Virtual reality: best MMOs and online games

Tired of gaming alone? It might be a good idea to quit playing by yourself and start getting into massively multiplayer online games (MMOs), those epic cousins to stereotypical multiplayer modes which up the ante by allowing thousands of players to interact and/or inhabit the same world at any given time. Available in all shapes and sizes — first-person shooters, real-time strategy titles, massive open online battle arenas, etc. — and capable of supporting a thriving network of guilds, factions, and even real-world economies, these titles present an astounding selection. Continuing to skyrocket in interest and expand in variety year after year, all the while continuing also to drop in admission price courtesy of the increasing dominance of free-to-play models, the MMO universe is growing by leaps and bounds as we speak. If you haven't yet given these epic experiences a try, or if you took a break a little ways back, following you'll find a number of promising reasons to give virtual reality, new and old alike, a second look — and to give yourself a great excuse as well for reconnecting with fellow gaming enthusiasts worldwide.

Note: If you're planning on jumping into the massively multiplayer online fray, you'll definitely want to keep the ROG Spatha mouse on your radar as well. Specifically designed to give serious players an edge in their favorite MMOs, it's got a super high-precision laser sensor, durable design (think a 20-million click lifespan), and a dozen macro buttons that you can custom-program to auto-unleash hell on your opponents. It's also ultra light on input lag for super-fast reaction times, and maps cleanly to movements, so every reaction is accounted for and tracked — making sure any shots or sword swipes hit home with a quickness second to none. It's also got fully customizable LEDs that you can pimp out in any shade of color, show off RBG lighting with roughly 16.8 million choices to choose from when your team throws up the victory signal. Not a bad way to express yourself as you roll out into battle, or vie for galactic domination.

World of Tanks (Wargaming)

Two things come to mind when we consider the explosive military combat simulation World of Tanks and its popularity. First: who would have ever guessed that what's technically an action-packed wargame featuring steel titans lobbing armor-piercing shells at one another would prove to be one of the most defining and bestselling online outings of all time, to the tune of over 60 million registered users? And two: if you're not playing, what planet have you been living on? — virtually everyone and their mother has jumped on the bandwagon already. Launched in 2010 as a little online game from a Belarusian developer hoping to cater to the Eastern European market, it has grown into a rolling behemoth where players can blow the living crap out of one other on a massive scale using armored vehicles of all kinds, not just tanks, from the first half of the 20th century. Perhaps something of the game's success is tied to its freemium nature, with the title being a free-to-play offering that anyone can jump right into, while those wishing to gain an advantage over rivals have the option to purchase premium upgrades for real money. A longtime favorite with online gaming fans, five minutes behind the barrel of a rolling war machine should be enough to convince you why it's on this list — and why millions can't seem to stop playing.

Destiny (Bungie/Activision)

Is there life after Halo? For world-renowned game developer Bungie, the answer is clearly yes, as evidenced in Destiny, an online-only sci-fi first-person shooter that offers a mature take on blistering run-and-gun combat as players strive to obliterate opponents using a variety of futuristic armaments. Set against the backdrop of what can only be described as a "mythic science fiction" world, where humankind is fighting for its very survival, the title has inspired legions of fans to queue up to enjoy its player-vs-player and player-vs-environment encounters, which are further supported by the ongoing release of downloadable content expansions. Skillfully blending a shared-world environment and frantic close-quarters gunplay with RPG elements, Destiny enables players to take part in strikes, raids, and furious duels to the death as they fight for survival — and the chance to make buddies choke on rifles, rocket launchers, machine guns, and more.


EVE Online (CCP Games)

Dig the idea of taking to the skies in a customizable starship and exploring a huge cosmos filled with colorful adventures and events? Then you'll feel right at home in this all-time classic, which lets you engage in thrilling aerial duels and commit acts of space-age piracy. First launched in 2003, yet still a fan favorite, the epic player-driven, persistent-world MMORPG boasts more than 500,000 subscribers, offering a vast galaxy of star systems to explore that are well populated by fellow adventurers — any of whom can affect the overall play experience. What's more, in addition to letting you sail the unfriendly skies, EVE Onlineoffers a number of in-game professions to enjoy: you can mine for goods, engage in manufacturing, launch into trading, or become a smuggler of sorts, with a variety of factors simulated and accounted for, giving the title the feel of a living, breathing futuristic universe. Be sure to give it a try if you're looking for a slightly more social or cerebral online gaming experience. The title offers a surprisingly deep and engaging alternative to the typical stat-crunching dungeon crawler.


