MMOs on the List of Most Important PC Games

Earlier this week, over at PC Gamer, which I think still actually has a print magazine version, publishes a list of what they felt were The 50 most important PC games of all time.


And, if you know me, you know I love a good list like that.  Those are discussion starters without equal, and I bring them up pretty much whenever I find them.  I’ve even written about a PC Gamer list in the past, when they were writing about the 100 Greatest Games of All Time, (they do that article every year, here is the 2015 version) that being a distinct and separate category from the 50 most important.

The most important games are the ones we could not imagine not having existed in the genre, that inspired people, or that changed the market.

Wisely, PC Gamer decided to not stack rank the lot of them, choosing to list them out chronologically, kicking off with Space War! from 1962, the first thing that actually looks like what we think of when we say “video game.” (I even wrote a bit about Space War! at one point.)

Of course, this being me, I went storming into the article shouting, “Where are the MMOs?  Show me that online massively multiplayer goodness!”

And I was not disappointed.  MMO titles that made the cut were:

  • Ultima Online 1997
  • EverQuest 1999
  • EVE Online 2003
  • Second Life 2003
  • World of Warcraft 2004

Yes, I am admitting Second Life to the fraternity of MMOs I recognize, and not just to pad the list.  It was a thing in its day, even if Massively totally over-covered it for a bit.  I have even played it a few times.

So that is five MMOs on the list… by which I mean persistent world online games in the mold we all know and grudgingly tolerate while complaining about incessantly… or 10% of the list.  Not bad for a genre.

I suppose it says something the “important MMO” era is pretty much 1997-2004.  Has everything after that been simply refinements and derivatives of what has gone before?

Of course, limiting themselves to 50 games meant that anybody is going to find omissions that they feel are important.  Even the editors had to make an Honorable Mentions list because there was no doubt a large number of titles that were so close.

On the MMO front, I am a little disappointed that MUD1 or anything from the 1980s online era was neglected.  Maybe MegaWars III wasn’t that influential, but what about Air WarriorBut the list does feel a little heavy on the more recent end of things, probably a result of the relative youth of some of the contributors and the general feeling we tend to have that nothing is more important than right now.

Still, there are some good games whose presence on the list surprised me, like Starsiege: TribesFor a fleeting moment of time that was the best online shooter ever.  I played the hell out of that

Ultima IV is on the list, which is interesting because I think you have to have at least ONE Lord British game on the list, but which one?  I suppose Ultima IV was a turning point in the series, but I was always a big fan of Ultima III.  I’m shallow like that.  Also, I had that Ultima III editor, so made my own version of the game.

I find it somewhat odd that DotA is on the list by itself as opposed to being paired up with Warcraft III, since then you could have gotten in a side mention about how much Warcraft III influenced WoW.  Ah well.

And, of course, a lot of the list includes the games you would expect… probably demand… should be included; Wizardry, Pinball Construction Set, Civilization, League of Legends, Quake, Tomb Raider, Diablo, Half-Life, SimCity, The Sims, Minecraft, they are all there.

Yes, of course Doom is on the list...

Yes, of course Doom is on the list…

But I still look back at that list of five MMOs and wonder, is that the legacy of the genre?

6 thoughts on “MMOs on the List of Most Important PC Games

  1. Fenjay

    I think MMOs are a different enough beast that it’s hard to compare them to the more traditional games there in a numeric way. On the non-MMO side there are quite a few sophomore (or later) efforts on the list, and with an MMO you don’t get a sophomore effort. At best you can iterate within the original game’s mechanics, but I don’t think you get as big a difference as say Quake 2 and Quake 3, let alone something like Ultima IV and Ultima Underworld.

    The closest analog in the MMO space would be treating WoW Vanilla > Wrath as a different game from Cataclysm > current, as arguably lots of mechanics as well as content changed. Similar arguments with other games could be made as huge systems are changed (Eve sovereignty, for example, now on version 3).


  2. zaphod6502

    I think out of the list of MMO’s World of Warcraft holds the most importance. It was the first MMO to move the genre into the hands of the general game playing public. It also introduced many people to computer games who would otherwise have not even considered it. To this day I still know friends who continue to play WoW and it remains the only computer game they have ever played. I don’t think EVE Online has had quite the impact that WoW had and to this day still remains a niche product that most people will only try once and never again. Even so as a complex space multiplayer RTS game it has no competition and I expect it will still be around for the next 10 years for these types of lists.

    For me personally WoW ranks quite high as it was my first MMO. Before WoW I would never have considered a monthly sub game where I actually pay real money to play each month. I never considered playing Everquest or Ultima Online and I did not start my sporadic EVE Online career until 2006.

    Before that I was mostly an FPS, CRPG, and hardcore flight simulation guy. In my early years of gaming the release of Ultima IV was a groundbreaking event for me and far surpassed any game I had played before that title in terms of world building and game mechanics and was my entry point into the world of deep CRPG’s.

    This also lead to the SSI Gold Box series eg. Pools of Radiance which was also a turning point for the CRPG genre. At that time computerizing the AD&D system was a big event in the history of CRPG’s.


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