10 Differences Between Single-Player RPGs and MMORPGs

MMORPG or Single-Player RPG? We'll help you decide.

MMORPG or Single-Player RPG? We'll help you decide

Ever wondered what the real differences are between RPGs and MMORPGs? Maybe you play one and wonder if you’d be a fan of the other genre? In this article we will talk about the the main differences and similarities and what type of person might be more suited to each genre.

1) Single player vs multiplayer

So you’re on your on Tera, you’re in Velika (one of the major cities for those who don’t play), the city is bustling with players. People are having conversations all around you. The city feels alive. You run through the streets as players in fancy armour and gigantic mounts pass you by interspersed by others who are fresh-faced, new to the game, enjoying the experience of visiting a big city for the first time. The world around you feels alive. After crafting your gear, putting items in your bank and doing whatever else you need to do while you’re in town, you set off on your next story quest. You’re immersed in the beautiful environments that make up Tera, you feel involved in the story and the story of the characters within it. You go off, killing mobs to help save the locals from their grim fate and you cast your eyes over the chat box and see someone spamming inappropriate comments and arguing amongst themselves. The latest guild is posting the same advertising text over and over again and suddenly you are brought back to reality and remember that it’s all just a game.

While the spam and the guild advertising is all part of the mmorpg experience, it personally is one of the things that ruins immersion for me; and I like to get immersed in my games. Single player RPGs don’t have that problem, of course there are things that break immersion in Single Player RPGs like NPCs constantly repeating the same few lines of dialogue to you as you pass by *cough* Skyrim *cough*, but in general, there isn’t that added baggage of other players ruining the experience for you.

The downside to Single Player RPGs is that they are single player (if you didn’t get that from the name). You’re not getting that sense of community. You’re not coming together with your friends to take down big monsters or crawl dungeons together. You’re not joining guilds filled with other real people. Sure, you can go into Co-op mode with a friend or two and experience the world together, but a lot of single-player RPGs don’t even offer that option.

2) Replayability

There are some single-player RPGs that you can play through multiple times with different playstyles. I think I must have played over 20 different characters on Skyrim, all with different back stories that I created for all my characters. However there isn’t always the ability to create new characters, so if you’re playing a game like The Witcher 3(link), you might find that you can only play through the game a couple of times before you just can’t seduce another sorceress again…

With MMORPGs there’s constant updates, new classes, expansions, dungeons to do, dailies to complete, guildies to help out and the replayability is a lot bigger, that’s why you find people who have been playing for years and still login on a daily basis. Of course, even with MMORPGs the replayability is limited by the fact that every new character tends to start in the same place, needing to go through the same story quests to level to end-game. But with power-levelling techniques it is a lot easier to blast through those repetitive quests you’ve been through so many times that you don’t want to face them again.

Generally, on the whole, you’re going to find more replayability in the MMORPGs than you will in the single-player RPGs.

3) Content Updates

I talked about content updates adding to the replayability of MMORPGs and you’ll generally find that MMORPGs are going to get more content updates more often than the single-player RPG games on the market. Of course with single-player RPGs there’s going to be DLCs, patches etc but it isn’t so dependent on adding new content, they don’t necessarily need to be putting out new content to keep their playerbase going and bring new things for veteran players to do.

With single-player RPGs however, you do have a different sort of “content updates” in the form of mods. I think generally the modding community makes or breaks a games popularity over time. I think, and a lot of you will likely agree with me on this, that games like Fallout and the Elder Scrolls series are kept alive for such a long time because of the modding community and their ability to produce new content that keep the game fresh.

4) Social Aspect

If you’re looking for a social experience in your game, you are almost always going to want to be picking an MMORPG, unless your game has a good co-op mode. Even then though, your ability to socialise and connect with people within the game is minimal. This could be a make or break for some people, but others just want to play the game and experience the story and don’t really care about making friends or sharing their experience with the ones you have. If you are one of those people, then you’re more likely to be suited to a single-player RPG.

5) Play Time

If you’re wanting a game to play through quickly, neither genre is likely to be for you. Out of the two however, single-player RPGs are going to take less time to complete than MMORPGs. Most single-player RPGs take around 50 or so hours to complete (according to the data collected on gamelengths) , some upwards of 100 hours but never usually more than 150. I suppose it does depend on your playstyle and how many side-quests you plan on doing, but that’s a good estimate if you’re wondering. MMORPGs however will take infinitely more time to complete. There’s always new content patches, gear to collect, expansions to play, raids to complete often on varying difficulties. Sure, if you’re just looking to complete the story missions it might take you around the same time, but you’ll find yourself investing a lot more time into MMORPGs than single-player RPGs.

