WoW Emulation logo - best WoW emulator 2021

Best WoW Emulator 2021 – WoW Emulation logo by Torta

TLDR: show me some numbers

For those who are looking for the best WoW emulator for their use case but are too lazy to read the whole article, we have collected some statistics from Discord and GitHub, so here’s a summary of them (for more details about the statistics, read the whole post).

Supported client versions

Alphabetical order

Emulator Supported Client Versions
AlphaProject 0.5.3
AscEmu 1.12 – 2.4.3 – 3.3.5a – 4.3.4
AstoriaCore 3.3.5a
AzerothCore 3.3.5a
CMaNGOS 1.12 – 2.4.3 – 3.3.5a
MaNGOS 1.12 – 2.4.3 – 3.3.5a – 4.3.4 – 5.4.8
SkyFire 5.4.8
TCPP 4.3.4
TrinityCore latest WoW version – 3.3.5a
vMaNGOS multiple 1.x client versions (more info below)

Best emulator by Discord community size

Higher is better

Emulator Discord members as of 2021-02-19
AzerothCore 👑 1800+
TrinityCore 1500+
CMaNGOS 1200+
vMaNGOS 900+
AlphaProject 500+
MaNGOS 420+
AstoriaCore 350+
SkyFire 160+
TCPP 80+
AscEmu 70+

Best emulator by GitHub stars count

Higher is better. The count is since the beginning of each project life.

Emulator GitHub Stars count as of 2021-02-19
TrinityCore 👑 6600+
AzerothCore 1300+
CMaNGOS 500+ (Classic), 300+ (WOTLK), 200+ (TBC)
MaNGOS 500+ (Classic), 100+ (TBC), 100+ (WOTLK),
SkyFire 330+
vMaNGOS 240+
TCPP 80+
AscEmu 60+
AlphaProject 50+
AstoriaCore N/A

Best emulators by development activity

A higher rank is better. Development activity at the beginning of 2021.

Emulator Rank (more info below in this post)
AzerothCore 👑 1
TrinityCore 👑 1
CMaNGOS 2
vMaNGOS 2
MaNGOS 3
TCPP 3
SkyFire 3
AlphaProject 3
AstoriaCore 3
AscEmu 3

Choosing the best WoW emulator for your case

Looking for a World of Warcraft emulator? Whether you are planning to open a private server that is open to the public, or a LAN server to play with your family or friends, or you just want to choose a project to experiment and learn about WoW emulation, this post is for you!

There are several names in the World of Warcraft open-source emulators ecosystem. We are going to help you to select the best WoW emulator according to your own needs and taste.

In this article, we selected only the WoW emulators that have been active during the past year (i.e. they received at least one contribution during 2020).

Before reading this post, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

  • What game version is your target? Do you look for a specific WoW version (e.g. latest, Classic, TBC, WOTLK, etc…) or that does not really matter for you?
  • Is it more important for you to have a more recent WoW expansion or the game quality?
  • Are you planning to introduce custom content and features?
  • What is your experience with WoW emulation? Are you a beginner or an experienced server administrator?
  • What operating system are you planning to use?

Active WoW emulators in 2021

The list of the WoW emulators in alphabetical order. The Discord and GitHub statistics are shown below in this post. Only WoW emulators with an active and relevant development activity during the past year will be listed.


Alpha project logoAlpha Project

The Alpha Project aims to bring back the 0.5.3 alpha of World of Warcraft in an attempt of preserving the oldest game version we have to this day in a playable form.

The emulator is fully compatible with the original 0.5.3 (3368) client and it’s written from scratch using Python. A huge amount of work is being put into adjusting everything (items, creatures, objects…) to match 0.5.3 as close as possible with the little data available about it.

The Alpha Project also has the largest compilation of alpha and beta screenshots, videos and texts; and a compilation of original alpha and beta WDB folders. All of that can be found here.

Use the Alpha Project if you want to experiment with WoW 0.5.3 or if you want to learn Python.

Development activity: Rank 3

Community: 520+ members on Discord (as of 21 February 2021)

Official source repository:  github.com/The-Alpha-Project/alpha-core

AscEmu logoAscEmu

AscEmu is a project based on ArcEmu that offers a different flavor of WoW Emulation, compared to the majority of other projects that are typically MaNGOS/TrinityCore-based. We talked about AscEmu in a previous blog post.

