Smartphones and MMOs? It checks out

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: August 11, 2013

I am a huge nerd. Seriously though, besides being a huge fan of mobile technology, I'm also a pretty avid gamer. Now, I've never been into the first-person shooter games like HALO, Call of Duty, Modern Warfare or any of those types of games, but I am a sucker for fantasy and sci-fi games. I will push your mama down to slay a dragon when I'm having a bad day, and I don't care if I die a thousand times before I finally kill it. That dragon is going down tonight.

But the responsibilities of being an adult and a parent ultimately limits the amount of time that I was once able to sink into any kind game be it console, PC or whatever. It really doesn't happen much anymore. But sometimes, during the time between when my son goes to bed and the time that I go to bed (helloooo, insomnia) can seem like an everlasting stretch of time if I have nothing else to do. I was tired of watching TV for my down time, but being a single parent there isn't a whole lot I can do outside the home after hours that's legal. So my interest in gaming was reignited.

I grew up playing MMORPGs, which stands for Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. As a kid, I played them mostly for the story and the social interaction. As I got older, I played them so I could show other players what a boss I was (or thought I was, but really wasn't). Either way, playing MMORPGs gave me both the ability to play a game and also interact with other people. It wasn't a substitute for socializing in real life, but it was still a lot of fun for what it was worth. As a parent with a suffocating social night life, it would almost seem like MMORPGs would be an ideal way to get some social interaction in my life again, even if it was just to tell somebody to prepare for the inferno that is my sword to tear through their health like a shark's teeth cutting through spaghetti (see: "Eat my dust, noob!").

I purchased my computers for work and web browsing, not for gaming, so finding a relatively new game that works on my PC just wasn't going to happen. However, gaming was really starting to take off on both iOS and Android. I figured that it couldn't hurt to try searching the App Store for any sign of a playable MMO. Although I wasn't expecting much, I was pleasantly surprised at the games that I found. Games that might actually be considered graphically intense on my computer could play extremely well on my phone.

Now, I will say that although that most games I've played are pretty pleasing graphics and story-wise, the social aspect in these games are very limited. There's only so fast that you can pull up a keyboard and type sometimes, so really I use the MMO bit here for minor communications ("Ty", "Yw", "Heal plz", "I'm dying", "I died", "I quit", "K back") but I still find it fun to play as a team and know that I'm playing with real people to attain a goal. Regardless of this limited aspect, I've still found quite a few MMORPGs that are quite entertaining and great for the on-the-go gamer or those who don't have as much time to sink into a game that requires you to stay kaput. Here are some of the better ones that I've come across:

Order & Chaos Online (iOS, Android, Windows Phone) - $6.99

This undeniably WoW-like mobile MMO by Gameloft is the first mobile MMOs I tried, and has proven to be one of my favorites. Although the game can come at a hefty price for some ($6.99 for the game) plus a $0.99 membership fee every month, the game costs considerably less than most pay-to-play PC MMORPGs and has what I have found to be an engaging and easy-to-follow storyline. This 3D game has questing, dungeons, player vs. player, different races and classes, and just about anything else you could think of when you think "MMO". People who enjoyed games like World of Warcraft will also likely find this game to be enjoyable, especially with the convenience of it being pocket-friendly.

Pocket Legends (iOS & Android) - Free

Pocket Legends, although a little more cartoon-y, is still a great mobile fantasy MMORPG game. Although the game isn't necessarily as in-depth as I found Order & Chaos to be, some people might find that a mobile MMO is more enjoyable this way. After all, the platforms are smaller. This 3D game features three classes, dungeons, spell-casting and a lot of content to explore. If fantasy isn't your thing, Spacetime Studios has also created Star Legends for the sci-fi buff and Dark Legends for those who are into the vampire scene. You could also check out Spacetime's newest title, Arcane Legends, for a more in-depth and updated experience both in interface and in graphics.

TibiaME (iOS & Android) - Free

TibiaME offers a slightly retro experience for an MMO, and differs itself from the previous two MMOs by being a 2D MMORPG. I'm not going to lie, the two things that attracted me to this game was the fact that it looked similar to an SNES (or Nintendo DS) game and it just looked so darn cute. It took a little while to get used to the interface, and I was a little disappointed that you could only choose between two classes (Warrior and Wizard) it was still a fun little game to play. TibiaME would be my first recommendation for anybody who is more interested in a 2D MMORPG.

Heroes of Order & Chaos (iOS & Android) - Free

Not everybody is into the WoW-based gameplay that many MMOs offer, but fortunately the makers of Order & Chaos Online, arguably the most WoW-like mobile MMO of them all, also made a pretty convincing mobile multiplayer online battle arena (also known as MOBA) game that can compare to popular games like League of Legends (LoL) or Defense of the Ancients (DotA). This game is very team-based, as the only way to progress is to compete in battles with your team to get coins to purchase new armor and level up. If you're really into the whole teamwork thing, Heroes of Order & Chaos might be your cup of tea.

The Infinite Black (iOS & Android) - Free

For people who enjoyed space exploration games like EvE Online, you might be interested in what The Infinite Black from Whalesong has to offer. Although the game doesn't necessarily offer a definite storyline, that's part of the fun aspects of the game. You start out on a basic ship, and throughout your exploration of the game you can upgrade your ship to get better. To gain credits to upgrade your ship parts you travel through sectors and kill NPCs or other players, so this game is good for both player vs. environment and player vs. player. The game is still relatively new, so bugs and glitches aren't uncommon. However, for a similar experience to EvE Online, The Infinite Black is definitely a title worth checking out.

There are plenty of MMORPGs already on the market, mostly for iOS and Android (with the market just now starting up for Windows Phone), with more popping up all the time. Through my experiences so far I think that MMORPGs definitely have a place in the mobile industry, even if it's considerably limited compared to its PC or console counterparts. But especially for gamers on-the-go or people who don't have as much time to sit down and spend hours on a traditional MMO, mobile MMORPGs can make decent replacements and definitely have a place in the app store.

Images via Whalesong, Gameloft, Spacetime, CipSoft, Google