Free Games Like World of Warcraft (WoW)
Like many MMO fans I've spent plenty of money and years in the universe of WoW. The market is now reaching a point with so many free games like World of Warcraft that it isn't worth it anymore.
I've played World of Warcraft for a long time and I'm not alone, with a peak subscriber count of over 10 million the game is still one of the giants in modern gaming. With improvements in technology and the size of the gaming population though we've seen a rise in the number of high quality free to play games out there. Be it that they launch as a free game or decide to make the switch after declining revenue it's becoming harder and harder to justify spending your hard earned money on a subscription MMO like WoW.
Below you'll find a quick list of my favourites from the new wave of free games like WoW that will allow you to cut the WoW subscription fee and keep the money in your pocket instead. Of course because these games don't have a subscription they feature in game "Cash Shops" where you can purchase additional items and boosts for real money. I've only chosen to list games that use this system fairly and don't allow players to buy their way to the top.
Got your own thoughts and opinions about World of Warcraft or MMO games in general? The comment section is always open for your feedback (please note that comments are moderated).
Case Your Vote
Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR)
It might be the final game on my list of free games like WoW but it's definitely a game that science fiction (in particular Star Wars) fans won't want to miss. Star Wars: The Old Republic launched with great force gaining a subscriber count in the millions. It proved unsustainable though and after the initial cash flow the game has decided to join the many that have gone free to play.
Having played the game for those first few months it was a very fresh experience with a space based setting that only a small handful of other games in this genre have used before. As you would probably have guessed you'll get to take control of your own Jedi or other important Star Wars figure (such as a smuggler).
You've got your choice of light and dark factions and plenty of room to move in between grey areas of both so you don't ever feel too restricted as you progress.
All in all though it isn't offering anything special, everything is impressive and well designed but you're really just playing for the space setting in my opinion. So if you're sick of fantasy it's the perfect option for yourself.
Neverwinter is a MMO that draws influence from the popular board game but brings it into the online world instead. You don't have to be a Neverwinter fan though to enjoy the action orientated real time combat that the game has to offer though.
Set on an unexplored continent much of your adventure focuses on quests of discovery as you unlock the potential of the world that is hidden in deep dungeons, dark caverns and beautiful landscapes. The games first person perspective gives you a great view of this world which ensures you get the full experience as you level up, create your character and use powerful spells.
With much of the game spent in instanced dungeons this is definitely one for the dungeon crawlers in the MMO genre.
If group based MMO experiences appeal to you then Perfect World should be up the top of your list when it comes to options that are currently available. It aims to mix in the classic MMO games with modern day MMO mechanics and definitely succeeds to a point where it will appeal to both fans and non-fans of the classic game.
It's a very well crafted dungeon crawling game with a strong action style approach to combat giving you greater control over your characters movements. With decent options to make your hero unique it's easy to make a connection to the avatar that fights on your behalf as you get lost in a world of mystery, quests, raids and friends.
If it's another fantasy MMO that you're after Perfect World should be one that you highly consider.
Runes of Magic
Runes of Magic has been a leader in the free to play MMORPG scene for a long time, it sold me very early on after it released in 2009 and I still play it from time to time to this day. It was one of the first free games in this genre that I consdiered to be done well and it's survival over the time period supports that as countless free to play MMOs have been shutdown due to lack of funds.
I also think it makes one of the better free games like World of Warcraft because it stuck to the formula that WoW made so popular. You've got a huge range of classes to combine together to create your character. This are selected at certain level points so you don't ever feel completely overwhelmed, This system makes for a total of nearly 70 options which is more depth than most paid games let alone games of the free variety. While the 10 base classes are fairly standard this mix and match potential means it isn't hard to create something very unique that you can connect with and develop your own strategy for.
While I'm generally a fan of PvE I do appreciate a game with lots of PvP options and Runes of Magic has you covered in that department with all the usual 1v1 duels and larger guild based options also available.
Another feature that gets a lot of praise in Runes of Magic (not that it interests me) is the housing feature which does give you something extra to do. This also expands even further with entire guilds able to control castles for plenty of in game benefits. There are also pets, monsters cards, guilds, auction houses and everything else that has kept Runes of Magic a popular option for the past half a decade.
Star Trek Online
Another great MMO for science fiction fans is Star Trek Online, a MMO set within the Star Trek universe that lets you explore it by foot and ship. Whether battling in hand to hand combat on a planet or flying your ship through occupied space Star Trek Online has an essence of quality every step of the way.
While the game will have lots of appeal to Star Trek fans who will feel like their favourite show has finally come to life there is also lots to love for casual fans of the show or players who have never even seen it before due to the strong MMO foundations.
With the huge number of customisation options that let you create your own story in the game while visiting hundreds of worlds, it's a MMO game not worth missing.
Lord of the Rings Online
For deep fantasy in a Lord of the Rings setting and wrapped into a MMO adventure Lord of the Rings Online. Follow through an epic quest line that is tied to the popular book series (complete with chapters) or go for a more free flowing adventure as you explore the world as you please.
All the features of the big development MMOs are there in LOTRO with a huge number of levels that you'll earn through PvE and then use in the PvP environment as you fight with and against your fellow Lord of the Rings fans. There is plenty of co-operative options as well though with full raids to battle the NPC enemies of the game world a popular end game past time for many players.
With mounts, housing and even an interesting music experience wrapping up this Lord of The Rings themed adventure it's a very strong and satisfying MMO adventure.
