Every WoW Expansion From First To Last

World of Warcraft has been around for a while. With it's 10th expansion set to come out in a few months, now is the perfect time to look at them all from where we were to where we are now.

Blizzard Entertainment's iconic and legendary MMORPG World of Warcraft has been around for a long time. Coming up on its 10th expansion and 20th anniversary, it's safe to say the game captured a level of longevity that most games can only ever dream of achieving.

With The War Within on the horizon, now is a great time to do a little retrospective on how we got here. These are all of the World of Warcraft expansions in order, including upcoming releases:

  • The Burning Crusade
  • Wrath of the Lich King
  • Cataclysm
  • Mists of Pandaria
  • Warlords of Draenor
  • Legion
  • Battle for Azeroth
  • Shadowlands
  • Dragonflight
  • The War Within
  • Midnight
  • The Last Titan

1. The Burning Crusade

Three of the big TBC villains.

Release Date: January 16, 2007

The one that set the tone. Blizzard had limitless design possibilities at their fingertips for The Burning Crusade, and whatever they chose was bound to be made the standard for every expansion following it.

They didn't need to raise the level cap, they didn't need to make shorter dungeons, they didn't need to make raids 10 or 25-man, they didn't need to introduce flying, they didn't need to do any of that, but they did.

World of Warcraft is the game it is today because of the design standards set by The Burning Crusade, the very first one.

2. Wrath of the Lich King

Arthas Menethil, the Lich King.

Release Date: November 13, 2008

A classic. Wrath of the Lich King is what many consider to be the game's peak. It's where the subscriber count peaked and where WoW's best villain's story arc, came to an end.

Boasting one of the player base's favorite leveling zones (Grizzly Hills) and two of the best raids (Ulduar and Icecrown Citadel), Wrath of the Lich King's legacy and impact cannot be understated.

Blizzard has been chasing this high ever since it ended.

3. Cataclysm

Cataclysm villain named Deathwing.

Release Date: December 7, 2010

Often regarded as one of WoW's worst expansions, Cataclysm was a poorly timed expansion that did not stick the landing. It gave us some of the best and most challenging dungeons with one of the best raids in the game (Firelands) but the rest of the raids were very forgettable, and of course, there was the actual cataclysm itself.

Destroying the world that players had come to know and love only roughly five years after they first stepped foot in it, was always going to be a massive risk. Fast forward to the modern day, and we've had the cataclysm version of the game's world longer than the original version.

Cataclysm is misunderstood. It's not a bad expansion, it was just horribly timed and not what players at that point in time needed or wanted.

4. Mists of Pandaria

A pandaren monk standing on a cliff.

Release Date: September 25, 2012

The entire concept of this expansion comes from an April Fool's joke. For many players, especially at the time, it would've been better if it stayed an April Fool's Day joke.

Mists of Pandaria is the expansion that players failed to appreciate while it was current but would come to long for as it went away and they saw what they were now getting instead.

Solid dungeons with the introduction of challenge mode (the precursor to mythic plus), one of the best raids in the history of the game (Throne of Thunder), and an amazing amount of narrative content with good leveling zones makes MoP a solid expansion. It wasn't perfect but it was good; players at the time should've appreciated more than they did.

5. Warlords of Draenor

The warlords of Draenor.

Release Date: November 13, 2016

Oh, what could have been. Warlords of Draenor has some of the best content in the game's history. Phenomenal and unique dungeons, great raids, the best leveling experience in the game's history, strong characters (at least in terms of allies), and some cool-looking tier sets.

Warlords of Draenor had it all... until it just stopped getting content. Blizzard cut more content from WoD than any other expansion. It had a catastrophically long content drought as Blizzard focused on developing Legion.

If WoD got the love it deserved from the developers, it would rival Wrath of the Lich King, but instead, it's automatically one of the worst WoW expansions because it just had very little content.

6. Legion

Illidan Stormrage surrounded by infernals.

Release Date: August 30, 2016

Often regarded as WoW's second-best expansion, Legion benefited immensely from the fact that Blizzard abandoned WoD to focus solely on it. With the best use of class fantasy out of any WoW expansion, introducing a new and extremely popular endgame pillar (mythic plus), having great raids, and tons of fun secrets to uncover, it's no wonder players loved Legion so much.

Legion did have a darker side, however. One thing that plagued much of modern WoW was the absurdly never-ending grind aspects of it and with borrowed power. Most of the things people hated about Battle for Azeroth and Shadowlands, were first introduced in Legion. This expansion just had enough good things going for it, that the cracks were hidden.

7. Battle for Azeroth

An orc and human ready to fight.

Release Date: August 13, 2018

Fun fact: Battle for Azeroth has a lot of pirates in it and the pirate expansion was supposed to be the first expansion but due to the technical limitations at the time, Blizzard was forced to do The Burning Crusade because they needed to take players to a brand new world because the vanilla WoW map could not handle any more zones being added to it yet.

Battle for Azeroth itself struggled with identity. The marketing (including the image above) made it seem like it was going to all about the horde and alliance fighting each other but in reality, much of that fighting is over within two patches.

Suddenly you're fighting naga and an old god wondering where all the time went and why you aren't killing orcs (or humans). A lack of consistent identity paired with horrible borrowed power systems meant that BfA was one of the game's weaker expansions. It had some upsides and wasn't awful, but far from good.

8. Shadowlands

The Maw in the Shadowlands.

Release Date: November 23, 2020


9. Dragonflight

The Queen of dragons stands on guard.

Release Date: November 18, 2022

With Shadowlands being the worst thing ever, Dragonflight had a massive weight on its shoulders. It needed to deliver. it couldn't just be good, it had to be great. It had to save the game.

Dragonflight ended up not being the insanely amazing expansion that WoW desperately needed at the time. Blizzard took a different approach. Instead of trying to make Dragonflight this incredibly masterpiece, they used it as a foundational expansion.

The purpose of Dragonflight was to fix the core flaws that the previous few expansions had created and set the game on the right course moving forward.

This resulted in Dragonflight being a good expansion that did a lot of things right and had amazing player retention. However, it also resulted in Dragonflight selling horribly, because it didn't have that knock your socks off factor it needed to bring players who already left back.

10. The War Within

Heroes fighting nerubians.

Release Date: August 26, 2024

That brings us to where we are today. With The War Within launching in a few months and currently being in beta, we know a decent amount about what WoW's immediate future looks like.

Will The War Within be the era-defining masterpiece that the game needs? Only time will tell. The beta has been promising, though.

Technically speaking, we know what WoW's eleventh and twetlh expansions are going to be (Midnight and The Last Titan, respectively) but we know essentially nothing about them since The War Within hasn't even come out yet. Due to this, it's fair to say they don't really belong in the list, yet.

Published |Modified
Ben Fitzsimmons