If you want to become a professional video gamer or you simply enjoy video games, there’s always a perfect match for you. We’ve reviewed some of the top eSports titles that can lead you on your quest for gaming glory.
Competitive gaming has been a popular pastime for decades now. Esports, the professional gaming arm of the video game industry, continued to flourish in the first half of 2020. As prize pools, viewer numbers and sponsorships that allow elite players to turn their passions into careers, it’s safe to say that eSports will continue to rise in popularity for the rest of the year.
In fact, Newzoo’s research firm has projected that eSports will generate $1.79 billion per year by 2022. The global Coronavirus pandemic halted sports leagues across the world, but eSports continued and excelled. In the past three months, viewership on streaming platforms such as Twitch and YouTube has risen, with eSports leading the charge.
Esports is composed of many games, both popular and under radar, in many genres. You like shooters? You can pop a few caps in a rival playing Counter-Strike: Global: Offensive. In the mood for a royal battle of epic proportions? You’ve been covered by PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG). Into sports? Through the merging of the two realms, the NBA and Take-Two Interactive — a super-popular NBA 2K video game series publisher — partnered to create the NBA 2K eLeague. In the eSports world, there’s a video game, and related scene, for everyone.
There are so many video games in the market with a competitive, multiplayer focus that getting started in playing, or simply watching, professional video games can be challenging. Luckily, this guide to the best sports games is written to gently move you in the right direction.
1. League of Legends
League of Legends, Riot Games’ free-to-play, multiplayer online battle arena title is the best MOBA game you can give a go. Its gameplay combines elements of role-playing, tower defense, and real-time strategy — a combination that separates it from the other MOBA cookie cutters that have entered the market.
League of Legends is the most played PC game with over 100 million active players in 2020. League is extremely popular worldwide, and this popularity often applies to the competitive side as well. League is leading the way in terms of viewership and has been a big part of the previous decade. The game has been the most popular in the world since it was released, and it remains that way to this day
In fact, League of Legends set the record for the number of eSports viewers last year and has the highest average of any eSport viewers. More viewers tune in to watch the League of Legends than any other game ever and have the most players to back it up.
2. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
Eight years after the launch of Counter-Strike : Global Offensive (CS: GO), it has maintained its status as one of the world’s leading eSports games, with frequent updates to the game, a lucrative market in weapon skins and knives, and a whirlwind of events every year.
CSGO has a huge fanbase that reaches more than 100k viewers per day during the pro league and can hit more than a million views in major tournaments. Counter-Strike has the biggest dedicated fan base outside of Fortnite, perhaps, and even the casual CSGO player also has to watch the competitive side to the game. CSGO is the shooter that rewards aim and intelligence the most, and that’s one of the key reasons why it’s famous. Also, Valve does a fantastic job of promoting the game and offering prizes to fans, thus inspiring people to play.
Competitive Counter-Strike has been around for two decades now and is currently at its strongest point ever. The prize pool for 2019 was $21.8 million, and it’s the second most-played game on PC, behind the League of Legends. So far in 2020, ESL, CSGO ‘s main league, announced that viewership in 2020 was up 215.5% from Season 10 in 2019.
Fortnite burst onto the scene in 2017 as a free-to-play battle royale with cartoon graphics and a fast-paced gameplay developed by Epic Games. The special feature of Fortnite over other battle royale games is that players can harvest materials to build structures in any situation. This helps players to survive and fight in open areas of the map at any time.
The fast-paced and quirky gameplay quickly contributed to Fortnite ‘s popularity, and it became the most popular game in the world in 2018. Fortnite is still the most popular game in the world to date in 2020 and has a thriving competitive scene.
As a matter of fact, Epic Games announced at the beginning of 2020 that Fortnite hosted an incredible 12.3 million concurrent players in one record-breaking session, thanks to an in-game Travis Scott concert.
4. Dota 2
Dota 2 is the only direct rival to the League of Legends and comes from Valve, the same studio behind CS: GO. Although LoL is particularly popular in Asia, Dota 2 ‘s top 25 earners are distributed across 16 countries, including the U.S.A., China, France, and Romania. This free-to-play MOBA tasks you to choose one of more than 100 playable Heroes to take to the battlefield, utilizing the unique skill, play style, and attributes of that hero to help your team win.
Sure, the MOBA genre appears enigmatic to viewers who are unfamiliar with play mechanics, but the annual Dota 2 International has insane cash pots (more than $30 million!) and intense competition that makes the game worth watching if you’re willing to learn ropes.
5. Call of Duty
One of the few sports to be played on the console, the competitive Call of Duty scene is unique in the sense that it moves on to a brand new game every year. Call of Duty was released in 2003 and a new version of the game is released annually. Thanks to Call of Duty ‘s annual release schedule, players ought to know the ins and outs of a whole new game every October. For now, we ‘re on Call of Duty : Modern Warfare, and just as Activision has been doing with Overwatch for the past few years, the COD League has switched to a franchise-based system.
