The best MMOs

The best PvP MMOs 

Questing and raiding are fun, but there's nothing quite like defeating another player in a contest of pure skill. PvP in MMOs is a time-honored tradition that remains a pursuit for those with the iron will to master the mechanics of a game. These MMOs honor that devotion by employing awesome combat systems that go above and beyond the basics, offering competitive-minded players a rewarding place to test their mettle. Whether you're planning sieges on enemy fortifications or looking to spar in a one-on-one duel, these MMOs will satisfy that bloodlust. RIP, Warhammer Online.

Guild Wars 2 

Release Date: August 28. 2012
Developer: ArenaNet
Payment Model: Buy-to-play with DLC

When it comes to player-versus-player combat, few MMOs can ever aspire to do it better than Guild Wars 2. For those wanting a more traditional experience, structured PvP lets you fight in team deathmatch and objective-based modes in that focus on skill and coordination. And then there's the world versus world mode, where different servers come together to wage war across sprawling maps with hundreds of players at once. Participating in sieges and large-scale battles is the kind of fantastical fulfillment you dreamed of as a kid, and you won't need to grind for a hundred hours before you can participate either.

The heart of what makes Guild Wars 2 fun to play is all in its action combat, which emphasizes dodging and movement instead of memorizing complex skill rotations. You'll weave in and out of range of your opponents while unleashing flashy abilities—of which there are many to choose from. Each class is quite flexible in how you want to play, giving theorycrafters enough material to chisel away at their perfect build. With the launch of the new expansion, Path of Fire, there's no denying that PvP took a hit from various balancing problems, but ArenaNet is already making adjustments that will hopefully continue to keep Guild Wars 2 at the top of the dogpile.

Planetside 2 

Release Date: November 20, 2012
Developer: Daybreak Game Company
Payment Model: Free-to-play

That Planetside 2 is the only game on this list that involves shooting is telling of what a unique premise it is. It's also the only one where the entire focus is around killing other players and prizing territory from their cold, dead hands. War in Planetside 2 is an unending struggle between three nations each seeking to control four distinct continents. If you're not keen on all the distractions of your average MMO, Planetside 2's purity of war is refreshing. You'll spend an evening conquering a whole planet and log in the next day to find you're now on the defensive. And as the cycle repeats anew, small but memorable moments begin to form in your mind; personal Alamos where you held the line against an overwhelming invasion, or the thrill of flanking and devastating an enemy force.

Moments like these are frequent in Planetside 2, and you'll soon have dozens of personalized stories as you spend each day in the purgatory of constant war. While recent updates introduced the ability to build bases, which have had a dramatic shift on where battles are fought and how they unfold while adding a new sense of attachment to your hard-won progress, Planetside 2 is definitely beginning to stagnate and lose its players. It's still a great MMOFPS, but its golden years are likely in the past.

The Elder Scrolls Online 

Release Date: April 4, 2014
Developer: Zenimax Online Studios
Payment Model: Buy-to-play with DLC

It took The Elder Scrolls Online over a year to finally find its legs, but now that it has it's quickly become one of the best MMOs on the market. That's in part thanks to the awesome PvP system: the three factions battle to control the continent of Cyrodiil and the fabled Elder Scrolls. It's hard to grasp the sensation of watching hundreds of players storm through the broken gap of a castle wall while flaming boulders crash down from overhead, but The Elder Scrolls Online's PvP leads to these kind of epic moments frequently.

PvP in The Elder Scrolls Online is so fun and engaging because Cyrodiil is more than just a catalyst for endless back-and-forth warfare. The continent has quests and dungeons to complete, which become even more intense with the always looming threat that an army could come marching over the next horizon. At the center is the Imperial City, where PvP and PvE content is mashed together into a frenzy with its own objectives and rewards to pursue. In the end, The Elder Scrolls Online's take on PvP is just as original as it is fun, and its objective-based focus will certainly be the inspiration for MMOs decades from now.