Before The Elder Scrolls Online, before Final Fantasy XIV, and before World of Warcraft, there was EverQuest. It managed to evolve everything that had been done before in the genre and capture a wide variety of players to make a massive playerbase for itself.
But it was by no means the first MMO. The concept of a massively multiplayer online game had evolved from the even older MUD (multi-user dungeon) framework, and had been around for years before EverQuest was even thought about. In fact, many of the online games that were made before EverQuest‘s 1999 release are still playable today as well.
10 The Realm Online Is The Pioneer Of Instance Dungeons
Developed and published by Sierra On-Line, The Realm Online launched in 1996. The game was one of the first MMO titles, and has a lot of the things MMO players would consider essential like going on boss hunters, traversing into dungeons, and PvP combat, and is often credited as being the first MMO to have instance dungeons.
The title actually switched publishers a few years into its existence as Sierra On-Line would place their focus on more popular MMOs they were developing. Despite this, The Realm Online actually exists to this day, and is one of the MMOs from that era people can still play.
9 Meridian 59 Is The First 3D MMO
Meridian 59 launched in September of 1996 from Archetype Interactive and 3DO Company, and is the first 3D MMO. Like most MMOs of the era, Meridian takes place in a fantasy setting where the players exist in a colony that’s been disconnected from the empire that took over.
With the Empire effectively “gone,” the colony deals with both political conflict and monsters tearing their land apart. Interestingly, Meridian exists today as a free to play title that can be downloaded on Steam.
8 Tibia Has No Level Cap
Tibia was developed and published by CipSoft in 1997. Unlike The Realm or Meridian, the game was actually two dimensional, and utilizes pixel art. Set in a fantasy world that has been expanding for several decades, Tibia has the benefit of being an open-world game where the players can continue leveling up as long as they want to.
New players start out on an island, figure out what class they want to be, then get to travel to the game’s main area where the rest of the game takes place. The game has a strong PvP focus, but those who want to avoid that can pick servers where that sort of gameplay is discouraged.
7 Ultima Online Ups The Simultaneous Player Count From Hundreds To Thousands
The Ultima franchise had been around for over a decade by the time Ultima Online launched courtesy of Origin Systems and Electronic Arts. The MMO craze was growing, and Ultima Online added to it by gaining 100,000 subscribers within the first six months of the game’s launch.
The game underwent multiple expansions that added new content and new areas to the game, which came with new monsters and more in-depth PvP. Considering the pedigree of the franchise, it’s not surprising that this game was still getting updates as late as 2015, and remains playable to this day.
6 Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds Brings Eastern Influence To The MMO Space
NEXON launched Nexus: The Kingdom of the Winds in 1996 in Korea, but it wouldn’t be until 1998 that it finally launched in America. The game is a largely 2D, avoiding the 3D being used in newer games and going for a sprite-based experience that allows players to visit three different kingdoms and nine different cities.
Players are able to develop their character in a myriad of ways, from their basic class to sub-classes to their alignment. The game still exists today and is still playable, but it’s a much smaller community than most MMOs— though the community itself is seen as largely tightknit.
5 Underlight Has No NPCs & Demands Players Take Role-Playing Seriously
Underlight was originally released in 1998 from Lyra Studios LLC. Unlike many of the MMOs of this era, it was a first-person title that was essentially a MUD game. It took place within a fantasy world and within a so-called City of Dreams, where everyone appears while they’re asleep.
Within the world, players can enter different planes as they level up, battling against the “Chaos” that’s causing nightmares within the city of dreams. It’s notable for having no NPCs whatsoever, and even the high-level monsters are controlled by other players. It also expects players to adhere to their given roles more strictly than most MMOs. Underlight has been available on Steam since 2018 and is still active.
4 Lineage Is The First MMO Based On A Licensed Property
Lineage was developed and published by NCSoft, originally released in 1998. It was designed by Jake Song, someone who played a major role in the development of Nexus TK. Based off a Korean manhwa, Lineage has been a major franchise for NCSoft for years, having made the company over $9 billion in revenue since it was first introduced.
The game itself was originally about a young prince who recently regained his throne, and a castle siege system that involves collecting taxes and battling monsters to gain money and experience. It’s not often a game boasts about collecting taxes, but when they’re successful as long as Lineage has been, the game can be about whatever it wants.
3 The 4th Coming Assigns Player Stats Based On How They Answer Questions
First beta tested in 1998, the 4th Coming from developer Vircom Interactive is an MMO with action elements to it. Players arrive in the world of Althea, a world which has seen two races before crushed because of a certain harbinger.
The elves and dwarves failed to heed the warnings and because they didn’t listen they were completely wiped out. The humans have now been warned by the harbinger as well, and the players exist in this world as it waits to be judged again. Players take the role of one of these humans, and the game decides how to distribute attribute points based entirely on how the player answers questions they are asked in the beginning of the game. Now known as T4C Next Chapter, the game continues to be available, though it is now in the hands of developer Dialsoft.
2 Terra Is Considered The Oldest MMORPG But Is A Military Combat Game Rather Than Fantasy
Kaon Interactive put this game out in 1996, meaning it far predates most existing MMOs. Interestingly, it’s far outside the typical MMO, as players spend their times in some form of vehicle and battle with military weapons rather than swords and magic.
The first three vehicles were a tank, a scout vehicle, and a howitzer. Later on, they added other vehicle types and eventually allowed players to use different fort defense weapons as well. Though the focus is largely on combat, players are also able to sign up with different clans or form their own once they’ve gained enough experience.
1 Clan Lord Is The First Macintosh-Specific MMO
Clan Lord was developed and published by Delta Tao Software in October 1998. The game is noteworthy for being the first MMO developed solely for Macintosh, which by the late 1990s didn’t have nearly the importance it had in the PC world as it did in the ’80s— or it would in the 2000s.
The player starts out being exiled by Emperor Mobius for unknown crimes, and gets to pick between a number of races and three different classes before they figure out how to survive in this new land that exists outside the Empire.
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