MMORPGs are no longer a niche hobby. Long-running platforms like World of Warcraft and Old School RuneScape account for over 2 million active players. Meanwhile, countless mediums turn a rather interested eye to that thriving market. Movies like Free Guy and Ready Player One draw obvious inspiration from the genre. Shows like South Park deliberately nod at MMORPG gamers – albeit satirically.

That said, the relationship between MMORPGs and pop culture is a two-way street, as many developers capitalize on Hollywood classics and world-famous works of fiction to draw in users. So, whether you’re up for a virtual trip through Middle-earth or an interplanetary online experience, here are some MMORPGs worth exploring.

The Lord of the Rings Online

J.R.R. Tolkien penned his fantasy epic over a century ago, but his works have never seemed so relevant. Twenty years after Peter Jackson released his legendary trilogy on the silver screen, countless upcoming shows and movies continue Tolkien’s story. The gaming industry never tires of revisiting Middle-earth, either. Dropping in 2007, The Lord of the Rings Online is one such Tolkienesque wet dream.

In this award-winning MMORPG, gamers join the world’s greatest online fellowship to immerse themselves in Middle-earth like never before. From the rolling hills of the Shire to the crumbling ruins of Weathertop, adventure awaits at every turn alongside AI soldiers or fellow gamers. Expansions and updates added more iconic locations, including Rohan, Isengard, and Mordor. If quite old and ever-so-slightly outdated, LOTRO breathes life into Middle-earth masterfully.

Naruto Online

Naruto is one of the world’s most beloved manga series. Despite hitting twenty recently, the Naruto anime is still a roaring success. It even sits comfortably in the top 15 most popular anime ever, shouldering fan-favorite productions like Samurai Champloo and Attack on Titan. The infamous shinobi of Hidden Leaf Village had an equally successful run in the gaming medium, with titles like Naruto Shippuden Ultimate Ninja Storm topping the charts worldwide, selling well over 12 million units.

It was only natural for an MMORPG to keep the Will of Fire burning online. Hence, Naruto Online is a love letter to the franchise. The game is way past its peak, arguably, as its servers are nowhere near as active as they were in the late 2010s. Whether for nostalgic fun or sheer love for the Naruto lore, it might be worth rediscovering nonetheless.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Raking in over a billion dollars in revenue since 2012, Star Wars: The Old Republic is an MMORPG giant that hit the one-million-subscriber threshold in as little as three days. While it had its ups and downs over its decade-long lifetime, this outer space adventure is still a must-play for avid Star Wars fans and hardcore sci-fi lovers.

Traveling to a galaxy far, far away 3,000 years before George Lucas’ films, players can take on various roles to live out their own Star Wars fantasy. With a blaster or a lightsaber by their side, they may roam the galaxy hunting down Sith – or join the dark side as a devious Sith Inquisitor. With its cinematic dialogue and full voiceover, The Old Republic is truly one interactive Star Wars story worth experiencing. Expansion packs like Knights of the Fallen Empire have also added extra story-driven chapters to explore.

Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online puts players in charge of commandeering their own spaceship to navigate an ever-expanding final frontier whose scope is simply unparalleled. Each captain can be customized at will before exploring countless new worlds or partaking in exhilarating space battles against rival factions. A strong addition to the Star Trek franchise, this free-to-play intergalactic odyssey is a testament to the saga’s longevity.

From retro PC entries like Bridge Commander to space sims like Starfleet Command, its cultural impact is indisputable in gaming. It even extends to the iGaming world, with pokies like IGT’s Star Trek and WMS’s Star Trek Red Alert. Top websites boast many more free online slots. From science fiction to mythology, there’s a wide variety of themes to explore. A handy filtering system helps users sort through thousands of options, which run as smoothly on mobile as on desktop. Once they get the hang of it, players can ultimately switch to real money slots to grab cash prizes.

Most MMORPGs rely on traditional fantasy themes reminiscent of classic tabletop role-playing experiences like Dungeons & Dragons. Yet, the games above embrace a different approach, one that befits the most pop-culture savvy of gamers.