is the most popular and successful MOBA right now. 12 million players play it every day! But you know what makes LoL even more interesting? The fact it’s free.
In League of Legends, you assume the role of a “champion” with unique abilities, weaknesses and strengths. Your objective is to fight alongside your team against other player or computer-controlled champions. In the most popular game modes (there are many), your have to destroy the opposing team’s nexus, which lies at the heart of a guarded base. With over 100 champions at your disposal, only those who know how to play their strengths will succeed.
This version is the much more broad-spectrum version of DOTA 2, with over 200 characters. However, the ability to start and learn how to play a new class in a variety of maps gives the new player or new class a chance to not be berated into formatting their computer and never playing another video game again, unlike other MOBAs.
Pricing model: League of Legends’ base game is entirely free-to-play. It does offer items for cash, but they are in no way mandatory.
Eve Online is set in a science-fiction world where players take part in space battles in 7,500 star systems throughout the galaxy.
In Eve you can choose a variety of professions including mining, manufacturing, trading, piracy, exploration. All professions occur in real-time, even when you’re not logged in. It also includes both PVE and PVP combat.
What sets Even Online apart are the spaceships. Some of the ships are small little puddle jumpers while others are large, giant-sized, indeed larger than some cities.
The thing with Eve Online is that there’s so much to it, I can’t possibly go into the details here. I’ve literally lost touch with friends for months because they started the free trial and that ended up taking over their lives. I’ve heard horror stories about how someone logged off to go to sleep and woke up with her empire destroyed because the bank went under and someone blew up their ship.
If you like space combat, feel free to give it a shot. It’s on Steam and has around 500,000 users.
Pricing model: Eve Online is subscription-based, meaning that you will to pay a subscription every single month.
DDO was the first “free” MMO I ever played on OSX, since I actually paid for a subscription back when it was called Stormreach and Eberron Unlimited. DDO bases all the content off the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 rule set, which is still the foundation for many RPG elements within the game.
What I found the most satisfying (or gratifying?) was that there is a narrator or “dungeon master” describing the path and options available to the class played, and it felt closer to the vibe one gets during a tabletop game, not just while playing a video game. Graphically, DDO is similar to Lord of the Rings or Warhammer Online, the biggest differences are the mechanics and storytelling within the game. The player base within DDO is much more forgiving and more patient than the sister games of LotRO and Warhammer. Out of the three, DDO is my favorite, but I’m also biased due to my history.
Pricing model: Dungeons & Dragons Online’s base game is entirely free-to-play. It does offer items for cash, but they are in no way mandatory.
Savage 2 is a mix between real-time strategy, first person shooter, and role-playing game, mixed with MOBA elements. The ability to flip between views and play how want is a nice addition. That said, the RTS components are greatly overpowered compared to the other two.
The two sides fight each other, common in basic MOBA games, this time battles between the Man and Horde sides rage to find supremacy. The learning curve is very high, making the tutorial next to worthless. However, the sheer amount of fun and playability in the game makes this one to watch since the players seem more helpful than those in DOTA2.
Pricing model: Savage 2’s base game is entirely free-to-play. It does offer items for cash, but they are in no way mandatory.
Get Savage 2 for Mac
Heroes of Newerth is a MOBA similar to DOTA2 and League of Legends (LoL) where two teams battle against each other in an arena. When players spawn into the arena, they begin at a base on the opposite side of the map. The point of Newerth is to destroy the opposing faction’s base, or depending on the game type, be the first team to destroy the central structure on the map, destroy the world tree (in the Legion mode), or the Shrine (in Hellborne mode). There are 120 playable heroes in Newerth making customization and different abilities for play changes in the arenas widely varied.
Like many other MOBA communities, the social-base of players is not kind to new players.
Pricing model: Heroes of Newerth’s base game is entirely free-to-play. It does offer items for cash, but they are in no way mandatory.
