Wanderlust hits even the most content MMO adventurer from time to time, and while there are worlds a-plenty to visit, sometimes it is easy to feel that one has “seen it all.” When those times arise and you’re feeling a little bit stale with current offerings, there’s always a different type of massively multiplayer title you could explore — one that was here long before graphics became the norm.
That’s right, I’m talking about text-based MMOs, or multi-user dungeons (MUDs)! And while you might think that they’d be extinct in the modern age, the truth is that there are plenty that are alive and kicking as players discover the joys of imagination and sprawling worlds. Today, I want to recommend 25 MUDs that could get you started on an alternate gaming career.
One of the cool things about MUDs is that they tend to fly deep below the radar of any IP lawyers, which means that you tend to see a lot of popular franchises pop up in these text worlds. And for Lord of the Rings fans, this means a text-based Middle-earth that’s been operating for more than three decades now.
“Create your own hero: a Man, Hobbit, Elf, Dwarf, Orc, or Troll. Explore the Shire, Bree, Rivendell, the Grey Havens, the dark halls of Moria, the ruins of Ost-in-Edhil, and many other places. Join the battle between good and evil!”
Looking for an online adventure in a galaxy far, far away instead? A lot of people recommend Legends of the Jedi, a Star Wars-themed MUD that’s been operating since 1998. You can join the Empire or Rebels and craft, fight, and explore during the game’s two-year campaigns. Did I mention that there are 10 classes, over 100 races, and three-dimensional space to master?
“LOTJ offers full PVP in both ground and space combat, governed by a set of rules to minimize griefing and ensure that all kills have sufficient in-character cause.”
I’ve seen a lot of recommendations for the MUD-curious to check out Alter Aeon, a fantasy RPG that includes 400 locations, 600 quests, and a hopping community. As a bonus, the text client works with screen readers so that blind and visually impaired players can access it.
“Alter Aeon is a fantasy world of adventure and untold possibilities. Do you wish to be a mighty warrior, seeking a dragon to slay? A ghastly necromancer, commanding an undead army? A powerful sorcerer? A wise healer? The choice is yours!”
If you’re the type of player who always gravitates to the biggest and most popular games, then Aardwolf might be your first stop in the MUDverse. It’s a highly robust text game with multiple panels that include rudimentary graphics (think maps and resource meters) and a community that will bend over backwards to get you settled in the game.
“Aardwolf features a realistic game world with multiple continents and real geography. Each area includes a real time line-of-sight overhead map to see other characters and points of interest around you.”
One title that’s earned a lot of word-of-mouth praise for its general excellence and polish is Erion, a newer MUD that’s nevertheless impressing the community. Users cite a deep crafting system, friendly community, gameplay variety, and limited PvP.
“Erion is a free-to-play text-based game that takes place in a medieval fantasy setting. Join a House based on your favorite style of gameplay! There is something for the crafter, questor, hack-‘n-slasher, healer, explorer, and player-killer.”
Mixing the addictive nature of Diablo looters, turn-based JRPGs, and multiplayer base builders, Procedural Realms has built a name for itself as one of the top-tier MUDs operating today. As a bonus, it is browser-based, so no extra setup is needed.
“The game combines classic turn-based RPG combat with crafting and survival game elements in a giant procedurally-generated world that players can build and explore. Join other players in conquering a world rich with resources to harvest, monsters to slay, dungeons to explore, and treasures to claim!”
The award for best text-based UI and presentation has to go to Written Realms. It’s simply slick, with an intuitive setup that immediately pulls you into this fantasy world. The clean minimalism works well to keep your attention drawn to the adventure game-like descriptions.
“Written Realms is a platform for interactive fiction games. It is a modern take on Multi-User Dungeons, but web-based and using websockets rather than telnet for the connection protocol. This, combined with its responsive front-end, makes the worlds of Written Realms playable anywhere: on a mobile browser to pass five minutes of free time, or on a computer for challenging encounters and longer play sessions.”
Ready to get your Dungeons & Dragons on? TorilMUD’s been rocking a D&D setting since 1996 and is still running today. Fun fact: Toril was spun off of an even older MUD called Sojourn (1993). And Sojourn itself was a major inspiration for a little MMO known as EverQuest. So if you want a text-based EQ, here you go.
“Toril is set in the legendary Forgotten Realms D&D campaign setting and features over 325 unique zones to explore. Journey from the elven isle of Evermeet to the bustling metropolis of Baldur’s Gate and up the Sword Coast to Waterdeep and Silverymoon.”
One of the newer kids on the MUD block, Starmourn made waves when it launched a few years back for its robust scifi setting. There’s an absolutely massive amount of options for your character and activities, including flying starships, hacking systems, and building up a business for yourself.
“Pilot increasingly-powerful, highly-configurable starships for battle, exploration, asteroid mining. As with all Iron Realms MUDs, our PvP combat is deep and broad, with hundreds of abilities. An all-original universe with over 50 alien races and civilizations and a detailed history and setting.”
Another Iron Realms staple is Achaea, a fantasy MUD that stretches its history back to 1995. Here, players can run their own cities, pal around with deities, become a dragon, sail the high seas, and engage in a wide spectrum of player choice.
“Whether it’s the wormhole and venom-using Serpentlords, the shadow and time-wielding Depthswalkers, the noble Paladin wielding dual weapons and assisted by her companion falcon, or the chaos entity-summoning Occultists, there are few games in existence with such a diverse class line-up.”
And if you need even more recommendations than that, here are an additional 15 text-based MMOs to visit:
- Dragon Realms
- Ancient Anguish
- Realms of Despair
- Sundering Shadows
- Allegory of Empires
- Dune MUD
- Gemstone IV
- Carrion Fields
- Awake MUD