It’s always a sad day whenever an MMO is shut down. Whether it’s because of licensing issues, a dwindling playerbase, or a shuttered studio, there’s a community out there struggling to come to terms with the loss.
Sometimes publishers keep their game’s servers running in maintenance mode, but when this isn’t the case players will take it upon themselves to resurrect the virtual worlds they were turfed out of.
The teams behind these projects are volunteers – due to legal rights issues they cannot make money from their efforts. Yet, their role in preserving MMO history is a vital one, and for that, they should be commended.
Some of these rogue servers, emulators, or private servers are rebuilt from the ground up using only the game’s client-side assets, whereas others are a result of the game’s source code having been made public either officially or via a leak.
There are of course private server projects for games which are still running in an official capacity. This article will however only list private server projects for games whose official servers have been sunsetted.
Disclaimer: The vast majority of these projects are distributing unsanctioned software which could potentially contain malware. MMO Folklorist takes no responsibility for any malicious software distributed by individuals or groups mentioned in this article. Please ensure you do your own research before downloading any files!
Updated Jan 9, 2023: Added Archlord, Dragon’s Dogma Online.
Age of Empires Online
This cartoony version of the ground-breaking RTS series probably wasn’t the right direction for the franchise to take at the time of its release. Now that we have a real AoE4 however, there’s a certain charm to AoE Online. No wonder then that the game has been revived by a team of fans. Project Celeste brings the game back to life with new content and events.
This game was fairly high profile leading up to its 2006 western release, in part due to its key gimmick whereby one player would be crowned the ruler of the server every four weeks. Beyond this however, ArchLord was broadly similar to most other South Korean MMOs and it quickly sank into obscurity from its release until its shutdown in 2014.
The game is still playable, with a rogue server operating under the name Archonia. Its volunteer team are adding new content to the game and run regular events.
Here’s an obscure one! Argentum Online was apparently a very popular homegrown Argentinian MMORPG. According to this multi-part history of the game as told by it’s creator Pablo Marquez, the game entered into testing all the way back in 1999.
As of October 2022 the game – now titled Argentum Online Forever – is back online and playable via Steam thanks to the efforts of the Nosetu Inc team.
The original Asheron’s Call has a well-established emulation community which has been recreating the game since Turbine closed the live servers in 2017. The two main open-source emulation projects are ACEmulator and GDLEnhanced. Both projects recreate a highly playable experience with content and features which are comparable but different.
The ThwargLauncher tool is used to access servers running both versions of the emulated client. There are many servers to choose from, each featuring a variety of different rulesets, content, and playerbase sizes. Popular server lists can be found on TreeStats and AsheronDB.
At present, there are no playable servers for the game’s sequel, Asheron’s Call 2: Fallen Kings. However, there is an emulator with very limited functionality that can be used to explore the game world (there is no combat, quests, or NPCs). Head over to the game’s unofficial Discord community to gain access to the client.
Described as a vehicular combat MMO, this was definitely one of the most unique games to come out of the genre’s mid-2000s boom. It couldn’t find a sustainable audience and shuttered after only a year. An emulator is in the works, but it’s been left spinning its wheels until more help comes on board.
Battlestar Galactica Online
A playable emulator for Bigpoint’s browser MMO is currently in public testing. It isn’t feature complete, but it’s not far off. Check out their Discord if you want to jump in.
The Chronicles of Spellborn
Having only been live for under two years before being taken offline, Spellborn was one of those MMOs which wilted quickly in the late-2000’s rush to publish a WoW-killer. If you ever wanted to play this “rough diamond” as the Spellborn Reborn team have referred to the game, you can head over to their site to get on board their open beta.
City of Heroes
In 2019 when the news that a private server for City of Heroes had been secretly operating for several years after the game’s 2012 demise, players of the beloved MMO were shocked. The story rippled throughout the entire gaming sphere, becoming the most widely reported story on private servers since Blizzard shut down the World of Warcraft private server Nostalrius in 2016.
It was a messy affair, but one which ultimately ended up with a feature-complete version of City of Heroes finally being widely playable once more. There’s now a choice of servers available, with the Homecoming server proving to be the most popular. Almost all of these rogue servers offer custom rulesets and content.
