Top 8 MMORPGs That Are Not Pay-To-Win (2023)
There's no competitive advantage in the cash shop for these games.
Pay-to-win can mean a lot of different things to different folks these days. Some say any sort of XP boost is pay-to-win, while others look for competitive advantage. In this week's list, we'll be looking at games that do not offer any sort of competitive advantage via cash shops. We're also avoiding games where you can exchange real money for in-game currency (Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic as examples).
Here are 8 MMORPG Games we believe are NOT pay-to-win.
World of Warcraft
With its box price and sub fee, World of Warcraft is one of the biggest MMOs out there. Although the game does feature a cash shop, there's nothing pay-to-win about it. You can purchase the usual stuff like mounts, character transfers, etc., but there's no character power to be had in the cash shop for WoW, unless you're a total purist that counts character level boosts.
Final Fantasy XIV
Speaking of the biggest MMORPG's, Final Fantasy XIV does have a cash shop on top of its free-to-try then buy the box and pay a sub model, you have to go outside of the game to spend any additional money. Even then there's no power to be found outside of the typical cash shop offerings of cosmetics and the like.
Elder Scrolls Online
Out of all the games on this list, The Elder Scrolls Online probably pushes you hardest into the cash shop, but you won't be buying anything there that can give you a competitive advantage over other players. There are XP boosts, cosmetics, mounts, and good ol' loot boxes, but you can't get anything that's going to make you more powerful than other players. Even Vampire and Werewolf bites can be gotten for free in-game just by asking in chat, so don't waste your money on those.
Runescape and Old School Runescape continue to be beacons of light in the free-to-play landscape, offering fair cash shops with no competitive advantages. Old School Runescape in particular seems to be one of the few MMORPGs out there that gets better with age.
New World is one of my favorite MMOs, and I'm happy to report that the cash shop contains nothing but cosmetics. Want a new outfit to wear? The cash shop has you covered. Want a powerful new weapon? You're gonna have to grind that out in the game.
Dungeons & Dragons Online
Dungeons & Dragons Online has one of the more fair free-to-play models out there with the usual cash shop offerings but nothing that's going to take you to the next level of competitive advantage. It should be noted here that while not "P2W" necessarily, some user bemoan the required purchase of certain quest packs. Luckily some of them are free right now.
Embers Adrift has a box price and a sub, both of which were recently reduced, but actually contains no cash shop whatsoever, making it a real outlier in the world of MMORPGs. It's really hard to find another MMO that has zero microtransactions, so if you want the purest definition of not pay-to-win then it's hard to beat not paying for anything in a cash shop at all.
Sure maybe Warframe is not really an "MMORPG", but this game is definitely famous for its fair cash shop practices. Warframe is a prime example of how to do a cash shop correctly and for that reason, we have to include it on this list. Yes, you can buy some convenience and cosmetics, but there's nothing there that is going to make you better than the guy beside you at anything you can do.
That's our list of the top MMORPGs that are NOT pay-to-win. Did we miss any of your favorites? What is your definition of pay-to-win? Let us know in the comments section below.
About the Author
Troy “Noobfridge” Blackburn has been reporting on the video game industry for over a decade. Whether it’s news, editorials, gameplay videos, or streams, Noobfridge never fails to present his honest opinion whether those hot takes prove to be popular or not.
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