Why Pay for WOW? Check Out These Free MMORPGs

MMORPG stands for Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, a phrase so cumbersome to type or say that everyone just calls them MMORPGs. (Just don’t call them MMORPG games, because that’s like saying ATM machine.)

Ever since the first casting of “An Corp” to resurrect someone in Ultima Online, the gaming world has never quite been the same. Followed by the success of WoW and Everquest, the MMORPG took over much of the gaming focus for many years.

MMORPGs are a commitment, a gaming marriage as opposed to the quick one-night stand of playing a few rounds of Smash Brothers before “24” comes on. MMORPGs demand serious investment of time, money and energy to be rewarding – but those rewards are incomparably sweet, so they’re worth it.

The question is then, are you ready for MMORPG’ing? Ready to sink hours of your life into the minutia of creating and leveling your character(s)? Ready to crunch numbers and research strategy? Ready to get so addicted that you end up paying for a monthly subscription…and then spending even more money for extras?

It’s a lot to ask of anyone, so we recommend “living together” before you “tie the knot”. Here are some try-before-you-buy solutions, otherwise known as free MMORPGs. Some of them are so good, you may decide not to buy the cow when you can get the milk for free…

1. Shaiya

Shaiya is a critically acclaimed, fantasy-themed MMORPG game. It won Gameborder’s Best MMORPG award in 2007, and MMOSITE’s reader’s choice awards for Best Graphics, and placed second for Most Anticipated Game of 2007. Best of all, it’s free!


The plot is the standard fantasy nonsense about Goddesses and Dragons and various races. Players create a character in either the Alliance of Light or the Union of Furies. We’ll let you guess which ones are the good guys.

The standard classes are on offer and, all in all, the 3D game mechanics should be familiar to anyone who’s ever delved into WoW. Quests, items, guilds, Player vs. Player zones, HP, MP, XP – you know the drill by now. It bears mentioning that Shaiya is a newcomer in the MMORPG world, and doesn’t offer as large or detailed an experience as WoW.

Still, with great graphics, solid gameplay and ever more players, Shaiya is definitely worth the download.

2. The Kingdom of Loathing

Not everyone is after an immersive 3D virtual world to suck up all their free (and work, sleep, and social) time. Kingdom of Loathing, or KoL (as it’s affectionately known to members of its friendly community), is a little browser MMORPG. You won’t need a high-tech PC or any fancy graphics hardware to run it. It’ll run just fine on anything which can handle internet browsing.


As you’d expect, the graphics aren’t exactly up to par with Fallout 3. In fact, stick-men illustrations are about the extent of them. That’s fine though, because what KoL has a lot of is humor, and apparently having that makes up for a lack of looks. At least, that’s what we keep telling ourselves.

In KoL, you collect items and currency (which in this world, is meat), compete and trade with other players, and join clans and whatnot. All of this is turn-based, and you can only do so many things every day. You can choose your character from the likes of Seal Clubbers, Pastamancers, and other such silly options. Basically, KoL is like playing a Terry Pratchett book — or at least a Pratchett eBook.

There are about 150,000 people playing this game, and payment takes the form of strictly voluntary donations. It’s a perfect little game for the office, assuming your net usage isn’t monitored, although it does have a bit of a learning curve. Still, you can’t argue with free and funny.

3. Anarchy Online

If you know MMORPGs, you probably know Age of Conan. Big game, lots of decapitation, about so tall? Yeah. Well, Anarchy Online is made by the makers of that. The setting has less to do with Robert E. Howard than William Gibson, and if you don’t know the difference between those two authors, you need to put down the joypad and pick up a book. Honestly, fantasy and sci-fi nerds today…


Anyway, as you might have surmised, Anarchy is a sci-fi MMORPG. You play as a colonist newly arrived on an alien world, and get to choose your character from three allegiances and fourteen classes. In addition to basic 3D game mechanics, the game offers deep character development, dynamic missions, a large world, and a setting that isn’t the usual elves and unicorns foppery – hurrah!

While the graphics are starting to look their age (Anarchy Online came out in 2001), the game has been consistently upgraded since its inception with patches and add-ons. Sadly, these add-ons require subscription, but the vanilla game is free (albeit with some in-game advertising).

