- World of Warcraft (Original Game) was released in 2004 and revolutionized the MMORPG genre.
- Burning Crusade introduced new races, flying mounts, and the Arena system, solidifying WoW as the top MMORPG.
- Wrath of the Lich King featured iconic raids and storytelling, leaving a lasting impression on players.
- Cataclysm transformed the entirety of Azeroth and introduced new playable races.
- Mists of Pandaria introduced the Pandaren race and pet battles, resulting in positive reception.
When you think of MMORPGs, it’s likely that World of Warcraft comes to mind first. After 17 years of gameplay and community, it’s revolutionized the gaming industry. WoW’s list of expansions’ influence extends well beyond Azeroth; players celebrate the game through TV shows, movies, and even competitive Esports.
World of Warcraft’s immersive storytelling captures the hearts of players both new and old, with the game supporting over 12 million players in its prime. Whether you align with the Horde or the Alliance, everyone plays a role in the game’s historic evolution.
WoW has changed significantly since its release in the early 2000s. From newly discovered continents to near-cataclysmic destruction, Azeroth hardly looks the same as it did long ago. Let’s take a look at WoW’s expansion list to see the development.
World of Warcraft Expansions List
|World of Warcraft (Original Game)||November 23, 2004|
|Burning Crusade||January 16, 2007|
|Wrath of the Lich King||November 13, 2008|
|Cataclysm||December 7, 2010|
|Mists of Pandaria||September 25, 2012 (US)|
|Warlords of Draenor||November 13, 2014|
|Legion||August 30, 2016|
|Battle for Azeroth||August 14, 2018|
|Shadowlands||November 23, 2020|
|World of Warcraft: Dragonflight||November 28, 2022|
1. World of Warcraft (Original Game) (2004)
In late November 2004, Blizzard released World of Warcraft. For the first time in history, players entered the world of Azeroth to explore its various continents. They chose one of eight playable races and joined either the Horde or the Alliance in battle.
The original WoW featured one of the largest open-world zones at the time, allowing players to explore vast areas, complete quests, and participate in massive raids. The game was so well received that it revolutionized the MMORPG genre.
- Included expansions: Mists of Pandaria, Cataclysm, Wrath of the Lich King, and The Burning Crusade
- Includes game time (30 days)
- Levels: 1 to 90
- Note: requires a Battle.net registration, internet connection, and subscription to WoW to work
2. Burning Crusade (2007)
While the original World of Warcraft game was immense, players soon found themselves asking for more. Burning Crusade was released three years later, expanding on the aftermath of the events from Warcraft III.
In the first addition to the World of Warcraft expansion list, players entered the Dark Portal and journeyed to Outland, the remnants of the old Orc homeworld. There, they challenged the Burning Legion, led by none other than Illidan Stormrage.
Burning Crusade introduces two new races: the Blood Elves for the Horde and the Draenei for the Alliance. Additionally, players took to the skies with flying mounts and participated in the Arena system for rankings and rewards.
Overall, the WoW expansion was overwhelmingly accepted by players, offering a fresh experience alongside new content. With so much success, Burning Crusade solidified the game as the top MMORPG in gaming history.
3. Wrath of the Lich King (2008)
In Wrath of the Lich King, released only a year after the first expansion, players return to Azeroth as Arthas Menethil threatens the world with the Scourge. They travel to Northrend, an unforgiving frozen wasteland and home to the Icecrown Citadel.
In WoW’s second expansion, players controlled siege vehicles as they engaged in large-scale battles. As the war progressed, they would recognize the world changing around them — the aftermath of destruction.
The Wrath of the Lich King featured some of the most iconic raids in Warcraft history. These, alongside incredible storytelling and exciting new features, left a lasting impression on new and veteran players alike.
4. Cataclysm (2010)
In 2010, Blizzard released Cataclysm, the third expansion of the WoW franchise. But in this one, players wouldn’t just explore new land; they’d watch the whole world burn.
When the corrupted Dragon Aspect, Deathwing the Destroyer, returns in a maddened state, players rise to the challenge of preventing an apocalypse. Throughout the story, they travel through sundered villages of the past and enter the Elemental Plane where they witness the Dragon Aspect’s struggle against corruption first-hand.
Cataclysm unlocks two new playable races; the Goblins for the Horde and the Worgen for the alliance. They fly across a burning Azeroth, collecting ancient artifacts to solve the mysteries of the old world. In the end, players find themselves face-to-face with Deathwing himself in an incredibly challenging, yet iconic, Dragon Soul raid.
Using the same phasing technology from Wrath of the Lich King, Cataclysm saw the entirety of Azeroth evolve. While players felt the end-game content lacked when compared to expansions of the past, Cataclysm received great praise for its massive world transformation.