It supports a different variety of WoW versions:

AscEmu WoW version support

Use AscEmu if you are (or would like to get) familiar with the Arcemu/Antrix-based emulators.

Do not choose AscEmu if you are a beginner as 99% of the resources, tutorials, tools, etc.. you can find around the web are meant for MaNGOS/TC-based applications.

Development activity: Rank 3

Community: 70+ members on Discord (as of 19 February 2021)

Official website: www.ascemu.org

Official source repository: github.com/AscEmu/AscEmu


AstoriaCore logo AstoriaCore

AstoriaCore is a new project founded by Lushen and based on AzerothCore and TrinityCore. It’s the first 3.3.5a emulator which allows you to create a World of Warcraft server without classes. You can easily create your own class with all the spells and talents from the other classes.

AstoriaCore Features a lot of custom scripted systems such as Classless System, Prestige System (HonorSystem), Racial Switching System. XP for Harvesting Ores/Herbs, High Risk System (Drop Loot on death), BoAK (Learn your spells through a custom NPC), XP Rate Manager (A easy way to change your XP Rate), and more.

There are 2 versions of AstoriaCore:

  • one based on AzerothCore, having fewer custom features (yet) but a higher overall game-quality;
  • one based on TrinityCore, having more custom features (however this version is based on a 2015 branch of TrinityCore, so you need to make sure there are no security flaws before going public).

Use AstoriaCore if you’d like to experiment with something different than the traditional WoW gameplay.

Development activity: Rank 3

Community: 350+ members on Discord (as of 19 February 2021)

Official website: playastoria.cc

Official source repository: github.com/AstoriaCore


AzerothCore logo AzerothCore

AzerothCore (AC) is a project created in 2016 by AzerothShard, a former Italian private-server. It is based on MaNGOS/TrinityCore/SunwellCore. Despite AzerothShard closed in 2018, the AzerothCore project kept growing, implemented plenty of improvements, and is today used by many private servers.

AzerothCore is the WoW emulator with the biggest community (according to Discord) and, with the highest development activity during the last year (according to GitHub). It’s the second WoW emulator in terms of GitHub Stars count, second only to TrinityCore.

One of the most important features of AzerothCore is its modular system that allows private-server owners to make customizations without directly patching the core source code. This makes it easy for servers to keep their source version updated and reuse custom code. There is even a public collection of modules created by the community. This makes it the best choice for custom servers.

There are several ways to install AzerothCore. The traditional setup is similar to the other emulators and is of course supported for all operating systems. There is also the AC Docker setup which is a simpler procedure (available for all operating systems that support Docker), and the AC Dashboard setup which makes the whole procedure tremendously simple (however this last option is only available for GNU/Linux systems).

The supported game-version is Wrath of The Lich King (3.3.5a), and the game quality is the best available for this version and quite close to Blizz-like. This makes it the best choice for WOTLK servers. It is quite stable and there are communities with thousands of players successfully using it.

Lastly, the AzerothCore team implemented their own DB & SmartAI editor Keira3, which is cross-platform and user-friendly.

Use AzerothCore if you prefer a project with a big community behind it, if the game quality is important for you, if you need a production-ready server or if you want to make use of custom features. If you use Linux, installing AC is going to be particularly easy for you (however Windows and macOS are also supported).

Do not use AzerothCore if you want to use a version of WoW newer than WOTLK. Some communities use it for a Classic -> TBC -> WOTLK progression servers. However, it does not offer a 100% Classic or TBC experience because only the 3.3.5a client is supported. If you plan to stick to Classic or TBC forever, then AzerothCore is probably not the best choice for you.

Development activity: Rank 1 👑

Community: 1800+ members on Discord (as of 19 February 2021) 👑

Official website: www.azerothcore.org

Official source repository: github.com/azerothcore/azerothcore-wotlk


CMaNGOS logo CMaNGOS

CMaNGOS was born in 2012 and stands for Continued-MaNGOS. It’s a continuation of the original MaNGOS project (originally located at getmangos.com). You can check the history and original authors on this page.