There were discussions held between members of the emulation community and NCsoft with regards to some kind of official sanctioning on the game’s rogue servers, but these seem to have ultimately proved fruitless.
Rise of Agon is an official revival of Darkfall in that the team have been granted the rights to the IP. Still, the team are currently working on a volunteer basis, so this is certainly a community led passion project.
As Defiance (and it’s semi-reboot Defiance 2050) only shut down in 2021 it’s no surprise to hear that efforts to create an emulator for the game are not very far along in the development process. Still, if you want an early look at what the team are planning, you can head on over to the Project Defiance Discord channel.
Dragon Ball Online
Although this MMORPG based on the renowned anime series never made it to the west, its storyline and character designs have informed the franchise in myriad ways. Dragon Ball Online’s direct successor was the multi-platform Dragon Ball: Xenoverse – a fighting game with MMO elements. Its sequel is still receiving regular updates, but those looking to play the original MMO are in luck.
Fan translations for the game began almost as soon as it was released in Korea, and English language private servers have been operating for a number of years. Popular servers include DBOG Revival, DBOUniverse Revelations, DBO Crisis, DBO Unchained, and DBO Hope. All of them feature custom content.
Dragon’s Dogma Online
Fans of the sleeper hit Capcom RPG Dragon’s Dogma have been patiently waiting for a sequel since 2012. This MMORPG is the closest thing there’s been to an official continuation, but despite vocal efforts from the community, Dragon’s Dogma Online was never localized outside of Japan. Having shut down in 2019, it’s small community in the west has turned to reviving the game. Though a long way from completion, a playable test version is available to download through The White Dragon Temple Discord channel.
There were efforts to resurrect this F2P MMO from NCSOFT, but they’ve gone dark. There’s a community Discord if you have any interest in reviving these efforts.
Earth & Beyond
The lifespan of this early sci-fi MMO from Westwood Studios and EA was cut mercilessly short just two years after its 2002 launch. The game has since been revived by the team at Net-7, where the game can be enjoyed once more with new features and seasonal events.
A revival of this furry friendly MMO is in the works over at Terra Aeterna. The server includes the fan made expansion Valkal’s Shadow.
This 2D pixel graphics MMO has been brought back to life by the folks at EOSERV. They conveniently have a list of all servers running the emulator over on their site.
OK, this one is totally cheating because EverQuest is absolutely still alive and kicking. But, 20+ years of development can change a game a lot, and some people would rather stick to playing an older version.
Project 1999 is a completely volunteer-led, fan-operated emulator that includes content up to and including 2000’s Scars of Velious expansion. In 2015, Daybreak Games gave the server legal permission to continue operating alongside the live game.
EverQuest Online Adventures
Way back in the early days of the genre there were very few MMORPGs available to console gamers. PlayStation 2’s EverQuest Online Adventures was one such game, but unlike Final Fantasy XI, which made the jump across console generations, EQOA never left the PS2 and was eventually shut down in 2012.
Since then players at Project: Return Home have been working to reverse engineer the game to make it playable once more via PS2 or on PC via emulators.
The cancelled MMO EverQuest Next‘s, cancelled sister title Landmark has an emulator project in development (Landmark RE:Build), but progress seems to have stalled.
Fans of this post-apocalyptic MMO were rewarded for their continued loyalty to the game (which was shuttered in 2019) when an official server was brought online at the end of last year.
FHX (Ferentus, Herrcot, Xiones)
This hardcore South Korean MMO which was launched globally under several different names is being emulated by the group at FHX Restoration. They’ve combined elements from both the Korean and Global versions of the game to create a new client which runs on their server.
This recent casualty was somewhat soften by the fact that players already had an alternative ready to go in the Forsaken World Dragon Heart rogue server.
There was a lot of hype behind SOE’s child-friendly MMO when it launched back in 2009. After shuttering in 2014, an emulator has been in development for several years. FR Sunrise isn’t in a public testing state yet, but progress is steady.