Still, chances are you’ll like it so much you won’t mind upgrading – at least that’s the business model. Seeing as you’ve got nothing to lose, why not investigate the interesting world of Anarchy Online.

4. Fiesta

We’re trying to cover best-of-genre titles here, and the genre Fiesta best fits into is “games to get your girlfriend into MMORPG’ing.” Fiesta features cute cartoon-style graphics, very little in the way of decapitations and maiming, and plenty of light-hearted, friendly fun. Shenanigans and tomfoolery for all.


It’s a fantasy-themed game, where players can choose from four basic classes: Fighters, Mages, Clerics and Archers. It’s sort of an MMORPG-Lite, if you see what we mean. Just think WoW slimmed down to its core, with all the fiddly bits taken out so players can jump right into it and start having fun. While it may be a bit too cutesy for you to play yourself (though hey, we’re not judging) it should serve as a great introduction to the genre for non-hardcore role-players.

Game masters take an active role in the game, playing characters themselves. They are usually very friendly and helpful, allowing beginners to ease into the swing of things without too much trouble.

5. Wizard101

Fiesta still too difficult? Trying to bring MMORPGs to your non-gamer girlfriend, or perhaps *gasp* child? Well, look no further than Wizard101, a turn-based kid-friendly MMORPG set in a world of wizards at school. For copyright reasons, let’s just say that you would likely refer to it as Shmarry Shmotter.


Actually, the creators were probably worried that you’d name your wizard Shmarry Shmotter, so they force you to pick from a list of pre-generated first and last names. Just choose your wizarding school (Fire, Ice, Life, Death, the usual), and you are given a few cards of your chosen school and a starter set of one each from the other schools.

Oh, did we mention that combat is all card-based? When you run into an enemy, you pick a card from your deck and cast that spell. Then the opponent gets to cast a spell. Then you get to cast a spell. Repeat until someone falls down and runs out of hit points.

Still, it’s so simple even a child can do it. In fact, many do, and the world is populated with 13-year olds. If that doesn’t bother you, though, you may as well give it a look. The first few zones are free, at least.

6. Private Servers

Enough of those free MMORPGs. You want to play a deep, high-end graphics, addictive, complex MMORPG like World of Warcraft, and none of this other junk is going to satisfy you as a replacement. Well, why not try playing WoW on a private server? Private Servers are small servers run by regular people rather than Blizzard.


Playing on a private server requires a complex reconfiguration of your WoW data files, guarantees that you’ll miss all the awesome world events on the Blizzard servers, generally requires you to create new characters, allows other players to have weapons with completely unfair damage, probably prevents you from playing with all of your friends who have subscriptions to use, may give you trouble when you try to log on, and often results in serious latency and lag.

So why play on private servers? Well, you get to play WoW for free. Yes, you read that correctly: You get to play WoW for free. If you have purchased World of Warcraft, but no longer want to pay Blizzard’s monthly fees, you can play on a private server for free. Also, if you can convince your friends to all join your server, you’ll have a small world populated with a higher percentage of your friends, and a lower percentage of n00bs. (n00bs will be unable to figure out how to set up the private server.)

There are a number of private servers available for various games, but a reasonable guide to private Warcraft servers can be found here.

Leave a Comment

  1. Dick Smith says:

    I cannot say I love this game, I think it is pretty average. It is worth to play but will only keep you having fun for more than a couple of days. I would recommed that you should try CoD or game of life instead.

  2. mot says:

    Drop Guild Wars from the list. They just did Nerf 9 billion to "balance" the playing experience… Killed 3 good, time consuming approaches to the game. Fuggemandfuggedaboutem.

  3. vawrsfds says:

    OMG LOVE #2 (started in 2007)
    OMGOMGOMG first time ive seen somebody recomending it.
    i love that game

  4. James Bond says:

    I would like to install a game system like that on our Social Networking website at

    We currently have a buncy of really cool games but I'm looking for something state of the Art!

  5. Vincent Han says:

    Runes of Magic is the best FREE MMORPG ever its exactly the same gameplay as WoW but better and has an incredible community behind it it has free updates and lots of quest for different lvls

  6. jake says:

    playing on a private server is stealing…