In recent years we've seen a huge shift in the MMO genre with plenty of big name games going from a paid (subscription or buy out right) experience to completely free to play. This list of games includes Rift that has one of the more interesting mechanics I've seen used successfully in recent years of the genre.
You can start playing Rift through their official website or through Steam which means you'll get all the benefits of the Steam friend windows (so I usually recommend people go through Steam).
So what makes Rift unique? Mostly the dynamic battles that can happen anywhere in the world at any time. These battles are initiated by rifts opening up in the game world which happen at random. These areas lead to creatures of other elemental planes spewing forth and charging towards a particular objective be it a town, particular hunting ground or another location. If left to their own devices you'll find that these areas quickly became unsafe to travel through alone. As such players are encouraged to band together to deal with these threats with alerts being sent out and all players becoming part of a universal party that joins the area, meaning it's easy to get healed up by a friendly healer and get your share of the spoils.
Many of my days in Rift were spent focusing solely on hunting Rifts with others and closing them up which was a nice change from the usual pacing of these sorts of games.
With a good number of awards under its belt for the 2011 year that it was released I'm definitely not alone for my love of this game and can't recommend it enough as a now free alternative to WoW.
Age of Conan
If you find the dull graphics and boring fantasy storylines of other MMORPGs leave a lot to be desired then you're the intended audience for Age of Conan, one of the paid games like World of Warcraft that is now completely free to play. The games graphics are simply as good as it gets and while that does mean you'll be spending a lot of your monthly data to download the game it's well worth it (it was 25GB last time I checked).
Age of Conan isn't just about looking pretty it's also got a very mature storyline that is designed for the people that have been playing MMORPGs since before they can remember. While it's fantasy orientated it's a different and much darker spin on the usual adventure, something I really welcomed.
Combat is also much better and more than just button mashing your way to victory. Your position and timing of your character skills play an extremely important role in each battle so you won't be able to zone out while you play (like you might do with other games).
To tie all these unique features together you've got a very powerful soundtrack and good character customisation behind it, sometimes you feel more like you're in a single player RPG like Gothic than a MMO.
Aion commands a following well into the millions and is mostly known for its skill chain and PvPvE battles. For those seeking high quality and something different Aion has obvious appeal and is one that you shouldn't be missing.
Skill chains require some skills to be performed as part of a chain, in that they require a certain move to be performed first and allows careful players to develop more powerful attacks by taking into account the skills and chains they have available. While the PvPvE system takes place on massive battlefields with fortresses that can be claimed by players and then battled over with the assistance of NPC characters.
Aion also offers a good mount system to make travel easier and eleven main classes that each bring their own style to gameplay. It's definitely one of the high quality options featured on this page.
Sometimes you just need a good massively multiplayer online role playing game that you can play within your browser. For me I've always found Sherwood Dungeon to be one of the better options, in particular because you don't even have to register to play with the option to start playing instantly as a guest.
This makes it great for a game that you need to kill some time but don't necessarily want to commit to long term (although in the case of Sherwood Dungeon I would). It's proven handy a number of times where I had to keep one of my teenagers busy but only had a laptop and didn't want to spend 5 minutes signing them up for a game (like they would have the patience for that).
All because it's browser based though doesn't mean it's some trimmed down version of the big MMOs it actually does a very good job of including everything you need and the graphics are some of the better in the browser based genre as well. I'm also constantly surprised by the changes to the game, every other month there seems to be a boost in graphics and content to ensure both new and old players are having fun.
For browser based games like World of Warcraft I can't recommend Sherwood Dungeon enough and with it's guest account option you could literally be playing the game within 10 seconds of visiting the website so why wait.
Images on this page are either provided by the respective developers or are my own images from the game. They are used solely for review and identification purposes.
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What Is Your Favourite Free Game Like World of Warcraft?
Penny Leigh Sebring from Fort Collins on October 16, 2017:
Nice list. My favorite free game is Archeage, although its easier to play as a paid game as I understand it. LOTRO was lots of fun too, never could get the hang of the controls for Star Trek online with my computer though.
GreatSword23 from Belgium on August 04, 2017:
i tried a few of those and still i cant get over WoW
Nicholas Daly from NSW Australia on March 02, 2015:
Do you have a view on League of Legends? New here (fellow Australian) so hello, and good article- Cheers
Rich Palmer on September 17, 2014:
I very much appreciate your review of these games. Unfortunately, the only game available to me -- from this list -- outside of WoW is Sherwood Dungeon. This game is remedial at best. It has very limited options as a browser based game. I don't believe it will hold my interest very long.
I'm on a Mac. System requirements for every other game listed require some iteration of Windows. WoW, remarkably, has a very stable game client for the Mac (most of the time). I have played WoW since 2007, but have tired of the pricing; the realignments of character specs; changes to the lore; rude players, etc.
Samuel Franklin on September 05, 2014:
So many great free to play MMO titles. Age of Conan and SWTOR win this list for me.
Biku Barat from India on September 04, 2014:
Your list is awesome! I like "Age of Konan".
Aks5 on August 21, 2014:
Hey! Thanks for your post! I have been looking for any game like WoW, I'm tired of paying for playing. I'm going to test Age of Conan it looks nice, thanks and keep your work like this^^!
Jessica Peri from United States on March 04, 2014:
I have heard pretty great things about Rift though I haven't played it yet. If I ever take a break from my WoW sub again it might be worth a shot! Voted up.