Realism has always been a positive attribute for a video game. Some more popular video games have had a grounded and realistic take in either story or gameplay.
Games like Red Dead Redemption, Death Stranding 2 or Death Stranding might have had an unrealistic or far-fetched story but stay realistic, at least in gameplay.
I think ever since the release of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare back in the day, gamers have preferred realistic video games.
Although an utterly realistic video game is hardly the way to go since no one would really like to play a game as mundane as day-to-day life, so of course, certain artistic liberties are not only expected but necessary to keep a game engaging and fun.
For this list, I have compiled several realistic MMORPG and MMO titles that hopefully will have what you’re looking for.
1. EVE Online
Eve Online is an MMORPG developed by CCP Games and released in 2003. While on the surface, the game seems far from realistic, with a futuristic space colony-esque setting, the game is very grounded when it comes to levelling the player character and the way PvP is implemented in the game.
The game, unlike most MMORPGs, is not hosted on different servers for different worlds but instead opts for a single persistent world, making the player-driven economy even more organic.
Furthermore, all levelling of player traits is handled uniquely; firstly, players must assign which passive skills they’d like to upgrade. Very much like in real life, players must make a conscious decision on what they’d like to develop.
Secondly, the levelling up occurs in real-time and doesn’t require players to repeat a tedious process to get better at mindlessly.
The game also punishes players that attack for no reason—attacking players in certain areas results in law enforcement spawning and taking out the aggressor.
Yes, while the game is about space travel and zero gravity dog fights, I still think some of its elements warrant this long-standing MMORPGs mention.
Mabinogi is a Korean MMORPG developed by Nexon and released in 2004. Since its release, the game has received content updates, and its rather unique hand-drawn style graphics never get old.
It is essentially a second life experience for players. While the game features a complex and satisfying combat system, it also has many activities like farming, mining, crafting weapons, and composing your music.
In addition, the game has a healthy mix of social activities and an adventurous experience, accepting quests and fighting monsters.
There are plenty of skills to level up and activities to take part in. Mabinogi is perhaps one of the most realistic takes on the MMORPG genre.
Although, of course, because of the general demographic of free-to-play MMORPG players, it would be counter-intuitive to release a high-spec graphically intensive game, Mabinogi is as close as it gets.
3. Mortal Online
Mortal Online is a first-person MMORPG developed by Star Vault and released in 2010.
While it features a fantasy setting and the character progression is more akin to a standard RPG than the previous two titles, Mortal Online possesses a very unforgiving combat and loot system.
Unlike other MMORPGs, in Mortal Online, it’s perfectly possible to grind days on end for a lucrative item only for it to be looted by someone who defeated you in PvP.
So not only do dead players drop all their loot, but other players can also come and collect it, regardless if they were the ones to kill you, i.e. the items you gained from hard work can be lost at any time.
The game is also graphically better than other MMORPGs, thanks to Unreal Engine 3. While it hasn’t received as many content updates as one would have hoped, it’s still plenty, especially with the tidy combat mechanics.
4. New World
New World is one of the newer MMORPGs developed by Amazon Games and released in 2021; it features a beautiful looking world and a seventeenth-century setting with players working to colonize a fictional land.
The game offers stunning graphics (as expected from a Cryengine game) and a combat-loop as polished as a AAA single-player game.
New World doesn’t employ auto-locking or tab targeting systems that are so popular in the MMORPG genre; instead, players must get skilled with the controls.
It certainly is a more mechanically demanding MMORPG than others and requires players to learn the ins and outs of combat before reaching higher-level areas or participating in PvP.
5. Gloria Victis
Gloria Victis is a third-person MMORPG developed by Black Eye Games and released to early access in 2016.
The game advertises itself as an MMORPG that blends the combat of Mount & Blade with the sheer size of Planetside 2. While it’s not as big as Planetside 2, their claims about the combat aren’t wrong.
Like New World, Gloria Victis doesn’t much for auto-locking combat and instead requires players to get better at fighting.
So, for example, it doesn’t matter how much damage your sword can do if you can’t swing it right. This type of combat is honestly more pleasing because it’s more realistic and requires players to get better at the game.
The game is essentially PvP as players fight to keep control of their territory in an open world that feels real and lived in.
However, there’s much more to do than fighting other players with PvE events that allow all players to work side by side for some sweet, sweet loot.
Hopefully, by the time the Gloria Victis is released, it will have gained enough players to truly flesh out this exciting game.
6. Life is Feudal
Life is Feudal is a medieval sandbox MMORPG developed by Bitbox and released in 2015.
Unfortunately, the game failed to make enough money, and the developers shut the servers down three years after release.
However, the game is still available and can be played on private servers, which provide different experiences depending on the rules.
LiF features a grindy, hardcore gameplay with a steep learning curve, but if you stick around for more than a couple of hours, everything makes sense.
In addition, the game features a seasonal weather system along with a complex cooking mechanic. Even in combat, the game features a realistic damage system that inflicts bruises and fractures depending on where the players’ hit.
The game offers many options and choices when it comes to making a character and customization, and the hardcore aspect of it makes it more grounded than other MMORPGs.
While the game is hosted by the community now, future updates will be scarce or non-existent, so bear that in mind if you decide to buy the game.
7. Second Life
Second life is an MMO developed by Linden Lab and released in 2003. While it won’t exactly be correct to label it an MMORPG, I believe it fits in for the intent of the article.
However, the game has no quests or objectives for players to accomplish. Instead, it’s just a way to meet people online.
Basically, it’s Mabinogi without the combat/adventure aspects; instead, it’s just riddled with social activities to boot.
It’s an acquired taste, as I understand it, one that I have yet to develop.
8. GTA V – RP servers
Speaking of games that are hardly MMORPGs, GTA V has a ton of roleplaying servers across the globe, and while again it’s not an MMORPG per se, but it’s a very realistic take on the MMO genre.
In my experience, GTA V’s RP servers are perhaps the most realistic modern-world experiences in a video game.
For the uninitiated, GTA V RP is a mod hosted by communities on private servers in which players can join and begin roleplaying as everyday citizens of Los Santos.
Of course, the depth and strictness of the roleplaying depend on the server and the community hosting it but rest assured, the experience is better than Rockstar’s GTA Online and the constant shoving of shark cards down players’ throats.
Like I said before, many games strive to be more realistic to be more liked by gamers.
It is especially tough to make a game real without losing a player’s interest, as that requires some action (be it an alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse).
I have compiled a list of games that are either realistic in some aspects of gameplay or advertise themselves as realistic video games.
However, I’ll repeat it, if you’re looking for a completely natural experience in an MMORPG, I suggest looking into games like Second Life, but that’s not my cup of tea, and, likely, you won’t enjoy it either.