The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited (Bethesda Softworks)

While many older MMOs continue to go strong and dominate sales charts, The Elder Scrolls Online, which ranks among the newer entrants on this list, is rapidly rising to assume its place as one of the genre's most commanding all-stars. Taking the famed fantasy role-playing series' signature highlights — think enormous/wildly atmospheric environments to explore, meticulously detailed characters and backdrops, and endless replayability — and translating them into an internet-ready format, it's a natural extension of the franchise that promises to eat up hours on end in any given play session. Featuring numerous races, several player classes (including the ability be a vampire or werewolf), and a huge range of weapons, spells, and equipment to acquire, the game takes a decidedly action-focused approach to combat and adventuring. Feel like letting your inner berserker loose? Then don't overlook it: between nonlinear gameplay with quests and random events, and the ability to explore a vast open world, The Elder Scrolls Online effectively aims to make sword-and-sorcery thrills both accessible and infinitely entertaining to players of all skill levels.


Marvel Heroes 2015 (Gazillion)

Love spandex, but can't find a local convention that's brave enough to let you actually waltz around in a cape and tights? You can work off your superhero envy in this comic-themed online game that offers free-to-play action-RPG thrills starring over a hundred characters from the Marvel Universe, from favorites like Spider Man and Iron Man to all sorts of obscure contemporaries, over half of which are currently playable. While battling the forces of evil, you'll also gain the ability to increase your powers over time, adding new abilities and superhuman stunts that you can wield against opponents... ample reason for returning to this world time and time again. Be sure to take this one for a spin if you're interested in playing alongside many of history's most famed do-gooders — or if you're simply looking for a more contemporary take either on saving the day or on smashing in rivals' helmets with a hyper-powered steel gauntlet.


Tom Clancy's The Division (Ubisoft)

A tactical sandbox shooter experience set in an open-ended online world, the latest in the popular, long-running series of covert ops–themed Tom Clancy titles combines elements of third-person blasters with an RPG-style experience that puts the emphasis on survival. Following the outbreak of a pandemic in New York City, players must take to the streets and restore stability and order as they investigate the virus's origins, dodge occasional bursts of machine gun fire, and carry the fight to opponents using guns, bombs, mines, and more. Part war zone, part interactive late-night action film, The Division presents a slightly more tactical approach to firing and forgetting than you'd typically see, as players level up weapons and inventory items, gain in abilities and experience, and spar with opponents in tense standoffs. Designed to capture the attention of anyone who enjoys modern military thrillers, it adds a touch of strategy to the standard run-n-gun formula which should strike a chord with anyone looking for an antidote to stereotypical mindless mouse-clicking battles.


World of Warcraft (Blizzard Entertainment)

What can anyone say about the fantasy role-playing juggernaut — a landmark in the field of online adventuring and optional team-based play — that hasn't been said already? Besides, the game (which lets you casually stroll through sprawling dungeons and castles, wielding blade or spell against hordes of opponents and fiendish monsters, collecting phat loot all along the way) doesn't need anyone to speak for it… Few MMOs apart from this one could lose three million subscribers in recent years and still boast a larger population than many real-world countries. To put things in perspective: as of June of last year, there were still some 5.6 million subscribers, and the game had grossed more than $10 billion by the middle of 2012, making it the highest-grossing video game ever. With over 100 million in-game accounts created and a sixth expansion — World of Warcraft: Legion — due out shortly, the WOW juggernaut shows no signs of stopping, and we couldn't be more overjoyed to hear it.


Star Wars: The Old Republic (Electronic Arts)

Playing as a brave Jedi or a toxic Sith, you can travel the galaxy either fighting for justice or attempting to bend others to your will in this epic MMO set thousands of years before the popular films that entire generations of moviegoers know so well. Featuring a sprawling narrative crafted by master role-playing game developers BioWare, the game — which has continued to grow and expand over the years as new content is added — allows you to take up light saber or blaster and mow down enemies and aliens of every variety as you battle for galactic dominance. Just a few sample activities you can engage in during any given jaunt: smuggling, shootouts, space combat, fencing, and player-vs-player encounters. As notable for its engaging backdrop, slick storyline, and steady stream of new expansions as it is for the actual gameplay, it's the type of title you can keep coming back to and falling in love with over and over again, especially if you're the kind who likes a little atmosphere with your action-packed melees or white-knuckle showdowns in smoky cantinas.


Honorable Mentions:


By Scott Steinberg

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