It supports 3 WoW versions in 3 different repositories: Classic, TBC, and WOTLK. According to the GitHub stars count of the official repositories, it is the most loved for its WoW Classic repository.

Note that CMaNGOS is the only active WoW emulation project supporting TBC with the original 2.4.3 client.

CMaNGOS has the third biggest community (according to Discord), behind AzerothCore and TrinityCore.

Use CMaNGOS if you want to have a Classic, TBC, or WOTLK server and prefer the MaNGOS-style over the TC-style of handling things.

Do not use CMaNGOS if you prefer using SmartAI to EventAI.

Development activity: Rank 2

Community: 1200+ members on Discord (as of 19 February 2021)

Official website: https://cmangos.net

Official source repository: https://github.com/cmangos


getMaNGOS logoMaNGOS (getMaNGOS.eu)

The MaNGOS project (located at getmangos.eu) is a continuation of the MaNGOS project, which is now lead by Antz aka Billy1arm and aimed to keep the original project ideals, such as being an open-source educational project.

It’s beginner-friendly, the team is available to help walk users through the setup/installation process.
All junior devs are mentored by more experienced devs and are encouraged to talk through any issues they may have.

It supports 5 WoW versions in different repositories: Vanilla, TBC, WOTLK, Cataclysm and MoP (although the Cataclysm and MoP branches are not playable yet), written in C++.

It also has a vb.Net based Emulator called MangosVB for Vanilla, TBC and WOTLK (originally called Spurious before merging under the getMaNGOS banner).
Work is also continuing on a new C# emulator called MangosSharp (or Mangos#), this is written with .Net 5.

The overall plan is that all three sub-projects Mangos, MangosVB and Mangos# will use the same database across the cores.

According to the GitHub stars count of the official repositories, MangosZero (Vanilla wow) is the most loved repository.
getMaNGOS has a small, but extremely friendly and helpful community. Any trolling or unpleasantness is swiftly dealt with.
Their discord motto is “Be nice or Be somewhere else”.

Use getMaNGOS if and prefer the MaNGOS-style over the TC-style of handling things and if you want to set up and use a Vanilla, TBC, WOTLK or Cataclysm server and easily get helpful advice when things go wrong.

Do not use getMaNGOS if you prefer using SmartAI to EventAI.

Development activity: Rank 3

Community: 420+ members on Discord (as of 21 February 2021)

Official website: getmangos.eu

Official source repositories list: github.com/mangos/MaNGOS


Project SkyFire logoSkyFire

SkyFire is a TrinityCore-based project created in 2011. It does not have a big community, but it’s still active.

Use SkyFire if you would like to have a Mists of Pandaria (5.4.8) server.

Development activity: Rank 3

Community: 160+ members on Discord (as of 19 February 2021)

Official website:  www.projectskyfire.org

Official source repository: github.com/ProjectSkyfire/SkyFire_548


The Cataclysm Preservation Project logo

The Cataclysm Preservation Project

The Cataclysm Preservation Project (TCPP) is the “inofficial continuation of the TrinityCore Cataclysm branch for World of Warcraft version 4.3.4.15595”.

It was born as a continuation of the 4.3.4 branch of TrinityCore, which is now no longer supported. It does not have a big community, but it’s the active only open-source project available to create a Cataclysm private server.

Use TCPP if you want to create a Cataclysm (4.3.4) server.

Development activity: Rank 3

Community: 80+ members on Discord (as of 19 February 2021)

Official source repository: github.com/The-Cataclysm-Preservation-Project


TrinityCore logo TrinityCore

TrinityCore (TC) was born in 2008 as a fork of MaNGOS. With time it outclassed its father, and the vast majority of today’s private servers and other emulators are running using TC-based code.

It no longer has the same amount of active developers and community members that it used to have during its golden years. However, today it is still quite an active project and has a long history and its members have a lot of experience.

Only surpassed by AzerothCore, which is still one of his children, TrinityCore is the WoW emulator with the second-biggest community (according to Discord) and with the second-highest development activity during the last year (according to GitHub).