5. Mists of Pandaria (2012)
Lost in time, the continent of Pandaria emerges in World of Warcraft’s fourth expansion, Mists of Pandaria. With the world in ruins from the Cataclysm, both the Horde and the Alliance turn their focus on the lush and mystical land, home to the Pandaren race.
For the first time, players can choose a neutral race. Starting on the Wandering Isle, the Pandaren are wise and skilled in martial arts. After honing their skills, players can choose to join either faction.
Alongside the new playable race, Mists of Pandaria introduces pet battles, a feature that allows players to capture and battle pets. The new system was a major success, allowing for deep end-game experiences. Pet Battles, alongside the new race and exciting lore, resulted in positive reception following mixed reviews from the previous expansion.
- Features a look at what happened behind the scenes (included DVD)
- Includes an exclusive soundtrack
- A unique hardcover artbook with 208 pages of Mists of Pandaria art
- Free mousepad
6. Warlords of Draenor (2014)
Following Garrosh Hellscream’s escape from his trial in Pandaria, the warlord used a magical artifact to time travel to Draenor before it became Outland. Players followed Garrosh to stop his attempt to unite the Orcish clans and conquer Azeroth with the Iron Horde.
Warlords of Draenor, WoW’s fifth expansion, introduces several new features. These include two new races (Gnomes and Tauren), a new level cap, and the ability to build garrisons. These personalized bases added new ways to interact with the world and earn rewards.
The Garrison feature was initially well-received, with players building bases across the world. However, the process became tedious, and many stopped using the feature. Additionally, players felt that Warlords of Draenor offered very little in end-game content and raids.
- Includes a boost that will take your character straight to level 90
- Levels: 91 to 100
- Note: requires a Battle.net registration, internet connection, and WoW subscription to work
- Follow Garrosh to the past and stop the Horde before it's too late!
7. Legion (2016)
With Warlords of Draenor struggling to hit the mark, developers at Blizzard aimed to provide quality gameplay with their next expansion, Legion. The story reintroduces the Burning Legion as they return to conquer Azeroth.
WoW’s sixth expansion worked on improving progression and adding customization. Players have access to zone scaling and dynamic level scaling for dungeons, allowing the game to stay interesting throughout its length. And, Class Order Halls and Artifact weapons allowed characters of the same class to work together to strengthen new and unique items.
Opting to focus inward instead of expand outward, Legion became known as one of the best WoW expansions ever released. It revitalized the game and offered a smooth transition for those trying it out for the first time.
- Includes a character boost that instantly takes you to level 100
- Unlocks the level cap to level 110
- Features the ability to wield mythic weapons
- Illidan's Immortal army is now recruiting!
8. Battle for Azeroth (2018)
Following the massive success of Legion, Blizzard continued to focus on interactivity. The Battle for Azeroth expansion, released in 2018, dove deeper into the war between the Horde and the Alliance as they fought for control over the powerful and precious resource, Azerite.
The game’s seventh expansion came with several new features, including:
- Allied races
- Island expeditions
- War Campaigns
- The Heart of Azeroth
Many of these additions to the game were met with immense excitement, but as players progressed, several balance issues arose. It seemed that Blizzard tried to fit too much content into one expansion, and it didn’t pay off like they were hoping.
- Includes a boost that will take your character to level 110 instantly
- Now you can venture to uncharted islands to pillage and plunder
- Make friends and recruit from the various allied races
- Join co-op warfronts on the side of either the Alliance or the Horde
9. Shadowlands (2020)
World of Warcraft’s eighth expansion on the list, Shadowlands, was released in 2020. The story took players to the Shadowlands, where they journeyed through the land of the dead. There, they explore to fight off the Jailer, who aims to take control of the imbalance of souls which came from a tear between Azeroth and the afterlife.
The expansion introduces many notable features, the largest of all being the Covenants. Now, players can align with the Kyrian, Venthyr, Night Fae, or Necrolords to receive exclusive rewards and access unique storylines and abilities.
Shadowlands did a lot for revamping the leveling system while providing an engaging storyline and a new setting. Players also appreciated the Torghast Tower, one of the game’s most notable solo experiences. While not as praised as Burning Crusade or Legion, Shadowland was generally met with positive reactions from new and veteran fans.
10. World of Warcraft: Dragonflight (2022)
The latest development in the World of Warcraft franchise is still developing, but players already appreciate the base of Dragonflight, which is, of course, dragons. So far, it feels deeply rooted in Azeroth history.
In World of Warcraft’s ninth expansion on the list, players meet the Dracthyr Evoker, a fearsome shapeshifter that changes between humanoid and draconic to overcome challenges. WoW also introduces Dragonriding, a new form of flying across Azeroth.
These are just two exciting features that excite players, but the developers at Blizzard have also revamped the talent system, HUD, and level progression. We’ll keep an eye on the story as Dragonflight continues to evolve, but it’s turning out to be a good one so far.
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