This MMO based on characters from various Cartoon Network shows has had a bit of a troubled history, with multiple private servers being shuttered in the years since its live servers went dark.
As such, it’s difficult to recommend any one server, but if you’re interested in playing the game your best bet is to head over to the Wiki page for OpenFusion, the modified source code upon which all FusionFall rogue servers are based.
An unusual, but much-beloved MMO, players can now jump back into the colourful world of Glitch thanks to the efforts of the Odd Giants team. This rebuilt version of the game is still in development, but new patches are frequent.
Ah, Hellgate – the game with a thousand launches. London 2038 brings the original Hellgate: London back to life (as opposed to the version of Hellgate Global which is available on Steam). Yes, I’m aware that I said I wasn’t listing rogue servers for games still actively operating, but this is kind of a Star Wars Galaxies situation where the old version is practically a completely different game, therefore I’m allowing it.
After running for over a decade, SOE closed the doors on Infantry Online back in 2012. Since then the game has been receiving regular updates from the Free Infantry team. Those looking to get their fill of sprite-based top-down shooter action can log into the servers 24/7, with events hosted every Sunday and Tuesday night.
This 2001 space sim MMO is fully playable once more thanks to the fans at Jumpgate TRI.
Sadly there are no public servers available for Lego Universe. Darkflame Universe created a functioning emulator of the game and previously hosted a public server, but following discussions with The Lego Group, they were forced to shut up shop.
However, upon closing the server they released their source code for all to use in the creation of private servers. This means that while you won’t be getting the Massively part of the MMO experience, you can set up a server to play the game either solo or with friends and family. This requires a little bit of technical tinkering, but there’s a good video guide here.
Maple Story 2
We hardly knew ye at all, Maple Story 2. Despite being the sequel to one of the most popular MMOs of all time, Maple Story 2 didn’t quite catch on in the way that publisher Nexon was hoping for, pulling the plug after only two years of live service in the west.
Fans are rebuilding the game as MapleServer2, and a public test environment is available already.
The Matrix Online
An online game set in a franchise based around simulated realities sounds like a pretty good fit, but SOE’s The Matrix Online never really took off. A full emulator of the game isn’t available, but MXOEmu allows you to explore the game world with other players. Considering that the game’s combat was notoriously bad, this may be something of a blessing. Regular in-game events such as DJ nights will keep you engaged, but if you ever wanted to check out the game’s story then it’s worth downloading this extremely in-depth PDF archive of the game.
Monster Hunter Frontier Z
Despite having never been released in the west, Monster Hunter fans have managed to not only get this game running on private servers, but have also begun an English translation patch.
This cyberpunk MMO has been run by a player volunteer team since 2012. Neocron Evolution continues to build upon the game with regular updates, including a texture overhaul in 2021.
This is kind of a strange one. Development for this mech MMO stopped back in 2018, but the developers made the very excellent choice of handing over the game’s source code to the community. It’s still available on Steam for players to download and set up their own private server, and there’s also a community for those who are adding new content to the game.
Pirates of the Burning Sea
In a perfect world no MMO would be shut off, with publishers instead handing the game over to the players once they wish to cut ties. That’s exactly what happened to Pirates of the Burning Sea, which has been operating with continued development under an entirely fan-led team since 2019.
Pirates of the Caribbean Online
Revived under The Legends of Pirates Online, this emulation project has not only rebuilt the game to an almost finished state but has also added swathes of new content, including a major patch earlier this year.
Phantasy Star Online: Blue Burst
This PC adaptation of the Phantasy Star Online games that began back on the Sega Dreamcast is available to play once more on the Ephinea, Ultima, Destiny and EdenServ servers. Their revival of the game includes new content and events.
Alternatively, you can play the Dreamcast and GameCube versions of the game (including the GameCube exclusive Episode III) again thanks to the Schthack and Sylverant servers. This requires a little bit of hardware tinkering. This video from Nighttime Gaming gives a good overview of how to get each edition of the game running in 2022.
Phantasy Star Universe
The other Phantasy Star MMO to have shuttered (Phantasy Star 2 is still alive and kicking) was revived in 2020. Phantasy Star Universe: Clementine is a fully functioning rogue server with new content.
