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The Biggest Esports Games You Should Know

Multiplayer Online Battle Arena Games

Multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games have become incredibly popular with video gamers in recent years. Early versions were usually spin-offs derived from real-time strategy games, but there are now many MOBAs that stand alone as individual games in their own right.

Most MOBAs are team games. There are usually two opposing teams, with each team consisting of multiple characters (or heroes). Players control one individual character, and play co-operatively with other players on their team to destroy the opposing team’s base. Each hero has various characteristics and abilities that can be improved during a game to make the character more effective.

The history of MOBAs began in 1998, when a video gamer created a custom map for the real-time strategy game StarCraft. It required players to join up as a team against computer-controlled units to destroy a structure while protecting their own base. There were a few differences between that map and the MOBAs of today, but it basically inspired the creation of a new genre.

The genre has gone from strength to strength since then, and some of the modern MOBAs are among the most played video games in the world. The following are particularly popular, and feature in many high-profile esports competitions.

First Person Shooter Games

This is another extremely popular videogame genre. First person shooter games have been around for decades, with early examples from as far back as the 1970s. The genre really exploded from the 90s though, with Wolfenstein 3D setting a new standard. First-person shooters now account for nearly a third of videogame sales.

The basic premise of these games is simple. Players view the game from a first-person perspective, through the eyes of the character they’re controlling. They use guns and other weapons to engage in combat and complete objectives. These games come in various different formats, such as single player, multi-player and co-op.

First person shooters have been at the forefront of professional esports gaming from the very beginning, and they continue to play a big role today. The following games are especially prevalent at major esports contests.

Fighting Games

Video games in this genre are usually pretty straightforward. They’re mostly one-versus-one style games, with two players simply competing to beat their opponent through combat. Various forms of combat can be used depending on the game, but it’s typically some kind of hand-to-hand combat.

Most fighting games involve a number of timed rounds. Rounds are won by either KO’ing the opponent or having done the most damage when round ends. The first player to win a specified number of rounds is the winner.

These games are ideal for individual esports gaming, and the following two are the most popular. They feature in several major esports tournaments and leagues.

Real Time Strategy Games

Real time strategy (RTS) games are games where decisions must be made based on events and changes that happen in real time. This contrasts with traditional turn-based strategy games. The RTS genre is extremely popular for single-player use, but less so for multi-player. It’s therefore not ideal for esports contests.

There are, however, some exceptions to this. The best example is Starcraft II. This is an INCREDIBLY popular RTS game that was released back in 2010. It was the sequel to the equally popular original Starcraft, and set a new standard for strategy based video games.

Starcraft II also played a key role in the growth of the esports industry. As one of the first video games to be legitimately considered as a spectator sport, it helped to establish the validity of esports contests being played in front of live audiences.

Sports & Racing Games

Sports and racing video games have long been part of the esports scene. They’re not quite as prevalent as some of the other genres mentioned on this page, but there are a few games that feature regularly at high profile leagues and tournaments. The following two are especially common.

1. Dota 2

Release Year – 2013

Total Prize Money Awarded – $224.7 million

Noteworthy Tournaments – The International

Top Players – Johan Sundstein, Jesse Vainikka, Anathan Pham

Dota 2 is a popular multiplayer battle arena esports game developed by Valve Corporation. It is a sequel to Defense of the Ancients: All-Stars. It is most popular in North America and Europe.

The same is usually played in teams of five, with each one defending their area on a map. One team wins by destroying a structure called “Ancient” within the other team’s base.

2. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Release Year – 2012

Total Prize Money Awarded – $96.5 million

Noteworthy Tournaments – World Electronic Sports Games (WESG), ELEAGUE

Top Players – Andreas Højsleth, Peter Rasmussen, Nicolai Reedtz

This is another popular esports game developed by Valve Corporation, in collaboration with Hidden Path Entertainment. It is a first-person shooter game and is the fourth one in the Counter-Strike series.

This game is basically played between two teams—terrorists and counter-terrorists. The terrorists take hostages and plant a bomb. The counter-terrorists have to save the hostages and defuse the bomb. 

3. Fortnite

Release Year – 2017

Total Prize Money Awarded – $89.1 million

Noteworthy Tournaments –  Fortnite World Cup,  Fortnite Fall Skirmish Series,  Fortnite Summer Skirmish Series

Top Players – Kyle Giersdorf, Harrison Chang, David Wang

Fortnite is a popular multiplayer online game developed by Epic Games. It has three different game modes but still counts as one game. Here are the details of each game mode:

Save the World – It involves up to 4 players fighting zombie-like creatures to defend themselves and other survivors.

Battle Royale – This is a player-versus-player type of game where up to 100 players fight to be the last person standing. It can also be played in teams.

Creative – This is the sandbox mode where players have creative control over the game world.

4. League of Legends

Release Year – 2009

Total Prize Money Awarded – $75.5 million

Noteworthy Tournaments – LoL World Championship

Top Players – Sang Hyeok Lee, Ho Seong Lee, Jun Sik Bae

This is a multiplayer real-time strategy action game developed by Riot Games. It is quite popular in Asia.