6) Best Selling Single Player RPG vs Best Selling MMORPG

According to wikipedia the best selling single-player RPG game is Diablo 3 with 12 million sales to date. The second highest selling PC game of any type is, of course, WoW with a massive 14 million sales. If you’re just looking at sales figures, then you could say MMORPGs are more popular based on WoW’s success. You could also debate that Diablo 3 could be seen as more successful because it was released mid 2012, whereas WoW has been out since late 2004. Either way, Blizzard definitely are top of the market in both genres.

7) Production and Development Costs

According to Wikipedia’s list of the most expensive video games to develop, a good portion of the more expensive games are RPGs. MMORPGs come a lot lower in the list, with the exception of Star-Wars The Old Republic, which comes in at number 4. Otherwise, the next one you’ll find on the list is, one of my favourite MMORPGs, The Secret World, at number 41, quickly followed by WoW at number 43. With the generally better graphics, voice acting, advertisement costs etc, RPGs are going to cost more to develop than most MMORPGs, except Star Wars: The Old Republic apparently.

8) RPGs focus on deeper story lines vs MMORPGs focus on different more shallow stories

Both genres are going to be pretty story driven. Who can role play without a story to play a role in right? But generally you’re going to see that single-player RPGs have deeper storylines where you feel invested in the characters and how the game progresses. MMORPGs aren’t completely lacking in story however. Some have great story lines that I’ve been immersed in and felt compelled to finish such as The Secret World and Elder Scrolls Online, but even then there’s going to be those quests where the story feels tacked on as an excuse to have you go farm some mobs.

9) Player Vs Player

The ability to cut down your enemies or just show off your epic skills to a friend is a deal breaker for some people. Personally I don’t PVP, I’m not good at it, I get stressed out and rage quit - I’m not afraid to say it - but a lot of my friends only play PVP and only PVP. Some RPG games have a multiplayer aspect to them, but any that do are likely to have sub-par PVP modes that feel like they are really just added on to the end as an extra.

If you’re the sort of person who needs good PVP to enjoy a game, you’re not going to be looking at playing a single player RPG. If you are that guy or gal, then BY Melhwarin made an interesting post about the top 10 PVP games on PC that you should go and check out right now.

Now let’s take a look at the 10 most successful games of each genre.

The top 10 most successful single-player RPGs

Fallout 4

Following in the footsteps it’s predecessors, the 5th installment of this incredibly popular series takes you back to the wasteland in a whole new way .

Diablo 3

The third serving of Blizzard’s incredibly popular Diablo series. Diablo III is one of the best selling RPGs on the market today and if you’ve never played it before you need to go and find out why.

Dark Souls 3

With it’s punishing combat and epic boss battles, Dark Souls 3 is an epic addition to this mind-blowing game series. A must play for anyone who loves to punish themselves.



Dragons are returning to Tamriel, Skyrim is in civil unrest, who can save the people of Skyrim from their fiery fate than the Dragonborn of old? The fifth game of the Elder Scrolls series has been recently remastered for the “next gen” age, if you’ve never played this Role-playing Epic, now is the time to try.

Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Follow the extremely swagtastic Geralt of Rivia on his quest, newly reunited with his memory, in this mind-blowing, open world installment of The Witcher series. Winner of over 250 game-of-the-year awards, this is a RPG you don’t want to miss.

Baldur’s Gate 2

After being kidnapped and Imprisoned by the Wizard Irenicus you have the option to fight the evil inside you or embrace it. In this RPG classic will you resist the temptation of Godhood or will you give in to the destruction of the world?

Mass Effect 3

This interactive, sci-fi RPG brings back Shepard to help fight the force of the Reapers and save the galaxy. The Mass Effect series is filled with well developed characters and a deep, immersive story. Though it received some criticism from fans, this critically acclaimed third game is well worth a play for any RPG enthusiast.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

After a cataclysmic event, Thedas is thrown into chaos. The Mages and the Templars start a bloody war with each other. Nations are clashing and you are tasked with leading the inquisition to piece Thedas back together. Dragon Age returns in spectacular form in this open-world addition to the series.

Mount & Blade: Warband

Build your own army in this medieval mounted-combat RPG.

Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Play as Adam Jensen, the ex-SWAT member who’s mechanically augmented after being badly wounded when the very team he was charged to protect is destroyed. How will you choose to fight in this futuristic, sci-fi RPG?

The Top 10 Most Successful MMORPGs

World of Warcraft

This classic, pioneering MMORPG needs no introductions. If you’re an MMORPG fan and you’ve not played this game, what are you waiting for?

Guild Wars 2

The second installment of the incredible Guild Wars series. In this fantasy MMORPG you choose your path and build your own story from the choices you make in game.

Eve Online

Battle amongst the stars in this spectacularly popular sci-fi MMORPG.

Lord of the Rings online

More on this topic:

Gamer Since: 1995
Favorite Genre: RPG
Top 3 Favorite Games:The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dragonborn, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Fallout 3: Broken Steel

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