From wizards to ninjas, starships to battleships, there’s a free-to-play game for just about everyone out there. Some are better than others, though, whether it’s due to gameplay, the cash shop, or just that special “something” you can’t quite quantify.
But quantify we will do over the next few weeks, as the staff of MMOBomb takes a crack at ranking the top 50 free-to-play games in existence as of the end of 2015!
To qualify for the list, a game had to be “effectively launched” in North America. That did count games in beta, as long as they were fully free and didn’t require any selection process (like a typical closed beta) to get in. That’s why you’ll see Brawlhalla on the list, which is in open beta and anyone can play right now, but not H1Z1, which requires payment at this time, or Total War: Arena, which requires a beta key to play.
The four of us – Mike, Jason, Zach, and Quintlyn – rated our top 50 choices to create this list, which we’ll reveal to you, 10 games at a time, every Monday for five weeks. Our selections were averaged out and tweaked slightly if one person was way far off from everyone else’s choices to develop the final rankings.
Now we’re getting close! This is the top 20, where you’ll start to find the meat and potatoes of the F2P world, games with big budgets and bigger fan bases. Perhaps not coincidentally, six of the next 10 games started out as pay-to-play games but found their greatest success as F2P titles. They’re as sure a sign as anything that free-to-play is a viable and popular way to go.
20. War Thunder
A popular alternative to Wargaming’s massive titles, War Thunder hasn’t quite managed to command vast audiences like its competition, but its lighter cash shop and different modes of play help keep it a fan favorite for plenty of devoted players.
19. Marvel Heroes
Like a superhero who’s gone through a score of retcons, Marvel Heroes keeps reinventing itself. Gazillion stays dedicated to producing a fine ARPG, producing new heroes at a dizzying rate, while also making the extra effort to stay true to its source material.
18. World of Warships
Wargaming’s newest title torpedoes onto our list at #18, and – trivia bit – it’s only one of two games, along with #1, that three of our four voters put in the same “box” of picks. In any case, it brings a (mostly) new style of combat to gamers, apart from the usual “tanks and planes” that have become almost commonplace. It’s one that requires a very different way of strategic thinking.
17. The Lord of the Rings Online
Nearly nine years after its launch, LOTRO still captures that Middle-earth experience like no other game out there. Whether battling Sauron’s minions or just fishing in the Shire alongside Hobbits, it’s a game that pleases both hardcore gamers and role-players alike.
Aion was probably the first “big hype” game from Korea, paving the way for later games like Blade & Soul, ArcheAge, Black Desert Online, and our #14 game. Like many of those games, it didn’t quite live up to its initial billing and needed a F2P switch, which serves the title well.
15. Heroes of the Storm
It’s still new, but Blizzard’s MOBA has already taken the world by, uh, storm, due in no small part to its licensed characters and Blizzard’s large marketing coffers. Even so, it’s a good game in its own right, simplifying the MOBA experience for casual players while still offering strategic choices for competitive types.
Initial marketing might have been a little off-target – remember this? – but TERA’s gameplay speaks for itself and has won the game a legion of fans. Its action combat is considered among the best in the MMORPG world, and being pretty to look at doesn’t hurt either.
13. Team Fortress 2
The venerable TF2 has started to show its age a bit, with new “battle-arena” games stealing the spotlight and looking all shiny. It’s still one of the best free-to-play shooters around, though, and a great way to lose hours of your life without even noticing.
It still remains to be seen if WildStar’s F2P move will stem the bleeding and turn it into a profitable title. That aside, it’s a great experience that its core players adore, mixing challenge with moxie and providing a fantastic world to explore.
11. Star Wars: The Old Republic
Sporting the biggest of budgets, but floundering badly, SWTOR needed a free-to-play switch like no other game out there. People still grouse, and rightfully so, about the restrictions placed on F2P players, but it’s succeeded despite that, with fantastic expansions and a player base that numbers over a million Jedi and Sith.