This is meant to answer a couple of questions, with the main one being: Are there any good MMO games on the Mac?
This comprehensive list should answer that. In this article, we go over all the MMO games currently available on the Mac, including subscription-based (those you have to pay every month to play), pay once and free-to-play games. Do keep in mind that we decided to exclude all browser-based games (can’t call it a Mac game can’t you).
The second question we will answer here is also an all-time favorite: What’s the best one for me?
The answer is obviously not easy to answer because it depends on what you expect and want from an MMO. But by the end of this article you should have a pretty good idea of what each game has to offer and which one matches your needs the best.
Don’t forget to tell us in the comments section which one is your favorite and why!
Without further ado…
“Classic” Mac MMOs
The mother of all MMOs, you cannot talk about the genre without mentioning World of Warcraft.
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.
As most MMOs, WoW is most fun when played with friends. This is especially true for the endgame content which is virtually impossible without a tight guild.
After close to a decade, I can still sit down and lose myself in the familiarity of the lands, the characters, the quests, the story, and just have fun with friends online.
The Elder Scrolls Online
The Elder Scrolls Online is the latest big MMO to join the party. Considering the success of both The Elder Scrolls Oblivion and Skyrim, this MMO was one of this year’s most expected games. 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!
The game has no offline mode, although the developers have stated that there will be “plenty of content” designed to accommodate players who prefer to play solo. Keep in mind that this is perhaps the most expensive game on this list, with a premium price to buy the game and a mandatory monthly subscription.
Buy Once, Play forever
Set in the fantasy world of Tyria, Guild of Wars 2 is the only MMO 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.
Overall, Guild Wars 2 is the most polished and perfected MMO available on the market. GW2’s unrivaled quality, attention to detail, dynamic events and “grindless” missions make it much more exciting than most MMOs.
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 MMO 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 3rd 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…
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 the free-to-play formula. Otherwise known as LotRO, this game looks almost identical to Dungeon Defenders Online (graphically speaking), however the story and play is a completely different beast.
Taking place in the lands of Middle-Earth, involving J.R.R. Tolken’s storied canon from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings time frame, LotRO lives up the fantastic element of RPG with an MMO factor. The gameplay is similar to other fantasy-based MMOs, with the free version offering only 2 character slots (as opposed to 5 for VIP with the option to buy more) and other small items like this.
Turbine allows the free players full access to everything within the game itself, with the small except to send money through the in-game mail system to another player and destiny points (high-end points you have to be a VIP member to use) while everything else is either limited or open 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.
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.
I haven’t tried Eve because I know how addictive it is and how much I’d get sucked into the game!
If you like space combat, feel free to give it a shot. It’s on Steam and has around 500,000 users.
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.
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.
Also known as “The Saga of Ryzom,” the game started in 2004 under a different company before changing hands a few times. Today, the MMORPG sits on the Apple App Store with a 3-½ star rating from 63 people, from a 10-year-old game. In all honesty, the graphics, engine, story, and most of the art took a redesign in 2010.
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.
Defense Against the Ancients 2 or DOTA 2 is a Massively Multiplayer Online Battle Arena game, otherwise known as a MOBA. DOTA 2 pits teams of five players against each other in small arenas where waves of monsters and players fight against each other until the Ancient from the opposing team is destroyed. Simply put, in Dota 2, you control a hero and fight to gain experience, level up and earn gold to purchase weapons, armors, spells and items.
Another MOBA game, this version is the much more broad-spectrum version of DOTA2, now 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.
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.
Lesser known alternatives
- 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!