This classic MMOFPS is playable once more on PSForever. They have a guide here on how you can join the game.
Console MMORPG’s were few and far between during the seventh generation of consoles, but the meteoric expansion of online services such as Xbox Live showed that there was finally a market for online experiences in the living room.
PlayStation Home was Sony’s attempt at bringing a kind of Second Life-like experience to consoles. Rather than rely on user generated content however, Home‘s cosmetics and events were usually marketing tie-ins to promote upcoming PlayStation games, movies, and sports events.
After shutting down in 2015, a revival of the game – Destination Home – is currently in closed beta testing thanks to the efforts of the PlayStation Online Network Emulated (PSONE) team. They’ve also been responsible for reviving a number of other online PS3 titles including Warhawk, Twisted Metal Black, and Resistance: Fall of Man.
Before Ubisoft’s The Crew came along, Project Torque was the car enthusiast MMO of choice. As of 2019, the game is being operated by a volunteer group called Jogara Ltd. It’s available via Steam, but new content updates are infrequent.
While the official revival of this action MMO appears to be dead in the water, two private servers RaiderZ Legend and Raiderz Revolution keep the flame burning.
The Realm Online
One of the very oldest MMORPGs, The Realm Online (1996) had been running on fumes for some years. That changed in 2018 when a small group of players acquired the official rights to the game’s license. Since then they’ve launched two new F2P servers which run alongside the game’s 1998 subscription-only server Despothes’ Grove.
An action combat MMO with an anime aesthetic. Rusty Hearts can be played one more thanks to the volunteers at Rusty Hearts: Revolution.
Shin Megami Tensei: Imagine
This MMO based on the beloved franchise from Atlus has been revived by fans as ReIMAGINE. The rogue server is based on the final Japan version of the game which had more content than the western servers.
Unfortunately all SMT:I private servers were taken offline in September 2022 after legal action was taken by Atlus.
The Sims Online
This online version of the game which lets you build the house of your dreams and then turn it into a torture pit for those trapped within it is back at FreeSO. They’ve brought the game back to life and added new quality of life and content features.
Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures
Following on from Free Realms, SOE released a similar kid-friendly MMO based on The Clone Wars animated series. The game outlived SOE’s other Star Wars MMO, Galaxies, by a few years, before it was killed off in 2014. Fans are working on an emulator for the game, and the team at CWAEmu have a playable server available for testing.
Star Wars Galaxies
Thanks to its unique gameplay and IP this game has by far the most rogue servers of any dead MMO. Follow this link for our complete list.
With Richard Garriott at the helm and NCSoft as publisher, people were expecting huge things from Tabula Rasa. When it was released to a lukewarm critical reception the game stalled and was shuttered after just a little over a year of live service.
It’s no wonder then that there hasn’t been much of a community pull for a rogue server. There’s a small team attempting to rebuild the game under the banner of Infinite Rasa, but progress is slow and no public test server is available as of yet.
TERA‘s official servers were sadly and unexpectedly shuttered this year, but players had been operating private servers for years prior to this. In 2022 the most popular servers are Menma’s TERA and TERA Starscape. More servers along with their differences can be found in this thread on the game’s subreddit.
Disney’s child-friendly MMO has been given new life by three impressively active volunteer teams. Toontown Rewritten and Toontown: Corporate Clash offer versions of the game which contain hosts of new content, while Toontown Offline has built a version of the game which can be played well, offline.
Vanguard: Saga of Heroes
Vanguard had a whole lot of promise as a true successor to EverQuest, but a rushed launch effectively killed any chance the game would have had at being a success. Still, there were plenty of fans who enjoyed this unforgiving high fantasy title, and the VGOEmulator has a thriving community working on bringing the game back to life.
The dev team are describing the current playable test server as being in an alpha state, but players can still partake in some early-level questing and crafting.
Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning
One of the great rogue server success stories. Not only have the Return of Reckoning team made this MMORPG based on the table top wargame franchise available to play once more, but they’ve added huge amounts of new content. The server has been running since 2014 and has a sizeable dev team working on it.
