One of the more impressive feats in gaming is World of Warcraft. The MMO that has been running since 2004 is still extremely popular and is receiving updates to this very day. However, while WoW might be the most famous long-running game, there are others that have been running just as long if not longer. Some games were once extremely popular, but have now simply cater to a hardcore crowd that still love it. Others were cult hits that never reached peak popularity but have always been held up by a fanbase that kept it going the entire time. These are the games that many developers today are striving to make and replicate, but with maybe a little more notoriety. Here, we’ll highlight five classic games that are still going strong all these years later.
Arguably the game that started the entire MMO genre. Ultima Online launched in 1997 to incredible success thanks to an extensive player vs. player mode and a lot of roleplaying. This was one of those games where the major fun of it was going off and making your own fun. Very Dungeons and Dragons-esque. It has now evolved into a bit more of a modern MMO experience, but many of the old design choices can still be seen in today’s MMOs. It also is still being updated! It received an expansion in 2020 and has a subreddit of about 6.8K followers. It may be old, but Ultima Online is still beloved to this day and is one of the most impactful games ever.
If Ultima Online was the original MMO then EverQuest was the remix that perfected the genre. The first 3D MMO, EverQuest was also inspired by the Dungeons and Dragons style of giving players freedom of choice. It had huge commercial success and laid the foundation for a lot of what later successful MMOs would use. The fantasy setting, alongside multiple playable classes, and subsequent expansions were incredibly popular. The sequel, EverQuest II, was moderately successful as well but stood no chance against what World of Warcraft was going to become. As a result, many people fell back to their old favorite in the original. It reportedly had 82,000 active players and 66,000 subscribers in 2020. Not bad for a game that came out 1999.
Released in 2003, one year before World of Warcraft, EVE Online has never had quite the level of popularity we’ve seen as some other games at their peak. However, with a reported player count somewhere in the 300K range it’s pretty clear that people are still showing interest in this longtime space-faring MMO. Despite being one of the more challenging MMO’s out there, players and developers have built plenty of safeguards to keep new players from feeling like they can’t join. This has actually helped increase interest in the game and given them some of their highest player count numbers in years. EVE Online is a game that’s hard to learn, but those who do can’t speak enough to how fun it is to play.
Remember Runescape? While World of Warcraft and Guild Wars dominated MMO’s in the early to mid-2000s, Runescape was everyone’s favorite free-to-play option. Runescape itself isn’t the most in-depth game. Go do simple tasks and make your numbers get bigger. Complete some quests. The player vs. player combat is extremely simple, but there’s something relaxing to all of it and there was some extra content for anyone that would pay for the members’ subscription. Of course, as games became more complex Runescape tried to follow along, but many of the original players had already left by that point. Eventually, developers, Jagex did something interesting. They split the game. Anyone that wanted to play the new modern Runescape could do that and anyone that wanted to play the game they grew up with could play Old School Runescape. Both are fully supported, but bigger updates to Old School Runescape can only be made when fans approve of it. While Runescape is nowhere near its peak popularity there is still a hardcore player base keeping it going all these years later.
Phantasy Star Online 2
This one is kind of cheating, because Phantasy Star Online 2 technically released in the United States back in 2020, but the original game released in Japan back in 2012. Fans of the first Phantasy Star spent years waiting for an official release to the United States, or Europe, before giving up and going through alternate means to play the game. The dedication the community had to Phantasy Star was finally rewarded with a western release and a major update in June of 2021 called Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis.
Team Fortress 2
The original popular team based shooter, Team Fortress 2 was the king of that genre before Overwatch. Quirky and weird characters with stronger teams winning more often than not. It was basically the formula that Overwatch copied. First released in 2007, it has seen a decent amount of support from Valve but only on PC. The console releases have seen no support. That said, everyone who plays TF2 is playing it on PC anyway and despite Overwatch existing that hasn’t killed the game. In fact, it’s arguably more popular than it’s even been before with a recent broken record. With over 150,000 concurrent players that’s an all-time record for the almost fifteen year old game.