Lesser known alternatives
- The Sage of Ryzom (Free-to-Play): Ryzom is a science-fantasy-sandbox MMORPG, which means the world itself takes place 2000 years in the future of today on an alien planet where the world itself interacts with the players and mobs they come into contact with. Overall, Atys is a gorgeous world, where everything makes one stop and admire the handiwork that goes into the detail, even on a low graphic setting.The first impression I had after installing Ryzom was “This looks like something developed on Linux.” But after tweaking the graphics settings and making my mouse play nice from the default crap settings, all I can say is: Go get this now. You are locked into free mode until you get to level 125 to decide if you want to pay to play. It’s worth a shot. Get it here
- Puzzle Pirates (Free-to-Play): Puzzle Pirates is very different from the other games mentioned so far. The game is very much focused on a number of puzzles your character will have to solve. Your character does gain XP and gold, however you do this by playing small mini-games in the vein of Mario Party against your fellow online pirates. There is more to Puzzle Pirates than just mini-games though. You can captain a ship, recruit a crew of other pirates, go on raiding expeditions and more. If you want to try a different kind of MMO, you should give this one a try. Get it here
- Spiral Knights (Free-to-Play): I was hesitant to put Spiral Knights on this list, but a friend of mine who spent $100 on this game convinced me otherwise. You and your party travel through dungeons (or “Clockworks”) to find pieces to fix your busted-ass spacecraft to go home. When Spiral Knights first appeared on Steam as a free to play game for OSX, I downloaded it and tried it out hoping for another great game like Regnum. Instead, I found myself aggravated since I had just got out of the tutorial before I had to wait for my energy to refill before I could play again, or pay money for crowns for the energy to renew. If I wanted to pay money to play a game, I could log into Facebook. Get it here
- Planeshift (Free-to-Play): Planeshift is a very odd fantasy role-playing community, built around a graphics engine from 2000. The player base focuses more on physical role-playing than anything else. Despite the higher learning curve and outdated engine, this is still a popular game with new players and old logging in to live in their fantasy world. Planeshift still has one of the most extensive crafting system in any free MMO on the market. Some players find it jarring to talk with other players who speak with accents and in “cat tongues”, and some of the graphics and animations leave much to be desired due to the outdated graphics engine. Get it here
- Crossfire (Free-to-Play): Keep in mind there is another MMO called Crossfire based in Korea that is a Call of Duty clone for Windows – this is not that game. This MMO started back in the good old days of dial-up modems and BBS happiness in 1992 when graphics left much to the imagination and multi-user dungeons (MUD’s) still ruled the RPG landscape. Crossfire is a “roguelike” game, similar to the classic game NetHack, except placed in a medieval fantastical world of wizards and monsters, closer to the feel of a network version of Gauntlet. Get it here
- Regnum Online (Free-to-Play): The name has changed a handful of times over the years. Today it’s called as Champions of Regnum on Steam. This is the epitome of a Japanese grinding MMORPG. After starting out and getting to level 10 or so, the quests fade out and the only thing left to do is wait for special events like realm vs realm battles, or pay for boosts from the online store to help level-up and grab a mount for traveling speed. The beauty of Regnum is the singular focus on PvP (player versus player) combat. There is no crafting, no raiding and almost no high-level content. Learning to battle at end game (level 60+warmaster) is the key to Regnum. Get it here
- Minions of Mirth (Free-to-Play): The first MMO to offer a solo mode, which I can honestly understand for those late-night drunken raids, Mirth is often compared to Diablo because at this point it allows players to run on a dedicated server identical to the premium server by themselves. Dedicated players love Mirth and the developers release regular updates with the last patch coming out the 10th of January. Also, once you level-up, you unlock monster templates, allowing you to play as monsters – something a bit different in the MMO world. Get it here
- Pirate101 (Free-to-Play): The game pits players (still focuses between 10-15 year olds) on turn-based combats as pirates. KingsIsle does a great job tailoring the play system to balance the play between colorful animation and fun interactive involvement for any age group, and any gamer will have fun playing this with friends or their own children regardless of age. Similar to Wizard 101, the free-trial gives each player 10 levels of free-play, meaning little more than an extended tutorial, except in Pirate101, the open-ended system seemed to never end. The skill system, the strategy, the collection of pets and companions, the questing, the ship battles and hand-to-hand combat – it all works, and in a way much different from those found in Wizard 101. Both games are great to play, especially for those looking for a relaxing time to spend with young children. Get it here
Sadly shutdown games…
- Warhammer Online: The last time I tried to log into Warhammer Online on my MacBook Pro, I found out that EA took the servers offline as of December 18th, 2013. I’m always sad to see a great game go, especially when so many people praised the realm versus realm play and unique battle systems. Given the excellent history of Mythic (pre-EA, anyway), I’m curious to see what great things they will come up with next.
- EverQuest: Sadly, EQ was discontinued as of November 2013. The last OSX server was taken down (or sunset, as they call it in the MMO business) and Sony Online Entertainment despite many petitions and online pleads from high-profile fans of the game, including one of the original developers who offered to buy the source code to make it free-to-play.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Pirates Online is another game where the servers found sunset during 2013, turning off on September 19th. Various petitions online were ignored at Disney studios before the servers turned off, leaving the game empty and the players finding other games. Petitions to turn the servers online or make the game free-to-play are still floating around Facebook today.
- ToonTown Online: ToonTown Online is another Disney property running almost 10 years before the servers shut down in September of 2013. As with many MMO’s that are offline, be wary of any “pirate” server, since many that run illegally run questionable software that may or may not infect or put malware-type software on your system.
Looks like you don’t have an excuse not to try a MMO on your Mac anymore. With options ranging from the subscription-based, world-class World of Warcraft, to the free Star Trek Online or Lord of the Rings Online (without forgetting the amazing pay-once Guild Wars 2), the Mac MMO scene has something for everyone.
In fact, practically all major MMOs have a Mac version (excluding of course Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic), proving once more that the Mac is catching up fast!
So what is your favorite MMO? Are you currently playing some on your Mac? Let us know in the comments section, perhaps you’ll even find fellow Mac users to play with!