The team at Nexus Forever are plugging away at rebuilding the game from the ground up. It’s going to take a while, but you can download the current code and set up your own testing environment if you want to see what they’ve accomplished so far. Maybe one day soon NCSoft will have the good sense to just revive the game themselves… maybe… but don’t bet on it.
This short-lived MMO based on the old-school Wizardry series of games is in the process of being revived by volunteers. Although the game was released in English, the team have decided to base their server on the Japanese version of the game, so players should be aware that there are some untranslated elements at present.
Add this to the list https://wizardry-online.com/#/
Added this and Monster Hunter Frontier Z. Thanks for the heads up!
You forgot all the ultima online emus, servers and client projects. E.g. https://polserver.com/ and https://github.com/ClassicUO/ClassicUO
Thanks for sharing these. I decided not to include private servers for games that are still in live service unless they’ve been officially sanctioned.
UO is a tough one because it’s obviously such a wildly different game than it was at launch, but as I plan on doing some coverage of the game in the future I wanted to avoid running into any legal sketchiness by hosting links to unofficial servers.
I respectfully suggest you do more research on PSO, it maybe deserves a dedicated post. Ephinea, schthack, sylverant, Destiny, and edenserv are a few more. Different servers emulate different versions of the game and some allow cross-platform play with consoles.
Thanks for letting me know about these. I’ve updated the PSO:BB section a little with this info.
Obviously this list is only a brief jumping-off point for people and it’s inevitable with so many projects that I’ve missed a few. I’m pleased that people are coming forward to point me in the direction of those I didn’t find in my own research.
I’m hoping that eventually I can do a deeper dive into a lot of these old games and provide some more definitive guides for how to play them.
What an awesome list! I’m personally most excited for WildStar, but that could still be many years off.
Thanks! Yep, it’s one of the games I’m most disappointed that I never got the chance to play!
Missing Neocron Evolution, https://www.neocron-game.com/
Wow, totally forgot about this game! Will add it to the list when I have time to update it at the weekend, thanks!
There is also:
Auto Assault – Currently pretty much alted until the developer finds additional help: https://discord.gg/S97h8jxf
Perpetuum – On Steam, is handled by the community.
Planetside Online (Planetside Forever) – https://psforever.net/
Shards of Dalaya – Is a custom game developed on EQ, might still be worth mentioning?
Dungeon Runners – In development
The Ascend Hand of Kul – Handled by the community, through Steam https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=2068140011
Shadowbane Emulator – Still in development/wiping
Thank you, I’ll be sure to add these when I have a chance to update the list this weekend!
I can’t see my other comment, I hope you got it.
Apologies, comments containing links have to be approved before they appear on the site and I didn’t have a chance to check yesterday.
It’s already on the list under Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning!
Shards of Dalaya is an EverQuest emu mod. Not sure if it counts under here or not but it could use the nod.
This is definitely a really cool server, but as it has not (as far as I can tell) had any official approval from Daybreak I’m not going to include it on the list at this point. Thanks for sharing though.
I know you already have a backlog of things to add, but I forgot the last one: BattleForge.
It has been revived as Skylords Reborn (and is approved by EA): https://www.skylords.eu/
Although this is a really amazing project I’m going to veto adding it to the list because it’s not really an MMO and if I start branching out too far things could get quite out of hand. Maybe some people will find it through this comment though.
Here is another one for the list! https://fhxrestoration.com/
Wow, this is an obscure one! Thanks for sharing, I’ll get it added to the list.
Hi EverQuest 2 emulator dev is here. Too sad, you have not mentioned us. We are actively developing our project. One of our goals is to return removed content from the classic version of game.
Our discords: https://discord.gg/Q4NNzg2t
Hey, this is a list of emulators for MMOs which are no longer operating official live servers. I included P99 as it has been officially sanctioned by Daybreak.
This great article should be updated and shared again
The pirates of the burning sea link leads to a 404 page. I love this article and check it every few months! Thanks for your hard work.
Thanks for the heads up, should be all fixed now!
Glad to hear that you’re finding value in the article too. Always on the lookout for new (old) games to add,