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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.