Though you might be inclined to think of most online games as a place to spend your free time alone or with a few friends, you should never underestimate what a powerful tool they can be for bringing families together. Some of my favorite memories as a kid are of my family huddled around the NES playing Super Mario Bros 3.
By design, most MMORPGs fully support playing as a group, and while your first instinct might be to spend the evening in front of the television as a family, you'd be far better off having some fun together in a virtual world. Finding that perfect game, however, might take some time. Depending on the age and gaming experience of your family, some of the more hardcore games on the market might not fit quite right. That's why I've rounded up five great suggestions that will appeal to your family whether they're six or sixty and whatever their experience with online games may be. Here's five family friendly MMORPGs.
If you already have a child who is old enough to use a computer, I wouldn't be surprised if you're already well acquainted with Minecraft. In just a few years, Minecraft went from a tiny project built into a web browser into one of the biggest gaming sensations since Mario—and with good reason. Minecraft is vast and almost entirely limitless in its portrayal of a cute, blocky world—even if it isn't technically a family friendly MMORPG.
Trying to describe Minecraft at this point feels a bit futile, if only because the game is so flexible it can really become whatever you like. Arguably the best way to play it, however, would be to figure out how to set up your own family server (or joining another one) and carving out your own little slice of paradise together.
Whether you want to play Minecraft as intended in the story mode, where you'll have to survive each night against hordes of monsters, or just jump into the game and use it as a virtual lego set to build amazing constructions together, Minecraft has it all.
If you're feeling brave, you'll absolutely want to venture into the wide world of Minecraft mods, which can shape the game to fit just about any conceivable mould. There's hardcore player versus player mods if you want a fun survival experience, or even a Harvest Moon mod if you want to share farm duties with the rest of your family.
However you decide to play, there's no denying that Minecraft is pretty much the defacto game for children. It's a limitless sandbox of imagination and potential, and it would be a crime to wave it away without trying it first. The good news is that, whatever age or experience your family may be, Minecraft is the perfect kind of game anyone can enjoy.
World of Warcraft
It might seem strange to recommend the big daddy of MMORPGs, but just because many think of World of Warcraft in terms of endgame raiding and grinding, the truth is there is now a staggering amount of content to get through if you're willing to take your time.
If your family numbers between two and five, World of Warcraft would be a fantastic (albeit a little expensive) way to spend weekends and evenings. As of right now, the amount of content would take months to get through at a relaxed pace. And better yet, you'll be free to see and explore the world of Azeroth together without all that much interruption from the players who are already max level.
World of Warcraft can certainly be on the intimidating side at times. There's elements to it that can be confusing for new players, but the good news is that the whole experience is so polished that even learning how to play is a painless task.
Understandably, if you have younger kids you might want to look elsewhere. World of Warcraft can certainly be a fantastic game for older children, but you'll want to keep a close eye on who they're interacting with in the game. Though Blizzard takes a strong stance against harassment, World of Warcraft probably isn't the game you'd let a seven year old play unsupervised for hours at a time.
Still, if you do decide to play as a family, you won't be able to do much better than World of Warcraft. The game is a ton of fun to play no matter what level you are, and exploring the wide reaches of Azeroth sounds like the perfect way to spend a weekend with those you love.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
In many ways, Star Wars: The Old Republic is exactly like World of Warcraft. No, seriously, they're pretty much the same game. But one thing The Old Republic absolutely excels at is delivering an incredible story.
With Star Wars back in theaters, there's a high level of Jedi-mania going around, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear your kids are feeling it too. That's what makes The Old Republic the perfect kind of game to play with all the Star Wars fans in your family.
Styled somewhat like the popular cartoon, The Old Republic offers you a choice between nine different story arcs you can play through. Each one of them weaves an incredible tale in the Star Wars universe that is different than the others. Whether you're playing as a Jedi Knight or as an Imperial Agent, there's hundreds of hours of excellent story to see together.
It's quite easy to group up and partake in each other's story, which makes the game even more interesting since you can knock out a few of the class stories all at once. Even better, since the game is free to play, you won't have to worry about paying a pesky subscription fee for everyone in the family.
If The Old Republic has one thing working against it in this regard, it's that, despite the cartoonish aesthetic, it's certainly not a game for younger children. Some of the story content can get pretty dark, and the Imperial Agent is basically space Bond flying through the galaxy and having lots of sex with people, so there's that too. But if you have some older kids in your family who are keen on Star Wars, The Old Republic is probably the right game for you.
Marvel Heroes 2015
You know what's cool? Super heroes. They're so cool that even if you don't have a family you should probably play some Marvel Heroes 2015. And if you do have a family, all the better.
Marvel Heroes is an action RPG somewhat similar to the Diablo series of games. Either alone or in a group, you'll run through dungeons casting powerful abilities and devastating the forces of your enemies. They're very fast, incredibly fun, and really really hard to turn off when you should be in bed.
Marvel Heroes 2015 takes that formula and applies it to the world of super heroes, allowing you to take up the mantle of your favorite heroes from Marvel (yes, even Squirrel Girl) and fight the forces of villainy. Playing as a family is really easy and within minutes you can all be off on an adventure together fighting mutants in the streets of Manhattan or aliens in a jungle.
As a free to play game, Marvel Heroes 2015 is rather free of any major fuss. Little will get in your way if you just want to sit down with the kids and click things until they explode. Just don't be surprised if you're the one wanting to stay up late when it's time for bed.
No list about family friendly MMORPGs would be complete without Wizard101. It is the defacto standard of kid-friendly MMOs, and with good reason. But here's the secret, Wizard101 can be a lot of fun even if you aren't a kid.
Where most MMOs are targeted for adults but lend themselves well to being played by children, like the ones mentioned above, Wizard101 is a game built from the ground up to be friendly and fun for kids of all ages. And it has just enough complexity to make it a great way to spend an evening as an adult too.
Borrowing somewhat from Harry Potter, Wizard101 is an MMO where you create a wizard student and travel through lush and fantastical worlds on your journey. The combat is quite different from most MMOs in that it is turned-based instead of active, meaning bad things won't happen if you need to step away from the computer for a second. This is fantastic for a variety of reasons, but for kids it can be especially helpful if they're just not all that great at memorizing complex skill routines.
If you're looking for that ultimate MMO to play with young kids, this is it. There's a ton of features for adults to help control their child's experience in the game, including options to limit what kind of chats they can join in on and how much interaction they can have with other players. It's the kind of game that even if you're not actively playing with your child, you can probably rest easier knowing that you have a good measure of control even if you aren't hovering over their shoulder.
Playing games as a family is one of the greatest pastimes ever conceived, but there's no reason it has to go away just because Netflix is such a lucrative way to spend all your free time. If board games are too old fashioned, then see about convincing your family to give one of the above games a spin. I swear at least half of them will enjoy it (you were never going to win over the other half anyway. That's just how families work).
If you have some of your own suggestions for family friendly MMOs, we want to hear them! Let us know in the comments!