Competitive Call of Duty has existed since 2010, making it one of the longest-running eSport leagues in the world. The first Call of Duty World Championship was held in 2013, with a prize pool of $1 million. In 2020, the Call of Duty League (CDL) prize pool is $6 million.
Call of Duty is ahead of Overwatch as their number of viewers has stayed stable for many years, and Overwatch’s number of viewers is steadily declining. Also, Call of Duty only committed to franchises and has a greater prize pool, indicating a deeper long-term commitment to the league.
Hearthstone is a free-to-play collectible card game developed by Blizzard, which was first released in 2014. The game consists of two players with 30 card decks and a hero. The aim of the game is to destroy the cards of the other player and ultimately destroy their hero to win the game. The game is one of the most successful games in the world, with a player base that hit 100 million players in 2018. The cards and characters in Hearthstone are based on Blizzard’s first series of video games, World of Warcraft.
Competitive Hearthstone started shortly after its release in 2014 and had a $250,000 prize pool in its first year. The competition was limited to Asia and Europe, but quickly expanded to an international level due to the popularity of the game. In 2019 , the total number of viewers for the Hearthstone tournament ranged from 50k to 150k, with 276,000 viewers at the 2019 Hearthstone World Championship.
There was only one major Hearthstone tournament in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.The average viewership for smaller Hearthstone tournaments is between 10 and 15 thousand viewers, and several streamers are playing the game.
Shooters don’t always need to be dark, gritty, or realistic. Cartoony-fun has a spot, even in gun-filled PC games. The place has been covered by Valve’s Team Fortress 2 for almost a decade, but now Blizzard reigns over Overwatch. Overwatch is a first-person shooter that was released by Blizzard Entertainment in 2016. Blizzard is about to get a good run on this list because it has created a lot of the top eSports currently on the market.
The Overwatch League had the largest prize pool in eSports history for its debut season, with a $3.5 million prize pool in 2018. The prize pool rose to a total of $5 million for 2019 and remained there again in 2020. The prizes and franchises are evidence of Blizzard ‘s deep dedication to Overwatch and will continue to be a popular eSport.
8. Mortal Kombat 11
Mortal Kombat 11, the newest fighting game in NetherRealm Studios, is something more than the cracked skulls, the severed spines, and the blood spurts on which the show established its reputation. The narrative sequel to Mortal Kombat X, Mortal Kombat 11, uses time travel to pit characters against rivals in the past to change the present.
Due to animation enhancements and new offensive and defensive mechanics, merchandise, ninjas, gods and monsters play better than ever. As a result, Mortal Kombat 11 is an excellent entry point for those who are not familiar with the series (or those who have lapsed).
9. Rainbow 6 Siege
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege is Ubisoft’s tactical first-person shooter released in 2015. The game places a great deal of focus on environmental degradation and cooperation between players. The player assumes control of an attacker or a defender in a variety of gameplay modes, such as retrieving a hostage, defusing a bomb, and taking control of an objective inside a room. It is 5v5, and the first team to win 5 rounds wins the game.
The Rainbow Six Pro League has been in existence since 2016 and has expanded exponentially around the world since its creation. Seven different regions around the world have their league as part of the Pro League. For its most recent major event, The Six Invitational 2020, the prize pool was astounding $3 million. The winning team, SpaceStation Gaming, took home $1 million.
10. NBA 2K
The NBA 2K League reached its first year as an NBA affiliate in 2018. Teams in the NBA 2K League are owned by the franchise, and 21 teams in the NBA have a team in the 2K League. The league provides a clear path for potential players to enter the league.
The league is still relatively new, but it has a 15-week regular season, and three regular season tournaments with significant prize pools. The top 7 teams make up the postseason, as well as the winner of the last regular-season tournament. There is a $900,000 prize pool for the playoffs, and the winning team takes $420,000.
Honorable mention: Valorant
Fresh on this list is Valorant, Riot Games’ Valorant— a 5v5 character-based tactical FPS where precise gunplay meets unique agent abilities
The game is perfect for competitive FPS fans, with a variety of guns to choose from, characters with unique skills, and competitively-designed maps. Precision, high stakes, and clutch moments make up for every Valorant match!
Valorant has been out for just over a couple of months, but professional esports teams are already cementing themselves in its burgeoning competitive scene. The highest tournament prize pool currently offered is a modest $50K, with no leagues currently running. With the game’s hype and public support, a Valorant Pro League may be whipped up later this year.
So, that’s it. When a video game can be played competitively online, there’s a good chance that it has an eSports scene, even if it’s not one of the biggest. Search the web and you’re sure to find something that is perfect for your taste.