TrinityCore remains the WoW emulator with the highest GitHub stars count. Far ahead of all other emulators.

Historically, TrinityCore has been the project which mostly pushed the WoW emulation forward. In 2012,  TrinityCore was classified as the 9^ GitHub project which attracted the highest number of unique contributors worldwide (source).

TrinityCore supports the latest WoW game version. However, the game quality of all the contents after WOTLK is not very high and mostly not yet playable. In addition, it has a 3.3.5 active branch which is stable and playable.

Use TrinityCore if you would like the latest version of World of Warcraft.

Do not use TrinityCore (master branch) if you aim to have the best game quality or if you want a production-ready server that is playable from day 1.

You can use the TrinityCore 3.3.5 branch to get a WOTLK playable and production-ready server. However, for most use cases AzerothCore might be a better choice for this game version (see this article).

Development activity: Rank 1 👑

Community: 1500+ members on Discord (as of 19 February 2021)

Official website: www.trinitycore.org

Official source repository: github.com/TrinityCore/TrinityCore


vMaNGOS logo vMaNGOS

vMaNGOS is an independent continuation of the Elysium/LightsHope codebases, based on MaNGOS. It supports WoW Classic and is the only WoW emulator able to support different client versions.

It currently supports from 1.6 to 1.12 client builds, but the ultimate goal of the project is to have complete progression starting from patch 1.2 through 1.12.

There are already several private servers using the vMaNGOS emulator.

Fun fact: the logo of vMaNGOS is a variation of the original MaNGOS logo (which is the favicon of this blog), with a different color and a “v” added on it.

Development activity: Rank 2

Community: 900+ members on Discord (as of 19 February 2021)

Use vMaNGOS if you want to create a private server with WoW Classic.

Official source repository: github.com/vmangos


Statistics

Best WoW emulator by community size

These screenshots were taken on the 19th of February 2021. The Discord server size reflects how big the community behind each emulator is.

The statistics show AzerothCore, TrinityCore, CMaNGOS, and vMaNGOS having much bigger communities compared to others.

  1. AzerothCore
  2. TrinityCore
  3. CMaNGOS
  4. vMaNGOS
  5. AlphaProject
  6. getMaNGOS
    getMaNGOS discord
  7. AstoriaCore
  8. SkyFire
  9. TheCataclysmPreservationProject
  10. AscEmu

Best WoW emulator by development activity

These screenshots represent the development activity on GitHub of a fixed window of time (1 month during the beginning of 2021).

There are several parameters to evaluate here: the amount of PRs, different authors, commits pushed to master, commits pushed to all branch, lines of code added/deleted. So we decided to group the emulators into ranks.

The statistics show AzerothCore and TrinityCore having much more development activity compared to others, so they are rank1.

CMaNGOS and vMaNGOS have less activity thank AC and TC, but more compared to others. So they are rank2. The others are rank3.

Note: only emulators with a significant development activity are shown.

Note2: the WOTLK repo is used for CMaNGOS as it is the most active of its 3 versions.

Rank 1

Rank 2


Rank 3



The philosophy behind WoW emulators

Whatever emulator you are going to choose, keep in mind that there are volunteers behind it who work in their own free time. Be grateful, be respectful. Support the community, share your contributions back. Don’t be a leecher.

This video explains very well the open-source philosophy of all the popular WoW emulators (credits to Valsery and Shin) and we definitely recommend to watch it!

Conclusions

We have shown that there is a direct correlation between the community size and the development activity of a project. This makes perfect sense as all the emulators mentioned in this article are open-source and developed by volunteers.

AzerothCore is probably the best choice for 3.3.5a or custom servers in general. TrinityCore is the best choice for a newer WoW version. CMaNGOS-classic and vMaNGOS are also quite solid choices for Classic. CMaNGOS-TBC is our choice for a TBC server. If you need a Cataclysm server, go for TCPP. If you need an MoP server, go for SkyFire. If you want to experiment with something alternative, try out AstoriaCore or AsceEmu.

There are other open-source WoW emulators that we are not mentioning here because their development is no longer active so we do not advise using them.

Lastly, there are pre-compiled repacks and a lot of reasons to not use them but this topic would go beyond the scope of this post.