It is played by two teams or either 3 or 5 players each and is a bit similar to Dota 2 in gameplay. Similar to Dota 2, here a team wins by destroying a structure called “Nexus” within the other team’s base.

5. StarCraft II

Release Year – 2010

Total Prize Money Awarded – $33.0 million

Noteworthy Tournaments – WCS Global Finals, World Electronic Sports Games (WESG)

Top Players – Sung Choo Cho, Joona Sotala, Byung Ryul Lee

It is a real-time strategy game that was developed by Blizzard Entertainment. It is a sequel to the original Starcraft game.

The game is set in a science-fiction scenario where three species—Terrans, Zerg, and Protoss. It is divided into 3 parts with the base game Wings of Liberty and two expansion packs. The first part focusses on Terrans (humans), while the other two revolve around the Zerg and Protoss.

6. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG)

Release Year – 2017

Total Prize Money Awarded – $22.2 million

Noteworthy Tournaments – PUBG Global Championship, PUBG Nations Cup

Top Players – Jeong Yeong Bak, Jeong Wan Go, Seung Hoon Cha

This is a battle royale type game developed by UBG Corporation. In this game, up to 100 players compete against each other to be the last one standing. It can be played in teams as well.

7. Overwatch

Release Year – 2016

Total Prize Money Awarded – $21.7 million

Noteworthy Tournaments – Overwatch League

Top Players – Jae Hee Hong, Joon Yeong Park, Ji Hyuk Kim

This is a first-person shooter game developed by Blizzard Entertainment and is played in teams of six. The goal is either to secure control points on a map or to take a payload from one point to another, within a specified time. The game is very popular in Asia but is played around the world.

8. Hearthstone

Release Year – 2014

Total Prize Money Awarded – $21.1 million

Noteworthy Tournaments – Hearthstone World Championship, GrandMasters, Masters Tour

Top Players – Thijs Molendijk, Wei Lin Chen, Pavel Beltiukov

It is a free digital card game developed by Blizzard Entertainment. It is played one-on-one between two players and is a turn-based game. Each player gets a deck of 30 cards and can select a hero with a unique ability. There are many game modes available.

9. Heroes of the Storm

Release Year – 2015

Total Prize Money Awarded – $18.1 million

Noteworthy Tournaments – Heroes of the Storm Global Championship

Top Players – Won Ho Jeong, Jung Hyeog Lee, Jae Won Lee

It is a multiplayer game developed by Blizzard Entertainment. The game features different players and battlegrounds form Blizzard’s other popular games like Warcraft and Overwatch. Due to a broader playstyle, it is called a “hero brawler” game, rather than a “multiplayer online battle arena” game or an “action real-time strategy” game.

10. Arena of Valor

Release Year – 2015

Total Prize Money Awarded – $14.5 million

Noteworthy Tournaments –  Honor of Kings World Champion Cup,  King Pro League

Top Players – Game player names Cat, NuoYan, and Alan (original names not available)

It is a multiplayer online battle arena game developed by TiMi Studios, but was published by more popular gaming and media conglomerate Tencent Games. The game is played in teams of five and has multiple modes.

11. Rainbow Six Siege

Release Year – 2015

Total Prize Money Awarded – $12.1 million

Noteworthy Tournaments – Six Invitational, Six Major

Top Players – Niclas Mouritzen, Fabian Hällsten​, Troy Jaroslawski

It is a tactical shooter game developed by Ubisoft. It has different modes that involve tasks like defusing a bomb or rescuing a hostage. Each player can either be an attacker or defender in any of these scenarios or modes.

12. Rocket League

Release Year – 2016

Total Prize Money Awarded – $8.8 million

Noteworthy Tournaments – Rocket League Championship Series

Top Players – Courant Alexandre, Pierre Silfver, Jos van Meurs

This is a unique arcade-style soccer game that was developed by Psyonix. It literally has cars playing soccer or as it is popularly-termed “soccer, but with cars.” 

This game is played in teams of up to eight players. The aim of this game is to score a goal and win points just like in soccer.


Release Year – 2014

Total Prize Money Awarded – $8.6 million

Noteworthy Tournaments – Smite World Championship

Top Players – John Salter, Rosario Villardi, Andrew Woodward

It is a free multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game that was developed by Hi-Rez Studios. The game has mythological characters like Gods and Goddesses from different mythologies. You can select a character to participate in a team-based combat-style game. It has multiple game modes and a lot of characters to choose from.

14. StarCraft: Brood War

Release Year – 1998

Total Prize Money Awarded – $8.2 million

Noteworthy Tournaments – No recent tournaments

Top Players – Young Ho Lee, Jae Dong Lee, Jae Yoon Lee

This is an expansion pack for the original StarCraft game that preceded the StarCraft II. It was developed by Saffire Corporation and Blizzard Entertainment. This game is played worldwide but is especially popular in South Korea.

Just like StarCraft II, it also revolves around the three species—Terrans, Protoss, and Zerg. The goal is to form a base, build a military, and conquer the opponents.